I woke up, and I was hungry. Persistently, gnawingly hungry. I sat up, my mass of hair swinging down to cover my face. I didn’t even bother raking it back out of my face. I could hear my sister’s sleeping in the next room. Especially Sonata, she snored like you wouldn’t believe for such a small thing.
I got up and went to the kitchen of our little apartment and put the banged up coffeepot on the stove. There were still some cans of soup and other things that the little do-gooder had dropped off last week. I thought about opening one, but I knew the hunger that raged wasn’t one that food could ease. It was one that the means of sating was long since gone.
I took a deep breath, forcing down the ache with concentration. When we had lost our Song, everyone we had enchanted broke free. Everyone, including the landlord that was letting us stay in a decent place without rent. It had taken most of our not inconsiderable savings to pay the back rent and electric. We had a little set by and we could manage if we rationed it carefully, but until we could beat our hunger, we had retired to this home, populated by simpletons that had given in human drugs and were fighting to sober up. We were better off now than we were a few months ago when Fluttershy had found us, but we still had a long way to go, as evidenced by the dilapidated apartment we resided in.
Appropriate for us, I suppose. The loss of our song robbed us of the ability to feed on emotions, and it had been like denying a heroin addict his supply. The first weeks had been the worst, the sweats and the delirium. Aria had been hit hardest, her temper fraying like a worn string. She had exploded on Sonata one night, worse than anything I had seen in my long life.
We all felt the pain differently. Sonata hadn't laughed in almost a year, and Aria had retreated so far from us I rarely saw her outside of meals. I managed to keep myself awake for long hours into the night trying to figure out just how in The Depths I was supposed to help my sisters and the guilt at my inability to protect them.
The coffeepot whistled, and I poured the steaming water into another pot where I had instant coffee grounds sitting. While I let the coffee steep I saw Sonata stumble in, barely awake and her hair falling around her shoulders. It was such a matted mess, I doubted that she had brushed it in days.
“Coffee,” she murmured.
“Hold on,” I said, too tired to even bark at her, even if I had been upset. It had been a long time since I felt the need to browbeat her. I poured us both a cup. We both sipped the bitter drink black, Fluttershy hadn’t brought much sugar and we had saved it back for making other things.
“This can’t go on,” Sonata said when she woke the rest of the way up. “That pain is always going to be there, isn’t it?”
I sighed. “Probably,” I admitted. “We got too dependent on our Song. We need to realize it’s gone and move on.”
“We could get it back,” Aria said as she moved into the kitchen and poured herself some coffee. Her eyes held deep bags under them. “It may not be as strong as before, but it might possible.”
“How?” I asked, whirling on the girl. “How are we supposed to regain something that had been contained and channeled through gems that were conveniently destroyed about a year ago?” I wasn't angry, just tired.
“I don’t know!” she snapped back before looking down. “Maybe the portal…”
“The portal is barred from this side for us,” Sonata said. “The wizard made sure we couldn’t return. I tried once, and it burned.” She rubbed one hand in memory. "It isn't possible."
“Well, we can’t stay here forever,” I said, hands wrapped around the barrel of my coffee mug. “I should go check on that waitressing job I applied for last week.”
"They let someone as haggard as us apply?" Aria asked grumpily. Her eyes hadn't raised from her mug.
"Yes," I said. "Because I didn't look like a wet cat when I went in."
“How did you manage that?” Sonata asked.
“We may have lost our Song, but we can still glamor ourselves a bit,” I said. “We can’t become much, but it should hide our, well.” I swept my hand down my body, indicated my overly skinny and pale frame. “If nothing else, we can get out of here and keep some sort of food handy.”
“That’s all well and good,” Aria muttered. “But I’m tired of being hungry.”
Not even Sonata replied to that, we all knew the kind of hunger she referred to.
Throwing the glamor up was hard, and it made the ball of pain inside flare for a moment. I was surprised when I had discovered we could still do that. As the spell made me seem like an average young woman, I started feeling that pull again, a tug as though I was on one end of a rubber band that wanted to snap back to its regular length. I shook my head and went out to the restaurant on the edge of the Downtown drag, its owl mascot glowing happily in the afternoon sun.
“Hey there, Red,” the lady behind the counter called as I walked in. “Checkin’ on the application?”
I nodded, sliding up onto a stool at the counter. “Yeah,” I said, trying to sound meek. I pictured the pink-haired girl in my mind. I needed this. My sisters needed this.
She poured a glass of soda and set it before me. “Hold tight, I’ll see if the old man has made a choice yet.” She slipped to the back. Soon after, the ‘old man’ came out and leaned against the counter, a stack of papers in his hand, my application on top.
“I’ve looked this over,” he said, a frown on his rather young face. I didn’t know why most of the staff referred to him as the old man. “And I have to say, I’m a bit undecided.” he leveled his gaze on me, the icy stare boring deeper into me than anything I had ever seen before.
“Give me a reason,” he said, frown smoothing away to neutrality. “That isn’t the practiced answers you gave me at your interview. Tell me why you want this job so bad.”
I blinked, looking down and away from the arctic glare.
“My sisters and I were evicted,” I started. “We’ve been staying at a halfway house, but,”
“It’s in a bad part of town and you want out,” he said. “I looked up the address you wrote on here. Not a very nice place, mostly full of crackheads on their way out, one way or another.” He speared me with his gaze again. “I can’t hire you if you or your sisters use.”
I turned my arms out, showing my arms. “No track marks,” I said defiantly.
“Surely not,” he said. He shuffled the papers and handed me one. “This is consent to a drug test. Sign at the bottom.”
“Because it’s the first paper I make all the employees sign before they start working,” he said. “C’mon, don’t got all day here.”
I stared numbly for a second, then grabbed the pen and signed my name to each of the pages he presented me. After the last, he scribbled out some information on a notecard and handed it to me.
“I’ll have your timecard number and a uniform for you on that date. Don’t be late.”
As he turned away, I spoke up one last time.
“What made you decide?”
He turned, then set the papers down and rolled his sleeve up, showing the puckered scar of a needle mark and a few scarred lines.
“I’ve been in that particular house,” he said, rolling his sleeve back down. “And worse. No one as young as you should be there.” He disappeared into the back again.
I left, feeling something I had never felt before.
As I walked, I found myself being pulled by that strange tug and found myself at Canterlot high. I walked to the statue that had been erected over the aperture of the portal. Seized by a strange urge, I reached out and touched the mirrored surface.
And the hunger coiled in my belly disappeared. I could feel the heat building to a near searing sensation, but I reveled in the fact that the pain of hunger was gone for a time. When I could no longer bear the pain surging through my blood from the barrier, I pulled my hand free.
And my hunger remained gone. I didn’t know if was gone for good or just for a time, but it felt good.
This bears some looking into. It may not be permanent, but at least I could get a good night's sleep tonight.
I stared at Adagio in surprise. What she told me a minute ago had blown my mind.
“It’s really gone?” I whispered.
“So far,” the girl said as she pulled the vest of her work uniform on over her tee. She grabbed her boots and started to pull them on. “It’s been three weeks now and not even a hunger pang. I don’t even have to maintain a glamor anymore.”
I couldn’t believe it. “Why didn’t you tell me or Aria sooner?”
“I didn’t want to get your hopes up if it was just a temporary thing.” She zipped up her second boot. “It still could be for all we know. I don't want to see the look on your face if it fails to stick.”
I tapped my fingers thoughtfully on the newspaper in front of me. I had circled a few want ads that I was going to check out today and I decided to swing by the portal on my way through. I felt my ponytail slide over my shoulder, freshly brushed for probably the first time in weeks.
“I can see the wheels, Sonata,” my elder sister said, walking up to grab her key from the hook hanging by the sturdy door, the only fixture that wasn't in poor repair. “Do what you think you need to, but don’t be surprised if it comes back to bite us.” I saw her smile falter. “Seems to be our luck, lately.”
I nodded, but inside I was glad to see she was able to smile again. I had just managed to regain my upbeat attitude. Between Fluttershy’s care packages - we had just put the contents of the third one in the cupboards - and Adagio finding a decent job, things were looking up. But I wasn't all the way back to normal. I felt like I had to contribute as well, maybe help us get out of this trash heap faster.
After checking to see if Aria wanted anything while I was out, I pulled on some comfy shoes and started down the stairs. The statue in front of the high school loomed up soon. I reached out hesitantly, still remembering the burning that had occurred the last time I touched the magical aperture. My hand had shown the burn marks for weeks.
I fought with myself until a roll of hunger thrashed as I heard a pair of girls start arguing over something nearby. It was an ugly feeling, and I had started to hate it and the need I felt for it.
I pushed my hand against the mirror, and it passed through. My inner demon was silenced and I could see my hand transform back into the hoof-like appendage I had in Equestria. I sighed in relief as the relief flowed through my mind. Even if it was temporary, it was worth it.
Then my hand flared with pain. I tried to pull back but I was caught. My hoof slowly changed back into a human hand, an uncomfortable heat surrounding it. It slowly spread up my arm and bit into my core, searing it's way through and leaving a hot tightness in my chest.
And then it was gone. I looked at my hands, and they had lost the pallid tone they had from the weeks spent indoors suffering from detox. I glanced back at the mirror, and I saw me.
I wasn’t quite the same, but it was obviously me. I had lost the ethereal beauty that our song had given us, but I now looked like a normal girl in her early twenties. I reached inside, searching for the raw abscess that had been our song and hunger.
And it was gone. Not just sated, but gone.
“Are you ok?” a cheery voice asked.
“I…I think so,” I said, turning towards whoever had spoken and jerked back. “You!”
“Me!” the pink-haired girl shouted back.
I stood carefully. Part of me wanted to attack one of the girls responsible for the theft of the Song, but the rest of me realized that it was stupid. “What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I just got done setting up the Fall Formal decorations,” Pinkie said, dusting imaginary fluff from her shoulders. “What are you doing here? I heard you were all sorts of downs and outsies from Fluttershy.”
“Something like that,” I said, uncomfortably. “I wanted to test something, while I was out job hunting.”
“OOH!” she started bouncing. “The bakery I work at is about to expand its catering business. I could help you get an interview.”
“Why would you?” I said. I did most of the cooking for me and my sisters anyway. It was a valid option, one I hadn't considered.
“Well, you’re the least mean of your meanie sisters,” she said bluntly. “And I can tell you’re not evil anymore. Plus I saw you not bust into flames when you touched the portal.” She put her own hand through it, giggling as it rippled. “Pony Twilight told us that the way back was barred for you with burny magic against evil.”
I blinked at the girl. “You mean, it’s not triggering because I’m not evil?”
She hugged me, the grin spreading. “Who knows?” she said with a shrug. “Only way to find out is to go out and see!” She pointed towards the bakery down the road that sometimes doubled as a second cafeteria. “If you want to try, that’s where I’ll be.” She started skipping down the road, humming to herself.
There was something about the tune that caused me to start humming too and then singing to myself. I smiled when I realized that my voice wasn’t cracking and losing the pitch. After a second, I jogged to catch up with the drummer.
“I think I’ll try, Pinkie,” I said as we passed through the door. “Nothing ventured, after all.”
“Great!” she said, hugging me tightly. “Mrs. Cake! I have a friend wanting to see about that catering job!”
I had a friend. I let the thought roll through my head as Pinkie talked to an older woman. She came back over to me and gave me a pat on the shoulder.
“She said to come back later tonight and they’ll talk it over with you, make sure you're up to it,” she said. “Let’s go get something to eat, my treat. I’m starving!”
I nodded, a strange feeling building in the back of my eyes. “What’s good around here?”
“There’s a food truck up the way that serves an awesome set of tacos!” She sighed and her eyes went distant.
My stomach growled in a way that brooked no argument.
“OOOH! And they’re half-price today cause it’s Tuesday. Let’s go!” She grabbed my hand as started out the door.
I kept up, eager to start seeing the new opportunities that awaited me.
Friends, possibly a job, and now I no longer had to deal with the raw hunger that had bit at me for the last year.
I laid there in the darkness, the apartment empty but for me. I had cast off most of my clothing, laying on the sagging mattress in just a crop top. The high was wearing off, and the black press of reality was swiftly returning. It never lasted long enough.
I ran my hands across my body, the heightened sensations that followed climax almost making me forget the gnawing, festering hole inside where I used to be able to feel the boiling heat of my Song.
I felt tears leaking out from my eyes, and I wiped them away hurriedly. It wasn’t worth crying over anymore. I had cried myself to sleep for weeks after the Battle of the Bands. I was still suffering. Even Sonata - Sonata - had recovered before I had. The little mewling pup had moved on and was actually talking about having a friend and a job where she’s happy.
I gritted my teeth at the thought. Anger and loathing rose up, but not at Sonata. The emotions turned inward, ripping through me like razors and laid bare my flaws and stripped away the last vestiges of my orgasmic high. The gnawing hunger roared back into full force and thrashed around in the cage I held it in.
I had done everything I could think of to try and curb the hunger. Self-loathing had dulled its teeth, but it was still flesh-rendingly painful. I made forays into self-gratification, but plain masturbation never held it off long enough for me to even fall asleep with any level of contentment.
Auto-erotic asphyxiation had granted me some relief, the high of oxygen deprivation and sexual release allowed me to ride without the hunger showing its face and slip blissfully away. I had continued this for several weeks until one night the slip knot I had tied in the curtain rope didn’t slip loose as I slumped against the wall. The terror killed my high and following my release from the curtain rope the self-hate taunted me with the hanging specter of my death, and yet, the prospect…
The prospect seemed preferable at times. I had faded lines on one wrist to bear testament to it.
I recognized the symptoms of depression. I was well read and bright enough. But intellectual knowledge pales when facing the dark well of self-pity and despair. I hated myself for not being stronger. I hated my cowardice that had stopped me from drawing the knife across deeper.
I followed every lead I could find. I joined a local dungeon and was introduced to suspension and impact play. Neither did much for me, but sensory play…
Electro-stimulation triggered heightened awareness on tactile impressions and feeling various textures kept my brain engaged beyond the thought of hunger. Ribbons slithering, leather crawling, wool sweeping, and other feelings sliding across my bare skin would stoke a heat that never was ignited fully.
Until one night I had felt the cold kiss of steel across my thigh. Maker, that made me jump. I managed to get my hands on a nice little knife of my own and explored the possibilities myself.
One night, I accidentally cut my inner thigh while drifting, and the shock of pain and following rush of endorphins placed the hunger in a choke hold. Nightly I would cut shallow wounds on my thighs, never too deep, knowing what remained of our healing would ensure no scars would form.
But even as I received relief from the pacing beast within, I also began to hate myself for falling to self-harm for a respite. I started to try going back to older exploits, less dangerous or embarrassing. I even tried exercise for a while, jogging around the neighborhood.
But nothing worked, and I kept going back to the knife. Soon it wasn’t just to silence the hunger, but also to make sure I could still feel at all. Fights with my sisters, frustration at yet another failed job interview, sharp words or bitter comments, they all warranted a session with a sharp edge and a locked door just so I could get some rest.
It’s nearby at all times when I’m home, which seems to be my default mode these days. I barely even leave my room. In my mind, I can hear the soft rasp and ring as I would pull it from its sheath, its cold gleam in the dim light from the streetlamp. It was seductive, and I could see now what we once offered our victims; seductive but potentially deadly all at the same time.
But it was getting to be more and more deadly and less seductive. The other night I cut a little deeper than I intended and it bled freely for minutes before healing over. The shock and surprise overrode any euphoria I received from it.
I threw it back under the edge of my mattress, fully intending to try and tough it out for a while.
But the hunger rose slowly, and my depression returned, dark thoughts bubbling to the surface as slowly and surely as the blood dripped from the cuts I placed on my thighs.
I love my sisters, and I’m happy they have figured out a way to move on. I really am.
I sat on the couch, sullen and moody. Sonata was droning on about this job at some bakery having led to possibly co-running a catering business of her own. Adagio was at work, thankfully. I don’t think I could have dealt with both of them, considering how chipper they’ve been lately. I scratched my leg, feeling the phantom kiss of my knife. It was calling to me, much like we had used to call to ponies. I hadn't slept well in a few days, which coincided with the last time I had drawn my knife from it's hiding place.
“And with any luck, in a couple years we could go into business for ourselves instead of being an offshoot of Sugarcube Corner!” Sonata was almost vibrating with glee, the silly sod. “And Pinks and I have come up with…”
“Shut up,” I muttered.
She paused, confused. “What?”
“Shut. Up.” I clarified. “You’ve been going on about this for hours, Sonata.” I tilted my head up to glare. “I. Don’t. Care.”
“Ari,” she started, her smile wavering.
"Don't Ari me," I growled. "You can take your offer and choke on it."
I stood up and stomped off to my room, shutting the door and slumping onto my bed. The anger and irritation melted away leaving depression and a twinge of guilt for yelling at her. She had just invited me to go out with her and ‘Pinks’ - whoever that was - to catch a movie, her treat.
And I had just told her that I didn’t care. Even though I did.
Tears built up, blurring my vision. A few sobs broke free and I leaned over and grabbed my pillow, holding it into me and using it to muffle the noise. After a few minutes, my tears had receded back to sullen depression. I lay in bed, holding my knife in my hand, contemplating using it to alleviate some of the grief but I was trying not to succumb.
Sighing, I sat up and slid the knife back into it’s hiding place. The only way to change my mood was to not retreat into hiding. I went out to the kitchen and found Sonata pulling on her jacket, flipping her hair free from the collar.
“What?” she bit at me.
Great, she was upset. I must have really hurt her, more than I realized.
“Sonata,” I started before looking away. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that I didn’t care about you, it’s just that…”
“You still haven’t gotten over losing it,” she said. “I get that, and if you would let me or Dagi talk to you or come out of your room for more than five seconds we could try to help you.”
I winced. “I’m not ready,” I whispered. “I wanted to be mad for a while, but I just wound up mad at myself. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually miss my sisters. Even you.”
I saw her eyes hint at the return of her smile.
“Maybe tomorrow, we can do something,” I said. “If you’re willing.”
“Tomorrow,” she said, the smile returning. “And I’ll show you what you’ve been missing out on.” She slid out the door.
I felt a smile tug at my mouth as I turned to get something to drink. I had barely opened the bottle of water when I heard a scream from outside the door. It wasn’t an unusual occurrence in this building, but there was something about the scream…something familiar. It resonated off my mind and I knew whose it was.
I burst from the door, looking towards the stairwell and saw my sister’s kicking boots being drug through a doorway. I shot down the hall, throwing my shoulder into the door that was had been shut.
The door exploded open, revealing a swart and unwashed man holding my sister down. He had already hiked her skirt up a little and was trying to force her legs apart. She was crying, fear tugging at her features as she tried to free her hands. The man turned and looked at me, a confused and angry look on his face, and his eyes were glazed with sort of gaze that said he wasn’t seeing the world as it was. He was high.
In that moment, I saw myself in him, my need for something to replace the Song, the things I had done to try to substitute it out. The need for the high just to continue on from one day to the next.
Sonata’s scream, still echoing in my head was answered by one of my own as I swung my fist at the thug, knocking him from my sister.
I threw myself on him, but I wasn’t just attacking someone that had just tried to hurt my sister.
He represented all of my failures at that point, every knife cut, every knot tied, every drunken night and snarled word to my sisters. I cried as I punched him, every night I hid from the world in my mind's eye. I felt a hand grab my shoulder but I shrugged it off, tears streaming down my face as I continued to rain blows down.
Two pairs of hands grabbed me by the arms and dragged me off the man. He was bloody, his lip split and eye already swelling closed. I saw the brusing and cuts, saw what I had done and felt cold.
I was dragged back to our apartment, the pair of arms belonging to Adagio and Sonata. Once the door was shut, I was released. I heard muffled words being spoken, but I couldn’t concentrate. I shivered with cold, the image of my sister under the man, the sight of the damage I had done to him.
What have I become? I wondered as I stared at my split knuckles. Not all the blood on me was my own.
I saw Sonata kneel down in front of me, lips forming my name. I grabbed her and pulled her in, holding her close. Tears continued to stream down my face.
She held me back as I poured out my grief. I felt Adagio’s hands on my back and head, stroking my hair.
And in my sister’s arms, I let it all go, admitting everything to them.
I stared at the statue, not believing.
"Are you serious?” I asked.
Sonata giggled and pushed me. “Just do it, Ari.”
“It’s for the best, Aria,” Adagio added.
I reached out hesitantly. I remember the angry red burns Sonata had on her hands for weeks after her one time touching the portal. But I could also see the improvements my sisters had made in the last month or so.
It couldn’t be so simple, could it?
Gritting my teeth, I slapped my hand against the glass, seeing it slide through. There was no pain, no fire. Just a warm feeling that flowed through me. I felt it encircle my thighs, my arms, every place I had ever drawn a line of blood.
It felt wonderful. It felt great. It filled the festering wound in my core, replacing it with a feeling of satiation.
And when it faded, returning me to the world, I felt whole. For the first time in who knows how long. Turning, I saw my sisters, and as I was reaching out to hug them when we were all encompassed in a light glow, all three of us lifting from the ground slightly. A bright line of magic speared all of us, linking us. Following an urge from deep within, I started to sing a note, Adagio and Sonata harmonizing with me. I saw a misty aura start gliding towards us, but when we absorbed it, it was different from all the negative feelings we had eaten for years. It was warmer, softer.
As we hung there, being fed somehow, I spied a young couple in the bushes off to the side, oblivious to the world as they made out. Their passions growing hotter as their emotions flow forth and joined the mist surrounding us.
The harmonizing stopped and we drifted to the ground, and around our necks were three new gems, sapphire blue and smaller.
Aria stood across from me, fingering the blue pendant we all wore now.
“So, what happened?” she asked. The grouchy tone was still in her voice, but those that knew her also knew her angry grouch from her regular grouch.
Adagio shook her head. “I’m not sure,” she said. “We fed on those young lovers but didn’t alter their behavior negatively, nor did we need to feed.” She sighed. “And that doesn’t even explain why the portal affected us each differently. It burned me and Sonata, but it only soothed you.”
I smiled for a moment. “Maybe because she was already in pain,” I said, a tear slipping free. “Pain we couldn’t see.”
Aria looked down, her gaze drifting to the knife on the counter between us. She had come clean to us after we pulled her off the junkie that had attacked me, admitting to the cutting and the self-loathing. It had hurt me to see my sister being in such a dark place and not even realize it. Dagi and I had decided then that it was more important to help each other as we once had, before our banishment, before the recriminations and hate had made us snipe at each other.
“They look like our old gems,” I said, drawing us away from the uncomfortable topic. “But why would the portal give us our Song back?”
“Maybe it just restored us?” Dagi said. “Like hitting a reset switch on a breaker box?”
“But why?” Aria pressed. “We were banished and barred because of our Song.”
“Maybe these aren’t like our old Songs,” I said, drawing a curious look from my sisters.
“Well,” I said, tapping my fingers together nervously. “We had to choose what emotions to draw on, and remember how back in the old days, our gems were clear? They only turned red after years of feeding on negative emotions.”
“So what does blue mean, then?” Dagi asked. “Happiness and sunshine?”
“Hope,” a quiet voice said from behind us.
We turned to find Fluttershy standing there, another of her care packages in her hands. She looked slightly tanned and stood just a bit taller than previously.
“You all have something you didn’t have before,” she continued, putting the box down on the counter. “You have hope.” She pointed at each of us in turn. “Adagio has a job at a restaurant, respected for her professionalism and willingness to work hard.”
She looked at me. “You are getting quite the reputation at Sugarcube Corner as a great confectioner and Pinkie speaks highly of you. That’s enough for me,” she smiled and patted me on the shoulder.
She looked at Aria. “I’m not sure what troubled you, but I can see that it doesn’t really weigh on you as much as the last time I was here.” She either didn’t see the knife or didn’t understand its significance.
“How do you know so much?” Dagi said, genuinely curious.
The slender girl smiled sadly. “When you’re used to abuse, you learn to see the signs,” she said. “You also learn to observe people, listen to what’s being said. How else do you think I found you the first time?”
I blinked in surprise. I had never thought about it, honestly.
“The question is now,” she said, looking at us in turn. “What do you do?”
“Are you sure about this?” Aria asked as we looked at the small apartment.
“It’s got plenty of space, and it’s well within the budget that you have with two incomes,” Fluttershy said. “It’s also out of downtown and still relatively close to both of your jobs.”
Adagio fingered the keys nervously, uncertain. I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder.
“I’m willing if you are,” I whispered. “We need out of that place, and I don’t think I could stay there anyway after what happened.”
“What’s the catch?” Aria said. “There’s always one.”
Fluttershy spread her hands. “No catch,” she said. “I just care.”
“Why?” Aria fired back.
“Everyone deserves some kindness,” she said. “And with the right situation, anyone can move on from the past.” Her eyes went distant for a moment.
Aria scowled, but I recognized indecision in her face. She looked over at us, and I smiled.
Adagio closed her hand around the apartment keys, nodding.
Aria slowly smiled too and seeing one on her face after so long was wonderful.
Maybe it was time to move on from everything.
I sat on the fire escape of our apartment, Aria and Adagio trying to settle our meager belongings in some sense of order. I looked out over the bright lights of the neighborhood, feeling at peace. Aria and I had made a deal that when Pinks and I started the catering, she could help until she found something permanent and would get a share of the income. It had helped her mood, and I’m sure that Pinkie wouldn’t have any problem with that.
I reached out and grabbed the railing to stand up and hissed as I felt something bite into my fingertip.
I stared at the small drop of blood on my pinky, and seized by a strange - and yet vaguely familiar urge - I started humming softly, following my instincts. The melody flowed from me smoothly and my pendant lit with a soft glow. A light mist of silver surrounded my finger, and when it and my song faded, the cut in my finger was gone.
I felt my eyes pop open, and I scrambled to my feet, climbing back into the apartment.
My head hurt and my eyes itched, but this had been an informative little trip to the library. Adagio and Aria were sitting at the table with me, several dusty books in front of us.
Aria pushed hers away. “Nothing!” she rasped. “Everything in this one tells us what we already know.”
I shut mine as well, the artwork inside horribly inaccurate as to what we looked like. “I don’t remember ever trying to get seafaring ships to crash onto rocks,” I muttered. “What good are dead sailors? You can't feed on the dead.”
Adagio whistled, drawing the silent ire of a passing librarian. “This might explain something,” she said, setting the book down on the table.
“It’s not about us, not directly,” she said. “But it does reference us in regards to harpies. In some mythologies, we were natural enemies, since we drew on emotions and harpies would drive their victims mad.” She shook her head. “But I don’t remember any harpies in Equestria, at least not when we were there. Hadn’t been for centuries.”
“There aren’t any sirens there now, either, Adagio,” Aria said. “We were probably the last three. But what does that have to do with the fact that our Song now apparently heals wounds?”
“Well,” I said, thinking. “Look around. I can see every emotional aura but anger in here. Boredom, excitement, sexual desire, and exhaustion. But nothing negative. No anger or hate. What if these gems can only store energy and our Song tap into them for…whatever?”
“There isn’t any more information in these books,” Adagio said. “We need access to Equestrian tomes. They’d be more accurate anyway.”
“We could ask Fluttershy,” Aria said. “She’d be able to get them.”
“No,” Adagio said, closing her book. “We’re not going to move in shadows anymore.”
She stood and started putting the books on the return cart.
“We ask directly from now on,” she looked at me. “When is that party for Sunset Shimmer?”
“Tomorrow,” I said. “Sugarcube Corner. She should be there around eleven?”
“We’ll talk to her then.”
I saw Sunset standing by the soda stand, shivering and pale.
"You ok?" I asked. "You look like you saw a ghost."
"I think I might have," she whispered, frowning.
"You don't look so good," I said. "You should sit down." I guided her to a chair. I went to get her a drink when Aria came up to me.
"Do you feel that?" she whispered.
I blinked for a second, then closed my eyes.
Hate, rage, and murderous intent hung in the air, fading slowly. I shivered.
"There shouldn't be anything like that here," I said. "Everyone here is a friend. It's a celebration."
"Whatever caused them, it's gone now," Aria glanced at Sunset. "We should talk to her now."