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Silence is Bittersweet, Part 1

        The light slowly flooded into a room as the sun rose outside. With its light blue walls and lavender carpeting, nothing appeared to be out of place: the nightstand next to the bed, the dresser with its mirror near the window, the bed’s cream colored comforter covering a sleeping mare.

Acoustiana awoke as the warmth upon her face broke her from her dreamland. Opening her eyes to the glow of the morning light was one of the simple pleasures in life she enjoyed.

        Looking to her nightstand, Acoustiana gave homage to the photo of her father. She fondly remembered how he would help her when she got home from magic kindergarten in tears, her silent cries brought on from the teasing she always got because of her strange name. Her father told her it was hard, and that he was sorry, but it was just how their family names happened. He would say, with a smile, that his name was supposed to be Lilac. However, when his mother saw in her arms a little colt they changed it to Milac. He would always chuckle as he recited the mean nicknames he dealt with growing up. He would hold her close, telling her that if she just tolerated those that made fun of her, that the rest of her life’s troubles would be lessened as well.

        Rolling out of bed, Acoustiana headed to her bathroom to perform her morning ritual of grooming. As she stared at her light pink coat, she noticed that some of it has transgressed and she quickly brushed the rebellious tufts into order. Turning her attention to her light green mane, she found the night had done it no justice. She huffed at a traitorous lock of her mane dangling in front of her face, only to watch it wrap around her horn. She began her vigorous brushing to reclaim her desired style. When she felt her mane was well enough, she looked herself over one last time to ensure that she would be presentable to anypony that may choose to visit.

        Acoustiana looked into her own eyes and reminded herself that she shouldn’t get her hopes up. The vibrant orange eyes staring back at her protested against losing hope, but she merely closed them and headed downstairs to fetch herself some breakfast.

        Being in Foalsdale for only a month, Acoustiana had yet to make any friends. She thought knew why. The ponies in the city probably felt too awkward around her to want to get close. Few ponies knew hoof-language, and when she tried to write down what she was trying to say, the other ponies showed their unease about having to take longer for conversations just to ‘hear’ what she had to say.

        A knock at the door snapped Acoustiana out of her ponderings.  Upon opening it, she encountered a smiling mail pegasus, who hoofed her a letter and gave her a wave goodbye. Acoustiana waved back, but the mail pony was already on its way to deliver a saddle bag’s worth of mail elsewhere. Acoustiana sighed and closed the door. She moved to sit on her velvet couch to open the letter she had just received.

        The letter was from her new employer. There was to be an acting troupe coming into town in a month's time, and the orchestra was scheduled to play for them. Practices were to start early the following day so that they might figure out who was going to participate. Acoustiana was requested to bring both her instruments, as the musical scores were going to be diverse and the extra strings would be quite helpful. That last bit made her scrunch up her nose. She may be one of the few ponies with the skill and concentration to play two separate instruments, but that didn't make it an easy feat.

She remembered telling the composer that her skill wasn't something to depend on, yet try as she might, without a voice of her own to convey the strain it put on her, the composer would just brush her concerns off as if it was mere performance anxiety. Letting out an exasperated sigh, Acoustiana trudged her way to her music room to tend to her instruments and get a little practice in before her sessions the next day.

        Looking over her beloved violin, Acoustiana ensured that it was tuned and that her bow was missing not a hair. Satisfied with her first instrument, she turned to her double bass. Looking over it, she enjoyed how well polished it looked. Being able to see her reflection on the well built instrument always reminded her why she enjoyed it. She looked over the bow for her double bass and, seeing that is was in full working order, began her test of the bass’ tuning. She concentrated magic through her horn; the gentle orange aura enveloped both the bow and bass, standing the instrument upon its spike. With a gentle glide of her bow Acoustiana cringed. The sound of her bass proved to be badly out of tune, almost causing her to drop the instrument. Regaining her concentration, she proceeded to correct the offensive sound. After numerous adjustments, she was able to get the beautiful deep sound she loved so much from her instrument. Nodding in approval, she proceeded to go through her paces, feeling for the music as it flowed, envisioning each note as it wafted out and bounced around the room.  She started feeling the strain that using magic caused her, almost making her miss a note. Finishing her practice song Acoustiana put her double bass into its case, ensuring that she had her extra bow and essentials with it. Upon locking the case, she turned back to her violin.

Though she has been told, on many occasions, that her talent to play with magic was superb, Acoustiana refused to use her magic on her violin. Out of pride, and embarrassment, she didn’t want to acknowledge her weakness in the use of magic. She loved the way that she could not only just hear the notes that floated off the strings, but also in being able to feel the notes vibrate through her body. This added an extra bit of enjoyment that she got out of her preferred instrument. She performed a quick warm up to ensure that the violin rested just right against her chin and that her grip on the bow was perfect. Satisfied, she played one of her own songs, pouring her emotions into it; the sounds that came from it carried a sorrowful tune, and as the notes wafted through the air they did so as if solitary and alone. Upon finishing, she felt the heaviness that resided in her chest, and she felt the water that was starting to collect in her eyes.  Shaking her mane, she refused to allow herself to dwell on the emotions that she allowed to pour out in her song.

Looking at the time, Acoustiana realized that it was well past lunch.  Her stomach growled in agreement to her idea of heading into the city to get herself a treat. After a quick check in a mirror to ensure that she had no tear stains, she headed out her door and into the quiet street that led from her house to the bustling city. Ensuring that her saddlebag was well secured, she started her trot to her preferred bistro where they served a delectable clover stew.

As she often did on these trips, Acoustiana took in the sights and sounds of the area. Her house was situated on the outskirts of the city, where there is more room and less noise. It also made it so the plants and animals she enjoyed were more in abundance. She looked to the birds with envy for the beautiful songs they were able to sing, but enjoyed their voices all the same. She then looked to the flowers along the path, blooming in their menagerie of colors. Yet as always, the further she went, the more the birds’ songs got drowned out by the sounds of the city: Pony hooves clopping  on worn cobblestone; the undecipherable chattering of ponies;  the buildings amplifying the sounds as if they were built as a uniform sound wall. She was glad for one thing about the city, however, unlike Manehatten, Foalsdale folk were apt at polite conversation with those they passed by. But they too were busy to get onto whatever destination they were on the streets for, and rarely stopped for more than just a polite greeting and quick farewell. Acoustiana didn’t mind this, as it allowed her to simply smile and nod to those giving her greeting, and a friendly hoof shake goodbye.

Arriving at the bistro, Acoustiana looked at the shop’s sign.  It swung above the small patio where the patrons were able to sit and eat outside in the sunlight, albeit shaded by the nearby buildings.  The sign was masterfully painted, and always seemed fresh and clean. The letters, in a wonderful misty font not unlike steam or scent, spelt out Colterbean. The beauty of the sign had made Acoustiana want to investigate the place the first time she had visited Foalsdale.  She went inside and gave the familiar old stallion behind the counter a big smile and a wave.

“Thank you for your patronage,” he said as a pair of ponies got up and left. The gruff stallion then looked to his newly arrived customer. “Will it be your usual Ma’am?”  he half-shouted smiling.

Acoustiana answered him with a quick motion of her hooves, and politely giggled. She nodded at his bewildered gaze, then remembered that he had yet to learn that particular hoof sign. She then took a seat near the window that had just recently been vacated and cleaned by the young filly working there. Staring out the window, Acoustiana allowed herself to reflect on her years of musical practice while she waited for her order.

“ORDER UP!” yelled a voice from the kitchen.

This snapped Acoustiana out of her reverie and she noticed that her stew was already done. She looked on expectantly as the young filly carefully balanced the tray holding the food as she took it over to Acoustiana’s table.

“Here you go miss... enjoy!” said the waitress. Then with a half forced smile the waitress turned around and scooted to another table that had just been vacated by another patron.

As Acoustiana breathed in the smell of the stew,  she felt a little bit better. The stew tasted as good as always, the dancing hymns of spice and broth mingling with the well cooked clover leaves saturated in flavour. The gentle flavors dancing around her taste buds allowed her to relax and make it easier to endure her day. After eating, she left the waitress an extra few bits in tip. She could tell that the waitress was new and probably getting worked to the bone with almost no end to her day. With a wave of her hoof she bade the old stallion behind the counter a farewell.

“Thank you for your patronage,” he replied just as the sound of crashing caused him to go dashing off into the kitchen area.

Giggling to herself at the antics, Acoustiana trotted down the road towards a new fruit stand she noticed but a week ago. It looked like a country pony was in charge of it, which meant that the fruit sold would be fresher than those normally sold in the local stores.

Acoustiana stopped in the plaza area, looking through the many ponies for the whereabouts of the stand. It was right where it was the last time she had seen it, next to the city’s walk-through garden. It looked to serve a variety of fruits, but the predominant type of fruit were melons. Acoustiana started to trot up to the stand in order to inspect the fruit to see if her suspicions of its freshness were, in fact, true. As she got closer, the stands’ owner noticed the approaching customer and her face beamed with joy. The yellow earth pony almost seemed to bounce with excitement, her brown mane swaying in her excited movements.

“Hey! Did ya wanna buy some of my de-licious melons!?” The young mare nearly screamed while never blinking, having locked onto a potential customer with her lime green eyes.

Acoustiana gave a small shrug and started to sign out if the vendor knew hooflanguage, all in the foalish hope that she would understand her.

“Uh... miss?”  the pony replied with a raised eyebrow. “I do enjoy a game of charades, but answering a yes or no like that is a little awkward.”

Acoustiana sighed with the sting of her hopes being shattered yet again. She took out her notepad and started writing down  her message.

Looking thoroughly confused, the vendor pony watched this strange unicorn to write whatever it was she was writing, still waiting for an answer to her simple question.

“You know, it’s just a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Did I offend you? If so I am really sorry. I’m new to the city so I haven’t figured out all of the customs on how to sell my fruit, but I promise I’m doin’ my best.” The earth pony looked dejected and very apologetic.

Acoustiana held up her hoof to signal the pony to wait for her to finish. When she finished, she floated the notepad over to the earth pony so that she could read what it said and have all her answers.

“What the hay?” The vendor showed complete confusion all over her face. “Somepony that can’t talk? I’ve never met a pony that couldn’t talk.” The pony looked over to Acoustiana who had started to wilt at the all too familiar words she was hearing. 

Acoustiana was preparing herself for the assumed next string of words that would always sting. Reminding herself on her father's words allowed her the strength to not just turn and leave.

Seeing that her words were putting off this potential customer, the vendor quickly tried to move past the issue. She also reminded herself that if she got a bad reputation in the city, then the quality of her fruits would never matter. If these ponies thought she would just be mean to them, they would never buy from her.

For her part however, Acoustiana was starting to regret visiting this new vendor. After giving her name, she was sure this simple earth pony would mess it up. A lot of ponies usually butcher her name calling her Ana, or worse, Custi; she really hated being called Custi. She figured this one would do the same.

“Sorry about that Miss... Acuse-Tia-Na...” The earth pony attempting to decipher from her memory of the name on the notepad. “I didn’t mean to offend you, it is just something new to me. Err, like my wonderful stand here is new to this city!” she said with an exuberant hoof gesture and a grand smile.

Still cringing from the near verbal barrage on her being mute, Acoustiana looked on in slight fear and wonder. Why was this vendor pony so excited when almost no other pony seemed to even notice her stall was there in the first place? She just couldn’t figure her situation out edgewise.

After a few awkward moments, the vendor pony started looking around while trying to hold her dramatic pose and smile, only to give up on it, slamming her head onto her stall.

“My family said this was the worst idea ever, but did I listen? Oh no! Not Cantaloupe, no siree, I can sell any of the family’s fruit anywhere!” she exclaimed as she slammed her head against her cart a few more times.

“Excuse me, miss Cantaloupe, but I do believe that, in order to sell your produce, you may wish to refrain from destroying your vehicle in which it all rests,” a pleasant colt’s voice from somewhere above them spoke.

Acoustiana looked up, seeing a well groomed white pegasus hovering just above the vendor. The pegasus looked over to her and noticed her slight cringe.

“Oh dear! Cantaloupe, do stop; you are terrifying this poor mare,” he said as he landed, and proceeded to poke at the earth pony to bring her attention to Acoustiana.

“Ugh, this just isn’t working Ray. You said this wou...” she stopped as she looked to the pink unicorn, who looked ready to bolt off into the street.

The white pegasus, flicking his yellow main, looked warmly to Acoustiana with his gentle and reassuring golden eyes. “Don’t worry my lady, I can assure you Cantaloupe here is no harm to anypony. She is just frustrated with the lack of sales her stall has been getting, even though we have set her up in one of the busiest places in all of Foalsdale.” He nodded for emphasis.

“Yes, do please accept another of my apologies,” Cantaloupe said. “I just can’t seem to get anything right since I’ve gotten here. If it wasn’t for Ray here I probably would still be begging for people to buy my fruit at the road into this place.” She regarded the white colt who was now browsing the fruit on the stand.

“Oh my!” Ray shot his head up at the realization of something important. “Where are my manners? Begging your pardon, but I have yet to introduce myself.” He bowed gracefully with his wings semi extended. “My name is Ray Cloudburst. I am a member of the Foalsdale weather team, sunshine squad. And if I may inquire my lady’s name?” His head faced Acoustiana expectantly.

Before she was able to answer, however, the yellow pony tugged gently at the wing of the pegasus. Displeased by the act, Ray glared at her and gave a snort. She disregarded it, and whispered into his ear. His expression went from being offended, to being terrified, and lastly to being perplexed in a rather short period of time.

He straightened himself as he tried to hide the fact that he was blushing. “So... uh...” his face showing that his mind was racing to find the words to his embarrassment.

Acoustiana was all too familiar with this. Too often the regal members of society acted like this when they didn’t know what to say, but needed to remain polite and cordial, as was proper of their station. Acoustiana started to put up a hoof to stop the embarrassing scene for the both of them, but just then he appeared to have found his wording.

“Please forgive my inability to communicate, I was taken aback by the information I was just given. By no means do I mean any disrespect. However, I must say that I find your name as it was spoken to me by our goodly fruit vendor here is very strange,” Ray nods towards Cantaloupe. “Which leads me to believe that she misspoke it. If I may please request your name from your notepad, I think that would be most beneficial. I am afraid that I have not yet learned your hooflanguage. For this I must apologize, though in my defence, I have yet to be graced by anypony who can teach me.” The colt looked genuinely apologetic slightly bowing.

Acoustiana was stunned for a moment. This is the first time anypony had apologized to her for not knowing hooflanguage, and actually appeared to mean it! She shook herself and came back to her senses. Taking out her note pad, flipped to the page where she wrote the message to Cantaloupe as she showed it to Ray.

“Ah ha! If I have it right, my lady, your name is pronounced Acoos-ti-ana, yes?” Ray looked to her hopefully with an eyebrow raised.

Acoustiana nodded in approval and a small smile appeared on her face as this stranger seemed to put true effort into her name.

“Ooooh!” gasped Cantaloupe. “Well this is the third apology I am giving you then. Sorry for messing up your name, I tend to forget these little details. Here, to make up for it, have one of my best melons, free of charge of course!” Cantaloupe selected one of her plump melons and gently tossed it in the direction of the unicorn.

Acoustiana caught the lofted fruit with her magic and started to feel a strange warm sensation inside of her. These two were being so kind and generous, yet had no reason to be. She pulled the melon in close to give it a sniff and found that it smelled fresh picked. She held it in her hooves releasing it from her magic. Feeling for the juices inside of it , she found them gently swaying.

The simple gestures from these two ponies made her want to get to know them. At the very least they seemed to care enough to put on real smiles instead of the fake ones she had become accustomed to. She approached the cart shaking her head and pulling out bits in order to pay for the wonderful fruit.

“Not happening, Tiana; I did you wrong, and I owe you a debt for it. If you still really wanna buy some fruit though, I’ll be happy to sell you another,” Cantaloupe said with a stern look on her face.

Hearing her name truncated like this for the first time, Acoustiana wasn’t sure how to react. Weighing all the ways her name has been butchered, this simpler yet respectful version actually seemed pleasant to her, so she simply smiled and put the free melon into her bag. She pointed to a few other pieces of fruit, and nudged the bits closer to the vendor.

“You got yourself a deal!” Cantaloupe said beaming with joy.

After the transaction was made, Acoustiana smiled to Ray and put up a hoof in his direction as she took out her notepad, flipping to a new page to write the colt a message.

“I cannot wait to see what you have to say, Miss Acoustiana,” the colt said as he stood crossing his fore-hooves.

Acoustiana showed him her words, and as he read them his face had a moment of frustration before going back to a gentle smile.

“I understand your apprehension, Miss. I am sure you get told that by many of those in this city of masked fillies and gentlecolts. Rest assured, I was neither jesting, nor fabricating. I do genuinely wish to learn hooflanguage. I pride myself at being a learned pony, and I would be aghast to call myself that if i failed to learn a language used by somepony living in my own city.” Lowering his head so as he could then look up to Acoustiana, “I would be honored if you would assist me in my studies so as I may include said language into my repertoire.”

Acoustiana felt a brush of utter joy, as she found herself hoping that the fears she felt in her heart were unfounded. This was a true first: somepony actually wanted to learn how to talk with her without being forced into it. The colt sat as he nearly beamed with his own pride: he knew he just made the day of a young mare merely by being a polite gentlecolt. However, a large crash echoed off in the distance that shocked the both of them. Ray quickly gained a concerned look on to his face.

Acoustiana, please step over here next to the cart. If that is what I think it is, you’ll want to be out of the way so as to avoid any accident befalling you or your possessions.” He stepped in front of the two mares and flared out his wings, then proceeded to rear up on his hind legs to see down the street in the direction of the commotion.

Another loud crash caused Ray to wince and land back on all four hooves. He still had his wings spread out as to create a barrier for the fruit and ponies behind him.

“Don’t worry, it’s just our town’s best painter. She would be the best in all of Equestria if she would just slow down and not panic so easily,” he said, letting out an exasperated sigh.

After another crash Acoustiana spied a number of objects suddenly appear wrapped in a magical blue glow, followed by a purple and burgundy streak.

“Hi, bye Ray!” was all Acoustiana could hear of what she believed was another unicorn running by at breakneck speeds. The voice, although rushed was delicate and seemed to chime like crystals.

Pastel! Slow down before you hurt somepony, or worse, yourself!” Ray shouted after the pony. Acoustiana noted that his eyes were full of concern and worry as he tried to follow the speeding artist down the street.

“I do hate to run off, but that pony is like a living tornado running through the town with all that rushing. I must see that she doesn’t─” He found himself cut off by loud clopping coming from Acoustiana as she stomped her hooves desperately to gain his attention.

While she had his attention, knowing he had an important task to attend to, she quickly floated one of her personal business cards over to him. Ray looked at it, and realized why she gave it to him.

“Quite right! It would have been dreadfully difficult to get lessons from you without knowing where to go!” he let out a hearty chuckle which ended short at the echo of yet another crash. “But I must be off, I shall get in touch as soon as I can, lady Acoustiana. Farewell to you as well, miss Cantaloupe,” as he bowed quickly to the two mares and promptly took off after the disaster on hooves.

Turning to Cantaloupe, Acoustiana was ready to wave a goodbye when she noticed that the pony was transfixed on her flank. As panic crept over her at the many different thoughts the earth pony might be having, Cantaloupe looked up to Acoustiana with a bewildered look on her face.

“If you don’t mind me asking, but what kind of cutie mark is that? Two sticks with strings tied to them? Are you a fisherpony or something?”

Acoustiana’s mind came to a stop for a moment as the panic quickly began to flee and pure confusion started taking its place. She knew some ponies didn’t know much about music, but to mistake her cutie mark for fishing poles was just absurd. She, however, believed this pony wasn’t intending any insults, but was in fact just confused.

With a smile she took out her notepad and wrote what her cutie mark actually was for the poor pony.

“Bows? So you’re a hunterpony?” Cantaloupe appeared even more confused. “But aren't bows curved and not straight?”

Letting out a silent sigh, Acoustiana wrote more giving explicit details about what type of bow she was referring to.

Upon reading the explanation, the yellow pony’s face turned almost orange in color. “Aw horseapples. You must think I’m an uncivilized buffoon after that one. But hey! A musician! Wow... It must be so cool to go to all those really fancy places, meeting all those fancy people...” Cantaloupe seemed to drift off in her mind thinking on what Acoustiana disliked the most about being a musician.

For her part, Acoustiana felt that this pony must not have a hoof on the ground when it came to the reality of the world that Acoustiana had to wade through in her profession. She figured such is the case for anypony not apart of the scene. All Acoustiana wished to do was make enjoyable and emotional music. Having to dress certain ways, and act as though nothing anypony said phased her. It was more than she would like to endure, but such was her chosen profession. To get big, she had to endure.

“Tell me what it’s like to talk to...” A look of sheer terror griped Cantaloupe’s face as she spoke those words. “Oh my gosh! I am so so so sorry!” Cantaloupe gasped out as she smacked herself in the head with her hoof. She then seemed to realize something and stopped her self-appointed beating. “Wow, I bet those gatherings are nothing but awkward for you, aren’t they? Having to write all your words down all the time, dealing with fancy types not having the patience to deal with somepony that can’t talk.A look of sorrow overtook the yellow pony’s face as she empathized with the hardships she thought Acoustiana had to put up with. A visible increase in moisture to her eyes began to show. “It wouldn’t be awkward, it would be just terrible!” Cantaloupe looked to Acoustiana. “You must be one of the bravest ponies ever, to be able to put up with that kind of treatment.”

Acoustiana looked at the yellow pony with a renewed appreciation. She then got a brilliant idea. She took out another one of her business cards and set it on the cart. She pointed to Cantaloupe, motioned eating, and pointed to the sun. She then slowly and deliberately shunted her hoof in a clock like fashion till she pointed to the horizon.  Cantaloupe started to ponder on the matter for a moment before making a venture at to what the meaning was.

“You want to eat some fruit in 15 minutes?”

Acoustiana shook her head.

“You want me to eat some fruit in 15 minutes?”

Another shake.

“By Celestia this is a tough one. Hrm... You want to eat fruit together in 15 minutes?”

Acoustiana shook her head but made a pushing motion with her hoof.

“Eating fruit in... 3 hours?”

Another head shake with a pushing motion.

“Okay I give; just write it down else we will be here till nightfall,” Cantaloupe said in a defeated manner.

Acoustiana put her hoof on Cantaloupe’s nose.

“Wait, that was it? Nightfall? Oh, you want to have me over for dinner?”

Acoustiana nodded.

“Well isn’t that just the coolest thing ever! Hey, could I see one of those bow things like that are on your cutie mark? And if you’re up to it, I would love to hear you play! I’ve never heard a real musician outside of recordings before.”

Acoustiana smiled and slowly nodded yes. She then perked up and made a flapping motion and pointed to the sky, then to her card on the counter.

Cantaloupe thought for a moment. “I bet you want me to invite Ray as well?”

Acoustiana nodded.

“That would be neat, and then he can hear your music too! Ooh! He doesn’t know you're a musician yet, does he? Oh, I bet he will be so surprised! He seems the kind of pony who would really enjoy that kind of music too.”

Acoustiana just smiled and nodded.

“I’ll do everything I can to hunt him down, and I’ll pass along the invite. Then you can be sure that I’ll be there. Though I can’t stay too long, I have to take my cart back to the orchard. It’s a long ways off but it’ll be a lot easier knowing I made a new friend and got a full belly out of it.”

Acoustiana bowed to what she hoped would become her new friend, and waved goodbye as she trotted back to her home. Feeling an invisible weight lift off of her, she knew that after this day’s encounter she just might have ponies she could call friends.

End Part 1

Silence is Bittersweet, Part 2

        In her home, Acoustiana began to prepare for her guests. She felt almost the same level of excitement that she felt when performing a solo on stage. She thought about her guests and planned what to make. Pegasi probably needed lighter foods compared to earth ponies, so she figured on making two different types of food.  A lovely fruit salad would work wonderfully. She then contemplated what else she had, and knew how to prepare. She contemplated the food normally placed out during the receptions and other get togethers she was privy to as a musician, and figured on attempting something similar. A grass and flower casserole sounded about right.

        Assured that she had all of the ingredients for her dinner ideas, she went into her music room to get a couple of hours more practice in. She wanted to be sure she would sound good for her guests. She did remind herself not to push herself too much with her bass though. There was no need wearing herself out using too much magic on just simple practice.

        Acoustiana performed her scales, and then performed a small lullaby she fondly remembered that her mother sang to her as a foal. She used both instruments in the piece. The bass with its low notes gave a backdrop for her violin’s higher, more vibrant notes. The music brought with it the sense of peace and warmth that she had felt as a foal, listening to her mothers singing voice.

        Acoustiana felt a warm happy tear fall from her eye. She knew her parents loved her so very much, but once, if only once, she wanted to share with them the voice she heard in her mind as her own. She wanted to utter three little words to them, for all their years of patience and understanding. Acoustiana stopped her train of thought in its tracks. She knew where it would lead and she did not have time to allow herself to travel that bleak and dark road. Not this night, when she had guests coming over.

        Looking to her clock, Acoustiana saw that her inner thoughts had yet again allowed time to slip by. In her usual silent grumbling, she set her instruments on their stands and headed into her kitchen to start preparing dinner.

        As Acoustiana placed the casserole into the oven, she heard a commotion from down the road. If it was loud enough for her to hear it from inside her house, it must be rather loud. Venturing a peek outside her front window, Acoustiana saw a familiar yellow earthpony coming towards her house, hitched up to her now folded and boxed vendor cart. However, Acoustiana was certain that whatever the commotion was, it certainly wasn’t coming from Cantaloupe.

        Acoustiana headed out her front door to assist Cantaloupe with her cart. As she did, Acoustiana heard what the commotion was. It was coming from further down the road, and was of two ponies arguing with one another. She could only make out that one pony was a colt, while the other a mare. Pushing that aside, she turned to Cantaloupe to direct her where to put her cart, and then assist her in getting unhitched. At this point, Acoustiana noticed the worried look on Cantaloupe’s face. After getting Cantaloupe situated and free of her burden, Acoustiana clopped to signal for attention and blinked questioningly.

        “I should have said something sooner, but I didn’t know how. But by the look on your face you can see it written on my face,” Cantaloupe said with an exasperated sigh. “Well, I found Ray, and told him your invite. He was pleased as a peach...but...well...” she let out another nervous sigh. “That, uh...painter pony seems to have decided to show up too. And Ray has been too busy arguing with her to point out that only HE was invited over. I am so sorry for this, I really should have tried harder to point that out, but just listen to them,” she pointed off down the road in the direction of the arguing ponies.

        Acoustiana gave a silent sigh, and tried to reassure the earthpony that all would be fine by giving her a smile. She then nodded to her door and opened it with her magic so that Cantaloupe knew to enter.

        “Well, if you say so. This is your place and you have the right to allow as many ponies in that you want. I just hope they calm down or at least finish before coming in. “ Cantaloupe entered the home and began to look around.

        Acoustiana waited a moment outside to look down the road, but she was unable to tell if the two ponies were getting any closer. Shaking her head and the foalishness of the two, she went inside to at least enjoy the company of Cantaloupe.

        “Wow, this is a really nice place you have. And whatever it is you have cooking smells just wonderful!” Cantaloupe exclaimed as she trotted towards the kitchen.

        Acoustiana pulled out a chair at her dining room table and waved her hoof to signal Cantaloupe to have a seat. She then retrieved her chalk board from its hiding place and floated it to behind her seat at the table. She had prepared it so that she could use her magic to write any thoughts she had to her guests while being able to eat or what ever the occasion ended up being. This aspect of her special talent was one she generally enjoyed, as she never really had to worry about not talking while eating.

        Cantaloupe took her seat and watched the chalkboard float over behind  another chair. The chalkboard perched on some hooks that would have seemed otherwise out of place.

        Acoustiana wrote down a few questions for Cantaloupe to answer, mostly just idle conversation starter type of things. She wanted to hear about how Cantaloupe’s day had gone, and if she had received anymore patrons after her visit.

        “My day has gone better than the past few have gone. And no, I didn’t get any other customers. But don’t worry, with your purchases today, I’ll be able to convince my family that this isn’t a dead end idea.” Cantaloupe smiled warmly at Acoustiana.

        Acoustiana smiled back, and cleared her board and wrote another question.

        “Uh, well, Ray doesn’t buy much. He means well, but one or two small snack sized fruits doesn’t cut it in the fruit selling business. You gotta sell in bulk, at least enough for a full meal, that type of amount,” Cantaloupe added a hefty nod to add emphasis on her statement.

        After a moment of thought, Acoustiana realized that the arguing outside had died down considerably. She cleared the board and pointed out the window and then to her ear.

        “Hey your right! Maybe they both decided to grow up and come to an agreement. That or Ray got himself a thump on the head for his troubles.” Cantaloupe headed to the front door to investigate along with Acoustiana.

        The two ponies headed outside and into the road to see what had become of the two verbal combatants. They were able to see the two, noses high in the air, trotting evenly together. Both seemed to have an air of indignation and hurt pride. Acoustiana wasn't sure how she could tell, but she could. She then took special account of the mare next to Ray. The mare had a rich royal purple coat, with a deep burgundy mane. She wore her mane in a tight braid that hung over her back. Atop her head was the signature horn of a unicorn. Acoustiana could see from this distance that it was aglow with a deep blue glow, signaling that the mare was focusing on some form of magic, but for what, she did not know.

        Ray and the other mare strode straight up to Acoustiana and Cantaloupe and stood in front of them, silent and unmoving.

        Cantaloupe broke the silence by giving out a tad louder than expected greeting, “Hey there Ray! Who’s your... uh... friend pony type pony?” Trying not to blush, Cantaloupe swallowed audibly as she cringed slightly at the stoic presence of the colt and mare, still unmoving and silent.

        At that point Ray and the other mare seemed to shimmer and suddenly appeared rather winded and flustered. Ray’s mane was not as carefully groomed as Acoustiana remembered it being. And the other mare had a few frizzy tufts poking out of her braids. At this, Acoustiana also was able to note the magical glow upon her horn was missing. The two where periodically glaring at each other.

        Ray seemed to come to his senses first, and shook his mane. He blinked and noticed the two mares looking puzzled at him and the one next to him. Realizing the predicament, he smoothed out his mane and attempted to apologize.

“I am deeply sorry for the theatrics of myself and my companion Pastel.” Pointing an accusatory hoof at the one next to him. “However, we were having a heated discussion on the socio economic damage a certain painter causes when she throws caution to the wind in order to arrive early to an art exhibit.”

        “Oh don’t start with that hoity toity horseapple talk mister!” Pastel snapped at him. “Or should I bring up the implications of denying the city of its wonderful culture and trust in its beloved artist?” Looking to Acoustiana and Cantaloupe. “Though I am certainly not bragging, I was merely quoting what the paper has written about me. I don’t think I’m that great, just a─” she found herself silenced by a hoof to her snout, provided by Ray.

        “Perhaps we should go inside? I’m sure Miss Acoustiana would love to hear our formal introductions in there, rather than out here on the road.” Ray removed his hoof and pointedly ignored the dagger like glare coming from Pastel.

        Not wanting the pair to continue their near hostile first meeting, Acoustiana clapped her hooves together twice and opened the door, attempting to usher the group in. Ray and Cantaloupe both nodded to her and walked inside. Pastel gave Acoustiana a rather inquisitive look, as she started heading inside.

        Upon entering the house, Acoustiana found she was almost snout to snout with Pastel, who stared at her with her deep blue eyes. Pastel realizing her proximity took two steps back and sat on her flank and made some gestures with her hooves.

        “Time long since try... think you know, talk this?”

        Acoustiana all but fell over. Instead, she fell to her flank with a thud and just let her jaw dangle where it had chosen to be after the first few words translated.

        Pastel giggled politely at the very strange effect her first attempt at hooflanguage had on another pony after so many years of disuse. She attempted to give Acoustiana a reassuring nudge to get her out of the stupor she seemed to have fallen into.

        Acoustiana came to her senses at the sensation of contact upon her coat and looked utterly bewildered for a moment. “You... you know? But Ray said...” Acoustiana tried to sign out her words while coming to grips with the situation. “I’m sorry for that, but I had never hoped that someone would just outright know hooflanguage” she managed to sign back to Pastel.

        “Erm, yes well I will have to admit that I am assuredly lacking in what I once knew. A lovely story if you would hear it. And by the smell of things I do believe I have intruded on a dinner party of sorts. I must officially beg for your pardon, had I known I would have brought something to make up for my inclusion.” Pastel folded her ears back and lowered herself to look up apologetically at Acoustiana.

        “Well miss, you were there when I told Ray this was a dinner invitation. You must have been too, uh, involved to have caught what I said,” Cantaloupe tried to help, but her words only appeared to make the artist look even worse.

        “Listen, Pastel, you can have my part of the portions in the case there is not enough for the four of us. That way nothing is lost, and only another pony has been gained,” Ray said as he looked on with his caring eyes. “It takes two to have a ‘heated discussion’ like what we shared, and I shan't let you take full burden for this faux-pas that I rightfully owe equal share in.”

        Pastel gave a meek smile to Ray, though still had her ears folded back. She then looked to Acoustiana and found that the musician wore a warm smile of her own. Slowly Pastel stood back up and righted her ears. “Thank you for being so welcoming. I shall do my best to help this evening go as splendidly as I can. Oh, and if you think of anything that my talents can help you with, please do not hesitate to ask!” nodding her head with a proud smile.

        “I think you may want to expound upon those talents Lady Pastel. All I have informed Miss Acoustiana about you is that you are the towns best painter. I do not believe she is fully aware of your capabilities. However, I do believe that we may wish to discuss that, and perhaps all of our talents over dinner?” Ray gestured to the table, and noticing the lack of a fourth placement did his best to hide his worry.

        “Have a seat, I’ll set your place,” Acoustiana let Pastel know for sure that she was welcomed at her table.

        Pastel pondered a moment as she attempted to decipher the motions. “Oh dear me, I think I shall have to request a brush up on lessons. I think you offered me a seat, and as I know you didn’t mean on the table, I know that I assuredly do not wish to risk more signing lest I make a foal of myself. Hrm, I wonder if Marey can show me again” Pastel seemed to trail off in her own thoughts as she rubbed her chin.

        Acoustiana was saddened by the notion this pony didn’t remember her language, but only slightly. She stomped twice to get Pastel’s attention, then pointed to Ray. Ray acknowledged the purpose of the hoof in his direction.

        “Worry not Pastel, I shall be getting lessons myself from Miss Acoustiana, perchance we both learn then? Though I am slightly perturbed that you never mentioned you knew hooflanguage. You should have known I would have loved to learn what little you know,” Ray said in a slight scolding tone to Pastel.

        “Well if I ever thought on it I would have been happy to show what little I remember,” Pastel defensively retorted, “but this isn't something that one normally encounters, nor does anything bring it to mind. As our good hostess can attest too, hooflanguage isn’t something many ponies know, yet alone use. And Ray, we should keep it civil from this point on, keep it lighthearted. I know that’s slightly an offbeat means for you, but I have seen you pull it off.” Pastel fluttered her eyes at Ray and half stuck her tongue out in what she hoped would be an adorable and goofy look.

        For his part, Ray did all he could not to burst out laughing. He was not fully successful, letting out small chortles. “Okay, okay, cease that silly look and take your seat, or did you plan on standing to eat?”

        “Good, the mood is now light and pleasant,” Pastel took her seat and stared over at Cantaloupe. “Now deary, by the looks of what I saw outside, am I to take it you work on an orchard or at the very least for one?”

        Cantaloupe had been watching the banter between the other ponies recalling her own family verbal sparring matches that happened when the family got together. She saw an opportunity with that question to do her best boast to possibly drive up her sales. “You betcha! I mean, I work my family orchard on the other side of the hills outside of town. We have only been there for about a year now, this haul I’ve got is some of the first pickings of our harvest. We transplanted a number of fruit trees, vines, and shrubs from our relatives to start us up. The Walker family orchards and farms are more known on the other side of Equestria, true enough, but my dad thought it would be a good idea to drag his little cult out here to try and keep our family name known for our fruits rather than our show pony strut.” Cantaloupe was beaming with pride as she puffed out her chest.

        “Wait, the Walker family? I’ve seen that name In a number of competitions for graceful elegance.” Ray looked at the little farmer with slight disbelief. “You’re to have me believe that your family contains not just hard working farmers, but also, show ponies that travel the highest echelon of society?”

        “Uh, yeah. Is it that hard to believe? Oooh, you probably don’t know do you? I’ll forgive you this time for doubting me Ray, only cause your nice.” Cantaloupe gave Ray an impish wink. “All of the Walker family originally came from Tenneighssee, where we all started as farmers. I don’t know the details yet, I won’t get told the juicy secrets for another couple years, but the family picked up a really neat trick that only the most dedicated ponies can even attempt to learn. It’s like a, slow canter. We can do it for hours without breaking a sweat. Helped the family out a lot with hauling and traveling long distances.”

        “You speak of the Ambling that earth ponies have learned to assist in their, how should I put it, duties? Yes I think that would be appropriate.” Ray seemed to trail off in thought.

        “I think Ray here is trying to say he is aware of the unique style of gait you are attempting to describe,” Pastel interjected on the part of Ray who was still lost in his own thoughts. “I, myself, have been privy to a few displays of Ambling. It is quite exotic honestly. I can also admit that I attempted to mimic some of the more graceful ones I have seen, but let us just say, it is certainly a trait that an earth pony is more suited to. I would like to hear, why does your father seem to want fruit to be more known for your family rather than the show ponies? Being known as a graceful and sophisticated family would certainly help your sales would it not?” Pastel gave Cantaloupe a questioning tilt of her head.

        “Pony said what? Look, I don’t know exactly what you’re trying to get at, but its like this: We get along well enough, but those of the family choosing to be all fancy is great. But the family got there by being farmers. Personally I don’t mind the fancy part, I actually would love to be a part of it to tell you the truth. Yet I also agree that growing food is something we should all still do. What kind of pony takes a gift from her Great umpteenth grandparents and just ignores the reason behind it?” Cantaloupe seemed to go from annoyed, to wistful, to upset with the ease of a flowing river. Her mood seemed to settle on cheery however when she looked to Pastel for an answer to her question.

        “Well, I can’t say I would know honestly. Not all families have such deep history as yours apparently does. Mine, for example, isn’t much worth noting. We all have our place in Equestria, sure enough, but nothing so extravagant to be considered a family legacy.Pastel paused as a number of objects slowly moved in front of her, surrounded by a soft orange glow. “Why thank you so much dear. As I was saying, uh,” Pastel’s face dropped as though something was terribly wrong. Attempting to be as polite as she could, she channeled her magic as discreetly as she could muster. When Ray gave a yelp, she knew that it at least had the effect, if not the stealth she desired.

        “What in Celestia was that?” Ray looked down to his offended body part.

        “Ray, darling,” Pastel said trying her best not to drip venom, but missed a few droplets. “I think we have forgotten etiquette one oh’ one. In-tro-duc-tions,” the last word spoken through clenched teeth as she attempted to still the anger and embarrassment now attempting to flood her face.

        “Oops.” Ray took on the look of someone that might as well have forgotten to put out a fire. He tried to recover by clearing his throat and attempted proper introductions. “Well, quite right. Pastel, I would like to introduce Cantaloupe... Walker. She sells many types of fruits, but is especially proud of her melons. Our wonderful hostess bringing our lovely dinner to the table right now is the lovely Miss Acoustiana. She is mute and, well, I am not yet aware of what she does.” He looked to Acoustiana. “Please forgive me for not being able to get your profession before I had to leave earlier this day.”

        Acoustiana attempted to think of how to respond. She had given Ray her business card, which had the details on it. She settled on assuming that Ray must have been too busy with Pastel to have given it a proper look. She gave a silent sigh and clopped her hooves to get the attention of the three and pointed to Cantaloupe, then to Ray. She gave Cantaloupe a smile and a slow nod.

        “Way to go fancy pants. Acoustiana is a musician, just take a look at her cutie mark. Its of two musical bows. Not fishing poles or hunter bows like I guessed at first,” Cantaloupe said with a matter of fact tone and nod.

        “I do try not to look upon a lady’s flank unless invited to Cantaloupe. That is for, unpleasant types, that care little for decorum and polite company.” Ray gave an indignant huff, before smiling to Acoustiana. “As I was, Miss Acoustiana is a lovely musician. This here is Lady Pastel, a true artistè. She practices many mediums, even those one would never think of. I am Ray Cloudburst, master cloud carver, allowing the optimum levels of sunlight through in this dreadfully cloud drenched city.”

        “Very nicely done, albeit exceedingly late in the conversation,” Pastel gave Ray a playful giggle and a nudge to his shoulder.

        Letting out a resigned sigh, Ray nodded and let a smile sneak through his embarrassment.

        “Now, that all of the official stuff is out of the way, I was going to say to Cantaloupe here,” Pastel nodded to said pony, ”many ponies in the world are not so fortunate to have such a lovely family history that carries with it a legacy. Having the option to choose between a new means of using one's legacy shouldn’t be frowned upon, in my opinion of course, but should be rejoiced. After all, in hindsight, that means your entire family has a special talent before ever gaining their cutie mark, making you essentially twice as talented as the average pony. ”

        Cantaloupe light up at the thought of this new revelation. “I never thought of it like that. And hey, you’re right! Wow, I bet if I told dad that our strut wasn’t getting abused by our fancy family, then he might not be as put off by me trying out for one of those competitions. Well eventually; I still got a lot to learn about the orchard, and I like my melons more than being fancy.”

        “Marvelous! Now, if I may inquire Miss Acou─” Ray found himself cut off by a floating bowl filled with sweet smelling fruit pieces and lush greenery. It was quickly followed by a steaming pan of something. He was unsure of what ingredients were used, but it smelled utterly delectable. “I must say, if I would have known this to be a formal dinner event, I would been a far better guest. Please, once more accept my apolo─” Ray once more was cut off, but this time it was the look of fright on Acoustiana and her light clopping.

        “What is it dear? I will do my best to translate if that is easier, but your chalk board may be preferred if it is complex,” Pastel tried to calm her hostess.

        Acoustiana swallowed and used her magic to write her words down, knowing that a misinterpretation would just make things worse. “Please forgive me Ray. I wasn’t sure what anypony would like so I made two dishes so that if you liked a lighter food there is a fruit salad, and if you prefer a warm meal, a grass and flower casserole.” She finished and looked hopefully to Ray for her forgiveness.

        Ray smiled warmly at Acoustiana. “You have nothing to be forgiven for. Your kind thoughts alone show that you truly care for your guests, and as such, my misinterpretation is still my fault. Worry not, everything here is simply grand, and allowing each of us our choice in a meal is a testament to your depth of heart. Now please join us at your table, so that we might all enjoy this wonderfully prepared meal together.”

        The three ponies at the table all gave Acoustiana a warm smile and waited in silence as she went to her seat and got settled in.

        “Now while it is customary for the host to serve the meal, if you would allow the deviance, might I take the honors?” Ray asked Acoustiana with a slight bow.

        Acoustinga turned her head slightly, rubbing her chin in thought, and then gave Ray a sidelong gaze of examination.This caused Ray to lose his smile and squirm in his seat. Her plan being a success, she let out the large smile she was holding back and  burst into silent giggles. Prompting Pastel to let out a rather ladylike guffaw that she tried to hide with her hoof. Which caused Cantaloupe to let out a chortle that evolved into a full on hearty laugh. Ray then followed suit, realizing that he was at the tail end of a prank; and that it was indeed a well played one.

        “Well played my lady, well played” Ray managed to say after the group settled out of there laughing fits. “Now I think it is time to enjoy our meal. Acoustiana, what shall you be having?”

        Ray went and gave portions out to all the ponies, serving himself last. He had wanted to do the serving so as that he could ensure everypony got a hearty portion of the food. This ensured that if there wasn’t much left, he wouldn’t feel bad for the last pony, being as it would be himself. However, he was pleasantly surprised to find that even with the portions he gave out, there was more than enough for him to not only choose his meal, but give himself the same sized portions. He had decided to try both items. He did love salads, but the casserole smelled all too delicious.

        The group enjoyed their meal, all giving their thanks and approval by the happy sounds they made while eating. Pastel and Ray made ample use of their napkins, while Acoustiana found little need with her rather neat eating habits. Cantaloupe quickly caught onto the rather neat methods the others were enjoying their meal and opted to be like them in her style.

        Cantaloupe let out a boisterous belch, causing the other ponies to cringe at the sound. “Oh, that was some good food you can cook Tiana. My family is gonna be jealous when I tell them.” Cantaloupe looked smug until she noticed the glare from Ray. “Oh right, excuse me!” giggling while covering her muzzle.

        “I should say that was a mighty compliment none the less. Now Ray you can cease your death glare at the poor filly. She is simple, not all caught up in your moor’s to think decorum first. I mean really, stop that before I poke one of them out.” Pastel brandished her horn while giving Acoustiana a wink to confirm it was merely a joke and not an honest threat.

        Ray averted his gaze from Cantaloupe and rested in on Pastel. And threats to our hostess’ guests are just as rude, jokingly or not.”

        Acoustiana figured it would be best at this point to clear the table, and swiftly pulled all the sharp utensils from the table. She levitated them to the counter to be washed later.

        “Ray, we said we would keep this civil remember?” Pastel gave Ray a gentle poke to his shoulder.

        “Quite right.” Ray blushed slightly, accepting his own failings yet again.

        “Hey Tiana, maybe its about time you played us some music? I bet it’ll get us all back into the good happy spirit yet again” Cantaloupe tried to divert the mood in the room back to the pleasant one they shared not long ago.

        “Oh, you had planned to perform for us? That sounds exquisite!” Pastel exclaimed. “I simply cannot wait to hear the beauty you assuredly can espouse with your talent, uh,” Pastel looked to think for a moment,”Cousti? Do you mind if I call you that?”

        Acoustiana had just started lifting the remains of her casserole when the hated name was spoken. She dropped it as her eye twitched at the grating butchering of her name.

        “I shall take that as a no,” Pastel tried to shrink back into her chair as though trying to hide from a beast of the Everfree forest.

        Acoustiana managed to relax enough to concentrate on her chalkboard to inform her guests of an important rule if there was to be any hope of friendship. “NEVER call me that. I understand that my name is unusual, but that gives nopony the right to butcher it,” the chalk lightly screeched. “Cousti was one of the first taunts of my name I had to grow up with. So please, respect my name. Use it in full, or you may use what Cantaloupe came up with. It has never been used against me, and as such I have not come to despise it.” Acoustiana was calmer by the end, having stopped the screeching of the chalk.

        Pastel was fully mortified. Her eyes began to shimmer as the moisture in them began to build, her ears flattened against her head, and body shrank into her seat.

        Ray noticed the effect of this grievous mistake, one that he could have made himself. Yet he could not blame Acoustiana for her reaction either. He tried to think of a way to smooth the situation.

        “That’s just plain awful, I know foals poke fun at blank flanks. I was almost the last in my class growing up before I got mine, but to make fun of a pony for their name? Its not like you had a choice in the matter, or that you could have done anything about it. I will have to say in defence of Pastel over there, that she honestly meant nothing by it, she was just trying to be friendly and have a name to call you that isn’t all formal as your full name. Can you forgive her before she starts crying Acoustiana?” Cantaloupe pointed a hoof at the mare with water quickly filling her eyes.

        Acoustiana still feeling indignant, sat hard on her flank and made gestures to Pastel. “Promise me you’re sorry,” thinking to herself that she may be overreacting to this incident, but also told herself she would not like a pony that did what countless others did out of malice or an unconcerned whim.

        “I promise more promise big,” Pastel signed back shakily, doing her best to hold back the tears.

        Acoustiana could see there was more effecting the other unicorn at this point. All negative feelings she had, fell from her like a wet towel as she trotted over to Pastel and attempted to giver her a reassuring nuzzle. Pastel watched Acoustiana approach, and tensed up as she felt  the touch. Yet she felt the warmth and saw the kindness in the eyes that just moments ago held contempt and hate.

        Acoustiana knew how to make everypony in her house feel better, and it was just what Cantaloupe requested. Acoustiana gave Cantaloupe a warm smile and pointed out the dining room towards a door.

        “Come on ponies, seems it’s time to get this show on the road,” Cantaloupe said with far less enthusiasm and energy.

        “Yes, come Pastel, you have been forgiven. Let us enjoy some soothing music,” Ray tried to sooth Pastel, as he tucked an errant hair that escaped her braid behind her ear.

        Pastel gave Acoustiana one last look to see if all was truly forgiven, and saw only warmth and caring from the face of the other mare. “Thank you,” was all she managed to let out in a quiet voice.

        Acoustiana shooed the three ponies to the room, as she dragged her chalkboard and an extra seat to her music room. She situated the chairs to accommodate the extra pony and motioned for the three of them to take their seats.

        “Wow, look at this room!” Cantaloupe gasped as she gazed over the room that held a number of odds and ends along with stacks of paper, books on music theory, spools of different sized metal strands, and jars of some kind of dark something or other in them.

        “This looks like your studio in between your projects, wouldn't you say Pastel?” Ray said trying to cheer up his friend. Pastel looked far better upon seeing the room and all of its contents. She looked to Ray and gave him a smile as she nodded in response to his question.

        Acoustiana, feeling better that Pastel’s mood had already lightened, set her chalkboard on her writing desk. She then picked up her violin and concentrated her magic on her double bass. She knew the exact performance to play to fix the mood. It was a piece she was working on that she hoped a great singer would perform to one day.

        With her mind set on the notes, her breathing controlled, and her heart feeling the beat of the music, she started. The double bass started with a light and low fast-paced rhythm. With quick, fluid strokes of her bow, she added in her violin, blending the two. The bass carried the melodic line while the violin provided the lyrical harmony. The tempo was decent; slowing when the music lowered in tone, and sped up when the violin resumed its magical hymn. At a few points in the song, she plucked at her violin to cause a sharp sound as she went back to the smoother strokes with the bow. As she ended her song she drew out the last note from her bass so that the sound would fill the house.

        Unlike most of her pieces, this one was short. It lasted only a few minutes. None the less, Acoustiana showed the strain of using her magic, as small beads of sweat appeared through her coat on her forehead. She took in a deep breath, as she took account of the three members of her audience.

        Cantaloupe had the look of pure awe, her green eyes stared off into some distant land. After a moment, she seemed to realize the song had ended and began breathing again. In her astonishment, she had forgotten to keep breathing.

        Ray had the look of warmth and something Acoustiana couldn’t place. His golden eyes seemed to be following something off in the distance as he smiled broadly. Acoustiana also noted that his wings had tensed up and started to unfurl slightly. As he too realized the song was over, he shook his mane and seemed to get uncomfortable as he repositioned his wings, hiding his blush by preening them.

        Pastel’s face held the most in it. Her jaw was dangling, and to Acoustiana’s fear, a single tear rolled down Pastel’s face. However, it came clear that this tear was not born of sadness, but of happiness. Pastel came to her senses and wore a broad smile and looked to Acoustiana with complete adoration.

        “If I may, I wish to show you something Acoustiana. I want to show you what your music just showed us. Well, at least myself.” Pastel channeled her magic and looked to Acoustiana for approval.

        “Yes, please do” Acoustiana never had anypony describe their feelings that her music provoked, and indeed had always wanted to know.

        Pastel concentrated on her illusion spell. This type of thing wasn’t her strongest magic, but was none the less powerful. As the images formed, she grabbed the song from her memory and played in the background, almost at a whisper.


The scene was grey and foggy. The silhouette of a colt walked to a building. He hung his head as though sad. Then, through the fog, a soft light was shown out of a window.

        The colt looked up to the light and saw that the light radiated from a mare. Her light pierced the fog and illuminated the face of the colt just enough to make out the tears that flowed from his eyes, and the smile upon his face.

        The mare tossed the colt a flower. The flower seemed to glow just enough so that its colors were shown through the fog. The soft light red flower upon its dark green stem with two leaf petals was caught by the colt. He brought the flower to his muzzle to smell it.

        The illusion then zoomed in on the flower and colt as he went to smell it. When he did, sparks were shown. The sparks then appeared to transform into small jumping mares, the same as the one in the window.

        The illusion paned back out to show the colt staring backup at the mare in the window. The flower in his hoof seemed to stir and appeared to bloom. As it did, its glow intensified until the fog was overpowered by the flowers glow. The two ponies, now mere silhouettes, appeared to float to one another with the flower in between them. They kissed one another and then wrapped their hooves together in a warm embrace.


        As the music room came back into focus for the amazed ponies, they all blinked and rubbed their eyes at the shift of light their minds had lead them to believe they just endured.

        “I shall have to admit that your rendition of Lady Acoustiana’s music was frighteningly close to being exactly what I had envisioned and felt. A testament to both of your artistic talents if I do say so myself.” Ray looked to the two artists, no longer bothering to try and hide his slightly flushed face.

        “Not exactly what I had in mind, but that was none the less to the point methinks,” Cantaloupe chimed in.

        Acoustiana simply nodded to Pastel and gave her a reassuring smile. She then clopped her hooves and pointed to her chalkboard. “Feeling better?” she wrote as she pointed to Pastel.

        “Yes, much better. Thank you again” Pastel said as she walked over to Acoustiana and hugged her.

        Acoustiana was shocked at first, giving a small yelp in her mind, but quickly returned the hug.

        “Aw phooey. This was going so well, but judging by that clock there, I gotta hit the road.” Cantaloupe glared at the offending timepiece with utter disdain. “Its a long trek back to the orchard and I can’t be out too late. This was a blast! We should totally do this more, and often!” Cantaloupe seemed to bounce at the end of each sentence with joy.

        “Well we shall not keep you then, Cantaloupe. Let us help you with your cart so that you can be on your way. The sooner your home, the sooner you can return eh?” Ray said with a raised eyebrow and a dashing smirk.

        The four ponies stepped outside and all helped get Cantaloupe hitched to her cart and positioned in the road.

        “So I know I’ll be seeing you in town tomorrow Ray, but when shall I see the rest of you? Pastel, I don’t know where you live so maybe we can have lunch or something at your place?” Cantaloupe said and she looked at the other ponies.

        “That... may not be the best of ideas at the moment. Pastel’s home can be, shall we say, ‘engrossed’ in her work as much as she herself gets.” Ray attempted to cover for Pastel as they both cringed at the idea of having food at the artists’ house.

        “Yes, Ray is correct in this. My home is currently not company friendly. But it would be a wonderful idea to get together for lunch. What say you darling?” Pastel looked expectantly at Acoustiana.

        Acoustiana held up a hoof and dashed into her home and quickly came back out with the letter she had received earlier in the morning. She showed it to Pastel, so as to answer all her questions.

        “Oh I see. I am not familiar with the process, however, so I think the question is, do you know if you will be available during the normal lunch hours?” Pastel looked past the letter to Acoustiana.

        Acoustiana shook her head and then looked rather saddened by the thought of missing out on more time with these ponies she had enjoyed her evening with. Well, mostly, as she reminded herself.

        “Oh here is an idea!” Cantaloupe nearly jumped out of her harness. “Why don’t you come to my cart when you’re off for lunch. Ray should be easy enough to find, if he’s not right there. In that case, he can go get Pastel here so she knows it's time to get together for lunch.” Cantaloupe looked on with hopeful eyes.

        “I cannot say I’ll be quick to leave, but yes, that does sound like a grand alternative to a simply fantastic idea,” Pastel nodded approval.

        “Very well then, we shall all meet on the morrow for lunch,” Ray said with an authoritative tone.

        “Schweet. See ya all tomorrow!” Cantaloupe half yelled. She then appeared to tense up and looked as though she was about bolt off, but instead set off in a strange manner. She seemed to glide down the road looking to be trotting, yet moved at almost a full canter.

        “That would in fact be, the Walker Amble. I would not have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes. I shall have to make it up to her for not believing her story,” Ray shook his head in disbelief.

        “In any case perhaps we should part as well Ray. Unless you would like help with cleaning Acoustiana? I do need to make up for my earlier transgression and see no need not to start with this minor task.” Patel looked to Acoustiana apologetically.

        Acoustiana could tell that the unicorn needed to do something to feel better so simply nodded in agreement instead of trying to argue the matter. She then noted that now would be a good time to ask a question that has been nagging at the back of her mind since she heard the two arguing.

        Ray opened the door for the two mares. Pastel went straight for the kitchen as Acoustiana headed to her music room to fetch her chalkboard. Ray headed to the kitchen himself to assist in the cleaning so as not to appear ungentlemanly.

        Acoustiana came back with her chalkboard and her question written upon it. She clopped her hooves at the two ponies that were cleaning up the dinner dishes. They turned and read the question: “How and why are you two friends? You seem to argue so much, yet have some deep connection. If it is not rude of me to ask that is.”

        Ray and Pastel both grimaced at the question, giving each other sidelong glances. Ray swallowed hard and let out a sigh, “It is actually a very fair question to ask. Yet it is a complicated one to answer.”

        “Let me,” Pastel laid a hoof upon his shoulder. “I cannot give you details as there is a pony that asked me to swear not to. Yet what I can say is that Ray and myself first met as a result of mutual difficulties in our lives. Since then we have been good friends as we both know that we can depend on the other in our times of need.” Pastel gave Ray a reassuring nod.

        “And yet another of your traits that make you a wonderful friend. You need not obfuscate the truth. I was the one to ask she swear not to say anything on this matter. Pastel is one to keep her word, no matter who gets in the way of it.” Ray chuckled at some personal joke. Which provoked a jab from Pastel’s hoof.

End Part 2

Silence is Bittersweet, Part 3

        Walking down the street in a muggy grey fog, the only sound echoing off the buildings was the sound of her own hooves. The echo was abnormal, even so far as to say ominous. Seemingly out of nowhere, a pair of glowing eyes appeared. They shone a white light that appeared to flicker many colors. The eyes were a pony’s, but their owner was too obscured to be definable beyond that.

        Attempting to get the attention of the eyes, she felt that they already seemed to know of her presence. She tried to wave hello, in hopes that the eyes would bob or blink to acknowledge her presence. Yet they did nothing but stare unblinking through the fog. Taking a step forward, hoping to get closer, she saw that the eyes kept away from her.  Thinking of heading back, she turned and headed back to her home. She felt the eyes follow her. She looked back and was right; the eyes appeared to follow her.

        Turning to face the eyes once more, she wished she had a voice to tell off the eyes. At that point, a solitary violin was heard off in the distance.  Its haunting sound filled the street with the lowest notes it could manage. The eyes seemed to dim their glow, and either shrank or started to close.

        Now fully weirded out, she just wanted to go home. She turned to bolt back into the fog, hoping that the direction she was running in was to her home. She could hear hoofbeats behind her, signalling that the eyes must be running after her. Feeling the full grip of panic set in, she put all her energy into running through the muggy fog that obscured her senses.

        She soon saw her silhouette reflected upon the fog from the eerie glow emanating from the eyes. Her heart jumped at the thought of the pony catching up to her. She then felt a warm sensation upon her flank. It was quickly followed by a caress that sent what felt like lightning through her body. She tried to scream out as she bucked at the source. Meanwhile the low notes of the violin become panicked screeches.


        Acoustiana awoke as she thrashed in her bed, finding herself falling onto her bedroom floor with a dainty thud. Upon untangling herself from her blankets, she did a frantic search of her flank and found nothing wrong. She realized she was breathing very hard, and had the beginnings of sweat starting to build up under her coat.

        Flopping back onto her bed, she calmed herself. It was only a dream—she was fine—everything was fine.

        Acoustiana looked out the window to find found that the sun had yet to rise, but the morning was not far off, judging by the corona of light off in the distance. She then felt the weariness of not having had enough sleep. Coupled with the poor quality of sleep she had just gotten, she knew that her day was going to be a rough one at best.

        Leaving her house, Acoustiana felt a chill wind blow past her. She pondered taking her scarf with her, but figured it was but an early morning breeze that would quickly be defeated as the day wore on. She looked to the horizon and saw something that made her reconsider her scarf. There was a large ominous bank of rather dark clouds headed towards Foalsdale. She decided to double-check her weather report, as she didn’t remember a storm scheduled.

        After reviewing the day’s weather, she was concerned at the contradiction. It was scheduled to be a bright and sunny day, not all cloudy and dark. She figured the pegasi were going to be busy keeping the sky clear.

        Grabbing her scarf for good measure, she headed to the theater with her double bass and violin tucked away in their cases. She had the bass snugly strapped over her back, while her violin was levitated by her magic.

        As she set off down the road, she was proud of her resolve to bring her scarf, but regretted not getting enough sleep. The wind blew an oddly cold chill over the road. Coupled with the weight of her instruments; she found it hard to keep her energy up, as well as just maintain her drive not to curl back up into her bed for warmth and rest.


        Arriving at the theater, Acoustiana was exhausted. The cold air had sapped her strength, and made using her magic all the more taxing. She was relieved to find that the conductor had yet to arrive himself, so she knew she at least had some time to rest and perhaps grab a mug of hot cocoa.

        Acoustiana headed backstage, and placed her instruments in what she presumed to be her spot, as the seat had two stands in front of it over the others’ traditional one. She did note that even though the stage was set, they distinctly lacked the conductor’s equipment. No podium nor stand were present. Acoustiana perked her ears at the thought of having plenty of time to rest. as that would be a good few minutes of prep for the conductor once they had arrived.

        Wanting to have a conversation, she headed off at a quick trot. Acoustiana arrived at the refreshment table and helped herself to a large mug of steaming cocoa and a couple of delectable pastries. She saw a few of her fellow orchestral members there. They waved to her and went back to their hushed conversation. Acoustiana, not wanting to be a pest, merely smiled and headed to the side of the main seating area. She found a rather comfortable bench and curled up on it with her morning breakfast.

        As she enjoyed the warmth from the cocoa, she allowed her mind to wander. She thought of the night before and how she had enjoyed a wonderful dinner with new ponies that, unless she was mistaken, would be her new friends in this town where she found herself. Her mind then began to meander to her dream. The piercing gaze from that pony in the fog caused a shiver to run down her back.

        She then remembered the violin in her dream. The sound it made was peculiar, but every time she tried to pin down why it sounded familiar, it seemed to flutter away from her mind’s eye. As such, she just envisioned the notes, the octave, and the tempo used. She liked the song, even though it was a sad one.

        Her thoughts then seemed to swirl about as her mind went to the time before waking. She remembered the feeling of terror. She remembered the feeling of panic. She remembered the gentle warm feeling of the caress upon her haunch as it went down to her flank.

        Acoustiana jumped from her seat. She felt her heart pounding in her chest as she tried to collect herself. She was able to catch her cocoa that had been resting on the arm of the seat before her sudden movements sent it teetering off the edge.

        Taking a few deep breaths to calm herself, Acoustiana shot a few glances around to see if anypony had noticed. She was relieved to see that there was nopony in the area, and those that could have, seemed far too busy with their own preparations to have bothered to pay her any mind. As one of the rare moments, she was thankful for her silence. She knew that if she in fact had a voice, there would have been a startled scream of some kind for sure.

        Acoustiana decided that her rest was going to have to wait. If her mind was going to betray her as it had, she would need to put it to work. After gathering what was left of her breakfast, she headed back up to the stage to see if she might meet any of the other musicians that had arrived.

        Acoustiana didn’t know many of the other musicians. She had only met some of them once, not long after arriving in Foalsdale. It was an awkward gathering, more for the director to actually air the issue of her being a mute to the conductor and the rest of the ensemble, rather than for them to get acquainted.

        The full ensemble had a wide assortment of talent. There was the string section where she played, the brass section, and the percussion section. As is the case for most ensembles, earth ponies were the predominant musicians. However, there where a couple of pegasi whom played flutes with astounding capability, along with the brass instruments they got stuck playing half the time. And other than herself, the only other unicorn played in the string section as well. Her choice of instrument was the double harp. Acoustiana had tried to play the harp once, but found the flow and position not to be her forte. That, and she truly enjoyed the closeness she got with her violin more so than she got with the harps she tried to play.

        Acoustiana looked for these unique individuals, and found that one of the pegasi had arrived, but the other had not. Noticing that the harpist had her instrument placed, but was otherwise missing, she decided to try to find the harpist. She wanted to get to know her better.

        Attempting to ask the pair of ponies talking near the breakfast table, she trotted over to them and waited for them to notice she was there. When one looked over to her with a questioning look, Acoustiana attempted to mime out a harpist playing and looked to them, tilting her head to the side.

        “I am sorry, but what is the matter? I do not quite get what you’re attempting to accomplish with that gesture.” The colt was rather annoyed by his conversation being interrupted for some game of charades.

        The mare he was addressing seemed to get a realization as her eyes opened wide from her previously annoyed expression. She then tugged at the ear of the colt and whispered something to him.

        “By Celestia, are you bucking me? Fine. Listen whoever you are, I don’t know your strange language, but I don't have time to play any silly guessing games, so just write what you want down so we can get back to what we where doing.”

        Although the scenario wasn't new to her, the colt’s words cut extra deep on this morning. Acoustiana did her best to maintain her composure as she used her magic to open the case to her double bass and levitate out her notepad and pencil.

        “Have you seen the Harpist?” Acoustiana wrote as she felt the tears threaten to fill up her eyes.

        “Yes, she stepped outside for some inane reason. Now if that is all, good day, miss,the colt said as he waved a dismissive hoof at her and turned back to his breakfast companion.

        Acoustiana did not hesitate to take her leave and headed outside. She knew the type of colt that he was. Full of himself, feeling repressed being in a group such as this and not a big shot playing in Canterlot. And for whatever reason, that type always seemed to feel it wa their job to take out their frustrations on other ponies, which made Acoustiana the easiest of targets for their misguided rage.

        Upon opening the back door, Acoustiana heard a small demure voice singing a rather old tune. She then felt the blast of cold air as it hurried the voice along with it. The stinging air also seemed to break her control on her tears, seeing how they now started to stain her coat as they flowed.

        “Oh, hello. Sorry for my bad singing. I just like to wish and dream of being a soloist and all. Heh” The unicorn looked fully embarrassed and was fidgeting and taking small steps backwards. “Oh my! Are you okay? I know the cold air sometimes gets to me too, but I’ve never seen it cause that many tears.” The unicorn looked very concerned upon actually looking at Acoustiana’s face.

        Acoustiana attempted to put on a smile, but gave up quickly. She then lowered her head and shook her head. She got out of the doorway and sat down on the cold pavement and let her tears fall. She knew she was being overly emotional for such a simple issue, and she was probably making the other unicorn feel rather uncomfortable. She just didn’t have the energy to hold it all in this morning.

        “Now that speaks more than any words will. Tell me what’s got you down? I promise I won’t tell a soul if it’s personal” the other unicorn pleaded as she trotted over and gave Acoustiana a warm hug.

        Returning the hug, Acoustiana felt better. She then levitated her notepad over.

        “I wish I could tell you my problems, but I hope you don’t mind reading them instead.”

        The unicorn simply smiled and patted Acoustiana on her head. “So you’re Acoustiana? I’ve heard lots about you. And no, I don’t mind reading your issues one bit! Anything I can do to help you would be my pleasure.”

        Acoustiana allowed a small honest smile to emerge on her snout, and wrote out her troubles.

        “What? Who does that mule think he is? It’s not your fault you can’t talk like everypony else! Why I’ll show him...” The unicorn attempted to storm back inside to give the colt a piece of her mind but was stopped by a hoof to her chest.

        “I thank you for the gesture, but it would only cause more trouble than it’s worth. You have more than already made it better.”

        The unicorn still wore an upset look but ceased her storming. “You can’t just let them treat you like this. But, I do see your point on my not clobbering him with a well-placed chair,she said as she sat next to Acoustiana. “So why did you want to find me in the first place? I am sure it wasn’t to talk about what happened, so what’s up?”

        “I just wanted to get to know some of the others in the ensemble, and figured you would be the easiest to talk to first. More things in common and all,” Acoustiana wrote as she finished drying her eyes and continued to wear a smile.

        “Point. Well my name is Hearth Song. As you already know, I play the double harp. I moved here recently from Trottingham. I wanted to get out into the world and be my own mare. It sure is hard to do though. How about yourself? I know you can’t talk, and that you can play a solo duet. Speaking of which, how the hay do you manage that? I’ve tried playing with my magic, but it always comes off jumbled and I always play more strings than I mean to. You must be like a master at using magic or something.”

        Acoustiana gave a silent chuckle, and knew one way to prove that her ability had little to do with magical mastery. She concentrated her magic and attempted to lift up Hearth Song. Acoustiana put all her effort into the spell. She quickly stopped as she started feeling the strain upon her horn.

        “Okay so master magician is definitely not the case. No offence, but is that all the power you have? I can say your magic has a nice feel to it, but your power is like a kitten. Er, sorry, that was mean.” The unicorn looked sheepish as she facehoofed.

        Acoustiana, though winded, patted the mare and channeled another spell.

        “Whoa! Okay now I get it.” Hearth Song was able to feel the effects distinctly. Acoustiana was braiding her mane and was able to manipulate every individual hair. “Now that is a nifty trick.”

        The back door opened and a portly older colt appeared. “If you ladies could please come inside and take your places, we shall be starting shortly.”

        Acoustiana felt much better than she did when she first came out back. And she made a mental note to give proper thanks to her fellow musician for her kind words.


        Acoustiana took her place with her instruments and grabbed hold of her violin. She hoped not to have to use her bass for a while after all the magic she had just expended. She hoped that the composer would remember her request not to expect her to use her talent for more than short segments if at all.

        The pudgy unicorn stepped onto the conductor’s podium and levitated his baton. Clearing his throat, he recited some initial instructions.

        “Ahem, thank you all for being so timely. My late arrival was due in large part to an unfortunate change in the venue’s request of our performances. As such, they will be expecting a slightly less-than-customary musical performance for their upcoming shows. Now, as odd as some of these are going to be, I am asking that all of you do your best to maintain a professional attitude, that I know you are all capable of, and work through the...let us say eclectic choices we are required to perform.”

        The ensemble was a tad dumbstruck by the declaration. Some looked to each other and muttered quietly, attempting to figure out what all of the conductor’s words actually meant.

        The conductor rapped his baton against his stand and again cleared his throat. “Well then, time to get on with it. If any of you truly have an objection to the material, I will have an aside with you after this day’s practice. If you simply cannot handle it, then feel free to take your leave.” The conductor proceeded to levitate a large stack of papers out of his bag next to the podium and started placing specific papers onto the music stand of each attending musician.

        Finally able to see what all the commotion was about, Acoustiana looked over her parts that she was expected to play. She noted that they seemed to be a mix of jazz and orchestral styles. Alone, the music didn’t seem worthy of such disgruntled behaviour, so she took a closer look.

        On her second pass, she noticed that there were some jazz-style waltzes. She tried to imagine such a silly thing and realized that it must be the source of the controversy. The flow was completely off, the cue for the second trumpet made her feel they would grate against the melody, and the sheer timing would be a miracle to perform.

        She then started to hear the groans coming from the brass section as they realized that almost every single one of them would be expected to play for every piece, well, almost all of the brass section that was. Acoustiana noticed the two pegasi high hoof each other in a small celebration as one pointed happily to some of the parts they were given. At which the other pegasus hoof pumped and let out an audible “Yess!”

        The conductor once again rapped his baton against his stand. “Now that you all have had a chance to see this atrocity...We shall now conduct ourselves as professionals and perform to the best of our abilities.”  He tapped his baton twice on the stand and fussed with his papers. “Let us start with the one piece I know will need the most work. I want to start us off with this so as to gauge how much time I shall need to allot to its refinement. So if you will all go to the fourth dance scene, we shall get this show on the road.” After the noise of shuffling papers died down, he rapped his baton on his stand and then held it high in the air as he waited for all the musicians to still themselves for the first attempt.

        Acoustiana found herself wishing she had some earplugs. It was solid for the introduction, but then the tempo changed and the brass section seemed to double its volume, the percussionists lost their timing, and the strings lost their unity. The conductor rapped his baton against his stand so hard, Acoustiana was amazed it didn’t break in two.

        “Very good then. I task you all to practice that one on your own time as it seems that everypony will need to get his or her own part before we even try playing together. Brass, you need to gain more confidence and be less timid on your entrance to compensate for the shift from three to four. Percussion, your back-beat started to drag during same said transition. Strings, I noticed some of you tried to keep with the percussion even though they lost their timing, while others kept to the timing of the song. I cannot fault either, however; you will need to practice nonetheless.”

        The ensemble started to grumble, which prompted more raps from the conductor. His expression did not change, so Acoustiana figured he fully expected the response he got.

        “Good sir, a waltz that uses a four beat, well I must say, is not a waltz at all.” The conductor appeared to not hear the criticism from the member of the ensemble.

        “Now that that is out of our way, we shall move onto the more traditional pieces. Sixth ballroom dance, if you please.”

        Acoustiana complied as did the rest of the ensemble. The section they were to practice next was a more traditional ballroom-style dance song. She also noted that her copy of the piece had added  written instructions. She let her forehead lean on her music stand and let out a silent sigh. Even without reading the note, she knew what it said. She was being requested to play both her instruments.

        “Miss Acoustiana, are you ready?” The conductor spoke in a slightly softer tone than he had been using.

        Acoustiana took a deep breath and straightened in her seat. She then used her magic to put her double bass into position and then nodded to the conductor.

        Acoustiana did her best to maintain her performance. She was able to noticed a few times she faulted a note on her bass, and when she corrected it, faltered on her violin. Her faults caused her to get frustrated, and ate away at what little energy she had left. She started feeling the strain of having to use her magic faster than expected, but did her best to push through it. At the end of the song, she was well fatigued and was breathing heavily, as though she had been whistling a long-winded solo.

        “That was an exemplary first attempt. Aside from a minor hiccup, that was marvelous. Those that did make a mistake, I know you know who you are, so just do your best to correct what went wrong and that will be perfect. Now, as per request, we shall come back to that after some time to give it another try. For now, let us move onto the next movement of the sixth ballroom dance scene.”

        Acoustiana begrudgingly turned her page, but was at least glad the conductor heeded her request not to push her. Not that he had a choice in this instance, as she would have had to  refuse playing again so soon, lest she faint from over-exhaustion. She looked over the next section and saw that it wasn’t as much of a reprieve as she was expecting. She wasn’t going to have to play both her instruments at the same time, but still both were called for. She was at least going to have a long stretch of measures before needing her bass though, and hoped to regain some energy before then.

        Rapping his baton upon his stand, the conductor motioned for the brass to start, then the percussion. The strings were last, and most subtle to start. The pace was slow, the tone low. Acoustiana figured the scene the piece was made for was to be a dark and foreboding one by the sound of how the minor chords played out. Knowing her limits, Acoustiana didn’t push to do her best, but played more relaxed. Her restraint allowed her to rest more, but still showed her participation. It soon was time for her to play the double bass. She had not realized the simplicity of the notes earlier. All she had to do was play the same long drawn out notes. The sound gave a deep backdrop to the higher-toned strings and the flutes playing what would easily be interpreted as tiphoofing ponies.

        As the flutes gently quieted, the percussion picked up in a fast, rumbling tympani roll to illustrate dramatic suspense. The full ensemble slowly picked back up as the drumroll faded away. Acoustiana had a nagging feeling she had heard some of the notes before. As she concentrated harder on the music around her, she began to realize where she had heard the music.

        The road was dark, the fog was oppressive.

        Acoustiana stopped playing to shake her head clear. It was just a dream, and the only way that melody could be there is if she had heard it somewhere else. That’s what she told herself.

        As she wished for a voice, a solitary violin played in the distance. Its notes were sad, and filled with loneliness.

        When Acoustiana broke out of her thoughts again, she realized the whole ensemble was looking at her, as the conductor was rapping his baton with much fury upon his stand.

        “I do not begin to assume to know what possessed you to deviate so heavily from the rest of the group, but if you could please refrain from doing it again, it would be  most appreciated.” The conductor straightened his mane and checked his bow tie to ensure it was still in place.

        “Indeed, I would say your failed attempt at bravado or whatever that was, is certainly not welcome.” The voice of a familiar, and rude, colt was slung out over the ensemble.

        “Hey! Did you even hear what she played? It was utterly beautiful! And if you were paying attention, she is having to use her magic. Quick note, sometimes our horns take over a bit and guide us to doing something we are meant to do,” Hearth Song shot back over the ensemble

        The conductor called them to order using his baton rather hard against his stand. “Enough! Ms. Hearth Song, I am aware of the phenomenon that you described, which is why I was leaving the issue to rest. And you Mr. Hot Air, that comment was out of order and such will not be tolerated here. Everypony makes mistakes, so unless you have something constructive to say, you shall keep your muzzle shut. Now to let everybody cool off, we shall take a ten-minute break. Please return focused and ready to act professionally. Ms. Acoustiana, I would like a brief word with you if you please.”

        Perking an ear up upon hearing her name, Acoustiana stopped cringing and trying to hide from the ensemble to peer out at the conductor. He was looking at her, but not with an angry face like she expected. She waited for the majority of the ensemble to disperse on their break before fully getting up and trotting over to the conductor to get her inevitable tongue-lashing.

        “Thank you for speaking with me. I know that last section was a strain on you, and I do pay attention to how my musicians are doing while up here. I did also note a slight flare in your magical energy when you started playing that haunting song on your violin. As such, I will not, neigh cannot, hold it against you for the disruption. What I will ask of you, however, is that you write down the melody that came over you. As Ms. Hearth Song noted, it was an amazing air, and I would love to hear more of it.” The conductor put on a genuine smile in an attempt to help Acoustiana feel better, as she was looking ready to cry her eyes out.

        “Now, I can see that you are fatigued already. And we haven’t gotten halfway through what I had planned for the day. So how about you take the rest of the day off? We will be back tomorrow morning, and you can practice the songs on your own time so as you’re not to fall behind the rest of the ensemble. Though I know your talent well enough to know you would probably be fine without the practice; such is always the best option now, isn’t it?” The conductor then added as he looked about the room for nearby listeners, “and don’t forget to jot down as much of that as you can tonight. I am serious when I say I would love to hear it. It really was that good.”

        Acoustiana stood rather surprised for a moment as she processed all that the conductor told her. She let her jaw drop at his offer to let her take the rest of the day off. However, her professional mind kicked back in and she corrected her posture so she could regain her composure. She then grabbed her notepad with her magic and wrote her response to the conductor.

        “I thank you for your words. They are very kind and well-received. I would like permission to stay until we break for lunch. And about the song in my head— I must apologize for playing in the middle of your practice, magically induced or not. It was unprofessional of me to allow such an offence. The movement will be written out and delivered to your hoof on the next morn.”

        “I understand. Please enjoy the remainder of your break, and after we adjourn for lunch, I shall look forward to seeing you again tomorrow with your wonderful composition.”


        The rest of the practice session went without incident. Acoustiana was able to rest through most of the rehearsal. She felt that the conductor purposefully started choosing scenes light on strings, and instead had piano heavy movements. The lunch break came and Acoustiana took her leave. She made sure to thank Hearth Song before leaving, not only for their talk before practice, but also for standing up for her against Hot Air’s insult.

        Acoustiana packed her instruments and headed out to meet with her friends. Remembering to stop by the fruit stand first, she headed towards the garden square. As she cantered in the direction she knew Cantaloupe would be, she couldn’t help but notice that the sky was extremely cloudy. It was far darker out than it should be, and the other ponies out on their business were heard complaining about the lack of the scheduled sunlight.

        Remembering Ray’s job, Acoustiana became decidedly worried. If the weather pegasi were having trouble clearing the skies, then Ray might not be able to take his lunch with them, and that would also mean that she and Cantaloupe would be unable to locate Pastel’s home so they could meet up for lunch.

        Acoustiana picked up her gait to a slow gallop so she could get with Cantaloupe to see what they would do because of the weather. At this speed, it wasn’t long before she arrived at her friend’s fruit stand. However, she was finding it hard to spot her friend behind all of the ponies that crowded the stand. Many had bits at the ready and were shouting their orders of fruit over one another.

        In a small state of shock, Acoustiana attempted to figure out how to locate her friend. She finally settled on heading through the garden to come up behind the stall. At least then she might be able to see her friend.

        Acoustiana galloped around the block to where one of the other entrances to the garden was. She ran through the garden, avoiding the many obstacles on the paths, generally meant for slow peaceful strolls, not speeding ponies.

        As she rounded a rather bulky tree, she was able to get a closer look at the large, and loud, group of ponies surrounding Cantaloupe's stand. She slowed her gait to a trot and approached the wrought iron gate that separated the street from the garden.

        “Hold on—what did you want again? Sorry, all out of that’ orange? Oh sorry seemed to have missed it. Here you go—thanks for buying!” Cantaloupe was being run ragged by the herd of ponies clambering to buy her fruit. Acoustiana took note that Cantaloupe’s mane was starting to fray and generally look far more messy than her normal style.

        Knowing that getting Cantaloupe’s attention with all the ponies ordering fruit was going to take a small feat of magic, Acoustiana set down her instruments. She concentrated and lightly tugged at Cantaloupe’s tail to gain her attention. All she accomplished was to make Cantaloupe swat at the imaginary pest. Attempting the same method again, but with a little more force, Acoustiana was greeted with the same result.

        Not wanting to be too forceful, but still wanting her friend’s attention, Acoustiana formulated a new strategy. She wrote out her message before enacting her plan, so that she could apologize quickly.

        Taking out her violin, and standing on her hind legs so as to allow for the sound to reach the crowd’s ears easily, Acoustiana silently whispered her apology to her violin for the evil she was about to commit. With a long drawn-out sweep of her bow, Acoustiana sent out a dreadfully high-pitched screech from her violin. The crowd quickly went silent as the ponies cringed and covered their ears.

        She quickly lifted her notepad up with her magic and floated it over to Cantaloupe before the crowd shouted their displeasure. Said earth pony had dove under her stand and had her hooves clamped onto her ears when she felt the prodding of the notepad on her nose.

        “Who in the hay? Oh! Tiana!” Cantaloupe banged her head on her stand as she tried to jump up before exiting the undercarriage. Rubbing her head, she read what Acoustiana had written as the crowd started to murmur louder and louder.

        “I am terribly sorry for the disruption, but I must talk with you.”

        The crowd started shouting at Acoustiana for their ringing ears. In return, she looked to Cantaloupe for help, and hoped that her friend understood why she did what she did.

        “QUIET DOWN! SHE IS MY FRIEND AND SHE CAN’T TALK, SO QUIET!!!” Cantaloupe screamed as loud as she could back at the crowd, who in turn became very quiet.

        “Thank you all. This will but take a moment, and then I shall get back to your orders. And for your kind understanding some of the produce will go on sale.” The many faces that once held angry or confused looks now held smug smiles and contented smirks. The crowd started to quietly talk amongst themselves as Cantaloupe turned to her friend.

        “Don’t worry—that was one good way to get my attention. So I take it you’re off for lunch? Well I haven’t seen Ray at all today. I’m not...” Cantaloupe found herself cut off by Acoustiana pointing skyward. “Oh...yeah I can see why now. Uh, this is a bit of a problem. I can’t just leave my customers right now. I’m selling out, and that is just gonna be the best thing ever. Hrm, what to do, what to do...” Cantaloupe seemed to be talking to herself.

        Writing more down on her notepad, Acoustiana tried to help the process of coming up with a plan. “Why don’t I go find him and, gather Pastel, and then we come back here? That way you can keep selling your fruit and we can still get together for lunch.”

        “HA! That’s a great idea. I don’t know why I suddenly have all these ponies wanting to buy my fruit, but by Celestia, today has just been busy, busy, busy. So yes, that idea is just perfect. I should be selling out in like ten minutes flat. So by the time you get back I should have this heap packed up and emptied. Ohh, my family is gonna be so proud! I can’t wait to show them today’s profits.” Cantaloupe’s eyes glistened with unabated joy.

        Acoustiana nodded to her friend and placed her notepad back into her case. Getting her instruments loaded up again, she waved and headed back out of the garden. She heard the crowd start to get louder as she trotted off and listened to hear what Cantaloupe had to say.

        “Okay, for the ‘being kind and patient’ sale, all melons will be ten percent off. What? Oh I’m almost out? Oh fine! The kiwis are also on sale then.” The crowd seemed to agree, and the clinking of bits continued.


        Acoustiana wasn’t sure where to start her search, but figured if she just kept an eye on the sky, she would eventually find the weather ponies hard at work. With such extensive cloud coverage that wasn’t supposed to be here, she figured the best spot would be the one that was cleared of clouds.

        She looked to the west: clouds to the forest, no clearing.

        She looked to the east: clouds to the mountains, no clearing.

        She looked north: clouds as far as she could see, rolling down the valley.

        She looked south: the clouds where thickest, and seemed to be growing darker.

        Acoustiana was at a loss. The clouds were everywhere, and not a single clear patch of sky was evident. The only option left would be to ask the townsponies. So she took out her notepad and wrote her question down, resolved to the difficult task of asking ponies.

        As she went about politely trying to gain the attention of the townsponies, so as to show them her question. She quickly found that her query was not unique. All of those she asked wanted to know the same thing. She also found that all of them where quite willing to converse with her on the matter, even though she was unable to talk and they would have to read her replies instead of just speaking normally.

        Acoustiana eventually pieced together, from the many ponies she talked to, a general idea of what was happening. The mail mare said that a lot of the cities and towns to the north where in need of heavy rainfall for their orchards and fields. As Cloudsdale was to the southeast, the weather ponies of Foalsdale couldn’t just poof the clouds like they would normally, but instead had to move them. Then she found out from various restaurant goers, that the very few pegasi that were spotted gathering food for the weather team looked ragged and more than a little upset. They figured whatever was happening was unpleasant and, obviously, not working. They also noted that the pegasi always headed south with their saddle bags loaded with supplies.

        Acoustiana chose to head in that direction. Where the clouds were at their thickest, and darkest. However, as she set off down the road, she heard a distinctly familiar loud crashing sound. Looking around the next corner, she confirmed her suspicion. Pastel was at a full gallop heading straight for her, or at least the southern exit road.

        As Pastel got close, Acoustiana saw the look on her face. Pastel was terrified, with a look that one would expect on a pony being chased by an Ursa Major, or a dragon. Yet nothing was chasing her. Acoustiana became very worried, and she tried to gain the racing artist’s attention.

        Pastel only briefly looked at the waving Acoustiana before tearing off down the southern road. She knew she was too late to keep her promise, and didn’t have time to stop and greet her new friend. She did hope that Acoustiana would follow though, as she knew Ray would be more than she could probably handle at this point.

        Acoustiana noticed the glance she got, and the brief look of happiness. This impression was all she needed to surmise: whatever Pastel was running from, or to, was of utmost importance. Having found one of the two ponies she was out to locate, she resolved herself to follow as best she could. Pastel was a very fast pony, and Acoustiana was far too tired to maintain the breakneck speed. However, the purple and burgundy pony would be easily spotted in the crowd, so Acoustiana was not worried about losing her.


        Pastel galloped as fast as her hooves allowed. She used her magic gently moving aside anypony that was in her path. She knew that the townsfolk would understand. They had dealt with her shenanigans for such a long time that she knew they wouldn’t fuss much about a gentle nudge so as not to be trampled.

        Reaching the place she knew Ray would be, she started scanning the skies. By the looks of the mess, she knew all she would have to do was listen, and she would find her target. She started searching the area with her ears, and soon heard the faint sound of the voice she sought.

        It took time to follow the sound, as she had to navigate terrain not suited for walking on, but eventually she was able to find where the weather ponies were working, and the one in charge. Her relief was short-lived as Ray began shouting.

        “How bloody incompetent can you all be? This isn’t some difficult math question! Move the clouds east! No! You’re just bunching them up! Stop that! No! You imbeciles! What are you all, fresh from flight camp? Use your bloody wings to bloody move that mass east! It isn’t hard! By Celestia, this winter wrap up will be just simply horrific if none of you can even move a bloody cloud mass!”

        Pastel knew her task. She had a promise to keep, and Ray may not like it now, but he made her swear to it. Gathering her magic, she prepared her spell, but wanted to try diplomacy first.

        “Ray Cloudburst! This is your one and only warning to calm down and talk to me. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be.”

        Ray looked down from his cloud perch with bloodshot eyes. “Stay out of this, Pastel. If you haven’t noticed, we are in the middle of a bloody crisis. If you want to help, conjure some competence pills for these featherbrains I have to deal with rather than threaten ME!”

        Pastel’s eyes began to water as she shot out her spell. The cloud supporting Ray quickly wrapped around him, locking all his limbs and wings down so as to render him unable to move. She then wrapped his muzzle in cloud preventing any more yelling and obscenities.

        “Stop fighting, Ray! You made me promise. Remember that promise?”

        Acoustiana arrived to find her two friends glaring at each other. Ray was up on a cloud, a cloud wrapped in a blue magical aura.  Pastel was concentrating on her spell, as her horn flared greatly with her use of magic.

        Hearing somepony arrive, Pastel dared a glance to see who it was, and was very relieved to find it was indeed the one she wished would follow her. She then got a sickening feeling in her tummy as she knew there would be questions needing answering, and those answers were not hers to give. Setting aside those feelings, she had a more important and immediate problem.

        “Acoustiana, please for the sake of Ray, I need you to use your magic to pull him down to the ground, but not too far so as to damage the cloud. I know this is strange, and you’re confused, but please, we need you to help.” Pastel pleaded with not just her words, but also with her eyes. Allowing the tears she was holding back and the fears she subverted to surface ever so slightly, her eyes glistened an widened.

        Acoustiana looked to her friends. Ray had eyes filled with rage, his nostrils flared and all his muscles were flexed in an attempt to break free. Pastel was concentrating on her binding spell, and had fear in her eyes. She then noticed the other pegasi starting to pay attention to the goings-on. They all looked worn out, and more than a few looked at Ray’s situation and put on a smug smile. She knew that whatever was happening, it would be best to get Ray out of the situation so that they could hopefully all talk about it.

        Acoustiana channeled her magic and gently lowered the cloud to shoulder height, leaving it just enough clearance off the ground so as not to be bothered by grasses. She then looked to Pastel for further instructions.

        “The rest of you had best get back to work.” Pastel shot a warning glare to the other pegasi now gathering to watch Ray get carted off. “This is for HIS sake, not yours. You all have a job to do, and I suggest you get back to it, NOW!” The pegasi all quickly darted off into the clouds and away from the dagger-sharp stare Pastel had just flung at them.

        “Thank you, Acoustiana. You have no idea how much your help means to the both of us. Ray may not agree right now, but don’t worry, he will.” Ray gave a loud snort and what sounded like a guttural growl. “Hush, you, I tried talking you down, but no! You just won’t listen to reason in this state. I am sorry for being late to prevent this,” Pastel appeared sad and tried to brush a bit of Ray’s mane that had gotten into his face. As her hoof almost reached him however, she had to stop to redouble her efforts to maintain the spell as Ray violently tried to break free.

        “Fine, you want hair in your face, let it stay. Acoustiana, I think it best if you help further. I cannot say you will be given answers to all of this, but I can tell you that after a few minutes in a room at my house, Ray will be back to himself. After that, we can see what happens. I am sorry to have to have involved you, but I am glad you are here. Thank you again.” Pastel leaned up to Acoustiana to give a legless hug. “Now if you would help escort us to my place we can get this situation resolved. We shall avoid the town as much as possible—no need to parade poor Ray more than we would have to.”


        Arriving at a multicolored and well-crafted house, Acoustiana and Pastel guided Ray and his cloud inside. It was mostly just a large room from what Acoustiana was able to tell. The front room was enormous, and very cluttered. The walls covered in paintings, the floor covered with a canvas that showed multiple splotches of paint of various colors and types. The scent of the room was a rather pleasant one though: jasmine and something subtle that Acoustiana wasn’t able to place.

        “I need to give Ray some medicine. Its an aerosol, and as I do not know how it will affect you, it would be best if you stayed in this room, deary. In a few minutes Ray should be back to himself.” Pastel gently nudged the cloud into a back room. She shut the door and a there was silence.

        After a few minutes, Acoustiana heard a dull thump from the room. Shortly after, the door opened and Pastel came out. Her normally braided hair was all unraveled and frizzy. She looked as though she were just shocked by lightning and her hair got stuck in the position.

        “Ahem...yes this is what it does to me. Magical medicine and all, strange things happen. Hehe...any who, Ray, I think our friend would like to know you are in fact okay. Please reassure her.” Pastel called into the room and spoke as gently as she could. Acoustiana also took note that Pastel looked very worn out. Most likely the expenditure of magic she had to use in order to keep Ray on that cloud.

        Heavy hoofsteps were heard from the room. Acoustiana watched as Ray exited. Every ounce of anger that he had previously was gone. In its place was a tired and remorseful pegasus. Ray never took his eyes off the floor, his wings drooping at his sides, dragging on the floor.

        “I...I’m...Please forgive anything and everything you have seen me say and or do Miss Acoustiana. wasn’t the real me.” Ray slumped to the ground and covered his face with his leg.

        “Oh there, there, Ray,” Pastel quickly ruffled Ray’s mane. “Nopony is perfect. I got there in time before it happened again. You just got loud to the other pegasi...and said a few things, but nothing more. And I had you wrapped up before she got there, so you didn’t say anything to her.”

        Acoustiana was now completely baffled. She watched as Pastel went into the room and came out with a bucket of water and doused herself with it. She then went about brushing her mane and tail, and re-braided them both.

        Letting out a long sigh, Ray got up from the floor and straightened himself out. He preened his wings and fixed his own mane. He then looked to Acoustiana and seemed to realize she was still there.

        “Bugger...” He looked to Pastel, “Did you tell her anything?”

        “Are you implying I broke my promise?” Pastel gave Ray a sharp look along with her tone of warning.

        “I would never imply such a thing. I am merely ensuring that the explanation I feel she is deserving wouldn’t be needless recitation.” Ray was looking down at the floor and scraped at it with his hoof.

        “Dear, if you want her to know, then tell her. If you can’t, then give me permission to. Don’t act like a shy foal on dance night.”

        “I...yes. Please Pastel, if you would be so kind as to inform our new friend of our...arrangement...that would be satisfactory.”

        Rolling her eyes, Pastel set down her brush and hair ties and took a seat on a couch she pulled from off to the side, and offered the other half to Acoustiana.

        “So, to make a long story short, Ray and myself have met in a very odd circumstance. You have now seen both of to say. I get clumsy, some would say willfully destructive, when I get to some of my deadlines. I keep my word, and that includes having a painting or work of art turned in on the time I said it would. Well, when I just got started...that wasn’t what the town saw...they saw me cause hundreds of bits of property damage. As such, I often found myself in a holding cell by the guards. And that is where we met.

        “Ray, as you saw, has an issue when things with the weather don’t go to plan. It doesn’t seem to crop up when he is just a worker, but when he is in charge. As the best strategist on keeping the skies clear and sunny, he has had to run into this issue. The specifics are meaningless, but suffice it to say, his anger gets out of control. He did some regrettable things his first time in charge, and ended up in the holding cell along with me.

        “We got to talking. Both of us were good ponies. We just had...issues...and that wasn’t completely a bad thing. After our trials, we got sent to some counseling. We just so happened to have gotten the same counselor. So we met frequently and while we learned more about ourselves, we shared with each other. The counselor was actually pleased to hear about that. They said that keeping it inside caused a pony to build up negative emotions that would eventually burst out into greater problems. They said that sharing with each other made us more willing to explore ways to deal with our issues.

        “That was when me and Ray figured out a solution. We knew each other’s ‘triggers’ and trusted each other enough to know the other would do their best to keep our issue to a minimum issue. We both promised to keep it between each other, unless it was required to tell someone, like the counselor. We aren't proud of our issues, but they are a part of who we are.”

        Acoustiana looked between the two. Pastel held a warm smile, while Ray looked miserable. She wanted to feel pity for him, but found that it wasn’t pity she felt when she looked upon him. He was a smart, strong pegasus. On the inside, he was kind and caring. He knew he had a demon inside him, and that seemed to shatter him. The pony she saw, looking miserable, was a pony that wanted to be better, but couldn’t. Yet this pony tried nonetheless, just like her.

Silence is Bittersweet, Part 4

        As Pastel fussed over Cantaloupe’s mane, Acoustiana gave her own a once-over to ensure it was still satisfactory. Seeing that it was the same as when she had it done earlier, she continued to watch her two friends. They did battle against, as Pastel cursedly called it, “the dastardly maniacal tangle-monster” that had grown in Cantaloupe’s hair. She silently giggled at the scene of Pastel’s using Cantaloupe’s back as leverage as she tried to coordinate magical and brute-force methods of styling her friends mane.

        Letting out a pleasant sigh, Acoustiana thought warmly on her close friends. Ever since those first few days, they had grown so close. Pastel, as well as Ray, had grown especially close to Acoustiana. That afternoon sharing of their secret solidified any questions of how and why the two seemed to be so close, yet fight so adamantly. Acoustiana remembered how she, for a time, worried that the two were more than just friends. When Hearts and Hooves day had arrived, she was ashamed to admit she was pleased to hear Pastel didn’t have any plans. She claimed she certainly had none with Ray. Acoustiana never heard from Ray that day, though, which saddened her slightly, but she did not let it deter her.

        Tonight was going to be the night she achieved her goal. This was going to be the time and place she finally got her special somepony. She knew it in her heart, and even her dreams had confirmed as much. By Celestia, she knew Ray would be hers by the end of this night. This evening belonged to her.

        “Well now, don’t you...ouch...look so happy you’re...ack!...practically glowing?” Cantaloupe said, struggling at maintaining her stance as multiple brushes and hair implements tugged at her mane.

        Pastel paused from her fight against the tangle-monster” and gave Acoustiana a look-over. She attempted to talk, but found that the hairbrush in her mouth to made said action a tad difficult, and removed the offending implement.

        “My word, you are quite right Canty: she is practically glowing. What are you thinking about in that mind of yours? I have noticed you have been exceptionally excited about this congratulatory party since you started planning it. You’re up to something aren't you?”

        Acoustiana blushed deeply and tried to wave a hoof for them to pass over the thought. She also tried to hide her face behind her mane, once she glimpsed it from her reflection, the deep red now showing in her cheeks.

        “Fine then, don’t tell us. But for the love of Celestia, if its a prank, please, oh please, don’t do something that will mess with our manes! least not after all this work we are putting in.”

        “What? You're gonna give up like that, Pastel? That blush means something, and I wanna know! Tell m...ouch!” Cantaloupe found herself cut off by an extra strong tug of her mane by Pastel, who glared at her for her pressing the issue.

        “If she wanted us to know, she would have told us. You should know by now if Tiana wanted to say something, she wouldn’t hesitate a moment.  Its most likely a surprise and as much as I really, really, want to know what she has planned, I shan't ruin her planning. And neither will you!”

        “Thank you for understanding,” Acoustiana signed to her friend.

        “Think nothing of it, dear. Now back to the matter at hoof. This... thing shall be defeated one way or another. Pastel gripped the hairbrush in her mouth with renewed vigor and went back to work on Cantaloupe’s mane.

        Acoustiana watched her friends struggle for a moment longer before drifting off into memory once more. The whole reason for the party they were preparing was to celebrate her success with her violin composition. She was proud of how she had turned the song from her nightmare into a heartfelt composition. When she delivered it to the conductor, she even demonstrated a few measures for him. What little he had heard of the haunting elegy had brought tears to his eyes. He immediately went on a campaign to find her a patron so as to pay for a performance that would allow her masterpiece to be heard by as many ponies as possible.

        The thought of when she told Hearth Song soon drifted into her mind. As she recalled it, it was quite the humorous moment. That silly mare did have a lot of energy when she needed it, or so it seemed.


        As Acoustiana packed up her instruments from the last performance of her strange theater gig, Hearth Song trotted over to her, bearing a bright smile. In tow, she carried  her instrument enveloped in her magic and lightly set it down once she was close enough to speak.

        “Oh my gosh! Is it true? Are you going to be performing a solo next month? Is it that beautiful piece your horn made you play during our first rehearsal? C’mon, spill it! I gotta know!” Hearth Song bounced as she asked each question.

        Amused at her fellow musician’s enthusiasm, Acoustiana tried to calm her down before answering. She just wanted to sign out her answers, but Hearth was never able to find the time to stop by for lessons, even after they were offered. Acoustiana didn’t mind, though, as she knew Hearth was busy with her own music, and knew it took a lot of work to get as good as she was. Acoustiana took out her notepad to answer the excited unicorn’s questions.

        Yes, I will be performing a solo. The conductor kindly found me a patron to pay for a solo performance time slot. But the conductor said that once ponies hear it, I should expect a flood of requests. The song is, in fact, the one you heard at the rehearsal. Before you try and ask—no I will not perform it earlier. You will have to wait until my solo performance. I got you a ticket, though.” Acoustiana then pulled out a pair of tickets from her case and floated them over to Hearth Song.

        Hearth Song’s smile grew as she read the message. At the end she let out a squeal and started jumping around in celebration. Not paying attention, she soon tripped over an errant music stand and ended up a tangled mass on the floor. She poked her head up through her mane, still smiling broadly.

        “That is so awesome! I knew you could do it! And when you get all famous, we can rub it in to all those snub-nosed huffy-puffy ponies that kept mocking you for not havin’ a voice. ha! That’ll show ‘em.” Hearth’s expression took on a menacing appearance, which in her current position just made her look completely ridiculous.

        Acoustiana helped the silly pony onto her hooves and used her magic to fix her mane back up. Hearth then took the two tickets still floating in the air and put them in her saddlebag. Turning to Acoustiana, Hearth—


        A loud thud followed by a high-pitched Cantaloupe screech broke Acoustiana out of her reverie. She looked back to see Pastel on her back with all four hooves flailing helplessly in the air.

        “Ow ow ow...isn’t there some magical spell or something you can cast to make this easier? I can tell you this, though, after tonight I promise to maintain my mane... I don’t wana have to go through this ever again.” Cantaloupe was rubbing her head from the fierce battle that was being waged.

        “You had better!” Pastel bleated out as she folded her legs and just lay on her back catching her breath.

        “Are you sure you don’t want help?” Acoustiana signed to the exhausted Pastel.

        “No! This is your party and I will not tolerate your having to do any manual labor. I said I will fix up both of your manes, and by Celestia I will do just that!” Pastel then jumped off the ground, filled with a short burst of energy, and went back to her battle against the tangle-monster.

        Acoustiana looked to Cantaloupe and they both just shrugged, right before Cantaloupe winced in pain as more of her mane got yanked. Acoustiana shook her head at Pastel’s silliness, but knew any attempt to interfere would be futile at best. She looked back to the mirror, past her own reflection, and to the framed likeness of a unicorn playing a violin. The day Pastel painted that for her was an interesting one.


        Pastel had come to Acoustiana’s practice for her solo as she had no pressing artwork due and she wanted to show her support to her friend. She figured that she might even be able to lend a helping hoof on the acoustics, should such a thing be needed. She quickly found out that it was not.

        Acoustiana was permitted the use of the recital hall for her practices so that she could get the feel of the music in the larger room, over the sound she would get from her personal home space. The conductor sometimes made appearances along with a rather well-off pony. Acoustiana could only assume that the other pony was the one paying for her solo, and did her best, looking her finest when she practiced in case they would be observing.

        On this day, the only ponies in the theater were Pastel and some janitorial staff. Acoustiana was glad to see her friend’s bright blue eyes staring in admiration, and her crystalline chime of a voice cheering after she paused between movements. She was also very glad that Pastel had been very adept at learning hooflanguage. It seemed she truly did know a lot of it, but she had just gotten out of practice. As such, Acoustiana was able to communicate quickly with her friend on how her performances were going.

        “Do you think that was too slow? It’s the part where I transition from the longing movement to the hopeful movement, but it's sounding too melancholy to bring about the proper emotion.” Acoustiana had to tap out the complex thoughts slowly, to convey the proper emotions of her intent.

        Pastel took a moment to interpret the words her friend on stage attempted to communicate. Her eyes twitching as she watched the subtle movements, and her ears swivled forward to catch the minute taps. She was thankful Acoustiana went slow with the statement, for she worried she would have otherwise missed something important.

        “I don’t think so, darling. Again, not my specialty, but from over here, the change is evident, and does bring a slight lift to the mood. If you want it to be a more dramatic change, you could step up the pace, but I think the subtle flow is far better.”

        “Lets try it with a more dramatic change, then, and I want to know if it works better or not. And in any case, it's fun to experiment.” Acoustiana then let out a silent giggle.

        “Experiment away, but just remember that your music is beautiful and moves emotions easily. So don’t you go playing with a mare’s emotions without due cause!” Pastel gave Acoustiana a wink and broke out into a fit of giggles herself.

        Acoustiana enjoyed the playfulness of the practice session, but in the end, she knew she would have to play it all in the serious and respectable manner expected of musicians. So when it started getting into the afternoon, she let Pastel know she would be performing her last complete play through and then they would be done.

        Searching her feelings so as to empower her music, Acoustiana began to play. Her violin was performing masterfully for her. The emotion in her heart flowed through her legs, out her hooves, and into the air as music. She tried to maintain her composure, but a pair of tears still managed to escape her closed eyes.

        Pastel watched and listened as Acoustiana poured her soul into the music she played. All their joking aside, Pastel knew that something in this performance held far greater importance than either of them could fathom. With the amount of power exuding from the music during this final play through, the thoughts of this just being a musical piece were deftly squashed.

        As she watched her friend, Pastel noticed a tear roll down her friend's cheek. She also noted that in its wake, it left no trail. She then thought she saw the tear make a shape as it fell through the air . It was in that instant than the vision of a masterpiece struck her like a lightning bolt. She spent the rest of the performance doing her best to contain her need to run home, and tried to listen to the remainder of the piece.

        When Acoustiana finished, she felt the drain of putting so much emotion into her work. She took a deep breath in and slowly let it out. She opened her eyes just in time to see Pastel charge up the stage and barely miss plowing through her.

        “You, me, your stuff, my studio, now!” Pastel yelled at her as she levitated all of Acoustiana’s things, as well as Acoustiana herself.

        Acoustiana was unable to protest, as she quickly found herself being carried through the city streets. The sensation was not all too unpleasant, inasmuch as the snugness and warmth of the magic actually felt comforting. However, the fact that her back was facing the ground and her legs were flailing helplessly in the air made her quite embarrassed as she was whisked through the streets.

        She was relieved to find that they arrived rather quickly at Pastel’s home. Acoustiana found herself gently placed onto some exceedingly comforatable cushions and then found her hooves filled with her violin and bow. Her first thought was that Pastel was about to demand a personal performance. If such was the case, she would have to berate her friend on her method of such a request. She drew up her hooves to begin signing her disapproval when she froze at Pastel’s shouted admonition.

        “Don’t move! I just need you to stand there for a few moments... No no no, that is wrong... the ear is off... bah! Do over!” Pastel had a number of large pads of paper floating about her, and a rather odd-looking pencil was moving at incredible speeds on one of the pads before she shredded the sheet and moved to another pad. As she sketched, she would suddenly growl or grunt and scribble all over the page. Other times she would almost yell at the sketch grabbing the page within her teeth and furiously shredding it, allowing the pieces to rain upon the floor.

        Acoustiana didn’t know what was happening, and her eyes kept darting around the room to try and make sense of what was happening. This behavior also seemed to bring a displeased complaint from the artist.

        “Dear, you really need to stay still. And do us a favor and close your eyes, as it is ever so hard to capture the moment with you looking around like that. And while you’re at it, tilt your head ever so slightly to the right and upwards. Now there is a good model,” Pastel added with a coo. All around her, piles of shredded paper were starting to form as she kept ripping them off of her pads.

        Acoustiana was now almost certain that some form of inspiration must have struck Pastel during her performance and was making her act this way. She did remember Ray’s mentioning something about her creation technique at some point, but was unable to recall exactly what he said. Regardless, Acoustiana knew it best just to play along and she did her best to pose for whatever Pastel had planned.

        Before long, the floor had a relatively large layer of shredded paper, and the walls started getting paneled with numerous sketches of Acoustiana. Each of the sketches had slight variations of her mane and tail, along with different depictions of her tear falling in a number of oddly shaped forms.

        “Well, I think that shall just have to do. I can't expect you to stand like that much longer at least. You can stop posing now. I have what I needed... mostly. Thank you, by the way, and sorry for the abruptness of this.”

        Acoustiana snuck a peek to look about the room and was amazed at how many renditions of herself now lined the walls. Each was amazing, and made her look far more gorgeous than she ever imagined she could look. When she tried to ask Pastel a question, she noticed that the artist was diligently examining all the sketches and had a painter's pallet floating near her. Unlike her cutie mark that only held the primary and secondary colors, Pastel’s pallet had an unbelievable amount of colors on it. She was busy muttering to herself and smudging the colors with a small tool onto a clean white piece of paper and holding them up to various sketches.

        Acoustiana felt it was best to let her friend alone while she fussed about. Instead, she put all her things away properly, then strapped her violin onto her back and placed the manuscript of her composition into her saddle bag.

        “Now, if only... wait, no... ugh... ooh, maybe if I... yes, that could work.” Pastel started galloping around, knocking things off of her own shelves, and scattering the shredded paper all over the floor. Her pallet, however, always seemed to stay safe from the debris and no matter how often she dabbed at and swirled the colors, none of them ran from their spots.

        “What do you think of this green for your mane? I know it’s darker than your natural shade, but if I make all the colors darker, I am thinking it will better set the mood. But then again, if I go with this lighter color scheme, the whole thing gets brighter and becomes far more uplifting. Choices... decisions... such a hard part of the process...” Pastel went from sketch to sketch, dabbing her brush into colors on her pallet, and then leaving small streaks on the papers. All the while, she never looked back to gauge a response from Acoustiana.

        Acoustiana sat back and watched as Pastel fluttered about, adding paint to her pallet, adding a few highlights onto a sketch, then heading back to her paints. As Pastel went back and forth, she would occasionally glare at the shredded remains of sketches upon the floor. Acoustiana found that slightly odd as she watched. Then she collected all of Pastel’s actions and figured out why. Pastel was walking the same path, a slender figure eight. Pastel added paint to colors that she hadn’t even used, and upon looking closer, saw that she was adding colors in a pattern. She had started with the outermost bottom color and was snaking her way through all the colors on her pallet. It became very interesting when she got to the blended colors, as she seemed to be able to mix the colors exactly without even pausing to double-check the results.

        “There we go, and now I can continue,” Pastel proclaimed as she suddenly stopped pacing and levitated a can of brushes over and started painting one of the sketches.

        Pastel froze up and looked around as if she had lost something. She then looked at Acoustiana and got a scared look for a moment, but quickly relaxed and set down all of her implements. Trotting over she gave Acoustiana a hug.

        “Sorry about all of that. I am sure nopony told you....well, Ray anyways, that I have my little process I go through when I create my art. But just you wait and see! I’m gonna make at least three of these sketches into masterpieces. And do you know what? You get to keep one! As a present for your solo performance!”


        “VICTORY! No knot is too tight, no tangle too massive that can defeat me! Pastel: The Mane Wrangler! Bwahahaha!” Pastel bellowed out in triumph as she stood upon a displeased-looking Cantaloupe.

        “That’s good and all, but could you get off me now? I am not keen on being used as a pedestal.”

        “What? Oh my...” Pastel quickly realized her situation and softly slinked off of her friend’s back. “I do apologize for that, Canty. I was just so excited, finally to have defeated your tangle. But look—now we can style your mane... Speaking of which, how do you want it styled? You have such short hair that I can't braid it much, nor can we put it into a honey bun.” Pastel started hoofing Cantaloupe’s mane, moving tufts of it around.

        “How about we put in a few ribbons around her ears and just brush her mane back?”

        “That sounds... really nice! Hey, Pastel, did you get that?” Cantaloupe looked to the artist still shuffling around in her mane.

        “Get what? Did you say something, Tiana?” Pastel looked up to her silent friend.

        “Ribbons, behind ear, brushed-back mane,” Acoustiana repeated as she failed to hold back her giggles brought on by the utterly perplexed look on Pastel’s face.

        “That would be perfect. Oh, and we can attach a large bow of the same color to your tail! You would look so gorgeous! And maybe a nice satin flank cover? Yes, a flank cover indeed, Pastel murmured as she started prodding Cantaloupe’s flank, tracing the imaginary cloth.

        “You sure know how to make a girl feel violated without trying, Pastel. Lucky for you, I have to agree. Now stop poking my flank.” Cantaloupe leveled a stern look at Pastel.

        “What? Oh, sorry!” Pastel looked between Cantaloupe and her offending hoof.

        “Quite alright. So Acoustiana, you’ve been... erm... lost... in... thought? Yeah, that sounds about right... lost in thought over there, what's on your mind, if I might ask without getting assaulted?”

        “Just thinking about the months leading to this is all. Like my lovely painting and all my practices. And of course my time with my friends.” Acoustiana gave a warm smile to the two of them.

        “We count ourselves lucky to have been blessed by the princesses to have known you all this time. Oh, and did you know, the other two paintings I made sold for six thousand bits each! Can you believe it? I know I’m good, but to have my pieces sell for that much is just...I dunno... it’s just so cool. If you ever don’t make it as a musician, I can always use you as a model.” Pastel gave a playful wink to Acoustiana who blushed in response.

        “And now you make her feel all uncomfortable. Are you sure your talent is art and not making other ponies feel awkward? ‘Cause you sure seem very good at it.” Cantaloupe said with an annoyed look on her face as Pastel was yet again leaning on her, forcing the earth pony to support her weight yet again.

        “I am just playing, and besides, I can tell you like it.” Pastel poked Cantaloupe’s nose, causing her to recoil her head as she wiggled the offended part.

        “Yeah, yeah. Come on, though, let's finish up the fancification of my hair so I can strut my stuff for some lucky colt.”

        Acoustiana thought of what she had planned to gain the interest of her desired colt. Feeling the heat in her face made her look away and she tried to hide behind her mane once more.

        “Whoa! Now either you’re suffering a bad fever, or you're thinking of something very naughty. I am gonna have to side with Cantaloupe in demanding some answers, little lady. Spill it!”

        Acoustiana looked for a means to escape, but other than jumping out the window, or trying to run past her friends, she didn’t have many options. Then a brilliant idea struck her. She started mouthing out her words in what she hoped was accurate for speech.

        “You minx. Now you're just not playing fair.” Pastel sat back with a huff and pouted.

        “Seriously, tell us what's going on in that head of yours. We can keep a secret.” Cantaloupe looked on with the biggest puppy eyes she could muster, a trick that usually worked with her family.

        Acoustiana simply shook her head in response and sat back down in defiance. Her friends let out a collective sigh.

        “You’re cheating. You do know that, right?” Cantaloupe gave Acoustiana a sidelong glance as she looked back to her mirror to finally inspect the work Pastel had put into her mane.

        “Well, whatever it is she is thinking, it’ll come out during the party. Though I think I am getting the idea. I bet it has to do with that one bouquet at her solo performance.” Pastel said with a smug look as she levitated some satin ribbons over and started brushing Cantaloupe’s mane back.

        “What bouquet? Oh! I remember now... hey, you're right, and I bet that does have something to do with it. That sure was some trick, and very romantic to boot.” Cantaloupe winked at Acoustiana.

        Acoustiana rolled her eyes. She knew exactly what her friends were talking about.


 Acoustiana was on stage, she was dressed in her finest gown, and her mane was well brushed and adorned with a flowered hair clip the same gentle lavender as her gown. Her performance was flawless. The smile that was born from her music faded as she swiveled her ears upon the crowd to hear their response.

The theater was filled, and the entire crowd was on their hooves stomping out a thunderous applause. The standing ovation seemed to last forever. All the while, flowers rained from the crowd and landed at her feet. For her part, she was crying rivers of happiness.

Then a large bouquet flew out from towards the middle of the crowd. Some unicorn was levitating it to the stage instead of throwing it.Then, another magical glow over took the flowers as it got close to the stage. The bouquet stopped moving and the soft red glow of the second magical aura intensified.

Suddenly, the flowers exploded into what appeared to be hundreds of little pieces. As she watched them, they all seemed to spin like little helicopters as the pieces rained down gently over her. She then saw that each of the rose petals on the little green stems with their little green helicopter blades where in the shape of little hearts. Acoustiana closed her eyes, tears still streaming, tilted her head up, and felt the gentle rain of petals brush across her face.


        As much as Acoustiana enjoyed the sentiment of the two unicorns that provided the gesture, her mind was definitely set on a different target. Looking at the clock, she noticed that their preparation time was starting to wear thin.

        “Okay, enough messing around, we have to get to work, and as a certain pony,” Acoustiana said as she paused and narrowed her eyes at Pastel, ”won't abide my help in doing much with the preparations, you two need to speed this up and get moving.”

        “Ah, stupid march of time always cutting in on my fun. Alright, Canty: hold still; this won't be but a moment.” Pastel concentrated her magic and flew over a number of brushes and quickly worked on Cantaloupe’s mane. She swiftly tied the ribbons into her mane next to her ears and then tied the bow at the base of her tail.

        “Whoa there! Careful where you're putting things, missy!”

        Pastel just rolled her eyes and levitated a few flank covers over and quickly chose one that closely matched the colors of the ribbons and bow. She smoothed out the cover and adjusted the bow to ride lower on her tail.

        “There, happy now? Anyways, let’s get downstairs and start putting things together. Acoustiana, you get to answer the door and greet your guests as they arrive. That is, til either myself or Cantaloupe is finished with our tasks so you can simply enjoy the evening and soak in the splendor of being loved and adored by your loyal fans.” Pastel did her best impersonation of a drama queen faint.

        Pastel picked up her large basket of supplies and Cantaloupe did the same as they led Acoustiana down her stairs and set about putting all the decorations up. Acoustiana went to her front room, where a day earlier she had set up the seats, expecting many guests. She took one near the door and waited anxiously for her desired colt.

        As she waited, she watched her friends quickly dart about her, putting up decorations. Pastel barked a few orders from time to time when Cantaloupe got her color coordination wrong. Then there was a knock at the door, quickly followed by the chime of her doorbell. Acoustiana got up and opened the door to find some of her ensemble had arrived early with some extra supplies.

        “Hey there, Acoustiana! We thought we might drop by a tad early to help set up some extra stuff, if you didn’t already have enough. Oh, and we got some awesome party music too! Classical is great and all, but we play it all the time. It’s good to shake things up a bit with some different genres, wouldn’t you agree?” The cheery green earth pony flailed about a vinyl record in his hoof.

        Acoustiana smiled and nodded. She stepped aside to let the ponies in and pointed to her record player in the other room.

        “Righty-oh! Come on team, lets get this place decked out and rockin’! Woo hoo!” The green pony bounded off to put on the music while their compatriots chuckled. They stayed back a little, individually congratulating Acoustiana and asked who was in charge of helping with the decorations.

        “That would be myself, and I think we have enough decorations. However, I do see you have some games; those will come in quite handy. Marvelously good show. Follow me and we can get this place done in no time!” Pastel then led the group off and set them about finishing up decorating.

        Acoustiana noted that Pastel was very efficient with her ability to lead the helpers. It took only a few minutes before every decoration that she and Cantaloupe had got set up. They even found use for some of the extra ones that the musicians brought. She had the games neatly spaced out so that ponies could congregate comfortably to each without the threat of being over crowded.

        Then the music started to play. It was heavy with bass, and kept up a lively tempo. The music was not to Acoustiana’s taste, as her hearing was slightly more acute than that of most ponies. The volume wasn’t too bad. She figured once the partiers all arrived, it would be very pleasant.

        “Well, that’s that. Acoustiana, time for you to enjoy yourself. Leave everything to me and Canty. So off with you! Stop guarding the door and chat with your friends.”

        Acoustiana stuck her tongue out at Pastel but complied with her demands.

        “Oh how ladylike of you.”

        “It was that or mess up my tail.” Acoustiana gave a cheeky grin to Pastel.

        “Hehe, well keep with that good mood and go banter with your guests. I have made sure a notepad and pencil are in every room, so don’t worry about carrying one around. If you need help with anything, push the bell hanging on the ceiling. There is one in each room and is out of the way of anypony, so only you should have reason to mess with it. Canty and I expect a few false alarms. This is a party after all.” Pastel then trotted over to Acoustiana and gave her a hug. “You're gonna be so famous, so just remember the small ponies in your life.” Pastel giggled and poked Acostiana on the nose before turning to the door and taking up post to invite ponies in.

        Acoustiana mingled with her early arrivals. She was able to banter with them despite the slight pauses for her to write down her responses. Slowly, more guests started showing up as it got closer to the official party time.

        “Acoustiana! There you are. Wow, this turnout is amazing! I knew you were making a lot of friends, but, wow.” Hearth Song came bounding over to Acoustiana as she sat on her couch, listening to some of her visitors talk about past experiences.

        Upon seeing Hearth, Acoustiana looked to the speaker and nodded to him before getting up to greet her friend. The colt waved and continued with his tale, smiling after the hostess as she left.

        “So, is he here yet? Is that him talking?” Hearth was almost vibrating with excitement.

        Acoustiana smiled at the antics of her friend, but shook her head in response to the questions.

        “Bah, well anywho, I want you to meet my sister. She was with me at your performance and she really enjoyed it. And she never said it, but I know she has been wanting to meet you. Scarlet! Where did she get off to... Scarlet!”

        From out of a small crowd, a pale orange unicorn emerged. Her mane was a light red with a bold scarlet streak. When she looked to where her sister was, she saw Acoustiana and froze. Her rose-red eyes grew wide and she tried to take a step backwards, but bumped into a partygoer.

        “Ugh, stop acting all star-struck, Scarlet. She doesn’t bite; now get over here and say ‘hello.’ I know you’ve been wanting to meet her.” Hearth stomped her hoof sternly and Scarlet trotted over with her head and eyes down.

        “Uh, h-hello.” Her voice was delicate.

        “Okay, you are worrying me. Excuse us, Acoustiana, my sister is acting way too weird. Something must be up. We will be right back.” Hearth Song led her sister off to the side with a very concerned look on her face.

        Acoustiana had attracted a sparse number of fans and those few were often too timid to approach her, so she was only slightly concerned. The notion that ponies would be at a loss for words around her had still not yet sunk in. She was used to ponies not wanting to say anything to her, never being unable to do so.

        “Well, that is just weird. She won’t say what's wrong, but said she just needed a moment. So she is gonna have a cup of punch and be back to try again. She is usually so...commanding? demanding? Nah, forceful really applies the most,” Hearth said while nodding to herself.

        “Really? I didn’t think I could ever have such an effect on a pony.”

        “Well, your music was just that powerful. I almost never see my sister get that emotional, but there they were, streams of tears. Not to say my eyes were dry, but that first part was just... perfect.” Hearth looked off into her memory of the performance.

        Acoustiana was about to write something in response when the door chime went off. She looked through the crowd to see the arrival of the one she had been anticipating. Ray had finally shown up.

        “What's the...” Hearth looked in the direction of Acoustiana’s stare. “Oh, my, that is a dashing young colt. I am so jeal...oh no...” Hearth Song saw something that made her own heart drop. Ray was greeting a guest when he stepped aside and a beautiful young mare stood beside him. The two nuzzled with amorous looks in their eyes.

        “Hearth! What's wrong! Did somepony hurt you? Did somepony hurt her? Who?” Scarlet had run over, spilling the cup of punch along the way. Her expression had gone from concerned to angry.

        “Not intentionally. Calm down, Scarlet.” Hearth Song let out a sigh as she looked to her friend, still in abject shock and horror. “She was going to ask a coltfriend of hers to be her special somepony tonight. But he just showed up with what can only be his marefriend. No mistaking that look. I am so, so very sorry, Acoustiana.” Hearth tried to console Acoustiana. The touch caused her to snap out of her shock, only to have her eyes start welling up with tears.

        “That’s... horrible... I can’t imagine how you must feel, Miss Acoustiana.” Scarlet sat back on her haunches as she saw the tears glistening in Acoustiana’s eyes. “Hearth, do something. I’ll go get her some tissues and a cup of punch.”

        Hearth Song held Acoustiana close. She could feel her shaking and trembling. Even still, the tears in her eyes did not fall. Hearth didn’t know how Acoustiana was holding them back, but she was doing just that.

        “Okay, I’m back. Here, let's dry those eyes before he comes over. I heard him asking where she was, so it won't be long before he arrives. Hold it together, just hold it together,” Scarlet looked Acoustiana in the eyes as she dabbed with the tissues to dry her tears.

        “Now that’s the Scarlet Topiary that I know. Okay, I see him making his way over here. Did you still want to tell him?” Hearth Song whispered as she stroked Acoustiana’s mane.

        Acoustiana shook her head, and accepted the cup of punch that was enveloped in a soft red glow. She gave a meek smile to the unicorn that had delivered it and took a sip. She then took a deep breath and stood tall as she saw Ray approach.

        “There you are, my lady Acoustiana. Many congratulations for your most wonderful of performances. I must say that your... symphony... was quite powerful and even I was moved to shed a tear. But, oh, where are my manners? Let me introduce my marefriend. Gale Prancer, this is my close friend Acoustiana. Acoustiana, this is my marefriend since flight school, Gale Prancer.” Ray proceeded to nuzzle the mare after the introduction.

        “Ray has told me so much about you. It is a pleasure to meet such a talented musician at long last.” Gale Prancer extended a dainty hoof.

        “A pleasure indeed.” Acoustiana signed back, then paused a moment before shaking the mare’s hoof.

        Gale Prancer darted her glance from Ray to Acoustiana, all the while a confused look growing on her face. Ray’s face went from debonair to mortified, and settled on a nervous grin.

        “She reciprocates your emotion, Gale. Sorry I did not mention that Gale here doesn’t yet know hooflanguage.” Ray looked into Acoutiana’s eyes as he spoke apologetically. “She has a busy schedule up in Cloudsdale, and it was a small miracle that allowed her to be here tonight. We agreed that she just had to attend for such a momentous occasion, though.” Gale nodded in agreement to Ray’s words.

        Acoustiana started to feel her ability to hold back her emotions wane while she stared into the golden eyes she had wished to long for her. So she did what she knew would help her escape: she rang the bell over head with her magic.

        “Yes, yes what is the matt...Oh; I see you’ve met Gale. Again, it is such a pleasure to see you here, darling; you really must find more time to visit,” Pastel said as she leaped through the crowd to attend to Acoustiana’s summons. She then gave a good look to her friend and her expression fell.

        Acoustiana knew that Pastel was able to see through her facade, and used her friends intuition to help her escape.

        “Pastel, I need your help in my room. Would you mind escorting me?”

        “Of course. I can tell your mane is all mussed up. You should take better care of that. But worry not, for we can have it fixed up in no time at all.”

        Acoustiana then grabbed Hearth Song and made a beeline for her upstairs bedroom.

        “Gah...seems I am coming too. Scarlet, I’ll be right back, I do believe you understand, though.”

        “Don’t worry, sis, I can handle myself. Just make sure everything goes okay. I am sure that’s why you're being taken along for the ride.”


        Ray watched as the three mares cantered up the stairs and out of sight. He looked to Gale Prancer and shrugged. They both wore confused looks and turned to the only pony they thought might have an answer to what just happened.

        “If I may be so bold—your name, miss?” Ray asked delicately.

        “My name is Scarlet Topiary. The town’s best plant and floral arranger. And before you waste your breath, the reason for the sudden departure is a filly issue. I am sure Gale here can understand that sometimes things go wrong but shouldn’t be aired publicly,” Scarlet said in as a polite tone as she could, but still came off to be a bit snarky.

        “I am not sure what you are implying, but your tone is unwelcome. I have not done anypony any harm.” Gale said as she ruffled her feathers.

        “Indeed,” Scarlet almost dripped the word out. “However, this is just gonna get ugly, so if you don’t mind, I shall excuse myself and let you get back to the festivities.” Scarlet spun around and trotted out the front door.

        “I say. Don’t let it get to you too much, dear. Sometimes artists get into moods. Remember that time I talked to you concerning Pastel?”

        “True, but it’s still not a polite thing to have to deal with at a party. Nevertheless, if you think all is well, I shall let it go. Just for you.” Gale proceeded to nip at Ray’s neck.


        As Acoustiana entered her room, she let go of Hearth Song and turned to release all of her tears onto her shoulder. For her part, Hearth Song was half-expecting as much.

        “Okay, what happened? Did somepony say something they are about to regret deeply?” Pastel said with a low growl and face contorted with anger.

        “Uh... um... Acoustiana, did you want me to tell her everything? I get the feeling she wasn’t told anything.” Hearth waited a moment before she felt the nod come from the weeping musician. She looked back to Pastel with a frown and downcast eyes.

        “Okay, so here it is: That handsome colt downstairs... Ray? Well, Acoustiana here was going to tell him that she wanted him to be her special somepony. She has been planning this since she organized the party. And it seems you are well aware of the issue at hoof: said colt already has a marefriend.”

        Pastel looked to Acoustiana with great pity in her eyes. She then let out a sigh and rubbed the sobbing pony’s back and neck to try and help calm her down.

        “I can see why you didn’t tell me.” Pastel paused a moment and let out another sigh. “But you really should have, if only so that I could have prevented this... this... horrible event.” Pastel waved her hoof into the air. “Gale has been with Ray since even before I knew him. She was quite displeased to find out how close Ray and I had gotten after that... incident we talked about.” Pastel attempted a smile, but let it pass, as the pony for whom it was meant had no means to witness it.

        “So, what now?” Hearth Song looked from Pastel to Acoustiana. Without a harp, I’ve got nothing for helping ponies feel better. We eventually have to get back out there,” Hearth gazed at the door. “And I really need to check in on my sister; she can be a bit... feisty... when it comes to seeing ponies she likes get hurt.” Hearth bit her lower lip as she looked from the door to Acoustiana.

        “Your sister? You can’t mean Scarlet Topiary...” Pastel looked at her with a bit of shock as she continued to stroke Acoustiana’s mane.

        “One and the same.” Hearth jerked her head back slightly at the surprise recognition. “I invited her with me as I knew she really enjoyed Acoustiana’s music. I have only seen music move her that much a few times in her life.” Relaxing a bit, Hearth nuzzled Acoustina as she looked to Pastel.

        “Are you s...oh, never mind; this is neither the time nor the place.” Pastel had a skeptical look before waving a hoof in the air to disperse the thought that had crossed her mind. “Acoustiana, dear, you need to calm down now. I am one for letting it out, but there is a point when it becomes more than a pony can take.” Pastel placed a gentle hoof upon the back of her friend. “I know you can put on a brave face. Now let's clean you up and get back out there to face the crowd. As for the wonderful clichè, there are always more fish in the sea, and you’ll find your special somepony. You may even have already met that pony tonight and you just don’t know it yet.” Pastel put on a genuinely warm smile.

        “That’s the spirit!” Hearth chirped up with forced enthusiasm. “Come on, you wonderful unicorn, you. I have seen you put up with plenty of muckety muck. You can manage this.” Hearth placed a hoof under Acoustiana’s chin and slowly raised her head to look her in the eye.

        Acoustiana did feel slightly better from the affections of her friends, though the pains of her shattered heart were still quite strong. Her tears still slowly drizzled down her face, and were slowly fading away. She then looked from Hearth Song to Pastel, nodding in agreement to both and sniffling back some tears.

        “That’s my girl,” Pastel cooed. “Lets clean that face of yours. As for your shoulder... uh...” Pastel looked to Hearth. “Now that I think of it, we have not been introduced. My name is...”

        “Pastel, yes, I know of you well.” Hearth looked knowingly at Pastel. “I own a few of your works, and my sister also speaks of your collaborations often. My name is Hearth Song, and as you can tell I am a member of Acoustiana’s ensemble, and the only other unicorn in the group. Kinda how we got to know each other.” She said as she looked to her distraught friend.

        “It’s a pleasure finally to meet you, Hearth Song.” Pastel gave a slight bow as she took a nervous glance to the tear stained face of her friend. “Acoustiana has mentioned you a number of times. I have to say, your name in hooflanguage has been an interesting one to learn. Took me a good part of a day to get it right.” Pastel giggled nervously as she again glanced to her heartbroken friend.

        Arriving at her sink, Acoustiana looked up at her reflection. Her face was streaked with tear stains, and her eyes were so bloodshot that they almost drowned out her orange irises. She dunked her face in the bowl of water and proceeded to dry it off. She could hear Pastel and Hearth as they got water for Hearth’s shoulder. Thinking on the mess made her regret soaking her friend’s coat with her silent wails. She set down her towel and turned to her friends to apologize properly.

        “Pastel, I am sorry for not telling you ahead of time, but I didn’t want to make you get stuck with a secret or such nonsense. I also will admit I wanted—no, I hoped—to make it a surprise to both you and Cantaloupe that I would be getting together with Ray. Could you let Hearth Song know that I am sorry for crying too much into her coat so as to force her to clean up too?”

        “Silly filly.” Pastel shook her head as her own eyes misted up. “You have nothing to be sorry about.” Pastel looked to the other unicorn in the room. “Hearth, dear, she wishes to apologize for crying onto your shoulder. Wouldn’t you agree that she has nothing to be sorry about?”

        “Wait, all that was to say sorry?” Hearth wiggled her hoof in the direction of Acoustiana. “Wow, hooflanguage takes forever to talk with.”

        “Actually, only the last part was for you.” Pastel stifled a laugh. “The rest was for me. She feels bad in general for everything.” Pastel turned to Acoustiana with a warm smile, “you shouldn’t, you know. Just trust us to be more understanding in the future.You would be surprised at how open and accepting we are.”

        “I must agree with Pastel.” Hearth also gave Acoustiana a warm smile. “In hindsight, if you would have let them into your plan, assuming he was available, think of all the extra scheming we could have done to make this even better. Maybe even set up a game just for you two to get close, or some such.” Hearth looked to Pastel and gingerly nodded.

        “Enough of that.” Pastel gave Hearth a stern look. “We have had enough talk on this to last us the whole night. We should get back out there and drink some punch and play some games. Tiana will feel better once she starts enjoying the company of her guests.” Pastel ended with a stiff nod to add emphasis.

        There was a sudden flash of soft red light from outside the window, followed by another. Hearth let out a groan when she saw it and headed for the bedroom window. The other two followed her with towels in tow.

        Hearth nudged open the window with her nose and quickly looked around. She then leveled her sights on a shadowy figure as it moved around a shrub across the road from Acoustiana’s house.

        “Scarlet Topiary, will you knock that off! If you want to vent, do us a favor: go to my place and get my harp. I have an idea to help Acoustiana cheer up, but I need my harp. Can you do that for us?”

        Scarlet stepped into the light, wearing a small devilish grin.

        “Fine, but you owe me. And I will call to collect before too long.” She then proceeded to gallop down the road.

        “I am going to regret this later. For now it will be worth it, though.” Hearth Song had a worried look on her face for a few moments, but then smiled and turned to Acoustiana. She grabbed the towel floating nearby and used it to help dry a few spots still showing some moisture on Acoustiana’s face.

        “Well, to hold the ruse, we should do something with your mane... perchance an ornament? What do you think, Hearth? A flower? Or maybe a bow?” Pastel had floated over her box of hair implements and was fishing through it.

        “I know exactly what to put in her hair.” Hearth Song fished out a crescent-moon hairpin and placed in into Acoustiana’s mane. “Now, we just need to dress her in that lovely purple ensemble she wore during her performance, or one similar at least.”

        “Like this one?” Pastel trotted over with a rich purple cape adorned with a bright sapphire clasp.

        “Perfect! Now get that on her and our own little mistress of the night can enjoy the rest of her evening.” Hearth’s eyes flashed in the light and she wore a mischievous grin.

        Acoustiana looked skeptically at Hearth Song but only got a wink in response. She decided to allow her friends to try whatever it was they had planned. She didn’t have the energy to resist in the first place. She just closed her eyes and tried to ignore the pain in her chest.

        “Hey, no more of that.” Pastel scolded as she dabbed a towel on Acoustiana’s eye to soak up an errant tear that had formed.

        Hearth Song and Pastel looked at each other, both bearing a worried crease upon their brows. They then both shrugged and gave Acoustiana a hug. Startled at first, Acoustiana slowly yet surely relaxed and accepted the affections of her friends. As she felt the warmth from their bodies, a small smile managed to make its way onto her face.

        “That’s better. You will see, and things will be okay.” Hearth drew back and looked Acoustiana in the eye. “Just give it time. For now, though, let’s get back downstairs and show your guests that you haven’t just up and vanished on them without a goodbye.” Hearth waved at the door. “If you don’t want to stay down there, we can cover for you and say you are worn out from everything. Or, maybe, something more reasonable so as to send them all home and you can have your peace. Pastel, I am sure, can come up with something, and if we get desperate, I know my sister can clear out the party without much effort.” Hearth giggled to herself at the prospect.

        “She does have a knack for crashing a gathering when the mood strikes her. Useful when we are working outside though, I do have to admit.” Pastel added with an emphatic nod.

        The trio headed downstairs to the party where nopony seemed to have paid heed to their hostess’s departure. Pastel and Hearth Song stayed close to Acoustiana as she once again mingled with the guests. Though her willingness to engage in conversation was obviously reduced, some younger musicians managed to coax responses out of her by asking her for tips on becoming good enough to play professionally.

        “I have to say—I didn’t think this was going to work. She has always been so timid with exposing her emotions, and I was worried she would close in on herself for the rest of the night,” Pastel whispered to Hearth Song.

        “You would be surprised what type of connection musicians have with one another. I can only assume it would be similar for you artists. Imagine yourself on your worst day, but having a young filly come up to you and ask how she can make such masterpieces. Her eyes filled with admiration and hope, nopony could dwell upon their dark thoughts... well, nopony with a heart, anyways. And that mare there definitely has a big heart.” Hearth pointed a hoof at Acoustiana as she was scribbling some words of encouragement to a young unicorn.

        “That she does. I just hope it isn’t broken for good.” Pastel’s ears folded back as she nibbled on her lower lip.

        There was a sudden commotion near the front door and a well-kept double harp shot up over the crowd, enveloped in a soft red magical aura. The guests started parting as Scarlet charged through them, looking to head for the stairs and the room where she thought her destination lay.

        “Scarlet! Over here!” Hearth jumped and waved to get her sister’s attention.

        “Okay, here ya go, and I kept it safe from harm and all that.” Scarlet said after a moment to fully catch her breath. “I know how important it is to you, so don’t worry about that. I am curious as to what you're gonna do with it, though; a party for her doesn’t leave much room for you to try and upstage her...does it?” Scarlet gently placed the harp in her sister’s hooves while looking confused.

        “It was never my intention to upstage her; that would do little good.” Heart looked rather offended. “Besides, she is better than I; even if I wanted to try, it would be futile.” Hearth relaxed and continued. “However, the one thing I know that will make her feel better is to escape into music. With my harp, I know just how to let her, without causing any gossip-mongers to speak poorly of her.” Hearth turned to the purple unicorn. “Pastel, I need you to let Acoustiana know that I will be in her music room, retrieving her double bass, and that I am requesting she play a duet with me, if she feels up to it. Otherwise I can play the song myself without issue. Just offering to let her play along if she desires.”

        “Okay...not exactly sure how that’s supposed to help, but I do know she is happiest when playing her music, so I can go along with the plan.” Pastel nodded in agreement.


        Scarlet watched as her sister headed off to a back room with her harp floating behind her. After a few moments she returned with a few sheets of paper and a large music case. She assumed it contained the double bass. Her sister then shooed a few guests out of a corner as she set up her harp and leaned the bass against the wall behind her. Acoustiana trotted over with Pastel and they, as it appeared to Scarlet, had a whispered conversation. Pastel then levitated the double bass and returned it to the back room. Shortly after, the party music stopped, and many of the guests looked around and murmured in confusion at what was happening.

        “Ladies and Gentlecolts, if I could have your attention, please? By her request, Acoustiana wishes to hear a little song to be performed by Hearth Song on her harp. Odd as it is, I am sure we can all enjoy a small reprieve from the standard party musical fare. Thank you all for being quiet during this small performance,” Pastel announced over the crowd in a rather authoritative voice.

        After a few moments, the guests gathered around the area Hearth had set up, every seat occupied, and many started just laying on the floor. Once all of the attendees had quieted down, Hearth began plucking at her harp. The melody was somber, and her voice carried a sorrowful tone.

        Acoustiana listened to her friend sing for her. She quickly realized the plan her friend had set in motion. The song may not have been about her when Hearth Song made it, but it suited the situation, and definitely her current wardrobe.

        All of Acoustiana’s friends watched as their friend visibly relaxed, and a smile slowly crept across her face as the music played. Cantaloupe had asked Pastel what was going on, and was told she would be informed later, after all the guests had left. Ray also approached Pastel to ensure that there were no further filly issues that would come up in the near future. He was put at ease to hear that nothing else should occur lest someone provoke it.

“I heard there was a harpsichord

That Luna played, and it lulled Discord

But ponies don't really care for music, do ya?

It went like this

The fourth, the fifth

The lunar fall, the solar lift

The saddened queen composing Hallelujah...”

(Author Note: In the off chance you would like to see the full song I covered, see link below)

Silence is Bittersweet, Part 5

        While dealing with her devastating heartbreak, Acoustiana was relieved to find that she was going to have time to put herself back together. The conductor informed her that the musical director had received multiple requests to have her concerto featured in a program. As such, they needed time to compose and deal with the influx of donations due to the demand to hear more music like Acoustiana’s concerto.

        Hearth Song and Pastel would visit her frequently to ensure their friend was doing well. Pastel made sure to keep her muzzle closed about the entire ordeal─not that she didn’t think Cantaloupe wouldn’t keep it secret from Ray, but more that she didn’t want to gossip about somepony’s personal life without explicit permission first.

        Acoustiana eventually felt better, thanks to the reassuring words of her friends, and the numerous apologies from Pastel for not mentioning that Gale Prancer was such an important pony in Ray’s life. Pastel figured Ray would have made mention of her. Acoustiana always made sure Pastel knew she was not at fault, and that her wanting to surprise her friends with the news was the driving force of her heartbreak.

        One day, Cantaloupe visited to gossip about how well her fruit business in the city had been going. Her sales with her fruit cart had been so unexpected at first that she never had the mind to ask her patrons why they all of a sudden wanted to buy her produce. Eventually, with all the business she had, her family started sending her help to keep up with demand. So with the extra time, she was able to find out that all the patrons were informed of her wonderfully fresh and superbly grown fruits by a pony they knew. Cantaloupe said she never bothered to press the matter of which pony. She just assumed that her friends were being great pals and spreading the good name of the Walker fruit stand. On her most recent visit, Cantaloupe talked in detail on how her business was doing.

        So now, we managed to make enough money that we got ourselves our own little shop here in town. Bought and paid for, just like my Granddad prefers it. None of the renting some of the other ponies do with their businesses. We like to know the roof over our heads is ours to do whatever we want with and only have to answer to Celestia herself on what we do with it.

        “With the shop, my dad said I get to be in charge. I told him I was happy he believed in me like that, but I turned him down. My cousin Pear Pit is way more organized than I am, so I asked dad to put him in charge and just let me hang on as his advisor pony. Pear was never that good at growing or ambling, only picking and planning. And with me just being an advisor pony, I am able to get more time to hang out with my friends! Isn’t that just great? I’ll be able to go to all your performances, watch Ray do his weather pony thing, and get to mingle with the fancy ponies you and Pastel work with all the time.” Cantaloupe squealed and hopped around the room. “Can you just see me? Me! Cantaloupe Walker, schmoozing with the fancy ponies. I knew selling my fruit here in this town would one day lead to great things.”

        “I haven’t seen you around town in a while... actually... Now that I think of it, I haven’t seen you since your celebration party. What's up? Did you finally hook that special somepony? I bet that’s what you were thinking about when we got to talking, wasn’t it? I knew that blush wa... um... did I say something wrong, Tiana?” Cantaloupe noticed that her friend, who was listening while wearing a small smile, had suddenly looked away with a rather sullen expression upon her face.

        Acoustiana knew it was about time to deal directly with the problem at hoof. She had brooded long enough. Seeing her friend so worried let her know that she needed to start with telling her what was bothering her.

        “I am okay, and I am not okay.”

        “What?” Cantaloupe had a look of pure confusion, and she scrunched her face up and tried to figure out if she got her hoof signs wrong.

        “You did nothing wrong, Cantaloupe. My problem is that I did have somepony I wanted to meet that night. It didn’t turn out as well as I expected.”

        “Oh no. I am sorry to hear that.” Cantaloupe folded her ears back as her mouth fell into a frown, and taking a step forward. “But why haven’t you been around then? Just ‘cause some donkey-faced colt passed up on one of the best things that will ever happen to him, you shouldn’t let that get you down. You're practically a star!” Cantaloupe raised both front hooves into the air as emphasis.

        Acoustiana winced at the insult and knew what she had to tell her next would probably make her friend regret those words. Nevertheless, she felt she owed it to her to tell the whole story.

        “Cantaloupe, it wasn’t just some colt.” Acoustiana paused and took in a deep breath. “The pony I wanted to see that night was... Ray.”

        Cantaloupe’s eyes shot open fully and she fell over onto her back. Acoustiana moved to her side to help her up, and noticed Cantaloupe’s eye was twitching every so often. After a few minutes of suffering shock, the yellow earth pony seemed to come to terms with the information, and her body loosened up from being stiff as a board.

        “That... wait... so... Ray? Like, our Ray kinda Ray?”


        Cantaloupe got on her hooves and shook her head. Wither her brow slightly furrowed she contemplated the information.

        “I... that makes sense, actually.” Cantaloupe tapped her chin as she looked off at nothing. “Yeah, I can see it. Not my thing, but I can see it.” She dismissively waved her hoof in the air. “So how did...” Cantaloupe’s face fell. “Aw horseapples, he showed up with Gale, didn’t he? That must not have made you feel good.” Cantaloupe pieced all of the puzzle bits into their places, and reached out to pull her friend into a strong hug only an earth pony could provide.

        “Yeah, I would stay home, too, if that happened to me. I don’t like this one bit, but I am sure that telling me was important, and I thank you for sharing this with me.” Cantaloupe released her friend to look her in the eye. “Tell me, though, why didn’t you tell me to begin with? It’s not like I would have told Ray or anything. Did you not trust me?”

        “Nothing of the sort. I wanted to surprise you and Pastel. I figured Ray would gladly accept my proposal, and we could walk up to the two of you and declare us together. In my mind, it seemed like the best plan ever, with everypony being happy. As you can tell, I was wrong.” Acoustiana slumped to the floor eyeing her hooves.

        “I will give you points on the being romantic part. Asking somepony to be your special somepony during your own party is pretty big. And you know what? I would have lost my shoes if that would have worked out. Like right then and there, all four would have just popped off. So no hard feelings on my part, and thank you for thinking of making my day better than it was already. And once again, I am sorry it didn’t work out, but don’t you worry your little horn off. I would bet you twenty melons that if you walked out your door and asked anypony to be your special somepony, so long as they didn’t already have one, they would be all over taking you up on your offer.” Cantaloupe rubbed her neck up against Acoustiana’s and then gave her a light headbutt.

        “Thank you. I still don’t believe it, but thank you nonetheless.” Giving a small smile, Acoustiana gave the farm pony a light headbutt of her own.

        “Can’t blame you. Heartbreak is a tough shell to get through. But like my melons, once you do, the sweet insides are one hay of a reward.” Sitting up tall, Cantaloupe beamed with pride and nodded her head in emphasis.

        Speaking of your melons, I have spread word of your stand, but I hadn’t been able to yet by that first time your stand was crowded. So I don’t think it was I. It is good to hear your business has done so well, though. It will be nice that you can visit more often.”  Rising from the floor fully, Acoustiana looked Cantaloupe in the eye, trying to look as hopeful as she could.

        “You better believe I’ll visit more often.” Cantaloupe poked Acoustiana with her hoof. “Though, you are right. I don’t think you guys would have been able to spread the word of my fruit that fast. If Ray couldn’t do it in all the time he was helping me beforehoof, I don’t see how Pastel could have if she was busy with an artsy thing.” She scratched the back of her head. “Then who the buck helped me out? Eh, it doesn’t matter anymore. Besides, I don’t think any of my customers would remember at this point. Oh well, I sure would like to thank them.” Looking slightly dejected, Cantaloupe recovered as she gave the musician another big hug.


        Over time, her friends managed to lift Acoustiana’s spirits well before she needed to return to her musical studies. She did request that Pastel and Cantaloupe promise not to speak of her infatuation with Ray. Knowing it would just cause more problems, she was getting over it, and did not feel it needed to be rehashed. Pastel swore some strange oath, and took Cantaloupe aside for a talk. Acoustiana heard the not-so-subtle threats Pastel whispered, and when they returned, Cantaloupe promised the same, though her glances at Pastel gave the feeling that she was unsure of what she was saying.

        Being called back to the theater, Acoustiana returned to continue practices. The conductor informed the ensemble that one of the patrons for an upcoming concert requested that he include Acoustiana’s concerto. They were informed that the concert was still in the process of being composed. Going on, he stated that enough of the concert was completed that they would start practicing, as the schedule for rehearsals leading up to the public performance demanded haste from all parties involved.

        Acoustiana had an aside with the conductor and asked if a song written by another member of the ensemble could be incorporated. Giving him her word that the song was fantastic, Acoustiana felt that it would work well if done before her concerto. Hesitantly, the conductor agreed at least to hear it out with the musical director so as to confirm Acoustiana’s belief in it.


        “So out of the blue, the musical director and conductor approached me as I started packing my stuff away, and asked me to speak in private with them,” Hearth Song said to her sister in a high-pitched and energetic voice, as Acoustiana beamed with pride at the ponies around the table where they all sat for lunch.

        “And then what? Stop teasing me!” Scarlet Topiary was on the edge of her seat, ready to strangle her sister.

        “Well, they asked me to play my Luna serenade. I swear to Celestia I dropped my harp then and there, and didn’t even care. I have no idea how Acoustiana pulled it off, but I am now performing my own song before hers. Though the song will be sung by a professional singer, they said. Not that they didn’t like my singing, but... well, I’m not a professional in that way. They said I sung well in the small confined spaces, but for the theater, the song needed more projection, and I didn’t seem to have the ability. Can’t say I am upset about the notion... not sure if I could get the nerve to sing to a packed theater.” Hearth traced circles on the table with her hoof as she lowered her eyes.

        “I disagree, but hey, in the end, getting your song out there is all that matters. You have been working on that thing since before you moved to this city. ‘Bout time my sister started getting recognition. You deserve it.”

        “Thank you, Scarlet. Always there to support me. And thank you too, Acoustiana. I know this is like the hundredth time, but thank you.” Hearth reached out and hugged her fellow musician.

        “I merely repaid the debt I owed to you. So stop thanking me, you silly filly.” Acoustiana had to tap her notepad on her friend’s head to gain her attention that she needed to read her words.

        “I think you did far more for me than I, you. The conductor heard your song  already, and I am sure he would have asked you to perform it regardless of my words. Oh, speaking of that, have you seen Hot Air? His expression when he found out that both of us were having our pieces added to the program was priceless! That’ll show that two-bit son of a diamond dog who to mess with next time! Haha!” Hearth rose both hooves into the air in triumph.

        “You worry me sometimes.” Scarlet shook her head. “But in any case, congratulations to the both of you once more. So... uh... have you gals tried that new fruit shop that opened recently?” Scarlet’s face started to darken in color as her eyes darted around to find something to occupy them other than the other two ponies at the table.

        “The one semi-owned by Acoustiana’s friend? Of course we have, silly. Now, what's with the awkwardness? I thought you got over your fanfilly issues with talking in front of Acoustiana.”

        “Erm... well, I figured that since the two of you were having such good fortunes, I would just comment on hers... and... kinda boast that it’s cause of me.” Acoustiana thought that the weak grin and flopped ear look Scarlet had, was adorable.

        “So, you're nervous about taking credit for her success? I can see how you would feel ashamed, but why do you think you can claim such a thing?”

        “That’s what makes me a bit nervous. But I opened my big mouth, so no point in trying to prance around the bush. I had noticed her stand being empty of customers when she first set it up with that... other pony’s... help.” Scarlet shook her mane and visibly held back unspoken words that were going to be quite unkind. Her eyes had narrowed and her jaw was clenched tightly. She took a few deep breaths to calm herself and continued her story.

        “Anyways, after I saw she had been without customers for such a long time, I felt sorry for the poor girl, and cast my plant health spell to see if I could find what was wrong with her fruit. What I found made me wonder why nopony wanted to buy her fruit. They were extra healthy. I mean, like they had more in them than normal plants did. So I went to all the ponies I knew and told them a new fruit vendor had shown up and that the fruit she sold was the best in the city. It took a little while for it to set in, but I managed to convince them it was in their best interest to buy her stock.” Scarlet gave a shy wink to Acoustiana to hint at something. Acoustiana was just confused by the gesture.

        “We wondered who could have suddenly changed her fortunes. Cantaloupe would want to know so she can thank you. You’ll probably get, like, lifetime melons or something. That girl just loves giving things out. But answer me this: how did you ‘just’ see this? Her cart was in the middle of the business section, and there aren’t any homes in the area, and I don’t remember seeing any plant or flower shops in the plaza.” Acoustiana managed to write as she took a few moments to think how to word it all right.

        “Uh... I kinda live in the garden.” Scarlet’s cheeks burned a deep crimson, matching the streak in her mane.

        Acoustiana blinked a few times as she tried to recall her romps through the garden, and she had never noticed a house in it. She gave a questioning look to Scarlet and then to Hearth to search for answers.

        “Scarlet, you know how hard it is for somepony that’s not used to you to figure out what all you can do.” Hearth Song rolled her eyes and let out an irritated sigh. “Scarlet’s house is in the far corner. It looks like a large bramble that stretches high up the surrounding buildings. Her house is made out of said bramble, every inch.”

        “Did you... want to see it? I mean, if you want to... with Hearth, of course.” Scarlet stumbled on her own words.

        Hearth’s eyes went wide as a twinkle of recollection sparked within them. She turned,  grabbed her sister’s face, and stared her directly in the eyes, their muzzles scrunched together.

        “Scarlet, are you doing what I think you're doing?”

        “Let me go, Hearth. We both know why I am not. I shouldn’t have to tell you.” Scarlet’s eyes gained a fierce look and she easily swatted away her sister’s grasp upon her.

        “What? Oh... Oh! I am sorry. Yes, you are right. Sorry, sis.” Hearth looked sullen after she realized something, her earls flattening, and her eyes lowered to the table.

        “Will somepony let me in on what you two are going on about?” 

        “Its personal, no offence.” Scarlet waved away the notepad with her hoof. “My sister got worried about something, but as you can see, her worries were unfounded. However, my offer stands. It has been a while since I have entertained anypony.” 

        Hearth Song turned to her sister with an accusatory glare. Her eyes burrowed deep into her sister’s, as Scarlet looked back with equal levels of determination. Acoustiana could almost see the mental battle the two were having, waging an age-long sibling battle that the two had perfected over the years.

        “A while, eh? Tell me why I should believe that. You had to move out here in the first place because of your guests’ frequent visits.” Hearth flinched forwards.

        “I know that... but... things changed, okay! I grew out of that phase.” Scarlet twitched back as her eyes flashed a bit of remorse.

        “Just grew out of it? How does a pony─ no─how did you of all ponies manage that?” Hearth Song’s glare intensified.

        “I just did, Hearth!” Scarlet threw a hoof into the air. “I needed more and they sure as buck were not going to be providing it.” Scarlet folded her hooves and turned her head slightly to the side. “So leave it be. I am telling the truth!” Scarlet’s eyes began to glisten with increased moisture.

        Hearth suddenly relaxed her glare into a caring smile and tackled her sister in a hug. Scarlet let out a small grunting noise by the surprise attack and promptly fell off her seat.

        “Fine, you win. You’d better not be using your tears against me on purpose. That’s cheating, remember?”

        “I know...” Scarlet’s voice was only just barely above a whisper.

        Hearth Song bounced up and took account of those around that may have witnessed the sisterly spat. There were only a few onlookers, aside from the utterly confused Acoustiana, that looked at the two unicorns. Hearth straightened herself out, and helped her sister to her hooves before returning to her seat.

        “Sisters─what are ya gonna do? Hehe. Sorry for all that, but if I don’t drill her on some topics right away, she tends to get away with them as I get busy or she figures a way to squirm outta trouble. She is good at that. In any case, I think a visit to her home would be splendid. I haven’t been for longer than I care to admit, but such is the way of things.”

        “It’s not like you have any reason to feel bad about it. I told you I like visiting your place. Mine isn’t exactly fit for acoustics, so having you over to listen to you practice never works. Do we have time for a quick tour now? Or should we schedule for another time?” Scarlet looked around for a timepiece to check the time.

        Acoustiana pulled out her small watch from her bag, and saw they had plenty of time remaining. She then levitated it over to Hearth so she could relay the good news.

        “Seems we do have plenty of time. More than plenty, actually. Wow, it’s only been half an hour. We must have breathed in our food...” As she spoke, the waiter came out bearing their orders.

        Scarlet looked at her sister's face and broke out into a fit of laughter. Acoustiana couldn’t help but join in. Hearth looked to the two but failed to keep her expression of annoyance and laughed at herself as well. They paid for their food and took it with them as they headed to Scarlet’s house. As they all ordered sandwiches, it was easy for them to munch while they traveled.

        Scarlet lead them through the garden, glancing around and magically pruning some of the flowers as she went along. When the group arrived, Scarlet stopped suddenly and her eyes shot open wide.

        “Horsefeathers! Uh, you two wait out here. I need to clean up a few things first. It will just be a moment.” Scarlet ran into the large bramble bush. Acoustiana thought it was impossible─brambles grew so thick with thorns, that she was sure it would have been painful, but saw that the leaves had nothing behind them. No bramble branches at all, just leaves and darkness.

        “Ugh, my sister, the ‘I don’t clean up ‘cause it don’t matter’ mare. Pay it no mind. Whenever I visit, she always panics about it, but when I talk to her, she argues that it shouldn’t matter. But she never had important guests, so I can see why she would panic. It is adorable to see her panic.” Hearth Song chuckled more to herself at the thought.

        Acoustiana looked closer at the bramble bush. She did admit it was far larger than she remembered. Then again, it did just look like a well-trimmed bramble hedge in the corner of the garden, where one normally would be found to fill up space that couldn’t support more exotic or delicate plant life.

        The bramble shook after a few moments, then the sound of leaves rustling, light slamming of hooves, and a heavy thud came from somewhere inside. Hearth looked annoyed upon hearing the sounds, while Acoustiana became concerned. She knew how Pastel got with her place, and since Scarlet and Pastel knew each other as artists, she worried that the same freak-out may be happening inside the dark and ominous bramble house. Taking a tentative step forward, Acoustiana found a hoof barring her path.

        “Don’t. If you go in before she is ready, she will panic, and depending on who you are, either burst out into a tirade of insults and profanity, or run into her room in tears, cursing your name for the next week. I am fairly certain you would like neither of those to happen. My sister is passionate in all things she does. I don’t get why cleaning for guests has to be one of those things, but it is. Just be patient,” Hearth Song said with a gentle smile and reassuring nod.

        Acoustiana was not entirely set at ease, but she chose to lie down and enjoy the park to get her mind off her worries. She truly did not like the idea of a pony’s suffering because of her, but knew that there was little she could do without making matters worse in this case.

        Looking around, Acoustiana took in the sights and scents of the garden. The strongest odor came from the brambles, which exuded a gentle berry smell. Closing her eyes for a moment, she attempted to sniff what else the garden had to offer. She noticed some earthy herbal scents, along with some subtle flowers. The delicate aroma of roses was noticeable, albeit faint. Acoustiana opened her eyes in an attempt to locate the source of all the fragrances.

        Aside from the bramble, the other sources were harder to spot. Not knowing what exactly the herbs looked like as they grew, Acoustiana could only guess at what small green plants gave off the thick, musky scent. The flowers were all over, and they were of many types: daisies, tulips, dandelions, and even a few sunflowers. However, finding the roses seemed the hardest of all.

        Looking for a rose bush was hard. Try as she might, there didn’t appear to be any shrub-like plants other than the bramble house and the fenced-off sculpted shrubbery. Acoustiana swiveled her head around as she put on a frown, and her ears started to lower. After a few moments, she let out a light snort of frustration and attempted to relax.

        The bramble rustled slightly, the leaves swayed and the noise they made accentuated the movement. Shortly after, the bramble seemed to glow with an inner light. The space through which Scarlet had entered the home was now well-defined as a doorway. There was the sound of foliage being moved about, sporadically, and from many different areas of the bramble.

        “Okay, all done! You can come in now!” Scarlet yelled from somewhere within her home.

        “That took far longer than normal. And she opened all her windows. What is up with her today?” Hearth slowly shook her head before looking to Acoustiana with a wide smile. “Time to head on in and check out the wonders of a horticulturist and her crazy imagination!” Hearth rolled her eyes in opposite directions.

        Acoustiana raised an eyebrow at the statement and subsequent gesture. Mentally shrugging, she stood up and stretched her legs, more to help release the tension from searching than from the time being prone.

        Hearth Song trotted into the doorway, easily brushing past the leaves that appeared to bar the way. Acoustiana hesitated, but soon followed, wincing in anticipation of thorns as the leaves touched her coat. While pushing past the leaves, she realized there were no thorns. Just the gentle yet firm leaves. She slowly relaxed and took in the room she had just entered.

        The house was made entirely from the bramble. The floor was an intricately-woven design using the stems. The furniture was the same as the floor, except that they were interlaced in thick, almost seamless bundles, and then covered in a thin layer of leaves. Acoustiana looked to the walls, and found them to be uniform and straight. They looked just like a bramble should, aside from their being shaped vertically, instead of a rounded bush.

        As she admired the walls, Acoustiana finally found the source of the delicate scent of roses. Along the top of the walls, where they met the ceiling, roses sprouted intermittently from a deep-green vine.  The leaves that unfurled along the length of the vine melded into the bramble, such that the vine itself seemed nothing more than a relief: a decorative pattern, sculpted out of the very wall.

        Acoustiana admired the large light-pink flowers lining the entire room. Her mind questioned the means by which they stayed so beautiful when they must not receive any sunlight. As she pondered the possibilities of the gentle pink flowers’ ability to thrive inside the house, Scarlet entered through a curtain of leaves.

        “Sorry that took so long, but I just wanted to...” Scarlet had walked in with a proud smile, but upon seeing the intense look of wonder upon Acoustiana’s face, Scarlet found herself in a state of shock.

        Shaking her head to clear it, Scarlet seemed to flush a smidgen and looked to her roses. She let a warm smile drift upon her face as the wheels of her mind began to churn. With a slight surge of magic, she grabbed hold of one of the roses within Acoustiana’s sight, and plucked it from its stem, levitating it down to the bewildered unicorn.

        “Ahem!” Hearth glared at Scarlet with one eye, while the other had its brow furrowed. She then shook her head stiffly at her sister, letting out a small snort.

        Scarlet was frozen in place, unable to move or think. Yet she maintained her levitation spell, which had stopped the flower’s descent a few inches from its designated target. Acoustiana, coming out of her thoughts upon the flowers, looked to the source of the noise behind her to see Hearth giving Scarlet a stern look of heavy disapproval. She studied the flower floating not far from her and used her magic to bring it closer so that she could smell it directly.

        At first, her magic was unable to wrest the flower from the grip of the magical aura that kept it in the air. After her second attempt, Scarlet released her spell and allowed Acoustiana control of her flower. Acoustiana gently lowered her nose into the center of the rose and took a deep breath.

        The aroma of the rose was placating. Acoustiana felt her muscles relax, her mind slow down, and a soothing warmth flow through her body. He eyelids drooped as she wore a goofy smile.

        “Scarlet! I cannot believe you! We have to be back at practice in no less than thirty minutes, and look what you did. I swear to Luna, if you did that on purpose I will buck you right in the flank.” Hearth was leaning slightly forward and her face was becoming red. Her eyes narrowed upon her sister, as she hoped they would at least burn a small patch of that orange coat.

        “But... s-she looked like she wanted t-to smell it...” Scarlet tried backing up, her ears flat on her head and her tail curling up against her body as she shrank to the ground.

        “And pray tell, what was the reason for that the last time I saw you do such? Hmm? Or should I refresh your memory?” Hearth pressed on, not letting up her gaze.

        “That was different... she is different...” Scarlet shot Acoustiana a quick glance which was followed by a flash of color to her face. Something inside of Scarlet emboldened her, and her ears shot up as she gritted her teeth. “Besides, so what! What if it is the same reason as that time? Who are you to tell me I can’t at least try?” Scarlet had tears forming in the corners of her eyes as she nearly spat out each question.

        Acoustiana, upon finally sensing the disturbance through the bliss of the rose’s aroma, realized there was an issue yet again between the two sisters. During this time, she saw that the kind hostess that so generously gifted her such a wonderful flower was nearing the brink of tears, and her confidant seemed to be the source, yet again. Her mind still muddled, she managed to think enough to distract the two by hurling her notebook into the air between them in hopes of breaking the deadlocked glaring match.

        As the notebook sailed in between them, the two sisters lost their ironclad masks and looked to the source. They saw the silent unicorn looking between them, with her eyes wide and mouth slightly agape. Hearth knew that what her sister was attempting was unfair, but also acknowledged it wasn’t her place to be so rude about her attempts to stop it.

Scarlet felt shame for what she had done, but only felt pride in her words and what they meant. Slowly rising from her crouched position, Scarlet put on a stern and defiant face against her sister.

        “Fine. I will leave it to you then, Scarlet. Know this: I do not approve, nor will I help you in this foalish endeavor.” Hearth gave her sister one last scowl before turning to Acoustiana. Her expression softened, then slowly started forming worry lines upon her brow. “I’ll be just outside, dear. If you need me for anything, and I mean anything, just create some form of spell that can be seen or heard. I won’t be far. I promise.” Hearth then proceeded to trot out of the house.

        Acoustiana was now thoroughly perplexed. She knew she had missed something while she was admiring the lovely room with the exceptionally beautiful flower decorations. She tried to think of what might have happened: They entered the room, she admired the room, Scarlet picked one of the flowers and tried to give it to her, Hearth got upset. Acoustiana did not know for the life of her how that made any sense. Why would Scarlet’s gift of a fragrant flower from her own home be something to trigger such anger?

        “What about all of this...?” Acoustina started signing only to realize that her words fell upon the deaf eyes of Scarlet. She promptly placed her face into her hoof. A tapping on her shoulder brought her attention to her previously hurled notebook.

        “It’s okay. We all forget the little things in life at times,” Scarlet said as she gently levitated the notebook into Acoustiana’s hooves.

        Acoustiana released some air in what would have been a groan, and took up her notebook in her own magic.With a small frown and a worried brow, she quickly wrote down her questions.

        “Why, exactly, is Hearth so upset about your being generous with giving me one of these beautiful roses? I don’t understand how your giving me a piece of your artwork is such a bad thing. We give hundreds of ponies pieces of our works when we play, so for the life of me, I cannot fathom her issue with this.”

        As Scarlet read the notebook, her ears almost immediately folded back and her expression became desperate. Acoustiana noticed that Scarlet seemed to shiver ever so slightly, even though it was rather comfortably warm in the room.

        “Well... um... you see... oh, shoot.” Scarlet lay upon the floor and covered her face with a foreleg. “I’ve given ponies those roses before, but with ulterior motives.” Scarlet let out a long sigh before taking a deep breath and folding her legs under herself.

        “These roses I bred for their scent, as well as their ability to be used in decoration. They really are beautiful, aren’t they?” Scarlet gave a longing look to her roses. “While I was researching a few ways to increase a flower’s scent without causing a storm of pollen, I came across a spell that... had side effects. That is ancient history though, and the only important thing to know is that when you smell that flower I gave you, you will become relaxed and feel at peace... even if you don’t want to be. I only give those to somepony who is special. Generally they are a special somepony, but not always.” Scarlet felt the blood rush to her face as she tried to elaborate.

        “My sister thinks I gave you that flower for... bad reasons. She might be right. I don’t know for sure yet myself. What I do know is that I don’t feel bad for giving you that flower. You have helped my sister get her song known. She has worked on it for so many years, and it means the world to her. Anypony that sticks her neck out like you did, deserves nothing less than the best, as far as this pony is concerned.” Scarlet looked to Acoustiana with a stern face. Her stare was intense, her muzzle giving away no sign of emotion.

        Acoustiana felt that she understood the whole line of drama at this point. She was not all too pleased that she was given a flower that had magical properties, at least without being warned first. However, she concluded that the orange mare was just doing her best to show her appreciation, and that her sister assumed the wrong thing. Why the two wouldn’t just come out and say their problems was still a mystery, but she knew that even in her family, communicating secrets, even in privacy, was a difficult thing indeed. So she decided to write a small thank you.

        “I believe I understand. I will let Hearth know to calm down about whatever issue it is you two are having. You did this out of kindness and wanting to show your appreciation. I still say I would do this for anypony that had your sister’s skill. Thank you nonetheless. Your house is lovely. The skill it must have taken you to weave all of these branches so quickly is well beyond me. I can see why Pastel speaks so highly of you.” Acoustiana lowered herself to the floor so as to help the other unicorn understand she was no longer feeling tense.

        Scarlet’s face wavered only slightly as she read the words upon the notepad. Using her own magic, she placed the notepad into Acoustiana’s saddlebag, which perplexed the musical mare even further.

        “Thank you very much for your words. However, the longer you wait to speak with my sister, the harder it will be for her to accept it as truth, if such a thing is possible. I am sorry that our... disagreement has upset you in some way, and I am sorry for not telling you about the effects of my flower. Would have saved some strain, but I wasn’t exactly thinking it was all bad myself. So, off with you, and don’t be late back to your rehearsal on my account.” Scarlet got up, and once more her stern expression faltered for a moment.

        Acoustiana knew something was still bothering Scarlet, but figured that it wasn’t her place to push the matter, and as she had lost track of time since arriving at the house, she felt it better to follow her hostess’s advice. With a nod she stood up and headed towards the door, remembering to tuck her flower into her bag.

        Scarlet led Acoustiana to the door and opened the curtain of leaves for her. Acoustiana took the cue and headed out to find Hearth Song. This task proved to be simple, as Hearth was close by, admiring a large tree-like bush carved into the shape of the princess, rearing back with her wings partly opened.

        “Farewell, you two. Don’t be late for your rehearsal.” Scarlet went back inside her home with a flourish of leaves.

        “Wait... Ugh...” Hearth stretched out a hoof towards her sister, but let it slowly fall back to the ground as her sister’s house quickly shook and all the lights appearing from holes on the sides went out.

        Acoustiana looked back for a moment, but proceeded to take out her notebook and write something down. She occasionally glanced to Hearth as she wrote, to gauge her feelings on the situation, in case they would affect her words. Hearth, however, merely looked worried as she stood staring at her sister’s house.

        “Hearth, I do not understand what issues this visit has brought to the surface for you two. What I do know is that it is a family issue, and as such, I will not pry. Scarlet was just being nice, nothing more. She told me that she is just very appreciative for how I managed to get your song included in the concert. That was the driving reason for her giving me the flower. I am not all too pleased that I was not warned of its effects beforehoof, but they are minor and shouldn’t be an issue. We are just rehearsing, after all.”

        Acoustiana trotted over to Hearth and gave her a gentle nuzzle to remind the unicorn that she was still staring at a silent house. Hearth barely reacted, making a small sound while her eyes never left the house. Acoustiana, unsure of breaking the trance, chose to give Hearth a few more moments.

        Hearth slowly seemed to relax as the muscles under her coat softened and she once more began to blink. She let out a long sigh, and then turned to Acoustiana and the notepad floating in the air. She took a few breaths before reading her friend’s words.

        “Why is she doing this to herself...” Hearth mumbled more to herself. She then shook her head slowly and sat down in the soft grass.

        “Acoustiana, you are right. The effects will wear off in a couple of hours, so long as you don’t smell it directly, and it will be just a normal flower by tomorrow. I take some blame in not telling you about it as well, though. I have to admit to using them to help me relax after an exceptionally stressful day. They are rather nice.”

        Acoustiana nodded and watched her friend fidget with some inner thoughts that she didn’t want to express. So she simply sat there waiting for some clue as to what she might be able to do to help.

        “My sister is a good pony. She was a hooffull growing up. Nearly causing our parents to lose their manes on more than one occasion. Then she started doing this...” Hearth looked to the princess bush, ”and suddenly her life became more... I don’t know. In some ways she matured, in others she just stayed the same rebellious ‘don’t give a flying flank about anything’ mare. It’s why she moved out here in the first place.” Hearth closed her eyes and drew in a long breath through her nose.

        “Remember how I told you I moved here from Trottingham?” Hearth asked as she slowly opened her eyes.

        Acoustiana hesitantly nodded, even though she found it hard to remember the conversation when she had mentioned such a thing.

        “Well, that whole bit of it being hard all on my own had a lot more to do with my sister than it being hard for me to live a life by myself. I always worried about her. She has so much to give this world, but she always manages to mess it up. Take this sculpture of hers.” Hearth pointed to the princess bush. “Do you like it? Do you think it’s beautiful?”

        Acoustiana gave the plant sculpture a critical once-over. As she looked, she saw how intricate the details actually were. Not a leaf was out of place, and every curve of pony or jewelry was almost lifelike. Even the wings seemed to be truly feathered in leafy plumage. As she looked further down, she saw the base of the plant that fed the many dense leaves. For the first time, she consciously noticed the low wrought-iron fence that surrounded it. She then spotted the small wooden signs posted on the fence.

        “And I see you have found what I mean. Such great beauty my sister was able to create with her topiaries. Only to be sullied by her poor choice of plant. She fights tooth and hoof every time the city council tries to have these removed. They are made of yew. As you have read, they are rather poisonous to us ponies. Sadly, some ponies choose to ignore the sign, and when these berry, the foolish ones take bites out of them.” Hearth waved her hoof to the other dozen or so extravagant plant sculptures that adorned the garden.

        “My sister has a large supply of poison neutralizer on hoof at all times.  She just never seems to catch a break. That’s the real reason I moved here. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could help her out. Maybe I could guide her to make better decisions and change her luck. I have yet to be successful. She had grown a lot since she left our home, but her luck certainly has never changed. Don’t worry about the flower issue. I believe she didn’t mean any harm or mischief. Just her forgetfulness coupled with my desire to keep her safe. Well, her and you, but that’s a moot point now.” Hearth gave her sister’s house one last longing glance.

        “Come on, enough of this dwelling on the past. We have our futures to go practice for... Okay, that was a tad dramatic. Hee hee, but we do need to get back to rehearsals.” Hearth gave Acoustiana a warm, honest smile.


        Scarlet leaned against her wall after closing her doorway. Her sister had seen her, and Scarlet heard Hearth start to say something. She knew all too well that her sister saw what she didn’t want Acoustiana to see. Holding her breath, in hopes that the silence would make her sister go away, Scarlet shivered from all of the emotions running through her.

        After a few short moments without the sound of Hearth’s mad rush into the house, Scarlet allowed herself to breathe again. She cantered to her bedroom, the place she would find her solace and source of pain.

        From under her bed, she pulled out a small box made of mahogany. Her eyes betrayed her as they slowly began to fill with moisture. She shook her head and told herself that she wasn’t ready yet. She placed the box on her desk next to her window. Opening the box, she levitated out the numerous photos that she had speedily thrown into the box upon her return home. A couple were torn from where they had been hanging on the walls from a well-placed thorn. She kissed them gently in apology for the damage she had caused and slowly placed them around the window, back onto their respective thorns.

        Taking in a deep breath, Scarlet looked out her window. The city square was viewable from her room. Her mind began to fill in the scene: a wooden cart, filled with delicious fruits; a scruffy looking, but cute, earth pony tending to her fruits, her expression sullen, yet hopeful; then, as if the princess herself saw fit to bless her, the most beautiful mare she had ever laid eyes on trotted out of the crowd. Her coat, the softest pink. Her mane a creamy green. Her eyes, her most mesmerizing eyes. They were so full of life, with such hope in them. She watched as the mare made strange gestures with her front hooves, becoming dejected and taking out a notepad from her saddlebags. The grace of her movements, the gentle aura of her magic, and the cute way her brow furrowed as she wrote on her notepad simply enchanted Scarlet.

        She then remembered how she felt when she saw that mare cringe in fright. The swelling of anger for anypony daring to threaten such beauty. As the mare seemed to feel better, the flood of emotion subsided. She gave silent thanks to the white stallion that seemed to save the day. Colts were good for something in the end. Then she heard a familiar crashing sound that signaled her artist friends’ arrival to the scene.

        Scarlet’s mind then flooded her vision with a pink flank. She already felt her heart start to race, her breath quicken, and her face become flushed. Scarlet shook her head to stop the visions, especially that one, along with halting the feelings now invading her body.

        With the scene over, she told herself she was ready. Her eyes wasted no time in releasing their dammed up tears. The rest of her body followed suit as she crumpled to the floor, curling herself into a ball, while her body shook with her sobbing.

        She had her chance to take her mare. Why did she let her go? Why didn’t she tell her the truth instead of the veiled lie she spoke. Why?


        As the sun rose, the city came to life. The noise from the street filtered into Scarlet’s room, but she ignored it. She lay in bed, allowing herself to wallow in her misery. She knew a full day of crying would probably help her stop her obsession. “Probably...” she muttered while tears rolled over her muzzle.

        “Scarlet... Please don’t be mad with me, but I must speak with you.” Hearth Song’s gentle voice suddenly broke its way through Scarlet’s sorrow.

        She knew her sister would be by at some point. She knew her sister wouldn’t let her stay in her grief. Scarlet argued with herself for a brief moment before realizing that making her sister worry for her was worse than confronting her. Turning onto her side, she touched her horn to the wall and opened the door for her sister.

        Covering herself with her blanket, Scarlet remained in bed, trying to figure out what she was going to say in response to the things she figured her sister would tell her. The standard “Get out of bed and keep on looking” was annoying, but easiest to rebuke.

        Scarlet heard her sister’s hoofsteps enter her room. She heard a small gasp, followed by a gentle sigh. She then felt her sister’s presence on the bed.

        “Little sister, why are you doing this to yourself?” Hearth reached out and stroked what little of Scarlet’s mane was visible under the blanket.

        Scarlet felt the welling of more tears. The knot in her chest refused to loosen. If her sister hadn’t scolded her by now, then she was truly worried, and would want to help. Scarlet allowed herself this moment of weakness and burst from her covers. Burying her face into her sister, she broke into tears.

        “Hush now, small flower. I figured you needed a shoulder, but not this badly. Please try to calm down and talk to your big sis.” Hearth used the soft voice she had perfected for dealing with her sister through the years. She then used her magic to play a gentle tune on her lyre she had brought just for this occasion.

        Scarlet’s ears perked at the soft sounds filling her room, pulling her out of her misery and slowing the tide of her tears. She slowly pulled back from her sister. Her face was matted, the new tear stains mingled with the older ones. Her eyes had lost any form of white, and were completely bloodshot.

        “Thank you... for not yelling at me...” Scarlet tried to say more but stopped when her sister wrapped her in a strong hug.

        “I am sorry for getting angry yesterday. I should have known you had acted without thinking, and didn’t mean anything by it. Will you ever forgive me?”

        Scarlet let a small smile creep onto her face. She gently pushed Hearth back and looked into her eyes.


        Hearth allowed a modicum of moisture fill her own eyes, but held back the full force of tears. She reminded herself that she had a task to perform, and falling victim to her sister’s emotional state would prevent any form of resolution to the problem at hoof.

        “I have only seen you like this once before. Somehow I don’t think dad has kicked you out of your own house and disowned you a second time, which leaves Tiana as the only other source. Tell me how you feel for her, and I promise to keep an open mind.” Hearth lifted her sister's head by a gentle hoof under her chin.

        Scarlet whimpered and squeaked for a few moments before taking a few deep breaths, and then sat up on her bed. She saw the bows in her hair all skewed and creased, and decided it best to remove them before talking.

        As her mane flowed free, she untied her tail bow as well. Hearth just sat on the bed, allowing her sister the time to collect her thoughts and gain some ease.

        “I don’t know what words to use. Ever since I first saw her... I don’t know... it was like some spell was placed on me. I want her. I need her. I want to touch her, to hold her. I want to make her happy, and keep her safe from anything that would harm that happiness. But... ever since that party, I’ve tried to forget about her. I just can’t. And then she goes and gets your song into that concert!” Scarlet waved her front hooves in the air. “How am I supposed to feel nothing for her after that? I just... I don’t know.” Scarlet looked down as her whole body seemed to slump and lose its color.

        Hearth sat in shock. Her sister had lusted over many a mare, and she had her bouts of tears over rejection. However, this instance was different, so very different. Not once did Hearth hear her sister talk about her desires for Acoustiana in bed, but instead, she wanted to make her happy. Hearth became suddenly very scared for the question she had to ask. She dreaded the answer, but knew it was her place to ask, now that she had her sister open up.

        “Do... do you think that... you love her?” Hearth spoke hesitantly while swallowing back the terror that crept into her chest.

        Scarlet’s eyes shot wide as she sat straight up. Her mouth slowly hung low as the realization crept into her mind. Her heart began to thump audibly through her chest.

        “Y─yes... yes I do...” Scarlet looked to Hearth, and the two shared an expression of fear.

        “What do we do then? I can’t let you stay like this. But you know I can’t help you when she just finished putting herself back together. I just... I don’t know what to do here.” Hearth put her hoof to her temple and started rubbing the new-found pain she was getting.

        “We don’t do anything.” Scarlet took a deep breath as she closed her eyes to gain some focus. “I need to deal with this. But... I understand your point.” Scarlet looked at her hooves as she nibbled on her lower lip.

        “Well, I can help you figure out what you want to do about this up till lunch today. I told the conductor I would be busy with a family emergency till then. So, throw some ideas out there. Just try and think long term. Be her friend before you try anything. Maybe you’ll get over her if you give yourself time.”

        “Well... actually...” Scarlet looked up to her sister with expectant eyes.

        “I told you I would keep an open mind, small flower. Just tell me.” Hearth gently stroked her sisters mussed mane.

        “Remember that favor you owe me for fetching your harp?” Scarlet snuck in a smirk.

        “Yeah?” Hearth became very curious as to what her sister had in mind now.

        “Well, how far off is your concert gonna be?” Scarlet regained her color, and a small sparkle appeared in her eye as she fully formulated her plan.

        “Not for a few months... why?”

        “I’ll tell you in a week or so... Till then, I have something I need to do.” Scarlet  grabbed her sister and gave her a crushing hug while nuzzling her cheek. “Thank you... for everything. I don’t deserve a sister as good as you.”

        Hearth returned the hug, “Hee hee, seems we are stuck with each other nonetheless.”


        The day of the concert arrived. Acoustiana had sent out all the invitations she could think of to her family. All her friends had ordered their tickets well in advance. She even went with Hearth Song to get tailored dresses made.

        Acoustiana did find Hearth a bit particular when it came to onstage attire. In the end, the dresses they got were of sublime quality, and her dress in particular made Acoustiana feel alluring. A rare feeling, but she rather enjoyed it.

        Even with all the changes that had happened, the concert was going to be stupendous. Acoustiana wasn’t fully thrilled at first with the requested change to her concerto, but after hearing out the musical director and the conductor pitch their idea of enhancing her music with the accompaniment of the orchestra, she gave it a willing try and found the results beyond her imagining. The added percussion, the sonorous, layered harmony of a full string section, the bright timbre of brass, and the fleeting chirp of the two flutes. It all added up to a force beyond what she had hoped her music would create.

        Acoustiana was preparing her violin and her double bass. She wasn’t going to be using them together at all for the concert, and for that she was quite thankful. Her black dress with silver thread interwoven lay on a chair next to her instruments. Hearth insisted that they both wear the flashy style. Though Acoustiana felt that Hearth wanted to wear it more than she, as she watched the harpist gently slide on her hoofmade stockings that were fitted with her personal plectrums sewn into the heels. Acoustiana did take note that Hearth was putting on her stockings exceedingly slowly, as she had her eyes drooped and a coy smirk.

        The reason soon became apparent as a few of the colts groaned, and one of the pegasi whistled her approval. The reactions of the others seemed to ease some tension as the majority of the ensemble let out a small chuckle at the antics. Hearth blushed a bit as the pegasus flew over and gave her a playful wink and nudged her with an elbow before bursting into laughter, which she quickly clamped her hooves to silence.

        Acoustiana had not noticed, but after her friend’s antics, the room seemed to lighten as the laughter released the tension. She breathed in the musty air of the back stage. Finishing her last few touch-ups on her instruments: ensuring every string was tuned; polishing the surfaces to be reflective; tightening her bows and getting them well-rosined. She levitated her dress and headed to the mares’ room to put it on. Unlike Hearth, she didn’t feel at ease enough to do something like that in front of others.

        Wriggling into her form-fitting dress, Acoustiana gave her mane and tail a once-over to fix up the mess her dress made, as well as to adorn her mane with a sleek black hair band. She admired her reflection, and allowed a moment of sadness that her form would doubtlessly garner her attention, but she knew not from whom she wanted it. Letting out a silent sigh, she shook her head and headed back to her place on stage.


        Acoustiana was winded. The same was true for most of the orchestra. She had just finished what was the amalgamation of her solo with the accompaniment of the whole orchestra. The energy they all managed to put into it was intense. Though, after the simply enchanting voice of the singer that performed Hearth’s song was finished, she felt like she could do anything.

        The crowd was on their hooves, stomping out a thunderous applause as flowers rained upon the whole group. Looking to Hearth, Acoustiana watched as her friend enjoyed her moment of acknowledgement. Hearth was standing next to her harp, nose in the air, eyes shut, basking in the applause as the flowers gently landed on her. Remembering that feeling, Acoustiana was pleased to no end that she was able to assist her friend in receiving it as well.

        The lights flickered off of her dress as Acoustiana took her bows of appreciation. The conductor gave the motion for them to depart the stage, so Acoustiana took hold of her violin and prepared for her departure backstage. As she was about to move, she felt a slight tickle on her head, followed by a light pressure under her hairband. Raising a hoof, she discovered a flower was now tucked into her mane. Not wanting to be caught standing still when she should be moving, Acoustiana waited till she was backstage to retrieve the errant flower.

        Once safely backstage, Acoustiana took the flower from her hair. When she saw it, a slight shiver went through her. It was an all-too-familiar pink rose. She wasn’t sure what to think of the gift, fighting the urge to smell its wonderful scent because of the effects it would cause.

        She then noticed a small white piece of parchment hidden within the petals. Using her magic, she levitated it out and it found it to be a diminutive scroll. Unfurling it, she read its contents.

        I am sorry to be doing this, but I had a debt to pay off. The owner of this rose you already know, and she will be waiting for you in the corner where the curtains end and block sight from the stage. Please do not hate me for this, and if things do go poorly, I will do all I can to make this up to you.


        Acoustiana was now highly confused. She thought that the message was probably meant for Hearth. Thinking that made the most sense, Acoustiana searched for her fellow musician to relay the misplaced note. She found her speaking with the pegasi, the three giggling about a shared joke. As she approached, she gently ran her bow over her violin so as to make just enough sound to be heard. The three looked over, but the expression upon Hearth’s face worried Acoustiana dreadfully.

        “If you will excuse me, ladies, I see Tiana here needs a private conversation. I won't be too long.” Hearth bowed to the two pegasi, who bowed to the two unicorns as Hearth escorted Acoustiana off to the side and out of earshot of anypony nearby.

        “Before you try and... uh... write something, I am only vaguely familiar with what was planned for you this night. My sister has something to tell you, and asked me to get her backstage as payback for that night back when your heart was broken. You got her flower, and I see you’ve read some type of note that was attached to it. That is for you, and you alone as far as I am concerned.” Hearth tried to give a smile, but it was obviously forced, as her brow creased with worry and eyes told of uncertainty.

        Acoustiana pointed to the note with a hoof and then her head, then in the direction of Hearth. She sat down and scratched at her head and gave Hearth a shrug.

        “I can’t tell you more, dear. Just talk with Scarlet. If nothing else, you and I can go party hard and forget all about it, if that’s what you want. I know Pollen Hymn and Water Song are amped to go to a club, so you will have plenty of company, if you’ll have it. So off with you. I am sure that note says something about where to find her... She said she would be hiding so as to be out of the way and to... well... hide.” Hearth caught herself before saying something she would regret. Her eyes darted from side to side before she cleared her throat and then gave Acoustiana a soft nudge with a hoof.

        Acoustiana just nodded, and with growing curiosity figured whatever it was Scarlet had in mind must have been embarrassing enough to elicit such responses from her friends. She worried that whatever it was, was probably indecent. Perhaps a risqué sculpture? Scarlet didn’t seem the type, but perhaps she thought Acoustiana would be really into that type of artwork.

        Regaining her composure, Acoustiana figured it best to face the artist head-on, try to accept the gift, and let this whole matter be. She headed for the side of the stage where the curtains blocked the view, and nopony seemed to be anywhere near. As she got closer, she saw a pony off in the dark. She was fidgeting, rubbing her forearms together, while apparently watching something on the ground. As she got closer, the pony looked up, and the light flickering off the silver strands of her dress seemed to reflect off the pony’s eyes, causing them to flash many different colors. The pony cleared her throat and slowly moved out of the darkest shadows.

        “Th─thank you for... well... giving me this chance.” Scarlet spoke with a shaky voice, as she looked everywhere but at Acoustiana.

        Rolling her eyes at the once more seemingly starstruck mare, Acoustiana set her violin down on a stool nearby and trotted over to Scarlet, patting her on the head. She then noticed the extravagant red glittering dress Scarlet was wearing. What she noticed more, though, was how Scarlet suddenly froze stock-still as she got close to her and touched her. This reaction worried Acoustiana, so she moved into Scarlet’s vision to see if she just gave the poor pony a heart attack.

        As she did so, Scarlet’s expression went from being stiff in shock to blushing until her face was as red as her namesake. Seeing that the pony was not falling over and still breathing, Acoustiana took a few steps back and sat down to await the pony to gather herself and do, or give, whatever it was for which she had set up this elaborate scene.

        The moments ticked by as Scarlet cringed and darted her eyes about. She was on the verge of hyperventilating. Acoustiana was getting slightly annoyed. She reminded herself that she would probably act the same, though. If a great musician had just trotted up to her and patted her on the head like the great Beethooven, or Pegasini, she would probably be doing the same thing. So she quelled her annoyance and simply smiled the best she could to help encourage Scarlet to calm down.

        Scarlet eventually started to dart her eyes in Acoustiana’s direction. By the third glance, Scarlet seemed to regain some of her faculties, and began to breathe semi-normally as she stood back up. After another few moments of controlling her breathing, Scarlet appeared to have fully calmed herself.

        “That... um... sorry. I am sure you’re... uh... wondering why I asked Pastel to ask you to come back here in the dark... erm... I mean, private area.” Scarlet’s face flushed once more, but far less than it did when Acoustiana looked into her eyes.

        “In any case, I wanted to tell you something, but before that, give you a gift.” The dark corner filled with the soft red glow emitted from her horn. Soon, a bundle of flowers floated out from the stage side of the curtains. The bouquet floated near Acoustiana’s hooves and the soft red glow faded.

        “I will just need to borrow that rose I gave you, if you don’t mind, that is...” Scarlet looked to Acoustiana with wide eyes and a partially lifted leg.

        Acoustiana figured she knew where all this was going and covered her mouth as she silently giggled at her astute assumption. She then nodded to Scarlet and bowed her head slightly to offer up the rose that was tucked behind her ear.

        The glow of magic once more banished the darkness, and all the flowers levitated off the ground. They became separated and each floated freely, slowly spiralling in the air. Slowly, the flowers began to intertwine with each other. The flowers bloomed to the greatest size, and the petals took on a glossy shine.

        Before long, Acoustiana let her jaw drop as she looked upon the most stunning cape made of flowers. The cape gently floated over to Acoustiana and clasped itself to her back. The remaining flowers, which included the pink rose from Scarlet’s house. remained in the air. These too began to weave together. This time, however, the flowers didn’t bloom like they did for the cape. A sudden flash of red caused Acoustiana to close her eyes and shield them with her forearm.

        “Oh my gosh, I am so sorry. Sometimes that happens with this spell... please forgive me!” Scarlet sounded like she was choking back tears as she spoke.

        Acoustiana waved her hoof to try and signal all was well as she blinked the spots from her eyes. As her vision cleared, she saw that Scarlet had tear stains quickly forming on her cheeks while she stared at her. Acoustiana folded her ears back as she became worried, but perked them right back up when she saw Scarlet form a smile. Releasing her held breath, Acoustiana gave the other unicorn a warm smile and looked up to the newest flower creation.

        Above her floated a tiara made from the flowers. The heads formed a mosaic in the front, and were topped by the crown jewel of Scarlet’s pink rose. It slowly lowered onto Acoustiana’s head, and she felt her black hair band slide off as the flower tiara settled over her mane. She noticed it felt far heavier than she expected a few flowers would, as if it were a real tiara. She slowly reached a hoof up to feel it, just to see if it felt like metal, and found that the loops on the side sure felt solid enough, but the flowers in the front felt as soft as ever.

        “As for what I wanted to tell you...” Scarlet froze up. Her muscles clenched and she trembled.

        Acoustiana saw the fear in the other’s eyes and tried to pull her mind from the magnificent items she had just recieved so as to help the other mare speak her mind. She knew whatever it was she had to say would pale in comparison to the gifts. With a warm smile and a light flick of her leg, she hoped to urge Scarlet on.

        “I... I wanted you to know that...” Scarlet tried to formulate the words. As she stuttered, new tears began to form in her eyes. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. With ears folded back and her head drooping low, she opened her eyes back up and looked to Acoustiana once more.

        “I just wanted to tell you how much I loved your voice. Nopony could convey such emotion with words they way you can.” She closed her eyes and lifted her head, but her ears remained folded. “And if anypony,”Scarlet spoke as she opened her eyes staring off to the side with grim determination, “dares to say you have no voice, I’ll have a few choice words for them.”

        Acoustiana felt a wave of warmth wash through her from the simple words Scarlet spoke. None of her friends or family, attributed her music to being her voice. Yet this almost unknown pony saw past it all and grasped the truth. A strange knot formed in her chest, ever so small, but the emotion of the words spoken still caused her to cry. Rushing forward, she grabbed Scarlet into a hug. She felt Scarlet tense up, but she slowly relaxed and returned the hug.

        Acoustiana promised herself to become better friends with Scarlet. This mare deserved nothing less for the gifts of  flowers and words. Scarlet pulled away from the hug and looked Acoustiana in the eye, both of them with tears in their eyes. Scarlet reached a hoof up and brushed away a tear. The sensation felt warm, with a touch of electricity.

        As if a wheel started churning in her mind, Acoustiana felt something familiar about all of the happeings. It was a strange feeling, and she was momentarily stunned by it. She shook her head gently, causing her tiara to slide over her ear.

        “Silly filly, careful with that. My magic will keep these alive for only a few weeks, assuming you don’t do silly things like that to break them.” Scarlet used her hooves to replace the tiara. She then took a step back and looked over Acoustiana with a small smile, yet her eyes did not complement the look.

        “I should go congratulate my sister now. Thank you again. This meant more to me than you know.” Scarlet slowly started moving out of the darkened corner.

        As she passed by, Acoustiana thought she saw Scarlet frown, and her eyes seemed lost in some sad thought. When she turned to try and get a better look, however, Scarlet had faced fully forward and was moving into the light, causing her dress to sparkle vibrantly, illuminating the shadowy hiding spot. By the time Acoustiana’s eyes readjusted, Scarlet had moved past the curtain wall and was headed into the main area backstage.

        Acoustiana stood there for a moment. She tried to recall the familiar instances that seemed to trigger something in her mind, yet just out of her reach to conceptualize. She allowed the thoughts to simmer in the back of her mind, as standing alone in a dark corner on this occasion was simply a silly notion. Gathering her violin, she headed back to meet with Hearth and the others to head out and celebrate, as she had no other plans.

        As she neared the bustling group of musicians, still milling about and talking amongst each other, Acoustiana spotted Hearth speaking to Scarlet. The sisters were whispering to each other, and neither looked very happy. Hearth appeared agitated with her sister, while Scarlet just looked at the floor with her ears folded back. Taking a few steps towards the sisters, Acoustiana came in to their view.

        Scarlet glanced up while whispering something to Hearth, and then turned, heading out the back exit at a brisk canter. Acoustiana raised a hoof to get her to stop, but Scarlet had already left the building.

        Hearth trotted over and gave Acoustiana a once-over, admiring her new floral attire. Nodding her approval, she looked to the door through which Scarlet had left, and let out a sigh.

        “Well, it would seem all of my worries are gone. I am glad she was able to show you her appreciation.” Hearth smiled at Acoustiana, only to cringe back at the look she received in return.

        More things vexed Acoustiana with the whole situation. Something was up, and she figured her friends knew something they weren't telling her. She pulled out the small scroll and revealed Pastel’s name written on it to Hearth.

        “So... Pastel is involved in this as well? So why do you look mad? Scarlet said you really enjoyed her gifts, so I am at a loss.”

        Acoustiana set her mind on getting answers. She waved over the two pegasi that were talking to each other, a small bit away. They fluttered over and greeted the unicorns with large grins and joyous salutations. Acoustiana raised a hoof to calm them, and prodded the name on the note she had levitated in the air. The pegasi attempted to translate and one guessed that they were being asked to go fetch the pony in question. Acoustiana nodded, and the two saluted and flew off on their task, still grinning like foals and giggling at each other.

        “Wow, they didn’t even ask why or anything. How peculiar...” Hearth watched the feathered musicians fly off. She then turned back to Acoustiana, who kept a stern face.

        Acoustiana pointed to herself, then to Hearth, and then to Pastel’s name. She followed it up with a couple quick stomps and firmly planted her rear on the floor, assuming a defiant posture.

        Hearth let out a groan and rubbed her temple. “Okay, okay... I don’t need to be a mind reader to know you figured something out. Let us wait for Pastel, then, and we shall talk this out.” Hearth sat on the floor and continued to groan and sigh at the confrontation.

        Before long, the sounds of clattering chairs and complaining ponies erupted from the stage area. The noise of a galloping pony shortly preceded Pastel’s arrival.

        “Are you okay?” Pastel blurted out as soon as she laid eyes on Acoustiana.

        “No. You two are keeping a secret from me and I demand answers. Scarlet’s gift was kind and sweet, but did not warrant the reactions you and Hearth Song gave. What is really going on?” Acoustiana signed out and narrowed her eyes on her purple friend.

        Pastel contemplated running away. It would be the easiest way out of the whole mess in which she just found herself. However, as it seemed Hearth was dragged into it as well, she knew it would be wrong to leave the other alone in this mess. So she lowered her head and sat next to Hearth Song to try and figure out what went wrong with the plan.

        “So... are you mad at me for helping Scarlet with her plan? Or is this about something else?” Pastel ventured a guess.

        “All I know is that Scarlet gave me these beautiful gifts, and told me how she likes my music. She was holding something back, just like you two are. What is it? Did I miss a note? Was my dress mussed? What is it you’re not telling me?”

        “Hearth... Did your sister forget to mention an important detail of all this?” Pastel looked to the other unicorn with her eyes wide.

        “She didn’t tell her. All this planning and she didn’t bucking tell her...” Hearth gritted her teeth but never looked up.

        “What... I did all that, to my dear friend... and she didn’t even follow through? Why that little no good sister of yours...” Pastel started to growl deep in her throat.

        “Tell me what?” Acoustiana signed and then slammed her hooves onto the floor, causing nearby ponies to look over in alarm. The stares caused Hearth and Pastel to cringe slightly.

        “This conversation is a bit one-sided at the moment. Pastel, it would help if you translated for me, but I also think we should probably vacate the building as well, if this is going down the path I think it is,” Hearth said with a solemn look upon her face.

        “I agree. Will you allow us to take this elsewhere, Tiana? It involves... personal... very personal... issues that none of us would want to be made public,” Pastel pleaded.

        Acoustiana nodded after a moment to accept the arrangement. The musicians made sure that their instruments that remained on stage would be tended to, and that the two pegasi that helped find Pastel received their thanks.

The three headed out of the building and made their way through the busy streets until they ended up at the garden. Hearth continued walking into the empty area while Acoustiana and Pastel stood by, wondering why she was going to the source of the issue.

        “Don’t worry. She isn’t home. I know my sister. She is off in her thoughts at a safe place less public than here.” Hearth nodded her head for the other two to follow. They complied and the three stopped at a lovely stone bench.

        “Okay, so what are we talking about? I am not going to assume anything, so Tiana, dear, if you could please ask your question so that Pastel can translate it, and then we can all be on the same page?” Hearth gave a weak smile.

        “What are you all not telling me?”

        Pastel let out a sigh and placed her hoof over her face. “She wants to know what it is that she isn’t being told. At this point I can not blame her, as I would also be rather upset at everypony’s keeping a secret this obvious from me.”

        “Well... you see...” Hearth rubbed the back of her neck. “My sister kinda, sorta... maybe... likes you.”

        “Kinda? Sorta? Maybe?” Pastel frowned and gave Hearth a rather incredulous look as she glared for a moment. “That mare doesn’t kinda, sorta, maybe anything.”

        Acoustana was tiring of the pony dance and clopped her hooves together to send that point across.

        “I already know she likes me. She told me that months ago. She said I am a special pony for helping Hearth get her song into the concert.”

        “Tiana... oh sorry, Hearth. She said she already knows Scarlet likes her, as Scarlet told her as much months ago. Apparently for helping you get your song into the concert.” Knowing her translation duty was over, she let out a sigh and continued. “We don’t mean just like you... she... oh I don’t like this... Hearth you do this, I am not okay with this.” Pastel took a few steps back and defiantly kept her mouth shut.

        “Gee, thank,.” Hearth said with a deadpan look. She then looked to Acoustana, her eyes softened and she bit her lower lip.

        “My sister will probably hate me for this... but I also know you deserve to know. You have in fact helped me. Just promise me one thing.” Hearth looked straight into Acoustiana’s eyes. “Don’t hold this against my sister, or think poorly on her. As I told you months ago, she is a good pony.” Hearth took in a deep breath.

        “The day after she gave you that flower, first thing in the morning in fact, I went see her. I knew by the look on her face, and what you told me she said, that she was not well. I found her in bed crying.” Heart softened her expression and spoke in a soft, gentle voice. “Those tears were because of you, because of how much she... loves you...” Hearth looked away.

        “She what?” Pastel yelled as her jaw slowly sagged and her eyes went wide.

        Acoustiana felt a slight popping sensation in her head. Suddenly all her encounters made sense. The blushing, the stammering. How Scarlet would look at her. Then the words she spoke came back to her, and the way she removed her tear.

“‘I love your voice’... ‘She is different’ … ‘special somepony’...” Acousiana’s eyes went wide. “It almost all makes sense. What doesn’t make sense...  Scarlet... is a mare...”

Silence is Bittersweet, Part 6

        Walking down the street, Acoustiana found it hard to concentrate on her dilemma. On one hoof, she found out that a mare of all ponies sought her affections. On the other hoof, for the first time, a pony actually heard what her music truly was, and loved her for it.

        The street lights reflected off the silver threads in her dress as she slowly made her way through the city streets. Acoustiana barely noticed the other ponies going about their evenings, nor did she notice how they admired her gown. Her mind was turned inwards as she went over all the signs in her mind, as well as how she should react to the pony that performed them.

        Letting Scarlet down gently would be hard for her, but nicer to Scarlet. If she let her down in a blunt fashion, it would be far less stress for Acoustiana, but she knew that the poor mare would be just as devastated as she had been when Ray had showed up with Gale Prancer. Acoustiana would not be the one to hurt somepony else so deeply on purpose.

        She took a look around her, in order to regain her bearings. She wanted to figure out how much time she had left to come up with something to say to Scarlet before she arrived where Hearth said Scarlet would be. To her dismay, Acoustiana found she was almost there; she realized she had traveled a great distance since her discussion with Pastel and Hearth, her feelings of apprehension and anxiety having grown with every cobblestone she passed. Giving a soft snort and furrowing her brow, she resolved herself to dealing with the matter on the fly, as she wanted to get the discussion over with before the night ended.

        Heading just outside of town, Acoustiana found the field that had been described to her, which dipped and rolled with a number of hills. One of the valleys was her destination. The light from the city played with the shadows. A heavy mist filled the valleys, the grass stood still, the air devoid of any bird calls or insect hums, including the one she knew to be her destination.

        She knew her illumination spell was weak at best, and would do little to help guide her, so instead of straining herself further, she hoped that the other pony would have a light on to assist her. She hesitantly braved the mists and stepped forward.

        As the mists enveloped her, Acoustiana felt a strange sense of familiarity. It felt like déjà vu. She paused, shaking her head to clear the sensation. She couldn’t remember clearly when she would have been out at night in these misty fields. Looking up, Acoustiana tried to see if any stars or even the moon pierced the mist, but all she was able to see was the pale glow of city lights mixing with the vibrant illumination of the moon, somewhere in the sky above the town, and slightly to the left by the looks of it.

        Sighing in the her usual silent way, she trudged on, slowly moving forward through the valley so as not to trip on anything, nor ruin her dress further after this excursion as the condensation was already starting to cling to her gown. Her steps gently echoed in the silence as she stepped over a crop of rocks.

        “Who’s there?” A sweet and familiar voice pierced the mists.

        Acoustiana gritted her teeth and snorted. She scraped a hoof upon the grass and whistled. She then tried to light her horn as a beacon and hoped Scarlet would locate her.

        From the mists, a pale red glow appeared. The light appeared to come from somewhere in front of her, but the exact location was too hard to see in the swirling droplets. She gave the ground a couple more scrapes and whistled once more.

        “I asked who you are, not where you are. Fine, I am coming to you since you refuse to tell me your name, but this better not be some prank. I am not in the mood, Summer Wind.” Scarlet’s voice sounded very irritable, and Acoustiana thought she detected a slight tremble, but figured it was probably just the mists.

        A moment later, Acoustiana made out the outline of a pony carrying the light upon her horn. The red glow easily overpowered her own orange. Just as she was putting out her light, she saw how it flickered off of Scarlet’s eyes. For a second time in this place, Acoustiana felt like she had just experienced this.

        “Okay, what do you wan...” Scarlet got close enough to see who the intruding pony was and her jaw dropped as her light went out.

        The two stood silently looking at one another, while Acoustiana tried to figure out how this situation even remotely resembled anything she had experienced before. The closest she could think of was not an hour ago, but then, there was that one dream she remembered as well. Scarlet recovered and closed her mouth, but her eyes remained wide open as she nibbled on her lower lip.

        Acoustiana shook her head to set aside the thoughts and brushed away the piece of her mane that fell in front of her face. She then attempted to pull out her notepad so she could at least start this poor pony’s heartbreak, hoping to make it as gentle as possible.

        The notebook did not appear, so she pulled a little harder, but felt a tug on her dress instead. Frowning, she looked down to see how the notepad had gotten snagged, but found her problem was far more dire than that. She found that she had forgotten to bring her notepad.

        Her own eyes going wide for a moment, she quickly put on a scowl as she ground her teeth and stamped a hoof into the ground. Snorting a few times, she did her best to calm down and looked to the other pony still standing in the mists, silent.

        Attempting to think of a solution to this additional problem, Acoustiana had few options. She took a deep breath and did the best she could to portray her thoughts to the mare that couldn’t understand her otherwise.

        Acoustiana stamped her hooves in a mock trot and then stood to mimic playing her violin, sweeping her bow hoof back and forth. She then dropped back down and shrugged. Turning another direction, she did the same trotting motion, followed by sitting down with one hoof held out steady about chest height while the other moved close to it and gently arched to her mouth, where she tilted her head back slightly and swallowed. Then, clasping both hooves together, she rested the side of her head upon them and made exaggerated breathing movements with her mouth, big breath in, and with pursed lips breathing out. Dropping back to all four hooves, Acoustiana waited to see if her pantomime had worked.

        Scarlet just stood there, her eyes darting around, but she soon seemed to relax a bit, as she stopped nibbling her lip and her eyes went back to their normal sizes, though her eyebrow remained raised.

        “I think... no... no, I have no idea. Okay, you don’t have your notepad with you, so you want to go get one?” Scarlet spoke in a quiet and shaky voice.

        Acoustiana nodded, then pointed in one direction and performed her violin movements. She then pointed to another direction, clasped her hooves, leaned her head on them, and breathed in and out. She then shrugged, pointed in both directions once more and then at Scarlet.

        “Your violin or... sleep? Erm...” Scarlet adjusted her dress before sitting on the wet grass. She tapped her hoof upon her chin, eyes wandering off as she thought deeply on what was being asked.

        Acoustiana let her eyelids droop halfway and her face draw blank. She was getting annoyed, but didn’t want to be too forceful in showing it.

        “Hearth is way better at charades, but I think I got it. You want to go back to the theater or to a house for a notepad?” Scarlet perked her ears as she looked to Acoustiana.

        Acoustiana nodded and clasped her hooves, and pointed to herself. She pointed towards the outskirts of the city. She then pointed in the other direction, made the violin motion.

        “Wait... Your home?” Scarlet’s eyes once more went wide as she shivered.

        Acoustiana nodded and pointed in the direction of her house.

        Scarlet gulped down her fears. I came here to get my thoughts in order, and it helps not being around other ponies, so... I really don’t want to leave this place... But for you, I will go... your house will work best of the two options... erm... if are you sure?” Scarlet looked to Acoustiana as her ears flattened and she lowered herself further into the grass.

        Acoustiana breathed in deeply, catching the comforting scent of wildflowers. Putting on a warm smile, she nodded and offered a hoof to help the obviously terrified mare to her hooves and hopefully ensure that she knew it was safe, though she knew the end result would be far from such. Her smile wavered, but she held it.

        Scarlet relit her horn and reached out for Acoustiana. Her ears slowly rose as she stood back up. Hooking her hoof around Acoustiana’s, Scarlet reveled in the delicate sensation of the other mare’s coat, and a smile crept upon her face. Taking in a deep breath, Scarlet stepped closer, appearing relaxed, but still bearing a worry line upon her brow.

        With the contact, Acoustiana was hit by one last feeling of déjà vu. This time, she knew for certain. Her dream that gave her the song which got her name known. The dream where she was chased by an unknown pony with glowing eyes. The dream that scared her so much back then, came back to haunt her once more. Yet this time, she saw the pony. This pony that she knew loved her, and was currently smiling at the contact she just made with her.

        Acoustiana felt her heart start to race, and she did all she could to fight the sudden urge to gallop away. She felt terror at first, but then Scarlet spoke.

        “What’s wrong? Did I do something wrong? Did somepony else? Is that what all this is about? Arg... I am so learning hooflanguage. This is not acceptable. You shouldn’t need to write to me when somepony hurts you.” Scarlet scowled and her eyes became fierce. Her grip on Acoustiana tightened. “We are gonna run to your house okay? If you’re tired, I will carry you. You came all this way to talk to me, and by Luna I will be banished before I have you get any more worked up on my account.”

        Before she could react, Acoustiana found herself gently levitated from the ground as the red magical aura enveloped her. The soothing caress of the magic felt like silk. The terror that was in her quickly vacated her heart. She didn’t know why, but with how the magic felt, Acoustiana didn’t find reason to complain as she was whisked through the streets at a full gallop by the mare still holding her hoof.

        As the two went by the street lamps, Acoustiana noticed how the lights flickered off their dresses. Scarlet’s dress reflected a brilliant red, while Acoustiana’s a silver sheen. The dark path would briefly light up with their combined illumination, the rounder flashes of red mixed with the streaks of silver.

        With her mind fully distracted, Acoustiana allowed herself to relax. She curled her hooves, save for the one being held by Scarlet, under her. To her dismay, the comfort was short-lived as she found herself staring at her front door. Scarlet released her grip on Acoustiana’s hoof and waited to make sure that the levitated mare was aware they had arrived.

        She was gently lowered to the ground, a small frown on her face. Opening her door, she invited Scarlet in. Her mind suddenly ground to a halt as she remembered the whole purpose of finding Scarlet in the first place. Yet she had felt so comfortable on the trip over with nothing but, as far as she knew it, contented acceptance.

        Tapping her hoof to her chin, Acoustiana recalled the experience when Pastel carried her through the streets. It was another unicorn levitating her, as was this instance, but the feeling was somehow different. She did enjoy the sensation of Pastel’s magic as well, but something about Scarlet’s felt nicer.

        “Okay, here you go, I found your chalkboard and a notepad. So, use whichever you want, but tell me who hurt you!” Scarlet belted out as she breathed heavily and looked to Acoustiana with eyes wide and ears directed.

        Being broken out of her thoughts, Acoustiana looked inquisitively at the materials laid before her. She blinked a few times before her mind restarted. She rubbed her temple, trying to stop the sudden throbbing from all the stress this situation was putting her through. She motioned for Scarlet to sit in one of the chairs nearby as she levitated the chalkboard and placed it on a stand, leaning it against the wall.

        “I am not hurt, nopony has hurt me.” Acoustiana gave Scarlet a reassuring smile, albeit briefly.

        Scarlet breathed a sigh of relief before she asked her next question. “Then why the buck did you go all the way out there to find me? Only Hearth knew where I went. You aren't wearing my gifts, so I only assumed that somepony did something to them or you left them with her when you came to look for me. So... I should shut up now. You’re probably going to tell me why you looked for me.” Scarlet’s ears folded back as she blushed and looked to the chalkboard.

        “Hearth and Pastel told me everything. I made them do it, so don’t be mad at them. I knew you were keeping something from me, and I knew those two knew what it was.” Acoustiana did her best to conceal her words before letting Scarlet read them, as she expected an unpleasant reaction from the passionate pony.

        “That’s what I was afraid of.” Scarlet closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Listen, I am sorry I didn’t tell you myself. You just seemed... Well, the way you acted and from how I know you felt about Ray, I just couldn’t bring myself to put such a weight upon you. I don’t want this to make you feel uncomfortable, so if it does, I will go. You don’t have to say anything else.” Scarlet started to head for the door. Acoustiana thrust out a hoof stopping her, and then looked to her own appendage, mouth agape.

        “It’s okay, I understand. I have experience with this sort of thing... not exactly this, but close enough. You don’t see mares as beautiful, wonderful things to hold and cherish. That’s how you see colts. Don’t worry about me. I will be fine. I will...” Scarlet found herself cut off by a hoof to her snout.

        “First off, sit back down!” Acoustiana removed her hoof from Scarlet’s muzzle and pointed back at the chair. The orange unicorn complied.

        “What have you been doing in my dreams? That whole scene back in that misty valley was straight out of one of my dreams. Did Hearth tell you about it? Did you think that would push me over the edge to loving you?” Acoustiana didn’t know why, but she was starting to fill with mixed emotions.

        “What? Whoa! I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Scarlet put up both her hooves in defense of herself. “That place has been my nighttime thinking spot since before you moved here, and if you don’t believe me, just ask Hearth!” Scarlet flung a hoof in the general direction of the city.

        Acoustiana let her emotions simmer a moment as she watched the other mare breathe heavily. She was putting this mare through the harsh treatment she wanted to avoid, yet something in her demanded she push forward with figuring out how Scarlet wound up in her dreams.

        “That just means you knew how to inject the specific scene better. It doesn’t let you off the hook. You say you have no idea? Then explain how a pony in the mists, with glowing eyes chases me in the dark and when she touches me with a gentle hoof causes electricity to shoot through my body.” Acoustiana snorted in triumph as she folded her hooves across her chest.

        “Y─you felt electricity when we touched too?” Scarlet sounded meek, her eyes glistening with moisture as her ears folded back.

        “Yes, but that’s not the point. Answer the bucking question!” Acoustiana glared at the pony, even though she was feeling bad about berating her.

        “I can’t! I just can’t, okay!” Scarlet burst into tears. “Ever since that first day I saw you... at the fruit stand... I have loved you. I didn’t know for sure till that day you visited my house, but it’s true! I love you and I just can’t explain how I got into your dreams. I only know that you’ve been in mine!” Scarlet broke down into heavy sobbing.

        Acoustiana felt her heart break. Her own eyes filled with tears and she reached out to the crying mare to comfort her. She still wanted answers, but this wasn’t the way. She cradled Scarlet in her forelegs and allowed her own tears to flow, for the pain she knew the other was suffering was at her expense.

        As she sat there rocking Scarlet back and forth, Acoustiana told herself that she needed to fix this problem. She didn’t know what all she could do, but she knew what would help her at least feel a little better. She hoped that after Scarlet felt less sad, she would be able to take the bad news Acoustiana needed to deliver. She just didn’t know if she would have the heart to anymore.

        After a short few moments, Scarlet quieted down. Acoustiana nuzzled her head to get her to look up. Scarlet gently pushed out of Acoustiana’s grasp, and took a few steps back, her head bowed and face hidden by her disheveled mane.

        “Sorry... I’m... sorry for that.” Scarlet landed on the floor with a thud and folded her legs underneath her.

        Acoustiana needed to apologize as well, but while Scarlet stared at the floor, it was going to be difficult. She also knew that the other pony would be unwilling to lift her head anytime soon after what Acoustiana just made her read, so she attempted to enact the small idea she had. Reaching out with her magic, she strained with all her might to grab her practice violin from her music room and levitate it over to the pair. She was relieved to see the instrument slowly float upon its orange aura, with the bow dangling from the string that attached it to the neck.

        Taking hold of her violin, Acoustiana hoped it was still tuned and attempted to play the song she knew would cheer up Scarlet. Doing her best to imagine the notes, she drew her bow over her violin. She was greeted by a sorely off-key whine. Gritting her teeth, she used her mouth to quickly turn the tuning pegs to put the violin back into tune before the mare in front of her decided to make another escape attempt.

        The gentle tune drifted off her string. It was as close as she could get, and lacked much of the mastery Hearth used with her harp, but the heart of the song could still be felt. As the  melody filled the room, Acoustiana’s goal was achieved. Scarlet looked up, a small smile upon her face, and even though her eyes were bloodshot from all the crying, they shone brightly with the inner fire the mare had.

        “This isn’t as good as your sister, but I know how close you two are. She cares for you deeply. She told me you already cried over me once. I am so very sorry I made you cry over me again. Please forgive me?” Acoustiana wrote after she finished playing the song and set the violin to the side. She was getting tired from exerting so much magic, but like she did for her performances, she pushed through the strain.

        “I could never hold anything against you.” Scarlet’s expression was soft, her voice tender. “I can forgive any transgression of yours, if you’ll forgive mine.” Scarlet scooted closer and held out a hoof.

        Acoustiana felt a pressure build in her chest. She put on a smile and reached her hoof out to shake the other mare’s. She then pointed to an end table on the other side of the room that held a box of tissues.

        Scarlet looked over and then cringed, blushing. She let out a small chuckle while levitating the tissues over, and sat it between the two of them. Grabbing a couple, Scarlet tidied up her face and offered the other to Acoustiana. Accepting the tissue, the musician cleaned her own face up.

        I am glad you are feeling better. Now I have more questions. I will try to be nice when asking them. So please, understand that I don’t want to put you through any more pain. Acoustiana flattened her ears and lowered herself to the ground so that she could look up at Scarlet with her pleading eyes.

        “Don’t give me that look. I’ll answer your questions. But, thanks for kind with them.” Scarlet readjusted herself, unbunching her dress so that it flowed rather than remaining underneath her.

        “Why do you like mares? It’s not unheard of, but I have never really understood it. Would you mind explaining it to me?” Acoustiana bit her lower lip. She knew this would be a difficult question, but better to start with that than some of the other things she wanted to ask.

        Scarlet let out a long sigh as she closed her eyes. She turned her head to the side and looked off into the other room as she sat, silent, taking a few deep breaths.

        “My parents asked me that question. My teachers, my friends did as well. Even Hearth ventured to ask me at one point. The only answer I have ever been able to give is that I just do. To me, when I see a mare I like, they become a small princess. Every movement is regal. Every word is powerful. The ground they walk, the things they touch, all become priceless. The ponies they laugh with become the most noble ponies in all Equestria.”

        Scarlet looked to Acoustiana. “But when I saw you, it was so much more. When I saw you, I didn’t see any other mares. All the ponies in the world just didn’t seem to compare to you. This isn’t what you asked,” Scarlet sighed, “but I thought you should know what makes you so special of a mare.”

        Acoustiana had to use another tissue to keep the tears building up in her eyes from falling. The pressure in her chest was building. She took a couple more deep breaths, but knew her resolve to let this pony down was almost all but gone. What she would do after all of this was over, she just wasn’t sure anymore.

        “What about me makes you feel the way you do? You mentioned my looks, but what you said back at the theater makes me  want to believe it’s more than that.” Acoustiana looked to Scarlet, hoping that she wouldn’t overreact to it.

        Scarlet scowled for a moment, but as the question finished, she had a sincere smile on her muzzle. She looked to Acoustiana and gave her a slow nod before speaking.

        “At first, it was just your looks. Then I saw how graceful your movements were. I saw how you try so hard to be heard, how no matter the situation, you stride into it knowing you have an uphill battle. Then I heard you play. Hearth’s music is warm, consoling, and uplifting. Yours... your music was deep. I felt your pain, I heard your sorrow. I heard you. I can’t explain it─I still don’t know what the buck was going on, but when I heard your violin solo... to me, you sang.” Scarlet looked off as her eyes wavered, and her ears turned in the direction she looked as though homing in on some distant sound.

        “You sang of how your life was hard, how no matter what you did, nopony could hear you. Then you sang about how you feel alone all the time, how you sleep at night holding your pillow, wishing somepony would fill the empty space in your heart.” Scarlet glanced at Acoustiana briefly as she inched closer.

        “Your song then showed your strength. You sang about how you knew one day, a special pony would be yours, and that day was not far off. It finished with how happy you had become with knowing your loneliness wouldn’t last forever, that one day, your pony would be with you. All you needed to do was wait for them to appear.” Scarlet, her eyes lighting up while she bit her lower lip, reached a shaky hoof out and gently placed it upon Acoustiana’s.

        Acoustiana flinched at the touch, and she nearly pulled her hoof away. However, hearing the words hidden within her music spoken so accurately made her happy to share the moment. The pressure in her chest grew slightly as her mind and heart began to argue on what Acoustiana should do. She had always imagined a colt to be the one doing these things, yet here she was getting this attention from a mare. Looking at the orange hoof upon hers, Acoustiana moved onto her next question.

        “When, exactly, did you know you had real feelings for me?” Acoustiana looked nervously between the orange hoof and the face to which it belonged.

        “That day you spoke with Cantaloupe and Ray for the first time. I was in my house getting ready for a commission to sculpt a group of fillies from some myrtle. Cantaloupe is cute and all, so I enjoyed watching her try and sell her fruits. Then you came walking out of the herd. My world stopped then and there. I don’t think I fell in love with you though till the party after your solo performance. When I saw the pain you had to endure from having your heart broken, I wanted nothing more than to get payback for you. I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s when I went from just wanting to have you, to needing you.” Scarlet nibbled her lower lip and looked away for a moment.

        “Eh, that is to say, I stopped wanting to... well...” Scarlet began to blush deeply. “Let’s just say after that point, I wanted to live with you and grow old, no matter what I had to do.” She smiled at Acoustiana even though she looked to be running a fever.

        Forgetting about the hoof resting on her own, Acoustiana gave Scarlet a stare with her eyebrow raised. Her expression caused Scarlet to fold back her ears, and her smile diminished slightly. Her stare lingered for a few more moments, making Scarlet’s smile to turn into a small frown, at which point she removed her hoof from Acoustiana. The musical unicorn decided that Scarlet wasn’t going to elaborate on what she had avoided saying. Looking down, she realized the hoof touching her was missing, and a sudden wave of sadness washed over her.

        “It sounds like you have been with other mares. What makes me different from them?” Acoustiana felt melancholy, but she wasn’t sure why.

        “Well... You just are.” Scarlet wrung her hooves together nervously. “I may have been with other mares, but I never really had a relationship with any of them. With them, it was just a physical thing, or just a means to rebel against my parents. When it comes to you, I just want to make you happy. I want to keep you safe. Even if I can’t have you, I want to do those things.” Scarlet looked at her hooves and her ears drooped. A new stream of tears started to flow down her face.

        The sight of tears put Acoustiana in a small state of panic. She looked around for the tissue box and saw it sitting a hoof away from her. She grabbed a few and quickly started drying the hurt pony’s cheeks. When Scarlet looked up, Acoustiana gave her a long hug. Scarlet shivered for a moment before returning the gesture.

        Acoustiana felt happy. She felt safe. She didn’t know why she wouldn’t feel safe. Thinking on that, she knew she was in her home, a generally safe place; she was in a town that, other than rude ponies, was a very safe place, as it was far from the dangers of the Everfree Forest. The only real, remotely dangerous thing near her was the pony that obviously loved her very much. Yet, until the hug, she didn’t truly feel safe. Now, she felt that nothing would hurt her. So what about this hug did that?

        Acoustiana suddenly felt a gentle pressure upon the nape of her neck. Something soft was rubbing gently against it. It felt rather nice to her, so she didn’t bother breaking the hug to see what it was and make it go away. She just sat there with a grin and enjoyed the other pony’s warmth.

        Soon the pressure against her neck grew, and she could feel the distinct feeling of another pony’s coat upon her own. As the realization hit that she was enjoying Scarlet nuzzling her neck, Acoustiana’s eyes shot wide open. She slowly turned her head to see Scarlet, a large smile forming dimples upon her cheeks and her eyes closed, rubbing her muzzle into Acoustiana’s mane.

Noticing the pink mare tremble and fidget, Scarlet lazily opened her eyes and reared her head to look at the pony she was hugging. She saw the wide-eyed, terrified look in the other mare and quickly released her grip.

“Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry... I─I wasn’t thinking... Please don’t hate me...” Scarlet cowered on the floor, ears flat against her head and eyes looking up at Acoustiana.

        Acoustiana couldn’t believe herself. She was putting the two of them through a rollercoaster of emotions just because she was confused. Slamming her hoof into her face, she waved her other forehoof.

        Rubbing her face from the impact of her hoof, Acoustiana reached out to try and help the other mare from her cowering position. Giving her offending hoof a scowl, she then looked to Scarlet and smiled warmly.

        With a trembling hoof, Scarlet accepted the gesture. Rising, she found her hoof was still being held firm by the other mare. She looked at it and found another of the pink mare’s hooves grasping it firmly. Looking back to Acoustiana, Scarlet saw her nod towards the chalkboard.

        “You really do like me. So tell me, why didn’t you just say so backstage? What stopped you from saying what’s in your heart?” Acoustiana patted Scarlet’s hoof.

        “Fear... fear of you hating me, and fear of hurting you.” Scarlet looked away for a moment, glancing back to Acoustiana every now and then. “I know you like colts. The heartbreak you suffered when you saw that Ray already had a mare was all too real. And the only ponies I know of that like both mares and colts tend to be a whole lot more... erm... wild than you are.” Scarlet’s face reddened as she gulped down words. “So I knew telling you would just freak you out, or upset you. You’re such a nice pony that I knew it would hurt you to tell me no. I didn’t think of any of that till I saw you walking towards me backstage. All those plans I made, the help I got from sis and Pastel, I did out of selfish reasons. I figured my flower garments would wow you and make you fall for me. Then you hugged me... and all my plans fell apart. When you did that, I remembered there was more than one pony that my wishes would affect. I realized that all my romantic attempts could actually hurt you. I couldn’t take that risk, I wouldn’t take that risk. I resigned myself to watching you from afar, and doing all I could to make you safe and happy.”

        Scarlet looked Acoustiana directly in the eyes. “Then my sister went and told you. Any pain that has caused you, I am sorry. I know this hasn’t been easy for you, and I know I have been trying to win you over even though I keep telling myself you won’t take me.” Scarlet bit her lower lip hard. “But... you’re just too beautiful for me not to try. Your soul, your body, your mind... I just can’t stop wanting them all.” Tears once more formed in Scarlet’s eyes.

        The pressure inside of Acoustiana’s chest finally broke. The battle between her heart and mind was over. Her mind lay defeated, logic and reason by its side. She could no longer deny it. The warm, rose-colored eyes, the cute button dimples, the little curls in her mane, the sheer passion in her heart. She remembered the heartwarming concern when she was hurt by Ray having a marefriend, the look of terror followed by fury. She recalled the way her body reacted to the look Scarlet gave her when she made the gifts for her earlier that evening. All of these traits combined, fitting together to form one beautiful and loveable mare.

Her heart started to race, and her breath quickened. Eyes went wide, while her pupils shrank to the size of a bit. She knew this feeling. This state of existence, of anxious euphoria. Her body quivered for a moment, and then she started controlling her breathing. She knew now that if a certain question were asked, she would not be answering it with a no.

        Scarlet waited for Acoustiana to settle down, unsure of what to do otherwise. As Acoustiana recovered, she also noticed that her hoof was being held tighter than before.

        “Are you okay? Did I say something to upset you again?” Scarlet asked with folded ears and eager eyes.

        Acoustiana shook her head slowly. She then bit her own lip and darted a look to her chalkboard, unsure of what to say next. After a few moments of lip chewing, she knew what she needed to ask next.

        “What do you want with me? We don’t even know each other that well.” Acoustiana gripped Scarlet’s hoof tighter.

        Scarlet’s eyes went wide and her jaw dropped. She looked from the chalkboard to Acoustiana, dumbfounded and unsure of how to respond. With her free hoof, she pointed to the musician and then herself, and repeated the motion a few more times.

        “But... wait... does that... uh... are you?” Scarlet was unable to find words. She looked to her hoof, being held so tightly by the mare of her dreams.

        Your... love?” Scarlet looked to Acoustiana. “Love conquers all things. I have been told this many times, but never in my wildest dreams did I think it real.” Scarlet read the message on the chalkboard one more time.

        “Just having the chance to be with you, see what happens, and given the chance to take the time out of the day to get to know one another... that is all I would ask. Will you give us the chance to find out those answers?” Scarlet stopped breathing as the words escaped her mouth. Fear crawled up her spine as she awaited the dreadful shake of the head.

        Acoustiana heard the question. The question to which she only had one answer. With what felt like the weight of a dragon upon her neck, she nodded.

        Scarlet’s world shattered. The pieces of her reality fell away and the world slowly went dark.  She felt like she was floating in the darkness when she felt a familiar soft touch upon her cheek. She opened her eyes with a splitting headache and Acoustiana’s worried, orange eyes staring at her. Realizing that she was now laying on the floor, her dress painfully crumpled under her back, she rolled over and stood on four wobbly hooves. Acoustiana was next to her to ensure she didn’t fall down, and led her to a couch on the other side of the room.

        “Please tell me that I didn’t just faint... and that what I think I saw, I didn’t imagine,” Scarlet said as she rubbed her throbbing head. She then saw a notepad float in front of her view.

        “Sorry, but you did faint, and no, you didn’t imagine the nod.” Acoustiana still felt the slow creep of giddiness that her simple act of acceptance had caused such a reaction.


        Acoustiana shifted nervously as she sat on one of Pastel’s cushions. It took a little over a week, but she was finally able to build the courage tell her friends about her decision to give Scarlet a chance. Pastel offered for them to meet at her house after normal business hours had completed. Pastel, naturally, was already there when Acoustiana and Hearth arrived. The pink mare figured it safe to open up to these two before her other friends arrived. The two other unicorns were astonished at first, then Hearth smiled, whereas Pastel got very worried. The two then left Acoustiana, as they talked outside.

        Even though her heart had won the duel that night, Acoustiana’s mind still washed doubt over her decision. Her mind kept asking her hard questions about her future, and how the two would be able to fit in her plans of being a great musician. She hoped that her friends would help her sort through all of these issues, but with the way Pastel acted, she was now more worried about the effect her decision had on them.

        It took what seemed like hours, but when she checked the clock, only fifteen minutes had passed. The Pastel and Heath’s muffled voices became audible through the front door and it soon opened to reveal two disgruntled ponies.

        “I still say you’re being overly dramatic about this whole situation, but fine. I’ll agree to your terms.” Hearth extended a hoof to Pastel.

        “Thank you nonetheless.” Pastel shook the hoof of Pastel. “I shall do my best to assist regardless.”

        The two then walked over to the empty cushions and settled themselves down. Hearth closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths, while Pastel merely investigated the plush pillow beneath her.

        “So, it would seem that I will be the one to help you. As such, I ask that you write your questions down so that Pastel is not put into the position of forced translator again. It’s not fair to her.” Hearth gave a nod to Pastel, and looked back to Acoustiana. “So tell me, what’s bothering you? You don’t look too comfortable.” Hearth cocked her head and raised an eyebrow.

        “Did I offend Pastel? Should I apologize? Am I doing something wrong?” Acoustiana hurriedly scribbled the questions down while nervously glancing over to Pastel, who continued to stare at her seat.

        Hearth slammed her forehead onto the floor. Pastel looked up, startled at the sound. Rubbing her now-rather-sore head, Hearth wrested the notepad from Acoustiana and levitated it over to Pastel.

        “So how about you stop being pouty and think of how your actions might be affecting the one who sought your help. I said you were being overly dramatic.” Hearth gave Pastel a glare.

        Pastel read the questions and her ears fell along her head and her face drooped low. She repeatedly looked between the notepad and Acoustiana. After a few moments, her expression leveled out and she released a long sigh.

        “Okay, okay.” Pastel looked at her close friend. “Listen, I won’t tell you the details, but I have to recuse myself from your situation. Suffice it to say, it would be far too easy for me to be hypocritical should I give advice or my opinion. Your choice is yours, and it doesn’t offend me. Do not let my situation affect you any further.” Pastel put on a warm smile and nodded slowly to Acoustiana. She then levitated the notepad over so that the mute mare could continue her request for help.

        Acoustiana moved to sign out her concern, but Pastel shook her head and nodded her head towards Hearth. Acoustiana settled back down into her cushion and bit her lower lip.

        “I am now very worried about how the rest of my friends will react. I never thought it was that big of an issue. I know it’s not common, and ponies in Canterlot discourage it, but now I am terrified that I might lose my friends.” Acoustiana floated the notepad over and the worry lines on her face grew.

        Hearth let out a quiet sigh. “I understand. Scarlet had to deal with this many years ago, and I was there every step of the way. You have to accept the fact that not everypony will agree with your love. Some will not tolerate it, and may act against you. While I hope it’s not the case, you may also need to worry about your family's reaction as well. Ours... well... Let’s just say mom and dad overreacted, but Scarlet wasn’t exactly helping the issue. I won’t lie─you will probably lose some friends and family. Some ponies out there just refuse to accept the love of two mares. I don’t get why, but such is the way of things.”

        Acoustiana felt sick. She curled up on her seat and buried her muzzle into the cushion, trying to disappear. She wanted all the problems swimming around in her head just to go away, and she started to wish things had gone back to the way they used to be. Life was a lot less complicated when she only had to worry about talking to other ponies.

        “I know this isn’t easy. But you shouldn’t hide from it. I know you’re strong enough, otherwise Scarlet wouldn’t have such strong feelings for you. I won’t abandon you through this, and she definitely won’t abandon you. Pastel has already said she isn’t offended, so you haven’t lost her. Ray and Canty should be here before long. We can deal with that when it comes to pass. So until they do show, there is no reason to fret. Tell me what problems you had when you asked for our help,” Hearth said as she stroked Acoustiana’s mane.

        Looking up, Acoustiana pouted her lips outward as her eyes misted over. She sniffled back the pooling tears and nodded in agreement. Levitating her notepad up off the floor, she wrote out a few of her issues.

        “If it turns out I do love Scarlet, what do I do? How will this affect my job? We all want to be popular enough to make it in Canterlot, being booked at their many parties and playing in their great theater halls. If I am with a mare, won’t that make them shun me? Furthermore, moving her to Canterlot, should I still be able to get there. Would it be fair to her to make her choose living here versus being made to move there and deal with all those uptight nobility?” Acoustiana nibbled on her pencil for a moment and decided that she would wait for responses before asking more. Upon hearing a loud crunching sound, she realized that she had bitten through her pencil. Floating the notepad over to Hearth, Acoustiana carefully removed the slivers of wood now infesting her mouth.

        “Oh crumb buckets. Pastel, I really need your help with this...” Hearth pleaded, clasping her hooves together and quivering her lower lip.

        “Fine...” Pastel spoke in a flat tone. She then let out a sigh and took control over the notepad and read its contents.

        “Not gonna answer, negatively, yes, and that’s a question for her to answer.” Pastel then gave Hearth a stern look. “I am sorry for being blunt. But the fact of the matter is, your fears are justified, Tiana. I will say this─when it’s found out you’re dating a mare, your career will hit a rough patch. What you do from there is up to you, but these fears will come to pass, for better or worse,” Pastel said as her ears drooped and she looked at her cushion.

        “Thanks, Pastel. Uh, as for the other two still open questions─let's see...” Hearth  rubbed her chin. “Well, I would say if you two are in love, do what anypony would do?” She gave a shrug. “I honestly have no idea how much different it will be for you, but I do know if you don't wanna be making all the decisions, Scarlet will definitely do that for you if you let her.” Hearth nodded in approval of her own answer.

        “As far as moving goes, I don’t think she would be too upset. The two of you combined would be able to make plenty, even with both of you dealing with the stigma. Though if you do well enough, Scarlet would be happy just tending to her own private garden. Given half the chance, she is a rather lazy pony. Not to say she would shirk her responsibilities, just that if she doesn't have to, she won't!” Heath gave a muffled giggle as she looked off to the side in thought.

        “I have but one last issue. Maybe it's silly, but I have always wanted to be a mother, to have my own foal. Dating a colt made such a dream only a matter of time. Now, is there any way for me to let go of such a want?” Acoustiana lay on her cushion and tried to make herself as small as she could.

        Hearth read the notepad and her face quickly turned many shades redder. Hearth’s jaw slackened and her eyes grew wide as she looked from Pastel to Acoustiana. After a few stammers, she was able to gulp down her awkwardness and summoned the courage to answer.

        “Well... uh... Wow, this is quite a personal question. Erm... You could... adopt? But that wouldn't be be the same thing, per se. Uh... Ah ponyfeathers.” Hearth tried to shrink into her own cushion.

        “Give it here. I’ll try and unravel this mess your tongue just put you in.” Pastel rolled her eyes and grabbed the notepad. She looked at the two cowering mares and let out a small sigh. Upon reading the notepad, however, she too put on a shade of red.

        “Oh... my...” Pastel cleared her throat, but still felt anxious on answering the question. “I think you may have to forego the desire. I cannot speak for Hearth, but I for sure know that little annoying want. You are right─it does require a colt, typically.” Pastel’s blush darkened to the shade of her mane. “I have heard whispers that there is a way for two mares to... do the deed... as it were, and produce offspring. I dont have a bucking clue how that works, but if you really feel that close, you might find answers in a book in the Canterlot library. If it's ever been done, and written down, then it would be found there.” Pastel nodded and tried to smile, but the realization of how much she just said made her wince instead. Sinking into her cushion, she let out a groan of annoyance.

        “What? I may not be an expert at science, but doesn’t that type of thing require... certain tools only male ponies have? Oh whatever, this is way too advanced of a topic to delve much into.” Hearth shook her mane and stretched her forelegs. “Is there any other issues you wanna talk about before Ray and Canty show up?”

        Acoustiana slowly shook her head and also rose from her cushion. Her attempts to hide her own fevered blush abated when her other confidants showed the same reaction. She levitated her notepad over and looked to the clock. A loud banging at the door startled her and the three unicorns looked towards the disturbance.

        “Pastel! Have you seen Hearth Song? I need to talk to her, I figured you might know where she got off to.” Scarlet’s voice pierced through the door.

        “Speak of the draconequus.” Pastel furrowed her brow. “Tiana, do you want me to send her away?” Pastel asked as she looked to Acoustiana. The musical mare was shaking and looked like she wanted to run, or was possibly about to faint.

        “I’ll handle this. She wants me after all. It has to be important by the sound of it anyways.” Hearth trotted over to the door. She positioned herself so that Acoustiana would be hidden from sight before opening the top half of the door.

        “Scarlet, what seems to be the problem?” Hearth said in as sweet of a voice as she could.

        “I don’t care what you’re trying to hide in there, so drop the innocent act. Listen, I need to tell you about the night of your concert. I put it off ’cause of what happened, and I really am sorry for that.” Scarlet nuzzled her sister. “I think it best if we talk inside though, if Pastel wouldn’t mind the intrusion of course.” Scarlet spoke loudly  so her voice could be easily heard by all the occupants.

        “Uh, let me check...” Hearth looked back into the room and bit her lower lip.

        Pastel looked to Acoustiana and whispered, “What do you want, Tiana?”

        “Hearth told me to be strong and not hide. Now is as good a time as any to try.” Acoustiana gulped as she signed her response to Pastel.

        “Come on in Scarlet,” Pastel shouted in the direction of the door.

        Hearth stepped out of the way and Scarlet came trotting in beaming. Upon sight of her love, her smile dimmed slightly, and she raised an eyebrow. She slowly walked over to Acoustiana, keeping her head low.

        “Hey there, beautiful. Uh... is the cat out of the bag by any chance?” Scarlet asked with a gentle voice that calmed Acoustiana, ever so slightly.

        Biting her cheek, Acoustiana slowly nodded and floated her notepad over to Scarlet. She waved the pages that held her questions and offered them to Scarlet to read. She watched the confused look on Scarlet melt away into contented bliss. She then jerked her head back, eyes going wide as she dropped the notepad. Clearing her throat, Scarlet calmed herself and put a genuine smile back on.

        “Well, well. You sure did come to the right place to ask questions like these. Though, uh... No offence, love, but some of this is a teensy bit advanced. We haven’t even gone on our first date yet and you’re already thinking about moving in together... and... uh... yeah, I’ll talk to you about that last one, much later on.” Scarlet coughed as her own blush appeared after reading the question.

        “Scarlet, don’t, “ Pastel said in a threatening manner.

        “Whoa, why the ’tude Pastel? I know you didn’t exactly want me to court your friend, but c’mon you...” Scarlet stopped short as the painter stared at her with a severe intensity.

        “Don’t!” Pastel all but shouted.

        “Scarlet... uh... remember that thing we don’t talk about? You know, the personal stuff... you’re treading on it.” Hearth tried to clue her sister in before she caused a further incident.

        “Okay... I still have no idea what I did wrong though.” Scarlet gave Pastel an apologetic nod and just turned back to Acoustiana. “So speaking of dates. Would you... uh... are you okay?” Scarlet tried to put on a smile, but when she saw Acoustiana’s eyes shoot wide open and her tremble, she was only filled with worry.

        Acoustiana nodded, but was unable to fight off the panic that had grown inside her. Her mind had once more waged war on her emotions, and she was unable to stop it.

        “Hey now, it’s okay. As I told you that night, I get it. Listen, if you’re still not ready, I am okay with waiting. If you are having second thoughts, that’s okay too. I was pouring it on hard that night, and I can see you accepting out of pure emotional compulsion. I just want you happy. Even if that means I have to leave the picture, I will do it, just to see you smile.” Scarlet smiled and her eyes glistened with moisture.

        Acoustiana felt her mind once more get a sound flank beating and her fears melted away by the sheer level of love she felt radiate from the orange mare. She  reached out and hugged Scarlet, and before she knew it, gave her a kiss on the nape of her neck. She felt Scarlet shiver at the gesture and seemed to melt under her touch. Acoustiana soon found herself holding up the mare.

        “Wow... I have never seen you melt like that, Scarlet... Acoustiana, you got some magic there...” Hearth commented as she took her seat and smiled.

        “Schmud eveh... wombeh who?” Scarlet finally managed lazily open her eyes from the sudden, unexpected, but thoroughly enjoyable experience.

        “Words, little flower, they work better.” Hearth chuckled to herself.

        “Huh? What?” Scarlet looked around and noticed the pink mare holding her steady. She let out a high-pitched squeal, then wrapped her hooves around the mare and held her tightly, sighing happily as the warmth radiated into her coat.

        “Well, that proves it. They are simply adorable together.” Pastel smiled warmly at the couple.

        Acoustiana looked up from the mare in her hooves to her two friends, who both smiled approvingly. Even though she still had shadows of doubt within her, she enjoyed the moment. Scarlet had made a good point: she was worried about things before she even bothered to go on their first date. She reminded herself that nopony is ever sure of a relationship. She just needed to relax and find where the river takes her.

        A knock at the door distracted all the ponies’ attention. Pastel knowingly got up and opened the door, allowing the two expected ponies to enter. Cantaloupe had her mane swept back and wore a jubilant smile. Ray looked as he always did; his roguish grin and proud stature were more directed at the bounding earth pony that bounced into the room.

        “Oh my gosh, guys! Have you ever been flying? It’s so much fun! You have got to try it!” Cantaloupe jumped around the four mares, excited and oblivious to their stares.

        “Cantaloupe, didn’t you promise to keep your mane in order? What have you been up to?” Pastel questioned as she levitated her brush over.

        “Did you not hear her m’lady? I just took the goodly farmer for a flight. She was looking tired after hauling a rather large cart of fruit to her shop, so being a gentlecolt, I offered to give her a lift. I daresay, she quite enjoyed the experience.” Ray beamed as he continued watching the antics.

        “I have flown before... well okay, maybe not like a pegasus, but having a tree fling you through the air counts, right?” Scarlet asked as she raised an eyebrow at the stallion looking proud as a peacock.

        “Hardly, that would be more akin to fa...” Ray looked at the two entangled mares and his smile disappeared. “I didn’t know you two had become such close friends. Thats an odd hug for friends to share. Are you okay?” Ray gave Acoustiana a worried glance.

        “Ray, Cantaloupe... Acoustiana wished us to come here to inform us of an important announcement,” Pastel spoke in a diplomatic voice. “Scarlet here, after her great show of affection, has apparently won the heart of our dear musician. As of the night of the concert, the two are a couple.” Pastel nodded.

        “Neat!” Cantaloupe chirped.

        “What...” Ray said with a frown.

        “What do you mean ‘what?’ This is fantastic news.” Cantaloupe had stopped her bouncing and now looked worried.

        “How can you say that? This isn’t right. Mares date colts. Not... other mares.” Ray waved his hoof around in the general direction of the couple before slamming it back into the ground.

        “Hold on just one bucking minute! Who do you think you are, saying what is and isn’t right?” Cantaloupe put on a stern face and almost growled. “I’ll have you know my great grandpappy did some math that proves this is right.”

        “How is that even possible?” Ray asked in a more level tone, seeing that he had just singled himself out in the room of mares.

        “He said if you took ten ponies from any city across Equestria, you would invariably get more mares than colts. He said it averages six to eight mares in that ten.” Cantaloupe snorted. “So if you’re gonna stand there and say two mares loving each other is wrong, then answer this: Do you believe colts deserve more than one mare? Or do you prefer mares live their lives sad and alone?” Cantaloupe had an angry grin upon her face.

        “I never insinuated either of those outcomes.” Ray took a step back as he attempted to rebuke the four sets of angry eyes now staring him down. “Pastel, please help me out here. Surely you know how this just isn’t proper pony behaviour.”

        “Sorry, dear, but I have recused myself from this situation. You’re on your own,” Pastel said smugly as she nestled herself into her cushion.

        Ray’s ears dropped and his wings stiffened. He looked at the group of mares and snorted out in frustration and proceeded to stomp out of the house. He took flight as soon as he was able, and the door slammed shut with a soft red glow of magic.

        “The nerve of that pony.” Scarlet stuck her tongue out at the door and turned to Acoustiana. “Now don’t you worry yourself. I know that probably hurt you. If not now, it will sting in a bit. Just know, so long as you’ll have me, I will fill any gaps in your heart those like him will leave.” Scarlet touched the tip of her muzzle to the other mare.

        Acoustiana had already begun to feel the pain of loss. Her eyes started filling with tears at the thought of how many more would react the same way. The fear her father would be the same hurt the most.

        “Hey now! None of that. Like my great grandpappy said: this is as natural as growing fruit. Numbers don’t lie, and neither did he.” Cantaloupe trotted over and gave the couple a big hug. “Besides, this should be a happy occasion. I’ll pelt that stubborn mule with enough proof his opinion is outdated and wrong, that he would have to be as dumb as a Turniptruck not to get it.” Cantaloupe poked Acoustiana in the ribs with a hoof and trotted to a cushion next to Pastel to have her still-swept-back mane brushed.

        Acoustiana released Scarlet from their embrace. Scarlet held on for a moment longer, but then let her go. Acoustiana stepped to the side and began signing to Pastel.

        “You’ve known Ray the longest. Is there another issue between you two that is the reason you have recused yourself? Is there any insight you can give me for this?” Acoustiana watched Pastel blush and clear her throat as she swept the brush through Cantaloupe’s mane.

        “The reason is not known to Ray either.” She let out a sigh. “It’s a deeply personal matter, but later tonight, I shall share it with you. Celestia knows you’ve shared so many of your secrets with me, it’s only fair. For now though, I would have to say Cantaloupe here will probably have the best shot at showing Ray that he is being unfair. I would say he is not likely ever to change his mindset, but he will tolerate it at the very least, once his mind is shown the truth.” Pastel admired her handiwork and put her brush away.

        “I still say you’re being overly dramatic about it. But I am not you, and you have good reasons, I suppose. In any case, Scarlet, you were going to ask Tiana something important before we got distracted?” Hearth wiggled her eyebrows at her sister.

        Scarlet giggled and placed a hoof against Acoustiana’s cheek. She gently directed the mare so that the two could look into each other’s eyes. Scarlet felt Acoustiana tremble slightly, but saw that a smile was also creeping its way to the surface.

        “I was thinking, a lot, and I figured I might have pushed us faster than I should have. With that, I want to try and slow it down, and do this the right way.” Scarlet rubbed noses wth Acoustana.

My most beloved Acoustiana, would you do me the honor of having dinner with me tomorrow night?” Scarlet leaned slightly closer, giving the other mare her best attempt at big doe eyes.

        Acoustiana’s smile broadened and she nodded. She didn’t know what, but something in the bright, rose-colored eyes made the world and all her worries disappear.


        Pastel walked next to Acoustiana as they headed out to a tailor she knew. She would help her musical friend look her best, and inform her of why she couldn’t be more help beyond such.

        “Back in the Canterlot Artistic Institute of Tillyhoof, I experimented with a lot of things. The teaching staff all endorsed us to think outside the norm. To view the world from every angle, to take in all aspects it had to offer. It was supposed to get us to reflect life in our works properly, and to push the boundaries in artistic culture.” Pastel got a faraway look and let out a sigh.

        “Well, to the point, I met my first marefriend there. Marey Stonehoof. One heck of an earth pony. She could turn any rock into a masterful sculpture faster than most of us unicorns could. She was strong, smart, and above all else, drop-dead gorgeous.” Pastel’s face flushed, causing her to cough and cover herself for a moment.

        “Marey was the one that taught me hooflanguage originally. She had a few deaf, I think it was, relatives. We had a lovely little stint, but it didn’t last. My neuroticism clashed too much with her stubbornness. I then went to date a few colts. Iron Wing was the one I fell for hardest. In the end though, it still ended up badly. The point to all of this is that my career in Canterlot was bright, up till it was found out I would date anypony. A small faction of nobles signed petitions to have my artist license revoked, and to have me exiled. The princess denied all their counts, but the damage was nonetheless done. I couldn’t find work there anymore. This is how I know what you’re up against, and why I can’t give you advice on your dating. If you just wanted a colt, it’s easy and wouldn’t be an issue. But you like both, or seem to anyways.” Pastel gave her friend a soft nudge and a sidelong glance.

        “Anything, advice-wise, will be made to make your life like the one I wished to have, or would be the same mistakes I made. Either case, it would be a lie or unfair. Two things I refuse to impart upon another pony.” Giving a small smile, Pastel looked into the sky.

        “As for Hearth and Scarlet, they know most of this already. I have stayed in touch with Marey through the years. I do still love her, but it’s a lost love that won’t ever be true. To the point though, she eventually dated Scarlet. It’s how we met, actually.” Pastel glanced to Acoustiana with a knowing look. “Apparently they got into a sculpture competition, but due to their differing media, didn’t compete directly. Marey won third place in stone, and Scarlet, naturally, won first place in her horticulture topiary designs, magic being her defining advantage. The details aren't important, but they ended up sleeping with each other, and it seems Marey still thought of me as I think of her. Scarlet, in all her wisdom, helped me get a job here in Foalsdale. I didn’t know it for a couple of years though. She is really good at helping ponies out without even wanting to be known for it.” Pastel shook her head and grinned.

        “Scarlet had mentioned to Hearth after a while who I was and why she put so many of her bits into helping me get a job secretly. I had no idea she was Scarlet’s sister. The two are very different ponies.” Pastel frowned briefly. “Well, I tried to date Scarlet when I found out what she did, I shall admit. We knew right away it wouldn't work out though. Neither of us had the temperament to stay settled. We eventually just became artistic companions. So that’s why those two knew what was up, and I didn’t want them talking about it. I have a lousy past and try to keep it to myself unless I have to share it. And just for the record, yes, I did crush on Ray like you did, but I was quick to find out he loved another mare.” Pastel spoke her last thought with a wave of her hoof, her eyes closed, and in a nonchalant tone.

        That’s one involved story. Thank you for sharing. I still don’t understand how you feel the need to recuse yourself, but I can understand that it would make you feel uncomfortable. I also can venture as to why you haven’t told Ray. He probably would act like those other Canterlot ponies did,” Acoustiana signed after the two stopped to window shop.

        “Actually that never occurred to me. It just didn’t seem relevant to our relationship to mention what ponies I’ve slept with. Certainly it was none of his business. As he would say, ‘A lady should keep such details to herself.’” Pastel puffed out her chest, placed her hoof on it, and spoke in a low voice as she did her best to imitate the pegasus.

        Acoustiana silently giggled. The two finished their browsing and arrived at the tailor shop Pastel mentioned. Pastel stuck a hoof out and turned Acoustiana to face her as she signed out her next thoughts.

        “Before we go in, what are your current intentions? If you are looking for just a nice date that ends more platonically, I have an idea for an ensemble. If you are looking for your night to end with a bang and your choice mare in bed, a much different outfit is what I have in mind.” After translating, Acoustiana furrowed her brow.

        “No offense, but I am not that kind of pony.” She slammed her hooves down for emphasis. “So yes, I am looking for this to be a nice dinner, but nothing more than that. I may have strong feelings for Scarlet, but I am still not fully sold that dating a mare is the best thing for me. She...” Acoustiana stopped for a moment, took in a deep breath through her nose, and continued. “She earned this date, and probably many more.” 

        “I understand, and I am sorry to imply you would take intimacy so lightly. Just know Scarlet has in the past. However, she also never fell in love from what I know. Or at least this far head over flank as she has for you. So I doubt she will press for such. In any case, let's get you a lovely dress to take out on your first date.” Pastel nuzzled her friend and the two entered the shop.


        Brushing her thick mane, Acoustiana wondered why she was allowing herself to risk her future for these feelings. Her mind, even though battered and bruised by its many defeats over the subject, still fought on, reminding her that if she kept up with this relationship, she would have problems. Like never reach your dream of playing in Canterlot... No, Pastel said this would only make it hader. I can deal with harder.

She knew, though, that finding a colt that saw her music the way Scarlet did would be like trying to raise the sun and moon herself. The words the gentle orange unicorn said came drifting through her mind. To which her mind stitched a white flag and gave up for the night.

        With her inner conflict settled, Acoustiana began to feel the anxiety rise for her first date with a mare. She’d plenty of talks with her dad on how to handle the advances of colts, and how some of their reactions would be just to rut with her. However, this was a mare, and such a thing was a non-issue. The warning from Pastel reminded her that she would nonetheless need to be on her chaste behavior. Calling upon the wisdom of her mother, Acoustiana gathered her game plan. She would allow affectionate hoof rubbing, and the occasional tail flick. If Scarlet did not press the limits, she would feel okay enough to allow a kiss goodnight at the end.

        Her mane in perfect order, her coat brushed to a shine, and her tail flowing elegantly, Acoustiana nodded to her reflection and turned to her attire for the evening. Pastel had shown her many ensembles that she felt would look wonderful for the date. The final choice was a light-blue saddle, with magenta frills on top of a modest, light-yellow chemise and garniture. It drew attention to the saddle, which she was unsure of at the start, but Pastel pointed out that with the cloth underneath, instead of the attention being driven to her posterior, it would draw attention to her face, as her vibrant eyes would be accentuated.

        After getting her attire placed and tightened, she gave herself one last look-over. She had to admit, the way the light yellow hid her more alluring aspects, it in fact forced one to look more to her face. Smiling at her reflection, Acoustiana silently ran through a few chords of her favorite Beethooven composition in her mind, she headed downstairs to pass some time in her music room till Scarlet came to pick her up.

        Having only time to flip through some of her composition notes, Acoustiana heard a light knocking at her door. Peering around the doorway, she opened her door with her magic.  A confused Scarlet poked her head in past the doorway and looked about. Acoustiana waved a jubilant hoof to garner her attention and exited her music room.

        “Oh, there you are. Uh... oh nice outfit... erm...” Scarlet glanced to her gown. She wore an elegant garment woven from lavender flowers. The hem was a dense line of the light-purple flower, whereas the rest of the dress had flowers sparsely speckled over the tight weave of light-green stems. Scarlet’s ears drooped and her eyes dulled as she looked between her dress an Acoustiana’s.

        “D─do you have your notepad? C─can’t forget that,” Scarlet stuttered as she put on a false smile. “Having an o─one sided conversation would be boring for the both of u─us, I’m sure.”

        Acoustiana, knowing full well something was the matter, firmly planted her hooves on her floor. Lifting one hoof up, she pointed at Scarlet, then at a chair as she levitated over her small notepad.

        “What’s the matter? I shall not have this first date ruined, if it can be helped.”

        “Nothing! Everything is just fine.” Scarlet tried harder to fake her smile, but seeing the furrowed brow and slow snarl on the other mare’s face proved that her ruse was to no avail.

        “Okay... I kinda... sorta... maybe thought you would wear my gift to this. It’s why I wore this lavender dress, so we could be a matching pair.” Scarlet looked to her hooves and her ears dangled along the sides of her face.

        Wincing, Acoustiana trotted over to the other mare and placed a hoof on her shoulder. Scarlet looked up, ears still limp, and saw that her date was distressed by the state of things. Perking her ears up, she decided to push past this issue and get over her disappointment.

        “I said it’s okay, so it’s going to be okay. That is final. You look marvelous. I should have let you know I was going to wear this. How else would you have thought to wear my gifts? Besides, some lilies probably would have suited your roses better.” Reaching a hoof out, she lifted Acoustiana’s chin . “Now put on the gorgeous smile I love so much, and let’s go get us some fine cuisine. Don’t know about you, but I have been so nervous about tonight, I forgot to eat breakfast, and my tummy didn’t feel up to eating lunch.” Scarlet smiled broadly, winked, and nodded toward the door.

        Acoustiana softened her looks, as she saw the honest smile appear on her date’s face. She also imagined the small pain of her date’s hopes being skewed, and thought to alleviate at least a portion of them. She shook her head and cantered up her stairs to her room. She retrieved her tiara of flowers and returned downstairs. She then wore her own sincere smile and nodded to Scarlet.

        As Scarlet watched her date descend the stairs, she was unable to look away. Her face flushed and heart sped up. She knew at that point she was going to have a rough night keeping herself calm. She also reminded herself of her plan. No matter what, Scarlet, treat this mare right. She thought to herself over and over again.

        Scarlet opened the door for Acoustiana and the two set out on their trot to enjoy their evening. Scarlet moved close to her date, but not touching. She kept silent, and glanced to Acoustiana every now and then to see if she was happy. The pink mare simply smiled each time and seemed to be enjoying herself just fine.

        Scarlet navigated the couple through the city to the restaurant where she had made reservations. She was nervous that the lack of conversation would be off-putting during their trot through town, but her date seemed quite content with the silence between the two. When they finally arrived, Scarlet turned to Acoustiana and attempted her best prim and proper mannerisms.

        “M’lady, we have arrived at our destination. There shall be a reservation for two awaiting us. Please, allow me to see you in.” Scarlet then gave a sweeping bow. Upon rising, she found her nose was being poked by a dainty pink hoof.

        Acoustiana held a smile and slowly shook her head. Removing her hoof from her date’s nose, she then poked her gently in the chest twice. Pulling out her notepad, she wrote her words down while giggling silently.

        “None of that. That’s not who you are. I like Scarlet Topiary. Please, just be yourself.”

        “Uh, okay.” Scarlet shrugged and smiled back. “I figured it couldn’t hurt to pretend to be formal in case that was what you wanted. However, you will need to put up with me still being... uh... let’s say different for now. I’ll drop the fake stuff though, don’t you worry, but... I am still all aflutter you’re dating me. I may act oddly, so just nudge me if I do.” With a nod, Scarlet then moved to open the door and ushered her date in.

        The two got seated outside, and after they ordered, Scarlet felt the need to start some form of conversation. She took a few moments to ponder topics and started to make a mental list of things to try and talk about, when she caught sight of a light orange glow. Looking up from her hooves, she saw her date’s notepad floating there.

        “So, I was wondering about a few things. If it is okay with you of course, mind if we talk about us?” Acoustiana was blushing and looking off to the side.

        “I would be more than happy to discuss whatever you want. Ask away, nothing is off limits. And I mean nothing. If there is a topic I don’t feel comfortable talking about, it’s most likely just a private issue, and we can talk about it back at your place if you really want to know about whatever it is. There may be something I won’t mind talking about here, but I may write them down, ’cause you know, some topics are best left unspoken.” Scarlet winked as Acoustiana’s blush brightened.

        “I didn’t plan on asking anything of that nature, but at least I know it’s okay with you, should I feel the need. However, what I would like to know first is: what exactly do you do for a living? I understand you tend the plants, but isn’t that more of an earth pony job?” Acoustiana hoofed over the notepad and looked on with large, expectant eyes.

        “Heh, the same can be said of your music. And the answer is probably just as similar. I have always enjoyed nature growing up. I was a decent gardener, for a unicorn at least. One day, as I was chasing a butterfly through a field, I ran into a rather thorny blackberry bramble. It didn’t hurt at first, and the ripe berries I found looked delicious. But... then I tried to get at said berries. Well, I am sure you could imagine a little filly’s reaction to being pricked all over. Hearth heard my screams and came running. When she got there, I was in a state of panic. I don’t remember this part at all, but sis told me about it.” Scarlet smiled as her eyes wandered up into the sky.

        “Well, it seemed that the pain and something or other caused me to start randomly shooting off spells. My sister panicked and ducked to avoid the spells, so we don’t know how, but my horn eventually got tangled in the bramble. Suddenly, something in me clicked and I cast a transformation spell on the plant. It turned into an octopus, with its tentacles wrapped around me. Hearth looked up and saw what I had done, and did her best to calm me down from struggling further by brushing my mane. She always was good at calming me down.” Scarlet chuckled to herself.

        “Eventually, after I calmed down, she was able to get me to recreate the spell I had cast on the bramble and I turned it into some weird-shaped thing, like a pony on its hind legs, and I was no longer wrapped up by the thorns. After we got back home, and mom helped clean me up, my parents talked about the fine detailed magic I managed to cast and sent me off to art school. For my part, it was torture. The teachers heard the tale of what I did to the plant, so they expected me to be able to do it with any medium. And fail as I did, they kept trying to make me into a generic sculptor.” Scarlet rolled her eyes, stuck her tongue out the side of her mouth and twirled her hoof around.

        “I would say that is also when I became... rebellious?” Scarlet shrugged. “Well, whatever you wanna say, I stopped doing what my teachers and parents wanted. I started skipping class and hanging out in the gardens around campus. I hung out with some of the other delinquent types, and eventually told some of them about the topiary I had made. Well, they told me that I should try applying all the horseapple teachings into molding plants. So I did. After the third tree I turned into a... let’s just say, juvenile depiction of equine anatomy, I realized how easy it was for me to mold plants to any shape I wanted. Lo and behold, this appeared.” Scarlet lifted her dress to proudly show off her cutie mark. The red leaf with a cutout of a rearing pony.

        “That would also be the time I realized that I was into mares. If it’s of any consequence.” Scarlet lightly blushed and returned to looking at her hooves. “So, directly answering your question, I don’t grow anything actually. I simply change the plants. Still need good earth ponies to do the growing.”

        Acoustiana mulled over Scarlet’s story and she began to get a feel for what soothed her coat. She knew the type of filly Scarlet was growing up: The bitter one in class that was always expected to do great things but refused to meet others’ expectations. She knew how hard it could be going through school as an outcast, but she also knew they were still very different in that aspect. Scarlet made herself one; Acoustiana was forced to be one. Coming out of her mind, she saw Scarlet looking at her with a pensive look upon her face. Tilting her head to the side, Acoustiana twitched her ears and pointed a hoof in the other mare’s direction.

        “Can I ask you something... personal as well?” Scarlet blushed lightly and fidgeted in her seat. Acoustiana smirked and nodded.

        “Did you lose your voice, or is this how you were born?” Scarlet had one ear drooped but the other turned in the direction of her date.

        “I was born without vocal cords. In case it matters to you, I have been told there is a magical spell that can imitate a pony voice, should I ever want to learn it, yet it is a false voice. One that I shall not partake in. You are the first to hear my voice though. Its a large reason why I am here.” Acoustiana slid the notepad over and watched as Scarlet’s expression changed with every line she read. The way her ears twitched and nose wrinkled appeared as the cutest of all the expressions she made.

        “How is that possible? Nopony has heard your beautiful voice in your music? Not even your family?” Scarlet looked from the notepad to her date. Her eyes carried a heavy amount of concern, and her muzzle told of sadness.

        Acoustiana shook her head, reached over the table and took hold of Scarlet’s hoof within her own. She smiled warmly into the vibrant rose eyes of her date. Giving the orange hoof a gentle squeeze, she let it go and sat back down.

        Scarlet felt her face get hot, and knew that she had stopped breathing by the burning in her lungs. Her mind, however, still had yet to restart after the romantic gesture. Slowly, her body resumed its normal processes. Her eyes blinked a few times as she started breathing again. She slumped in her seat as the wave of joy and warmth washed over her and rested her head on the table. Her eyelids drooped halfway, and she let out a soft moan. Acoustiana covered her muzzle as she silently giggled at the reaction.

“What kind of things do you like to do other than tend to your plants?” Pushing the notepad over, Acoustiana gently tapped Scarlet’s hoof to garner her attention.

“Huh? Oh!” Scarlet blinked a few times, jerked her head side to side looking for any onlookers and then down to the notepad.

“Well, I always enjoy listening to Hearth’s music.” Scarlet tapped her chin as she looked off to the side. “Other than that, I haven’t done much recently. I used to be a major party pony, but... Well, let’s just say that it was getting difficult to stay a good pony. Hearth is really good at pointing out when I have done bad things. Like drugging beautiful musicians without realizing it.” Scarlet once more blushed deeply as her ears drooped and her expression became somber.

Acoustiana took off her flower tiara and tapped Scarlet with it. When Scarlet looked, Acoustiana inhaled deeply the intoxicating scent of the large flower. Scarlet watched, speechless, as her jaw went slack and her ears perked up. Acoustiana felt the effects and slumped onto the table as well.

“I... totally didn’t expect that from you.” Scarle blinked a few times. “Ugh... you are trying to make this difficult for me to stay a good pony, you know that?” Scarlet whined as she covered her head with her forelegs.

Acoustiana smiled at her and stuck out her tongue. Keeping at least some sense of decorum, she placed the tiara back on her head and used her magic to write another question. Scarlet watched her with some concern, but didn’t voice any.

“So, knowing what the flowers were actually used for in your house, how did you manage it? I don’t feel any more attracted or aroused by you than I was before. Is there more to your tricks?” Acoustiana lazily levitated the notepad over to her date. Scarlet took hold of it with her own magic and soon found herself with a very warm face.

“Well, uh... You see... Erm, I... uh...” Scarlet stuttered as she looked around and then coughed a bit, continuing in a very low whisper. “Not sure if this is all too appropriate for a first date, but I do have other gifts. Suffice it to say, my days as a party pony taught me plenty of so called ‘tricks’ when in reference to seducing ponies. That will be all I will say on the subject tonight though.” Scarlet hoofed over the notepad and avoided eye contact.

Acoustiana got the feeling that she had pushed too hard on her question. So with a great amount of self control, she changed the topic to something far more fitting and tame. Fighting the urge to be silly and flirty, effects she knew came from the flower, Acoustiana wrote her question and slid the notepad over.

“What are you currently working on? Are there any big projects lined up?”

“I am currently arranging a floral wedding arch for an earth pony couple.” Scarlet’s ears swiveled toward Acoustiana, and soon looked at her date as well. “The mare wants to have some daisies, petunias, and tulips. It’s going to take me forever to find the right combination of flowers though. The stallion insists that there be more than just white and pink. He wants a more stallionly coloration. So I offered some reds and purples, but he just snorted and walked off with his nose in the air. I mean really? A stallionly color from flowers! What the hay is he thinking?” Scarlet threw her hooves into the air.

“Well, in any case, the mare assured me that as long as I added something with a deep color to offset the brighter hues, her husband would be satisfied. Problem is, the flowers they selected are all lighter colored.” Scarlets ears drooped. “So I have had to special-order some unique breeds to get the darker purples from the tulips and petunias. I am just outta luck with the daisies unless I wanted to run around painting the flowers red or some such silliness.” Scarlet leaned her cheek against her hoof.

“That answers both of your questions. Now it’s my turn.” Scarlet put on an impish grin. “My flower doesn’t force you to do anything you aren't already willing to do. That said, how do you feel about me? I spent plenty of time telling you how I feel. How about you?” Scarlet perked up and stared at her date’s magnificent orange eyes.

Acoustiana took a moment to register the question as she got lost in the lovely rose-colored eyes staring into her own. Shaking her head, she retrieved her notepad and nibbled on her pencil as she figured out how to answer the obvious trap of a question.

“I haven’t decided yet. At least, not fully. You have earned a place in my heart no matter how this all turns out. Knowing that somepony in this world can hear me is more than I had wished for. I can say this: you are beautiful, your spirit is strong, and you have done more to garner my affections than anypony in my life. I am still not positive if I want to live my life with a mare, but you have made a very good argument for your case.” Acoustiana smiled warmly as she hoofed her notepad over.

Scarlet read the response, and furrowed her brow. She looked up for a moment, then went back to the notepad. After rereading the response, her expression changed. Her eyes shot wide open and glistened with moisture, her ears stood straight up and twitched every so often, and she smiled from ear to ear.

“So I do stand a chance at this?” Scarlet squeaked and fidgeted with the intense buildup of joy inside of her.

Acoustiana smiled and nodded. She silently giggled as her date pumped her hooves and gave a very quiet cheer to herself. She found the antics quite adorable, and knew that if Scarlet kept her manners this well on all their dates, she would probably have to admit to finally loving the silly filly. Silently sighing, she shook her head free of the thoughts and waved down the waiter so that she could order another cider for the two of them.

Scarlet watched the waiter depart after receiving the additional order, turned to her date, and reveled in the warm smile she wore. Something in the back of her mind kicked her consciousness and she remembered an important question she knew she needed to ask, especially now that she knew she would be getting more dates out of her mare.

“I was wondering─what, if anything, do you dislike?” Scarlet tilted her head to the side. “Hearth told me to call you only by your full name or Tiana. Is there a reason for that? Also, what type of playful jokes are you okay with, and where would you draw the line?” Scarlet saw Acoustiana’s expression flatten as the topic once more became serious.

“There are a number of things I do not like. However, most are inconsequential for the two of us to bother with at this time. What you should know is that growing up, I had it hard. The other foals didn’t exactly play nice with the mute filly. Worse yet, they latched onto the fact that my name is different. Should you feel the need to come up with a pet name for me, know that it would be best not to use my name in the process. It is one of my biggest issues. Never, and I mean ever, call me Cousti. Doing such will end anything we have together, now that you have been warned. Read and reply to this, and I shall then answer the second part of your question.” Acoustiana hoofed the notepad over, her face stern, and her eyes sharp.

Scarlet read the response. Her ears fell slightly, but soon straightened up. She felt a surge of anger, but took a deep breath to quash the feeling, knowing it was just an emotional response, and certainly held no logical place during her date.

“I can only imagine what you had to go through. I know at times I think I have had it rough, but ponies like you prove my life wasn’t half bad.” She then reached out and tapped her date’s hoof. “Don’t worry, any pet name I would give you would generally involve an object for affection. I dunno what yet. We haven’t spent enough time for such a thing to develop. If I feel one is needed, I’ll sit you down and we can talk about one. How does that sound?” Scarlet put on a meek smile and was relieved to see that her beloved smiled and nodded. She then returned the notepad so as to get the second part of her question answered.

“I have been the flank end of a number of so-called jokes. So if you plan to do the same, just make sure I am not in a poor mood at the time. General teasing and what have you, I find quite enjoyable. As stated before, name-calling is a touchy subject. Any prank that may endanger the welfare of my instruments is also not a good idea. As you know, it is through them that I have my voice. Damaging them is damaging me.” Acoustiana hesitated for a moment before sliding the notepad over.

“I don’t do anything more than flirty jokes and playful touching. So your instruments will be safe from me.” Scarlet then lost her smile. “Though, I should warn you, if someone does hurt them, you will want to be wary of me. I may... hurt ponies... I am a tad overprotective.” Scarlet’s ears drooped as she blushed and turned partly away.

The waiter appeared at that point with the couple’s dinners. He politely coughed as he approached the pair to announce himself, placed the dishes down, bowed, and then departed quickly. The two mares licked their lips at the delectable food placed before them. They looked at each other and nodded in unison as they then dug into their entrees.

Upon the two finishing, Scarlet had her eyes drooped, a contented smile, and her tongue partially sticking out. Acoustiana covered her muzzle as she silently laughed at the silly face her date wore. Scarlet sleepily noticed and looked to the musician, becoming confused as to what was so humorous. Looking behind her, she saw nothing of note.

“What’s so funny?”

Acoustiana simply pointed a hoof at Scarlet. She made sure to put on her warmest smile though, so as to avoid offending her date.

“Oh... was I making a face just then? Bah! I forget I do that after dinner.” Scarlet blushed but smiled at Acoustiana.

“Say, wanna go for a walk? Nothing like a stroll through the city to help a pony digest her yummy dinner!” Scarlet then took out a small bag of bits and placed it on the table.

Acoustiana moved to retrieve her own bits, but seeing the amount Scarlet put down, she looked up and pointed to herself and then to the bag. Scarlet simply smiled and nodded off to the street. Acoustiana felt a surge of warmth rush through her and she simply smiled back and followed after her date.

The couple walked down the main street. There were a number of other ponies out and about, but less than during the day. The streetlights were just getting their fireflies placed in them. The evening air was cool, as the sun had just set, leaving the sky a colorful palette of purples.

Scarlet moved closer to Acoustiana. She worried she was being too forward, but knew she needed to show her affection in some way. As she closed the space between the two of them, she saw her date glance over to her, but didn’t make a move to avoid her. Emboldened, Scarlet finished her movement and rested her side against Acoustiana as they continued to walk. To her utmost surprise, her beloved not only accepted the touch, but returned it. Acoustiana leaned her head to rest on Scarlet’s as they walked down the road.

The two walked around town, leaning against each other. Acoustiana enjoyed the extra warmth the other pony lent her, and Scarlet felt her heart flutter at the continued contact with the mare that haunted her dreams. Scarlet knew that she could lead Acoustiana anyplace she wished, but only wanted the moment to last.

As the night sky light up with the moon and stars, Scarlet told herself that it was time for their night to end. With a heavy sigh that did not go unnoticed by her companion, she led them in the direction of the musician’s house. Knowing that they were to part soon, Scarlet nuzzled lighty into Acoustiana’s neck.

Arriving at their destination, the two breathed in deeply and let out a sigh. They looked at each other in surprise and both looked away with blushes upon their faces. Scarlet rubbed her forelegs together, while Acoustiana nibbled on her lower lip and fidgeted.

“I hope you enjoyed yourself. If you want, we could do it again sometime soon.” Scarlet looked to her date, eyes glistening in the moonlight.

Acoustiana turned and looked into those rose-colored eyes. They almost screamed in  desperation for a positive response. Even if she wanted to, she knew she would have been powerless to shake her head no. Instead, she followed the path her heart told her to follow. Smiling, she nodded and gave her date a hug.

Scarlet felt like she was swimming on clouds as she returned the hug. Her night had gone far better than she had hoped, and she was proud of how well she had managed to conduct herself. What’s more, she also knew that her chances of winning her heart's desire would only increase so long as she didn’t mess up.

The notion of messing up caused her swimming pool cloud to disappear and caused her to plummet back to earth. She became rather anxious as she found that they were still hugging. Acoustiana loosened her grip and leaned back enough to look Scarlet in the eye. Scarlet felt a wave of panic, as this was the time she would make her move to get in the door and into bed. All she could do was stand still as possible and hope not to make a mistake.

Acoustiana sensed something amiss with her date. She had tensed up halfway through their goodnight hug, and now she had fear in her eyes. She peered into the large rose-colored eyes longer than she knew she should, but did so all the same to try and see why the lovely mare was so scared. When she felt the light, panicked puffs of breath on her muzzle, something in the back of her mind seemed to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Scarlet was fighting herself, if what Pastel said was true. The orange unicorn must be resisting her innate urge to attempt something.

As the seconds ticked by, Acoustiana asked herself an important question. Should this night end with a kiss? She could still feel her date’s tense muscles and see the fear in her eyes. The warm breath upon her muzzle reminded her of how easy it would be to make or break the night. Scarlet had done so much, and put herself on the line for heartbreak so many times that evening, Acoustiana felt that the mare deserved it. So, with that resolution, she smiled warmly, and closed the short distance between their muzzles and gave Scarlet a soft and warm kiss.

Scarlet’s mind flatlined. She tried to remember if she foalishly just kissed her beloved, or, if her date just kissed her. In either case, she felt the warm soft tender lips upon her own and let the worries and cares of the world fall away. She enjoyed the moment and accepted the gift given to her.

Acoustiana broke the kiss and took a step backwards to get a better view of her handiwork. Just as she expected, Scarlet looked silly. Her eyes half closed, her muzzle still frozen in the kiss, her face fully flushed, and her ears flopped to the sides. Using her hoof, Acoustiana brushed the side of Scarlet’s face in hopes of breaking her out of her trance. The contact caused the mare’s ears to straighten up and her eyes to snap open. The blush on her face brightened, and her breathing became heavy.

“Wow...” Scarlet moaned out.

Acoustiana smiled smugly and took out her notepad. As she wrote her message, she noticed the other mare slowly collect herself and land back on solid ground. This too pleased her.

“I had a lovely time. I am free all week starting in the late afternoons. Feel free to stop by. I look forward to another wonderful evening.” Knowing it was cheating, Acoustiana gave her best seductive look, as she fluttered her eyes.

“Filly, you are playing with fire.” Scarlet smirked at the reaction as she read the notepad. “And you have my promise, I’ll be back.” Scarlet, not wanting to be outplayed, gave her date a dose of her own medicine, and returned the look, slowly blinking to increase her appeal.

“I’ll be seeing you very, very soon.” Scarlet then turned to the road and sauntered off, waving her tail from side to side and turning once to give a wink at her smiling date.

Silence is Bittersweet, Part 7

        The orchestra broke for lunch, all the ponies shuffling out the front doors to venture into the city and their preferred eateries. Hot Air huffed his way out as his pride once more took a blow when his performance that morning was subpar. Pollen Hymn and her compatriot Water Song flew out over the heads of their earthbound fellows to grab a light snack and enjoy a quick cloud nap.

        Hearth Song was bubbling and bouncing next to Acoustiana as the two headed to their usual bistro. Acoustiana simply wore a large grin and held her head high as she trotted down the street, fully aware that her friend was trembling with anxiety, awaiting news of how her date had gone.

        Once they arrived, Acoustiana sat at a table, waved over the waitress and ordered her meal. Hearth blurted out to the waitress to double the order so that she would leave sooner. Acoustiana just giggled silently as she looked at the overly excited cyan pony.

        C’mon! Will you spill it already!” Hearth did her best to beg, hooves clasped together, and her lips pouty.

        Acoustiana tapped her chin and glanced over. After a few moments, she saw that some tears started to build in Hearth’s eyes. Not sure why her friend would get so emotional over her teasing, she let up the act and nodded enthusiastically. Taking out her notepad, she detailed her evening except for how it ended.

        Hearth greedily snatched the notepad after Acoustiana finished writing and read it with wide eyes. She cooed a number of times and blushed at others. As she neared the end of the story, she started nibbling on her lower lip. As she read the last of the words, her nibble turned into a bite, and her eyes got even wider than they had been when she started.

        “What do you mean ‘and...’ Where is the rest of it? Don’t leave me hanging like this!” Hearth had reached out and grabbed Acoustiana, shaking her vehemently.

        After her eyes stopped spinning in their sockets, the pink mare shook her head, frowned, and gave her blue friend’s horn a flick to send the message of inappropriate behavior.

        “Ow! What was that for?” Hearth sat back in her seat and rubbed her forehead. She then looked up to her friend as saw the scowl.

        “Oh... sorry. Got a little carried away there. But its not all my fault! You’re the one leading a pony on just to cut out the best part. So tell me, what happened after you arrived at your house?” Hearth scooted the notepad over to its owner.

        Eyeing the notepad and then her friend, Acoustiana mulled over the idea of refusing after Hearth’s rude behaviour, but ended up ceding to her requests for information. She was right after all─Acoustiana was partially to blame for the outburst. She gathered her notepad and finished the story of her date.

        “So after we stopped in front of my house, Scarlet was still on her utmost best behavior. That adorable blush was on her face, and we were both so nervous and saddened that our night was over. Scarlet not so directly asked me out for another date, and I nodded and gave her a hug. At that point she started to melt again, but this time, she suddenly froze up. I felt her go stiff as a board and when I moved to look at her, I could see fear in her eyes. Pastel warned me that in the past, Scarlet was, shall we say, an explicit pony. So when I saw her fear, I just knew in my gut that she must be fighting her usual tendencies. If she were a colt, I would have expected the same thing, with that level of intimacy, to try and get a hoof into my door. Dad said it was a popular technique of young stallion.” Acoustiana nibbled on her pencil for a moment, tapping her hoof against her chin, as a blush formed on her cheeks.

        “Anyways, after seeing her frozen there, and looking so scared, I got very worried. Scarlet had done so much for me that night, and here she was, doing all she could to stay a good pony and not push me into something I wasn’t fully committed to. I will admit, after feeling her breath on my muzzle while I stared into her eyes, yeah, I  broke down. I totally kissed her goodnight, then flirted up a storm. She flirted back, but didn’t push further. I think I am going to have to admit to loving your sister.” Acoustiana’s face was now bright red as she nudged the notepad over. Hearth looked from side to side as she scooped up the notepad and read it the best she could while hiding its contents from any onlookers.

        “Oh sweet Celestia. Scarlet... my little sister Scarlet... didn’t try and get into your bed? By Luna that is... Wow! Just, wow...” Hearth whispered as best she could so as not to cause an undue amount of rumor-mongering.

        Acoustiana smiled and nodded, trying her best to hide in her mane as she felt her face get even more flushed with blood. Hearth now seeing that her friend could use a change of subject before she disappeared into herself, chose a topic both could fluff up their coats over.

        “Oh hey! With all this dating stuff you’ve had to deal with, we haven’t had time to talk about our big debut at the concert! So come out of there. I wanna talk to you about it and get your side of it in case I’ve missed something.” Hearth used her soothing mother voice to add extra persuasion.

        Perking her ears up, the mute mare peeked through her mane and saw her friend’s warm smile beaming back at her. Tentatively looking from side to side for any gawkers, she slowly came back out and sat in her seat properly once more. Her cheeks only had a small shade of red left in them. She let a meek smile form on her muzzle and nodded her approval of the topic change.

        “So, how did your performance go? Did you feel it went as well as you hoped? From my side of the stage, it sounded perfect, but it was your music, so what are your thoughts?” Hearth tapped gently on her friend’s hooves for reassurance.

        “As I started, the sheer level of silence in the theater made the sorrow in my violin that much more vibrant. I could not have hoped for a better setup. Then as the other strings came in, that sorrow just swept over the crowd. I saw faces fall. Then the loneliness came in with the brass. For all his arrogance and idiocy, Hot Air actually did a good job with his group. They flowed perfectly with the strings.” Acoustiana let out a silent sigh as she smiled and let her eyes droop in the pleasant memory.

        “That he did, the lucky parasprite.” Hearth scowled off down the street before turning back to the notepad.

        “When we started the second movement, the tympani that mixed into the strings and brass just gave that extra bit of energy to help solidify the switch from sorrow to solitude, and loneliness to longing. My body seemed to vibrate with the energy, even more so than usual when feeling the music.” Giving a small shiver, Acoustiana brushed her hoof through her mane and went back to writing.

        “Can’t say I share the feeling, but that part did have some energy to it,” Hearth said in a whisper.

        “Then my favorite part. The slapsticks kicked in with the bass drums, making the energy of my music surge. Nopony could resist the feel of hope and joy during the third movement, at least nopony in that theater. The tempo changes the conductor suggested for the fourth movement made me weary at first, but like the rest of the piece, it grew into something wonderful. With the accelerando and allargando of tempo, we made that feeling of happiness and acceptance real. Like something I could reach out and hold.” Acoustiana wrapped her hooves around herself and gave herself a hug. With a lazy smile on her face, she settled back down.

        “This is way more detail than I expected. But I agree one hundred percent. All of us working together turned your music into something tangible. I am certainly glad I wasn’t the only pony that felt I could reach out and hold the happiness from the end of the fourth movement.” Hearth gave herself a hug as well.

        “So, that’s my perspective on my piece. Now you gotta spill yours. How did you feel the singer did for your song? Do you think your message to Luna was heard? Or did I totally mess up and not get the real message of the song?” Pausing at first, Acoustiana pushed the notepad over to her confidante.

        “Well, sorta. It’s about Princess Luna, yes, but it’s directed at Nightmare Moon. Technically its the same mare, but to me very different ponies. Ever since I read the stories about Nightmare Night, and the creation of Nightmare Moon herself, I was obsessed with writing this song to show both mares the lives they have affected.” Hearth got quiet and tapped her hooves on the notepad.

        “To the point though, the singer was perfect. Her voice carried the message I wanted to hear perfectly. I knew from the first time I heard her singing that her voice would be uplifted by my harp and be carried farther than either of our sounds would alone.” Looking off into the distance, Hearth let out a contented sigh.

        The waiter then showed up with a tray of food. She carefully placed the two orders and their accompaning ciders, curtsied, and bustled back to the kitchen. The two musicians took bites of their food.

        “My mam merrd...” Hearth swallowed her food blushed slightly. She then cleared her throat before attempting again.

        “I am worried that most ponies didn’t get the message, but I know that anypony that heard our performance felt it. I feel sorry for the Princess. She only wanted to be loved like Celestia is. She didn’t know it, but I just know in my heart she had to have been loved by many ponies. The night sky is just too beautiful for nopony to appreciate and love the mare that made it such.” Hearth looked into the sky and smiled.

        Acoustiana moved over to Hearth and rubbed her shoulder. Hearth looked back from the sky, her eyes misty, but the smile still on her face.

        “Our combined efforts painted the most wonderful of pictures. My harp flowed like water, almost quite literally during the few parts where I reference Luna’s tears. I should try and figure out a full ensemble version of my song. It might make it better. I dunno, I do like the personal feeling just my harp and a singer gives the song. Ugh, I am so bad at critiquing my own work. Especially this song. I have been working so long on it that to me, it can never be perfect. The only way my song would be better is if Luna herself were in attendance to hear it.” Hearth frowned a little before perking back up.

        “But hey! Eventually I will get big enough to play in Canterlot, and then she will certainly hear my song. I just hope she hears the right message and not the wrong one. I know a pony can interpret it in a negative light, as Scarlet told me once. She said, ‘Somepony might hear this as an insult to Luna for being weak and practically letting Nightmare Moon win their fight.’ I can see how a pony could have that thought, but I don’t know how to avoid it. Their perspective is their own, and I shall just have to live with those critics.” Hearth’s ears lowered and she hoofed over the notepad. She avoided eye contact as she fidgeted and nibbled lightly on her lower lip.

        “If I may, what was that bit you did between the second and third verse? It was different, in a good way. What was the inspiration behind it?” Acoustiana wrote down the question, half knowing the answer, to help get her friend back on track of feeling good about her music.

        “Luna’s stars, of course. The plucking was to imitate the twinkling of stars, the rolling strums to depict falling stars. Scarlet and I always enjoyed laying on our backs and watching the stars growing up. We haven’t been able to do it in years, but back as fillies, it was our special thing. Just another reason why I wanted this song to do so well. Luna is important, and ponies need to be reminded of the gifts she gives us every night. Not just the one gift Celestia gives us every day... Bah, now listen to me getting all political.” Hearth chuckled in amusement to herself. Acoustiana followed suit.

        “So yes, every interlude was inspired by something I feel Luna has gifted ponykind, but said ponies seem to forget. She protects us against the darkest of threats, she gives us guiding light during the night, she knows what it’s like to falter and make a mistake, and most importantly, she does all these things with little to no praise from the average pony. Her endurance against all the forces she faces is beyond me to know, but I tried to capture in my song.  Hallelujah, Princess Luna feels like it did her justice.” Hearth beamed and puffed out her chest. Acoustiana nodded in agreement.

        Acoustiana looked to her pocket watch, and her eyes went wide. She hoofed it into Hearth’s face so that the current problem was made evident.

        “Oh phooey! Best to eat fast then. If we gallop back we might not be late.” Hearth let out a groan as she looked at her mostly untouched meal.

        The two turned their full attention to their plates of food and quickly devoured their meals. Both tossing bits onto the table, the pair then galloped down the street. Hearth complained about her sore tummy the entire way back to the theater.


        True to her word, Scarlet Topiary returned to take Acoustiana out on another date the night after their first. It went better than the night before, as the two were able to enjoy each other’s presence fully without the discomfort of a first date.

        The two talked more on their lives growing up. Scarlet talked about her topiaries that caught the eye of many wealthy ponies, only to have them scoff at the art once they found out who created it. She also went and talked about how she came to Foalsdale back when it was half its current size. Her art was well received, and her personal life mostly overlooked.

        Acoustiana wrote about her days as a foal and growing up with all her unique traits. She told Scarlet about her days in magic kindergarten and how the other foals made her life miserable with the name-calling, but that no matter how hard things got, the words her father told her kept her strong enough to endure. “Just tolerate those that would hurt you, and if you succeed in this, all other troubles in your life will seem like leaves on the wind. Scarlet was deeply moved when she read those words, and wanted so much more to be a part of the pink mare’s life.

        Over the next few days, the two went on more dates. They talked about anything and everything. The topic of magic was a particularly interesting one for the pair to discuss. Scarlet had a lot of power in her magic, but found that unless the target was organic, she would generally just break it if she tried to reshape it. Her ability to levitate was decent enough, as she had already demonstrated to her date. Acoustiana went over how her trials of learning her skill with magic were difficult until she discovered that her power didn’t come from brute strength, but fine manipulation of the objects she was able to hold in her weak magical grip. She demonstrated this by enveloping Scarlet and braiding her mane and tail while smoothing out her coat, all at the same time. The expression Scarlet gave during the experience exposed her enjoyment of the act.

Scarlet also prompted Acoustiana to start teaching her hooflanguage while they were on their dates, so that the two could bond over yet another thing of mutual interest. Scarlet proved to be a fast learner, but showed that her patience was not all that great, as she would easily get frustrated when she tried more complex motions.


On a sunny weekend afternoon, in the rolling fields of grass and wildflowers, a number of families frolicked about. Little foals could be heard squealing in joy as they romped about, carefree as only a foal can be. Butterflies fluttered around the field, and the occasional bee buzzed from flower to flower.

From the city, Scarlet and Acoustiana come walking out, Scarlet balancing a large picnic basket on her back while Acoustiana carried a couple of cushions and a large blanket upon hers. When the two arrived at an empty hilltop, Scarlet magicked the grass into a flat, padded area.

Smiling at her date’s efforts, Acoustiana reached back and grabbed the blanket firmly in her teeth at the corner. With a graceful, fluid motion, she lifted the blanket up, unfurled it, and allowed it to flow gently down over the spot in the grass. Satisfied with her placement, she turned to her date and stifled a giggle.

Scarlet was gawking at the pink mare, and a blush was quickly forming on her cheeks. Acoustiana stepped over and gently nuzzled her to help break Scarlet out of her trance. Seeing the orange mare blink and slowly look around, Acoustiana smirked once more and set about placing the items they had brought with them. She started with levitating the basket off her date’s back and onto the blanket. As she opened it and began pulling out the sandwiches, she felt Scarlet nuzzle into her cheek, a gesture which Acoustiana reciprocated. Scarlet then took out the pie she had baked for the occasion as well as the pie server she packed alongside it.

Setting the sandwiches on the blanket, Acoustiana then chose to place the pair of cushions on the blanket. She placed hers first, and when she turned to place the other, she saw Scarlet concentrating heavily on slicing the pie. The amount of care and precision she was taking in the simple task of slicing the pie amused Acoustiana greatly, and a prank formed in her mind.


After laying Scarlet’s cushion in its place, Acoustiana took one last glance to ensure her date was still oblivious of her surroundings. Seeing her date still engrossed in her pie slicing, Acoustiana splayed out her hind legs slightly, flicked her tail over Scarlets eyes, and then slowly let it fall away.

“What the... Did you just...” Scarlet stammered as another blush formed on her face.

Acoustiana was already rolling on the blanket giggling silently, and Scarlet soon caught the infectious laughter. Once the two caught their breath, Scarlet brushed the bit of mane that had fallen into her date’s face and stared into the orange eyes while wearing a loving smile.

Acoustiana smiled back and the two enjoyed their silent moment of just being together. The moment was interrupted by a rumbling sound that was soon echoed by the other pony. They both looked to their tummies and then to the food currently placed on the blanket.

Scarlet levitated the sandwiches, one placed before her date, the other in front of herself. She then took out the cartons of juice and placed them the same as the sandwiches. Giving Acoustiana a warm smile, Scarlet then settled into her cushion and nibbled on her sandwich. Looking up, she noticed her date do the same, but in her own cutely neat way.

Taking the carton of juice in her hooves, Acoustiana took a small sip. It was cool and refreshing. She watched her date chew her sandwich on one side of her mouth and then the other. She found it adorable and giggled silently before going back to her sandwich.

Acoustiana swiveled her ears to the sounds in the field. She heard the lovely sound of birds chirping off in the distance. She then heard some giggling and squealing coming from someplace close by. Turning her head, she watched as a few foals galloped around the hills, chasing a group of butterflies.

The sight reminded her of something she wanted. She slowed her chewing and her ears drooped slightly. She looked back to Scarlet and was also reminded of the love she had for the mare. My love for this mare is great, but oh what I would give to have a foal just the same.

Scarlet, noticing her beloved’s change in mood, and seeing the source of the problem, kept her smile bright while trying to figure out what to do. This was a problem that needed to be handled, and the sooner the better. Scarlet knew she had won the heart of the mare before her, but the sadness she witnessed was unmistakably that of longing. The pain of forcing Acoustiana to choose between becoming a mother and being her lover struck like a powerful buck to the chest.

Scarlet weighed her options: talk immediately on this issue, or start a different conversation to get both their minds off the pain and sadness, and then bring up the topic. The latter had more weight, for she knew both of them had less reasoning power when they got overly emotional, herself especially. I have been wanting to know about the history of hooflanguage. Now is as good a time as any to ask, and that should give us enough time to settle our emotions so we can talk this foal issue out a little more reasonably.

Nodding to herself, causing Acoustiana to look confused, Scarlet then put down her sandwich and levitated out her date’s notepad and set it before her. She then attempted to sign out her request, but couldn't figure out how to sign “history” and let out a sigh, opting just to voice the question.

“So I have been wondering, where did hooflanguage come from? Its so thought out and complex─did the Princesses come up with it?” Scarlet nudged the notepad to show her request for the story via written word instead of a signed response.

Acoustiana’s ears perked back up. She finished chewing her food and smiled warmly as she took up the notepad and pencil. She then began to write out the long story she learned from the ponies that taught her the language.

“Hooflanguage came about not because of ponies. In fact, the Princesses didn’t live in Equestria when it was created. The reason for its creation is actually attributed to Discord, the draconequus.”

“Back during the reign of Discord, he did a bunch of nasty things to ponies. One such thing he did was to silence an entire village. He removed the voices of half the ponies, and the ears of the other half. Needless to say, the ponies of that village became distraught and life became very difficult for all of them.”

“That... I can’t even imagine how awful it would be not to be able to hear. Though, I have to admit to taking the ability to speak for granted too.” Scarlet moved next to Acoustiana and nuzzled into her. Acoustiana nibbled the tip of Scarlets ear, in hopes of reassuring her of no wrongdoing.

“In time, once the panic settled and the ponies accepted their fate of silence, they worked on a way to communicate. Such as I do now, they all wrote everything down at first, but the ability to replace notepads ran dry, and they didn’t have enough chalkboards for everypony to carry around. They tried to set up what boards they did have in common areas so that all the ponies could gather and talk that way. Well, that turned out to be a poor choice, as dozens of ponies tried to use the same chalkboard at the same time. Soon, villagers got fed up with waiting in line to ask for simple things, and instead resorted to pantomime for the simpler things like: ‘buy that,’ ‘take this,’ ‘go there,’ and all other things one can say with a point of a hoof.”

Acoustiana stopped writing for a moment as a butterfly fluttered in front of the mares and landed on the pencil. It flexed its wings a couple of times before taking off, back into the blue sky.

“Soon, the idea caught on. None of the ponies had issues seeing, so the village leaders worked out a system of common signals they could use for everyday usage. Tap the chest, tap the purse, tap the object became ‘I would like to buy this,’ for example. Anything a pony would need to say on a regular basis got a gesture associated with it, and the whole town was shown them.”

“It wasn’t long before the town began to run almost as if nothing had ever happened to them. Ponies would come up with new gestures for something and approach the leaders with it. Many of the signs we use today came from these ponies’ ideas.” Acoustiana looked up, smiled, then rubbed her chest in a small circle and pointed to Scarlet.

“I love you too,” Scarlet whispered back into Acoustiana’s ear.

“So over the course of many years, the ponies of the village refined and tweaked their gestures into a formal language, as the historians put it. When the Princesses defeated Discord and harmony returned to the land, the villagers didn’t change. It’s not clear why, or how, but the villagers didn’t regain their voices or hearing. I think it’s because they all accepted what Discord had done to them, and lived their lives normally despite his attempt to sow chaos.”

“Ha, take that, you beastie you!” Scarlet hopped to her hooves and kicked at an invisible enemy. Acoustiana giggled silently at the antics. Once Scarlet felt she had soundly defeated her opponent, she settled back down in front of her date to continue reading the story.

“The Princesses found the village, and finding it unchanged from the removal of Discord, it is said they tried to investigate, but the villagers declined any assistance in curing their ailments. They all felt that without the clamor of ponies talking, they were better off. They found that a touch was preferred to a shout. A hug was better than a hello. That ponies fighting would find it hard to hurt one another when their hooves were busy making gestures to speak rather than free to hurt one another. The Princesses accepted the villager’s wishes and even asked if they would teach others their unique language.”

“So that’s the history of hooflanguage. What I know and you are learning is called Canterlot Hooflanguage. Basically, it’s a refined and streamlined version of the original gestures used by the village all those years ago.”

Acoustiana pondered further points of interest, but just shrugged and settled into her cushion, basking in the sunlight. Scarlet continued to read the notepad and satisfied the curiosity that had bothered her for the past few weeks.

Upon finishing, Scarlet scratched her chin and came up with a few questions she felt were left unanswered. She figured it would be best to keep things to yes-or-no answers so that her next important topic to discuss would make for a smoother segue.

“So did you learn hooflanguage after magic kindergarten?” Acoustiana nodded in response.

“Is there a school just for this?” Another nod was a response.

“Are all ponies that have no voice or hearing descended from these villagers then?” This time, Acoustiana shook her head.

“Did ponies have these issues before Discord’s rule? I don’t remember my history class ever going over Pre-Equestrian disabilities, or even a mention of anything of the sort.” Acoustiana smirked, leaned over and kissed Scarlet on the nose, then nodded in response.

Scarlet blushed, then folded her ears back and bit her lower lip. She looked timidly over to Acoustiana and took a deep breath for the topic she needed to bring up next.

“Love, I need to talk to you about something very important now,” Scarlet said in a low voice.

“I saw you get sad when you heard and saw those foals playing. It wasn’t just a sad look though, it was longing. Dear, tell me honestly, do you wish to have your own foal?” Scarlet had to gulp down her fears before asking the question, but ask it she still did.

Acoustiana, concerned with the sudden change of mood in her date, became terrified at the question. She had hoped never to have to talk about this issue, as she could not answer them to herself. She started to tremble, and her eyes began to glisten with tears.

“Hey there, it’s okay.” Scarlet cooed as she stepped over to Acoustiana and curled up against her.

“Don’t worry, love. If you’re not ready to answer that question yet, it’s okay. I was probably being too direct anyway. Listen, I used to want a foal too. I thought it would be cool and awesome to have a little me running around causing mischief and raising heck.” Scarlet nuzzled the top of Acoustiana’s head while she talked soothingly.

“But once I did a little bit of foalsitting for some older friends of mine that went and got knocked up, all my desires for a foal disappeared. My friends only told me that they suffered discomfort and pain bearing the foals, and that birthing them was the worst pain they had ever been in. Couple that, with all the work and cleaning that was involved in caring for the foals... Well, suffice it to say that I was glad that I only liked mares at that point. No worries of accidental foaling when your partner lacks the equipment.” Scarlet chuckled nervously as she looked to see if her words had any beneficial effect on her beloved mare.

Acoustiana dried her eyes and levitated her notepad over. She knew it was only fair to talk about this issue, as it was a very important one for their relationship to continue though she was still unsure how it would turn out.

“All my life, or at least since I was a filly, the idea of my own foal has always brought with it a warm and tingling feeling. The thought of my own foal always excited me, like a present I would be able to give all of Equestria. As I got older, I knew that the warm feelings I got when I thought of a foal growing in me were more or less biologically driven more than a sense of romanticism. Nonetheless, the feelings were there, and I enjoyed them.” Acoustiana felt a soft nibbling on her ear, a sign that Scarlet was watching her words being written, and a way to reassure her that the love they shared was still strong.

“As a grown mare, I knew of all the issues one would have raising a foal. Food, clothes, furniture, toys, and if needed, a foalsitter. The logistics and financial burden worried me and scared me to a degree. However, my feelings and desires to have one are greater still.” Acoustiana paused a moment before finishing her last thought, and looked to Scarlet after finishing it.

“I can only wish to understand the feelings you have. But the way you describe them, they must not be easily forgotten, nor easily ignored.” Scarlet folded her ears back and leaned away from Acoustiana.

“I need to know something. Do you think... is it possible that these feelings and desires will one day drive you into the hooves of a colt, if for one night, in the hopes of having your own foal?” Scarlet looked into Acoustiana’s eyes, both mares now on the verge of tears.

Acoustiana stared into the gorgeous rose eyes as the question reverberated in her mind. She started to shake her head, but then closed her eyes and looked down. Shrugging, she then gave a small nod and began to cry.

The nod, small as it was, struck Scarlet in the heart. Her own tears started flowing, but she controlled herself. She knew that was the answer. She knew her mare was not like her. Once more she found herself the cause of tears coming from the pony she loved so dearly. Then a small voice in her mind echoed something she had long since forgotten.

Thinking harder, she tried to recall the voice, and what it said. With a flash of inspiration, Scarlet remembered something that she heard as a young mare. Something that she had since ignored as she had no desire for the effects of it. Now, in this moment, it was the most important thing in her life, and a smile crept upon her face.

“Hush now my desert epi.” Scarlet lifted Acoustiana’s face so that their muzzles touched.

“Open your eyes, lift your ears, and feel my love.” Scarlet stroked the green mane of her date.

Acoustiana opened her eyes, still feeling miserable for admitting she would ever cheat on the mare she loved so dearly. When she saw the warmth and love in the eyes staring back at her, much of her guilt melted away.

“What if there were a spell that the two of us could create that would allow us to conceive? Would that fix this? Would that make you happy?” Scarlet tapped her horn against Acoustiana’s and let her devilish grin show itself upon her face.

Confused, Acoustiana nodded the best she could in her current position. In response, Scarlet hugged her tightly and whispered into her ear.

“There is a spell, one I heard about many years ago. If you are patient, I will find it, and when I do, we can discuss when we wish to ‘do the deed’ as it were.” Scarlet then pulled back, waggled her eyebrows and snickered.

Acoustiana was not sure what she felt most strongly: embarrassment, love, or excitement. All the emotions came pouring into her, and even though she felt the burn of a blush on her face, she tackled Scarlet and gave her a long passionate kiss.

“My shining star, you always lead me to my place of happiness. I shall never know how to repay you for all you have done to make my life as good as you have.” Acoustiana wrote after letting Scarlet catch her breath.

“Well, you can promise to marry me one day, and we can call it even,” Scarlet cooed in response.

The two enjoyed the rest of their day practicing hooflanguage, and every time Acoustiana heard the foals playing and she turned to watch them, the knowledge that one day her own little one would be galloping around chasing butterflies caused her to lose all track of her surroundings.


As the days went on, and the pair’s dates grew more romantic, Acoustiana knew that whatever hurdles life threw her way, she would leap them. Should she stumble and fall, she knew her beloved Scarlet would be there to lift her to her hooves, and no hurdle would be too big for them to overcome together.

Acoustiana set about a plan to prove her love. She knew Scarlet never doubted when she told her she loved her. However, Acoustiana wanted all of Equestria to hear her words. The only way she could speak, though, was through her music. For more than just her friends to hear her music, it had to be very good. For it to be very good, she had to make it note by note. Each note needed to carry with it a part of her, and a part of her love.

With all of this in her heart, Acoustiana searched for a way to tell all of Equestria. She toiled long hours in her house, trying to find a way to sing the song of love that lay in her heart and searching for the elusive notes that would carry her words for all ponies to hear. Her shining star was Scarlet Topiary, and nopony else’s.