• Published 24th Mar 2013
  • 13,274 Views, 1,251 Comments

Syncopation - Terrasora



Octavia Philharmonica, the Canterlot Conservatory's rising star, is about to begin a whole new part of her life; one that involves an old friend, an ambitious businesspony and a certain eccentric DJ.

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The Moments Before

The cellist’s hooves resounded on Canterlot’s pavement.

Hype. The concert has hype. Ponies are actually looking forward to this concert. That shouldn’t be allowed! I mean, all the performers are still student; everypony in the audience should be dragging their hooves, arguing over whose foal was the most impressive. Boisterous DJs should not be looking for “inspiration” from a group of Conservatory students. Oh Celestia, I thought that I had overcome this bout of nervousness.
But Octavia, obviously, had not.

The grey mare felt her dread grow as she trudged through the gates of the Canterlot Conservatory. The building, in keeping with the Canterlot lifestyle, was rich in color, built with dozens of domes and airy spires. It was massive, not quite as large as the Canterlot Palace or Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns but large enough that most students slimmed down simply from trying to get to class on time. It was a shame really, nopony was truly able to enjoy the green pastures and statue gardens that adorned the school; they were always in a rush or were preoccupied with a page of sheet music or, as in Octavia’s case, sick with nerves.

Honestly, Octavia, you are a musician; nerves of steel are part of the job description. It’s time that you “ponied up,” as it were.

Octavia, lost in thought, crashed into a white unicorn. She fell backwards, landing on her flank, dropping the sheet music she held. I thought that only happened in stories, thought Octavia, rubbing the small of her back with a hoof.

A soft blue aura enveloped the sheet music. “I beg your pardon, madam, I’m afraid that I was not paying much attention to my surroundings.”

“No need to apologize,” Octavia began, "I am the one at fault her-" The grey mare recognized who she had crashed into, prompting a soft gasp. “Mr. Fancy Pants! Oh, I am terribly sorry!”

The white unicorn chuckled quietly, helping Octavia back onto her hooves. “Miss Philharmonica, I’m afraid I’ll be using your own words against you: No need to apologize; it’s always a pleasure to make your acquaintance. How have you been?”

The grey mare’s thoughts flashed back onto the last few days. Near sleepless nights, endless studying of Harpo’s composition, ensuring that her cello was perfectly tuned, the encounter at the coffee house. “I have little to complain about, sir.”

“Ah, nervous for your concert are you?”

Octavia blinked and wondered whether unicorns, as the rumors said, really could read minds.

“I can assure you Miss Philharmonica, I am not a mind reader.”

The cellist was not assured.

Another chuckle from Fancy Pants. “Before you burn me at the stake, allow me to explain myself. I have been reading a rather exuberant amount of Fetlock Hooves and have begun to fancy myself as a detective of sorts; it infuriates Fleur to no end.” The distinguished pony looked fondly over to a light pink unicorn, currently buying a bag of oats. “And, if you do not mind my saying so,” he said, turning back to Octavia, “you are clearly shaken over something. Would you mind if I indulge myself?”

Octavia shook her head. “By all means Mr. Fancy Pants.”

“Evidence number one!” Fancy Pants’ voice rang a bit louder than intended. He really did enjoy playing detective. “You said that you ‘have little to complain about,’ not that you have nothing to complain about. Perhaps I am being a bit nit-picky, but coming from you, Miss Philharmonica, ‘little to complain about’ means that you likely have problems that would send other ponies screaming down the streets of Canterlot.”

The cellist smiled sheepishly.

“Evidence number two! You smell of coffee, and rather strong coffee at that.”

Octavia tried to smell herself discreetly, and did indeed notice a faint smell of coffee, no doubt left over from Vinyl Scratch’s Green Eye and whatever ungodly ingredients went into it.

Fancy Pants continued. “I can’t imagine that you drink coffee, Miss Philharmonica and, in more concrete details, you currently lack that Discordian energy that a coffee of that magnitude would bring about.”

A picture of herself vaulting over counters and crashing onto pillows before the sun had even fully risen filled Octavia’s mind.

She shuttered.

“In other words, you were likely at a coffee house earlier this morning; I know for a fact that there is a SunBucks not too far from here. My guess is that you were up far earlier than necessary and decided to head there for a quick breakfast.”
The grey mare provided a quick nod, impressed by Fancy Pants and his logic.

“Now we shall move on to evidence number three!”

“Oh dear, is he pretending to be a detective again?” Fleur de Lis trotted to her husband and Octavia. “I hope he hasn’t offended you, Fancy can get a bit… carried away.”

“Fleur, must you interrupt my fun?” Fancy Pants seemed rather disappointed about not continuing his analysis. “I was just about to finish.” His head drooped the slightest bit.

Fleur de Lis planted a quick kiss on her husband’s cheek. “Try not to take too long. I know how you get.”

Fancy Pants grinned.

The pink unicorn caught Octavia’s eye. Fleur rolled her eyes in an exaggerated manner. “He’s one of the most respected ponies in Equestria, but he might as well be a colt.”

Octavia giggled.

“If I may continue.” The stallion cleared his throat. “Evidence number three! Miss Philharmonica, you were distracted. So thoroughly distracted that you crashed into another pony. The last time I saw you in such a state was when I visited your parents some years ago. You were still a filly, preparing for one of your earlier concerts. You crashed right into a chest of drawers, apologized to it, and then walked away. I imagine that a similar thought process is guiding you today.”

A blush had spread across the grey mare’s face at the childhood memory, but she managed a nod at Fancy Pants’ last statement.

The stallion put a fatherly hoof on the cellist’s shoulder. “Octavia Philharmonica, you would have been able to play with any Conservatory student when you were still a filly apologizing to inanimate objects. You have improved more than a hundred-fold from then until now; even your worst performance would be a highlight of the evening, and the incredible performance you are about to give will blow all others out of the proverbial water.” Fancy Pants began to walk away with Fleur de Lis at his side. “My regards to your parents,” called the distinguished pony from over his shoulder. Fleur gave Octavia an encouraging smile.

The grey mare was dumbstruck; she wasn’t even able to mutter a ‘thank you.’

Fancy Pants… THE Fancy Pants, owner of a hundred different companies, voted this year’s “Pony Everypony Should Know,” widely considered Equestria’s most influential pony, places that amount of confidence in me.

A slow smile spread across the cellist’s face.

Octavia cantered off; she had a concert to prepare for and an audience to reduce to tears.

***

“Octavia, where in Equestria have you been?!” A dark purple stallion in a bright red bowtie stood in front of the cellist.

“Well, Harpo, for the last few minutes I’ve been trying to find you. And now I’m here, standing outside of a room with you blocking the way in. And how was your day?” Octavia smiled sweetly.

Harpo walked backwards, allowing Octavia to enter the room, which was just as luxurious as the Conservatory’s exterior, maintaining a steady stream of consciousness all the while. “My day? Worrying, nausea-inducing, terrible! And that was just breakfast; remind me not to try cooking again. But that’s not important. Tell me, my dear cellist, just how do you feel about my composition?”

“It’s well-paced, cleanly notated, and may be the best piece you’ve written.” She dropped unceremoniously onto a wonderfully plush couch. “It almost makes up for the fact that it has built calluses over my already existing calluses. I could probably reach into a fire with my left hoof and not feel it!”

Harpo laughed; a sound reminiscent of the instrument that inspired his name. “Then you won’t mind playing it for me right now.”

The cellist froze. “Oh, Celestia…”

“Is it really that daunting?” Harpo was a bit worried; what good is a music piece if no one can play it?

“Harpo… I don’t have my cello.”

“You…” Harpo glanced around the room, then back to the grey mare. The large case normally strapped to Octavia’s back was nowhere to be found. “Octavia… You don’t have your cello.”

“Yes, I’ve noticed,” deadpanned Octavia.

“Oh, dear, this is worse than breakfast.”

The grey mare glanced up at the clock. “Thirty minutes…” That was just enough time to get back home, pick up her cello and head back here. If she hurried. Maybe.

Octavia sprung off the couch. “Harpo, I’m leaving now. I promise I’ll make it back in time.” The stallion was looking rather sick. “Kindly do not pass out before I return.”

***

The cellist without a cello weaved in and out of the well-to-do of Canterlot society. This is NOT how I imagined my day would go. I only had to get up, overcome my nervousness, get in place, play my cello, wow the audience, and move on with my life. But did that happen? Of course not! Marephy’s Law is in full effect today.

Octavia barreled through a group of especially distinguished looking ponies, throwing out various “Pardon me”-s and “sorry”-s amid the chorus of resulting “My words!” The grey mare offered Fleur de Lis a polite nod when she caught her eye although Fancy Pants was nowhere in sight. And then she was back on the pavement, leaving behind the immaculate Canterlot Conservatory.

And honestly, what are the chances that I would forgot my cello today of all days? I even went back into my home for the sheet music. At least Harpo has that right now; he’s a level-headed pony. An image of Harpo beginning to curl into fetal position as Octavia left the room flashed into her mind. … For the most part.

Octavia approached the SunBucks she had visited that morning. Not much more now, she thought, silently thanking whatever being endowed earth ponies with their stamina.

“GOOOOOOOOOOOOD-BYE REGULARS!” sounded a familiar voice as Octavia pulled up to the SunBucks entrance.

By Celestia’s round-

Vinyl Scratch, ever the pony on the hurry, shoved open the glass door that barred her exit. Octavia crashed, defying physics for a moment as she levitated parallel to the ground. However, physics quickly took notice and reasserted its control, sending Octavia sprawling onto the pavement.

Vinyl glanced at the glass door. “Huh, not even a crack. I should get one of these.” The DJ turned her attention to the grey mare forcing her way back to her hooves. “Hey, you’re Tavi!” She trotted over to Octavia, providing more moral than physical support. “Are you okay? You hit that door pretty hard. I’ve done that before; doesn’t feel good.”

Stupid bad luck, stupid Marephy, stupid reoccurring purple shades. “Why are you here again?” There may have been more venom in Octavia’s voice than was intended.

“I was getting my late-morning coffee.”

Late-morning coffee. Of course, what else could it possibly have been? “Well, Miss Scratch, I’m in a bit of a hurry, so if you’ll excuse me.” Octavia cantered off.

“Yeah, ‘bit of a hurry,’” snorted Vinyl, “No shit.” She was running right next to the cellist, coffee levitating in front of her.
Octavia sped up a bit. Vinyl kept her pace.

“Sooooo,” said the white unicorn, “where you trying to get to?”

Another slight acceleration. “Home, Miss Scratch.”

“I told you to call me Vinyl. Alright, so you’re going home, but why? Nervous about playing a concert, Miss Conservatory Student?”

The two mares were practically sprinting at this point.

“I forgot my instrument.” Octavia was panting from her exertion.

“YOU WHAT?!” Vinyl jumped up, her hooves nearly pointing upwards in her shock. “Where do you live?!”

The cellist, stumbling a bit from the DJ’s acclamation pointed a hoof towards her home that had only just begun to come into focus. Without further ado, Vinyl grabbed hold of Octavia and, with a crack and a sheen of pearl white magic, teleported both of them in front of the building the grey mare had pointed at.

Octavia was breathless and speechless. Vinyl, on the other hand was clearly not. She gripped the cellist’s hoof and ran into the building. “What floor?!” yelled the DJ.

“Fifth.”

“The stairs’ll be faster. Hang on!” Five magical flashes later they were on Octavia’s floor, Vinyl panting heavily from her exertion. The DJ let go of the grey hoof and sat down heavily. “Go… get cello. I’ll… be fine.”

The grey mare hesitated, then took off towards her flat. Take out key, fit, turn, dash to the bedroom, grab cello, dash into kitchen, fill cup of water, dash back out. The entire process took ten seconds.

Octavia trotted back into the hallway, stopping by a Vinyl lying spread eagle on the carpet. The cellist, now reunited with her instrument, offered the unicorn the glass.

Vinyl took the glass with her magic and dumped it on her own face, getting around three-fourths of the total amount of water down her throat. “This carpet,” said the DJ, “is sooooooo soft.”

Octavia giggled.

“Hey, you actually smile! Haven’t seen that before. Kinda cute.” She got to her hooves. “Well, I guess we should get going.”

The grey mare looked up at a clock, a slight pink tinge on her face. Ten minutes. “I don’t know if we’ll make it.”

The DJ raised an eyebrow, a rather subdued action considering that her purple shades hid most of her face. Octavia noticed that there were drops of water on the lenses. The next moment, Vinyl had used magic to wipe them away.

“What’re you talking about Octy? Of course we’ll make it. Magical unicorn, remember?” The DJ tapped herself on the side of her head.

“Oh. Indeed. I’m not quite… used to magic.”

“S’Alright, confuses me too sometimes, and I’m a unicorn. Ready to go?”

“Of course.”

One final flash of magic sent the pair back to the Canterlot Conservatory.

***

They appeared in the middle of a group of particularly distinguished ponies and rapidly repeated “Pardon me”-s and “Sorry”-s amid a chorus of “My Word!”

The two mares extricated themselves from that group.

“Well, Miss Scratch.”

Vinyl gave Octavia a pointed look from behind sunglasses.

I don't know how that's even possible.

“Well, Vinyl,” sighed the cellist.

The DJ grinned.

“I will be heading in this direction,” Octavia gestured vaguely with her hoof, “although I hope you’ll be attending my concert in a few minutes, as a thank you for helping me reunite with my cello.”

The unicorn shrugged. “Don’t mention it, I was supposed to be here anyway; I just got a bit of exercise on top of being on time for once.” She scanned the area around them and seemed to notice somepony. “Speaking of that, I’ve gotta go. Knock ‘em dead, Tavi!” And with that, the DJ disappeared into the milling crowd.

Octavia shook her head and began to walk back to Harpo. I’ve only met her twice and she was willing to exhaust herself for my sake. Such a strange mare… Her coffee disappeared after that first teleport, she must have dropped it while casting her spell. Great, something else I owe Miss Scratch. I hate having debts.

***

The cellist found herself in front of the room where, she knew, Harpo was likely worried to death. She pushed open the door and found a far better situation than she expected.

The purple stallion sat on the couch, a cup of tea held in his shaking hooves, a disheveled mane, askew bowtie, darkened skin under his eyes, and a quarter-finished bottle of whiskey standing on the carpet. “Oh, by Luna’s starry night, the cello’s here!” Harpo exclaimed, nearly tossing his tea into the air. Luckily, the composer had enough self-control to prevent this sacrilege.

“Yes Harpo, don’t mention that I ran through a quarter of Canterlot and crashed into a glass door to get to it.”

“Octavia, don’t take it that way! We both know that you could go out there and sing the piece, or bang it out on the floorboards and blow away even Hoity Toity. But it will sound infinitely better on that cello.”

“That was almost a compliment, Sergeant. Are you drunk?”

“I always compliment you! Remember when I said that you almost played that note right? And no, I’m not drunk! I just *hiccup* had to steel my nerves a bit.” He tried to take a drink from his tea, but found that the cup had a mind of its own. He put it down on the table instead.

Octavia picked up the whiskey and re-corked it. It was relatively weak; Harpo would probably not pass out during the concert, even given the stallion’s surprisingly low alcohol tolerance. Just to be sure, the grey mare trotted over and picked up a courtesy water bottle somepony had left for them. She considered dousing Harpo with it, but decided against it, opting instead to offer it to the composer. She remembered a similar event that had occurred only a few minutes ago; an involuntary smile tugged at her lips.

“Come along Harpo, you don’t want to miss the first performance of your masterpiece.”

“It’ll be a sad career if this is my masterpiece!” Harpo shakily stood up, drinking heavily from his water bottle. “This is the beginning of hundreds of masterpieces, compositions that will be played for generations!” A hard hiccup nearly made the purple stallion fall on his flank. “Let’s go Octavia, to the future!” Harpo awkwardly cantered to the door, attempting a heroic run, but deciding against it when the ground under him began to wobble. He rested against the door frame for a moment, and then continued through the door, water bottle in hoof.

The grey mare followed, turning off the lights and shutting the door behind her. She silently thanked her previous insomnia; her cello was in prime condition even though she had had no time to prepare it. Yet, there was something bothering her.
It was not that sense of dread and nervousness from before; Fancy Pants’s words and the cellist’s run through Canterlot had fully driven that from her mind. This was something else entirely.

But what else could it be? If she had overcome her nervousness for the concert than what else does Octavia Philharmonica, the Canterlot Conservatory’s rising star-.

Ah, so that’s it. After this performance I won’t be a Conservatory student. I’ll be on my own. It just hadn’t hit until now. Octavia’s stomach seemed to curl in on itself. That's a slightly terrifying thought... But one problem at a time, Octavia; first the concert then everything else.

The mare’s violet eyes fell on Harpo, stumbling his way into the auditorium where, in a sense, she would give one of her last concerts. The cellist’s mouth twisted into a wry smile.

‘To the future’ indeed, Harpo. Our story hasn’t even begun yet.

Author's Note:

Yay, another chapter done! I'm not normally this production, but my brain kept bugging me to write this. My mind has a mind of its own.
I have to thank AppleDashFan132 for pre-reading this for me!
And I will also thank you, fellow MLP fan for reading this far. This fic was made possible by readers like you! Thank you!
Oh, and feedback and comments are, as always, appreciated.

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