The lunchroom bustled about in it's usual manner, students roaming to and fro as they gathered their trays and sat in their normal bunches. Chatter echoed throughout the room in a murmur, occasional words of interest pricking through, but then disappearing once more into the sea of sound. Sunset didn't really like the noise, which is why she was so bothered by the lunchroom and tried to avoid it at all costs. However, she stayed for one reason. Or, rather, five.
"Hey, Sunny!" exclaimed a familiar, perky voice. Sunset didn't even have to turn to know who it was, but she still turned nonetheless. She smiled at the sight of Pinkie Pie, who was rapidly waving her arm about as she stood up from her seat. Dash and Applejack ceased arguing to look up at Sunset, who was making her way to the table, and waved briefly before sparing each other wary, borderline argumentative glances.
"Hi, guys," Sunset greeted, a warm smile on her face. Suddenly, the cafeteria noise became bearable, and she wasn't as bothered by it.
Rarity looked up from filing her nails, her arm outstretched and fingers spread out like a starfish. "So, how's your day been? I take it that people have been responding positively?"
Sunset nodded a bit. "Yeah, they have. I guess it's because I helped with the RRR Club's trash pickup, and helped the band kids tune their instruments for practice." She didn't mention how she had stained her favorite jacket from picking up a half-full can of red punch while helping the Recycle, Reuse, and Reduce Club, and that her ears hurt from Snips and Snails busting in and blasting the brass section's instruments for a solid half hour. She felt that it wasn't important.
Rainbow rolled her eyes. "I think they're just grateful you're not acting demonic or anything like that."
"Rainbow!" Fluttershy called out, her hand lightly hitting Rainbow's arm. "We said we weren't going to talk about it anymore, remember?"
Sunset held up a hand. "It's fine. In a way, she's right, I guess." She took a small sip of her juice. "Besides, I think they aren't as worried as they used to be."
Pinkie giggled a bit. "Duh! Because you totally helped us save the school!"
"I think you mean 'world', Pinkie Pie," Rainbow corrected. She lifted up her empty tray and spun it on her finger like a basketball. "I mean, who knows what would have happened if those chicks actually beat us?"
Sunset felt a prick of unease at the mention of the Sirens, and then took another drink to distract her thoughts. "I guess you're right about that."
Applejack frowned. "Y'know, Ah was wonderin' where those three went after everythin' was said an' done." Her brows furrowed a bit. "Ya think we should be a bit worried?"
Rarity sniffed a bit. "I'm sure they went off to skulk and lick their wounds. Those three were nothing but trouble, and I honestly can't say I'd want to see them anytime soon."
Pinkie frowned a bit. "Aw, but Sonata wasn't that bad! She was actually kinda fun!" When the five girls turned to look at her, she looked at them in a confused manner. "What?"
"Pinkie, have you talked to any of the Sirens?" Sunset asked, feeling a bit apprehensive over her answer.
Pinkie shook her head. "Not recently, no. But, I talked to Sonata once and she was super nice to me!" She frowned again. "But, Aria dragged her off before she could say anything else to me, and they both left. Poor Nata looked so sad..."
Sunset blinked. "'Nata'?"
Pinkie shrugged. "It's a nickname I gave her. She didn't seem to mind it." She took a long slurp of her strawberry milk. "I kinda think that Nata didn't like being mean to everyone."
Everyone blinked in collective shock, and chorus of "Huh?"'s resonated from the other members of the group. Pinkie's statement was so out of place and random, but not in her usual manner, if that even made sense. Sunset recalled her encounter with the Dazzlings and how they had attempted to turn her against her friends, and she didn't think that Sonata seemed to look regretful over what she said. She wondered what it was that Pinkie and Sonata could have discussed that could have caused Pinkie not to think of her in the same way.
"Pinkie, no offense, but I don't think you're very good at seeing the bad in some things," Rainbow told her. "Also, I don't know if you remember, but Sonata kinda tried to kill of us back at the Battle of the Bands."
Pinkie frowned. "But, I didn't talk to her until after the Battle of the Bands!"
The table went silent. Everyone seemed to drop their utensils, and they all looked at Pinkie with the utmost shock. Fluttershy even had a hand over her mouth, probably the most shocked out of the five. Rarity didn't even seem to notice that she had chipped a nail with her file, which just went to show her far her surprise had taken her. Dash and Applejack just stared at her.
Finally, Sunset cleared her throat. "What do you mean you talked to her after the Battle of the Bands?" She paused as another thought reached her. "How did you even find them? No one's seen them for weeks."
Pinkie didn't seem to understand why everyone was shocked and she continued on nonchalantly. "I saw them after the show later on when we all went home. Everyone had given up on looking for them, and I was pretty tired for staying up so long. I even ran out of cupcakes!" She pulled one out from behind her and took a small bite before continuing. "Then, when I was walking down the street, I saw Sonata sitting at the corner of Sugarcube Corner. She looked real sad, and I thought that maybe she might need something to cheer her up! So, I went into the bakery through the back and took some of my emergency cupcakes from my stash, then brought them out."
Rainbow arched a brow. "You have an emergency stash of cupcakes?"
"Yeah, don't you?" Pinkie asked. She didn't wait for an answer. "Anyway, when I offered them to her, she looked so happy and it made me happy! She started eating and talking, which I didn't mind since I do it all the time, and I started telling her jokes to make her laugh! She asked me why I was being nice to her even though she was a total meaniehead--"
"I honestly doubt she called herself a meaniehead," Rarity commented, then paused as she mulled over that thought. "Actually, never mind, she might have."
"--and I told her that it was because she looked sad!" Her smile turned bittersweet, like a sour candy. "I don't like seeing anyone sad, even if they're mean to me." She smiled a little more brightly. "And then we started talking a lot more! But, then Aria showed up and she took Sonata away before I had the chance to say goodbye." She frowned a bit, her brows creased in confusion. "I wonder why Aria was so weird about it?"
"Probably 'cause we kicked their tails in the Battle of the Bands," Applejack told her. "She might have been a little bitter over it, sugar cube."
Rarity scoffed lightly. "Aria seems to always be a bit bitter to me, dear."
Sunset frowned at Rarity. "I think she's just had it a little rough, maybe. I was a little bitter, too, you guys."
"Darling, you're a different case entirely." Rarity put her chin on her hands in a way a psychologist would when a patient was talking about their issues. "You realized your mistake and immediately set to righting your wrongs."
Sunset didn't like Rarity's analytic look, so she decided to ignore it. "Look, maybe they're just having a bit of trouble adjusting, is all. They lost their magic, and are probably wondering what to do with themselves because they don't have their Siren magic to control anyone to their will. They have to actually work for things now, and it's probably made things much harder for them."
"Do you think that's why they haven't shown up to school for the past couple of weeks since the Battle of the Bands?" Fluttershy inquired. "Maybe they had to get full-time jobs or something..."
Applejack let out a tiny 'hmmph'."Maybe it'll teach them a lesson... They look like they could use one, if ya ask me."
Pinkie's brows shot up in surprise and she held up a finger. "Hey, guys, if Sonata is supposed to have a full time job, then why is she in the cafeteria?"
Everyone turned in collective shock to where Pinkie was pointing and all their jaws dropped. As she said, Sonata was standing in the cafeteria, a hand on her arm self-consciously and her gaze unsure and confused. Her eyes flickered around the cafeteria, where it seemed no one noticed her as of yet. She took a few wary steps, which gained the attention of students she passed and a murmur of whispers spread through the tables.
"What's she doing here?" said one boy.
"Why is she even here?" asked another.
"Ew, gross, it's one of them," a girl hissed.
Sunset felt a pang of sympathy as Sonata made her way down the aisle, her gaze downcast and her arms crossed in the most recluse manner. She looked strange without her ditzy smile and her usual air of allure, and it was kind of saddening for Sunset to see her so out of her element. Granted, she didn't prefer her to be on a pedestal surrounded by evil energy either, but it still looked upsetting.
Suddenly, Pinkie stood up and, much like she did with Sunset, waved her hand about erratically. "Hey, Nata, over here!"
"Pinkie Pie!" Rarity hissed, her tone urgent. "Just what are you doing?"
Pinkie didn't seem to hear her. "Hey, Nata! Come sit over here! We got an extra seat by Sunny!"
Sonata shifted a little more quickly as the whispers escalated from disgust to interest and light annoyance at Pinkie's antics. She quickly made it to the table and sat down, her gaze avoiding those of the five who were peering at her with particular interest. Sunset could practically hear all the questions in her head buzz and she wondered just what she wanted to ask: Where were you? Where are the others at? Why are you here? Why now? Are you still evil? She winced inwardly at that last one, and then decided not to air it to the others or Sonata.
Pinkie smiled at Sonata and pulled out a random cupcake once more, then handed it to her with a glass of strawberry milk. "Here ya go!"
Sonata didn't even seem to be phased by Pinkie and she pushed the food and drink away. "Not hungry."
Pinkie frowned. "You OK?"
Sonata didn't say anything for a moment, and Sunset briefly imagined a small buffer symbol over her head as if she were processing the question. Sunset imagined that if she opened Sonata's mouth at the moment, the AOL screeching sound would come out of it, and then decided not to think about it after that. Finally, Sonata said, "I don't know."
Sunset looked to Pinkie, who appeared to be thinking of the multiple ways to make someone laugh, and held up a hand as if to pause her thoughts. She turned to Sonata with an awkward feeling, then cleared her throat. "So, uh, where have you been?"
Sonata stirred her glass of milk with a spoon Pinkie gave her. "Around... Dagi and Aria made us leave the house for a little while and we left town for a couple weeks..." She looked up at Pinkie. "I wanted to talk to you, but Aria wouldn't let me leave yet. I really liked those cupcakes you gave me."
Pinkie smiled at the compliment. "I told you guys she was nice!"
Sonata smiled. "Thanks..." She frowned again. "I only got to leave today because Aria went with me." She looked around, almost like a child looking for their parent. "Aria said she'd meet me here..."
Sunset's eyes widened. "Aria's here, too? What about Adagio? Is she here, too?"
Sonata shook her head. "She didn't want to leave yet... She's still real upset about what happened and she won't talk to me about it. Aria's barely managed to get anything out of her at all..." She looked up a bit.
Sunset wasn't sure if she was sympathetic towards Sonata or not, but she still spared her a small, reassuring smile. "I think she'll get a little better... Maybe not right away, but she will."
Sonata cocked her head to the side. "Do you know that because you used to be mean, too?"
Sunset blinked in surprise, but once she saw that Sonata didn't mean it in a bad way, she nodded a little. "I guess... I know what it's like to be defeated and to have to get over what's been done."
"But, you had us to help you through it!" Pinkie added. "And I'll be happy to help you, Sonata!"
"What?" everyone blurted out, except for Sunset, Pinkie, and Sonata.
Sonata blinked and small spark of surprise shone in her expression. "Really? You would?"
Pinkie nodded. "Yeah! I mean, we helped Sunny out, and I'd love to help you, too! You're super duper nice!"
Sonata, surprisingly, smiled. "Thanks!" Sunset couldn't help but notice just how similar her smile was to Pinkie's, and she found a little solace in that thought. "I think Aria will be happy to know that!"
"Speaking of, do you know where she is?" Rainbow asked, sounding a bit wary as she did. "I didn't see her earlier today."
Sonata shrugged, her normal clueless persona returning. "Dunno. She said she was gonna see me in here..."
"You mean by the entrance?" Pinkie guessed. "'Cause she's right over there!" Before anyone could say anything, she stood up for the third time and started waving both her arms. "Hey, Ari! Sonata's right over here!"
Sunset resisted the urge to roll her eyes at Pinkie's unsubtle behavior and turned to the entrance, where Aria stood. She looked as pessimistic as usual and her resting face of apathy tied in bitterly with her crossed arms and leaning pose. She rolled her eyes in the way Sunset had thought about, and stalked to the table, her eyes not even sparing a glance towards the students who were leering at her. Sunset wondered how she managed to keep a cool expression and then deduced it to be because of her negativity in general that made it so.
Sonata pulled up a chair beside her and patted it. "Hi, Ari!"
Aria frowned. "Don't you start on that, Sonata." She sat down. "S'up? How's the food?"
Applejack glared at her. "Really? Ya tried to kill the lot of us a couple weeks ago, disappear for weeks, and then show up outta the blue to ask us, 'How's the food?'"
Aria blinked slowly, and Sunset was reminded of Maud for a brilliant moment. "I hear your Granny cooks for the school. I hear it tastes really good. I might try some later."
"Cupcake?" Pinkie offered, her arm outstretched with another cupcake in her hand.
Aria took it and bit into it. "Thanks." She swallowed. "It tastes really good."
Rainbow frowned at her. "Cut the act, will ya? Just what are you doing here and why are you talking to all of us?"
Aria put the cupcake down and pointed at Pinkie. "She asked me to sit with you, so I am." She took another bite of the cupcake. "And she makes super good cupcakes. I'll be sure to go by Sugarcube Corner later, OK?"
Pinkie nodded excitedly. "OK!"
"I think what Rainbow was trying to ask was why you decided to return to school, especially after what you'd done. You tried to control all of us!" She spared Sunset a glance. "No offense, dear."
Sunset frowned. 'I didn't think this was about me...?'
Aria sighed. "I came to make amends." She frowned a little more at everyone's shocked expressions. "What? I know what we did was wrong, and since Sonata was so miserable at the house, I decided to go to school with her. It's been forever since I've been to one, you know."
"Uh, no, we don't know..." Fluttershy said. "This isn't the first school you've been to?"
Aria shook her head. "We're a thousand years old. We've been to tons of schools."
Sonata nodded. "Uh-huh! It's kinda fun! I was a cheerleader at one of them!" She gasped a bit in realization. "Maybe I could be one at this one! Could I, Aria?"
"Sure, knock yourself out," Aria told her. "Not like you got immortality to hold you back anymore."
Sonata didn't seem to pick up on her negative tone and she clapped her hands excitedly. "Yay! This is gonna be so fun!"
Pinkie smiled at her. "You could join the party planning committee! I'm sure you'd be great at it!"
Sonata giggled. "I love parties!"
Aria sighed. "I wonder if anyone will mind a former Siren joining an after school club..."
Sonata, finally having caught onto Aria's mean tone, slapped her arm a bit. "Quit being so pessimistic! You said you were gonna stop being so negative and such a meaniehead to everyone!"
"So I was right, then..." Rarity said to herself. She cleared her throat. "Pardon my intrusion, but perhaps you two could get to why you're here? Specifically, that is."
Aria frowned at her. "I told you: we're here to make amends for what we did."
"But, why now?" Rainbow interrogated, her hands going up in confusion and a bit aggressively. "You spent, what, a thousand years feeding off people's bad mojo and now you decide to be goodie-goodies?"
"We lost our magic and immortality, Rainbow Trash," Aria responded a bit negatively. "We don't have much of a choice anymore."
Rainbow growled. "It's Rainbow Dash, Ari."
Before Aria could say anything, Sonata interrupted. "Just because we fed off of bad feelings, doesn't mean that we're bad, y'know."
Aria glared at Sonata. "Sonata, shut it."
Sunset blinked in surprise. "What do you mean? I thought Sirens were supposed to be evil creatures and that they only fed off of bad emotions to feed that evil energy."
"We're not. Adagio told us we had to--" Sonata was cut off by Aria's hand, her words muffling and turning into gibberish.
"Sonata, quit it." Aria grabbed Sonata's hand and stood her up along with herself. "We're leaving. It was so not nice seeing you all again."
Sunset put on a troubled frown as the two girls left the table and exited the cafeteria, Aria whispering small, negative words to Sonata as they did so. "Any clue what that was about?"
Rainbow shrugged. "Don't know, don't care. Those two can do whatever they want as long as they don't cause trouble for the rest of us."
Pinkie frowned. "Maybe I can talk to Sonata later on? She said she might want to be in the party planning committee, and since the sign-up sheet is in the hall--"
"She probably said that to be nice, sugar cube," Applejack interrupted. "I wouldn't put it past her or the rest of them to start up another storm of trouble for everyone. Maybe it's best to keep our distance from 'em."
Pinkie fidgeted a bit uneasily, but she nodded in acknowledgement. "I guess you're right."
Sunset, however, didn't see the truth in Applejack's words. They had been open to her when she had sought out forgiveness and support for her misdeeds, and from it she had learned a lot about friendship. You could learn a lot from how powerful that sort of thing was after getting blasted with some friendship magic, and she doubted that Sonata or even Aria were exception to that. She briefly pondered over the effect it could have had on Adagio, and then thought better of doing so.
She looked at the cafeteria doors, where Aria and Sonata had been, then back at her lunch. Suddenly, the noise of the cafeteria returned and her appetite had disappeared. She sighed, then pushed her tray away from her. "I'm gonna go check on them." She left before they could say anything and scrambled out of her chair, her steps quick and deliberate as not to lose the two former Sirens.
Sunset pushed the doors open with ease and looked both directions before catching Aria and Sonata turning a corner down the left corridor. She sped up her pace and whirled around the corner, where she saw the two girls turn to look at her with surprised expressions. She frowned as she looked at them and put her hands on her hips to give herself a little more confidence for standing up to them. "Care to explain what that was all about back there?"
Sonata opened her mouth to speak, but Aria held up a hand to silence her. She narrowed her eyes at her, and then crossed her arms over her chest in a resolute manner. "Why do you care? I thought your friends didn't want to have us around."
Sunset tried very well to ignore the sarcastic use of the word "friends", but it still bothered her despite her efforts. She sighed and dropped her arms from her hips. "Look, I just wanna help, alright? I know what it's like to want to make up for mistakes you made and have no one give the chance for you to do so." She rose her brows. "I also know what it's like to have a story behind your motives, even if it doesn't seem to make sense to others."
Aria arched a brow at her statement. "You think we have a reason for doing what we do other than survival?"
"I think you have a reason for acting the way you do," Sunset told her. "You're Sirens, and you feed off of negative energy from others. Sometimes, you cause negativity for others so that way you can feed off of it." She put on a troubled frown. "But, what I don't get is why you wanted to control others with your power when it just has to do with survival. I mean, sure, making others forget about you or not question your weird behavior is totally understandable. But, world domination? What could the three of you possibly have hoped to gain from controlling everyone in the world when all you wanted to do was survive?"
Aria frowned at her. "Just what are you implying, Sunset?"
Sunset began walking towards her, a strange, unreadable look on her face. "I'm just wondering why you would want to rule the world, or even attempt to. I mean, you guys used to be immortal and you lived off of the continuous negativity from human nature, and equestrian nature before that. But, what doesn't make sense to me is why you used your powers to cause ponies to turn against each other and cause all the damage it did."
"I told you," Aria said, scoffing slightly. "It was so we could feed off of it."
Sunset stood in front of her now and she crossed her arms over her chest like Aria did. "Really? You forced ponies into warring with each other so that way you could feed off of them? You forced them to distrust everyone so that you could gain more magic to do what? To get more power? And what for? Cause more destruction and chaos?" She held up a hand. "Why would you need to force so much negativity when you were already surviving on what you had?"
Aria growled a bit. "Watch it, Shimmer. You're venturing into dangerous territory."
"You know what I think?" Sunset asked rhetorically, not paying Aria any mind. "I think that the reason you did what you did was because you liked the destruction, not because you wanted to survive. You could live off on negativity for centuries without doing anything about it and be completely happy with it." She frowned. "No, I think you liked watching ponies suffer."
Aria blinked, and Sunset was somewhat shocked to see her look surprised. Suddenly, Aria frowned again. "Why would we want to make ponies suffer?"
"That's what I'm trying to figure out," Sunset told her. "Why? Why make ponies suffer? What possible reason could you have for hating an entire race so much that you wanted to watch them all suffer at your own cause, no less?"
Aria was silent for a long while, and for a moment, Sunset thought she wasn't going to say anything. However, Sonata was a different case. "Adagio made us do it."
"Sonata!" Aria snapped, turning towards Sonata with harsh glare. "I told you to shut it!"
Sunset blinked in shock. "Adagio? Why did she make you--"
"Both of you, shut up!" Aria yelled. She whipped around to face Sunset. "Listen up, Shimmer, this is something you don't want to know about. I'm telling you this because this has absolutely nothing to do with you, and I'm pretty sure Adagio would like to keep it that way."
Sunset didn't shy away and she narrowed her eyes at Aria. "No. I deserve answers, and whether Adagio likes it or not, I'm going to get them." She leaned in close to Aria's face. "So, I'm gonna ask you: why did Adagio force you to do what you did?"
Aria blinked, her eyes widening at Sunset's aggressiveness and she took a step back. Finally, she looked away from her. "Sunset, please. Please don't push this."
Sunset grabbed her vest and pulled her close. "I want answers! I want to know what Adagio did to convince you two to do what you did! I want to know why you made ponies suffer for your own gain! I want to know why you had to be stopped and sent to another dimension so that way no one could ever get hurt by you again! I want to know why you had to make everyone here suffer and be under your control! I want to know why you tried to control a world that never belonged to you so that way everyone would adore you."
Finally, Aria pushed Sunset away from her. "I don't know!"
Sunset blinked in shock as she looked at Aria, who had tears leaking from her eyes. Sunset had never seen Aria look so emotional, and she never even thought that she was capable of having any emotions. Aria slipped to the ground and she pulled into herself to avoid being looked at, small sobs escaping her as she put her hands up to her face to cover her tears. Sunset looked down at her own hands and chided herself for getting so angry and careless, then crouched down to look at Aria. "I'm sorry... I shouldn't have gotten so upset with you. I didn't mean--" Sunset flinched as Aria swatted her hand away when she tried to put it on her.
Sonata pulled Aria into a hug, a worried look on her face. "Aria, it's OK. It's OK, please don't cry. I know how much you hate to cry." Sonata stroked Aria's hair, who continued to cry quietly, and looked at Sunset with a confused look. "Why do you want to know so much about us? Why do you even care?"
Sunset looked at Sonata, then at Aria, who didn't look like she was anywhere close to calming down. She paused as she wondered her motives for wanting answers to begin with and began to ponder if they were even to be considered valid. Finally, she sighed and put a reassuring hand on Aria, who was too upset and emotional to fight it. "Because I know what it's like not to have your story heard because of what you've done."
* * *
Aria hadn't calmed down yet. She was still extremely upset and she hadn't stopped crying, even with Sonata comforting her along the ride. Sunset looked in the rear view mirror to look at them every now and again, feeling just a little more guilty at what she had done. She tried to give out apologies, but neither Sonata or Aria said anything in response. She stopped saying anything at all.
The only time Sonata said anything at all was when Sunset asked for directions to their house, and even then, her answers were short and limited. Sunset gave out a small sigh of relief as she reached the gates of the neighborhood and then felt a sense of dread as she realized that she would be facing Adagio while in their house. She doubted that she would be happy to see her, or that she had made Aria cry and Sonata upset.
"It's the fifth one on the left," Sonata told her from the backseat, her eyes not coming off of Aria.
Sunset pulled into the driveway, where she took a moment to mentally prepare herself for what she was about to face. She took a deep breath, then opened her door and walked to the back door to open it for Aria and Sonata. When the two girls stepped out, Sunset got a good look at Aria, who was still clinging onto Sonata like a child would to their mother when they were scared.
"The key's under the mat," Sonata told Sunset, to which she nodded and walked to get it. Sunset opened the door carefully, trying hard not to make it creak or make any audible sounds. She looked left and right, then forward, a small sigh of relief escaping her as she didn't see Adagio in her immediate sight. She looked back at Sonata and nodded for her to continue, then stepped in the house.
The house interior was very similar to an aquarium with it's swirling blue patterns across the walls and even small paintings of fish. Sunset blinked in surprise as she caught sight of an actual fish tank on the left wall, where several multicolored fish swam about aimlessly. Even the furniture had a water-like feel with it's sea foam green pillows and cushions with aqua accents, and Sunset suddenly remembered the fact that Sirens were very attached to the sea, then felt like an idiot for thinking such an obvious thing.
"Here, Aria," Sonata said gently as she walked Aria to the staircase. "Let's get you upstairs and settled, OK?"
Sunset frowned as Aria said nothing in response, and awkwardly stood with her arms holding each other by the sleeves. "Uh, Sonata? What am I supposed to do if Adagio comes out and sees me?"
Sonata looked back at her, a small frown on her face. "She won't come out. She hasn't left her room for weeks." Suddenly, Sunset felt worse for having asked.
Sunset didn't have to wait long until Sonata came back down the stairs, a troubled look on her face. "Aria's taking a bath right now. She might feel better later, but we should probably leave her alone right now..."
"OK," Sunset replied. She looked around for a moment as she wondered what to say, then looked back at Sonata. "Are you ready to talk yet?"
Sonata shook her head. "I don't really know what happened, to be honest. I don't even understand, either."
Sunset frowned. "What about Aria?" She winced in remembrance of how Aria had reacted the last time she had interrogated her, and shook her head. "Never mind..." She paused, mentally weighing her options as she did, then blinked in realization. "Do you think that I could-- No, wait, never mind, that's stupid."
Sonata cocked her head to the side in confusion. "What?"
Sunset sighed. "Look, I don't want to intrude, I really don't. But, I also want answers... But not if it means I'll make any of you upset more than I already have and I just wanted to--" She shook her head before she could continue rambling and sighed once more. "I was gonna ask if I could talk to Adagio."
Sonata's eyes widened and she stared at Sunset for a long while before saying, "Wow, you're right, that is stupid."
Sunset smiled a bit. "Yeah, I figured as much." She looked down for a moment in thought, then looked back up. "What was it you said earlier? About not being bad because you fed off bad feelings?"
Sonata didn't say anything for a moment, and Sunset wondered if she was going to say anything at all. Then, Sonata sighed. "Like I said, I don't know. I mean, I remember hanging out in the sea and singing as ships passed by so we could feed, but I don't remember much after that. Like, one day, Dagi was upset and she said we had to..."
Sunset frowned a bit, her brows creasing in worry and curiosity. "Had to what?"
"Had to make ponies suffer," Sonata said. It was such a strange thing to hear come from Sonata of all people, and it made Sunset so uneasy to think how Adagio had been the one to tell her. "And after that, we started to leave our cove and started hanging around the shores, making ponies fight with each other so we could get more power... And when I tried to ask why, Aria told me I was too young or too stupid to understand." She frowned a bit at the memory, but she continued nonetheless. "Then, that Unicorn... I don't remember his name, but he had this beard--"
"Starswirl the Bearded," Sunset told her. "He's the one who banished you to this world, right?"
Sonata nodded slowly. "Yeah, he was. I don't know why Adagio tried to pick a fight with him or why she was so angry with ponies at all... I don't know why we did anything we did. I did what Dagi and Aria told me, even if it meant... hurting others, and it was super duper hard for me sometimes. Aria always made fun of me and told me to 'do what I had to'..."
"Because if I didn't, then Adagio would have gotten upset with you," said Aria as she descended down the stairs. She had stopped crying, and from the looks of it, had gone back to her usual sullen behavior. Her hair was down from it's pigtails, making her seem younger and more childish in a sense. She was wearing purples pajamas with green stars and had a green towel around her shoulders to keep her hair from getting her clothes wet.
Sunset frowned apologetically. "Look, I want to say I'm sorry for making you so upset... I shouldn't have gotten so angry."
Aria scoffed. "Whatever. I'm over it." Sunset didn't feel assured. "Look, you said you wanted answers, so I'll give you your answers."
"But--" Sunset tried to say.
"Shut it, will ya?" Aria snapped. "I'm giving you what you want, right?"
Sunset, though unsure, nodded. "Yeah, but I didn't mean to--"
"Sit," Aria said, pointing to the couch.
Sunset didn't argue and she did as told. The cushions on the couch felt soft, but uncomfortable to sit on. She sat in silence as she waited for Aria and Sonata to settle, then began to question whether or not she wanted answers to begin with.
Aria sat on the opposite side of the couch, while Sonata sat in the armchair with her knees pulled up to her. Aria crossed her legs and looked at Sunset for a long moment before saying anything. "Listen, you have to know something, OK? What I'm going to tell you doesn't leave this room for anything." She held up a hand when Sunset prepared to argue. "I don't need you telling your Rainboom friends about us or why we are the way we are. It's none of their business, and if they really want to forgive us, then our motives should be irrelevant."
"OK," Sunset said, feeling unsure.
Aria sighed. "I know you think this is weird and you're probably wondering if this is worth all the secrecy and trouble. But, you wanna know something? This isn't my story to tell, and since I'm the one telling it, then it's best for it to stay under wraps like Adagio wanted it to be. I'm only telling you because, out of all the morons and idiots in that school, you're the only one who seems to understand why people do bad things and how hard it is to get forgiveness because of it."
Sunset nodded. "OK..."
Aria looked at her with peering eyes. "Do you wanna know why Adagio hates ponies so much? Do you wanna know why she was so intent on tearing Equestria apart so that everyone could suffer? Do you really want to know why Adagio turned into such an evil, dominating being that she felt like everyone had to be under her control?"
Sunset didn't say anything for a moment, and she suddenly wished that she hadn't gone after Aria and Sonata back at school. She wished that she had left well enough alone, and prayed that her actions wouldn't hold too many consequences. But, she still answered. "Yes."
Aria looked to Sonata, who was just as, if not more tense then Sunset, and then back at Sunset. "Because they took away the love of her life."
* * *
Adagio wasn't always controlling. She used to be pretty laid back and she didn't use her voice for anything except for feeding or for fun. Sometimes, she'd sing out random melodies, even when ships weren't sailing by, just so she could sing. She loved singing more than anything... I guess that's why it hit her the most out of the three of us.
She was the oldest out of the three of us. I was the middle kid, and Sonata was the baby. She still kind of is, I guess. Oh, come on, you know I'm kidding, Nata. Anyway, we were all separated from our families when we were little, and Adagio took care of all us. She made sure we fed, that we slept, and that our voices were in top condition. She was the only mom we ever had, to be real honest...
Adagio had this little problem, though; she loved to watch ponies. Like, a lot. She thought they were "fascinating" and "breathtaking to watch", and that the things they used were so interesting. She wondered how ponies could feel physical attractions towards one another and have such... intimate ways of being together. What, why are you looking at me like that? Did you really think that Sirens did that sort of thing? Nah, we only mate for survival purposes, and since it was just the three of us, we didn't really have anyone to mate with. Besides, if we all felt physical attraction, then our songs would constantly make all of us horny.
Anyway, Adagio just liked being around ponies and studying them. Whenever ships passed by, whenever the sailors or pirates were all under our spells, she'd fly around and look at the ship and ponies. She even had a collection of items she took from the ships, like forks, mirrors, and even some hair brushes. She thought that all the mundane objects they had were so interesting, and she spent hours trying to figure out how to use them. I used to make fun of her for it, but I don't think she really cared.
But, one day, when we were out singing around sailing ships, we had made sure everyone was under our spell and started feeding off the energies of others... we heard someone else join in.
We had stopped a pirate ship, and since pirates were known to be... intimate with mares, or dudes, I don't care really, we got a lot of energy from the lot of them. But, one stallion wasn't affected by our song, and he started singing along with us. Sonata and I wanted to attack hi,, but Adagio stopped us. She flew to him and asked him why he wasn't affected or why he wasn't terrified of us to begin with. He told her, "Because I'm not into that sort of thing. Besides, you three are beautiful singers."
His name was Salty Tune, and he was a singer himself. He was made fun by his mates because he didn't like to sleep around or do anything like that, and he was only brought along because everyone joked he'd be "great to have around if they ran into any Sirens". Granted, ponies thought Sirens were mythological, as Salty told us, and they still poked fun at him. He said he didn't really mind it as long as he got paid, and that since he was only coming along to travel, it didn't really matter to him.
Adagio liked him instantly, and from the way Salty was talking to her, I bet the feeling was mutual. They spent hours talking to each other in that meeting alone, and because the pirates were still under our spell, time didn't pass for them. Salty showed her all the stuff he had with him, like compasses, maps, and even this weird contraption called a "ukulele". He said it was something that ponies used to accompany singing, and showed Adagio by singing a couple songs as he played it. Adagio was so pleased about his sing, she showed him how Siren magic worked by testing it out on the pirates. She made them do silly dances, bow down to Salty and worship him, and even made them sing praises to all four of us like we were the Royal Sisters. And Salty absolutely loved it.
When Salty told her he had to go so that way the pirates could continue on their voyage, Adagio was pretty disappointed about it, but agreed to let the pirates go under one condition: that Salty come visit the cove when he could, and that he bring his ukulele for us to sing along with. Salty told her he wouldn't have it any other way.
Adagio used to sit on the rocks outside our cove, singing out loud and beautifully so that way Salty would hear her, even from afar. He came to visit the cove to see her and the rest of us, and even brought some pretty cool things for all of us to use. He loved bringing Adagio jewels and pearls more than anything, and she loved collecting them. Her favorite kind were the orange sapphires he collected from travelling, and she wore them all the time as tokens of his affection. I think Adagio fell for him when she realized that he loved her for her, and not because of how she looked or sang.
I remember staying up all night to listen to them sing together... I swear to you, I had never heard Adagio sing beautifully like she did with Salty. He had this deep voice that twined in sweetly with hers as his ukulele strummed with their rhythm, and when they sang, I swear the waves would quiet down so that way fish could hear them. I never thought that two voices could convey love without having to say anything at all.
It had taken a long time for the two of them to admit how they felt to each other. Sonata and I made bets about it all the time; who was going to say it first, when was it going to happen, and how it was going to happen. Sonata said Adagio would say it first, because she was "totes into him", and I said Salty would say it first because, seriously, Adagio hates to be open about that sort of thing.
Well, it turns out we were both wrong. One day, after years of secret visits and serenading each other, Adagio and Salty admitted how they felt at the same time. They were both blushy and awkward about it, and they weren't sure what to do about it. Sonata broke the ice by singing out a stupid little song about kissing... How did it go? Oh, right. "Dagi and Salty, sittin' by the sea, K-I-S-S-I-N-G." Yeah, Nata, you actually sang that, don't give me that look.
But, then, Salty's visits became shorter and the time between them grew longer... Adagio would sing all day and night, waiting for Salty sing back a reply or to at least show up. Her voice started to get tired, and soon, she stopped singing altogether. She wouldn't even come with me or Sonata to feed because of how upset she was... I guess she thought Salty had changed his mind or something.
Then, one day, when we were out and Adagio was back at the cove, we saw Salty's ship. We hurried over to see him, so we could ask where he'd been and if he'd come back to see Adagio, but before we had the chance, the crew... They... They threw him overboard. He was tied up, so he couldn't swim or fight against the waves, and since it was so dark and stormy, the sea was chopping up monstrous waves. I'm surprised we even found him in that mess, much less got him free from the ropes.
We swam back to the cove as fast as we could, and we brought him to Adagio. She was horrified at what had happened, and she managed to save him, then asked him about what happened. He told her that he had... He had stolen jewels from the pirates and brought them to us. The crew found him when he was travelling to see us and they caught him before he could reach us. They... They tortured him for days, interrogating him and beating him for information about where he was taking the jewels.
He told them about us. Salty sold us out, even though he didn't want to, and he ended up telling them where we were hidden so they'd let him go. But, they didn't want him to try to leave and warn us, so they tied him up and threw him overboard. Thank Persephone we found him when we did, or we would have been killed.
Then, we were attacked.
The pirates had found our cove, and they began throwing spears and knives at us as they pillaged the cove for lost treasures. Adagio told me to take Sonata away from the cove and to hide in the water until she came to get us or called for us. I tried to argue, but there wasn't enough time to with the pirates closing in on us. I leaped into the water with Sonata, and we both hid in the coral reefs so we wouldn't be seen... Then, I heard Adagio cry out. I told Sonata to stay in the water and to seek refuge with the fish so no one could see her, then swam up to the surface. I wish I had stayed down like Adagio told me to.
There was so much blood... The sea around the cove had turned red from how much of it was spilled. But, among the dead pirates and the bloodshed was Adagio, singing out the most sad, powerful notes I had ever heard. At first, I thought she had been hit with a spear or who knows what else... Until, I saw her holding Salty. He wasn't breathing, and once I got close enough to look, I saw he had been hit in the heart with a spear. Adagio was screaming out her pain through her music, sobbing out for Salty to say something to her... And as she sang out her anger and grief, I realized what she had done.
Her negativity had turned the pirates against each other, causing them all to murder each other out of greed and hatred. I mean, I knew that Siren music could influence ponies to do crazy things, but I never knew it could used to cause such chaos.
Then, Adagio sang nothing. She just stayed beside Salty, crying and whispering for him to say something to her, begging for him to give her a response. I went to go help her, but she wouldn't let me come near her or Salty. She told me to leave, and that I should have stayed in the reef with Sonata. I left, and went to get Sonata, then told her what happened so that way she wouldn't have to see it for herself. When we came back, Salty was gone and so was Adagio.
Sonata and I didn't do anything while we waited for Adagio to come back. We didn't have it in us to sing or feed without Adagio around and it didn't feel like home anymore in the cove... Even after we had cleaned up all the blood, all the trinkets and items we had either broken or cracked. Nothing felt the same, and suddenly, ponies didn't seem so fascinating or fun anymore.
Then, Adagio came back. She said nothing about Salty or where she had been. All she wanted to talk about or do was see the ponies on the shore, much to Sonata's and my own horror. Sonata begged for her not to let us go and that she was scared to go after everything that had happened, and I agreed with her. But, Adagio wouldn't listen to us, and brought us to the shores anyway.
For the first time in a long time, we sang. But, the songs we sang weren't light or fun like they used to be... They were angry and negative, causing all the ponies to turn against each other, much like the pirates had back at the cove. Adagio relished in the anger and hate, and with every single hateful word and slap, she sang louder and she spread her murderous power along with it. Sonata, too young to know better, did as told and did the same, though not as enthusiastically. I only did it because I had no choice.
We spent years like that, causing and feeding off of hate, spreading our dark magic to all corners of Equestria. Much like the Windigos that kept apart the three pony tribes, we tore apart the bonds that bound the ponies together and forced our darkness into the hearts of everyone. Some Unicorns became infatuated with it, and began harnessing the darkness with their magic, while Pegasi turned up storms and Earth Ponies spread weeds through the food supply of their neighbors. Famine, disease, and distrust spread throughout Equestria like a tidal wave, consuming everything in it's path and drowning all the ponies within it...
Fights turned into battles, and those battles turned into wars, where we all fed off of the negativity and gained more power. Adagio loved watching the ponies who had sent Salty to his death suffer, and because of how much power she gained, she began to turn into... into a monster. And it wasn't long before Sonata and I followed in her steps, enjoying the pain and misery just as much as she had.
But, after years of feeding and warring, Starswirl the Bearded took a stand against us. Much like Salty, he wasn't affected by our magic, and he used that to his advantage in the battle. He used his magic to force us down, and when we were weak, he sent us away, into this world. The rest, I'm sure, you know.
* * *
Sunset sat in silence, her eyes wide and her mouth agape. It took her a moment to realize that she had tears running down her face, and another to realize that she had been crying for a long while. She felt a hand go to her shoulder, and she looked up to see Sonata, who was looking at her with sad, sympathetic eyes. Finally, Sunset looked to Aria again. "I'm sorry."
Aria arched a brow. "What for?"
Sunset shook her head and wiped her face. "Because of how I treated you all... I can't believe that I was so awful to you, especially after what you went through. I can't..."
Aria held up a hand to silence her. "Look, I get you feel bad, but it doesn't excuse us for what we did. What happened to us explains our motives, but it doesn't mean what we did was OK or that we're exempt from punishment." She looked down for a moment. "Besides, it's not like anyone's gonna believe us."
Sunset shook her head. "No, no, they have to. They have to! The girls have to understand what happened. They have to know why--"
"No!" Aria exclaimed, standing up. "You said you weren't going to tell! I told you, this isn't for anyone to know except us, alright? This story isn't yours to tell, Sunset!"
"It's not yours, either, Aria," said a familiar voice.
All three girls turned around in simultaneous shock and surprise to see Adagio standing at the bottom of the stairs. Her hair was down and ragged, her clothes were frumpy and wrinkled, and she looked much thinner than she had before. Dark circles ran under her eyes, and her face looked like a golden skeleton with prominent features.
"Of course, that didn't stop you from telling it," Adagio added, a bit sourly.
Aria flinched, but before anything could be said between the two of them, Sunset stood up. "Listen, Adagio, I didn't mean to--"
Adagio held up a hand, and Sunset instantly shut her mouth. "I don't want excuses, Sunset. I just want to know why you thought it was your business to ask my girls about us or what we do." She held up a finger when Sunset opened her mouth to argue. "And I don't want to hear what you told Aria or Sonata. I want an actual answer."
Sunset took a moment to think about it, and after she mulled over her motives, she looked back at Adagio with fierce eyes. "Because I deserved to know."
Adagio scoffed. "What? What on earth makes you think that you're entitled to knowing our past?"
Sunset shook her head. "Not your past, but your motives. I deserved to know why you wanted to destroy me and my friends." Sunset started walking towards Adagio. "I deserved to know why you thought everyone needed to suffer, and if it was because you suffered yourself."
Adagio frowned at her. "You don't know what you're talking about. You don't know what I went through. Besides, I'm over it."
"Are you?" Sunset asked. "Because, no offense, but you don't seem over it to me. You went on a rampage to gain control of the entire world a couple weeks ago, and because of it, you lost your powers. Now, you're cooped up in here all the time, probably plotting how to get your power back or revenge on me and my friends."
"What does this have to do with deserving to know about us?" Adagio snapped.
Sunset frowned at her. "Because, even if it isn't a good one, when someone does something awful to you, you at least deserve a reason why." Sunset put a hand on Adagio's shoulder. "Maybe that's why you attacked all those ponies in Equestria. Maybe that's why you turned so evil and reprimanding when everyone around you seemed to love to do the same to you. Maybe you liked watching ponies suffer the way that you had."
Adagio blinked, and for a moment, she didn't say anything. Finally, she slapped Sunset's hand away. "Just who the hell are you to tell me why I did what I did? You don't know me or any of us."
"You're wrong," Sunset told her. "I do know you. Maybe not personally, but I at least know the type of person you are. Besides, we're not so different."
Adagio glared at her. "So you think that just because you didn't get what you wanted from your Princess that you understand us? That you know who we are?"
"No," Sunset said. "I'm saying I know what it's like to lose everything, to have all the things you built up around yourself suddenly crashing down with no absolute warning. I lost a lot of things when I came into this world..." She absentmindedly put a hand up to her ears, so warped and different from the smooth, velvety ones she had as a pony. "And after I lost what little credibility I had in the school, I felt so empty and unsure of what to do... Until, I realized just who I had to help me through it."
Adagio scoffed. "You're going to give me a friendship speech, aren't you? Try to convince me to be reformed, like you are?"
Sunset shook her head. "No. I don't have to. Because, unlike me, you had the people you needed to help you from the very beginning."
"What?" Adagio blurted out, along with Sonata and Aria.
Sunset turned to Aria and Sonata. "Look, I get that you three have had some troubles." She turned back to Adagio. "But, I also remember Aria telling me about how you took the two of them in, and how you raised them as if they were your own."
Adagio blinked in shock, then looked at Aria. "You said that?"
Aria looked down. "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you, Adagio... Neither of us would be here." She put her hand Sonata's shoulder. "You were there for us when no one else was."
"But... After how I treated you..." Adagio paused for a moment, unsure what to say or think. She looked back at Sunset. "But, what do you mean they can help me?"
Sunset put a hand on her own her heart. "I know what it's like to have your perspective changed. After I was hit by that blast of magic back on the night of the Fall Formal, I... I felt different. All of my anger and hatred became irrelevant, and suddenly, I didn't feel so powerful. All of the power I had inside of me disappeared, and with it came all the things I didn't want to feel for a long time: fear, guilt, pain, sadness... and loneliness."
Adagio flinched at that last one. "I-I thought I was imagining things when that rainbow hit us... After my stone was shattered, I lost all of my power. I felt every single thing I had pushed down for the past 1000 years come rushing back into me, including what I had felt when I... When I lost Salty." She put a hand to her chest and took a deep breath. "Every single night I spent crying out my anger and sadness flowed into me like a tidal wave... And it all grew worse as my voice disappeared." Tears pricked her eyes. "Oh, Persephone, my voice..."
Sunset frowned. "And I'm sorry for that. But, I didn't know how badly it would affect you." She turned to Aria and Sonata. "All of you."
Adagio wiped her eyes. "It doesn't matter now, does it? Besides, if you hadn't taken our voices away from us, then who knows what kind of damage we would have done? The world would have been at our disposal... And I think we all know what kind of damage we caused the last time we gained that much power."
"Famine, disease, dark magic..." Sunset murmured, recalling Aria's story. "I know that we had to stop you, but... I just wish that you didn't have to be so hurt because of it."
Adagio shook her head. "No. No, I needed to be hurt, Sunset." She held up a hand to silence her before she could say anything. "Listen, I know it's hard to understand, but... But after living in this world for so long, living off of scraps and mediocrity, I lost a sense of who I was. I just needed to survive. Now, I can feel again. More than just that anger and thirst for power." She put a hand over her heart. "I thought losing my amulet would mean losing my voice... But, I think losing it was just the thing I needed to realize my actions."
"Uh-huh!" Sonata concurred. "I feel, like, way better now that I don't have to worry about feeding all the time! Now I can eat tacos!"
"Sonata, you already eat those," Aria commented with a roll of her eyes. "But, Adagio's right... Losing those amulets was kind of liberating. Now, we don't have to feed off bad vibes anymore, and I guess that's not such a bad thing."
Adagio arched a brow. "What, no 'Yeesh, Sonata, you're the worst', or any of that doom and gloom you usually give?"
Aria shrugged. "Meh, she's still the worst, but it's just not worth commenting on at the moment."
Sonata smacked her arm. "Hey!"
Adagio smiled at the display, but then frowned. "Now what are we supposed to do? We can't ever go back to that school... Not with what we did."
Sunset smiled at her. "Don't worry, Adagio. If they could forgive me, then I'm sure they can forgive you guys, too."
Aria blew a light raspberry. "Yeah, if another villain shows up for us to kick out of there, but what are the odds of that happening? It's not like some dude's gonna come in saying, 'Hey, I'm gonna start up some chaos, let's get crazy!'"
"Regardless," Sunset continued. "I'm sure that the girls would love to give you guys a second chance. With some convincing on my and Pinkie's part, of course."
Adagio arched her brow once more. "Why would Pinkie ever want to--" She paused to look at Sonata, who appeared to entranced by the ends of her hair as she brushed it over her nose lightly, then looked back at Sunset. "You know what, forget I asked. What about the others?"
Sunset shrugged. "You could always hang with Rarity. I'm sure she'd love to exchange fashion tips with you... Especially about your hair."
Adagio prodded her poofy hair before frowning. "Ah, yes, poke fun at the unruliness that is my hair... Absolutely wonderful, Sunset." She pulled at a curl, which practically snapped back against her head when she released it. She sighed. "I wish I could straighten this mess."
Sunset giggled. "I'm sure Rarity could help you with it if you asked her. Nicely, that is." She turned to Aria and Sonata. "Well, since we cut the last classes of the day, what do you guys want to do now?"
Sonata raised her hand. "Can we get tacos?! We didn't eat lunch earlier, and I'm sooooooooo hungry!"
Adagio turned to Sunset. "You made them cut classes? And skip out on lunch? What's the matter with you?"
Aria rolled her eyes. "Calm down, Mom. Don't have a rack attack."
Adagio frowned at her. "Don't. Call me Mom. You know how much I hate it."
Sunset sighed a bit contentedly. "Ah, family time. There's nothing quite like it."