Now You Need Us

by RadiantBeam

First published

The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy. But while the Dazzlings are about as 'enemy' as it is possible to get, the girls may just need their help when something even worse begins to prey on the students of Canterlot High.

After the Battle of the Bands, a new threat makes itself known in the human world. The problem is, when the creature you need to defeat gains power from the magic of love and friendship, how do you defeat it? The answer seems simple enough: use the power of negative energy.

The only ones who can use the power of negative energy? The Dazzlings.

Oh, dear.

7/7/2016: Now with cover art designed by the very generous Novel-Idea! Thank you so much!


History will remember me for my successes, and not my mistakes.

I should be grateful for that. I have indeed enjoyed great success throughout my career; I am not so humble to deny that, even in my old age. But while it is true that I’ve had many successes during my life, it is also true that I’ve made mistakes. I’m only a pony, like any other. I have not made many mistakes, and that is why I suspect that history won’t remember them.

But I will remember them.

I cannot justify my actions, and I will not try to. All I can say was that I was young, and desperate, and I was in such a mindset that even a bad idea seemed better than no idea at all. I had built them as weapons, tools that could be used against Discord. The decision to build them as capable of feeding off of negative energy was one that made sense at the time; his reign certainly generated enough of the magic that it seemed brilliant.

My first mistake was forgetting that a weapon, even when it isn’t given a chance to be used, is still a weapon. I had not calculated the fact that negative magic could still be created without Discord’s influence, and I had no prepared myself for the possibility that what I had created would never face combat. I had set them loose assuming that would be the end of it, and in doing so I nearly tore Equestria apart before Celestia and Luna could even begin to rebuild it.

In trying to fix my first mistake, I made my second mistake. So relieved was I to find an easy solution to the problem—a portal that could cast my opponent away into some other world far from ours—that I never considered the consequences. For years I abused this spell, using it against a number of enemies that I deemed too great of a threat to our recovering lands while the princesses focused on much larger problems. It wasn’t until I was older, no longer capable of going out into the field, that I actually tried to research the world I had been sending these creatures to.

And in doing so, I discovered that this world had living beings of its own.

My days are short, and I am weak. There is nothing I can do myself to correct my mistakes. I take comfort in the fact that my studies have shown that magic in the other world is weaker than it is here in Equestria; if nothing else, that will weaken the creatures I sent through the portal. But it won’t stop them completely.

Should anyone ever read these words, know this: I have left a list of the monsters I sent through the portal in my youth. Hopefully, by the time this is read, there will be a better method of travel between the worlds. I ask whoever reads this list: go through the portal. Make sure that these creatures, if they still live, will cause no further harm to this other world.

And if my weapons still live, I ask of you: use them. Put them to better use than I did.

I’m sorry that I must ask another to correct my mistakes.

-An excerpt from the personal journal of Starswirl the Bearded

It was a beautiful night.

It was clear, without a single cloud in the sky. Stars twinkled merrily beyond human reach, and the moon shone bright and full. With the passing of fall and the transition into spring, the weather was warm without being mind-meltingly hot like it sometimes was during the summer. It was, to be honest, the perfect night for someone to be out and about, talking a walk and enjoying life.

“Got the music in our hearts, we’re here to blow this thing apart…”

He was a young man, a student of Canterlot High on his way home from a party that had been hosted at his friend’s house. Taking the shortcut through Everfree Park was practically second nature to him. This was a path he’d walked many times during his life, during the day and during the night. In all of his years, nothing had ever changed.

The fact that he still had that catchy Rainbooms song stuck in his head weeks after the fact certainly helped with his good mood as he walked. Say what you would about any of the girls, but they certainly knew how to sing.

“And together we will never be afraid of the dark…”

Despite the name—and its Equestrian counterpart—Everfree Park was actually fairly well contained, with a clear path leading through the whole park. There were certainly trees scattered throughout the area, either planted by human hands or ones that had been in the ground since they’d been seeds, but it was nowhere near the same level of overgrowth and wilderness as Everfree Forest. You always had a clear view of the sky, and you could always see who was walking around you, provided you were paying attention.

And even though he was singing softly under his breath, the young man was paying attention.

He didn’t think anything of the woman that was standing just a ways ahead of him on the path, at first. Canterlot City wasn’t known for its crime rates, and the park had always had excellent lighting so people could walk or jog safely during the evening hours. So the fact that a woman was out and about in Everfree Park at this time of the night wasn’t unusual to him, and he very nearly paid her no mind.

Except then, he got an actual look at her. The song he’d been singing died on his lips, and for a moment he was so stunned that he stopped walking entirely and just stared.

She was the most beautiful woman he’d seen in his life, a statement that would have been far more impressive if he wasn’t only eighteen. But his age didn’t make it any less true; to him, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen in his life, bathed in the silver beams of the moon and perfect in every way. She had curves in all of the right places, long hair that flowed like a waterfall down her back, and pale skin that seemed utterly flawless in the moonlight. The finishing touch was her eyes: ice blue to match her golden hair.

She saw him, of course; the path had been built in such a way that it would have been impossible for her to not see him. Her eyes met his, and with a jolt he realized he was still staring, and that was considered rude—especially when the person you were staring at caught you staring at them.

But to his surprise, she simply smiled and waved.

Confused and a little relieved that she didn’t seem angry, he hesitantly waved back. After a moment passed and she was still looking at him, still smiling, he walked over to where she was standing. He didn’t even remember giving his legs the order to move; it simply seemed to happen the longer he looked at her.

“Hey.” He spoke, and once again didn’t recall giving his mouth the command to say anything. “Are you okay, miss? It’s pretty late at night.”

The smile she wore never wavered for a second; if anything, his question made it become so much brighter. “Thank you,” she said, running a hand through her hair. His eyes tracked the movement. “I’m perfectly fine, just—heading home. I appreciate your concern.”

It was a simple answer to something that wasn’t even a problem, and normally he would have let it go at that. He didn’t even know this woman beyond her beauty, and the area was incredibly safe. She wasn’t in any danger, and he was free to continue on his way, get home, and enjoy what remained of his night before he woke up for school the next morning.

But he didn’t leave. The thought, while briefly flitting through his mind, died as quickly as it was born. “Are you sure?” he asked. “I don’t mind if you need some help.”

The woman laughed now, a bright and gentle giggle that sounded like a bell. “Oh, you are sweet,” she cooed. “So insistent that I stay safe, it’s rather charming. I can see you were raised to be a decent young man.”

He opened his mouth; to agree with her or to say something else to change the topic, he didn’t know.

He opened his mouth, and no sound came out.

“I’ll tell you what.” She leaned in close, eyes gleaming in the mixed light of the moon and the street lamp. “Since you’ve been such a good man, I’ll give you a little reward for your concerns. How does a kiss sound?”

He wanted to say that he really didn’t want or need a kiss. She was beautiful, the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, but he hadn’t done much to actually help her. There was no need for her to give him anything.

He wanted to say that.

He didn’t say anything.

And then he couldn’t say anything even if he wanted to, because the woman leaned in, framed his face in both of her hands, and kissed him right on the lips.

As far as kisses went, it was completely chaste; only the press of skin on skin, and nothing more. That relaxed him, ever so subtly. There was no harm in something like this, he thought. It was just a light peck from a gorgeous woman, and he could go on with his night. He could maybe even brag to his friends tomorrow about what was happening now.

He closed his eyes, and leaned into the kiss.

He felt her lips curve into a smile against his.

Anyone witnessing the scene in Everfree Park would have witnessed something magical.

Quite literally, something magical was happening. Magic sparkled and danced around the boy, shimmering pink in the light as it flowed from his body and into the young woman kissing him. The contact point seemed to be their joined lips; it was as if she was sucking the magic out of him and devouring it for herself. This was disturbing enough to see as it was, but what made it worse was if one paid any attention to the young man.

At some point during the kiss, his legs had started to shake. This wasn’t due to oxygen deprivation despite the length of said kiss; he’d certainly kissed girls before, and he knew how to breathe through his nose. The more magic was drained from him, the more he shook, the tremors traveling through his legs and into his whole body until he was shaking like a leaf in the wind.

Finally, the woman pulled away and took a small step back, sliding her hands away from his face and licking her lips as a satisfied smile formed. Without even her mild support the boy crumbled like a puppet with his strings cut, his chest heaving desperately for air as the blood drained from his face and his eyes slammed shut. Even as he lay on the ground, small tremors continued to ripple through his body.

The woman hummed and took another step back, letting her gaze linger on the fallen boy before she turned on her heel and walked away from him. As she walked, she clasped her hands behind her back and looked up at the sky, observing the position of the stars and the brightness of the moon.

It was a beautiful night.

Author's Notes:

... I told myself I wouldn't post this until I was a few chapters in. At least I've started chapter one.

So, here we go! My first attempt at a chapter story in... awhile. Let's say awhile. This idea's been knocking around in my head since I saw Rainbow Rocks, and I'll be honest: this isn't a Dazzlings' redemption story. They won't be villains here, but they won't exactly be heroic either.

T rating is for some instances of language and some darker themes once I get deeper into the plot. The 'dark' tag is also for said themes; this isn't going to be a super dark story despite the tag, but I felt it was better to be safe than sorry.

Anyone who figures out what kind of magical creature the lovely lady is based off of gets an internet cookie and the right to hit me up for a writing request.

Chasing the Rabbit

“If any of my lessons stick with you throughout your life, Sunset Shimmer, let it be this one: a true threat will make itself known three times. The first time, it’ll seem like an accident.

The first victim hadn’t even been noticed until a day or two after the supposed attack. She’d been an older woman, with few friends and no family to speak of. By the time any of her coworkers had realized she hadn’t reported in for work, it had been several days. The authorities had been alerted, and after breaking down her door they’d found her in her living room, laid out almost tenderly on her couch. By all accounts, she’d simply been in a deep slumber.

She hadn’t woken up yet. The discovery had been considered odd, but other than a brief announcement on television, no one had paid it any mind.

“The second time, it’ll seem like a coincidence.”

The second victim had gained a bit more attention. That one had happened only days after the Battle of the Bands and the defeat of the sirens, another girl. She was younger, a student of Canterlot High, and she was fairly popular. Her parents had noticed immediately when she didn’t come home, and she was found within hours a short distance from the outdoor auditorium. Like the older woman, she appeared to simply be in a deep sleep; there were no wounds or threats to her health.

Like the older woman, she didn’t wake up.

“The third time, you’ll realize there’s a pattern. And that is when something must be done.”

Sunset stared down at the newspaper in her hands. She wasn’t even reading the story on it; she’d already looked at it when Rarity had burst into the band practice room and had shoved it at the group. She knew what she would find if she looked. A third victim, this one a young man and another student of Canterlot High, found in Everfree Park. He was, like the other two, in a deep sleep. His chances of waking up seemed poor.

And so we have a pattern, the girl thought, and resisted the urge to sigh. It seemed there wasn’t going to be any peace around the school, at this rate.

“I’m not saying it’s the Dazzlings, of course.” Rarity had been wringing her hands together for the last few minutes as the paper was passed around the group, and every girl read the story. “But… could it be? The timing is quite soon after the Battle of the Bands. It’s only been a few weeks.”

“A decent theory, but Ah doubt it.” Applejack set aside the newspaper. “We destroyed their gems. Twilight said they’d be normal human girls.”

“More to the point, this doesn’t match their style.” Sunset picked up the paper again, mostly to have something to do. “When they were in the school, they were feeding off of the negative energy they generated. They put on a show. They didn’t just… drain magic from their victims and leave them in a deep sleep.”

“Definitely isn’t flashy enough to be them, either,” Rainbow muttered. Sunset found she couldn’t argue with that logic. Whatever else they were or had been, the sirens had certainly had a flair for the dramatic. Draining victims and leaving the bodies to be found, vanishing without a trace, wasn’t something they seemed capable of.

The girls were silent for a moment as they all thought this over, the silence only broken by the gentle squeak of Pinkie bouncing on her heels; apparently, she just wasn’t capable of being quiet in any capacity. After a moment, she raised her hand.

Amused despite everything, Sunset smiled. “Yeah, Pinkie?”

“Sooooooooooo…. we don’t think it’s the sirens,” Pinkie said, ticking off with her fingers as she spoke. “And I’m like, pretty sure whoever’s doing this isn’t you either, Sunset, ‘cause like yeah, you became a raging she-demon and enslaved the whole school by turning everyone into zombies, but I think we woulda noticed if you also drained everyone’s magic and made them go into a super deep sleep at the same time.”

Sunset rolled her shoulders. “I can Pinkie Promise that it isn’t me.”

“Excellent! So here’s my question. Who is it?”

The silence that followed the question was very long and very thick. After a moment, all eyes turned to Sunset. “What?” she asked.

“Well…” Rarity coughed. “No offense, darling, but you are from Equestria, so you’d be our expert on all things magical.”

The pony turned human grimaced. “I know it’s magical, I’m not even going to deny that,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean I know who—or what—is doing it. I don’t have enough data to even try to guess, and Equestria…” She trailed off for a moment, shaking her head. “Equestria has a lot of nasty magical creatures that would be capable of something like this. If you wanted me to guess right now, I’d have to make a list.”

Everyone kind of just stared at her after that.

“… Equestria kinda sounds like it sucks,” Rainbow said.

A part of Sunset wanted to argue that they didn’t even know yet if this new threat originated from Equestria but, well. Two times was a coincidence, three times was a pattern. If she and the sirens had come from Equestria and had caused magical mayhem, then the new person running around draining people of magic had to also be from Equestria.

It was that simple. Unfortunately, it still didn’t narrow down exactly what the creature was.

“There wouldn’t happen to be details on the attacker, would there?” she asked. “Someone who saw something, maybe?” It was small, but she could hope.

“Nope.” Applejack drummed her fingers against the piano that had been stored in the band practice room. “No description of an attacker. And unfortunately, it’s not like any of th’ victims can talk about it.”

Well, so much for hoping.

“We could ask Twilight,” Fluttershy offered before the moment got a little too despairing. “She could look into things on her end, right? I’m sure she could do a good job of figuring out what this creature is.”

“Before she can do that, she’d need to know more about it,” Sunset sighed. “Like I said, there are a lot of creatures in Equestria that can drain magic. It’s just too general—Rainbow you’re smiling. I don’t like that smile. Why are you smiling?”

To call it a smile was, to be honest, an understatement. Rainbow was grinning, something large and eager and mischievous, and Sunset found she didn’t like it one bit. Judging by the nervous looks the other girls shared, they didn’t like it either.

Except for Pinkie, who immediately saw her chance and pounced on it. “Oh, oh! I know that smile! I know why she’s smiling! I know what it means!”

“Ah don’t wanna know wha’ it means,” Applejack muttered, but it was too late.

“Well duh! Obviously if the problem is that what we know right now is more general, we have to find a way to get more specific information!” Rainbow pounded her fist against her open palm. “Which means we have to go out and find this thing and observe it!”

“… Oh. That wasn’t what I was expecting,” Fluttershy murmured.

Rainbow blinked. “What were you expecting?”

“Well, Rainbow, it’s just…” Rarity trailed off, then seemed to accept that there was no nice way of saying what she was thinking. “The last time a magical threat made itself known, you wanted to immediately punch it in the face.”

“Hey! I still wanna punch whatever this is in the face, don’t get me wrong.” Rainbow shrugged, crossing her arms over her chest. “But I’m not stupid, either. We only even got an idea of how to beat the Dazzlings ‘cause we observed them first. This thing seems even nastier than them, so I’m totally willing to wait on the face punching until we know what we’re dealing with.”

“Then we have our plan.” Heartened by the fact that they had something, at least, Sunset examined the story that ran in the paper. Sure, no one had seen anything, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any clue at all of what this creature was or how to find it.

How to find it…

She smirked. “Got it.”

“Got what? Got what?” Pinkie rested her hands on Sunset’s shoulders, making the redhead jump slightly as she peered over her at the paper. When had the other girl even gotten behind her during this conversation? Sunset didn’t remember her moving at all.

“Look.” Sunset adjusted the paper as the girls crowded around her. “The last victim was found right in Everfree Park. The second victim was near the outdoor auditorium, which…”

“Is in another area of the park,” Applejack breathed, realizing what her friend was saying.

Sunset hummed. “Mmm-hmmm. And the first victim… she’s a little trickier, but I remember her apartment was in the complex close to the park.”

“A hunting ground,” Fluttershy realized. “You think Everfree Park is its territory? It would make sense. A predator always stakes out a specific area for hunting.”

“Either its territory or it’s a preferred spot. Either way, it’s a place to start looking, at least.” Sunset folded up the paper and tucked it into her jacket. “The real problem is going to be finding it. All of its victims were alone when it attacked. If we travel in a group, it probably won’t try to approach us.”

“Well that’s easy,” Pinkie said. “All we gotta do is have one of us walking around the park while the rest of us follow!”

The girls stared at her.

“From a distance, obviously! If we’re gonna sneak around, we don’t want the scary magical creature to know that we’re there, right?”

“Tha’ is a horrible plan,” Applejack growled, adjusting her hat as if the mere suggestion had somehow mortally offended her. “There ain’ no way in hell any o’ us are gonna—“

“I’ll do it,” Sunset said.

“… Dammit, Sunset!”

“I agree with Applejack,” Rarity cut in before the former Equestrian could respond. “Not that I’d say Pinkie’s idea is a bad one, but you just said so yourself that whatever this creature is, it’s nasty. I don’t think it’s safe for any of us to lure this out.”

“Do you have a better idea?” Sunset asked, as kindly as she could word the question.

“… Well….”

“I’m being serious. If any of you have a better idea, I’d love to hear it.” Sunset glanced around. Despite the uncomfortable shifting and a few exchanged looks—even Pinkie looked unhappy with how this was progressing, and it had been her idea in the first place—no one said anything.

“It was just an idea,” Pinkie muttered, twirling a strand of hair around her finger. “I didn’t think you’d actually, you know. Agree with it.”

“Unfortunately, it’s our best option. This thing only hunts individuals, and me... well, I’m from Equestria and I was trained by one of my world’s princesses. If anyone could actually face it and not end up drained, it would be me.” She paused. “No offense.”

A quiet chorus of “None taken” answered her. For a moment there was nothing but silence, as her friends chewed over their own individual thoughts.

“Ah don’t like it,” Applejack said at last.

“None of us like it,” Fluttershy said, her face miserable. From the way she looked, Sunset might as well have just offered her life.

“I know.” Sunset smiled, and tried to make it as reassuring as possible. “But come on. You guys will be right behind me, won’t you?”

“Of course we will!” Rainbow, loyal to a fault, was the first to answer. “That isn’t even a question!”

“Then it’ll be fine, right? I just have to be able to observe it. It’s not like I’m going to try and fight it. And if anything starts to go wrong, you’ll all be there to help.”

The girls seemed to mull that over, and for the most part they seemed satisfied with the logic; Pinkie was perking back up again, and while Applejack didn’t look happy, she seemed to have settled down, even as she grimaced. “Fine. Sounds like we’ve got our plan.”

“Then it’s settled. We’ll go to the park once school lets out.”

Of course, the plan ended up being delayed by several hours once the girls realized one thing that they hadn’t thought of during their brainstorming session: whatever this thing was, it preferred to attack at night. While that made Applejack even unhappier as a result, Sunset had to admit that going out in the darker hours had some advantages.

(They’d also been delayed by the last second decision to bring along their instruments, just in case. It was better safe than sorry when a magical creature was on the loose.)

For one thing, considering the time of night, the park was deserted. She was pretty sure this wouldn’t come to a fight—this was all just something they were doing to even observe the creature—but it was comforting to know that if things did go south, no one would end up caught in the crossfire.

The magic of friendship was all well and good, but it had a wide range and it didn’t tend to discriminate on who got in its way.

The fact that the park was empty in the middle of the night was good, and Sunset ignored the chill creeping down her spine that told her otherwise, shoving her hands deeper into her pockets as she walked. It wasn’t even like she was alone; the girls were nearby, hidden among the trees.

She’d volunteered for this, for God’s sake.

So why did she feel so nervous?

Maybe it was because despite the fact that she knew she wasn’t alone, Sunset still felt very alone as she made her way down the path. Maybe it was because the fact that she knew in theory that Celestia’s teachings would have given her some mental resistance to magic didn’t mean it would actually work in practice.

Maybe it was because despite the fact that she knew Twilight was still in Equestria, she was hearing a giggle that sounded exactly like her voice.

Sunset’s eyes, which until now had been roaming about the park, snapped up and focused on the source of that giggle. Her ears had to be lying to her; they had to be. She’d been exchanging letters with Twilight now for weeks, and the princess hadn’t given any indication of returning to the human world.


Why was she standing just a short way down the path, bathed in the light of a street lamp?

“… Twilight?” Sunset croaked, staring.

And once she started staring, to her horror, she found she couldn’t look away.

“Twilight?” Pinkie hissed. “Did she say Twilight? As in Twilight Sparkle? As in our friend who’s a princess from another world? That Twilight Sparkle?”

“Ah have no clue who she’s seein’,” Applejack breathed, “but Ah mus’ not be seein’ the same thing, ‘cause I’m not seein’ Twilight.”

“Oh, but she’s gorgeous,” Rarity gushed, leaning as far into the bush as she dared to get a better look. “The perfect vision of beauty, truly flawless! How could she possibly be evil?”

Rainbow, for her part, was too busy frantically rubbing her eyes to even contribute to the chatter that was going on around her. It was almost like she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Fluttershy simply stared for a moment, before she swallowed hard.

“So, girls,” she whispered. “We all agree that we aren’t seeing the same person, right?”

There was a moment before all of the girls nodded.

“Then… I think we might have found the magical creature.”

There was another moment as this sank in. As one, all eyes turned back to the scene that was unfolding in front of them: Sunset Shimmer, completely frozen in place and staring, as someone—or, more accurately, something—advanced on her. Judging from the panicked look on their friend’s face, while she realized that what was going on wasn’t right, she wasn’t capable of doing anything about it herself.

What happened next happened so fast that they might have all missed it, if Rainbow hadn’t been right in the middle of the group. Completely forgetting about the guitar strapped to her back, the Canterlot High athlete scooped up the biggest rock she could find and threw it as hard as she could right at the creature.

It didn’t have quite the effect she’d hoped it would.

The rock was roughly the size of a fist, and Rainbow had a heck of a throwing arm. By most standards, the creature should have been on the ground clutching its head in agony after it solidly hit its temple.

Instead, it—she—turned slowly, without any visible discomfort, and looked right at them with eyes so cold her otherworldly beauty suddenly began to seem very unimportant.

The moment eye contact was broken, Sunset sprinted towards her friends. There was no other way to describe it; this wasn’t a graceful run. This was the panicked fleeing of a prey animal that had just been caught in the gaze of a predator, and as she stumbled into the safety of her friends she gasped for air as if the moment her eyes had locked with the girl’s, she’d stopped breathing.

The girl—because they could confirm now that she was female, judging by at least two statements—rolled her shoulders and absently rubbed her temple, glancing down and kicking the rock aside. “Well,” she said. “That was incredibly rude. This is why I hate hunting groups. Someone always figures me out and disrupts me at the last minute.”

And then she smiled, and with a chill they all realized she had fangs.

“But ah, well. I was starting to get bored with only hunting individuals, honestly.”

The air around her literally shimmered, like she was a mirage being glimpsed in the desert. There were perfectly logical reasons for why she only went after one person at a time, of course; it was less of a struggle, and as she’d said so herself, the fewer people who saw her, the less likely it was that someone would work out that she wasn’t of this world.

But the other reason?

Well. It turned out maintaining the illusion of someone a person cared about became impossible once several people were looking at her at once. Other than the shimmering of the air, nothing about her made the change obvious. One moment she was an attractive human woman, and then the next…

And then the next, the shimmering faded, and what was left standing in her place would be most accurately described as a demon. Still very beautiful if you were into that thing; her magic wouldn’t have worked entirely if she hadn’t at least somewhat looked the part. She was slender, and curved, and she had long, beautiful hair.

But her hands ended in claws instead of nails, and instead of feet she had cloven hooves. Her skin was the color of ash, her hair as white as snow. Black, bat-like wings unfurled threateningly from her back, and a long tail that resembled a horse’s flicked idly behind her. Her ears were large, like a bat’s, and pointed at the tips. Her eyes gleamed, dark and red like blood.

Her smile never faded.

“… Well, shit,” Rainbow said.

Author's Notes:

And here she is, the villain of our piece! As many of you guessed in the comments from chapter one, she is in fact a succubus. FIM'd all the way to heck and back, but a succubus nonetheless! You all get an internet cookie and anyone who has a writing request can hit up my inbox.

(Apologies as well for not replying to any comments as I usually do, I wanted to finish this chapter up and get it posted as soon as possible.)

Next chapter: the girls are very unhappy, and the Dazzlings make their appearance. Somehow, this just makes the girls unhappier.

The Enemy of My Enemy

People tended to have different reactions when confronted with a creature that looked like she’d escaped through the gates of Hell itself.

Most people froze up in disbelief, unable to comprehend what they were seeing; it was like the ‘flight or fight’ portion of their brain had shut off completely when faced with something that logic said wasn’t supposed to exist.

Most people fainted or ran away, and they were the ones that kept their ‘flight’ portion of the brain active. Unfortunately, depending on what kind of creature they were facing, running away in a panic didn’t do them any good; they never got very far.

Most people switched into the ‘fight’ portion of their brain, figuring that if they were going to die they might as well go down swinging. Those fights didn’t tend to last very long.

Very few people pointed at the demonic hell beast and shrieked, “RAGING SHE-DEMON!”

Pinkie Pie wasn’t like most people, and ironically enough it may have saved her and her friends from being immediately gutted on the spot. The creature paused, lifting a delicate brow, as she simply stared at the pink girl. In record time, five different gazes turned on their friend, all of them absolutely blazing. If looks could kill, Pinkie would have died five times over.

Pinkie shrugged. “What? She is! She’s even more of a raging she-demon than Sunset!”


Any retort that rose to the girls’ tongues died when the creature threw back her head and laughed. As if to make it all the more jarring, her laugh was the most beautiful sound any of them had heard; light, gentle, like bells chiming in the breeze. It would have been a wonderful sound, if it hadn’t been attached to something that looked like she’d crawled out of the darkest pits of the planet.

Well,” she purred. “I can’t say I’ve ever gotten that reaction before. It’s nice to know I can still be surprised, but now I really must introduce myself. ‘Raging she-demon’ is such a nasty title. Lacking in originality, and all.”

And then, before the disbelieving eyes of the girls, the creature curtsied.

“The name is Venus,” she said. “Lovely name, isn’t it? I chose it when I came into this world because its goddess represents love and beauty. I thought it was rather fitting.”

She straightened up, and a chill passed through the group as they all realized that throughout the whole thing, her smile had never even faded an inch. That was probably not a good sign.

“You’re the first humans I’ve said it to, you know. I may actually grieve you when I’m done feeding on you.”

As if she’d spoken the magic words, the girls clustered even more tightly into a group, Sunset protesting softly as she was shoved right into the center—the most protected area. The creature laughed again and shot across the ground towards them, a blur of black and gray.

And promptly slammed into the magic shield that flared to life around the group.

“Hells yeah!” Applejack crowed.

The creature—Venus—went somersaulting through the air like a ball that had been thrown without any grace, flaring her wings to bring herself to a standstill, hovering warily. Red eyes were narrow now, glancing around the group as she tried to figure out what exactly had happened. In all of her time spent in this world, she’d never seen magic like this. She hadn’t even known there could be magic like this.

“As much fun as this is,” Rarity said, shifting nervously from foot to foot as the shield continued to shimmer around them, “perhaps we should…?”

Right. They’d brought their instruments for a reason. They’d had to improvise with Pinkie, but in the end a small, portable drum set looked like it would work just as well as the one she used regularly for the band. The pink girl gave Sunset’s shoulder an encouraging squeeze, and the former Equestrian took a deep breath.

Show time, she thought.

It was easy to do, when the magic pulsed through them all like a heartbeat. It may not have been much in this world, but it was still Equestrian magic, and it rose in response to the beast that threatened its bearers. When the magic flowed like that, it was easy to open her mouth and sing; like this, the song choice hardly mattered.

All that mattered was the magic of friendship that flowed through them all, and when they had so much of it, Venus suddenly didn’t seem as threatening as she’d appeared to be only seconds before.

The shield was still up, and as human ears shifted into equine and wings and tails flared to life, the magic that flowed around them began to change. Energy crackled and sparked as the intent changed from defense to offense. Sunset was lost in the singing, to the sound of the instruments, but she still felt the change; they all did, and they smiled.

That was good. If the change was happening, that meant they could do this without Twilight. It wasn’t something they’d known for sure until now.

But now they knew, and needless to say, it was a huge boost of confidence.

As if the magic itself could feel their confidence—and considering how tied into emotion the whole thing was, it probably could—the shield shuddered before a rainbow beam shot from the shield, a blast of heat and energy that slammed right into Venus’s chest. She’d never even had a chance to try getting out of the way.

The force of the beam was enough to send Venus flying back, and it was so strong that even if she wanted to her wings couldn’t keep her in the air. There was a crash as she dropped down into some of the trees in Everfree Park, and the shield flickered before fading away entirely as the girls watched her fall.

She didn’t rise.

“… Yay?” Fluttershy whispered.

If the magical blast to the chest didn’t kill her, the fall most certainly should have.

Venus hadn’t been hovering particularly high, but with how hard the rainbow hit her she didn’t need to be; the force was so great that she was thrown away from the girls faster than she could think, unable to flare her wings or comprehend what had just happened. The pain was brief but hot, burning through her like fire, and she slammed into the ground with such force that the trees around her shuddered.

She landed right on her back, with enough force to snap her spine clean in two. Even for a creature as powerful as she was, the damage would have been enough to cripple her for some time, ending the threat she posed.

But the problem was that while the girls had seen the immediate effects of their attack on her, they didn’t see what came after the initial blast.
There was a reason Venus had been considered such a threat while she’d still been in Equestria, and it was the same reason why she’d been under the radar for so long in the human world as a threat until recently.

She lay on the ground, staring up at the starry night sky, and for a time the pain lingered as a burn in her chest. But then it changed… or, more accurately, it began to move. It continued to burn, a low, heated sensation as it seeped from her chest and throughout her body, traveling all the way to the tip of her tail and into her fingers. The pain that had started to build in her back faded as quickly as it bloomed, and gingerly she sat up, stretching out her wings.

No pain. She rotated her wrists, shook herself, stretched out her legs. Nothing hurt, she realized. She should have been dead, or at the very least badly wounded, and yet she was completely healed. Energy thrummed under her skin, warm and pulsing in time with her heartbeat.

After a moment, Venus smiled.

It was not a particularly nice smile.

“Well, well,” she murmured. “How about that.”

It had been a long, long time since she’d felt pure Equestrian magic flowing through her body like this; the magic she’d been sucking from humans simply didn’t compare, no matter how much of it she consumed. The method may have been different—she usually preferred to draw the magic out herself instead of being on the receiving end of it—but it didn’t change the fact that those girls had just filled her up on a blast of pure, unrestrained Equestrian magic.

It was so thoughtful of them, really.

Venus stood and tilted her head back, closing her eyes for a moment as she basked in the moonlight and the feeling of the magic coursing through her.

She’d have to kill the girls now, that much she knew. They all knew what she was, and for every person that would dismiss their claims as insane, someone with an interest in the magical would take them seriously and try to track her down. She’d done that song and dance enough times to know it would happen eventually.

But at the very least, she could make their deaths quick and painless.

“Is that it?” Rainbow asked when a few minutes passed and Venus didn’t immediately reappear.

“Don’t try to sound so disappointed, now,” Applejack muttered.

“I’m not disappointed!” the athlete protested. “I just—I dunno, I expected something more after all of that. She drains three people dry and makes a big deal out of revealing herself, and then she goes down in one hit? I feel like we’re fighting Sunset again! … No offense.”

“None taken,” Sunset sighed, well used to this by now.

“So yeah, totally not disappointed.” Rainbow waved a hand. “I just kinda feel like we’ve done this before. Though I guess it’s a good thing she went down so easy—“

That was when a funny thing happened.

One minute Rainbow was on the ground, talking and gesturing with her free hand in the group. All was well, her disappointment about what had just happened aside. The next minute she was in the air, and time froze for a single instant before Venus’s fist collided with her stomach and sent the rainbow-haired girl flying back. There was a sickening thud as she slammed into a tree with enough force that the entire thing toppled over.

Venus paused for a moment right in the middle of the girls, flexing her fingers and smirking. She sighed blissfully, flicking her tail. “Oh,” she hummed, “I really have to thank you girls. Well, except for the rainbow one—someone had to die for me to test this new magic.”

It was as if she’d spoken the magic word; in an instant Fluttershy shot off from the rest of the group and towards the downed tree with a scream of “Rainbow!”

Applejack’s eyes blazed, and she drew herself up, ears flattening before she launched herself at Venus, clearly intending to distract the monster while her friend ran to try and check on Rainbow’s condition. Too late Rarity screamed for her to stop; in her current state, the blonde probably didn’t hear her anyway.

And even if she had heard her and had tried to stop herself, it would have done her no good.

Venus grinned at the challenge and met Applejack halfway, a blur of black and gray that was so fast that it seemed like for a moment she simply vanished into thin air. Her hand slammed down onto Applejack’s back an instant later, and the farm girl hit the ground with such force that Rarity and Sunset staggered to keep their footing.

To her credit, Rarity reacted in exactly the way a good friend would have reacted after seeing someone they cared about tossed about like a rag doll. And to be fair, the thought of attacking Venus while her back was turned and she was focused on another target was a good one; Rarity could be disturbingly clever about this when she put her mind to it. The problem was that at the same time Rarity was blinded by emotion, and Venus was far more powerful than she had been mere moments before.

With a wild war cry that wasn’t even the least bit dignified, Rarity sprang forward and slammed into Venus’s back, wrapping her arms tight around the beast’s neck and completely forgetting about her instrument. It had its intended effect; Venus was briefly distracted from the whimpering girl on the ground and even staggered back a few steps, disoriented by the feeling of her wings being so thoroughly pinned to her body.

It was more of a victory than either Rainbow or Applejack had gotten, but it ended all too soon once it became obvious that other than jumping on Venus’s back and putting her in a chokehold, Rarity didn’t have much of a plan.

And Venus, it was rapidly becoming obvious, didn’t fight fair.

If Rarity wanted to dangle from Venus’s back and hold on, then she wasn’t even going to bother trying to shake the girl off. Instead, the succubus gave a little hop—and it was almost worth it, just to hear Rarity’s startled little squeak.


Then that strength and speed from the Equestrian magic kicked in, and Venus slammed herself into the ground so hard that the pavement of the sidewalk cracked and crumbled. Sunset flinched and choked as dust floated in the air, and after a moment Venus got to her feet and shook herself off casually, stretching her wings with a cheerful hum that was entirely unfitting for the situation.

Rarity was still on the ground. Like Applejack and Rainbow, she didn’t look like she was going to rise again anytime soon. She was still breathing—Sunset and Pinkie could faintly see the rise and fall of her chest. But with the way things were going, she wouldn’t stay breathing.

Venus ever so slowly tilted her head towards the two remaining girls, smirking. Without even realizing it, Sunset stepped between the monster and her friend with a glare, ears flat and hands curled into fists even as she shook.

“Sunset,” Pinkie hissed, and for once there wasn’t even a hint of laughter in her voice. “You need to move.”

“I can’t do that.” Sunset swallowed. “You need to get to Fluttershy and Rainbow.”


“Rainbow needs help.” There was no point in whispering; Venus was right there, watching them with a small smirk. She hadn’t even moved. “Fluttershy needs someone to watch her back while she’s helping Rainbow, and Rarity and Applejack need someone to help them up.”

Pinkie’s eyes widened. “H-Hey, I can’t leave you!”

“It’s not leaving when I’m telling you to go,” Sunset snarled. It wasn’t even just about Rainbow. Certainly, the athlete was hurt, of that the redhead had no doubt. Venus had badly wounded all of her friends in simply one attack. But they were still alive and breathing, if only for the moment.

At this point, it wasn’t about fighting. It was about keeping Venus distracted so her friends could run.

Sunset didn’t look back at Pinkie; Venus was moving so fast that it had become blatantly obvious that taking her eyes off of her for any reason was a horrible idea. She missed the internal debate her friend had, but whatever conclusion she came to she clearly didn’t like it, as she let out an enraged, wordless shriek of frustration. The former Equestrian’s ears flicked however when she heard footsteps racing away from her and towards where Fluttershy was trying to help Rainbow, and despite the situation Sunset smiled.

Well, she’d gotten Pinkie Pie to listen to her. She was pretty sure that was something worth bragging about.

Even as Pinkie ran away, however, Venus didn’t move. She continued to watch Sunset with that odd little smirk, the only sign that she even cared for the pink girl at all being that her ears perked to track her by sound. “That was very stupid, you know,” she whispered. “You’ll only buy her a few seconds at best.”

Sunset swallowed and willed herself not to shake, trying to ignore the pained, panicked whimpers of her friends as they realized what was about to happen. “A few seconds is still better than nothing.”

“Brave and in love, oh my.” Venus laughed. “I do like that.”

Wait, in love?

Sunset didn’t even blink before Venus was right in front of her, literally inches between them as she trailed a clawed finger along her cheek and down to her chin, tilting her head ever so slightly. That smirk became a smile. “I would have enjoyed feeding on you,” she sighed. “Alas.”

Sunset knew what was coming.

It didn’t make it any easier when it actually happened.

Venus’s finger retracted as if it had never been there, and Sunset didn’t even have a moment to breathe before the back of the monster’s hand slammed into her cheek with so much force that if she hadn’t had a body overflowing with Equestrian magic, her neck would have snapped right on the spot. The pain was still blinding, and Sunset’s vision briefly went dark as she was sent flying through the air, tumbling into some bushes and vanishing completely from sight.

Venus absently flexed her fingers and sighed; this was annoying, she mused, turning to survey a groaning Rarity and an Applejack that was trying—and failing—to stagger to her feet with a choked gasp of Sunset’s name. Normally the force she’d used would have killed a normal human, but these girls were brimming with the same magic that had powered her this far; clearly it would take more to end their lives than she’d anticipated.

Well. So much for quick and painless.

“Hey! Tall, dark, and scary!”

Pinkie’s shout made Venus’s ears swivel, and blood red eyes shot up to meet blazing blue as the pink girl set herself between her and her two friends. “Why don’t you pick on someone who can fight back?” she challenged.

Venus smiled lazily, flapping her wings idly. “You think you can fight me?”

Pinkie grinned, and if there was any fear in her, she didn’t show it. “I definitely think I can try.”

When Sunset had gone flying, she hadn’t known what to expect. Some part of her thought Venus had hit her with enough force that she would slam into a tree like Rainbow had, while another part of her figured that with the direction she was currently traveling she would end up slamming into the ground after tumbling through the bushes.

Absolutely no part of her thought for even a moment that when she finally landed she would slam into something warm, soft, and distinctly human shaped. That same something shrieked in startled surprise, and a moment later Sunset found herself shoved off of whatever she’d landed on and onto the ground. The stab of pain that traveled down her neck and into her spine from the movement abruptly brought back her vision, and with a choked groan she rolled over onto her side to try and ease it, wrapping her arms tightly around her stomach to keep herself steady.

“We’re under attack! Quick, sound the alarm, prepare the retreat—“

“Shut up Sonata, we’re not under attack! It’s just… oh.”

I know those voices, Sunset thought, but instead of saying anything she simply closed her eyes and tried to focus on her breathing, hoping that doing so would help the pain ease and cause her tremors to fade. Maybe, she thought hazily, this was all her imagination, a hallucination caused by pain and the apparent hopelessness of their situation.

Footsteps approached her softly, and a toe nudged her none too gently in the ribs. She groaned in protest, batting it away.

“Oh my,” a voice above her murmured. “I remember you.”

I definitely know that voice, Sunset thought, and with that her hope that she was imagining this whole thing disappeared as quickly as it’d come. It was shattered completely when the foot made contact with her ribs again, and with an irritated grunt she grabbed the offending foot and shoved it away with as much strength as she could muster, ignoring its owner’s yelp as she opened her eyes.

“Knock it off,” she rasped. “Don’t you have some respect for the dying?”

Sonata Dusk tilted her head, studying Sunset intently as she shoved her hands into the pocket of her hoodie. “You look pretty alive to me,” she chirped.

“We could change that,” a voice growled off to the side. Judging by its low tone and rough sound, that would be Aria Blaze.

“Now, ladies, please.” And that, Sunset thought with a pained sigh, was Adagio Dazzle; the fact was only confirmed when the leader of the sirens knelt down so the two of them were roughly eye level. “I’m sure Sunset Shimmer has a perfectly logical reason for disturbing us tonight.”

“Did you hear the part about me dying?” Sunset muttered, taking a risk and gingerly rolling over onto her stomach. Her ears perked and swiveled, but she couldn’t hear anything that indicated Pinkie and Fluttershy had fallen. For a moment, she dared to hope.

“You still look alive,” Sonata said doubtfully.

Sunset ignored Sonata; it seemed like the best course of action, and while stumbling upon the sirens was an unexpected annoyance, they weren’t a threat. Even in her weakened state, it was clear that they were only unhappy to see her. If they had any desire to attack, they hadn’t acted on it yet.

“She’s ignoring us,” Aria muttered.

“Oh, forgive me,” Sunset snarled, her already thin grasp on her temper snapping completely. “I’m just busy trying to make sure my friends are still alive!”

In truth, she’d been hoping that Venus would pursue her when she’d gone flying. Clearly that hadn’t happened, which now meant Fluttershy and Pinkie were the only girls left standing. Sunset could hear something going on, faintly, but not enough to know what any of it meant; she must have been thrown quite a distance to not hear anything clearly.

“Still alive, huh?” Adagio turned her head towards the noise, narrowing her eyes. “Well, that explains that. I thought I heard a fight.”

Sunset nearly asked why the girls hadn’t done anything if they’d heard what was going on. Nearly, until she remembered who she was talking to. All too clearly she remembered why they wouldn’t have done anything. Beyond the fact that the sirens simply didn’t seem to be good people, the Rainbooms were probably pretty low on their list of favorite people at the moment.

“So,” Adagio said, straightening up and giving herself a small shake. “Who are you fighting? Must be something very nasty, to send you flying like that.”

“Do we care?” Aria asked. After a moment, Sonata raised her hand and nodded eagerly, indicating that she cared. She was soundly ignored by her two companions.

Sunset sighed and, finding that the pain had faded at least somewhat, gingerly got to her feet. She stumbled a bit to keep her footing, but much to her everlasting relief didn’t fall flat on her face. “I’m not sure what she is,” she sighed, “but she said her name was Venus. We hit her and she just came back even stronger than she was before.”

Why Sunset was actually indulging in the sirens’ question, she couldn’t say. But she was glad that she did, because at the mention of Venus something very interesting happened.

Adagio stiffened at the mention of Venus’s name, muttering something under her breath that sounded suspiciously like “Oh, hell.” Aria paled and backed up a few steps, glancing in the direction Sunset had come from nervously. Even Sonata, who most of the time didn’t even seem like she paid any attention to her surroundings, nervously tugged her hood up and over her head as if trying to conceal herself.

“… You know her.” It wasn’t a question.

“If by ‘know her’ you mean ‘crossed paths with her and then stayed out of her way’, yeah, we know her,” Aria said, glancing towards Adagio as if to make sure that what she’d said was acceptable.

Adagio gave her a brief nod. “We don’t exactly mix,” the siren leader said. “It’s a little difficult to feed off of negative energy in the same territory as a succubus that feeds off of love and friendship, and then leaves her victims comatose once she’s done with them.”

Succubus. She was a succubus, and she fed off of love and friendship.

The magic the girls used was powered by love and friendship.

Sunset swore viciously at the realization, and Adagio hummed. “Now you get it.”

“Your friends are gonna die,” Sonata added, in a voice that was creepily singsong. She was only voicing what Sunset herself had already realized, but the reinforcement of the idea made her insides turn to ice.

They didn’t stand a chance against Venus. They’d never stood a chance against Venus, not when they were powered by the very thing that she used as a feeding source.

Your friends are going to die, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it, a voice that sounded suspiciously like her demonic self whispered viciously. And then you’ll die along with them.

No, Sunset thought.


It couldn’t end like this.

“Well, you have fun with that.” Adagio waved her hand, turning her back to Sunset. “As entertaining as this has been, we really must be going. Now that we’ve been found out, we’ll need to scout out a new location.”

Sonata pouted, her mood changing so quickly that Sunset was hit with a case of emotional whiplash. “Awww, do we have to? I liked this spot!”

“Just come on, Sonata.”

“Adagio! Aria’s being mean!”

“I’m always mean!”

Sunset watched them go. Even as her mind raced, trying to turn around every possibility she could think of into a situation where she and her friends survived the night, she couldn’t help noticing that for all of their bluster and pride the sirens didn’t look… well. Good, exactly. They were hardly on death’s doorstep—it had only been a few weeks since the Battle of the Bands, after all—but the clothes they wore still hung a little too loosely from their bodies. The hair that had been immaculate weeks before was now slightly tangled and ragged around the edges, and the long sleeves of their hoodies could easily conceal any dirt or bruises.

No, the sirens clearly weren’t dying. But they weren’t thriving, either.

And just like that, Sunset’s mind latched onto an idea. It was a bad idea, all things considered, but at this point a bad idea was better than no idea at all. “Wait!” she called out.

To her everlasting relief and shock, the sirens paused. Sonata actually swiveled around to look back at her.

Sunset took a deep breath. “Help us,” she said. “Help us—get away from Venus.”

“Are you insane?” Aria barked, whirling around. “Didn’t you just hear what we said? Besides, even if we wanted to help you—which we don’t—it’s not like you have anything to offer us to—“

“You’re starving, right?”

Just like that, a deathly silence fell. Taking it as a good sign, Sunset plunged on. “You’re hungry,” she said. “I’m just guessing, but this is probably the first time in years that you’ve only had to depend on food for sustenance. You’re okay right now, but I can still tell you’ve lost weight. You’re having a hard time finding food.”

The silence stretched on. None of them had interrupted or stopped Sunset yet, and she took that as a sign to continue. “Your hair is dirty, too,” she continued. “You haven’t had a chance to properly wash and maintain it since the Battle. And I imagine it’s not just your hair; I bet those hoodies are to conceal just how bad you’re starting to look without being able to bathe regularly.”

She paused, swallowed.

“And… I’m sure there’s more,” she whispered. “You aren’t the only ones in this situation. You just said you have to find a new location to camp. You’ve probably had to fight for some places, or defend yourselves. How many bruises would I find if I rolled back those sleeves?”

“Get to the point,” Adagio bit out. Unlike her companions, she hadn’t turned around.

But she was listening.

“Help us get away from Venus. You don’t even have to fight her, you can just… distract her or something. And I’ll help you. I have an apartment, you can eat and clean yourselves up.”

There was another beat of silence, in which Sonata and Aria just stared at Sunset while Adagio tilted her head back, looking up at the sky. Finally she groaned, running a hand over her face.

Adagio didn’t say a word, but Sunset knew then that she’d won.

The girl called Pinkie Pie wasn’t human.

Venus didn’t know what she was, exactly, but she certainly wasn’t a pure-blooded human. No human could keep up with her speed the way the girl had managed to do so, and no human could distract her as thoroughly as Pinkie had done so. It had ultimately ended the way every encounter with these girls ended—Pinkie in the dirt, dazed and broken, groaning—but it had taken far longer than it should have considering Venus had Equestrian magic flowing through her veins.

That only left the quiet yellow one. Hopefully she wouldn’t be as much trouble.

“Fluttershy, run,” Rainbow rasped as Venus advanced on them. Fluttershy thoroughly ignored her friend, supporting the battered girl and doing her absolute best to get them both away from the approaching monster. Her absolute best wouldn’t be enough, and Venus bared her fangs in a horrid smile.

Soon it would all be over. She just had to get the quiet one down, and then kill the rainbow one…

“Hey, Venus!”

The shout of someone blatantly using her chosen name, and using it with a tone of familiarity, made Venus’s ears shoot back and down. She turned with a snarl, only for the sound to die on her throat as she realized who was approaching. “Adagio Dazzle,” she purred, changing her posture completely. “It’s been far too long since the last time we met.”

It hadn’t been long enough in Adagio’s book, but she wasn’t about to tell Venus that. She shrugged, coming to a stop a few feet from the succubus and aware of the fact that Sonata and Aria flanked her on either side. “We were just in the area,” she said. “Heard sounds of your handiwork, thought we’d say hi.”

“Hi!” Sonata chirped, waving cheerfully. Aria elbowed her hard in the ribs.

“Just in the area.” Venus chuckled, absently running her tongue over her fangs. “Are you and your sisters hunting in this area? If I’m interfering with your feeding, I apologize.”

This was by far the most disturbing thing about the succubus; for how little she cared for humans overall, seeing them simply as a source of food, she had always treated her fellow beasts with something akin to respect. It wasn’t the same thing, of course. Venus truly believed she was stronger than the sirens. But she wouldn’t pick a fight with them unless she had a reason.

Adagio dearly hoped she wouldn’t find a reason.

Aria shrugged. “We aren’t feeding here anymore,” she said. “Cleared out a school a few weeks ago.”

Venus tilted her head to the side, ears perking as snow white strands of hair spilled about her. “And yet you’re still here?” she asked. “I’m surprised.”

For whatever reason, Venus’s charm—her ability to shift into whoever a person loved and, failing that, taking the form of whatever qualities that person found most attractive—had never had an effect on the sirens. It meant they saw her as she truly was; and at the moment, a hoof was pawing absently in the dirt as her tail swished. Adagio kept a sharp eye on the signs. Venus wasn’t agitated, not yet, but she was baffled.

Adagio slid her hands into her pockets, taking over the conversation with a silencing look at Aria. “It’s been ages since we’ve stayed in a city,” she said lightly. “We thought we’d stay and enjoy what it has to offer before moving on. We figured since you were here too, we just wanted to make sure we wouldn’t intrude during a… delicate moment.”

Like right now, the leader of the sirens thought, but for the moment Venus seemed to have written the girls off so thoroughly that she didn’t even seem annoyed by the interruption.

Venus, for her part, finally seemed to have decided how to word what she wanted to say, and she absently tapped her claws against her chin. “You know, it’s the strangest thing,” she said. “The three of you look like the sirens, you sound like the sirens, you even move like them. But I don’t sense any magic coming from you.”

Oh, hell.

“Well,” Sonata began before Adagio or Aria could stop her, “that’s ‘cause our pendants got destroyed a few weeks ago! So now we’re like, normal human girls, I think.”

“Sonata,” Aria hissed, but it was too late.

“Normal human girls?” Venus prompted, lifting a brow.

“Yep, we don’t have our magic anymore! So now we’re helping Sunset Shimmer and her friends get away from you!”

There was a long, long moment of silence after Sonata spoke. Venus took a moment to glance around, noting without a word that the prey she’d had so thoroughly cornered was no longer present. Adagio groaned.

“… Was I not supposed to tell her that?” Sonata asked, in the tone of someone who didn’t quite realize how badly she’d messed up.

“Why do we bring her places?” Aria asked sadly.

Venus was still calmly looking around, as if to confirm that the girls she’d been only moments away from killing were, in fact, gone. Adagio took a small step back, seeing a window of opportunity. “Run,” she whispered to her fellow sirens.



Thankfully, even Sonata listened when she was told to do something more than once and when Adagio’s voice was that urgent. Adagio held no illusions about their chances against the succubus, especially now that they had no magic of their own to call upon, but they could at least try to run.

Try and fail. Juiced up on Equestrian magic, Venus was far faster than the three of them could ever hope to be; a blur of black and gray shot past them and landed right in front of them, and too late Adagio skidded to try and slow down, Sonata and Aria slamming into her back and sending them into a tangled heap on the grass. With an animalistic snarl Venus launched herself at the trio, clearly intending to make them her victims if she couldn’t go after her original targets.

“And the sound that we hear in our hearts, makes a crescendo!”

The shield shimmered to life only a moment before Venus would have made contact with the sirens, and moving at a much faster rate than she had been before sent her flying back much more roughly than before with a frustrated shriek, magic sparking to life at her fingertips.

Adagio didn’t know what she’d expected to see when she opened her eyes, but it sure as heck wasn’t the Rainbooms forming a protective barrier around her and the other sirens. It was laughable, really; even if they were all standing, they looked like a gentle breeze could blow them over, and the shield wouldn’t last. But they hadn’t gone running the minute they’d been safe, either.

They were too nice for their own good, really.

The shield dropped right as magic began to glow along Venus’s hands, and Sunset sucked in a breath as she realized what was about to happen. “Girls!” she cried, and they drew more tightly around the sirens as Venus unleashed her magical blast with a scream that was purely primal.

To their credit, it didn’t distract them from their singing. A similar beam shot from the group, colliding midair with the blast Venus had unleashed, sending off sparks and waves of heat that flattened the grass around them and made leaves sway in the wind from the nearby trees.

Now, Equestrian magic was a funny thing in that it really didn’t follow any hard rules. In that way it was a bit like water; it could be used for any task, and it could be molded into any form. All that it depended on was the strength and intent of its user. Even magic that fundamentally came from the same source could be used in combat against itself; all that mattered was how strong the wielder was, so that someone could be overcome.

It just so happened that while being blasted with Equestrian magic had boosted Venus considerably, it hadn’t actually put her that far above the girls in terms of actually using that magic. And the girls themselves, while having used their magic longer, were still only as strong as they were because all five of them were channeling it.

And when one magic blast couldn’t overpower the other, what happened next was simple: the magic shorted out, and an explosion occurred.
Sunset felt it before it happened; she suspected all of the girls did. It felt as if the magic was pulled from them, leaving them gasping and stunned at the sudden drain. The beam that Venus had been using abruptly cut off as she, too, choked, feeling the same loss that the girls did.

A moment later, the world went white.

The air abruptly rushed out of Adagio’s lungs as the blast threw the girls back, and five very heavy bodies slammed into the tangled sirens with so much force that they actually rolled across the ground. That was nothing compared to what it did to Venus, who was thrown away with such force that she completely disappeared from their line of sight. The girls heard a muffled thud as the succubus landed somewhere that sounded a good distance away from them.

They waited, barely daring to breathe.

Venus didn’t rise, and she didn’t attack them with more Equestrian magic. It seemed that for now, the sudden magical drain and explosion had done the job their earlier attack hadn’t.

“… Yay?” Fluttershy whispered for the second time that night.

“Well,” Applejack said, “ya happy, Rainbow?”

Rainbow just groaned.

Author's Notes:

You'd think that since magic in the series has no set rules, it would be easier to write about. You would be wrong. :flutterrage:

As mentioned in the story itself (but not given much detail), Venus is named for the Roman goddess who represented love, beauty, sex, fertility, prosperity, and desire. I was originally using the name as a placeholder until I could think of something else, but I ended up liking it quite a bit, so for the sake of my sanity I'm just going to assume that the history and mythology of Equestria Girls is more or less in line with the real world to make the name still viable.

In the next chapter: discussion is had, more is learned about Venus, and the suggestion comes up that they might need Twilight for this one after all. After what she's been through the last two chapters, Sunset's a little nervous about that last one.

This Means War

Six very exhausted girls stumbled into Sunset’s apartment with nothing resembling grace, dropping onto her couch as if they intended to never rise from it again. The sirens weren’t among them; due to the fact that they were the least injured, as well as being the most hungry, Sunset had given them money and had sent them down to a nearby fast food place to pick up something to eat.

In retrospect, there was a very real chance Sunset would never see that money again. But she was still counting on the fact that the older girls wanted somewhere warm to sleep and bathe, and for now she hoped it would be enough to get them to come back.

(Sonata had briefly asked why Fluttershy wasn’t coming along since she also was the least wounded of the girls. She, as usual, had been ignored. They all would have felt bad about it, but she genuinely didn’t seem bothered by it.)

For now, though, they were somewhere safe with Venus defeated, at least temporarily.

It was time to lick their wounds.

Fluttershy wasted no time; the moment all of her friends were sprawled out in positions they didn’t plan to budge from any time soon, she set about to fussing over the injuries they had sustained. A quick check of Sunset confirmed that other than some harsh bruising on her cheek from where Venus had backhanded her, she hadn’t sustained any lingering damage.

Rarity and Applejack were similarly lucky; Rarity had a headache so intense she suspected no painkiller could help it, and both she and Applejack had lingering pain and discomfort from having the wind rather brutally knocked out of them both, and the blonde had bruises on her back from Venus’s claws, but for the most part they were in one piece, if leaning against each other as they tried to get their breathing back under control.

To the shock of absolutely no one, Rainbow and Pinkie had the worst injuries.

Rainbow had initially brushed off Fluttershy’s concerns, telling her to look at the other girls first, but it wasn’t long before she made her way back to her childhood friend. What she found when she gently examined the blue girl made her grimace. She’d already suspected the injury was bad from the way Rainbow’s dominant arm hung uselessly at her side, but the way she flinched and swore when Fluttershy’s fingers gently probed along her upper arm and shoulder confirmed the yellow girl’s fears.

“Dislocated shoulder,” she murmured. “That’s my guess, at least. You must have popped it when Venus threw you into that tree.”

Rainbow grit her teeth. “Pop it back in place,” she muttered.

“Are you sure? It’ll hurt—“

Yes I’m sure,” Rainbow snapped, then winced and softened her voice when Fluttershy flinched. “Please, Fluttershy. I’m no good like this.”

There was a moment before Fluttershy nodded, turning towards her friends. “I’m sorry, but you’ll need to get off the couch for a moment.”

There was some groaning at the thought of moving, but the girls moved over to scattered chairs and the floor without any other complaint. Fluttershy smiled in appreciation before she gently urged Rainbow down onto her back, getting the athlete to relax on the couch and dangle her dislocated arm over the side. “Sunset,” she said.

The girl in question perked up immediately. “Yeah?”

“Would you mind getting me some ice? Rainbow’s going to need it soon. And bring some for Pinkie, too.”

“Of course.” Sunset got to her feet, pausing. “Rarity, Applejack? Do you two need anything while I’m up?”

Applejack looked like she almost wanted to say no on principle of the fact that her two friends were far more hurt than she was, but a slight movement reminded her that she was still hurt and trying to be stubborn about it wouldn’t do her any favors, especially when Venus was still unaccounted for. “Jus’ some painkillers, sugar cube,” she rasped. “Reckon it’s the best option for me.”

Rarity gave Sunset a look, as if she was wondering if a painkiller would even help her pounding head, but a sharp glance from Applejack made her sigh. “Some for me as well darling, please,” she said. “It might at least take the edge off.”

Sunset nodded and headed into the kitchen, fishing two glasses out of the cabinet and filling them with water. She snatched four painkillers from a bottle, and was right in the middle of gathering up ice from her freezer when she heard Rainbow scream.

The sound wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it still made Sunset jump all the same. Rainbow’s scream abruptly cut off into a series of swears, each one more colorful than the last, and several of them were ones Sunset had never even heard during her three years in the human world. Taking that as a sign that the worst had passed, Sunset resumed gathering the ice, picked up the glasses, and headed back out into what served as her living room in the apartment.

Rainbow was sitting up now, her face twisted in a grimace of pain. She accepted the bag of ice Sunset offered with a wordless nod of thanks, pressing it to her shoulder, and Applejack and Rarity both murmured their appreciation when she passed them the water and painkillers. The blonde gulped hers down noisily, while the purple-haired girl managed to swallow with grace and composure.

It wasn’t much, really. But it was a start.

Fluttershy had moved on the moment Rainbow’s shoulder was popped back into place. In the time Sunset had been away, she had managed to convince Pinkie to take off a shoe and a sock so that she could take a look at her ankle. Sunset winced at what she saw; the flesh of her ankle was bruised and swollen. “That looks bad.”

“It’s twisted,” Fluttershy said, accepting the ice when Sunset held it out to her. She wasted no time in pressing it against the injured ankle, smiling slightly at Pinkie’s giggle as the cold made contact with her skin. “It doesn’t feel too bad, at least.”

Pinkie grinned. “Only reason that nasty she-demon got me in the end! If it hadn’t have happened I might have been able to take her down myself.”

The scary thing was, Sunset could actually believe it. She hadn’t heard the exact moment Pinkie had gone down, but she’d heard enough of the fight to know it’d lasted longer than any of the other girls.

At that moment there was a knock on Sunset’s apartment door, and for a moment the girls froze. “That must be the sirens,” she guessed, accepting with a small sigh that she would probably be on her feet a lot tonight despite the overwhelming desire to crawl into bed and sleep for a week. She took solace in the fact that at least Adagio, Aria, and Sonata had come back.

At least, she hoped they had. If the knock was a nosy neighbor asking why so many girls had stumbled into her apartment at this time of night, they were going to have a problem.

Thankfully, luck took pity on her after the beating she and her friends had experienced; Sunset opened the door to find two blank-faced sirens and one that was grinning wildly, cuddling her bag of takeout like it was her firstborn. Adagio practically floated past Sunset for how easily she moved and Sonata skipped right past her, but the true surprise was Aria’s muttered “Here” as she followed her companions, shoving something into Sunset’s hand.

Sunset blinked, then looked down at her hand. Change and a receipt from the food the three had purchased looked back at her.


She would take what she could get.

Sunset closed and locked the door and followed after the trio into the living room. She’d been briefly concerned about how they would actually interact with each other once they were all in one space, but Adagio seemed to have headed off any potential conflict on her own by taking over a chair that was the farthest away from the Rainbooms. Aria and Sonata had dutifully followed her lead, and at the moment Sonata was cheerfully tearing into a taco with the kind of reckless abandon one usually saw in a child who was eating their favorite treat.

“So,” Adagio said conversationally as she reached into her own bag. “You all look like crap.”

“We feel like crap, too,” Rainbow muttered, giving the siren leader a sour look.

Aria smirked, shifting so she was leaning back against the chair. “I like you,” she said. “I mean, you know, you still took away our powers, so I don’t like you, but you’ve got a mouth on you. I can appreciate that.”

The look Adagio gave Aria was thoroughly unamused. Aria soundly ignored her.

“The important thing is we survived.” Fluttershy’s voice was soft, but her tone made it clear that there would be no arguments while she was present; she even gave Rainbow a warning look. “Right, girls?”

A moment passed before quiet murmurs of agreement followed the yellow girl’s question, and it was as if a switch had been flipped from the way Fluttershy smiled and settled down among her friends. Sunset had no idea how she did that every time and, frankly, a small part of her didn’t want to know.

And sadly, as much fun as this was to watch, they had a much more pressing concern.

“Did we defeat Venus?”

The silence that followed her question was deafening, but Sunset’s eyes were on the sirens. For the time being, the three of them were their best insight into how the succubus worked; with how late it was, reaching out to Twilight wouldn’t get a response until the next morning.

“Define defeat,” Adagio said, taking a bite out of her meal.

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Did we do enough damage that she won’t hurt anyone anymore?”

Adagio took her time chewing and swallowing, digging into the bag to grab a napkin. “For now, yes,” she said. “You didn’t do any permanent damage, but you’ll slow her down for awhile. I’m sure that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”

“What… what about the people she’s already fed on?” Fluttershy asked, pausing only slightly.

“What about them?” Aria muttered, lifting a brow.

“They’re in comas,” Rarity snapped, some of her patience fraying at the edge from a combination of pain and the clear lack of caring from their companions. “Will they wake up now that we’ve defeated her?”

Anything Adagio planned to say was cut off by Aria laughing, a full, ragged sound as she collapsed back against the chair clutching at her stomach. “Defeated her?” she choked out. “You think that defeated her? Didn’t you hear a word Adagio just said?”

“I did!” Sonata chirped around a mouthful of taco. Without missing a beat Aria snatched one of Adagio’s napkins, rolled it up into a ball, and flung it at her fellow siren’s head.

“You said we didn’t do any permanent damage,” Sunset cut in, giving Rarity a warning look. “When the girls defeated me, they didn’t do anything permanent. When we defeated you, we didn’t do anything permanent, so—“

“You kinda destroyed our gems and took away our magic,” Sonata cut in, wiping at her mouth. “That’s, like, pretty permanent.”

“Yer still alive, ain’t ya?” Applejack grumbled, tugging her hat down slightly over her eyes.

Adagio simply lifted a brow as she studied the battered Rainbooms, waiting until Aria’s laughter faded. Her eyes narrowed in thought before she snorted, shaking her head. “That’s cute,” she said. “You think you’ve defeated her while still leaving her alive. That’s very cute.”

A chill that had nothing to do with the evening air crept down Sunset’s spine. “I don’t follow.”

“Of course you don’t. I forget how ridiculously innocent you all are.” Adagio took another bite to buy herself some time, composing her thoughts before she spoke. “But to answer your question, nothing’s going to change for the people she’s already drained.”

“… What,” Rainbow croaked.

“Whoa, you’re even dumber than I thought,” Aria sighed.

“Just tell them, Aria.”

Aria sighed again, giving Adagio a slightly annoyed look that she wasn’t being allowed to pick a fight she so desperately wanted. “Venus works like a battery,” she said, grabbing her bag like she’d just remembered it was there and reaching for her meal. “The magic she drains from her victims gets absorbed into her body and then runs through her. It can be released, but just defeating her like you guys tried to do tonight won’t do it.”

“Tried to?” Rainbow growled.

Aria smirked, a dangerous gleam entering her eyes. “From where I’m standing? Yeah, tried to. You guys would be totally dead if we hadn’t come along.”

“Hey! I don’t remember you three doing so hot yourselves, so why don’t you—“

“Rainbow,” Fluttershy cut in sharply, before her friend could finish her sentence. Rainbow grimaced, but a supporting squeeze on her shoulder from Applejack and a gentle back pat from Pinkie quieted her.

“Aria,” Adagio snapped at the same time, and the storm that had been brewing in her fellow siren’s eyes subsided somewhat as she settled back down with a rumble of discontent.

Deciding it was a good idea to follow the others’ lead, Sonata attempted to pat Aria comfortingly and got her hand batted away for her trouble.

“You said she feeds on friendship and love,” Sunset said, rapidly changing topics before another fight could potentially stir between the two groups.

“Oh, oh!” Sonata raised her hand in the air, waving it wildly. “I can answer this! Let me, Adagio! Please, please, please!”

Adagio rolled her eyes at Sonata’s childlike enthusiasm, but she nodded for her to go ahead. Sonata grinned and immediately straightened up, her almost finished meal forgotten as she began to gesture eagerly with her hands.

“So, like, Venus feeds on love and she doesn’t discriminate on which kind—friendship, romantic love, it’s all fair game for her! And since she absorbs the magic into her like Aria just said, she can go awhile before she has to feed again!” Sonata paused, thinking. “It’ not like us, y’know, or how we used to be. We had to feed often ‘cause our magic came from the negative energy our jewels absorbed.”

Sunset was quiet, mulling this over and well aware of the fact that all of her friends were watching her; with Twilight back through the portal, she had fallen into the role of expert on Equestrian magic. While the descriptions of Venus weren’t quite as specific as she would have liked—the part of her that was still wholly Celestia’s student wished she was actually in a situation to properly study the succubus, to really understand how she worked—she was still getting a good picture of how the monster worked.

First, this answered the question of why Venus was in the human world at all. Her features and magical abilities made it entirely clear that she was originally from Equestria, and in that world many forms of magic ran on the basis of love; it was easier to list the spells that didn’t use the emotion as a base, and combining that with the fact that magic in Equestria was simply stronger, it was easy to see how the succubus had ended up becoming such a threat that banishment into another world had been the best way to deal with her.

Second, this further explained why she hadn’t been noticed until recently. Assuming that what Aria said was true, Venus would still have had quite a bit of absorbed Equestrian magic running through her when she was banished. That could have easily kept her going for a long time and might have only started to fade recently, explaining why she was feeding now.

“But you said you’d run into her before,” the former unicorn murmured. “How is that possible if she can go long periods without absorbing magic?”

Adagio smiled, and it was entirely too predatory. “You’re a smart girl, Sunset Shimmer. Guess.”

It was Fluttershy who spoke, though. “Sport,” she whispered. “She’s hunting for sport.”

“Very good! Ten points for the shy girl.” Adagio leaned back in her chair, crossing her legs. “Of course, by now I’m sure she does need to actually feed to keep herself sustained, but for her? This is all the thrill. She may not always need to, but she wants to. And when she wants to, well…”

The Rainbooms thought of the three victims, and as one they all shuddered.

“But like I said,” Adagio continued without missing a beat, “you may not have defeated her permanently, but she’ll be slowed down. I imagine you’ll have a few days before she really becomes a problem.”

“If she’s even still in the city,” Rarity pointed out. “She may have decided to move on.”

Aria snorted. “Even if she wanted to, she can’t.”

“Aria’s right,” Sunset sighed, and her friends immediately turned to her. “In our last fight with her, the magic didn’t just cancel itself out. Neither side overpowered the other, so the magic just ended up being drained. If Venus truly operates as they say, I’m sure she still has some magic left; we hit her directly with harmony magic. But she’ll still need time to recover until that reserve she had is back at where it was.”

“… So when she comes back, she’ll come back swingin’,” Applejack concluded. “An’ she’ll probably hit harder since we all pissed ‘er off somethin’ fierce.”

“Oh, you’re all totally dead,” Sonata agreed, then she paused. “But of course, we’re probably dead too, since we helped you. So… nobody wins!”

Judging by the glares Aria and Adagio gave her, that particular observation wasn’t appreciated. But they couldn’t argue with it, either; they’d clearly thrown their lot in with the girls. Venus wouldn’t forget that soon.

That was good, Sunset thought. That was great. It meant the sirens had even more of a reason to stay loyal to her and her friends, to help them find a solution. When the alternative was death—and knowing Venus, she wouldn’t be quick or painless about it—working with someone you considered an enemy suddenly seemed like a great idea.

It helped as well that after hearing how the sirens described the succubus, she was beginning to develop a plan on how to possibly combat her. It was only a minor thought, and she would need to discuss it with Twilight as soon as possible. Which meant…

“We need Twilight,” she decided, and tried to ignore the slight surge of panic and uncertainty the thought gave her. Just because she’d seen Twilight when Venus had approached her didn’t mean it actually implied anything about her feelings! Sonata had said herself that the succubus fed on any love, be it the love for a friend or romantic love. Sunset certainly considered Twilight a good friend!

A good friend, and nothing more.

She’d completely forgotten that her friends had been watching her encounter with Venus, and from the looks they exchanged the moment she said it, they all knew exactly who she’d seen when the succubus had approached her. But bless them all, they remained silent on the topic; even Pinkie didn’t say anything, even as she squirmed excitedly. “Does this mean we’ll get to have another sleepover?!” she burst out, seeming not at all pained by her ankle.

It didn’t lighten the mood up nearly as much as it would have under normal circumstances, but it drew a slightly pained chuckle from Applejack all the same. “Ah don’t think tha’ will be an option this time, Pinkie.”

Pinkie deflated a bit. “Awwwwwww….”

Rainbow looked oddly grumpy at the thought that their friend would be coming back through the portal to help them, though Sunset suspected that had more to do with her pride; the athlete hadn’t exactly disguised the fact that she’d fully expected them to be able to handle the threat on their own this time, without having to put any stress or pressure on the Equestrian princess.

Maybe next time, Rainbow, Sunset thought.

“I’ll write her tonight after you all leave,” Sunset continued. “She probably won’t see it until morning anyway, but the sooner we get it out—“

“Wait,” Rainbow interrupted, distracted from her disappointment. “What do you mean after we all leave? You mean us and the sirens, right?”

“Nope!” Sonata cut in cheerfully, before Sunset could even think to reply. “Ya see, when Sunny got us to agree to help you, she like, totally offered to let us stay with her! It’s really the only reason we agreed. We don’t have anywhere else to go.”

“Sunny?” Sunset murmured.

“WHAT?” Rainbow roared. “Are you insane? You have to be insane if you think we’re leaving her alone with you! No way in hell! Not a chance!” She flopped back against the couch, scowling, and if she could have she would have crossed her arms as she aimed a glare at her friend. “I’ll leave to get my stuff, Sunset, but I’m not leaving you here with these three.”

“Rainbow, that’s really not—“

“Ah agree,” Applejack muttered.

“As do I,” Rarity chimed in.

“Sleepover!” Pinkie cheered.

“It really is a worrying idea, Sunset,” Fluttershy said. “You did have the biggest hand in defeating them, and it’s only been a few weeks. I doubt they’ve forgotten.”

Adagio snorted at that, drawing all eyes to her. “Trust me, we haven’t,” she said, and as Rainbow bristled she held up a hand. “But relax. We aren’t stupid. Sonata’s right, we don’t have anywhere else to go. Tempting as it is, we won’t lay a hand on your friend.”

The silence that followed this statement was punctuated by two things: the look of utter shining delight that Sonata gave her leader, which led Sunset to suspect that the girl wasn’t often told that she was right, and the sinking reminder that the only reason the sirens were on their side at all was because of the succubus currently roaming the streets.

“Rares and Ah will get our things,” Applejack said after the moment passed. “We’ll only be gone a few minutes, Ah reckon.”

Accepting the battle wasn’t even worth fighting, Sunset nodded. “Sure. Just a warning, it’s going to be tight. This place isn’t exactly large.”

Rarity waved a hand, grimacing as she got to her feet. “Relax, darling. We’ll make it work. It’s only for one night, anyway.”

Rainbow and Pinkie were in no condition to move; Pinkie probably could have limped if she’d really put her mind to it, but both of them needed to relax and heal what they could. Fluttershy promised to stop by both their houses during her time out to pick up her things, and after a few words she was gone with Applejack and Rarity. The silence that descended as the sirens finished up their meals was awkward, to say the least.

“You guys can use the shower,” Sunset said finally, if only to break up the silence. She pointedly ignored Rainbow’s glare and disapproving huff. “I know you haven’t had a chance to get clean recently, so—“

She could have just stopped talking after ‘use the shower’, really, because before she even finished her statement Sonata and Aria were gone, racing down the hallway and slamming against each other the whole way to try and beat the other out, trash talking all the while. It was impossible to tell who won the contest, and frankly the redhead didn’t even want to know. Adagio sighed, a deep, pained sound as she hopped off the chair and scooped up what was left of their takeout. “Garbage?” she asked, as if nothing had happened.

“I’ll show you.”

It was mostly an excuse to move at this point, a way of keeping herself awake and thinking even as every fiber of her body ached to just curl up somewhere and sleep. It helped that Adagio was silent as the younger woman led the way into the kitchen, flipping on the light and gesturing to the garbage bin in the corner.

Well. At least this was more civil than she’d expected.

“So,” Adagio began casually, “you saw someone when you guys tried to take down Venus?”

Well. So much for civility.

Sunset narrowed her eyes, crossing her arms defensively over her chest—as a way of closing herself off or a way to defend herself from Adagio, she wasn’t sure. She didn’t say anything, merely giving the siren a glare.

Adagio rolled her eyes. “Oh, please, your friends aren’t nearly as subtle as they think, and I didn’t keep myself and the two idiots alive as long as I have just because I’m pretty. I don’t care about who you saw, I care that you saw anyone at all.”

“… Okay, fine, I’ll bite. Yes, I saw someone. Why do you care?”

The siren rested her hip against the counter, sliding her hands lazily into her pockets. “Here’s the thing,” she said, her tone as mild as if they were simply discussing the weather. “You may have noticed a pattern. Venus doesn’t leave her victims conscious. You’re the first one that’s gone through her magic and walked away to talk about it.”

Briefly Sunset thought about mentioning the fact that her friends had no doubt seen the succubus’s magic too, but she could understand Adagio’s point. They had all been a safe distance away, still able to move about and still under control of their thoughts and body. Sunset had been right in Venus’s crosshairs, completely under her spell.

The thought of it still made her shudder, and her arms tightened against her chest. “Don’t tell me you’re worried about me,” she muttered.

Adagio actually laughed, at that. “Worried? Yes. About you? Hell no. I could care less what happens to you. A part of me wishes Venus had actually gotten you herself.”

I’m feeling better and better about this alliance with every passing minute, Sunset thought.

“What I’m worried about,” Adagio continued without missing a beat, “is that you’ve been exposed to Venus’s magic. You’ve been, shall we say, thrown a little bit off balance by whoever you saw when she approached you, I’m sure. I bet it’s put all kinds of interesting thoughts in your head, thoughts that confuse you and make you uncertain.”

“Get to the point,” Sunset snapped.

“Oh my, I hit a nerve!” Adagio smiled, and it was cold. “Good. Like I said, I don’t care who you saw. I do care that my life and the lives of Sonata and Aria are in your hands. You want to be unfocused and get yourself and your friends killed, be my guest. But you’ve got our lives riding on this, too, and I’m not a fan of dying a slow, painful death.”

Sunset’s eyes narrowed, and she tried to ignore the cold feeling of dread that had settled in her stomach with the siren’s words. “Nobody’s dying,” she said firmly.

Adagio grinned and breezed right by her like she wasn’t walking on solid ground, thumping her on the back so hard that Sunset stumbled and had to grip the counter for support. “Good to hear,” she hummed. “I’m glad we had this talk. Clear the air, and all.”

The redhead grimaced and straightened up, shaking herself off. By the time she’d managed to compose herself and turn around, Adagio had disappeared back into the main room. The bathroom door abruptly slammed open, making both Rainbow and Pinkie jump and alerting them all to the fact that someone’s shower had finished—Aria’s or Sonata’s, Sunset couldn’t begin to guess. After a moment she groaned, slumping back against the counter, and rubbed her eyes.

The next few days were going to be… interesting.

And that was, frankly, probably an understatement.

It was the glimpse of a shadow stumbling out of the alley that caught her eye.

In general, the young woman didn’t make it a habit of checking out alleys to begin with; they looked sketchy enough during the day as it was, under the sunlight and with plenty of people passing by. They somehow became at least ten times worse late at night, so she wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. She wasn’t even supposed to be out this late, but a friend had seen her after practice and, well, one thing had led to another…

She was getting sidetracked. The point was, she had seen something move in the alley, and her immediate response was to speed up, clutching her bag tightly at her side as she fished out her phone. It was better to be safe than sorry.

“Help me…”

And every thought she had about leaving the area as quickly as possible went flying right out of her head the moment she heard—well, it sounded like her best friend’s voice, but… what was she doing here, and more importantly, why did she sound like she was hurt?

She slowed down and then stopped entirely after a moment, turning towards the figure. Her eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and they weren’t lying to her; that was her friend, leaning heavily against the wall and looking battered. She gasped and rushed over, reaching out to her instinctively. “What happened to you? Just hold on, I can—“

She never got to finish her sentence.

Her friend surged forward, grabbing her roughly and pulling her into a kiss that was so sudden she shrieked with surprise. She tried to pull away, tried to struggle, but the hands holding her in place were like steel. As time passed, slowly but surely, her struggles ceased entirely. Magic, shimmering pink around her, was being sucked out of her body as the succubus fed.

Venus pulled away with a deep breath, and her face twisted in a frustrated snarl. The magic had settled into her body, had soothed the damage done somewhat, but it wasn’t nearly what she would have gotten normally; and more importantly, it had only done a small, small part of restoring the magic she had lost.

Frustrated and weak, the succubus’s snarl morphed into a shriek and in a surge of short-lived strength she slammed the girl’s head against the wall. A sickening crunch echoed throughout the alley, and Venus dropped the body and flared her wings, taking off into the night sky with a mighty flap.

There would be blood for this.

Author's Notes:

Exposition! Yay! Everyone loves exposition, right? ... Right?

Like I said in my blog post earlier, I apologize for the delay in getting this chapter up. It was supposed to be a simple thing, but a lot of things have been going on in my life lately. Most of it has been good, a lot of it has been bad, and I lost track of this story for awhile.

Next chapter: Twilight comes into the story, and Sunset shares her plan with everyone. Shockingly, her friends don't like it.

And You Will Know the Truth

It was a beautiful morning in Equestria.

Celestia’s sun was just starting to peek over the horizon as Twilight cheerfully brewed herself a cup of coffee, humming a tune under her breath. She had briefly been stirred from her slumber last night by the sound of her book vibrating—a letter from Sunset, no doubt. The timing of it had been odd, but truth be told the Princess of Friendship had been so exhausted from her part in rebuilding Ponyville, and it had been so late at night, that she had rolled over and gone back to sleep.

The book was the reason she’d gotten up so early this morning, though. Rested and refreshed, the purple alicorn felt ready to tackle whatever question her fellow student was asking, or participate in whatever gossip she was passing along, or… anything, really. Talking to Sunset was fun, and Twilight looked forward to it regardless of what time the former unicorn sent her messages.

Continuing to hum her little tune and checking to make sure she hadn’t stirred Spike from his slumber—baby dragons needed their sleep, after all—Twilight sipped from her coffee and set it down on her desk, her horn glowing with violet magic. She located the book with ease and levitated it over to settle in front of her, flipping to the latest page. The ink was no longer glowing, which didn’t surprise her; this was an hours old message at this point, after all.

Twilight took another sip of coffee and began reading Sunset’s message.

As she read, the cheerful tune she had been humming since waking up slowly but surely died off into silence, her eyes narrowing. Celestia’s sun inched along the sky, the light shining brightly through the window and happily ignoring the princess’s darkening mood.

By the time Twilight finished Sunset’s message, the sun was shining warm and bright, and her coffee had gotten cold. The purple alicorn sat there for a long moment, before she lifted the mug up and tried another sip to calm her nerves. She closed her eyes, letting the taste of cold coffee wash through her mouth and down her throat, trying to clear her mind as her ears flicked back.

It didn’t work, and she opened her eyes again.

“I,” she said softly, “am going to kill her.”

It was a chill running suddenly down her spine that woke Sunset with a jolt, and the sharp movement sent a stab of pain through her face. The redhead grimaced and touched her cheek, gingerly pressing her fingers to the bruised flesh. She’d need to look in a mirror to see if it had faded at all, but the fact that it was still so tender wasn’t particularly promising.

Sunset lay there for a moment, almost hoping that she would drift off to sleep again, but alas, it seemed that the universe was conspiring to keep her awake; now that she was up her mind was racing a mile a minute, not exhausted at all by the fact that her sleep had been consistently disturbed by nightmares and terrors. Taking the sign for what it was, she sighed deeply and dragged herself out of her sleeping bag, rubbing her eyes and running a hand through her hair as she glanced around.

Being the most injured of the group, Rainbow and Pinkie had gotten Sunset’s bed for the night; they had both protested the decision, but in the morning light it was obvious that it had been a wise one. Their wounds wouldn’t heal immediately, but a night of sleep in a warm, soft bed had clearly done them both some good.

Sunset had placed her sleeping bag right next to the bed, a strategic decision in case anyone got ideas about trying to do something stupid in the middle of the night. Applejack had set up her sleeping bag at the end of the bed with something similar in mind, but that same sleeping bag was now empty; by the look if it, its owner had left it awhile ago. The former unicorn sniffed the air—an old habit from her pony days—and was surprised to pick up the smell of cooking.

Perhaps Applejack had decided to rise early and get started on breakfast?

Mindful of the fact that Rainbow and Pinkie were still asleep, the redhead moved on light feet from her room into the hall, letting the smell guide her. Before she’d gone to bed, Rarity and Fluttershy had set up their sleeping bags in the main room, and Sonata and Aria had been fighting over which one of them got to sleep on the couch.

The fight must have ended in a tie, because currently the two sirens were curled up in the grumpiest ball of sleep Sunset had ever seen. She paused for a moment just to stare at them before she realized Applejack was seated at the counter facing into her kitchen are and, therefore, not the one who was cooking.

Sunset moved carefully, mindful of Rarity and Fluttershy, as she made her way over to the farmer. “Applejack?” she called softly.

Green eyes never once budged from the kitchen, even as Sunset settled in next to her. “Hey, Sunset. Mornin’.”

“Good morning.” Curious to see what had her friend’s attention, Sunset turned her eyes to the kitchen—and once again, found herself staring at something she had never expected to see.

On some level, Sunset knew it was logical to assume that at least one of the sirens would know how to cook, and that it would probably be Adagio Dazzle who actually bothered with it. They had eaten human food during their stay at Canterlot High School, so it had been obvious that the idea of eating and cooking wasn’t a foreign one to them, and of the three Adagio seemed to be the most likely to be patient enough and stubborn enough to learn how to cook.

It made logical sense, but there was still something jarring about seeing the orange-haired girl actually in the kitchen, moving around easily and cooking like she didn’t have a care in the world. If she was aware of Sunset and Applejack watching her, she didn’t acknowledge them as she went about her task.

“… How long has she been doing this?” Sunset asked, if only to fill the slightly awkward silence as they continued to watch Adagio cook.

Applejack shrugged, absently adjusting her hat. “No idea. When Ah get up, she was already in th’ kitchen. Dunno how long she’s been at it, but by the smell Ah reckon she’s been goin’ awhile.”

So Adagio had been up before even Applejack, and Applejack got up early even on a bad day. Sunset blinked as she did some quick math in her head. “Did she even sleep last night?” she murmured, more to herself than anyone else.

Applejack shrugged again, choosing to respond. “No idea. We were all out pretty fast, but at least it’s a good sign she’s not causing trouble.”

“Right,” Sunset murmured, deciding to not question it. Things were crazy enough as it was; if Adagio was willing to step up and cooperate, she wasn’t going to think too hard about it until things settled down some. “Well. I’m glad to see food is taken care of, since honestly I wasn’t in much of the mood to cook.”

“How’s yer cheek?”

“It’ll heal.” The thought still made her rub it gently. “How’re you?”

The blonde chuckled at that, shifting a bit in her chair to get more comfortable. “Headache’s faded, for the most part. Back still aches a bit, but like ya said, it’ll heal.”

Sunset watched Adagio move around the kitchen for a moment, then made up her mind and slid off of her chair. “Well,” she said lightly, “I’m sure some coffee and sweets will speed the healing process along, since Adagio is being so gracious about breakfast.”

Adagio’s soft snort made it clear she’d heard her fellow Equestrian, but Sunset ignored her.

“Sounds like a plan ta me.” Applejack started to ease herself off of her chair after Sunset, but a shift in her expression indicated her back disagreed with the plan, and she ended up staying put. “Ya need money? I can go grab it real quick.”

The redhead patted her friend gently on the shoulder. “Stay still, Applejack, your back’s still bothering you. I have plenty of money.”

Applejack pressed her lips together, a familiar crease forming between her eyebrows.

“… And you can pay me back whatever you owe me,” Sunset quickly added, deciding it was best to change tactics and play along with her friend. Even when she was hurt, Applejack was driven to protect and nurture; the fact that she couldn’t move around to her fullest capabilities and couldn’t protect her friends from Venus no doubt stung at the cowgirl’s pride.

That seemed to soothe her friend, as she settled back down without complaining. “Sounds good. Ah’ll stay here and keep an eye on things.”

Sunset gave a small mock salute, lips quirking when the gesture earned a small chuckle from her friend. She headed back down the hallway and changed quickly—a shirt and jeans, with her customary jacket thrown over it—and held up her phone on the way out so Applejack could see it, letting her friend know they had a way of staying in contact while she was away.

Applejack held up her phone in response and tipped her hat, and this time Sunset couldn’t help the smile despite the situation as the door closed behind her with a soft click.

Back in the kitchen, Adagio sighed deeply. “Cute,” she said. “Very cute.”

Applejack turned back to her, eyes narrowing suspiciously. “Thanks.”

“I hate you both so much.”

“… That sounds more like the Adagio Dazzle Ah know.”

Adagio didn’t throw anything at her, but judging by the look on her face as she turned back to her meal, she was clearly thinking about it.

As if to completely contrast the horrors that had been occurring during the night, the morning was bright, sunny, and warm; Sunset didn’t even have to try to listen to hear the sound of birds singing as she made her way into the heart of Canterlot City. The heat of the air was a constant reminder that summer was rapidly approaching, and it was almost easy to forget everything that had happened since she and her friends had noticed Venus’s hunting pattern and had gone to confront her.

Almost, Sunset thought with a sigh, except for the fact that her cheek still stung from the events of last night, and her book hadn’t yet vibrated with a message from Twilight. The former unicorn knew she’d sent her message out late at night, but she’d really been hoping that she would wake up to a message from her friend on the other side of the portal.

But so far, her book had remained stubbornly still.

Sunset was almost tempted to spam Twilight with messages until the Princess of Friendship finally responded, but she knew that wasn’t fair. She had no way of knowing what was going on, and only had Sunset’s word on how bad the situation was. No doubt the princess had gotten her message and was either too busy to immediately address it, or was looking into a method she’d discovered that could help them all deal with Venus quickly and easily.

Twilight would help them; she always had in the past. Sunset just had to be patient and give her a chance to respond, and thoroughly ignore the small part of her that whispered that, considering who she’d seen when she’d been approached by Venus, it was probably for the best that Twilight was taking her time. It gave her a chance to compose herself and not think about it.

Sunset sighed deeply, rubbing at her temples as she made her way into the coffee store. Yeah, okay. She was doing a very bad job of not thinking about it, and she had the feeling that having Twilight around in the flesh wouldn’t make her confusion any easier to grasp or sort out. It was just something she’d have to endure until Venus was taken care of.

Thankfully, the act of ordering coffee and paying for it was enough to get her mind off of that particular tangent, even if the act itself was laughably simple; no one in their small group of friends liked particularly fancy drinks, and she figured the sirens would take anything that was hot and tasted good. Maybe buying those three coffee was a bit much, but Sunset figured every little bit helped cement some sense of trust between the two groups.

If she was really going to suggest her plan to Twilight when the princess came over, they would need every little bit of trust they could get. But the situation was still young, and the redhead was still hopeful that they wouldn’t even need to consider her plan.

Cradling the ordered coffee in one hand, it was only a short walk down to where she and her friends regularly spent their after school hours. The bell that hung over the door announced her entry, and from behind the counter Mrs. Cake gave the student a brilliant smile. “Sunset! Good morning, dear, I didn’t think you would be coming in so early.”

“Good morning, Mrs. Cake.” Sunset carefully set down the coffee set, mindful of the hot liquid each cup contained. “It’s not too early, is it?”

“Oh, it is never too early for sweets, especially if you listen to Pinkie—Sunset Shimmer!” Mrs. Cake promptly forgot what she was working on behind the counter as she stared, eyes wide and concerned once she got a good look at the teenager. “What on Earth happened to your face?!”

That motherly tone was enough to make Sunset wince as if she’d been caught sneaking in late; a particularly impressive feat, considering she wasn’t even related to Mrs. Cake. Her hand flew up to her face instinctively, and she hissed out a breath when her fingers brushed bruised skin and she remembered the mark Venus’s backhand had left on her.

It had faded from last night, but the bruising was still very much apparent and impressive, and among her friends Sunset had completely forgotten how it would look to someone that was unaware of the situation. Thankfully, she hadn’t been considered Celestia’s most prized student for nothing. “Pinkie caught me in a prank I wasn’t expecting,” she lied smoothly, lowering her fingers from her face. “It was an accident and she felt really bad about it. It’s not as bad as it looks, I promise.”

Mrs. Cake’s nose wrinkled and she groaned, easing away from the counter as she slowly but surely relaxed. “That girl, honestly,” she sighed as she began to rummage through her stock, fishing out the usual sweets she knew each girl in the group liked. “One of these days she’s really going to hurt someone with one of her pranks. I keep telling her to be careful, but does she listen to me?”

Mentally, Sunset sent an apology Pinkie’s way and made a note to let her friend know about the lie she’d told; it wouldn’t do any good for the pink girl to get caught off guard by the story when Mrs. Cake inevitably brought it up in her list of complaints regarding her usual pranks and antics. “You know how she is,” she said lightly. “And she meant no harm, really. She still hasn’t stopped apologizing to me about it.”

“Her heart is in the right place, at least. It’s probably the only reason any of us have any patience for her; we all know she means well, deep down. She’s just got a unique way of showing it.”

Sunset smiled, despite the situation. “She’s got a good heart.”

“That she does, that she does.” Mrs. Cake settled the boxed order on the counter, sliding it to the redhead. “There’s your usual, dear, I assume you’re running a pick up for your friends. I tied it so you can carry it without having to worry about that coffee you’ve got with you. Is there anything else you want?”

The former unicorn hesitated, then made up her mind. If she’d already ordered coffee for the sirens, she might as well go all out and make the peace offering complete, if only for her own sense of satisfaction. And Sonata, at the very least, looked like she had a sweet tooth. Even if she was the only one who appreciated the gesture, it was at least one member of the trio on their side. “Can I have three chocolate chip cookies?” she asked, leaning against the counter. “Some of Rarity’s out of town city friends stopped by unexpectedly, and I don’t want to leave them out.”

Everyone loved chocolate chip cookies, right? It seemed like the safest bet. Sunset hadn’t ever met anyone who disliked chocolate chip cookies.

I wonder if Twilight’s ever tried a chocolate chip cookie over on this side of the mirror?

Because that mental thought process was both incredibly unhelpful to the current situation and a reminder to Sunset of things she really didn’t want to think about, the girl gave herself a hard mental smack to get her thoughts back on track. Thankfully, Mrs. Cake provided a much needed distraction as she slid the cookies Sunset had requested across the counter and rattled off the total cost. She fished out the required amount and passed it to the older woman, grabbing the box easily and balancing it carefully; as Mrs. Cake had promised, she had tied it in such a way that it wouldn’t interfere with the coffee she was also scooping up.

“Are you sure you’ve got that, dear?” The woman looked ready to come around the counter and help, if Sunset couldn’t handle it herself.

“I’ve got it, thanks Mrs. Cake.” She would need to move carefully, but considering one half of her load was hot coffee that had always been a given anyway. Now she just needed to move carefully because of the hot coffee and because of her delicate treats.

“Well, if you’re sure, Sunset.” Mrs. Cake rested against the counter, then blinked as if she’d just remembered something and called out as the teenager was almost out the door. “Oh, Sunset!”

Sunset paused, glancing back at her. “Yeah?”

Mrs. Cake hesitated, clearly torn between something, before she made up her mind. “The sun is out and people are starting to wake up and go outside, so I won’t send Mr. Cake with you to go back to your apartment.”

“… Okay?” Sunset asked, utterly confused about where this sudden and deep concern for her safety had come from.

“Just, be careful? Go home quickly, okay? Everyone’s a bit on edge because of the news this morning, and the girl was your age and went to Canterlot High, so…”

“Mrs. Cake, what are you talking about?”

That brought the older woman’s concern to a grinding halt, blinking as she realized that the girl at the door had no idea what she was talking about. Her eyes narrowed as she frowned. “Do you mean to tell me you haven’t heard anything about what happened last night?”

“No, ma’am. I only woke up a little while ago, to be completely honest.” Sunset suddenly had a cold, sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Something happened? You mentioned a girl, and… she goes to Canterlot High like my friends and I?”

Something shifted and darkened in Mrs. Cake’s eyes, and that cold, sinking feeling in Sunset’s stomach crept all the way up to her chest as she realized that the look settling on the woman’s face was one of mixed horror and sadness. A part of her knew what was about to be said, even before she heard it.

“She went to Canterlot High with you and your friends, dear. She was… the poor thing was murdered last night, and the police still haven’t figured out why or who did it. So just… be careful on your walk home, okay? And tell the girls to be careful, too.”

Sunset nodded, too numb to even speak, and as she pushed the door open and headed outside, she felt so cold that the sun couldn’t even warm her.

When Sunset opened the door to her apartment, she found she didn’t need to ask if the girls had been waiting for the news; if the tense, crushing atmosphere hadn’t done the job for her, the sound of a news report on the situation certainly would have. It seemed someone had turned the television on in an attempt to fill the place with noise and keep things peaceful, and had stumbled across the story.

Well. It was better that they knew, at least. And it saved Sunset the problem of having to tell her friends about the story herself. It still didn’t do much to settle the ache in her chest when she saw Fluttershy’s hands pressed to her mouth, Applejack grimly gripping her hat, Rarity nervously biting her nails, and Pinkie and Rainbow both looking a little bit paler than they had been that morning.

The sirens, in stark contrast, looked like animals ready for an attack. While her friends were clearly unhappy and tense about the news, Adagio’s face was unreadable as she listened to the report, and Aria and Sonata were both so still that Sunset might have mistaken them from statues. They seemed to be picking up some wordless cue from Adagio, and whatever she was sending out told them the best decision they could make was not moving at all.

“I’m back,” Sunset called, and immediately all eyes turned on her. Swallowing and trying to smile—it mostly came out as a grimace, but she liked to think she got points for trying—she held up the sweets and coffee she’d gone out to get. “I have something for everyone, if you’re all still in the mood.”

They didn’t look like they were in the mood, but her friends approached her anyway and accepted their drinks and snacks, murmuring their thanks before they settled back down. There was a moment of uncertainty before Adagio sighed and approached her first, grabbing a coffee and a cookie without a word, and her acceptance of the gesture seemed to be enough for Aria and Sonata. Sonata still broke out into a delighted grin and small cheer when she bit into her cookie, but what truly surprised Sunset was Aria’s gruff “Thanks” as she went back to her fellow sirens.

Then it was silent again, as they all listened to the news report conclude. It told them all the exact same thing Sunset had learned from Mrs. Cake: there was no known motive and the killer hadn’t been caught. Sunset sipped her coffee, if only to have something to do once the news switched over to regular weekend programming.

“Before any of you ask,” Adagio sighed, and all eyes immediately turned to the siren leader, “no, Venus has never killed anyone like this before.”

“You’re kidding,” Rainbow growled, eyes flashing dangerously.

Adagio shrugged. “Believe me or not, but it’s the truth. It’s not like we monitored her regularly, but when she was in the area we had a good beat on her. Venus has never committed a murder, at least not while we were around to observe it.”

“Oh, that’s a load of—“

“She may have a point, actually,” Fluttershy murmured.

“How so, dear?” Rarity jumped in, if only because Rainbow’s eyes had narrowed when she heard Fluttershy backing up their former enemy.

Fluttershy swallowed and shifted nervously from foot to foot, playing with her hair before she found the words to express what she wanted to say. “Venus is a predator,” she explained. “Yes, she may have human intelligence and magical abilities, but that’s what she is at the end of the day. Predators don’t take action that will spook their prey, it only makes hunting more difficult to them. If she’d gone around regularly murdering people, it would have been a lot harder for her to stay in one area to do what she wanted. Everyone would have been on high alert.”

“You’re smarter than you look,” Aria chuckled, and held up both hands defensively when Rainbow and Rarity turned on her. “Hey, that was a compliment, relax.”

“… Was it really?” Fluttershy asked, and sighed when the siren ignored her and went back to her cookie and coffee.

“You really made her mad,” Sonata said, taking a bite out of her cookie. “She’s never murdered anyone before, at least not around us. You should be, like, proud!”

“A girl just died. A girl from our school. Ain’t nothin’ ta be proud of.” Applejack’s grip on her hat, if possible, tightened.

Sonata swallowed, wiping at her mouth. “And that like, totally sucks. But it’s not all bad! It means she’s still here, right? That means it’ll be easier for you guys to find her and beat her up like you did with us so she won’t keep killing.”

An incredibly awkward moment of silence passed before the blue-haired siren realized how her words could be interpreted.

She’s the one killing. We never killed anyone,” she clarified, then paused. “Not on purpose, anyway.”

“The hell does that mean?” Rainbow growled.

Blissfully, before Sonata could reply and possibly dig an even deeper hole for herself to crawl into, Sunset heard the faint but recognizable sound of her magic book vibrating from her room. The former unicorn had to resist the urge to sag with relief, even as she shot out of the room and down the hall. “That must be Twilight,” she called over her shoulder, if only to break the gathering tension.

Twilight may have taken her time to reply, but in that moment Sunset was immensely grateful. She grabbed her book off of its usual place on her shelf and flipped to the latest page, heading back to the room as she skimmed the contents of what the Princess of Friendship had written.

“Didn’t know you were into long distance dating, Shimmer,” Adagio commented, and smirked when the redhead nearly tripped over her own feet at the unexpected comment, blushing almost as brightly as her hair.

Sunset grimaced and shook herself, ignoring the quiet snickers from Sonata and Aria. “She’s coming through the portal right now. She apparently did some research and has a lot to tell us. Is everyone okay with going?”

There was no need to ask—and frankly, the logical part of Sunset knew that she should have insisted that their truly wounded should stay home and rest—but after what they had learned, she didn’t want to leave any of them alone.

Everyone seemed to share her opinion, since Rainbow and Pinkie followed them all out of her apartment without complaint. The trek to the statue of Canterlot High School was long and silent, and briefly Sunset wondered about whether or not to worry about the sirens seeing the portal before she remembered that it didn’t matter; so long as the book was minded on the other side, none of them would be able to cross over. Even if they could, their main source for gathering magic had been destroyed.

“Well, that ain’t good,” Applejack murmured, and the concern in her voice jolted everyone out of their own dark thoughts. They all exchanged nervous looks before working up the courage to check out the statue.

The good news was, Princess Twilight Sparkle was there, leaning against the base of the statue with her arms crossed over her chest. The bad news was, judging by the look on her face, she wasn’t in a particularly good mood. She managed a smile and a wave when she saw her friends approaching, but a dark look settled on her face when she glimpsed Sunset.

“Oh boy,” Sunset murmured, wincing.

“Twilight seems angry,” Pinkie observed.


“She seems angry at you, Sunset.”

“Yeah, Pinkie.”

“She’s coming over here.”

“Yeah, thanks, Pinkie. Do you guys mind waiting here a second?”

Sunset didn’t wait for her friends to respond, gently nudging through the group and heading out to meet Twilight before she met the rest of them. The purple girl worked out what was going on and stopped, waiting patiently for her fellow student to meet her halfway as she crossed her arms over her chest again. If nothing else, it at least seemed she was willing to not chew the former unicorn out in front of her friends. That was one good thing about her otherwise obvious bad mood.

“Twilight,” Sunset started.

Twilight jabbed a finger in her face, and Sunset immediately shut her mouth. “Do you have any idea how lucky you are?” she snapped.

The redhead swallowed, tucking her hands back behind her back. “I know.”

“Do you know how stupid what you did was?”

“I know.”

Twilight glared for a moment, then sighed and relaxed as her shoulders slumped. She reached out, gently taking Sunset’s hands. “Are you okay, at least? Injuries from last night aside, I mean. I know you aren’t okay physically but, you know…”

Sunset swallowed the sudden lump in her throat, the memory of Venus taking Twilight’s form fresh and vivid in her mind’s eye. Her grip on the princess’s hands tightened, even as her mind raced a mile a minute on the best way to answer the question. Those gentle, questioning purple eyes certainly weren’t helping matters.

If there was one thing Sunset had learned from the Battle of the Bands, it was that keeping things to herself and hesitating over speaking was bad. Had she been willing to be open and honest right from the start and talked to her friends about the problems she had seen brewing in them and her own feelings, a lot of pain could have been avoided and the sirens might have been stopped before they became such a large problem.

On the other hand, there was a time and a place for certain things. It was the logic Sunset had used in keeping quiet about the anger and hatred that had been aimed her way by her fellow students, before the Battle had occurred; it wouldn’t have been right to voice her own frustration over the situation when the wounds she had caused were still so fresh and only just healing.

In this, too, there was a time and a place. Even as Sunset wanted to be completely honest—ached with it, really, just wanting to talk to someone about it and what it meant, even if that someone was the same girl Venus had manifested as in the first place—she knew now wasn’t the moment. She could lie to herself about what it had been all she wanted, but she had learned all too well that she couldn’t avoid matters of the heart forever.

But with an angry, wounded succubus still in the city murdering innocents and trying to keep the sirens at bay, now was hardly the time to start talking about her own personal feelings. And the situation with Mrs. Cake had demonstrated to the redhead that she was still perfectly capable of lying with a completely straight face and no hesitation, when it suited her.

The thought stung, but it had its uses.

Sunset gave Twilight’s hands one last squeeze, and smiled. “I’m okay,” she assured her. “I promise. We already know I can’t be around Venus again, so…. I’m okay. Or at least, I’ll be okay.”

Twilight sagged with relief, then pulled Sunset into a one-armed hug before she let her go. “Good,” she said. “I’m glad.” She stepped away completely, finally seeming at least a little bit happier than she’d appeared to be when she had gone through the portal—and then glanced over Sunset’s shoulder, froze, and stared. Sunset followed her gaze, saw where it landed, and winced.

Standing a bit apart from the Rainbooms, Adagio, Aria, and Sonata realized Twilight’s eyes were on them. Aria snorted and studied her nails, Adagio smirked, and Sonata gave the princess a cheerful wave.

“… I thought you were kidding when you mentioned in your message that you’d found the Dazzlings,” Twilight murmured.

Sunset sighed heavily. “No, I wasn’t kidding. I was pretty vague on the details, though, so I don’t blame you for thinking that I was.”

“Well. At least they helped you out and held off Venus. That was better than I expected from them, honestly.”

Sunset thought of the plan that had been knocking around in her head since the events from last night, and could feel a headache forming. For all their sakes, she could only hope Twilight had managed to come up with a better way of defeating Venus.

“Come on, princess. The girls want to say hi and we have a lot to tell you. Things have changed since I wrote to you last night.”

Author's Notes:

This fic, it lives! Behold!

Thank you all once again for your patience. I know there was a huge delay in this chapter getting up due to real life issues, and hopefully the next chapter won't take as long as this one did.

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