Sonata Big Deal
Things were finally looking up a little bit for Sonata Dusk as she marched down the sidewalk at her life-partner, Adagio Dazzle's, left hand. The shelter they were staying in didn't have enough room for them every night, and the showers were cramped and cold, but they got food to eat most nights, and she was starting to feel good about the world again. Even if her second life-partner, Aria Blaze, wasn't as optimistic about it. Nonetheless, whatever the world was like, at least they still had each other as they walked along the sidewalk early in the morning as they usually did for their exercise.
Sonata's gaze wandered from her life-partners away from the sidewalk, her gaze settling on that sparkling beautiful building that had tempted her curiosity ever since they came to Canterlot. They passed Crystal Prep Academy every single day on their morning walk, and it always caught her eye. Glistening in the morning light, so big and quiet and beautiful, it seemed to call to her almost like... well, like a siren, really.
Sonata turned to her two partners, who were already giving her twin warning glares. Sonata glanced back at the school and bit her lip, then looked back at her friends, who were now shaking their heads with their arms folded over their chests. Sonata took a deep breath, then let out a long sigh and moved toward them. Satisfied, Adagio turned to lead the way down the sidewalk again, but Sonata's eyes drifted again towards the school. It was just sitting right there, waiting and empty, ready to be explored.
Her mind suddenly made up, she broke away from her life-partners and raced across the school lawn as fast as her legs could take her. She glanced back only briefly to see Aria's palm pressed against her face and Adagio glaring after her, but she didn't go back. Her heart was racing as she reached the front door and pushed her way into the large domed hallway within. She couldn't keep the naughty grin off of her lips as she looked around. It was almost as beautiful on the inside as it was on the outside, and her mind whirled to guess what may lie further within.
Desks, chairs, desks and chairs, and more desks and chairs for the most part. Sonata wasn't sure what she expected from a school, she hadn't been in one since being banished from Equestria aside from CHS, but this was incredibly boring. At least, it was until she pushed open a large door with a girls only symbol on it, and was met with the most beautiful sight yet. She was standing in a room full of lockers, and just beyond was the holy grail of comfort. An entire room that looked like a shower, with at least a dozen shower heads lined up around the walls.
A joyous squeal leapt from her throat as she flung off her dirty street clothes and raced into the shower, turning on one of the heads to soak under the blissful, welcome warmth. There was even a half-used bar of soap underneath, which she snapped up to give herself the best scrubbing she had since the Canterlot High incident. Adagio and Aria were going to be really sorry they missed out on this. The warm water and soap soothed her muscles even as they swept the filth and grime of the streets from her skin.
She was almost giddy as she rinsed herself off and turned off the water. There were no towels, so she let herself drip dry as she left the shower to explore the locker room. Most of the lockers were padlocked, but a couple were left unrestrained, and as long as she was letting her curiosity get the better of her anyway, why would she resist taking a look? She yanked open the first locker to see a pile of clothing inside, mostly in shades of yellow, white and gray. In the next locker she found a deep violet outfit that immediately caught her attention.
She waited until she was dry enough not to soak the articles of clothing before yanking them out into the open. She tried on a couple of outfits in a tall body-length mirror on the wall opposite the shower entrance, striking some saucy poses before pulling out the violet skirt and vest. There was something really nice about these in particular, she wasn't sure what, but after she put them on she felt really super intelligent, or capable or... something similar to those. The vest didn't cover much, though, so she took it off and slipped the white shirt she also found in the locker on underneath it. Suddenly she grinned. She looked so classy.
Sonata looked up in surprise and jumped back when the locker room door suddenly opened, and girls began pouring in. Her heart was pounding, she was sure she was going to get in trouble, but everybody just walked past her to the various lockers, disrobing to pull on more simple pairs of shorts and purple t-shirts.
One of the girls stopped right in front of her, glaring right at her. Her freckles didn't seem to light up her sour face at all. "You're in front of my locker." Sonata gasped and stepped back with an apologetic smile. The girl stepped closer and pulled the locker open, though her eyes shot back over to her. "Well? you gonna get dressed for gym?"
Sonata blinked and glanced at the lockers she had opened earlier. Both were still open and untended to, so she rushed over to one and found a pair of shorts and a shirt similar to the ones the others girls were putting on. She walked back to the freckled girl with a broad grin, gesturing to her body with a grand hand-wave.
"You don't talk much, huh?" The girl smirked. Sonata looked away at that and rubbed her throat with her palm. The girl spoke in a lighter tone. "Seriously? Oh... uh, sorry, I guess." Sonata looked up to see the girl shaking her head. "The name's Sour Sweet. I don't think I've ever seen you around school before. Are you new?" Sonata nodded her head furiously. Sour Sweet's lip curled into another smirk. "You better not hold the class back. Come on, let's get out there."
Sonata followed her new freckled friend outside, where the other girls were gathering around a much larger woman, with a whistle against her lips tucked in the middle of her broad smile.
The whistle sounded out across the grassy field before falling to the woman's chest. "Okay ladies, it's time for archery practice again. Do you think anybody is going to come close to Sour Sweet's record?"
"Do you have to ask?" Sour Sweet cast Sonata a cocky smirk. "I'm the best archer in school."
"Probably, but at least give the others a little hope, will you?" the hefty woman insisted. "Now come on! Everybody pick your weapons, and for Goddess' sakes aim for the targets and not each other! We don't need another incident!"
"Come on." Sour Sweet gestured toward one of their weapons, a bow and arrow sitting laid out on a stand in front of a line on the ground. Sonata could see a bullseye set up in the distance. "If you're new, I assume you've never fired one of these before." Sour Sweet plucked it from the stand with ease, hefting it in a clearly experienced grip. "So I'll give you some tips!" She turned toward the target. "You gotta aim down the arrow and don't close your other eye. It takes a bit of getting used to, but don't worry, everyone fumbles a few times before they get it right."
Sour Sweet pulled the string back slowly, closing her other eye to stare straight down the wood. "Once you've got it lined up... let go!" She suddenly released the arrow, which flew straight down the field to slam into the bullseye deep enough to embed itself pretty far in.
Sonata clapped appreciatively as Sour Sweet straightened and held the bow out to her. "Here, you give it a try. Don't be embarrassed to fail."
Sonata's hands closed around the bow in surprise, clutching it against her chest. Gosh, it had been a long time since she'd held one of these. Was it a few hundred years ago? Their song magic was never strong enough to protect them from every threat, which meant more traditional defense was necessary sometimes. Book learning and numbers and names weren't Sonata's forte, but she had always been great at picking up physical pursuits.
She snapped out of her memories to see Sour Sweet holding an arrow out to her with an encouraging smile. "Go ahead. Try it."
Sonata grinned and snapped the arrow out of her hand, approached the line, and knocked the arrow into place. She brought herself down to one knee, taking a low stance that allowed her to keep her body tense, even as it would hide her in a bush from those who would try to counterattack. She took a deep breath, taking in the tension of the string and the feeling of the breeze on her cheek, adjusting her aim almost imperceptibly. When the arrow left the bow, it was straight and true, not only hitting the target dead center but embedding itself several inches deeper than her new friend's.
Those students close to them, and even the teacher whirled on her in surprise as Sonata leapt from the grass to pump her arms victoriously in the air.
"Th-that..." Sour Sweet stammered for a brief moment before snapping the bow away from her. That was a lucky shot! Get out of my way! I'm still the best!" Sonata waggled her fingers together beside her head in a crude mockery, flopping her tongue around in a 'blah blah blah' motion. "I'll prove it! I can do that in one shot! It's easy!" Sour Sweet lined up quickly to take another shot, but the arrow this time slammed into the white zone. She was starting to get impatient and not paying attention, Sonata could tell.
"Well, I think we have a new star." the teacher approached with her hands on her hips. "I've never seen you before. What's your name?"
"AAAAAURGH!" Sour Sweet screamed in frustration as her next shot hit the outer zone.
Sonata opened her mouth, then blushed and closed her lips, putting a hand to her throat sadly. "You can't speak?" The teacher asked. Sonata nodded. "That's okay, it's not a big deal. Good work, anyway. It gives the rest of the class something new to aspire to."
"I can do it! Crap! Just wait, I am going to split that stupid arrow like in the movies!"
Sonata giggled breathily and waved off the praise with a small salute. The teacher looked around at the rest of the class. "Well? This isn't staring class! Aim at those targets, ladies!"
Sonata walked back to Sour Sweet, who looked like she was fixing to snap the bow in half. Sonata just smiled and smoothly slid up to her, taking her hands and turning her back towards the target. "Wh-what're you-" Sour Sweet stammered, but Sonata ignored her. She slipped an arrow out of Sour Sweet's quiver and moved her arm around her, putting a hand on each of Sour Sweet's, guiding her to fitting the arrow to the string and pulling it back.
Sonata took a deep breath, then let it out slowly, allowing Sour Sweet to feel her chest rise and fall against her back. A moment later Sour Sweet took a similar breath as she brought the bow back up her side, pulling the string back towards her chin. Their joined fingers held the string tight as Sour Sweet's breath filled her lungs, and she began to exhale more calmly.
The string was released. The arrow on the bullseye didn't see it coming.
Sonata had had a shower not long ago, but she didn't say no to another one once gym class let out. The water was still so warm and soothing she didn't want to leave, but her new friend was ready to go before too long, so she rushed to dry off and change into the uniform she had found earlier to follow her out into the hallway.
"I've got algebra next." Sour Sweet winced. "How about you?" Sonata responded with an immediate smile and a nod, pointing at her chest. "You too? You have my sympathy. The teacher is such a boring blowhard." She turned to head down the hallway, with Sonata trailing slightly beside her. "So how do you, y'know, talk to people? Do you know sign language?" Sonata shook her head. "So... you can write, right?" Sonata nodded. "Well that's something. Maybe you can-"
"Excuse me." A commanding voice rose above the hallway chatter, drawing the attention of both girls. Another girl was standing behind them with her arms folded over her chest, giving Sonata a glare fit for the grim reaper. "That is my spare uniform! You stole it from me!"
Sour Sweet rolled her eyes. "What are you talking about, Suri? You're wearing your uniform."
"This is my morning uniform, m'kay? That is my post-gym uniform that I keep in my locker!" Sonata gulped, but Sour Sweet stepped forward.
"Oh my, it really is? No wonder you're always so clean and good-smelling all day long! That's not creepy and weird at all!"
"Your opinion doesn't mean anything, m'kay? That uniform is mine and I want it back!"
"How can you even tell? All the uniforms look the same! They're uniforms!"
"Because the tie is custom!"
"It looks just like all the other ties in school to me!"
"Well it's not, m'kay?" Suri stepped around Sour Sweet to approach Sonata, who backed away from her nervously. "I can see it in her eyes that she knows she did something wrong! Give me my uniform, you little jerk, before you taint it forever with your disgusting body odor!"
Suri's arms snapped out, trying to yank the purple vest off of Sonata's body. Sonata squeaked and tried to fight off the hands that were trying to pry her clothing off, her side shoved up against the locker as they went to work.
Suddenly Suri was pulled away and slammed back into the locker by Sour Sweet, who held her collar with a white-knuckle grip. Sour Sweet's eye twitched above a wild, toothy grin. "You touch my friend again and I will shove a pole so far up your butt it'll come out your mouth."
"Y-you don't touch me! You freaking psycho!" Suri shoved her back with a squeal and whirled to race down the hallway, dodging through the thinning crowd of students, who turned to look at Sour Sweet one at a time, then slowly began to back away.
Sonata jumped when Sour Sweet turned towards her, but her new friend's face had turned to one of victory rather than madness. "And that is how you defend yourself from bullies and perverts." Sonata finally let go of the breath she had been holding, then sniffled and slid toward her friend, opening her arms to wrap her up in a tight, grateful hug. "Heh, yeah, yeah, you're welcome, m'kay?" Sour Sweet pushed her away with a soft blush. "Come on, we're gonna be late for class if we stand around here much longer."
So they stopped at Sour Sweet's locker so she could get her books and rushed together down the hallway towards the next class. Sonata Dusk had heard a lot of numbers over the years, in a lot of languages, but she had never been able to wrap her head around them. She could count, sure, but once one started doing things with them her brain simply shut itself down. Thankfully the teacher didn't seem to notice he had never seen her before, or called on her for any questions, so she could sit in the vacant seat beside Sour Sweet and just ride the class out.
Afterwards they left the classroom while Sour Sweet sighed, clutching her books against her chest. "Man, I don't freaking get math. I don't even care, why should I waste my time learning how letters work in math?" Sonata placed her palm to her mouth in an exaggerated yawn. "You're telling me. I almost fell asleep too." They stopped at Sour Sweet's locker so she could stash her books inside it. "You ready to get some lunch?" Sonata nodded energetically. "Great, come on. The cafeteria sucks, but it is edible... barely."
Sonata rubbed her stomach and stuck out her tongue, so Sour Sweet led the way to the cafeteria. The food did indeed smell edible as they approached, and in fact smelled better than the food at the shelter. Sonata's mouth started watering the instant they walked in and approached the line, but they hadn't quite reached it before another girl interrupted their walk.
"Hey, Sour Sweet." The girl approached, giving Sonata a curious smile. "I see you've made a new friend?"
"Oh, yeah! This is her first day, I think." Sour Sweet gestured to the girl. "This is my best friend, Sunny Flare. Sunny, this is... er..." Sour Sweet pursed her lips. "I... don't know her name. She doesn't really talk." Sonata raised a hand to her throat with a sad smile.
"Hey, that's okay." Sunny reached into one of her pockets to produce a small notepad and a pen, which she held out. "Here, tell us your name."
Sonata grinned happily as she scribbled on the paper with her pen. I'm Sonata Dusk.
"Hello Sonata Dusk." Sunny Flare nodded with a smile. "Where did you transfer from? It's pretty rare for someone to be accepted into Crystal Prep so late. You must have amazing grades."
Sonata hesitated for a moment before scribbling on the notepad again. Yeah, I always do my best. Education for life.
"Education is the cornerstone of modern society." Sunny nodded firmly. "It's what separates us from the dark ages."
Sonata nodded, trying not to make her relief too obvious. Thankfully Sour Sweet cut in before any more questioning could happen. "Come on, I'm hungry, let's get in line already!"
Sunny Flare seemed like a nice girl, who chatted with Sonata companionably as the three of them sat down at one of the tables near the wall with their trays of food. Sonata avoided as many questions as she could about where she came from or how long she was going to be around. She knew she couldn't stay here forever, but she didn't want this day to end a moment before it had to. She was having way too much fun to just walk away immediately.
Lunch was way too short, and soon Sonata and Sour Sweet were back out in the hallway making their way towards the next classroom. "So what's next for you?" Sour Sweet asked. "I've actually got history next." Sonata nodded and gestured to herself again. "Seriously? Man, it's like Cinch assigned you to follow me around, hehe..." Sour Sweet leaned close, her eyes narrowing dangerously. "She didn't, did she?" Sonata's head shook furiously, and Sour Sweet lightened up again. "Good. I don't want to have to hurt you."
The next classroom Sonata found an empty seat beside Sour Sweet's once again, but this time when the teacher entered there was something strangely unsettling about him. She wasn't sure if it was the long, scraggly gray beard that hung down to his chest, or the way his sharp eyes seemed to settle on her for the briefest of moments before looking down at his desk, on which he set his leather satchel.
"Good afternoon, class." The teacher flashed the class a brief smile before pulling a stack of papers out of his satchel. "I trust you all remembered that today is a pop quiz." There was silence in the room. "Oh wait, you wouldn't remember because I didn't tell you. Well, today is a pop quiz, so I hope you've been keeping up on your reading assignments."
Sour Sweet growled from the seat beside Sonata's, muttering to Sonata. "Did I mention I hate this jerk? He only works here because our last history teacher got sacked..."
The teacher moved down the rows, setting a small stack of papers on each desk as he passed. He paused in front of Sonata's desk, giving her a curious look. "Strange. I seem to have miscounted how many papers I need."
"She's new," Sour Sweet cut in immediately. "It's her first day."
"How strange I wasn't informed." His eyes didn't leave Sonata's, baring almost creepily into her until he pulled a sheet out of the stack and laid it in front of her. "Luckily I always print one extra, just in case. Miss..." he trailed off expectantly.
Sonata hefted the pen Sunny gave her and wrote Sonata on the top line of the sheet. "Sonata. I look forward to seeing how prepared your previous school left you. Good luck." His gaze lingered for a few extra seconds before he moved on. Sonata was left with a chill running down her spine as she stared down at the sheet in front of her. What was it about the old man that made her so nervous? Or perhaps old man was the wrong way to think of it. She was far older than him, after all.
Sour Sweet leaned close to mutter again while the teacher had his back turned. "See? Professor Starswirl is just plain creepy, isn't he? If you need any help, just let me know. I'm not great at history, but I can try."
Sonata nodded stiffly and Sour Sweet turned back to her test. Sonata's eyes flicked to the back of the class, where Professor Starswirl was just laying papers on the last row of desks. There was no way he recognized her. Starswirl the Bearded had banished her and her partners over a thousand years ago, and he was in Equestria. Ponies didn't live that long unless they were princesses. It was impossible... and yet looking at him made her feel nervous... almost afraid.
She turned forward quickly when she saw his eyes flit toward her again on his way to the front of the class. She kept her gaze on her paper, trying to focus on the first question. She didn't want to scream and run, that would be stupid. She would take the test and try to ignore him. Then the class would be over, and she could spend the rest of the day with her new friend.
She had no idea how she did on the test. She was pretty sure she got the questions about this country right, she had been here since before the first settlers got here, but she didn't know much about other countries. She kept her eyes on the paper as Starswirl moved up the rows, grading papers and giving comments to each student as he went. He stopped once again in front of Sonata and held his hand out to her. She lifted her paper without meeting his gaze, keeping her eyes on the desk while he scribbled on the paper quickly, then set it down in front of her with a giant B written on the top.
"Not bad for someone who was reading a different book." Starswirl's voice was light as he spoke, but it didn't make her more comfortable. "Very well done, Miss Dusk." Sonata nodded slowly and he moved on.
"Are you okay?" Sour Sweet whispered sharply once he was out of immediate earshot. "You look downright spooked.
Sonata frowned and took a deep breath, but didn't respond until Starswirl returned to the front of the classroom and turned towards them. "I'm pleased that every single one of you has improved over the last exam. Progress is truly what a teacher wants to see, moreso than high grades in themselves. I encourage each of you to maintain your efforts and your interest. Take the lessons you've learned here forward... not just the lessons about history, but about trying." He nodded. "You're all dismissed, except for you, Miss Dusk."
Sonata Dusk remained seated while the rest of the students began to file out of the classroom, except for Sour Sweet, who remained defiantly in her own seat. Once the room was clearly aside from the three of them, Starswirl moved away from his desk towards the two of them. "You can go, Sour Sweet."
"I know." Sour Sweet didn't budge.
Starswirl regarded her for a few moments, then flicked his eyes towards Sonata again. "You've made a good friend already. That's good to see." He leaned against the desk in front of her, folding his arms in his lap as a smile crossed his lips. "Please don't be afraid, I'm not going to rat you out for not actually being enrolled here. If anything, I would like to see you be enrolled here."
Sonata blinked in surprise, her unconscious grip on her desk loosening. "I've always been a believer in helping people move forward in their lives. To make up for their past mistakes." His eyes gleamed as they stared into her own. Did he know...? How could he know? There was no way this was... "I'll speak with Principal Cinch personally. I may be new here myself, but I assure you my credentials give me ample influence. She'll listen to what I have to say." Sonata could only nod. She felt like her brain had turned itself off. "Come back tomorrow, and I'll make sure we get you set up with the proper assortment of classes." Sonata nodded again. "You two go on, get out of here. You have a day to enjoy yet without spending too much of it listening to an old man."
Sonata nodded solemnly and climbed out of her desk, moving quickly towards the exit. Sour Sweet caught up with her just outside, putting a hand on her shoulder to halt her. "You don't go to this school? What are you even doing here?" Sonata turned toward her with a frightened squeak, clutching her hands in front of her. "You spent all day lying to me! Now tell me the truth! What are you doing here?"
Sonata winced as her hands dug around her pocket for the notepad Sunny Flare had given to her. I was just trying to have fun.
"Fun? In school? Seriously?"
I've never gone to a school before. I just wanted to see inside, but then girls showed up and I met you and I didn't want to go.
"You've never been in a school?" Sour Sweet looked completely taken aback once she finished reading this, her eyes meeting Sonata's. "How are you so good at everything then?"
Sonata rubbed the back of her neck, thinking for several long minutes before responding. Because I'm a thousand years old. I learned stuff. A lot of stuff. But I never went to a school before.
"A thousand..." Sour Sweet just looked mystified now. "You're going to tell me this entire story eventually."
Sonata sniffled. Can we still be friends?
Sour Sweet just smirked and slapped her on the shoulder. "Hey, just because you're a lying buttbag doesn't mean I don't wanna hang out with you. Just don't freaking lie to me, okay? I hate it when people lie to me." Sonata nodded quickly and crossed her finger over her chest. "Now come on, as long as you're here, you might as well keep me company through the rest of my classes."
The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. Sonata's lies and confession were lost, and everything was as if nothing strange happened at all. Still, her mind kept flicking back to Professor Starswirl, who she caught sight of in the hallway a few times, but who never acknowledged her outside of the classroom. She felt like he knew something about her, but it just wasn't possible for him to have not only followed them here, but survived all this time. They had used the Siren Stones to last this long, how could he possibly do it? Was unicorn magic so much stronger than they realized?
She shrugged off the questions and spent Sour Sweet's last class trading notes back and forth with her, mostly mocking the teacher. Once that class had ended, the two of them made their way to the front exit and headed out into the daylight amid a crowd of other students. Once they were away from the door and on their way across the lawn, Sour Sweet turned to Sonata to speak in a light, airy tone.
"So hey, if you're gonna be coming to Crystal Prep from now on anyway, maybe we could hang out some more between classes." Sonata smiled back with an enthusiastic nod. "Great, for now, do you wanna come back to my house with me?"
Sonata was about to nod, but she noticed Aria Blaze standing on the sidewalk tapping her foot impatiently on the pavement. So Sonata held up her hands in a gesture of denial, then pointed one finger at her wrist with an apologetic smile. "Gotta get home, huh? I can relate to that. I guess I'll see you tomorrow, then?" Sonata nodded with an enthusiastic thumbs up. "Cool. Goodnight." Sour Sweet headed off with a wave, which Sonata returned as she approached the sidewalk and her grumpy life-partner.
Aria lifted a quizzical eyebrow and swept a hand downward toward Sonata's school uniform. Sonata just grinned and gripped the edge of her skirt, giving a playful twirl. Once the twirl ended Aria slapped the back of her head, took her hand, and turned to lead her down the sidewalk towards their shelter. It was their night to stay there again, but they had to get there to claim their cots, and Adagio would be busy at work around this time.
Wait, Sonata thought, was Aria just waiting out here all day for Sonata to emerge? She thought to ask... then realized she didn't need to. No matter how grumpy Aria was, she knew she would always be there for her, no matter how long she needed to wait. They had been there for each other for over a thousand years, after all. Nothing and nobody would ever be able to drive them apart.