• Published 22nd Oct 2012
  • 24,190 Views, 2,147 Comments

Exit Through Canterlot - TheBrianJ



Octavia pursues a new path in life, a path where symphonies are composed with cans of spray paint.

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1. Spark

EXIT THROUGH CANTERLOT

by TheBrianJ

----------

"Just what is that supposed to mean?"

Octavia sighed, standing back as Vinyl Scratch angrily stepped forward and got into the face of the unicorn in front of her. The stallion merely looked over his glasses at her as the mare next to him turned her nose up.

"It means precisely what I said, young lady. Wearing sunglasses indoors is a poor enough choice in and of itself, but with those frames and garish colors? Just awful."

"They're not sunglasses, they're shades! Big difference!"

Octavia fidgeted as the argument escalated, causing some of the ponies in the café to stare at the unfolding situation. A confrontation like this was the last thing she wanted, but it was hard to stop Vinyl when she got into a tizzy about something.

The mare standing next to the stallion shook her head. "No, those are just are just cheap, chintzy accessories that look awful on anypony. It's oh-so-disappointing to see a pony who appears to know nothing about how to fit in here in Canterlot."

"How to fit in in Canterlot?" Vinyl yelled. "I'll have you know I've been living here for years! Not that it's been easy with stuck-up snobs like you!"

A chill shot through Octavia's jaw as she saw the faces of Jet Set and Upper Crust redden, glaring at Vinyl. She merely sighed as she scooted even further from the confrontation. But her shuffling was cut off momentarily by an angry yell from Upper Crust.

"’Stuck-up snob?’ How rude! You take that back right now young lady," Upper Crust demanded.

"No way, I'm not taking back anything that's true! You two are total snobs! Right, Tavi?"

Octavia's hoof froze just inches away from the door. A few beads of sweat formed on her head. With a sigh, she reluctantly turned around. Three pairs of eyes were fixed on her: Upper Crust and Jet Set had donned wide, expectant looks, while Vinyl was leaning in and waggling her brow. Octavia sighed again and stepped forward.

"Vinyl, I am not quite sure what you want me to say here," Octavia said as elegantly as possible, trying not to drag herself into the situation.

Vinyl stomped a hoof into the ground and gestured towards the two ponies. "Tavi, you heard what they said. Can’t you back me up on this one? Tell 'em they're both being stuck-up by insulting the shades."

"Back you up? Vinyl, I would prefer if we just left. I really do not want to cause a scene."

"But Tavi—"

As Octava moved back towards the door, Vinyl was interrupted by a chortling laugh from Jet Set. "Goodness, you think a pony like that is going to defend you? Talk about the blind supporting the blind."

Vinyl whipped her head back around in anger. "The hay does that mean?"

"I find it laughable that you would go to a pony wearing a bow tie like that for fashion defense."

Upper Crust snickered. "Oh, quite. And that mane! Goodness, I hope whoever styled your hair was refunded her tuition from beauty school!"

Vinyl gasped, and looked at Octavia. “Tavi, are you gonna take that? Just let them insult you right to your face?”

Octavia turned to look at Upper Crust, her teeth grinding slightly. Upper Crust and Jet Set were staring at her, self-assured smirks on their faces, and Vinyl glanced towards Octavia expectantly. As she stared at the two ponies and their insults, Octavia felt a spark dancing lightly about in the back of her mind. Octavia closed her eyes and took a deep breath, extinguishing it before anything could happen. Instead, she merely put on the best smile she could, and moved back towards the door.

"We should just leave, Vinyl."

Vinyl's jaw dropped as Octavia trotted out of the cafe, leaving Upper Crust and Jet Set chortling amongst themselves. Vinyl shot them a dirty look before flipping her sunglasses back down onto her eyes and following Octavia into the streets of Canterlot. She trotted up alongside Octavia, glaring quizzically at her as she walked until finally getting fed up with the silence.

"Tavi—"

Octavia interrupted her almost immediately. "Vinyl, I really do not wish to hear it."

Vinyl went quiet, and the two friends continued their walk through Canterlot. Octavia tried to focus on something else, but the insults from Upper Crust and Jet Set were stuck in her head. She had gotten so used to the elite of Canterlot turning their nose up at anything they deemed below them that she had just learned to be numb to it.

Trying to get her mind off of it, Octavia started to look around, and the first thing that she saw was a group of ponies crowded around the window of a fashion boutique, all fawning as a pony arranged a fancy dress on a mannequin in the front window. Beside them, a group of fillies had just finished laying out a blanket on the ground, covered with a small selection of flowers in plastic pots.

As one of them set up a sign stating "Flowers For Sale," another with a cream-colored coat picked up a carnation in a pot, happily trotted over to the gathering and then tugged at the dress of one of the ponies in the back. The mare glanced down at the filly as she held the flower up with a smile on her face, only for the mare to roll her eyes and sigh, swiveling back towards the window. Undeterred, the filly reached up and tugged on the dress again, but this time the mare swung her back leg and pushed the filly to the ground, causing her to lose her grip on the flower pot and spilling dirt everywhere.

The other fillies quickly ran over to help their friend, bringing her back to her hooves and cleaning up the mess while the rest of the ponies utterly ignored them. Octavia's eyes narrowed. She started to step forward, but stopped herself and shook her head, forcing the thought away and continuing her dignified trot. She glanced to the right to see that Vinyl was eyeing her knowingly, so she quickly averted her own gaze and walked undeterred.

Once they got back to their apartment and entered, the first thing that Octavia did was remove her bow tie. She stared at it in her hoof for a few seconds, thinking back to what Jet Set and Upper Crust had said, when her thoughts were cut off by Vinyl.

"I can tell you're upset, y’know."

Octavia rolled her eyes. “I am not. They were just voicing their opinions, no need to get upset at that."

"You're just saying that because you don't like getting worked up. It's okay, Tavi. You can get angry, nopony is going to judge you. You don't have to pretend that everything’s perfect. You can express yourself."

"I express myself just fine enough, thank you," Octavia quickly retorted, walking off. With a gasp, Vinyl suddenly jumped out at her, grabbing Octavia by the tail.

"Hey, careful where you're walking! My poster is drying."

Octavia stopped before she could take another step and looked down. A number of painting supplies—cans of paint, glitter, spray paint, and brushes—were scattered around the kitchen floor, surrounding a large poster. Random shapes and lines covered the canvas, clumps of glitter spread over every inch and with "DJ PON-3" drawn in giant blue letters in the center. She stared at the poster and Vinyl trotted up next to her, a huge smile on her face.

"Threw that together earlier today for the show I'm having next week,” Vinyl said. “Think it looks pretty cool myself. I like how it turned out, what do you think?"

"I think I know why the apartment smells now."

Vinyl’s eyes narrowed a touch and she sighed. "Come on, be honest. What do you think of it?"

Octavia looked back down at the poster. She bit her lip, awkwardly searching for the right words before turning away.

"It's fine."

"...Fine?"

"Yes. Fine."

Octavia started to walk back to her room, but an exasperated sigh from Vinyl stopped her. "Tavi, you're doing it again."

Octavia lowered her head. "Doing what?"

"Clamming up! If you don't like the poster, just tell me. You don't have to pretend it's okay. Express yourself, Tavi."

"What is your obsession with me expressing myself today? I'm not clamming up, I just think the poster is truly fine. Just because I do not have an enthusiastic opinion on it doesn't mean I am not expressing myself. And for the record, the same goes for those ponies earlier."

As Octavia trotted into the den, Vinyl's eyes followed her before a sly smile curled across her face. She began to put some scattered magazines away, Vinyl sauntered over to the couch and plopped down with a smile. "Well alright," she said nonchalantly, picking up a magazine and flipping through it. "I had no idea you were so okay with the snobs in Canterlot."

A faint spark flickered in the back of her head. Octavia tried to pay no mind to it, turning away. "I know what you are trying to do and I am going to ignore you."

Vinyl’s mischievous grin only grew. "Why, I’m not trying to do anything. I mean, those two were so rude, but if you were okay with them then I guess you're okay with all the other jerks around here. Like, say, those ponies who were all crowding around that boutique."

The spark continued to dance about as Octavia busied herself cleaning up. "Vinyl, I swear…"

Still smiling, Vinyl leaned back. "Ah well, guess I was wrong about you. I guess you must’ve been okay with that jerk who kicked that little filly over. I guess you're just like them."

At those words, the spark shot off. Octavia whipped around and glared at Vinyl without even thinking about the words that started pouring from her mouth. "Don't you dare compare me to the stuck up, highbrow jerks around here!" she seethed through clenched teeth. "I may have an air of elegance, but most of the ponies here in Canterlot wouldn't know the first thing about kindness, respect, and common decency!"

Octavia paced back and forth, unable to stop herself from ranting. "There are so many ponies who absolutely refuse to acknowledge things around them that aren't expensive or endorsed by some full-of-themselves fashion designer. Worst of all, so much of Canterlot is completely ignorant to the beauty of the world around them. The flowers that those poor fillies were selling were far, far more wonderful than anything some stuffy-headed fashionista could ever come up with. To think that that mare would ignore something so precious, much less treat that poor filly the way she did. It makes me sick that there could exist such an insufferable, disgusting, flank-headed—"

Octavia slammed her mouth shut as a sudden wave of self-awareness crashed into her, and her face quickly turned bright red as she awkwardly shifted her gaze around the apartment. Vinyl was blown away, a huge smile on her face. And as soon as Octavia saw it, she took several deep breaths, closed her eyes and cleared her throat.

"I… I do apologize for that, it was quite unbefitting of me."

Vinyl's face fell. "What? No, no, don't clam up again. That was awesome! Talk more about that beauty stuff, you were totally on to something there!" She stood up and walked towards the front door, picking up the mail. "You should be more open like that, Tavi. It's interesting, and I never hear stuff like that outta you."

"That’s absurd," Octavia quickly retorted, shaking her head. "It's not interesting. It was embarrassing, and I apologize for speaking like that. It was just momentary frustration, that's all. Please do not hold what I was saying against me. Speaking ill of other ponies like that is shameful, and simply not indicative of the kind of pony that I aspire…"

Octavia's hasty explanation was cut off when she looked over at her friend. The unicorn was holding a letter in her hoof, staring at it with widening eyes.

"Erm, Vinyl, aren’t you listening?"

"There's a letter here for you," Vinyl said, ignoring the question.

"A letter?” Octavia bemused, taking a step forward. “It's probably from my parents asking when I can come down and visit them in Whinnyapolis. It has been a rather long time since I—"

"Tavi, this has the Royal Seal on it."

Octavia almost tripped, quickly becoming short of breath. She nervously walked over to Vinyl’s side, taking the letter from her and staring at it. Most of the envelope was unremarkable—just a standard envelope with a small stamp in the corner addressed to her—but on the back, the letter was sealed shut with the Equestrian Royal Seal. Octavia stared at the two imprinted alicorns orbiting the sun and moon in shock, and neither she nor Vinyl said anything for a moment, both too stunned at the symbol to speak. Then at last, Octavia broke the silence, her lips slightly quivering.

"B-but that means this has to be from the castle! What could they possibly want with me? Why in Equestria would they want to get in contact with me?"

Vinyl finally had enough, leaning forward to poke Octavia in the side with her horn. "Open it! Open it!"

Her hooves shaking slightly, Octavia carefully peeled back the seal and opened the letter. She stared at the hoof-written note, inscribed on a lengthy piece of parchment that had been carefully folded into the envelope.

"'Dear Miss Octavia,'" she read out loud. "'We are currently one month away from this year's Grand Galloping Gala. As you should be well aware, this is going to be one of the largest Grand Galloping Galas of our generation, which will include the first proper public appearance in Canterlot of Princess Luna since her release from the stigma that was Nightmare Moon. I had recently attended a recital at the Anvil Rust Theatre, and although I was there to observe Harpo Nadermane's stunning performance, I instead was far more drawn to your cello playing. Although you didn't have the prestige, name recognition, or experience that the majority of other performers there had had, I found myself quite impressed with your mastery of the craft at such a young age. Therefore, I would like to extend you a cordial invitation to..."

Octavia's eyes widened, her hooves trembling slightly. She slowly backed up and sat down on the couch, staring at the letter in shock, as Vinyl followed, sitting down next to her. After a few moments, Octavia resumed her reading, her voice stuttering.

"'...to perform at this year's Grand Galloping Gala, as p-part of a four-piece ensemble in the castle ballroom. I would love to bring your youth and t-talent to the Gala, as I believe it would truly be a v-valuable addition to the atmosphere of the night. Please respond post-haste, as practice would begin within the next several days. Sincerely, Sir Allegro Sonata, musical chamberlain to Princess Celestia.'"

Vinyl's eyes widened as Octavia looked over the entire letter again. After a few moments, Octavia finally spoke again, her voice faint and cracking. "Vinyl… performing in the b-ballroom at the Grand Galloping Gala is one of the h-highest honors that a musician can receive. Most performers w-work their whole lives before they are invited to even perform at the Gala, let alone on the stage of the b-ballroom," she said, her lip beginning to shake. "As a little filly, I would dream about merely attending the Gala, much less performing, a-and in the highest stage there, the ballroom no less… "

Octavia lowered the paper, now staring straight ahead. She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths as the realization of what she had been offered hit her. After a few moments, she stood up and sped off towards her room.

"I-I have so much I have to prepare for! I need to make sure that my cello is properly tuned before practice begins, I have to find out if there's a dress code for performers, I have to study up on what music style they—" Octavia interrupted herself before turning around and rushing back to the main room. "I have to contact Sir Sonata first! It would be quite rude to leave him waiting. I-I should probably inform my parents too, I'm sure that they would like to—” Again Octavia interrupted herself, going back towards her room instead. "N-no, no, I need to find out as m-much information as I can f-first! I have to—"

Before she could continue her frantic musings, Vinyl latched onto her shoulders with both hooves. Octavia, trembling and hyperventilating, stared at Vinyl’s warm smile.

"Stop,” she calmly told Octavia. “Deep breaths, Tavi. Breathe."

Octavia closed her eyes and obliged, slowly inhaling. Her shivers subsided, and Vinyl patted her on the shoulder.

"I know you're probably freaking out in your head right now, but just live in the moment for a minute or two. Take it all in, Tavi. You don't have to flip like this."

After a few more breaths, Octavia got herself to stop shaking. When she opened her eyes, Vinyl saw a shimmer in them that she had never seen in Octavia before. A speechless smile appeared on her face, and when Octavia spoke, her voice cracked as she tried to hold back tears of joy.

"V-Vinyl… I…. I'm going to be performing at the Grand Galloping Gala!"

Octavia's smile was so wide that Vinyl couldn't help but smile as well, and patted her again on the shoulder. "Congratulations, Tavi. I'm proud of you. You're gonna have the best night ever."

"The best night ever?" Octavia replied, the smile on her face growing even larger. "That doesn't even begin to describe it! I've been dreaming of this moment my entire life, but I never thought it would actually happen! Never once did I believe that I would perform on the grandest stage at the grandest event of them all! It's going to be more than my best night ever, Vinyl…"

Octavia took one more deep breath in, closing her eyes and savoring the moment.

"It is going to be the greatest, most important night of my life!"

---

"Come on, everypony! You wanted a party? Now let's parrrrrrtayyy!"

"Okay, all you high-class ponies. Here's a highfalutin apple cake for yer hoity-toity taste buds."

"In fact, the only thing royal about you is that you are a royal pain!"

"This is my chance! Yes—Whoaaaa!"

"You're… going to love me!"

---

When Octavia left the apartment early on the morning of the Gala, Vinyl couldn't help but smile. The look on Octavia's face was priceless. She had a shine in her eyes akin to that of little fillies on their way to the amusement park, and her smile was wider than she had ever seen from her. Octavia had been so excited over the past few weeks that she had even offered to get Vinyl a ticket to the Gala, but Vinyl had politely turned it down, saying that formal parties like that were simply not her thing. Instead, Vinyl curled up on the couch in the apartment, put on some Magneightic Fields, and read her favorite Hay Bradbury book.

A monotonous skipping noise coming from the record player indicated the end of the album, so Vinyl put the book down and trotted over to her massive record collection. As she flipped through the records, she heard the sound of the front door of the apartment opening, and out of the corner of her eye she saw the outline of Octavia walking through the door.

"Welcome back, Tavi!" Vinyl happily chirped, still browsing her record collection. "Wow, you're home way earlier than I thought. I kinda figured the Gala was an all-night thing. Guess formal shindigs like that usually have a reasonable end time, huh?" She finally selected a record, then turned around, smiling. "So how did it go? How was the greatest nigh—"

Vinyl's question went unfinished, trailing off upon seeing her best friend. Octavia's mane was a frazzled mess, her coat matted and disheveled, and her bow tie hung loosely around her neck. A long scratch ran the length of her right foreleg, not deep enough to draw blood but still easily noticeable by anypony. As she dropped her cello case to the floor, Vinyl saw that it was also in bad shape, being dented along the side with flecks of frosting and traces of feathers and animal fur caught in its latches. Her face, most noticeably to Vinyl, was empty and distant: not showing a single shred of emotion, and especially not the happiness that Vinyl had seen earlier in the day.

Vinyl gasped, stepping forward and nearly dropping the record she was holding. "Octavia! Oh my gosh, are you alright? What happened?"

Vinyl cautiously approached, and before she even knew what was happening, Octavia burst into tears and leapt forward, wrapping her forehooves around her friend. Vinyl stood in shock, unsure of how to react as Octavia sobbed uncontrollably, shivering like a foal and spilling her distress into her friend’s comforting shoulder. Vinyl stood by and tried her best to console her, fearing the worst with Octavia unable to speak for minutes on end, choking on air with uneven breaths.

When the tears finally slowed down, Vinyl gently led Octavia over to the couch and sat her down before rushing off to the kitchen and returning with a glass of water. Octavia grasped it with both hooves and took light sips, though she was still shaking so hard that hardly any water made it into her mouth. As Octavia shook, Vinyl couldn't wait any longer.

"Sweet Celestia, Tavi! What happened at the Gala?!"

Octavia rocked back and forth slightly, sipping the water again before she finally spoke.

"…It was r-ruined."

"What?"

"The b-ballroom of the castle. The Gala. The m-most important night of my life. It w-was all ruined." Octavia drew a long, stuttered breath and stared at the floor. "There was a g-group of p-ponies who… invaded. It started w-with one of them rushing onto the stage, grabbing us, t-telling us to play songs. We hoped that she would be escorted from the area, b-but then more showed up." Octavia took another shaky drink of water, fighting back more tears. “All of Tartarus broke loose. Ponies were throwing cake, there w-were wild screams, the whole ballroom was n-nearly destroyed! Columns were collapsing, wild animals b-burst through the doors, it was a d-disaster!"

Octavia sipped the water one last time before putting the cup down. All emotion gradually drained from her face, leaving her staring emptily down at the floor below.

"T-they closed the ballroom,” Octavia said, slowly blinking several times. “They told us that our services would no longer be required for the evening."

Crestfallen, Vinyl reached out and rubbed a hoof softly against her back. "Geez, Tavi... I'm so sorry to hear that. I know that tonight was going to be big for you. But you still got to perform at the Gala, right?"

Octavia looked up at her with solemn eyes and a deep frown, then slowly turned back down to stare at the floor.

Vinyl shuddered. "Geez, Tavi. I really don't know what to say that could help. But I've been kicked out of shows before countless times, and let me tell you it gets better. Just ignore those stupid, stuck-ponies and you'll do fine, alright? There'll be plenty of other shows—"

Instead of responding, Octavia scooted away from Vinyl and curled up on the other end of the couch. Vinyl desperately racked her brain to think of anything that could possibly make her friend feel any better. She looked around the room, her eyes eventually falling on the cello case sitting near the door. A thought popped into her head, and she excitedly jumped to her hooves.

"Hey, I’ve got an idea!"

Vinyl smiled and trotted over to the cello case. "Grab your cello. We're gonna go out to the streets of Canterlot and you're gonna play there! I bet there are a ton of ponies who didn't get invited to the Gala and who are out enjoying the night. Think about how cool it would be if they ran into a musician from the Gala itself performing a free concert. You'll get to finish up all the stuff you were gonna play there and you'll get an audience. Think about how awesome it'll be!"

Vinyl tried to keep her smile up as Octavia looked up with sad, empty eyes. She looked down at her cello case for a moment, and then stood up. Vinyl's smile grew a bit as Octavia walked towards her, but her enthusiasm faltered completely as Octavia turned and walked to her room. Vinyl took a step forward, following her.

"Come on, Tavi,” Vinyl pleaded. “Grab your cello, and let's get out there and entertain the ponies who didn't go to the Gala!"

Octavia's stride didn't waver as she walked towards her room. When she finally spoke, her voice was empty and distant, just barely above a whisper.

"I don't feel like playing right now, Vinyl."

Vinyl froze in her tracks. She opened her mouth to say something, but found no words able to make it out. Octavia slowly closed the door to her room behind her, leaving Vinyl standing in disbelief in the den. She continued staring at the door before turning her head to look over at the cello case, laying battered and forgotten next to the door.

"B-but... but you always…"

---

The next day, Vinyl barely heard from Octavia, only hearing her shuffle about her room every once in a while. She had seen Octavia upset before, and part of her hoped that with some time to wallow, Octavia would start to feel better.

However, what was far more disconcerting to her was Octavia’s cello case that lay forgotten near the front door.

They both had known each other for practically their whole lives, since they were in kindergarten, and even attended the same university. In all of that time, Vinyl had never known Octavia to go more than a day without playing, or at the very least practicing, her cello. Her music was more than just her special talent and her passion, it was her lifeblood. The idea that she would leave her cello laying around without so much as even glancing at it was almost terrifying to Vinyl.

Come the following day, the pattern continued: Octavia barely left her room and still didn't say anything. As the afternoon wore on, Vinyl grew more and more concerned until night came and she couldn't take it any more. Finally mustering the courage, she gently knocked on the door to Octavia's room.

"Hey, Tavi?"

There was no response, other than quiet shuffling from behind the door. Vinyl sighed, then slowly turned around and began to walk away, but stopped when she heard the door creak open behind her. She spun around, finding Octavia standing in the doorway. To her surprise, Octavia looked extremely composed, almost as if nothing had happened. She calmly walked past Vinyl to the den. Vinyl closely followed her and sat down next to her on the couch.

"How are you feeling?” Vinyl cautiously asked.

Octavia took a long breath. "I want to apologize for how melancholic I have been the past few days. I am sure it has put an unnecessary strain on you."

Vinyl shook her head. "Strain? I haven’t been strained, don't worry about me. I want to know how you are feeling."

"Better. I realize now how unnecessary it has been for me to get so upset over a thing like the Gala."

Vinyl blinked, staring at her. "Wait, what?"

Octavia let out a distant, forced chuckle, looking towards the window of the apartment. "I mean, it was just a performance. Getting upset over it makes no sense. Those ponies were just having a little fun, putting my silly little desires above all of theirs was just—"

"Stop."

Vinyl's sudden, commanding voice made Octavia close her mouth. Vinyl shook her head, stunned.

"You're defending them? Are you kidding me? Dammit, you're doing it again!" Octavia didn't move, but Vinyl reached out and turned her to look straight into her eyes. "You're clamming up; you're holding back your thoughts! Why are you so afraid to speak your mind?"

Octavia's gaze shifted away. "I-I'm not... I just..."

Vinyl shook her head, her voice raising. "Octavia, listen to me. You can't do this to yourself! I absolutely refuse to believe that you're okay with what happened. Aren't you upset? It's like you said, it was the most important night of your life, and it was ruined! It's gone forever! Are you really just okay with that?"

Vinyl glared at Octavia, who slowly turned and looked straight ahead. She patiently waited for Octavia to say something, then saw Octavia shiver, her lip quivering.

"Oh geez, oh geez!” Vinyl gasped. “I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to upset you…"

She trailed off as Octavia turned away. Vinyl reached over and rested her hoof on Octavia's shoulder, sighing. "Look, I'm sorry I did that. Like I said, you can't do this to yourself. It's unhealthy. Heck, it's downright dangerous. You don't have to be upset with yourself, it's okay to be angry with what happened. Nopony is going to judge you." Vinyl sighed, patting Octavia on the back for a final time. "Listen, I have to go out for a bit, but I won't be too long. I just want to make sure you really are feeling better. That's what's important."

Octavia turned back to Vinyl, forcing herself to smile. "Vinyl, regardless of whether you think I'm holding anything in, I want to assure you that I am beginning to feel better."

"You wanna come with me? It might be good to get out of the apartment, get your mind on something else."

"Thank you, but what I believe I need right now is a proper meal and a good night's rest."

Vinyl nodded and stood up, turning to leave the apartment. As she did, she looked back to see Octavia sighing, then walking over to her cello case, brushing off some dust before picking the container up. Vinyl let out a relieved sigh and smiled, then finally turned and left the apartment.

Octavia carried her cello case into her room and opened it, staring at the few scratches and dings on the instrument for several moments. As the memories of the Gala came to the forefront of her mind, she closed the case again, and wandered off to the kitchen, trying to take her mind off what had happened. She pulled a box of pasta out of the pantry and started to turn towards the stove, but as she did her eyes caught something else: a copy of the Canterlot Times. There was a large color photograph on the front page, and after scanning it momentarily, she froze. As her jaw dropped slightly, she put down the pasta and walked over to the newspaper. Taking it in a slightly trembling hoof, she raised it up and stared at the image at the top of the main article.

There on the front page were the ponies who had ruined the most important night of her life. The five of them were all posing together for the camera and were joined by two other ponies. It took Octavia a few seconds to recognize one of them: Twilight Sparkle, the prodigy of Princess Celestia and one of the most well-known magic users in all of Equestria. The final figure, standing behind the six ponies, was far easier to recognize: Princess Celestia herself. As Octavia stared at the page, a realization hit her that sent a chill down her spine: all had smiles on their faces.

Walking away from the kitchen and sitting down at the couch, Octavia read the article.

--

Chaos at the Gala!

This year’s Grand Galloping Gala had promised to be one of the most memorable ever, and what a promise that was. While not necessarily going as expected, the day’s events will be remembered for years to come.


The Ballroom of Canterlot Castle had to be shut down mid-evening after a group of ponies from the small rural town of Ponyville brought their own method of “partying” to the Gala. However, these were not just typical party crashers, rather they had been invited to the event by Princess Celestia herself. These six ponies are the current bearers of the Elements of Harmony, wielders of the legendary magic that vanquished the evil Nightmare Moon upon her return to Equestria, and freed our Princess Luna from her scourge. The group—

--

Octavia lowered the newspaper. Her hooves were trembling as she stared down at the words on the page, and she muttered to herself.

"Th-they were invited by Princess Celestia herself? She allowed them to attend the Gala?"

She quickly brought the newspaper back up and continued to read through the article. She had expected a report about how the offenders were arrested, punished, at the very least scolded! But instead, it talked about the fun that they had had at the Gala. Each pony was interviewed about their so-called 'Best Night Ever,’ happily talking about how silly they had gotten and the fun they all ended up having. Octavia's hooves shook harder and harder as she read about the worst night of her life, as if it was some sort of lighthearted joke to the ponies who had caused it. Finally, she got to a part of the article that interviewed Princess Celestia herself. She took a deep breath, hoping that Celestia would speak of the ponies in the way that they deserved.

--

When asked to comment on the event, Princess Celestia had an especially positive outlook on the night’s outcome. “I for one found it to be one of the most enjoyable, exciting Galas the Castle has had the pleasure of hosting,” she commented. “Yes, I did invite the Bearers, and they certainly got a tad more rambunctious than I had anticipated, but it was all in good fun, I assure you. Although things may have gotten too chaotic at times, it makes me very happy to say that thankfully, nopony was hurt. In the end—”

--

Octavia couldn't read any more, it had become physically impossible for her to even do so. Her hooves were trembling so hard that the words on the page were violently quaking, and her vision had blurred. She desperately tried to calm herself down, but those words started playing over and over in her head, and all she could do was quietly sputter them.

"…Nopony was h-hurt?!"

Her breathing became erratic and labored as she abandoned all attempts to forget about the Gala. In a fit of anger she threw the newspaper across the room, sending papers scattering all over the den. She jumped onto her hind legs trying to calm herself down, but found it impossible; the room was spinning, her heart was racing, and it was becoming difficult for her to draw a breath. Thinking that what she needed was fresh air, she made her way to the front door of the apartment and opened it up. Immediately hit by a cold blast of air from the chilled Canterlot night, she grabbed the nearest piece of clothing she could reach—one of Vinyl's old, ratty coats—threw it over herself, and stormed out of the apartment, slamming the door on the way out.

---

Octavia stumbled through the streets of Canterlot, desperately trying to calm herself down, but found that no matter what she tried the world continued to spin. She couldn't focus on anything or anypony around her; she was too confused, too angry. Her hooves trembled with every awkward step, turning through the streets of Canterlot without knowing or caring where she ended up.

She had finally begun to calm down a bit when she looked up and took stock of where she was: one of the many plazas lines with storefronts in Canterlot. As she scanned the area , she froze again as she saw what stood in the very center of the pathway: a statue of Princess Celestia, rearing back on her hind hooves and smiling down at her and all else who would pass by.

Her body still shaking, Octavia slowly approached the statue until she stood in front of the base, only inches from it, and stared up at the image of Celestia. She remained still for a minute as she gaze at the carving of the ruler of all Equestria.

"Why?" she asked it.

Octavia leaned forward, lightly pounding her hoof into the base.

"Why!? You were the one who helped ruin my best night ever?"

She pounded her hoof into the statue's base a few more times, each empty hit gaining force. She stared up at the effigy again before turning her head away and staring forward at nothing in particular. Words began flowing out of her, and Octavia was helpless to stop them.

"'Nopony was hurt?’ 'Nopony was hurt?' The greatest moment of my career, the greatest moment of my life, taken away from me by those damned hooligans, and you think 'nopony was hurt?’ I was hurt! I thought you were the kind and benevolent ruler of Equestria, a pony who cared for all of her subjects, and you think that nopony was hurt? How could you say something like that? How could you be so, so…"

Octavia trailed off. Her hoof came to a rest on the statue as the energy drained from her body, and her head dropped, hanging limply.

"So ignorant…"

Her body completely gave out, and she fell into the statue and clung to its base. She let the rest of her weight sprawl on the ground as she stared into space. She wanted to cry, but no tears came. She wanted to yell, but her voice had given up on her. As she lay, the sullen mare didn't know how much time passed. It could have been minutes, or it could have been hours for all she knew. She didn’t feel angry, and she didn’t feel depressed; she felt hollow and confused.

Finally gaining the wherewithal to move again, Octavia collected herself, brushing dirt off of her coat, and spared one final glance at the statue of Celestia. Closing her eyes and sighing, she turned away and started to make the walk back to her apartment. After only a few steps, she was stopped when a frigid chill of air blew from the west. Shivering, she thrust her right hoof into the pocket of the coat to keep warm, but immediately pulled it out again when it hit an object in the pocket that she hadn't noticed. Grabbing at her foreleg in pain, she frustratedly reached into the pocket and pulled the object out. It only took a second for her to identify it: it was one of the cans of spray paint that Vinyl had been using to paint her poster. Sighing, Octavia returned the can to the coat pocket...

When in the back of her mind, she felt the spark flicker.

She tried to ignore it, but with how blurry the world was and how empty she was still feeling, the spark was all she could focus on. She stood completely still for several moments, before slowly turning her head back, staring at the statue of Celestia. She gazed at how pristine, how flawless it was, for several moments. Without even thinking about it, she felt her hoof reaching into her pocket again, and as a single insidious thought crept through her mind, she muttered under her breath.

"I wonder how she would like it if something so precious to her was ruined…"

Octavia shook her head, shaming herself for having such a thought. She started to turn, but the spark was becoming more profound, and she froze in place. Without even thinking about it, she found herself walking back towards the statue, until she was only a foot away. She could somehow still see the effigy perfectly, though her mind was still hazy, and she slowly paced around it, never taking her eyes off of Celestia. She finally stopped right in front of it and stared up into its face. She remained still for a few moments, then removed the can from her pocket once more, and lifted it up until it was level with the right leg of the statue.

The spark flickered incessantly, and her vision blurred. Her hooves trembled harder than ever. Hyperventilation overtook her, rattling the can in her hoof uncontrollably, and she quickly closed her eyes. She inhaled a deep, deliberate breath, gradually letting it out while talking to herself.

"Stop this immediately. This is wrong. You are better than this, Octavia. Petty revenge is never the answer. You are above doing something so foolish."

With her chest rising and falling heavily, Octavia let her hoof drop down again, trying to calm herself before she did something she would regret. After almost a full minute, she took one last breath, confident that she had stopped herself from doing something she would regret. She opened her eyes, and the first thing she saw was the face of Celestia.

She could swear that the statue’s eyes were staring directly at her. As her own gaze met the statue, she could hear the ruler of all of Equestria in her mind, laughing, almost taunting her.

"Nopony was hurt! Nopony was hurt! Nopony was hurt!"

She began to shake again, her eyes narrowed, she ground her teeth together…

In the back of her mind, the spark ignited.

Octavia felt her breathing return to normal, as her vision returned and the shaking stopped. Suddenly, all the anger, the emptiness, the anxiety that had clouded her mind, all evaporated. She felt calm, calmer than she had ever been in her life. She felt a sort of peaceful euphoria that was vaguely familiar, as if she had experienced it before, but she couldn't place where. But then, in the spur of the moment, she didn't care about where. Now, there were only two things left in the world: her, and the statue of Celestia in front of her.

Without another thought, she raised her hoof once more and pressed down on the nozzle of the can.

---

"Tavi, you up yet?"

Octavia's eyes slowly fluttered open, but she was in no mood to get out of bed yet. She buried her head into the pillow, hoping that Vinyl would get the hint. After a pause, she suddenly felt the sharp point of Vinyl's horn jab into her back hoof.

"Hey, Tavi, wake up."

She pulled the covers over her head, but it only resulted in Vinyl jabbing her repeatedly with her horn.

"Tavi Tavi Tavi Tavi Tavi Tavi Tavi Tavi Tavi Tavi Tavi Tavi Tavi."

Octavia curled into a ball under the covers and jammed the pillow over the top of her head. She heard the merciful sound of hoofsteps leaving the room, and she breathed a sigh of relief before relaxing down into the pillow. She was just starting to drift off to sleep again when thunderous bass beats suddenly blasted out of the living room. The feeling of the entire apartment vibrating caused Octavia to panic. She fumbled out of bed, only for her hooves to get tangled in the covers, and crashed straight onto the ground face-first.

"Uuurrrrrrgh," she moaned, rubbing her chin.

The music stopped and Vinyl poked her head back into the room, smiling.

"Oh hey, you're up!"

Vinyl dragged the still-woozy Octavia out of the mess of sheets, and then started pulling her to the door. Octavia barely managed to stumble to her feet as she was pulled further and further away from her bed.

"Vinyl, what are you—"

"I know you're probably still feeling crummy, but I'm thinking now that the only way to cure it is with a little fun. So come on, get up!" Vinyl urged her, still pulling her to the front door of their apartment. "Something crazy happened. We gotta go check it out!"

"Something? Vinyl, please, just let me—"

"Nope!" Vinyl yelled, pulling Octavia up and shoving her towards the door of the apartment. Realizing that there was no way she was going to win this argument, Octavia slowly trotted out the door, still half-asleep. She was immediately shoved again by Vinyl, who trotted much quicker, forcing Octavia to keep up with her.

Groggily, Octavia shook her head. "You're certainly taking a more hooves-on approach today.”

Vinyl happily nodded. "Yup! I was doing some thinking when I got home last night and found you passed out on your bed, and I realized that the only way you're gonna start feeling better is to start living again. So no more hunkering down in the apartment and wallowing. I know how depressed you are, but now it's time to start feeling better!”

As Vinyl followed a deliberate path through the streets of Canterlot, Octavia finally grew curious. "Vinyl, where on earth are we going?"

"This morning, the mailmare told me that something weird happened downtown last night. She didn't say exactly what, she just said that something went down with that new statue of Celestia near Clopperstone Road."

As soon as she heard the word "statue," Octavia's eyes shot open and the events of the previous night came rushing back to her. She quickly ran a few steps ahead of Vinyl, turning to talk to her.

"Vinyl, erm, I don't think this is something we need to see. I'm sure it was just a pony who had a few too many ciders and fell asleep in the streets or something. I'm going to go back to the apartment," she said, trying to leave, but Vinyl reached out and grabbed her, shaking her head.

"Hey! I said no more wallowing. You'll be back there soon enough, I want to check this out."

Vinyl continued trotting with Octavia next to her, sweating. "Calm down, I'm sure everything is alright,” Octavia thought to herself. “I'm sure that the Canterlot street crew has already cleaned things up by now, hardly any ponies probably took notice. That mailmare is ditzy enough as it is, she probably saw it hours ago and only now—"

Vinyl and Octavia rounded the corner, and both came to a stop. Vinyl's eyes widened in surprise while Octavia's entire body went numb. A massive crowd of ponies, at least a hundred, were surrounding a central point. A few royal guards were standing around at the front of the group just in case. In the center of the mass of ponies was the statue of Celestia.

The statue had been erected weeks ago, amid much fanfare. Only the elitist of Caterlot's elite had been invited to its unveiling, which had been punctuated by a long speech from Prince Blueblood. The statue itself was the work of one of the finest sculptors in all of Canterlot, Marble Chisel, who had spent months on the project. It was elegant, perhaps even flawless. For all intents and purposes, it was the perfect statue.

And now, it was green.

-------------

Exit Through Canterlot

End of Chapter 1: Spark