• Published 3rd Mar 2015
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Sucker for a Cute Face - Eyeswirl the Weirded



Adagio finds Fluttershy alone one morning, and many to follow.

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Chapter 34: No Pain, No Gain?

A feeling Adagio was getting better-acquainted with was the one that came when someone looked worried about her, with the most common cause giving her such a look right now.

"She locked you in a room... and if she hadn't gotten to you in time, you c-could have been-"

While she didn't like to scowl at Fluttershy, Adagio felt validated this time as she crossed her arms. "I'm not some frail little ragdoll, Sweetie, I'd have walked away just fine."

Aria's voice sounded in Fluttershy's head.

"You never get sick, Adagio."

Maybe she had a tougher body than her beauty would suggest? Were the sirens just really resilient in general? That or, considerable misfortunes aside, Adagio was some kind of lucky. Lacking any type of injury to immediately point to, Fluttershy wasn't sure she could argue that Adagio needed to be more careful, but she still wished she could do something to keep her safe in the meantime. Unable to think of any preventative measures off the top of her head, Fluttershy found herself just a little annoyed with Luna. "Are they even allowed to lock people in rooms?"

"Actually, no, that was what the officer wanted to address when he understood the situation. That said, I don't bear a grudge because I'd rather there be no additional friction between us and the rest of the school, I actually felt a twinge of guilt for assuming the worst in Luna, and..." Cheeks tinting pink, she sighed. Suppose there's no avoiding it. "The steam thing was completely my fault anyway."

Frowning, Fluttershy tilted her head. "I'm not so sure about that. P-please don't take this the wrong way, but it sounded like you barely understood the situation. Did Luna even actually say that it was supposed to be a punishment?"

Rolling her eyes, Adagio chuckled. "Nonsense, I'm sure there was a structured reason for the Detention class if I'd just asked, but to me, it was just another way to kill time."

Blinking slowly, Fluttershy re-checked everything she knew about school to confirm that yes, detention was a standard school punishment, starting from time-out in kindergarten. Even if that wasn't quite the same thing... Anyway, she briefly shared this knowledge with Adagio, who wore a skeptical face throughout.

"That makes no sense. A punishment is supposed to teach the wrong-doer not to do what they did again, often reinforced with pain. What pain is there in having to sit still for a while? How does it demonstrate not to do bad things anymore?"

Again, Fluttershy tried not to think about the sirens' upbringing. "W-well, um... I-I don't get detention very often, so I'm not sure, but, I think the idea is that the kids in detention would rather be doing something else, that it's really boring, though I don't know if it's painfully so."

Adagio raised an eyebrow. "Being stuck in a boring room for a while? Doesn't that already describe the hours of a school day? What does it say that their idea of punishment is to endure more of the same, but without so much as a subject to later be graded on and theoretically benefit from?"

There was a short silence as Fluttershy thought about it. She had no answer, but it did raise a question. "What, um... y-you don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but, what did they do for punishments in Coltlantis?"

"It depended on the crime, of course, as it would with any sane society." She snapped her fingers. "Let's say someone cheated on a test in Coltlantis. The most likely penalty they'd face would be similar to your detention, but giving the cheater an answer plate (we couldn't really use paper underwater, long story) and at least a dozen tests (custom-made for their punishment) to fill out, the number of tests multiplied for each time they've been caught cheating. They'd be required to get a perfect score on each and every one or do them all again, and with none of this bubble-in business they have here. Ironically."

It took Fluttershy a second to get the 'ironic' part, but when she did, she giggled, which drew a little smile from Adagio as well. "Then, the punishment for cheating in Coltlantis was something like forced studying?"

"The punishment for cheating on tests, yes, though again, it depended on the specific details. If the guilty couldn't or wouldn't do as they were supposed to, they'd typically be seized and led off to the nearest form of extreme discomfort, Cacophony Chambers being particularly popular. For certain values of the word, anyway."

She chose not to ask how often, if at all, Adagio and the others were punished. Their current punishment, which she already knew to hurt them badly, seemed like pain enough without being made to relive bad memories. If she wasn't already.

Didn't you say you'd stop doing things that hurt her?! What do you call this?!

It wasn't on purpose!

It never is! Just stop digging up her past before you really open old wounds!

Seeing an unfamiliar look on Fluttershy's face now, Adagio frowned. "Sweetie? You alright?"

Caught, Fluttershy flinched, but didn't want to risk Adagio's trust by lying to her face. "I'm s-sorry, I didn't mean to bring up bad memories."

Blinking twice, Adagio gave a sympathetic smile. "Don't worry," she softly replied, "I might miss my old form every once in a while, but I'm well and truly over my 'home,' and I'm sure the others are too."

She thought I was worried that talking about how people were punished would make her homesick? I don't even know where to start...

...Then again, if Adagio was willing to share, maybe this was a good opportunity? She hesitantly met Adagio's eyes. "W-well, then, um... would you mind if I asked a few questions?"

Adagio chuckled. "Always so curious, and yet I don't really know that much about you. I'm not opposed to telling you what you want to know, but I'd like some information in exchange this time."

Fluttershy smiled. "Sure!"

"Thank you." She didn't quite plan it, but this seemed like a fitting enough dating activity. "So, tell me about yourself. You use Equestrian magic, are you from another world too?"

Fluttershy had entertained the fantasy a few times when she was younger, but she still shook her head. "No, I was born in this town, and I've been here all my life."

Adagio nodded. "How about your family? You know Aria and Sonata are all I have, but-" the question came with a hint of a smirk, "-is there anyone you'll have to introduce me to some day?"

A prickly feeling working across her cheeks, Fluttershy gulped. "Uhm... w-well, there's just me and my mother now, and..." And I may need to wear a bag over my head if you two ever meet.

Strangely, Adagio either didn't pick up on a chance to tease her, or didn't care as she frowned again. "Something happened to your father?"

Blink. "Oh, yes, he... passed on, when I was a little girl." She managed a tiny smile before Adagio could respond. "Please don't worry, I've had plenty of time to grieve." This got an understanding little nod. "Is there anything else you'd like to know?"

"Hmm... Just this for now; what is it with the animals? Did a stray cat endear itself to you once, a talking animal cartoon leave an impression on you or something?" She considered the possibility that Fluttershy had acquired a cuddly little friend to help get over her father's passing, but wasn't about to verbalize it.

"Umm..." Scratching her head, Fluttershy wore an apologetic smile. "Sorry if this sounds a little boring, but I wouldn't say I took an interest in animals at any point in my life, I've just kind of always liked them."

Adagio nodded again. "I see. That's all I had for now, your turn."

Fluttershy's grin grew much brighter. Part of her felt like she was being asked to pick out her own Christmas presents! "You said once that, i-if anyone in Equestria remembered you, that they wouldn't remember when you only wanted to defend your home. Can you tell me about that?"

It wasn't exactly a fun story, but Adagio couldn't help giggling at the enthusiasm. "Before the three of us were thrown out of Coltlantis, we were essentially a protection measure for the city. The gems you saw were once very different; considered holy relics by the more superstitious, wonders of advancement in the field of magic by pretty much everyone else. In short, they were made to influence minds through song, something they did quite well. I, Aria, and Sonata were chosen (well, I earned the right to wield them through trial and chose those two as my backup for how well we harmonized together) to use the gems to fend off trespassers in the local sea. For reasons not worth going into, Coltlantis had some enemies, and many more factions they just didn't want poking around, so incoming vessels had to be intercepted."

"Luring them away?"

"Precisely. We'd go out, serenade the crews with pleasant melodies while implanting the idea of returning home or just visiting some other island-"

"Island?"

"While construction did begin well below sea-level, Coltlantis didn't sit entirely at the bottom of the sea during its healthier years. Would have made our jobs easier, certainly, but can you imagine foreign relations without somewhere to stop and rest on the surface? Not everyone had gills, Sweetie."

"Hehe! I guess not."

"Right, so, we'd steer unwanted visitors away, then most of them would fail to get home safely. Did you know that the sea is an incredibly dangerous place if you don't know what you're doing? I would have thought the people (all-encompassing term) serving as navigators on those vessels were aware, but it seems being sent off-course was all it took to ensure that they'd perish in storms, smash themselves into large rocks, sail straight into leviathan territory, or just go in circles until most of the crew was starved, insane, or both. Naturally, those who lost ships that had been on course for Coltlantis, whether they were welcome or not, blamed the city they couldn't reach without permission as having maliciously attacked them, which didn't help matters politically. Those in charge, in response, decided that scapegoats were needed."

Fluttershy's smile had long vanished. "I'm sorry."

Shrugging, Adagio briefly scanned the rest of the food court again. "Don't be, the shallow attempt at appeasement didn't work and they got what was coming to them anyway mere weeks after we left. Tell Princess Twilight that if her historians think it was the four or five fleets showing up at once that doomed Coltlantis, they're wrong; that conflict began and ended with hubris."

She picked up her drink by the rim of the glass, her focus on gently swirling it around as her voice grew a little too calm. "I might have felt a pang of guilt for taking the gems with me when Aria, Sonata, and I slipped out of the city in the middle of the night, but with how often our armed forces boasted their superiority over all others, regularly belittling the three of us for how much better they'd handle the trespassers, I just couldn't be sympathetic when they were overrun. The three of us watched from a distance as they fired up their last resort, and, well..." There was just a hint of grim satisfaction in her tone as she set the glass down hard. "Let's just say that they didn't brag much about that ever again, either."

Part of Fluttershy wanted more details, but her heart demanded that questions about Coltlantis be stopped right now. Adagio might not have been saying so, but Fluttershy could tell that the story bothered her.

Technically, you only asked her about the defending-her-home part, she told you the gory details on her own. Does that mean she's been wanting to tell someone this?

There was one way to get an idea. Fluttershy gave her an earnest little smile. "I see, thank you for telling me." That Adagio just smiled right back before taking a slightly more relaxed pose conveyed that she was probably happy to stop talking about it.

"Anything else, Sweetie?"

You were hurting her again. You are such an idiot. "Uhm, w-well-" She was surprised to hear Adagio giggling, a warm smile sweeping her anxieties away.

"Sweetie? I'm glad Coltlantis perished."

There was a slow, fearful blink. "W-what?"

More giggles. "Written all over your face, Sweetie, and you have nothing to apologize for. For reasons I'll go into if you still want to know, I'm not the least bit bothered that my birthplace was destroyed partly just because-" she lowered her shades to wink, "-I've had plenty of time to grieve." She just held a wide smile as Fluttershy processed that information, then erupted into little gigglefits of her own. When she came out of it, however, her face was serious.

"Can... c-can I say something?" A nod urged her on. "I'm not sad it was destroyed either." Part of her felt like a monster for even thinking it, but Adagio just raised an amused eyebrow as if to say 'Oh? By all means, do tell.' "Well, i-it's just that, in all the times you've mentioned Coltlantis? It sounds like a horrible place, the thought of living there is scary, and the thought that you and the others lived there is painful. More than that, a-and I know this is awful of me, but-" her head unconsciously retreated behind her hair, the rest coming out in a squeaky whisper.

Adagio, showing no sign of offense, leaned over the table a little. "Sorry, could you repeat that?"

"Um... I, I-I said... I'm g-glad it's gone, because..." She gulped, planting her feet firmly on the floor in the vain hope it would help her stop shaking. "If it were still s-standing, they might have let you b-back in some day, and you'd n-never be here... with me."

Her eyes widening, Adagio broke into a bright shade of red before giggling and looking away with an awkward, happy, embarrassed smile plastered on her face. "You're q-quite a charmer, you know that?"

Fluttershy blushed too, even if she smiled at what might have been praise. Whether or not Adagio was flattered by the sentiment that someone could be glad a city was destroyed to allow them to meet, she didn't want to dwell on.

"I won't speak for the others," Adagio went on when she managed to reign in the heat in her face, "but I think I'll count that among my blessings too. Was there anything else you wanted to know, Sweetie?"

They spent the rest of their time in the food court talking about the sirens' journey, how they'd been in their late twenties when they first took up the job, essentially teenagers as far as kelpies go, that they did it for a few years without incident before being banished, roamed Equestria for a few months causing chaos in a sort of revenge-by-proxy on the civilizations that aggravated Coltlantians in the first place (which Adagio conceded to have been kind of hollow), and got banished again. They'd only been here for a few years, though Adagio wasn't sure the exact date of their arrival, having explained that it was only when they lost hope of returning to their own world that they started keeping track. There was another short bout of apology and assurance that it wasn't necessary before they headed back to the clothes shop.

Author's Note:

Adagio didn't tell the whole story here, but the plan is to have a bonus chapter at the end in which the full history lesson is delivered to a very willing listener. Anyone interested in reading that, or can I save some time and summarize with bullet points before moving on to the next story? :twilightsheepish:

I'm sorry to say that I don't think I'll be doing the regular, scheduled update thing anymore. I'm not dropping the story, but I would like a little more breathing room with it. Things are winding down by this point, so I hope to have it finished some time within the next few months, but in the form of updating whenever I've got the time/energy to put into it.

One of my first stories taught me that forcibly sticking to one thing can get exhausting after a while, and that's kinda been happening with this story here and there. Maybe it shows? An upside to taking the occasional break from this one is that I may focus on some other stories that have been burning a hole in my inspiration (not sure if that wording makes any kind of sense) for months, so hopefully one or more of those can be just as entertaining for you! :pinkiehappy:

On that note, the conclusion to the date should be all edited and proofread by tomorrow morning!

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