Nuke - Actias Full (WIP)

May 14th, 2014
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  1. Chapter 1
  3. >Tink.
  4. >Tink tink.
  5. >Tinktinktinktinktinktink.
  6. >The sound of a hard, velvety structure tapping against a thin glass pane echoes through a small, brightly lit room.
  7. "What do you want?"
  8. >"Let me in, I want to get a closer look at your lights!"
  9. >Tink tink tink.
  10. "Aren't there other lights for you to see? You know, street lights, porch lights, flood-lights?"
  11. >"I've already seen all of those in this town."
  12. "Go to another town."
  13. >"No!"
  14. >A very heavy sigh finds its way out of your mouth.
  15. "If I let you in, will you go away as soon as you're done?"
  16. >The odd terror gives a soft nod as she bumps her head into your window.
  17. >Tink.
  18. >She darts into the room almost as soon as the window slides up.
  19. >Her hooves and antennae start tapping against your desk lamp as this curious pony invades your home.
  20. >"What kind of light is this?"
  21. >You shrug and give her an aggravated look.
  22. >"I like it. Can I keep it?"
  23. "Will it make you go away faster?"
  24. >"Yes!"
  25. "Then take it."
  26. >She starts to giggle as she carefully unscrews the lightbulb from your lamp.
  27. >Even as it loses its glow, the mothpony continues tapping on the bulb's glass.
  28. "Has anyone ever told you how obnoxious you are?"
  29. >A bright smile forms across her lips as she nods enthusiastically.
  30. >"I always learned to take it as a compliment! After all, why let someone keep you down when you're enjoying the little things in life?"
  31. >That is oddly... profound.
  32. >Maybe these mothponies aren't only about tapping on glass, admiring lights, and eating cloth.
  33. >Yet, as you contemplate the intelligence of her statement, you hear the soft ripping of fabric behind you.
  34. >"These are gross!"
  35. >She's eating your sheets and blankets.
  36. >Or, less eating, more ripping them apart, chewing on the strands of fabric, and then spitting them out on the floor in disgust.
  37. >"Do you have anything fresher? Maybe a freshly cleaned silk sheet?"
  38. "No."
  39. >Rip.
  40. >Chew.
  41. >Spit.
  42. "Please stop that. I sleep on those, and need them for warmth."
  43. >"Oh, sorry."
  44. >She hops off of your bed and starts scooping the discarded strands of fabric up.
  45. >In a desperate attempt to appease your well-masked anger, she starts wringing the spit from the discarded fabric and lays them upon your bed.
  46. >"I-I'm sorry. I'll be leaving now."
  47. >With the lightbulb shoved into her mouth, she leaps out of your window.
  48. >Once more, you sigh.
  49. >She'll be back tomorrow night.
  50. >And the night after that.
  51. >With this same scenario playing out.
  52. >It's like Hell, except the demon that tortures you is an adorable mothpony.
  53. >But you've gotten used to it, even after the few days that it's occurred.
  54. >Maybe she'll stay a little longer tomorrow night.
  57. >"Get down from there."
  58. "But you'll grab me and throw me out!"
  59. >"And for good reason."
  60. >He's being mean again.
  61. >He tries so hard to hide his resentment for you.
  62. >It isn't your fault he coaxed you into his living room.
  63. >It isn't your fault he has a lot of really nice lights.
  64. >Ok, so he only has two or three incredibly droll looking lamps with plain, dusty lampshades on them.
  65. >But still, they're lights.
  66. >Well, they used to be.
  67. >You kind of shattered them in your excitement.
  68. >"I'm not going to tell you again. Get down."
  69. >He's pointing that portable light at you.
  70. "But I'm sorry!"
  71. >"I don't care."
  72. >You really are sorry.
  73. >He has the best lights in town.
  74. >Lights on windows that show moving pictures.
  75. >Lights on little screens that also make sounds and music.
  76. >Lights that glow different colors and flash in patterns and sequences.
  77. >His house is so magical!
  78. >"Look, you can either get down off of my ceiling right now, or I can get a broom and start hitting you with it."
  79. >You look up, or down depending on who's looking where.
  80. "I just wanted to be friends with you."
  81. >"I don't need friends. And besides, what do I have to offer you by way of friendship? And don't say lights or cloth."
  82. >You scrunch your face up in thought, that bright portable light shining on your face.
  83. >"That's what I thought. Please leave."
  84. >Defeated, you drop from the ceiling and stand in front of your host.
  85. >As you slowly walk past him, toward the door, you sigh.
  86. "I'm sorry."
  87. >He opens it for you, but just as you take off, you hear his voice.
  88. >"It's okay."
  89. >No animosity, no anger.
  90. >Just a hint of sincerity and loneliness.
  91. >The door closes, leaving you in the dark of the night.
  92. >Alone, with no company but the stars and the moon, and the occasional hoot of an owl.
  93. >You flutter back down to stand on his porch, a small whisper escaping your lips.
  94. "Please, open the door and let me stay the night."
  95. >But as hopeful as you are, the knob does not twist.
  96. >The door does not open.
  97. >And that strange, hairless creature does not welcome you back into his warm home.
  99. >It really was okay.
  100. >You didn't even like those lamps.
  101. >She did, you didn't.
  102. >The first day you met her, she tapped on that window for hours.
  103. >You didn't let her in.
  104. >The second day, you just closed the curtains and ignored her.
  105. >The third day, she spoke.
  106. >Her soft voice felt like velvet being rubbed in your ears.
  107. >Even then, you ignored her.
  108. >Last night, you let her into your home through your bedroom window.
  109. >Tonight you let her into more of the house.
  110. >A person can change, given enough incentive.
  111. >That mothpony might have found her way into more than just your home.
  112. "Open the door, Anon. She didn't leave, she's out there waiting."
  113. >The door acts as a brace for your head as you lean upon it.
  114. >Looking back into your living room, the now dark interior seems cold and uninviting.
  115. >A stark contrast to when that little mothpony was in here just a few seconds ago.
  116. >She adds a little bit of excitement to your life, and it's only been five days.
  117. "Just open the door."
  118. >Your hand fondles the doorknob, its cold metal warming to your touch.
  119. >It twists with little resistance.
  120. >The door swings open, revealing the night, as you step back.
  121. "Gone."
  122. >You don't even know her name.
  123. "She'll be back tomorrow. Just like every night."
  124. >The door closes once more as you return to your lonely life in your dark house.
  126. >Tink.
  127. >She's late.
  128. >Tink tink.
  129. >But she's back.
  130. >Tinktinktinktinktinktink.
  131. >You rush to the window and open it just before she can tap her head against it again.
  132. >"O-oh! Hello!"
  133. "Hey."
  134. >"Why are you smiling?"
  135. "No reason. Come in."
  136. >She hesitates before fluttering inside.
  137. >"You're kind of scaring me."
  138. "Why?"
  139. >"Well... You've been kind of mean."
  140. >She stays close to the window, obviously wary that you might try something.
  141. >You look away from her, shaking your head softly.
  142. "I'm sorry."
  143. >"What?"
  144. "I'm sorry, for how I've treated you. All you wanted was to see the lights, and I did more damage by trying to keep you away."
  145. >Her antennae droop a little bit, her eyes locking onto you.
  146. >"What are you saying?"
  147. >A hand rubs over your face as you let out an exasperated groan.
  148. "Do you want to go see the lights?"
  149. >She shifts uncomfortably from hoof to hoof, unsure of what your intentions are.
  150. >After a few moments of silent contemplation, she perks up and nods.
  151. >"Yes!"
  152. "Well then, let's go."
  153. >She closes the window before following you out of your bedroom.
  154. >The lights in the hall turn on with a flick of the switch.
  155. >They grab the little mothpony's attention.
  156. >"I like these."
  157. "There are more lights in the room on the left."
  158. >"Can I look at these some more?"
  159. "You'll have plenty of time to look at those later."
  160. >"Later?"
  161. >Without answering her, you walk into the room on the left.
  162. >She bumps into the wall as she follows, her eyes still locked to the hallway lights.
  163. "What's up with you and lights anyway?"
  164. >A shrug is offered.
  165. >"As far as I know, all mothponies are attracted to lights."
  166. "Weird."
  167. >"Can I see the new lights now?"
  168. "Of course."
  169. >With a flick of yet another switch, the entire room lights up.
  170. >Lights of all colors, bulbs of all shapes, and flashing LEDs with an assortment of patterns litter the walls and floor.
  171. >Definitely an epileptic's nightmare.
  172. >"Wow!"
  173. "Do you like it?"
  174. >"I love it!"
  175. >Her soft wings flare out in excitement as she starts cantering all around the room, from the floor to the ceiling, tapping on all of the lights.
  176. >"Have you always had all of these?"
  177. "Some are from the holidays, others I went out and bought."
  178. >"Bought? Why?"
  179. "For you."
  180. >She stares at you from the ceiling, a quizzical look distorting her normally cheery expression.
  181. >"For me?"
  182. "To say I was really sorry about making you leave."
  183. >"You didn't have to."
  184. >You chuckle as you sit down in front of a lava lamp.
  185. "I wanted to."
  186. >"Why?"
  187. "People change, given enough incentive."
  188. >She climbs down from the ceiling and sits beside you, her eyes gluing to the lamp.
  189. >"Do you mind?"
  190. >She points to your lap.
  191. >As you pat your leg, she makes herself comfortable against you.
  192. >Reflexively, be it from crippling loneliness or a sense of security, you hug the mothpony from behind.
  193. "I never got your name."
  194. >"It's Actias."
  195. "I'm Anon. Pleasure to make your acquaintance."
  197. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  199. Chapter 2
  201. >A thousand moth ponies, given enough time and enough lightbulbs, could reproduce Beethoven's Fifth just by clinking the bulbs.
  202. >Or they could just make a bunch of incessant tapping noises.
  203. >And then buzz angrily at each other when several of them want the same bulb.
  204. >The "Light Room," as Actias dubbed it, is currently host to this hypothetical situation.
  205. >On a smaller scale, of course.
  206. >A thousand moth ponies wouldn't be able to fit in there.
  207. >That would be silly.
  208. >What isn't silly is the cacophany of clinking and tapping that comes from that room.
  209. >Actias came back to visit and brought a few friends.
  210. >Instead of turning them all away and possibly hurting Actias's feelings, you invited them all inside.
  211. >All four of them.
  212. >It was a bad idea.
  213. >Mostly because they chewed holes in your socks, underwear, and bed sheets.
  214. >Actias at least put up a fight over that, by telling them to stop.
  215. >She tried, that's all that matters.
  216. >It didn't take long for them to get bored with your bedroom, especially when you asked Actias if she told the others about the "Light Room."
  217. >You probably should have led with that, in retrospect.
  218. >The tinkering and tapping of hooves and antennae against glass continue to fill your ears.
  219. >It's that bothersome sound that draws your attention back to the present.
  220. >Your house is empty and lonely enough that the faintest sounds echo off the walls.
  221. >It usually doesn't bother you, but unfortunately, the normal sounds are accompanied by the symphony of the mothponies.
  222. >Might as well roll out of your tattered bed and ask them to quiet down.
  223. >How well will that actually go over?
  224. >Probably not well, but it's worth a shot.
  225. >After all, you were only expecting Actias, not her friends.
  226. >A tapping at the "Light Room" door catches your attention.
  227. >All of your friends just jitter and tap against the lights.
  228. >You approach the door and tap the same pattern that came from the other side.
  229. >"That's cute. Open the door."
  230. "Sorry Anon."
  231. >With a hint of excitement, your wings stretch out a little bit as you turn the handle on the door.
  232. >Your newest, and most favorite, friend stands with his arms crossed.
  233. "Hi Anon."
  234. >"Hi Actias."
  235. "Wanna play with the lights?"
  236. >"No, I want you to quiet down."
  237. "Quiet down? We're hardly making any noise!"
  238. >"I can hear it from my bedroom."
  239. "But we're having fun!"
  240. >"Yeah, and I was expecting a relaxing night with no extra guests."
  241. >You tilt your head and offer him a confused look.
  242. >"I think it's time they left."
  243. >The tapping stops, your friends turning to look at him.
  244. >"Aww!"
  245. >"Already? We just got here!"
  246. >They buzz sadly and lower their heads as Anon flicks the light off.
  247. >"I didn't expect any extra guests tonight is all. Maybe some other night the rest of you can come over."
  248. >"Well, alright mister."
  249. >The sound of wings flapping causes you to duck.
  250. >"What's that sound?"
  251. >But it's too late.
  252. >Your friends latch onto Anon, all of them giggling while he gives a startled shout.
  253. >They hug his arms and legs, which leaves his torso open for one more.
  254. >"Get off of me!"
  255. >You take a step forward as Anon stops flailing his arms around.
  256. >"Was that a hoofstep? Actias, don't you dare!"
  257. >Wings spread, rump hiked.
  258. >"Actias!"
  259. >You launch yourself at Anon, your squeaks joining the other mothponies'.
  260. >All of you yell, at the same time:
  261. "Thank you Anon!"
  262. >"NO!"
  263. >Anon somehow manages to make the trek to the front door, despite being weighed down by you and your friends.
  264. >As soon as he opens the door, your friends drop off of his body and stand at the threshold of the house.
  265. >"Can we come back tomorrow night?"
  266. >"No, maybe next week."
  267. >"Aw! But Actias says she gets to come over every night!"
  268. >"That's because I like her."
  269. >The other four moth ponies scrunch their faces up and start making frustrated squeaks before they fly off.
  270. "I guess you want me to leave too?"
  271. >His slightly disgruntled expression offers an answer.
  272. "I'm sorry for bringing them over."
  273. >Anon sighs softly as he closes the door.
  274. >You look up at him with a surprised expression.
  275. >"Warn me next time."
  276. "You're letting me stay?"
  277. >"No, I closed the door so you'd have to leave by window."
  278. "O-oh."
  279. >Almost as soon as you start to climb off of him, he wraps his arms around you.
  280. >"I was joking."
  281. >A blush overtakes your face as he hugs you close, your antennae brushing against his chin.
  282. "Wh-where are we going then?"
  283. >"Well, since I'm not tired anymore, I figured you might want to stay and chat? Maybe listen to some music and play with the lights?"
  284. >You blush even harder as he carries you into the dark living room.
  285. "W-well, I guess I can't say no to more lights."
  286. >"It's cold and snowing tonight anyway. I wouldn't feel right sending you home in that."
  287. "I guess you have a point."
  288. >He sits down on the couch and plops you beside him.
  289. >"Do you have anything in mind that you'd like to listen to?"
  290. "No, not really. I've never really been big on music."
  291. >"Hmm. How about this?"
  292. >He files through a small box of records and places one on a record player beside the couch.
  293. >
  294. "I like this."
  295. >"It's one of my favorites."
  296. >You try to squeak in time with the music, but you mess up frequently, as this is your first time ever hearing such sweet sounds.
  297. >"I think if you practice enough, you'd be able to accomplish that."
  298. "Accomplish what?"
  299. >"What you're doing. Trying to squeak it out."
  300. "Oh! Do you really think so?"
  301. >"Anything's possible if you put your mind to it."
  302. >You hold your hooves up in front of you and scrunch your face.
  303. >He's right.
  304. >You know he's right.
  305. "Can I stay here for a little while longer and listen to it again?"
  306. >"You can stay as long as you'd like. I look forward to hearing you sing."
  307. "I don't think I'd ever call it singing."
  308. >"Don't be hard on yourself. I liked what you were doing."
  309. >You chitter softly in embarrassment with your hooves over your face, as the music continues.
  310. >An arm rests against your side as Anon pulls you closer to him.
  311. >"Are you alright?"
  312. "Mhm. It's just that... you're being so nice to me. I thought you didn't like me."
  313. >"Well, at first I kind of didn't. Not until I let you through my window and you started tapping on that lamp."
  314. >He chuckles a little bit and rubs your side.
  315. >"Over the past few nights, I don't know. Something changed. I think, maybe, something about you and your love of lights. It's just simple."
  316. >Your eyes meet his as you move your hooves away from your face.
  317. "Simple? Are you implying that I'm stupid? Unintelligent? Uncultured?"
  318. >"No Actias, you know I didn't mean it like that."
  319. >He hugs you tight, even as you squeak angrily and buzz your wings.
  320. >"You're a very special kind of pony. You've brought a warm light to this house."
  321. >Your noises stop, leaving the music coming from the record player as the only noise in the house.
  322. "Do you really mean that?"
  323. >"Yes."
  324. "Then I'll stick around. B-but only because of the music and lights!"
  325. >"I'm fine with that. As long as you'll be around more often, I think I'll be a little happier."
  327. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  329. Chapter 3
  331. >The sounds of cannons firing and a moth angrily squeaking and tapping on a table rouse you from your sleep.
  332. "Actias? What're you doing?"
  333. >"I wanted to listen to something else, and I really liked this one, but then this happened!"
  334. "So turn it off!"
  335. >"I don't know how!"
  336. >Groaning as you sit up, you reach over and lift the needle off of the record.
  337. >Actias sits in silence for a moment, looking away from you.
  338. >"I'm sorry. I didn't know that happened."
  339. "The cannons?"
  340. >She nods sheepishly.
  341. "It's alright. I used to use that as an alarm."
  342. >This ellicits a soft chuckle from her.
  343. >"I don't see how you slept through all of the other loud stuff."
  344. >You shrug and smile.
  345. "So, were you looking for another song to learn?"
  346. >"Sort of. I was getting a little frustrated with the other one."
  347. "Gloria."
  348. >"Who?"
  349. "That's the name of the song. Gloria, by Vivaldi."
  350. >"Oh! Well, what was this one?"
  351. "1812 Overture, by Tchaikovsky."
  352. >"I've never heard of any of these composers."
  353. "You said you were never big on music."
  354. >"Well! That was before I heard this stuff. I like it."
  355. "We'll have plenty of time to listen to all of it."
  356. >"Really?"
  357. "Really. Anyways, I'm kind of in the mood for some breakfast. What about you?"
  358. >She presses against your arm and hugs it tightly as she yawns.
  359. >"I'm actually kind of tired. I was up all night."
  360. "Practicing, I hope."
  361. >With a blush, she hides her face in the crook of your arm.
  362. >"I-I was actually just listening, and watching you."
  363. >Watching you?
  364. >Sleep?
  365. >Well that's creepy.
  366. "Okay, well. Uncomfortableness aside, I'm going to grab something to eat. What time is it anyway?"
  367. >"Seven in the morning."
  368. >You stop in the middle of getting up from the couch.
  369. "Seven?"
  370. >"Seven."
  371. "I was done sleeping anyway."
  372. >"Well! I'm going to sleep."
  373. "Do you want the couch or the bed?"
  374. >The moth pony answers by leaping onto you and wrapping her hooves and wings around your torso.
  375. >"Is this okay?"
  376. >It actually isn't.
  377. >You were planning on practicing your piano or violin today.
  378. >Maybe if you play really softly, you can still practice.
  379. >Better safe than sorry though, you need to tell her to get off.
  380. "Yeah, it's fine."
  381. >Your words betray you, much like your heart when she hugs you even tighter.
  382. >Looks like you won't be doing anything productive today.
  383. "I actually might have to do some running around town today though. Will the sun bother you, if you stay with me?"
  384. >"A little bit."
  385. >Great.
  386. >You won't even be able to go get groceries.
  387. >Unless...
  388. "Your eyes kind of look like sunglasses. I have an idea, hang on."
  389. >She squeaks and buzzes as you jog through the house, to your bedroom.
  390. >On your desk lays a pair of sunglasses.
  391. >Perfect.
  392. "Alright, look up at me and hold still."
  393. >Actias wriggles as you unfold the glasses and place them over her eyes.
  394. "Good?"
  395. >"I can't see anything."
  396. "It should block most of the sunlight from bothering you while you sleep."
  397. >"Will it work outside?"
  398. "Yeah, hopefully."
  399. >"Okay. Good morning, then."
  400. >She nestles her face into your chest.
  401. >You haven't had a chance to shower or change your clothes.
  402. >Too late for that, she's held fast and probably already asleep.
  403. >Her squeaks and slight twitching of her wings show that she is.
  404. "Well that was fast. I wish I could do that."
  405. >Looks like you're going to be alone on your journey today.
  406. >Or, she's with you, but asleep.
  407. >That's just as bad.
  408. >You can deal with it.
  409. >Not like you've had much company on your shopping trips before.
  410. >Actias squirms against you as you walk through town, under the cool morning sun.
  411. >She's warm, you'll give her that, but she must be cold.
  412. >Buttoning your coat might be a good idea, but it might make her uncomfortable.
  413. >You don't know if she's claustrophobic.
  414. >You don't know a lot about her actually, just that she's fond of lights, eating your clothes and spitting the fabric out, and listening to your music.
  415. >Maybe you could spend the night getting to know her.
  416. >Or whenever she wakes up.
  417. >Is she nocturnal?
  418. >"Do you need nectar, sonny?"
  419. "Huh?"
  420. >"You've got a wandering look in your eye. And judging by the little moth wrapped around your middle, I'd say you could use a little advice."
  421. >Looking around, you find yourself standing in front of a fruit stand.
  422. "I guess. I don't really know what her diet is."
  423. >"Mmm. They like nectar, honey... Things like that."
  424. "I guess that makes sense. About how long would four jars of honey and four of nectar last me?"
  425. >"A few days, depending on her appetite."
  426. "Well, here's hoping she won't down them all before the weekend."
  427. >The stall-keeper snickers and passes your order as you drop your payment in a jar on the stand.
  428. >"You have a good day, sonny."
  429. "You too."
  430. >Placing the bottles in your satchel, you wander around the market square.
  431. >Time to get some groceries for yourself.
  432. >You don't even know why you bought nectar for Actias.
  433. >She probably isn't going to stay forever.
  434. >As you place a hand on the back over her head, you start to stroke her short green mane.
  435. "I'm going to cherish whatever time we'll have together."
  436. >She squeaks softly and nuzzles into your chest.
  437. >As you venture further into the square, though, she begins to stir and squeak angrily.
  438. >"Anon, it's too loud."
  439. >She looks up at you with a sad expression on her face, those sunglasses still hiding her eyes.
  440. "I'm sorry. I'm not finished here."
  441. >"I'll meet you back at the house then."
  442. "Be careful."
  443. >She flashes a soft smile before fluttering back toward the house.
  444. >Alone, as usual.
  445. >On the bright side, you can get your shopping done quicker.
  446. >You jog around, purchasing everything you need, as quickly as you can.
  447. >A bulletin board outside of one of the main-street shops catches your eye.
  448. >Not for the usual job offers, or help wanted listings.
  449. >But for one single leaflet.
  450. "Amateur musicians and singers wanted. Open auditions, inquire at the concert hall."
  451. >That sounds interesting.
  452. >And it could be fun!
  453. >Especially since Actias was interested in learning how to... squeak.
  454. >She can speak, so she should be able to sing properly.
  455. >Maybe you can teach her to do that.
  456. >Her voice is beautiful enough.
  457. >You shake your head and chuckle as you take the leaflet with you.
  458. >She might find humor in this.
  459. >She might even take to it and decide to try out.
  460. >You ponder the leaflet all the way home.
  461. "Only three days to prepare. Might as well get crackin'."
  462. >As you enter your house, you flick one of the light switches on.
  463. >Then off.
  464. >Then on again.
  465. "She took the bulbs, didn't she?"
  466. >The tinkering sounds coming from the "Light Room" answer that question perfectly.
  467. >You check the light in the foyer, the living room, and the hallway.
  468. >Every single one of those bulbs is missing.
  469. "What's she even doing? She was asleep for barely an hour."
  470. >You open the door to the room she's in and stand on the threshold.
  471. >One adorable moth pony sits in the middle of the room, lights lighting up as she taps them.
  472. >"Oh! H-hi Anon!"
  473. "What're you doing? Why aren't there any light-bulbs in the house?"
  474. >"I took them."
  475. "You took them. For what reason?"
  476. >"I had an idea."
  477. "Was it a good idea?"
  478. >"Maybe."
  479. >Benefit of the doubt, Anon.
  480. "Show me."
  481. >"O-oh. Hang on."
  482. >She scoots along the floor to your record player and gently places the needle onto a record.
  483. >Vivaldi's Gloria plays again.
  484. >"Okay, watch."
  485. >Actias's face scrunches up as she sticks her tongue out in concentration.
  486. >Her hooves and feelers begin tapping the light-bulbs to the beat of the song.
  487. >They light up as she touches them, and turn off as she moves to the next bulb.
  488. >You tilt your head at this display.
  489. >Despite being off-beat, and her squeaks being mistimed or the wrong note, she's impressing you.
  490. >Her head lowers and she blushes as she finishes the song.
  491. >"I'm sorry it was so bad."
  492. "No, it was... You need to practice and work on it, but that wasn't bad. I liked it."
  493. >"Really?"
  494. "Yeah. Where'd you think to use the light-bulbs like that though?"
  495. >She shrugs and smiles.
  496. >"The big strings of light hanging from the walls. They light up to Pachelbel's Canon."
  497. "You noticed that?"
  498. >"Yes! So I figured I could take that same principal, but instead of the bulbs automatically lighting up in time, I could make a set of my own that light up when I touch them!"
  499. "Interesting. Where'd you learn how to wire something like that?"
  500. >She shrugs again.
  501. >"You pick up on a few things when you're traveling around."
  502. >She taps on the lights a little bit more and squeaks softly.
  503. "Well, since you're so intent on practicing, I have a little bit of incentive for you to work toward."
  504. >She stops everything she's doing to look up at you.
  505. >Her head tilts as she stands up and trots over to you.
  506. >"What is it?"
  507. >You hold the leaflet out to her and smirk.
  508. >"It's a... musician's guild? I'm not a musician. I can't try out."
  509. "But you love music, and you're trying to learn. Come on, it'll be fun."
  510. >She places a hoof over her mouth and looks away for a moment.
  511. >"I guess it couldn't hurt. What would I do for the audition?"
  512. "Sing, squeak, tap those bulbs. Music's what you make of it."
  513. >"Would they take that though?"
  514. "If you're good enough, I don't see why not."
  515. >"Then, yeah. Let's do this. How long do we have?"
  516. "Three days."
  517. >Actias swallows hard and nods softly.
  518. >"I can do this."
  520. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  522. Chapter 4
  524. >"I can't do this."
  525. >The little moth pony buzzes in frustration as you stop the record player.
  526. "Yes you can. You can't just give up, Actias."
  527. >She stomps past you as she leaves the room.
  528. "Actias, come on!"
  529. >"Anon, please! Let me take a break. We've been at this for the past six hours!"
  530. >Her voice starts to squeak the louder she yells.
  531. >"I'm sorry I yelled."
  532. "It's alright. We should take a break for a little bit."
  533. >"Thank you."
  534. >The frustrated mare trots off, into the kitchen.
  535. >You sigh and shake your head.
  536. >It might be a good time to get some piano practice in.
  537. >Crossing the hall and unlocking the door to the room opposite the Light Room, you smile to yourself.
  538. >Ordinarily, the room wouldn't be locked, but since you have what may be a permanent guest living with you, it was better to play things safe.
  539. >As you turn the light on and shut the door behind you, a beautiful grand piano enters your field of vision.
  540. >The rest of the room is almost completely barren, save for a small table with a little picture in a wooden frame sitting on it.
  541. >Pictured are you, a mare, and a filly sitting under a large oak tree, smiling in pure bliss.
  542. >You smile at the picture before sitting down at the piano.
  543. "You two have a song in mind?"
  544. >Complete silence meets your ears.
  545. "Nocturne Op. 72 No. 1 by Chopin? Again?"
  546. >As you shake your head and chuckle a little bit, you start to play.
  547. "I don't mind playing it, but you could request something different once in a while."
  548. >Your cheeks burn and your throat tightens as you play.
  549. >A tear rolls from your eye as you finish the piece.
  550. "I shouldn't be dwelling on this."
  551. >"Anon?"
  552. >Startled, you stand and run to the door.
  553. >Actias slips inside before you can close it.
  554. >"I heard you playing, so I came to watch."
  555. "I don't want you in here. You can't be in here."
  556. >"Why not?"
  557. >She sits down on the piano bench and looks up at you.
  558. "It's a long story."
  559. >You make the mistake of glancing over at the picture.
  560. >Actias follows your gaze, her eyes locking to the frame.
  561. >Everything slows down as she reaches over to it.
  562. >You rush over and take it out of her hooves.
  563. >"What is that?"
  564. "It's a picture."
  565. >"Who are the ponies in it?"
  566. "It's a long story."
  567. >"We have time."
  568. "No we don't. We have to practice for those auditions."
  569. >"Oh, come on! We've been practicing all day!"
  570. >Two hooves press against your chest as she stands up and stares into your eyes.
  571. >"Please? If you tell me, I promise I won't ask for a break tomorrow."
  572. "It isn't important, but since you're going to promise that, I'll give you the short answer."
  573. >You set the picture back down on the table and pick the moth pony up.
  574. >As you walk out of the room, you begin to speak.
  575. "They were friends of mine, a long time ago."
  576. >"How long ago?"
  577. "I don't remember."
  578. >"Oh. What happened to them?"
  579. "Shenanigans."
  580. >"You won't tell me?"
  581. "No, because it isn't important."
  582. >"It's important."
  583. >You sigh and walk toward the kitchen.
  584. "Actias, please. Just drop it."
  585. >She nuzzles your neck and buzzes.
  586. >"Sorry."
  587. >A jar of nectar sits on the counter, unopened.
  588. "Couldn't get this open?"
  589. >"No. I came to ask you for help, but I got distracted by you playing."
  590. "Oh. Well, then. Let's get this open so you can eat."
  591. >Actias hops down and sits on a stool beside the counter.
  592. >You open the jar and pass it to her before turning to prepare your own lunch.
  593. >Bread, veggies, meat.
  594. >Meat.
  595. >You look down at your meatless sandwich.
  596. "Don't cry, Anon."
  597. >Even though you've gone a very long time without meat, its delicious flavor still haunts your memories.
  598. >"Anon, are you okay?"
  599. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Just missing something that use to be in my life."
  600. >"Those ponies?"
  601. "No! For the love of all that's good, no! It isn't them, it will never be them, they are gone, I've moved on."
  602. >Shaking your head, you turn to her and walk over to the counter.
  603. "Please don't bring them up anymore."
  604. >She nods and goes back to drinking the nectar.
  605. >That long tongue of hers dips into the jar as she holds it up to her mouth.
  606. >It's a horrific sight.
  607. >You cringe and stare at your sandwich.
  608. "I don't want this anymore."
  609. >"I'll eat it!"
  610. >The moth mare slurps her tongue out of the jar and then flutters over to you.
  611. >Almost as soon as you hand her the sandwich, her tongue wraps all around it before pulling it into her mouth.
  612. >She keeps eye contact with you the entire time she chews.
  613. >It is one of the most disturbing displays you have ever seen.
  614. >Unblinking, ever-staring, rhythmic chewing.
  615. "Please stop."
  616. >"Stop what?"
  617. >Bits of sandwich fall from her mouth.
  618. "One, talking when you have food in your mouth, and two, staring at me while you eat."
  619. >"But I like how you look."
  620. >More food falls out of her mouth.
  621. "What'd I just say?"
  622. >She swallows the sandwich and takes a sip of nectar.
  623. >"Sorry."
  624. "Are you done? We need to practice."
  625. >"Actually, I want to listen to you play the piano some more."
  626. "You aren't allowed in there."
  627. >"Oh come on! You can't be serious!"
  628. "I'm very serious."
  629. >"I won't ask about the picture, I won't say anything, I'll sit perfectly still and listen to you play!"
  630. "No."
  631. >"Please!"
  632. >You brush your hand over your face and look into her eyes.
  633. "Fine."
  634. >"Really?!"
  635. "Yes, but you're going to do exactly what you said you would."
  636. >"I will!"
  637. >Actias latches onto you with a big grin slapped onto her face.
  638. >The rest of the day was going to be absolutely wonderful.
  639. >"What do you want me to play?"
  640. >You look around the room and smile softly before tilting your head.
  641. "I don't know, what can you play?"
  642. >Anon slowly turns his head to glare at you.
  643. >"Wasn't talking to you."
  644. >Hooves over your mouth in embarrassment, you squeak softly.
  645. "Sorry."
  646. >Anon shakes his head and ignores you as he nods softly.
  647. >"Ah, some Rimsky-Korsakov. You challenge me."
  648. >He isn't right in the head.
  649. >Talking to himself?
  650. >Answering himself?
  651. >He's definitely a strange one, but he's kind when he wants to be.
  652. >Plus he has nice lights and music.
  653. >He starts to play an incredibly fast piece, his fingers flying over the keys faster than you can keep up with.
  654. >A feeling of awe comes over you as you approach him and sit beside the piano bench.
  655. >The rapidity of the notes makes the piece feel like it passes quickly.
  656. >Maybe a minute, two tops, pass before Anon finishes playing.
  657. "What was that one called?"
  658. >"Flight of the Bumblebee."
  659. "Is that supposed to be an insult?!"
  660. >"No? That's the name of the piece. Flight of the Bumblebee, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov."
  661. "It sounds like an insult. Can we call it Flight of the Mothpony from now on?"
  662. >"No. I don't see how it's insulting."
  663. "I don't like bees."
  664. >"What does that even have to do with the piece?"
  665. "The piece itself? Nothing. I just don't like the name."
  666. >Anon sneers at you and rolls his eyes.
  667. >"I won't tolerate such Philestinian thoughts in my house. It's Flight of the Bumblebee."
  668. "Fine! I just won't practice for the rest of the day."
  669. >He waves his hand and stares down at the keys.
  670. >His cheeks turn red as he swallows.
  671. >You climb into his lap and hug him around the neck.
  672. "I'm sorry, Anon."
  673. >Anon wraps his arms around you and buries his face into your neck fluff.
  674. >"You didn't do anything, Actias."
  675. "Are we still going to practice?"
  676. >"No, no. I think we're done for the day."
  677. >You pat his back with a hoof.
  678. "I'll practice all day tomorrow. No complaints."
  679. >He smiles against your fluff.
  680. >"We'll decide on an audition song and practice that, alright?"
  681. "Alright."
  682. >"In the meantime, you've been up all day and need to sleep."
  683. >His fingers brush over your feelers as he strokes your mane.
  684. "I'll sleep through the night, with you. Then we can practice together for a longer amount of time."
  685. >Anon laughs softly as he hugs you tighter.
  686. >"Well, you can have the bed you and your friends decided to tear up. I'll take the couch."
  687. "Hey! Don't blame that on me, I tried to fix it!"
  688. >You squeak angrily and buzz your wings a little bit.
  689. >"Calm down. You can have the couch if you want."
  690. "But you'll be cold if you're alone."
  691. >"I can cover up with blankets."
  692. "We can cover up with blankets."
  693. >You put a little bit of emphasis on the "we."
  694. >"I guess I can get behind that idea."
  695. >He pinches your nose gently as he stands with you in his arms.
  696. >"We can listen to more music and play with whatever lights you haven't turned into a drumset. Alright?"
  697. "Sounds good to me!"
  698. >Anon carries you out of the piano room.
  699. >You smile softly at the picture frame.
  700. "I'll take care of him for you."
  702. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  704. Chapter 5
  706. >Actias's squeaks die down as she finishes her sing-squeaking.
  707. >She decided to quit tapping on the light-bulbs, in order to get more practice with her voice.
  708. >It was a good decision, considering she didn't have enough light-bulbs of varying shapes and sizes to deliver certain notes.
  709. >They distracted her, too.
  710. >"How was that?"
  711. >It was an improvement, especially compared to when she first started out.
  712. "It wasn't bad. You started measure fifty too soon, and to compensate you tried to speed up, which caused you to pass me."
  713. >"But I realized what happened and slowed down.
  714. "And it sounded sloppy."
  715. >The moth-pony blushes and combs her feelers over her eyes as she hides behind her hooves.
  716. >"Sorry."
  717. "Don't worry about it. Everyone makes mistakes. Let's try again."
  718. >You reset your metronome and start to play, Actias's squeaks coming in at just the right time.
  719. >She squeaks almost perfectly in time once her part comes in.
  720. >Her eyes close as she puts her all into the piece.
  721. >During one of your quieter parts, you stop playing and lean back to listen to her.
  722. >She continues, despite you, and stays on beat for the last half of the song.
  723. >A smirk draws over her lips as she finishes.
  724. >"You stopped."
  725. "I wanted to listen to you."
  726. >"You wanted to judge me."
  727. "I wanted to see if you could keep with the metronome instead of the music. Your fellow musicians might speed up or slow down by mistake. You need to keep by the conductor."
  728. >"And I did."
  729. "Yeah. You did a good job."
  730. >"Do you think we'll get in?"
  731. "Does that matter anymore? We're having fun, right?"
  732. >"I want to actually win this, Anon."
  733. "I don't think it's a competition."
  734. >"Everything is a competition."
  735. >Something about that kind of makes sense.
  736. >You shrug and ruffle her mane.
  737. "Yeah, well. I think you lose if you aren't having fun, even if you're the best."
  738. >Actias harumphs and points her nose up at you.
  739. >"Maybe we have differing definitions of fun? Regardless, let's continue."
  741. "Nope. Break time."
  742. >"What? We've only just started!"
  743. "We'll do fine. As long as you do what you just did, nothing's going to go wrong."
  744. >She shakes her head nervously as she climbs into your arms.
  745. >"But we only have two more hours until the audition. I need more practice!"
  746. "You'll burn yourself out. Come on, we need to get something to eat anyway."
  747. >"Fine. But when we get back, we're going to practice."
  748. "Really? Two days ago you were sick of practicing."
  749. >"I like spending time with you."
  750. >You pick Actias up and tuck her under your arm as you stand from the piano.
  751. "We can spend time together doing other things."
  752. >"Like what?"
  753. "Like take a break from practicing."
  754. >"Wow, that's really specific, Anon!"
  755. "We could go listen to some other music."
  756. >"We might as well practice, in that case."
  757. >Actias taps her hoof against your forehead as you carry her out of the piano room.
  758. "Well, what do you normally do for fun?"
  759. >"Stare at lights."
  760. "Seriously?"
  761. >"Well, since I stopped traveling with the caravans, there hasn't been a lot to do."
  762. "What about your friends?"
  763. >"Oh, they were only in town for the night."
  764. "What about you? Where have you been staying?"
  765. >"Here."
  766. "I mean before you came here."
  767. >"Oh! Well, I was only in town for about three days before I met you. I slept under a bush in the park."
  768. >The couch creaks as you sit down on it and prop your feet on the coffee table.
  769. >Actias snuggles into your chest.
  770. >"I used to just wander around town and enjoy the lights. No one seemed to mind."
  771. "And then you found me."
  772. >"Yup!"
  773. "I'm glad you did."
  774. >"I am too."
  775. >She yawns and wriggles against you.
  776. "That's a good idea. A nap before the auditions might not be a bad idea."
  777. >You set the alarm on your wrist watch and wrap your arms around the moth pony.
  778. "We'll be up in an hour, and we can run through the song a few times, alright?"
  779. >"Alright."
  780. >Actias presses her nose to your cheek as the two of you nod off.
  782. >A soft beeping sounds near your antennae.
  783. >Anon groans and starts to roll over before you nuzzle his cheek.
  784. "Is that the alarm?"
  785. >He replies with the most groggy, tired sigh you've ever heard.
  786. "Then get up, we need to go."
  787. >"Five more minutes."
  788. >You stand up on top of him and stamp your hooves against his chest.
  789. "No! Now!"
  790. >A sudden sense of weightlessness overtakes you as Anon picks you up.
  791. >"Don't do that."
  792. >He sits up and puts you down in his lap before rubbing his eyes.
  793. >"Wait here and let me go get changed, okay?"
  794. "Okay."
  795. >You hop out of his lap and curl up on the couch.
  796. "I'll be here."
  797. >He smiles and pats your side before walking to his room.
  798. >You yawn and close your eyes for a brief minute.
  799. >A hand presses into you and starts shaking you.
  800. >"Hey, wake up."
  801. "Hmm?"
  802. >You blink the sleep from your eyes and stare up at Anon.
  803. >"You fell asleep."
  804. >His blurred form becomes more focused as you blink a little bit more.
  805. >He stands in front of you, smiling, wearing a very sharp looking suit.
  806. >You blush a little bit as you admire him.
  807. "That looks... delicious."
  808. >"Very funny. Come on, we have to go."
  809. "What about me? I need something to wear."
  810. >"If you keep your wings folded down, it looks like a dress. Just roll with that."
  811. >You look down at your wings.
  812. >In the past ten years of having your wings, you never noticed that they looked like that.
  813. "I guess that can work."
  814. >"Then are we ready?"
  815. "I think so, yes."
  816. >"Let's go, then."
  817. "Wait! Don't we need to practice a little bit more?"
  818. >Anon shakes his head and smiles.
  819. >"I think we'll do wonderfully. Just remember, don't stress yourself out and have fun."
  820. >With a nod, you hop off of the couch and trot to the door.
  821. "We'll be the best there is, right?"
  822. >"Right."
  824. >The very real possibility that you may not be the best there is becomes very apparent.
  825. >Many of the other ponies who have auditioned are absolutely fantastic.
  826. >Almost as if they've been training for this all their lives.
  827. "Anon, I'm scared."
  828. >"Don't worry, it's all for fun, right?"
  829. "I-I guess."
  830. >You continue watching as a trio of cellists finish their rendition of Bach's Cello Suite No. 1.
  831. >There is absolutely no way you and Anon will hold a candle to that.
  832. >Unless you can sing-squeak as perfectly as you did this morning.
  833. >You swallow hard and press against Anon.
  834. >His calming touch eases your nerves as he strokes your shoulder.
  835. >"We're on."
  836. >Anon walks out on stage and takes his seat at the piano that sits in the center.
  837. >You trot out after him and approach one of the microphones set up near the front-center.
  838. >"Introduce yourselves and state your instruments and the name of the piece you will be performing."
  839. "I-I'm Actias. I'll be singing, and we'll be performing Vivaldi's Gloria."
  840. >"Vivaldi? Never heard of him. Is that the... thing sitting at the piano?"
  841. >"No, I'm Anon."
  842. >"Well, we usually only accept well-known pieces, but I'm curious. Please, entertain us."
  843. >Anon clears his throat and starts playing as your heart begins racing.
  844. >You subtly start to tap a hoof to keep the beat, and as soon as your part comes in, you begin to sing.
  845. >The judges hardly react, despite you and Anon putting your very hearts and souls into the piece.
  846. >You're trying your best, but it doesn't seem to be good enough.
  847. >As your part finishes, you put every bit of yourself into the last few words, and sheepishly look to the floor.
  848. >Anon finishes the rest of the piece strongly, stands, and bows.
  849. >The two of you are met with no applause, no comment, and hardly a look from the judges.
  850. >The audience sits silent with a look of surprise.
  851. >Was your performance really that awful?
  852. >The judges speak amongst themselves for a moment.
  853. >"The two of you read the flyer, yes?"
  854. "Y-yes."
  855. >Anon nods.
  856. >"You do know these are amateur try outs, right?"
  857. >"Huh?"
  858. >You tilt your head, tears starting to form in your eyes.
  859. >"The two of you are clearly on a level much higher than the rest of the ponies auditioning tonight."
  860. "Wh-what do you mean?"
  861. >"I mean to say that, with such talent as yours, we would welcome you into the musician's guild, despite your apparent lack of self-recognition."
  862. >"Told you we'd be the best, Actias."
  863. >No words can come to your mind.
  864. >You stand on the stage in absolute shock.
  865. >"Mister Anon? Is she alright?"
  866. >"She'll be fine. Just a little surprised is all."
  867. >All you can command your body to do is leap on Anon and start hugging him as tight as you can.
  868. "I can't believe we did it. Thank you."
  870. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  872. Chapter 6
  874. >Abhorrent!
  875. >Utterly, positively, and absolutely abhorrent!
  876. >With disgruntled squeaks, you stamp your hooves and grit your teeth.
  877. >This will not do!
  878. "Anonymous!"
  879. >That despicable human can not expect this from you.
  880. >He absolutely can not!
  881. >You stamp away from your mirror and go looking for him.
  882. "Anonymous! Where are you!?"
  883. >Your shouts receive no answer.
  884. >The door to your bedroom, the old room filled with lights, swings open as you barge out into the hallway.
  885. >Darkness greets you.
  886. >It's ten in the morning.
  887. >Why is the house so dark?
  888. "Anonymous!"
  889. >"What!"
  890. >Finally!
  891. >You stomp toward the sound of his voice and find him laid out on the living room couch.
  892. "I demand to know what... you've..."
  893. >You look down at him and notice his head is covered by the couch cushions.
  894. "Are you doing alright, Anon?"
  895. >He groans and rolls away from you.
  896. >"I have a migraine, please be quieter."
  897. "S-sorry."
  898. >Over the time you've been with this odd creature, you've become less timid.
  899. >More assertive.
  900. >You have to be assertive in show-business.
  901. >Especially if you're a lead performer.
  902. >Yet, you're still timid around Anonymous when he isn't feeling well.
  903. >Which has become increasingly often.
  904. >"What did you want?"
  905. >You sit on your haunches and tap your forehooves together nervously.
  906. "I j-just wanted to know if you changed the gem in my necklace?"
  907. >Anon bought you a golden necklace shortly after you were accepted into the Musician's Guild.
  908. >It's a really nice necklace.
  909. >A large gem held in a little golden cage that dangles from the chain.
  910. >Normally, it has a ruby in it that accents your coat and mane colors.
  911. >But for some reason, there's an amethyst in it today.
  912. >It does not look good, in your opinion.
  913. >"Yeah, I did."
  914. "Why? I have a performance soon!"
  915. >He cringes and groans, you apologize for shouting.
  916. >"You haven't polished that ruby in a while. I was going to do it today, but, you know."
  917. "That's true."
  918. >"If you think you can polish it before your performance, go ahead. It's on the kitchen counter."
  919. >The ruby rolls over in your hooves as you examine it.
  920. >It looks fine.
  921. >The gold looks fine.
  922. >Nothing's tarnished or dusty or smudged.
  923. >Anonymous can be so absurd sometimes!
  924. >Tink.
  925. >You tap a hoof against the ruby.
  926. >Tink, tink.
  927. >You remember the first night you met Anon, when you first tapped on his window.
  928. >Tink, tink, tink.
  929. >Who knew your life would change so drastically?
  930. >Tinktinktinktinktinktinktink.
  931. >"STOP!"
  932. >You inhale sharply and retract your hooves from the gem.
  933. >Anon stands to your right, in the doorway of the kitchen.
  934. >He looks frustrated.
  935. "Sorry."
  936. >"It's fine, just... Did you get that thing polished already?"
  937. "There was nothing wrong with it."
  938. >"Are you sure?"
  939. >You nod.
  940. >He simply groans and walks toward the pantry.
  941. "Shouldn't you be laying down? Can I get anything for you?"
  942. >"No, just... Go to your performance. I'll be fine."
  943. >Your wings buzz sadly as he walks back to you and swaps the gems on your necklace again.
  944. "Are you sure?"
  945. >His breath hitches as he hesitates.
  946. >"I'll manage."
  947. >A sad squeak escapes your throat, but you turn and leave the kitchen, and finally the front door of the house.
  949. >The cool evening wind blows against you as you trot down the road.
  950. >The sky's beautiful reds, yellows, oranges, and purples start to fade into a deep, dark blue as the sun sinks into its
  951. nightly resting place.
  952. >Rest in peace, sun.
  953. >Street lamps start to turn on as you walk, their glow illuminating you.
  954. >The lights catch your attention, albeit very briefly.
  955. >The lights back at the house are so much better, that all other lights pale in comparison.
  956. >You also have a lot on your mind.
  957. >The performance, Anon, the gems.
  958. >Why an Amethyst, anyway?
  959. >Anonymous usually has such good taste in things!
  960. >Why would he choose a gem that looks bad with your color scheme?
  961. >He's just sick, that's all.
  962. >Once he's better, there will be much less to worry about!
  963. >Maybe you can sing to him later tonight, after the performance!
  964. >That will definitely make him feel better.
  965. >The clocktower in town strikes seven o'clock.
  966. >You had better make haste, or you'll be late!
  967. >Your hooves clip and clop against the cobblestone roads as you run your little moth derriere off.
  968. >After a short, tiring sprint, you arrive at the town square.
  969. >The Musician's Guild's main hall stands opposite the Town Hall.
  970. >Both are lit up with festive lights, probably to celebrate someone's birthday or anniversary.
  971. >This town is very tight-knit, and the community cares deeply about each and every one of its hundred-or-so citizens.
  972. >They employ the Musician's Guild for things like this, mostly through a charity fund.
  973. >Anonymous dislikes the concept, and usually donates his earnings back into the community.
  974. >You try to do the same, but try to keep some of it for yourself.
  975. >You have no idea how Anonymous can donate all of his earnings and still pay for the house, food, clothes, and
  976. electricity.
  977. >But, as long as you have a place to sleep and Anonymous isn't dying, you're happy.
  978. >The most you use your money for is treating Anon to a nice dinner, or repairing his violin.
  979. >As a matter of fact, you should be earning a few thousand bits from this event.
  980. >Or so the guild said.
  981. >Maybe you could buy Anonymous one of those fancy foreign violins he admires so much.
  982. >That does sound like a good idea.
  983. >The town won't necessarily miss one small donation.
  984. >You smile to yourself, and your wonderful plan, as you trot into the Musician's Guild.
  985. >The walls are adorned with medals and trophies won from competitions over the Guild's history.
  986. >Paintings of past guildmasters hang in the entrance hall, and large banners flank them.
  987. >You love coming in here, the atmosphere is so brilliantly perfect.
  988. >"Actias!"
  989. >Oh no.
  990. >Not him.
  991. >Please, anybody but him.
  992. >Why is he even here?
  993. >"Actias! What's up?"
  994. >His wings buzz obnoxiously, to no beat or rhythm at all.
  995. "Acteus, hello!"
  996. >You don't hate him at all, he's just really...
  997. >He stops mere inches from you and invades your personal space with a tight hug.
  998. >Invasive, is a good word for it.
  999. >"I haven't seen you in forever! I heard you were performing tonight, so I decided to drop by and see how you were doing!"
  1000. >He was at your last performance, nearly three days ago.
  1001. "Well, it is definitely nice to see you!"
  1002. >He steps back from you and tilts his head.
  1003. >"You seem tense, are you alright?"
  1004. "I'm fine, this is normal."
  1005. >He asks you this at every one of your performances.
  1006. >He's annoying, but he's your brother.
  1007. >And you love him.
  1008. >"Well, alright then!"
  1009. >He gives you a quick kiss on the cheek before scampering off with a, "Good luck!"
  1010. >You brush your cheek with a hoof and grumble.
  1011. >"E-excuse me."
  1012. >A small, frail pony pushes by you, with a little violin case strapped to her side.
  1013. >"Sorry."
  1014. >You watch her as she meekly trots into the main room of the guild house.
  1015. >You've never seen her before.
  1016. >She must be new.
  1017. >Is she performing tonight?
  1018. >You were aware that there would be a multitude of ponies performing, but a newbie?
  1019. >She must be skilled.
  1020. >You trot into the main room and approach her.
  1021. "Excuse me."
  1022. >She jumps and turns around, visibly startled.
  1023. "Oh! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."
  1024. >She mumbles something.
  1025. >She can't be older than a filly.
  1026. >You haven't seen many fillies in the guild.
  1027. >Or, any at all.
  1028. "My name's Actias. Are you a new violinist?"
  1029. >She nods and swallows, avoiding eye-contact with you.
  1030. >You stand in silence for a moment before the guild-master shouts for everyone to get ready.
  1031. >Many of the ponies work out their voices or warm up their instruments.
  1032. >You stand beside the filly and watch her play her little violin.
  1033. >She's really good.
  1034. >"Actias!"
  1035. >You look away from the filly and notice the guild-master beckoning you over to him.
  1036. "Yes, sir?"
  1037. >"Come here a moment."
  1038. >You trot over to him, leaving the filly to practice her beautiful music.
  1039. >The guild-master sits across from you in a red velvet chair.
  1040. >A small, round, wooden table sits between you.
  1041. >You look over the main room of the hall from the balcony you now occupy.
  1042. >"You have done very well here, Actias."
  1043. "Thank you, sir."
  1044. >"I'd like to give you a position as a mentor, if that would be alright with you."
  1045. >He clears his throat, calling your attention back to him.
  1046. >Your eyes part from that little filly.
  1047. "I suppose that would be alright."
  1048. >"Good, I was hoping you would agree. I'd like you to pick one of the newer members to mentor sometime tonight."
  1049. >You already know who you want to mentor.
  1050. >You were going to request it anyway.
  1051. >A filly a shy as that, with that much talent, definitely needs a mentor.
  1052. >Just like you did, with Anonymous.
  1053. "I want her."
  1054. >You look back to the filly.
  1055. >"Hm? The little filly with the violin?"
  1056. >You nod.
  1057. >"Well, that was a very quick decision. I've only met her in passing, and I already know you two will make a good pair."
  1058. >He smiles softly, the way only a wise old man can.
  1059. >"She's a lot like you when you started out here."
  1060. "I know."
  1061. >"She's performing tonight, you know."
  1062. "Everyone here is."
  1063. >"Mmm."
  1064. >You sit for a moment in thought.
  1065. "I want her at the front of the stage."
  1066. >"It's her first performance. Are you sure about that?"
  1067. "Positive."
  1068. >"Very well. I'll tell her."
  1069. "No, let me."
  1070. >"Very well. She is your student now. Just... go easy on the kid, alright?"
  1071. "I'll try, but I make no promises."
  1072. >The guild-master chuckles.
  1073. >"I know you, Actias. You won't put that kid through anything difficult."
  1074. >He's right.
  1075. >You are a very compassionate pony when it comes to music, and if this child is truly impressive, and she is, then you
  1076. will do everything you can to make her comfortable.
  1077. >And mold her into the best musician she can be.
  1078. >"I-I don't think this is a v-very good idea!"
  1079. >The little filly nervously hugs her violin.
  1080. >She's visibly shaken by the revelation that you are her new mentor.
  1081. >She's even more shaken by the idea of having to perform, front and center, at her first performance.
  1082. "It is a good idea."
  1083. >"But I'm nervous."
  1084. "Yes, I can tell. Now, trust me when I say, you will be all the better for this."
  1085. >"But what if I mess up?"
  1086. "You won't."
  1087. >"But-"
  1088. "I didn't mess up at my first performance. You won't mess up at yours. You made it through the auditions to get here.
  1089. You're performing at this event, so you must have wow'd the guild-master and the rest of the panel."
  1090. >The little filly whines and tries to protest further, but you won't have it.
  1091. >You still don't know what this event is for, anyway.
  1092. "Do you know what this event is?"
  1093. >"Y-you just talked it up like it was a huge deal!"
  1094. "It was to encourage you."
  1095. >"I-it didn't work!"
  1096. "Answer my question, please."
  1097. >The filly sighs and pulls a small flyer out of her violin case.
  1098. >"It's the twentieth anniversary of the mayor and his wife."
  1099. >They got nearly half of the Musician's Guild together for this?
  1100. >An anniversary?
  1101. >You look outside, through one of the windows.
  1102. >Nearly the whole town has gathered for the occasion.
  1103. >You shouldn't be surprised.
  1104. >The mayor is a bit extravagant.
  1105. >Especially when it comes to his wife.
  1106. >"D-do you at least know what we're playing tonight?"
  1107. "Of course I do. We're playing Hoofdel's Music for the Royal Fireworks."
  1108. >"Isn't it a-an out of place piece, though? There are no royalty in town."
  1109. "It's a good piece."
  1110. >"But i-it doesn't fit the mood."
  1111. "Yes, it does. You may be an excellent violinist, but you clearly know little of music itself."
  1112. >"I know what I need to know."
  1113. "That may be so, but there is so much more to music than just playing it."
  1114. >The filly mumbles to herself.
  1115. >You will make her into a great musician, yet.
  1116. >Rows of chairs and music stands occupy a decently sized stage to the left of the guild hall.
  1117. >Dozens of ponies help organize the conductor's podium and place music sheets on every music stand.
  1118. >You and the filly stand on a small open spot to the right of the conductor's podium.
  1119. >She looks out at all of the ponies ready to watch the show and enjoy the music.
  1120. >You smirk and buzz softly with excitement.
  1121. >The thrill of performing is always enough to get your blood pumping.
  1122. >Your student does not seem to share your enthusiasm.
  1123. >She whines and tries to hide her face.
  1124. >She'll get used to it, in time.
  1125. >Just like you did.
  1126. "Tell you what, kid. If you do a good job tonight, I'll take you for ice cream."
  1127. >"M-my parents don't let me have ice cream."
  1128. "They don't have to know."
  1129. >"But-"
  1130. "Just don't mess up, okay?"
  1131. >The chattering of your fellow guild-mates catch at your antennae.
  1132. >They've started to exit the guild-hall and have begun taking their seats on the stage.
  1133. >You clear your throat and shiver excitedly.
  1134. >The lead conductor approaches the stage.
  1135. >He turns out to the audience and bows.
  1136. >They applaud in a very conserved manner.
  1137. >It's a musical town, where every pony knows how to act when others are performing.
  1138. >It's also incredibly diverse, there are pegasi, unicorns, earth ponies, moth ponies, sea ponies, bat ponies, crystal
  1139. ponies.
  1140. >The musician's guild is slightly more unicorn-dominated, because they're more apt to be more technical with instruments.
  1141. >It varies the many different styles of music that a pony can play.
  1142. >The conductor clears his throat, taps a hoof on his podium, and raises it to the orchestra.
  1143. >A collective gasp sounds from the wind and brass sections.
  1144. >You, your student, and the orchestra begin to play as the conductor leads and times the music.
  1145. >------------
  1146. >The filly sits across from you, eyes wide with shock.
  1147. >An icecream cone sits between her forehooves, slowly melting and dripping onto her coat.
  1148. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"
  1149. >She grumbles and licks her icecream cone.
  1150. >"I-it wasn't."
  1151. "Well, let's make a deal. For every performance that you do well on, we'll come here and get some ice cream, all right."
  1152. >The filly nods with a smile.
  1153. >The first smile she's offered all night.
  1154. >"D-do I still have to be your student?"
  1155. "Well, yes. At least until you understand music better."
  1156. >She raises a hoof to protest.
  1157. >You raise a brow and smirk.
  1158. "Why did we play the piece we played tonight?"
  1159. >"B-because..."
  1160. "See? You don't know."
  1161. >You take a very dainty bite of your ice cream.
  1162. "We played that piece because it was fitting of the occasion, not of the audience. It might be a piece that says "royal"
  1163. in its title, but it is a celebration piece. And this event was a celebration."
  1164. >"I-I guess that makes sense."
  1165. "Of course it does. I learned all about that from the best!"
  1166. >"Wh-who would that be?"
  1167. "Why, my very own mentor, Anonymous!"
  1168. >Her icecream has all but melted at this point.
  1169. >She looks up at me, curious to hear about Anonymous, but a mare and a stallion quickly approach us.
  1170. >"Oh, goodness! There you are. We've been looking all over for you!"
  1171. >"Hi mom. Hi dad."
  1172. >You tilt your head and look over at them with a smile.
  1173. "Ah, so you're her parents!"
  1174. >They nod and beckon the filly toward them.
  1175. >"We are. Who are you?"
  1176. "I'm her mentor at the guild."
  1177. >Her mom peers at you.
  1178. >"Oh! You're that wonderful pony that can sing so well! Well, I must say, it is very nice to know that our daughter has
  1179. been welcomed into that guild. We were rather worried she wouldn't even qualify!"
  1180. >The filly pouts as her parents give her a hug.
  1181. >"But, it was nice meeting you. We really do have to be off, it's past this little bard's bed time."
  1182. >Her dad chuckles as you wave good-bye to them.
  1183. >It is only now that you realize you don't know the filly's name.
  1184. >"So how was it?"
  1185. >You take a sip of the warm honey tea Anon made you when you got home.
  1186. >It helps sooth your throat after a performance.
  1187. "It was... alright."
  1188. >"You're lying."
  1189. >You buzz and blush as he takes a sip of his own tea.
  1190. >"I've known you for a while. I know your tells."
  1191. "And what exactly are my tells?"
  1192. >"You move whatever's in your hooves and then hesitate on your answer."
  1193. "Sh-shut up! I don't do that!"
  1194. >"Then tell me how your night was."
  1195. >You take another sip of your tea, and darn it, he's right!
  1196. >"See?"
  1197. "Fine! It was a good night. The performance was "specktacular"."
  1198. >Anonymous chuckles and takes his and your tea from the kitchen to the living room.
  1199. >You sit beside him on the couch and take your tea back from him.
  1200. >"Anything else happen?"
  1201. "The guild-master made me a mentor."
  1202. >"Congratulations."
  1203. "I'm training a filly. She plays the violin."
  1204. >"Just like me, right?"
  1205. >He nudges you, causing you to spill a drop of your tea just as you bring it to your lips.
  1206. >You scowl and wipe the spill up with his hand.
  1207. "Yes, except she doesn't understand how music really works. She can play amazingly, but..."
  1208. >Anonymous yawns and stretches out on the couch.
  1209. >How rude.
  1210. >He pulls you close, takes your tea, and sets it on the coffee table.
  1211. >You weren't done with that.
  1212. >"Can we talk more in the morning? I still have that headache."
  1213. >You nod and try to pull away from him.
  1214. >After struggling for a bit, you plop down on the floor.
  1215. >"Before you go, can you sing that song I like?"
  1216. >You groan loudly and turn to him.
  1217. "Fine."
  1218. >You hate this song, but he loves it.
  1219. >It makes him happy.
  1220. >-----------
  1222. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  1224. Chapter 7
  1226. >A purple gem laced in gold rolls across the floor.
  1227. >It tumbles across the hardwood and bumps against a piano bench.
  1228. >The room is dark, made even darker by the large grand piano sitting in the corner.
  1229. >It sits, keys covered, all alone, save a small table with a single picture frame on it.
  1230. >The sounds of something hard tapping against the wooden floor bounce against the walls of the room.
  1231. >The picture frame raises off of the table, but nothing can be made out.
  1232. >A grumble echoes through the room, probably the sound of thunder.
  1233. >There's no way of telling.
  1234. >Something shuffles before the hard tapping sounds again.
  1235. >The door creeks and shuts.
  1237. >"Actias, wake up."
  1238. "Hm?"
  1239. >You groan, blink the sleep out of your eyes, and roll over as a hand touches your shoulder.
  1240. "Why is my bed so uncomfortably hard?"
  1241. >"You're sleeping on the floor."
  1242. >Sitting up, you groggily hold your head in your hooves.
  1243. "Ugh."
  1244. >"Might I add, you're sleeping on the floor of my piano room."
  1245. >He kneels beside you and rubs your back.
  1246. >"You know you aren't allowed in here."
  1247. "I don't know... hng."
  1248. >You rub the back of your head and cringe.
  1249. >It feels like something hit you in the back of the head.
  1250. >Anon picks something up from where your head lay a moment ago.
  1251. >He frowns and picks you up.
  1252. "Is something wrong?"
  1253. >You wrap your hooves around his neck so you can balance yourself and turn to see what's in his other hand.
  1254. >He holds the picture of the two ponies he's always hidden in this room.
  1255. "O-oh. I'm so sorry, Anonymous. I'll replace the glass, and the fr-"
  1256. >"No, no. Don't worry about it."
  1257. >He sounds upset, but he does well to conceal it.
  1258. >You tried asking once before who the ponies in the picture were, but Anon just brushed it off and told you it wasn't important.
  1259. >If he's upset over the glass alone, then it has to be important.
  1260. >Maybe you can ask again?
  1261. >He picks you up and sits down on the piano bench, his eyes still locked on the picture.
  1263. >"You know, the ponies in the picture. They were old friends of mine."
  1264. "Yes, you told me that before changing the subject a long time ago."
  1265. >"I think... maybe, I'm ready to talk about it. It's been long enough, and I have new friends now, right?"
  1266. "Right."
  1267. >You look up at him with a soft smile, hoping he'll smile back.
  1268. >"These two. They taught me a lot when I came here. They taught me the land's history, they taught me all about each race of ponies, they taught me all about the monsters and other creatures."
  1269. >He points at the pony on the left, a plain looking earth pony mare with a cream coat, dull amber hair, and sky-blue eyes.
  1270. >She looks old in the picture.
  1271. >"She was the one that found me lying face down in a river west of a little town to the north of Canterlot."
  1272. >He points at the pony on the right, a little filly with similar coloration as the mare stands beside her.
  1273. >"I miss them. I really do. They helped me get used to this world, they helped me find my feet, they helped me get where I am today."
  1274. >You look closer at the picture, specifically Anonymous.
  1275. >He looks much younger in the picture than he does now.
  1276. >And smaller too.
  1277. "Why do you look so different?"
  1278. >He chuckles a little bit.
  1279. >"I was a kid when I woke up in this world. Maybe twelve, thirteen years old. It was scary."
  1280. "So what about your family?"
  1281. >"I don't know. I stopped thinking about it a long time ago, you know? I had family here. Those two took care of me, they took me in as their own."
  1282. >He let's out a small chuckle.
  1283. >"I actually kind of fell in love with the filly."
  1284. "Where are they now?"
  1285. >"I don't know. I moved here when I was eighteen, and just kind of lost contact with them. I suppose it's stupid, but they seemed happy for me when I left. Like they knew I was going to do great things."
  1286. "Well, I'm sure they'd be very proud of you today!"
  1287. >"I think they would be."
  1288. "Would you like to visit them?"
  1289. >He smiles softly.
  1290. >"No, I don't think I would. I'm not ready to see them again."
  1291. "Okay."
  1293. >Anonymous kicks something as he shifts his foot to stand up, just after putting the picture back on the table.
  1294. >He kneels down to pick up the amethyst gem off of the floor.
  1295. >"What's this doing here?"
  1296. "I have no idea. I thought you took it back last night?"
  1297. >"I did. I put it in my room."
  1298. "Can I ask why you thought an amethyst would look good on me?"
  1299. >"Honestly, I have no idea."
  1300. >You smirk and roll your eyes.
  1301. >Of course, he never thinks very far ahead in his plans.
  1302. "Well, regardless, we should put it somewhere safe."
  1303. >He stands back up and rolls the gem in his hand.
  1304. >"Maybe someone at the guild will want it?"
  1305. "Maybe. We do need to go there today."
  1306. >"Right. I want to meet this student of yours."
  1307. >Anonymous carries you out of the room, just like he did the first time you were in there.
  1308. >You hate when he carries you.
  1309. >He sets you down in the hallway and turns back to the room.
  1310. >His hand wraps around the door knob and twists it, but it resists.
  1311. >"Already locked? Hm. No signs of anyone breaking it open."
  1312. "That is very strange, is it not?"
  1313. >"Yeah. Any idea how you got in there?"
  1314. >You shake your head.
  1315. >Something jingles in your mane.
  1316. >Anon kneels beside you and runs his fingers through your mane.
  1317. >He picks a small ring with a key attached to it.
  1318. >"This is the key to the room... How did you get it? I always keep it in my room."
  1319. "I... I have no idea, Anonymous! Would you accuse me of stealing into your room in the night just to get in there?"
  1320. >"No, but this is... definitely strange."
  1321. "Where did you get that amethyst from?"
  1322. >"I got it from an old trinket store in Canterlot Mountain."
  1323. >You stare at him like he's stupid.
  1324. "You bought a gem from an OLD trinket store in Canterlot Mountain."
  1325. >"Yes."
  1326. "Where primarily MAGICAL UNICORNS live."
  1327. >Anonymous nods slowly and looks at you like you're crazy.
  1328. >"I don't see-"
  1329. "You do realize that most stores in unicorn-dominant towns only really sell MAGICAL trinkets, right?"
  1331. >Anonymous stares at the amethyst.
  1332. >"Are you implying that this is a magical trinket that would allow one to pick locks, pass through doors, or teleport into other rooms?"
  1333. >He says this with such a dry, sarcastic tone.
  1334. >You squint and glare at him.
  1335. "You know that I don't appreciate that kind of tone, Anonymous. I find it neither funny nor humorous and I would greatly appreciate it if you would stop it."
  1336. >Anonymous sucks his teeth for a second, considering your request.
  1337. >He shrugs and raises his eyebrows.
  1338. >"Alright. I'll stop it."
  1339. "Thank y-"
  1340. >He grabs you and picks you up in his tight embrace.
  1341. >"But only if I get to hug you whenever I want!"
  1342. >You dislike his hugs even more than his sarcasm!
  1343. "Put me down!"
  1344. >"Nope."
  1345. "If I say please, will you put me down?"
  1346. >"I'll consider it."
  1347. "You are not considering it, you are merely saying that you are. Put me down!"
  1348. >"You're right. And, I supposed I can let you have your way, just for today."
  1349. >He sets you down and starts walking into the living room.
  1350. "Good to know you're feeling better, Anonymous."
  1351. >"Mmm. Are you ready to go?"
  1352. >You nod with a slight smile and point a hoof to Anon's hand.
  1353. "You, however, are clearly not ready. Do you expect to play a violin with no instrument?"
  1354. >He holds his hands up, looks at them briefly, tilts his head back, and scoffs light-heartedly.
  1355. >"I was going to try my hand at magic. Maybe conjure up a violin and a bow. Maybe even use telekinesis to play it."
  1356. >You roll your eyes.
  1357. "Go get your violin, Anonymous. I will meet you outside."
  1358. >He is a silly being, unlike when you first met him.
  1359. >He was very reclusive, and could be cruel in that behaviour.
  1360. >You believe it was just because he was lonely, for when he took you in, he slowly became more and more kind, even carefree.
  1361. >The warm morning breeze engulfs your body as you trot out the front door.
  1362. >It causes you to buzz happily, a smile forming across your face.
  1364. >The sun's bright, warm light on your eyes causes you to... scream.
  1365. >You put your hooves over your eyes and scream and scramble to get into the shade or back into the house.
  1366. >A shadow looms over you as you wriggle on the porch.
  1367. >A hand touches your shoulder and instantly calms you down.
  1368. >Anonymous's soothing shushes quell you.
  1369. >He places something in your hooves.
  1370. >"You forgot your sunglasses."
  1371. "You don't think I realized that, Anonymous?! You couldn't have warned me before I left the house?"
  1372. >Quickly placing the sunglasses on your face, you stand up and jab a hoof in Anonymous's leg.
  1373. >"Hey, hey! Stop, Actias. I'm sorry I forgot to tell you. I didn't know you didn't have them."
  1374. >Tears roll down your cheeks as he hugs you.
  1375. >You begrudgingly hug him back.
  1376. >But only because you're frightened!
  1377. >You have never liked the sun, it's always been harsh on your eyes.
  1378. >It has always made you prefer softer lights from bulbs.
  1379. >It also, probably, does not help that you tried to fly up to the sun when you were a child, shortly after learning to fly.
  1380. >You and Anonymous stay like this for a little while.
  1381. >"Should I carry you?"
  1382. >You shake your head and sigh as you pull back from the hug.
  1383. "I can walk. I'm not blind, I'm not lame."
  1384. >"If you're sure, then let's go."
  1385. >Leaning against him as the two of you walk downhill into town, you look up at Anonymous.
  1386. >He keeps glancing down at you, obviously concerned.
  1387. >You stop walking and sigh as he turns around.
  1388. "If it makes you feel better, you can carry me."
  1389. >He smiles and picks you up in one arm and carries his violin case in the other.
  1390. >After taking a moment to adjust yourself and get comfortable, he starts walking back down the hill.
  1391. "You don't have to worry about me."
  1392. >"You almost blinded yourself because you forgot your sunglasses. I have reason to worry about you."
  1393. "I mean besides that."
  1394. >"I have to worry about you, because if something were to happen, I wouldn't forgive myself. It's just that..."
  1396. >If he says he loves you, you will hop down, kick him in the shin, and walk yourself to the Musician's Guild.
  1397. >It would not be surprising if he said that, considering all he's done for you over the past few months.
  1398. >"You're my best friend, Actias."
  1399. >You take a sharp breath.
  1400. "Good. Let's keep it that way."
  1401. >He chuckles and pats you on the back.
  1402. "I need little to worry about besides my music and your lights."
  1403. >"I know."
  1404. "I don't need to worry about some stallion, or -"
  1405. >"I know, Actias. I know."
  1406. >You stare him in the eyes for a second, a dejected feeling in your heart.
  1407. >How dare he interrupt you.
  1408. >But... you are rambling.
  1409. >You have no time to worry about anything, you just need to calm down.
  1410. >What you do next, you have no idea why.
  1411. >You hug him tight and nuzzle into his shoulder.
  1412. "You're my best friend too, Anonymous."
  1413. >"Yeah. Feel better so you can go back to being an ornery little moth, alright?"
  1414. >This elicits a giggle from you.
  1415. "Very well, Anonymous. I will do my best."
  1416. >"You used to act a lot like this, when we first met."
  1417. "I know."
  1418. >"Why?"
  1419. "I was scared, Anonymous. Nervous, frightened... alone."
  1420. >"I know. I was a little worried you'd move on shortly after meeting me."
  1421. "And you're glad I didn't?"
  1422. >"Very much so."
  1423. "Well, dear Anonymous, you are very lucky to have had such tantalizing music."
  1424. >"I guess I am."
  1425. >You laugh, he laughs.
  1426. >"What made you change? You were so happy-go-lucky and care-free when we first met."
  1427. >You hum softly in thought.
  1428. "Responsibility. To the guild, to myself, to... you."
  1429. >It feels like the walk to the guild-hall is taking forever
  1430. "You changed me moreso than anything else. I wanted to learn about music, you taught me, I took it seriously."
  1431. >"Do you resent me for it?"
  1432. "Absolutely not! I consider myself better for it."
  1433. >"Good."
  1434. >Anonymous sets you down just on the edge of the town square.
  1435. >"I'm gonna go grab something to eat before heading to the guild. Are you hungry?"
  1436. >You shake your head with a smile.
  1437. >"See you there, then."
  1439. >Anonymous walks in the opposite direction of the guild-hall.
  1440. >You walk across the square, up a street that the town calls the String District.
  1441. >Aptly named, in that its shops carry everything from stringed instruments, to extra strings, to rosin, to bows.
  1442. >"Actias!"
  1443. >Oh sweet sun in the sky, why.
  1444. "Acteus!"
  1445. >Your brother trots up to you and pulls you into an incredibly tight hug.
  1446. >He holds fast to you, despite your every effort to push him away.
  1447. >"Your performance last night was wonderful! I couldn't find you afterward though."
  1448. "Yes, I kind of disappeared with my student and went home immediately after!"
  1449. >"Oh! Well, I am definitely glad I ran into you. I'm leaving town today, and I was hoping I'd get to say good bye."
  1450. >You smile softly and bite your tongue.
  1451. >It is bittersweet.
  1452. >You've kind of missed your brother, as obnoxious as he can be.
  1453. "Well, why don't you spend the next little while with me? I'm going shopping before I head to the guild."
  1454. >"That sounds absolutely fantastic. Maybe I can help you pick out a nice hat?"
  1455. "I'm actually in the market for a new violin! Something foreign, maybe from the Gryphons."
  1456. >"I have absolutely no idea what to look for in a violin! Let's go!"
  1457. >He is very enthusiastic.
  1458. >Anything you take joy in, he takes joy in, even if he isn't interested.
  1459. >You do not share this attitude, but you have partaken in many a pass-time with your brother, solely based on his interests.
  1460. >You did not find joy in it, but you did it because you love him.
  1461. "Well, I only have maybe thirty minutes until Anonymous is finished with his food."
  1462. >"In that case, we'll find you the best violin we can, in thirty minutes flat!"
  1463. >Oh, joy.
  1464. >"So where to first?"
  1465. >You point at a fair-sized store twenty feet away.
  1466. >A large sign with a viola and bow hangs over the front door.
  1467. >The front windows display an assortment of cellos, basses, violas, and violins.
  1468. >"Oh."
  1469. >He trots beside you as you walk over to the store.
  1471. >Upon entering the store, the glorious smell of wood and metal hits your nostrils.
  1472. >Oh, how exhilarating it is, entering a store dedicated to one of the most beautiful types of instruments there is.
  1473. >It makes your heart flutter and your breath catch.
  1474. >A wide smile crosses your lips as you and your brother trot into the store.
  1475. >"Wow, Actias! I've never seen you smile so much!"
  1476. "Well, when you find something you're passionate about, there is little to frown over."
  1477. >Acteus blushes and scratches his neck.
  1478. >"You can sure say that again."
  1479. >You peruse the selection of violins and ponder which one would be good for Anonymous.
  1480. "It's been a while since we've talked at length, Acteus. How is your life?"
  1481. >"My life? Oh, it's wonderful! I joined one of the caravans, and we go around selling spices and exotic light fixtures!"
  1482. "Really? Then why haven't I see any other moths around that aren't from the musician's guild?"
  1483. >You smirk at him.
  1484. >"U-uhm... I k-kind of got left behind a few days ago. But there's another caravan in town for a pit stop! I'll just join them!"
  1485. "Sounds like you're having a little adventure, huh?"
  1486. >He nods meekly.
  1487. >"So this violin. It's for your friend?"
  1488. "Yes."
  1489. >"He's good to you, right?"
  1490. "Of course."
  1491. >"Just making sure."
  1492. >You look over at Acteus and raise a brow.
  1493. "I don't recall you ever being worried about me. As a matter of fact, I don't recall you ever being worried about anything."
  1494. >"I just haven't seen you in a really long time, alright? It's reason to worry."
  1495. "I guess so."
  1496. >Acteus trots over to look at cellos while you continue studying the violins.
  1497. >One very beautiful chestnut violin catches your eye.
  1498. >It isn't the same dark color as most other violins, it's rather light.
  1499. >You like how it looks.
  1500. >Maybe Anonymous would like this one.
  1501. >The price tag catches your eyes, and you feel you heart snap and your coin purse break.
  1502. >It's worth nearly all of what you made last night!
  1503. >It... is for Anonymous, though.
  1505. >"Good morning, little lady!"
  1506. >A startled squeak escapes your lips as you jump.
  1507. >"Ah, my apologies ma'am, didn't mean to frighten you."
  1508. >Your gentle moth heart pumps as if you just ran a marathon.
  1509. "I-it's fine, really."
  1510. >Your breath settles and your heart calms after a moment.
  1511. "I was just looking at this fine violin, and was wondering what you could tell me about it."
  1512. >The stallion clerk looks up at the violin you point at.
  1513. >"Hmm. Ah, yes. This one comes all the way from the Gryphon kingdom, from a craftsman named Castagna Uccello."
  1514. "That would explain the price."
  1515. >The stallion nods.
  1516. >"It is quite expensive, but I ensure you that it is masterfully crafted and sounds like Celestia's very own voice."
  1517. "Sounds like it's well worth it."
  1518. >The stallion smiles.
  1519. >"It definitely is. It's one of my absolute favorite models."
  1520. "Well, I guess I'll take it!"
  1521. >"Alrighty then! Let me just ring you up."
  1522. >The stallion places the violin in a matching case with its bow and trots up to the counter with it.
  1523. >You follow him and glance over at Acteus, who is still staring at the cellos.
  1524. >"Let's see here. You're a member of the Musician's Guild, right?"
  1525. "Yes, why?"
  1526. >"Special discount, twenty percent."
  1527. "Oh, that's neat!"
  1528. >"Yup. The violin's gonna come out to... eight hundred bits."
  1529. >Acteus whistles as he approaches you.
  1530. >"Wow, this Anonymous fella' must be something special to spend that much on a gift!"
  1531. >You take eight large silver coins out of a small pouch that you keep tucked in your neck fluff and place them on the counter.
  1532. "Oh he is. He is quite something."
  1533. >The store clerk smiles and waves as you and Acteus leave with a brand new violin.
  1534. >Your brother stops in the middle of the street as your start to walk back to the square.
  1535. >"So uh... I guess I should be getting to the caravan now."
  1536. "So soon?"
  1537. >"Yeah. Might as well help them get ready."
  1538. "Okay."
  1539. >You trot over to him and give him two large silver coins.
  1540. "Take care of yourself. And don't forget to visit, you'll always be welcome."
  1542. >He smiles and puts the bits in his saddlebag.
  1543. >"Thanks, Actias. I'll try to come back soon."
  1544. >You wave as he trots away, ready to go on a new adventure.
  1545. >As for you, you walk in the opposite direction with the handle of the violin case in your mouth, back to the square.
  1546. >The square is always busy, always bustling.
  1547. >Ponies with no direction, no aim.
  1548. >Ponies with a destination, a purpose.
  1549. >Earth ponies, Unicorns, Pegasi, the occasional bat-pony that wanders in the day, crystal ponies, and sea-ponies.
  1550. >Honestly, it's a bit surprising to see sea-ponies around here.
  1551. >But apparently there's an underwater spring that feeds into the square's fountain system.
  1552. >It's a musical town, and music can bring anyone together.
  1553. >"Shoo be doo, shoo shoo be doo!"
  1554. >That is literally all they ever sing.
  1555. >It's a little annoying, since it's so repetitive, but the fillies and colts gather around to listen every day.
  1556. >You would sing all day every day too, if you had an audience.
  1557. >Taking a sharp left from the String District, you trot over to the steps that lead up to the Musician's Guild.
  1558. >Anonymous should be here by now, most likely sitting inside.
  1559. >You ascend the short flight of steps and trot into the building, a smile on your face.
  1560. >Anonymous is going to be so surprised!
  1561. >Once inside, you look around at all of the ponies practicing their instruments.
  1562. >It is always so nice to hear such wonderful sounds.
  1563. >But, one sound in particular, one that doesn't belong to this beautiful symphony, catches your antennae.
  1564. >Sitting in a stairwell to your left, one that leads to the balcony of the main room, is a little filly, crying her eyes out.
  1565. >Your eyes shift from the stairwell to the main hall and back.
  1566. >Curse your sympathy for children!
  1567. >You trot into the stairwell and look over at the filly.
  1568. >The filly sniffles and wipes her eyes on her hooves before looking up at you.
  1569. >"M-Miss Actias! I, uh..."
  1570. >You set the violin down and sit beside the filly, your student, and hug her close.
  1571. >Her tears wet your neck fluff.
  1573. "What's wrong?"
  1574. >The filly mumbles, sniffles, and wipes her face in your neck fluff.
  1575. >You glare at the wall in hopes of this ordeal resolving quickly.
  1576. >"I-I tripped last night on th-the way home, and wh-when I fell, I landed o-on my violin and br-broke it!"
  1577. >She starts bawling again.
  1578. >You do recall the filly not having a case for her violin.
  1579. >Her parents also looked rather stressed when they approached the two of you at the ice cream shop, and you don't recall seeing them at the performance beforehand.
  1580. >"I-I don't know wh-what to do!"
  1581. >The filly continues sobbing into your neck.
  1582. >Your eyes catch the chestnut violin case, you cringe, and stare back at the wall.
  1583. >That is Anonymous's brand new violin.
  1584. >You bought it specifically for him, with him in mind.
  1585. >Do it, Actias.
  1586. >You will literally make this filly's day, week, month, year, and life, if you do this.
  1587. >It will probably even make her parents' day.
  1588. >This is going to upset you so badly.
  1589. "You can have this one."
  1590. >The filly's sniffles stop and she looks up at you.
  1591. >You point your nose toward the violin case that sits beside you.
  1592. >Your student's eyes light up for a moment before she shakes her head.
  1593. >"I-I can't! My parents don't have the money to pay for a new violin, and-"
  1594. "It's a gift."
  1595. >"But-"
  1596. "Please. I insist, uh..."
  1597. >The filly lets out a soft giggle.
  1598. >"You don't even know my name!"
  1599. "You never told me."
  1600. >"Y-you never asked."
  1601. "Introductions do not work like that, little filly."
  1602. >"W-well, my name's Falsetto."
  1603. "What a fitting name! It is nice to meet you, Falsetto."
  1604. >The filly holds up a hoof, to which you raise a brow.
  1605. >"Bump your hoof against mine. It's a clipclop bump."
  1606. >That's adorable.
  1607. >You follow the filly's directions with a smile.
  1608. >She giggles and wipes away the rest of her tears before bouncing over to the violin case.
  1609. >"You're sure I can have this?"
  1610. >You nod, very slowly, so Falsetto can understand that you're serious.
  1611. >"Thank you so much!"
  1612. >She bounces away with the violin case's handle in her mouth.
  1614. "So much for that gift."
  1615. >"You just made that filly the happiest kid in the entire kingdom, Actias."
  1616. >With a surprised squeak and a leap into the air, you land at the bottom of the staircase and look up.
  1617. >Anonymous sits at the top with a wide smile on his face.
  1618. >"Now tell me. Why would a mare, a vocalist, come into a Musician's Guild with a violin and give it to a filly that she had no idea broke her violin?"
  1619. >He walks down the stairs as he speaks.
  1620. >"Or was that violin meant for someone else?"
  1621. >Your wings buzz nervously as you try to squeak out an answer.
  1622. >"Calm down, Actias."
  1623. >He laughs and places a hand on your shoulder as he kneels down.
  1624. >"You did something good."
  1625. "But, it was a gift for you!"
  1626. >"And? She obviously needed it more."
  1627. "It was foreign-craft, and it was so beautiful!"
  1628. >"She'll put it to better use."
  1629. "What do you mean?"
  1630. >"I got your next assignment. You and your student are going to Canterlot City to perform in a lounge."
  1631. "A lounge? You mean like one of those slow-dance swing places?"
  1632. >Anonymous nods.
  1633. >"You're going to sing, the kid's going to play."
  1634. "Is she even allowed in a place like that? Ponies drink in there."
  1635. >"Actually, as a member of the guild, she technically is. She just isn't allowed to be more than five feet away from you."
  1636. "So, basically I'm going to be babysitting and performing?"
  1637. >He nods again.
  1638. "Great."
  1639. >"Think of it this way. Have you ever been to Canterlot?"
  1640. "No."
  1641. >"You'll get to see new lights, especially at night."
  1642. >You buzz your wings excitedly, but hide the expression from your face.
  1643. "And what about you?"
  1644. >"I'll be on the train with you, but after that I have somewhere else to be."
  1645. "What's your assignment?"
  1646. >"I can't really talk about it."
  1647. "Tell me."
  1648. >"No."
  1649. >You pout and look up at him with sad eyes.
  1650. "Please?"
  1651. >He looks away and scowls.
  1652. >"I'm playing at a banquet for Princess Celestia."
  1653. >You gasp loudly and place your hooves on his shoulders.
  1654. "Can I-"
  1655. >"Alone."
  1657. >Sitting on your haunches and crossing your arms, you scowl.
  1658. >"It's strictly for business anyway, I won't even get to talk to her."
  1659. "You don't know that."
  1660. >"I'm going there, I'm playing, I'm leaving immediately after. I dislike being in that kind of environment."
  1661. >He pulls the amethyst out of his pocket and rolls it around in his hand.
  1662. >"Besides, it'll give me a chance to pawn this off to one of those hoity-toity bureaucrats."
  1663. "Fair enough. When do we leave?"
  1664. >"Wednesday morning."
  1665. "Falsetto has school."
  1666. >"The guild-master said it's going to count as extra-curricular and extra credit."
  1667. "What about her parents?"
  1668. >"Do you really think they'll deny their daughter getting to perform in Canterlot, of all places?"
  1669. "No, I don't."
  1670. >"Then what's there to worry about?"
  1671. "I'm worried about the filly getting hurt."
  1672. >"That's why you'll be with her. You're going to watch out for her while the two of you are in Canterlot."
  1673. "Please tell me we're going to the good part of Canterlot?"
  1674. >"Of course. The lounge is one Mane Street."
  1675. >He pats you on the shoulder.
  1676. >"There's nothing to worry about, you know. Now come on, let's join the rest of the guild."
  1677. >You trot behind Anonymous as he leaves the stairwell and turns into the main hall.
  1678. >The two of you take seats on a small sofa in a far corner of the room.
  1679. >You look around as Anonymous takes his violin out of its case.
  1680. >Some ponies practice their music, others just sit around and chat.
  1681. >This guild tends to be more of a social hour for most ponies, until it's time to perform.
  1682. >There is little to complain about in that aspect though.
  1683. >Every pony here knows how to play their music and practices at home, or when there are fewer people in the room.
  1684. >Sometimes, the guild-master even comes out to conduct a quick practice session with everyone.
  1685. >"So that kid's your student."
  1686. >You nod as Anonymous rosins his bow.
  1687. >"Never seen her around."
  1688. "She's new."
  1689. >"Mmm. And the guild-master let a vocalist be her mentor?"
  1690. "I chose her."
  1692. >"And how are you going to help her get better at playing an instrument that you can't play?"
  1693. "I never said I was helping her get better at the violin. She's already fantastic at it."
  1694. >Jabbing Anonymous with a hoof, you continue.
  1695. "I'm merely helping her understand music. Where certain pieces should be played, how to really feel the emotions in a piece, how to put her very soul into her music."
  1696. >"You're sure you can do all of that?"
  1697. "I'm sure."
  1698. >"You've only just begun learning about music yourself."
  1699. "I can handle it. After all, I have you to help me."
  1700. >You look across the room at Falsetto, who smiles wide as she plays her new violin.
  1701. >Its beautiful sounds resonate above even the loudest ponies, and nearly the whole room falls silent, save for her melody.
  1702. >"Sounds to me like you won't need any help. If anything, it sounds like she knows exactly what she needs to know about music to be good."
  1703. "But she doesn't know about mood setting, or feeling the music itself, or-"
  1704. >"That's all stuff YOU need to know, Actias. Vocalists use their words to set scenes and moods. Violinists? They play what they feel in their hearts. I'm not saying vocalists don't use their hearts, but they have more to what they do."
  1705. >You tilt your head and look up at him, confused.
  1706. >"Nevermind. The kid's fine. If anything, she just needs someone to bring her out of her shell and help her build some self-confidence."
  1707. >A wide grin forms on your face.
  1708. >"Which, thinking about it, I'm not sure you're the right pony for the job. Maybe I should help."
  1709. >Bingo.
  1710. >Anonymous groans and taps you on the head with his bow.
  1711. >"I talked myself into that."
  1712. "Yes. Yes you did. And I appreciate the offer for your help!"
  1713. >"I suppose I should go introduce myself properly then. Maybe actually teach her something."
  1714. "I teach her things."
  1715. >"Like how to scare children during their first performances?"
  1716. "Excuse me! I'll have you know she did an excellent job last night!"
  1717. >"Mhm."
  1718. >He takes his bow and violin and walks across the room.
  1720. >You watch him kneel beside the filly as she finishes playing.
  1721. >They chatter, Falsetto smiles and places a hoof in Anonymous's hand.
  1722. >Anonymous smiles back, shaves her hoof, and ruffles her mane a bit.
  1723. >You take a moment to really study the filly.
  1724. >She is an earth pony with short, blonde hair so light, it's almost a platinum color.
  1725. >Her coat is only slightly darker than her hair.
  1726. >Her dark, forest-green eyes glance over at you briefly as she continues speaking with Anonymous.
  1727. >Falsetto waves at you.
  1728. >You wave back.
  1729. >Anonymous looks up at you and smiles.
  1730. >This new pairing will not be fun.
  1731. >You fret even more for the upcoming journey to Canterlot, as you will be alone with the two of them.
  1732. >After all, how much work can one get done with one's own mentor teaching one's own student?
  1733. >Said mentor can easily undermine your work.
  1734. >Alas, building self-confidence into this filly will be made easier with Anonymous to help.
  1735. >After all, he built it into you within a week.
  1736. >You rise from your seat and trot toward the entrance of the guild.
  1737. >There is little for you to do here if Anonymous is preoccupied.
  1738. >Plus, you might as well let him get to know Falsetto.
  1739. >As you trot down the front hall, Falsetto's parents walk in through the front doors.
  1740. >"Hello, Miss Actias."
  1741. "Good morning."
  1742. >The mare and stallion, both smile at you.
  1743. >You can see where Falsetto gets her looks.
  1744. >"We're here to pick up our daughter. She's still around, right?"
  1745. "Yes. She's in the main room talking to my mentor."
  1746. >"Oh, excellent! Thank you."
  1747. >They continue walking through the hall, exchanging a few nervous words between themselves.
  1748. >You put your sunglasses back on and walk out into the town.
  1749. >Today is a very good day, and you feel like taking a walk, just to bask in the warmth of the sun.
  1750. >Maybe you'll get some brunch, maybe you'll sing with the sea-ponies, or maybe you'll head home and take a nap.
  1751. >Maybe you'll even laze about for the rest of the day and do absolutely nothing.
  1752. >That sounds very relaxing.
  1754. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  1756. Chapter 8
  1758. >
  1759. >Two violins, a set of hooves, and the squeaks of a vocalist echo throughout the caboose of the train.
  1760. >Several other passengers move cars or come sit closer to the source of the music.
  1761. >Gorgeous scenery rolls by as the music becomes more and more heartfelt.
  1762. >As the train chugs along the tracks, the town it came from departs from view.
  1763. >Good bye Treble Town, hello Canterlot.
  1764. >Trees turn into open fields and rivers by the time the song ends.
  1765. >An applause replaces the music as the sole noise of the train car.
  1766. >That soon dies down, and is replaced by the sounds of the train's wheels clacking against the tracks.
  1767. >"Let me hear the song you two have in mind for the lounge."
  1768. >Falsetto brings her violin back up, bow at the ready.
  1769. >A sigh prompts her to begin playing a slow, calm, almost misty feeling melody.
  1770. >It expresses something almost dream-like.
  1771. "Somewhere, over the rainbow..."
  1772. >The clouds of Cloudsdale cast a shadow over the fields outside and darken the train a little bit.
  1773. "Way up high."
  1774. >Pegasi fly around in the sky, moving clouds, making weather, and practicing their flying skills.
  1775. "And the dreams that you dreamed of, once in a lullaby."
  1776. >A colt falls asleep in his mother's lap as they listen to the performance.
  1777. "Somewhere, over the rainbow, bluebirds fly."
  1778. >A pair of blue jays fly around a tree before landing in a small nest.
  1779. "And the dreams that you dreamed of. Dream's really do come true!"
  1780. >The colt snuggles deeper against his mother's belly, who strokes his mane.
  1781. "Some day I'll wish upon a star, wake up where the clouds are far... behind me."
  1782. >The train moves from beneath the shadows of Cloudsdale.
  1783. "Where trouble melts like lemon drops, high above the chimney tops, that's where you'll find me!"
  1784. >Anonymous leans back in his seat and props an arm against the window as he rests his head in his hand.
  1785. "Oh, somewhere, over the rainbow, bluebirds fly, and that dream that you dare to, oh why, oh why can't I..."
  1787. >Falsetto's melody quiets down.
  1788. >She looks outside and pauses with a sigh before placing her violin in her lap.
  1789. >Anonymous shifts his hand to his mouth and stares out the window, his eyes misting over.
  1790. "Anonymous? Was it th-"
  1791. >He moves his hand from his mouth, sneers, and closes his eyes, signalling for silence.
  1792. >After a moment he rests his face in the palm of his hand, shielding it from view.
  1793. >A tear rolls down his cheek.
  1794. >A worried look comes over Falsetto's face, but she remains quiet.
  1795. >All you can bring yourself to do is scowl and leave your seat.
  1796. >You trot to the back of the train car, put on your sunglasses, and exit through the door.
  1797. >The railing of the caboose offers support as you lean against it.
  1798. >Holding your head in your hooves, you massage your temples and groan.
  1799. "Why would Anonymous cry over that song? If anyone has any reason to be upset over it, it would be me."
  1800. >As you start to sniffle, the door to the train-car slides open.
  1801. >A hand places itself on your shoulder, causing you to look up.
  1802. >"Hey."
  1803. "Why were you crying?"
  1804. >"It reminded me of home."
  1805. "Our home?"
  1806. >"No, like... Earth."
  1807. "Oh."
  1808. >He sits beside you, and you hug his arm tight.
  1809. "I'm sorry."
  1810. >"Don't worry about it. It was a good rendition. Why'd you come out here, though?"
  1811. "I didn't want to see you cry. I thought I upset you."
  1812. >"And?"
  1813. "And what? That's the reason, Anonymous."
  1814. >"There's more to it. You've seen me during my low points, and you've never just left."
  1815. >A moment of hesitation passes.
  1816. "My father used to sing that song to me."
  1817. >"This is about to get sad, isn't it?"
  1818. "What? No! He lives in Dust Valley with my mother."
  1819. >Anonymous sits in silence for a moment.
  1820. >"Well, it's just that-"
  1821. "No one in my immediate family has passed away, Anonymous!"
  1822. >He coughs awkwardly.
  1823. >"So.. Nice wea-"
  1824. "Stop talking."
  1825. >You lay against him with his arm draped over your side, and watch the scenery.
  1827. >The train screeches as it pulls into the Canterlot Mountain station.
  1828. >Its incessant noise causes you to stir from your slumber.
  1829. >"Have a nice nap?"
  1830. "Mmm."
  1831. >You groggily blink the sleep from your eyes and stumble as you stand.
  1832. "Have we arrived in Canterlot?"
  1833. >"Almost. We just have to go up through the mountain."
  1834. "There used to be trains that ran straight up the mountain, into the city. What happened to those?"
  1835. >"Honestly, I don't know. I think it was either an economic dip or a security risk. Either way, it's what caused the city under the mountain to be built."
  1836. "How long ago was that?"
  1837. >"I honestly have no idea. It doesn't matter, we still have to go through the mountain to reach Canterlot."
  1838. >You sigh as the two of you enter the train car to retrieve your luggage and Falsetto.
  1839. >As the train comes to a full stop, ponies exit the train.
  1840. >Your group follows suit.
  1841. >Anonymous looks at a map of the city that hangs on a bulletin board.
  1842. >"We're going to have to go through a shopping district to get to the lift that'll take us to the top of the mountain."
  1843. "How far is that?"
  1844. >"Looks like a five minute walk? Maybe ten?"
  1845. >You yawn, still tired from your nap.
  1846. "Let's get going then. I'd like to reach our hotel room and take a quick nap before the performance."
  1847. >Anonymous looks at his wristwatch.
  1848. >"We have a good four hours until our performances, Actias. There's plenty of time to kill."
  1849. "Which is why I would like to continue my nap."
  1850. >"Fine. We'll take the elevator up to the city, drop our stuff off at the hotel, and leave you there."
  1851. >He sighs and starts walking across the plaza, down a street to the left.
  1852. >"Would've been nice to see the city together, and have a relaxing vacation."
  1853. "Anonymous."
  1854. >"What?"
  1855. "After the performances. We'll do whatever you want, alright?"
  1856. >He nods, a smile plays across his lips, but he suppresses it quickly.
  1857. >"Yeah."
  1858. "We'll spend the whole night seeing the city."
  1860. >"Can I come?!"
  1861. >Falsetto jumps up on Anonymous's back.
  1862. >A week ago, the filly would hardly keep eye-contact with him.
  1863. >He ended up being a better teacher than you would have.
  1864. >"Of course. Did you think we were just gonna leave you in the hotel?"
  1865. >"Maybe."
  1866. >The three of you pass by a rather large hat shop.
  1867. >Anonymous stops and stares at it for a moment, like he's being compelled to walk inside.
  1868. "Anonymous?"
  1869. >"Hm?"
  1870. "Did something catch your eye?"
  1871. >"No. Did you see something?"
  1872. >You hum softly to yourself.
  1873. >It probably wouldn't hurt to look, you might find something you like.
  1874. >Then again, you're still very tired.
  1875. "I think I'd rather shop around in Canterlot itself."
  1876. >"Fair enough."
  1877. >You continue your trek through the lower city's shopping district, eventually coming upon a large platform.
  1878. >A massive disc propelled upwards and downwards by a large magical generator settles itself into a large opening in the floor.
  1879. >Several dozen ponies, you, Falsetto, and Anon board it.
  1880. >After a few moments, the platform starts to ascend toward the upper city of Canterlot.
  1881. >"It's pretty impressive what ponies can do with magic. We never really had anything like this on Earth."
  1882. "What? You would've had to take stairs or something?"
  1883. >"No, not exactly. I mean, we had elevators similar to this, but they weren't controlled by invisible forces. We had them strung up by cables and pulleys."
  1884. >Falsetto stares up at him.
  1885. >"You mean you didn't have magic elevators on Earth?"
  1886. >"We didn't have magic at all. Kind of a shame, really. It might've made our world a little better."
  1887. >You remember Anonymous telling you stories of his world.
  1888. >People who did cruel things.
  1889. >People who did great things.
  1890. >It was very similar to Equestria, but somehow darker.
  1891. >A hand rests in your mane and ruffles it a bit.
  1892. >"You okay?"
  1893. "Yes. I'm fine, just thinking."
  1895. >The elevator slows down as it reaches another docking platform.
  1896. >Looking over the edge, the entire town below looks like it was made by ants.
  1897. >Heights...
  1898. >Not really your thing.
  1899. >You back up from the edge and follow Anonymous and Falsetto into the open air of Canterlot City.
  1900. >"Is this another shopping district?"
  1901. "It looks like it. You know a city this regal has to have dozens."
  1902. >"I suppose you'll want to check around now?"
  1903. >You look from store to store, but find nothing that really interests you.
  1904. "Not here, no. Maybe elsewhere, maybe after a nap."
  1905. >"Might be better to find the hotel first anyway. This does seem to be a fairly large city."
  1906. >Falsetto remains silent as she looks around in awe.
  1907. >Anonymous looks down at a sheet of paper, probably given to him by the guild-master.
  1908. >"The hotel we'll be staying at is fairly close to our venues, so it shouldn't be that far from the castle."
  1909. >He looks around for a moment.
  1910. >"Should we head there first?"
  1911. "You're so adamant on exploring the city, so we might as well."
  1912. >You and Falsetto follow Anonymous, who follows street signs toward the Canterlot Castle Gardens.
  1913. >Canterlot is a big city, full of posh ponies and fancy shops.
  1914. >You'd be excited if you weren't tired.
  1915. >The gardens come into view after a little while.
  1916. >And wow, they are absolutely beautiful.
  1917. >Instead of leading you into the gardens, Anon takes a left and walks up Main Street.
  1918. >You look back at the gardens sorrowfully.
  1919. >You'd love to go see them, but if you protest, Anon will get mad.
  1920. >Plus, you're still tired.
  1921. >"The hotel shouldn't be too far up the street."
  1922. "Anonymous, wait."
  1923. >You stop, he stops, Falsetto stops.
  1924. >They both look at you.
  1925. "Can we see the gardens real quick?"
  1926. >"I thought you wanted to go take a nap."
  1927. "I do, but I want to see the gardens."
  1928. >Anonymous rolls his eyes and starts walking back toward the gardens.
  1930. >Falsetto trots beside you.
  1931. >"Why'd you change your mind?"
  1932. >You shrug with a soft smile.
  1933. "I caught a little glimpse of the gardens. It reminded me of something beautiful."
  1934. >You smile softly at Anonymous, remembering the first time he ever played his violin for you.
  1935. >Falsetto glances between you and Anonymous.
  1936. >"You like him, don't you?"
  1937. "Of course I do. He's my friend."
  1938. >"No, no. I mean liiike him."
  1939. >The silly little filly smiles wide.
  1940. "No, not like that. We both have much more important things to worry about, than anything like that."
  1941. >Even if you had all of the free time in the world to pursue a love interest, you doubt it would be Anonymous.
  1942. >He's just too... him.
  1943. >Maybe you could settle down one day, with a pony more your type.
  1944. >An actual pony.
  1945. >"Alright, we're here."
  1946. >You bump into Anonymous's leg as he stops at the gate.
  1947. >You walk past him, into the garden.
  1948. >It is absolutely beautiful.
  1949. >Intricately groomed hedges, shaped like ponies, decorate the garden.
  1950. >The walk-ways have intricate little cobblestone mosaics.
  1951. >The garden is an absolutely breath-taking sight.
  1952. >You walk beside Anonymous and look all around the garden.
  1953. >Falsetto wanders around on her own, smelling flowers and chasing bugs.
  1954. "It's so beautiful around here. Almost as nice as Treble Town."
  1955. >"Yeah."
  1956. >He looks like he has something on his mind.
  1957. >You've sort of noticed this look since you got off the train.
  1958. "Something on your mind?"
  1959. >"Yeah."
  1960. "Wanna talk about it?"
  1961. >"Later."
  1962. >You sigh and trot over to a bench.
  1963. >Anonymous sits beside you as you watch Falsetto frolic.
  1964. >You yawn and lean against him, struggling to keep your eyes open.
  1965. >But the peaceful environment and warm sun cause you to doze off.
  1967. >You awake about two hours later, in a comfortable bed.
  1968. >Sitting up, you look around.
  1969. >Anonymous sits at a small table, looking over music sheets.
  1970. >Falsetto lays, curled up, in bed next to you.
  1971. "Anonymous?"
  1972. >He turns to you, startled.
  1973. >"Sorry, didn't know you were awake."
  1974. "What time is it?",
  1975. >"Almost time for your performance. You've got about half an hour. I was just about to wake you, actually."
  1976. >You prod Falsetto lightly.
  1977. >She stirs, groans, and stretches as she looks up at you.
  1978. "We have to go soon. Get up and get ready."
  1979. >You get out of bed and start rushing around the room, trying to get things ready.
  1980. >Anonymous catches you as you rush by him.
  1981. >He holds you up to his eye level.
  1982. >"Calm down. The venue's four buildings down."
  1983. >You stop struggling in his arms.
  1984. "Oh."
  1985. >You look over at Falsetto, who's rolled over and gone back to sleep.
  1986. "We should still try to be early, shouldn't we?"
  1987. >"I guess."
  1988. "When is your performance, anyway?"
  1989. >"Soon."
  1990. >You look down at the table.
  1991. >On top of the music sheets lies the amethyst.
  1992. "You're going to ask about that, right?"
  1993. >"Yeah."
  1994. "Good. Hopefully something comes out of it."
  1995. >"Honestly, I might just give it to them and ask them to lock it up. I don't want to deal with magical artifacts, or any of that weird stuff.
  1996. "That sounds like a plan."
  1997. >"I'm going to finish getting ready to go. You might as well do the same.
  1998. >You nod, rouse Falsetto from her slumber, and grab her violin.
  1999. >Anonymous is already out the door, his own violin and the gem in hand.
  2000. >You stare at the door as it closes, somewhat disheartened.
  2001. >He's been acting different lately.
  2002. >Maybe he'll feel better tomorrow, when you're back in Treble Town.
  2003. >Falsetto taps a hoof against your shoulder.
  2004. >"Ready?"
  2005. >You nod and lead her out the door.
  2008. >The lounge is impressive.
  2009. >Red velvet furniture lines the walls and circles the tables.
  2010. >The floors are patterned with black and white tiles, forming something of a checker board.
  2011. >Overall, the lounge has a very modern feel to it.
  2012. >You kind of like the environment.
  2013. >"Are you Actias?"
  2014. >You look over at a posh looking stallion.
  2015. "Yes?"
  2016. >"Fantastic. Are you ready to take the stage?"
  2017. >You turn to Falsetto.
  2018. >She nods.
  2019. "We're ready."
  2020. >It only takes a moment to prepare backstage.
  2021. >Falsetto rosins her bow and tunes her violin.
  2022. >You sing a few scales to warm up.
  2023. >"I'm nervous."
  2024. >The little filly hugs her violin and swallows hard.
  2025. "I am too."
  2026. >She looks up at you as you smile.
  2027. >She smiles back.
  2028. >"Think they'll like it?"
  2029. "I think they'll love it."
  2030. >The filly giggles as you take the stage.
  2031. >Three lights shine down on you, creating a spotlight on the dark stage.
  2032. >Falsetto sits beside you and raises her violin and bow.
  2033. >The stallion from earlier sits to the left of the stage.
  2034. >He nods, cuing you to start.
  2035. >You nod to Falsetto, who starts to drag her bow across the violin's strings.
  2036. >Deep breath in, deep breath out.
  2037. >You start to sing, starting with the bit you and Falsetto performed on the train.
  2038. >It leads into a second part.
  2040. "Well, I see trees of green and... red roses too."
  2041. >If the lights beaming onto the stage weren't so bright, you would see ponies tearing up.
  2042. "I'll watch them bloom for me and you."
  2043. >The audience is completely silent, either out of respect, or out of awe.
  2044. "And I think to myself... What a wonderful world!"
  2045. >Falsetto's violin draws out with your words.
  2046. "Well, I see skies of blue, and I see clouds of white, and the brightness of day."
  2047. >Someone in the audience sniffles softly.
  2048. "I like the dark."
  2049. >You sing that with a soft giggle.
  2050. "And I think to myself... What a wonderful world!"
  2051. >Falsetto adds a little vibrato to her notes near the end.
  2052. "The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people, passing by."
  2053. >A tear falls down your cheek, though you don't know why.
  2054. "I see friends shaking hooves, saying 'how do you do?' They're really saying... I, I love you."
  2055. >You look down at Falsetto, a soft smile tugging at the corners of your mouth.
  2056. "I hear babies cry, and I watch them grow. They'll learn so much more than we know."
  2057. >Her eyes are closed as she plays.
  2058. "And I think to myself... What a wonderful world..."
  2059. >You spread your wings a little, so they catch the light.
  2060. "Someday I'll wish upon a star, wake up where the clouds are behind me; where trouble melts like lemon drops, high above the chimney tops."
  2061. >You step forward with a sultry motion.
  2062. "That's where you'll find me."
  2063. >With a flick of your mane, you wink.
  2064. "Oh, somewhere... over the rainbow... way up high. And the dream that you dare to, oh why. Oh why, can't I."
  2065. >Falsetto's violin falls silent, just as you do.
  2066. >The tears hit the floor as the audience stands and applauds.
  2067. >They cheer so loudly, so emphatically.
  2068. >But you can't hear them.
  2071. >The rest of the day passes quickly, as does the next morning.
  2072. >Anonymous sits beside you as you look up at the sky.
  2073. >His performance went well.
  2074. >The princesses even agreed to take that gem.
  2075. >The only thing that could possibly make today worse, was the news he had just given you.
  2076. >The younger of the two ponies that had adopted him was at his performance.
  2077. >Falsetto was playing her violin for her.
  2078. >You and Anonymous were watching them.
  2079. >"Actias?"
  2080. >You look up at him.
  2081. >"You'll be alright. I know you will."
  2082. "I don't want you to go."
  2083. >You feel like you might cry.
  2084. >"I don't want to leave, but there's nothing else I can do for you. You'll do well for yourself."
  2085. >He looks over at Falsetto.
  2086. >"So will she."
  2087. "Will you write?"
  2088. >"Of course."
  2089. >He smiles, but it does little to hide the sadness in his eyes.
  2090. >He'll be happier, you know.
  2091. >"Your train leaves in about an hour, doesn't it?"
  2092. "Yeah."
  2093. >"Tell everyone at the guild, I'm sorry."
  2094. "I think we'll survive."
  2095. >He laughs and hugs you.
  2096. >"Sorry it's so sudden."
  2097. >You hug him back for a very long time.
  2098. >Though, before you know it, Falsetto has already lead you down into the mountain, and you've boarded the train.
  2099. >Anonymous and the mare had followed you.
  2100. >You wave goodbye.
  2103. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2105. Chapter 9
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