At eleven o'clock in the morning, Twilight Sparkle rolled out of bed.
She groaned as she picked herself up off of the floor and righted herself back onto four legs. With a yawn, she shuffled over to her dresser. Wiping the crust from her eyes, her vision eventually cleared to see exactly what she expected--frizzle from mane to tail, from head to hoof.
As was often her morning routine, she considered staying that way, perhaps even going back to bed. After all, who ever saw her up here besides Princess Celestia and maybe her family-
Wait, no. Things were different now.
Her room being lined with wood wherever she looked attested to that. She didn't spend all of her days in one of two castle towers anymore. This was a library. She had to tend to it. There were other ponies here. Other ponies she both cared for and counted on, and which returned the favor.
This was no longer Canterlot. This was Ponyville.
As her brain continued its reboot, she looked at her desk calendar, already opened to today's date, and marked with twin musical notes. Now why had she done that... oh, of course!
Instantly her fatigue left her.
Today was the day.
Twilight darted to the center of her room and closed her eyes. Her horn glowed as she chanted a spell whose words she was now quite familiar with:
"Nature's glory, on this new day, wash my body's cares away!"
A circle highlighted below her, surrounding her in a cylinder of blue light. Glitter swirled around her body, making way for moisture, which clung to her and inched upwards, from hooves to tail, soaping and removing every bit of grime in every area imaginable, and disappearing into nothingness. She ignored the tingles--intense as they were, they were always only temporary.
Automatic fluffing and styling of her coat, mane and tail followed--while she was no Rarity in the grooming department, Twilight knew she was more than skilled enough magically to get herself looking decent in the mornings.
The circle faded. By 11:15 the she was perfectly presentable. She mentally kicked herself for not learning this spell before she'd moved to Ponyville. Then again, she hadn't really needed it quite as much before. The castle had its own luxuries, lavish royal baths amongst them.
She returned to the mirror to check herself. Mane checked out, several swishes of her tail, nothing looked or felt strange or grody or out out-of-place. Good to go.
New manestyle, maybe? No, why would I... well... She cycled through various styles, her horn glowing and her mane poofing with each new thought. Up? Down? Tied? Swishy?
In the end, however...
...maybe I'll just go as myself.
She straightened her mane to its usual style, and flashed her best smile, pointing at her reflection.
"All right! Today, Twilight," she told herself, "you go on a field trip!" She giggled to herself before adding, "Look at me. Acting like I'm a schoolfilly again."
Her voice went to a whisper.
"But I'm so excited."
"Unison: Spectacles and Shades"
A My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fanfiction
Part 4: "A Fresh Perspective"
by Bookish Delight, 2012-2013
All characters and referred properties belong to Hasbro.
She tiptoed past a sleeping Spike, and outside of her library treehouse, ready to face the world.
"Now that I think about it, Vinyl and I probably should have decided on an actual meeting spot," Twilight mused. "So now what do I do?"
The sound of birds singing in chorus wafted towards her ears as she walked.
"Oh! Fluttershy must be holding practice. Well, there's no harm in going to say hello."
"Okay, let's keep it in tempo, everyone... keep the notes steady... good, that's good!"
As usual, the bubbling brook near Fluttershy's forest dwelling only served to accompany her choir of singing birds with its own brand of percussion. The birds themselves were perched along several branches, yet Fluttershy was able to keep track of and conduct all of them with effortless waves of her hooves.
Something was different today, however. Standing beside Fluttershy was the very pony Twilight had been looking for, slowly nodding her head to the music as she looked around at the performance.
"Vinyl?" Twilight said.
"Huh? Twi-" Vinyl's hoof met her forehead the second she saw the other unicorn. "Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry, Twilight! I got massively sidetracked, and we totally didn't decide on an actual place to meet up, did we?"
Twilight chuckled. "It's okay. Same thing sort of happened to me. Don't worry about it."
Vinyl shook her head. "Nuh uh, nothing doing. I'll be making it up to you later, just you watch. In the meantime..." She looked back towards Fluttershy's singing birds. "...gosh, what doesn't your town have? Are these birds all trained?"
"Actually, they all just love Fluttershy enough to do this. She's got a way with creatures."
"Whoa." Vinyl's eyes went wide under her shades, and her mouth widened to match. "Amazing."
The two listened for a while longer, silently allowing Fluttershy to work. Eventually, the song finished, and she, along with all of the birds, bowed slightly. "Great work, everybirdie."
"Excellent!" Vinyl applauded. "Your choir really came alive in the last movement there. And they blend together so well! Well, except for that one guy." She pointed to one bird, doing its best to tune itself but receiving nothing but squwaks for its trouble. "Got just the cure for that, though."
Fluttershy blinked. "You do?"
"Yeah. Did a show in griffon-land once. Exactly once. Anyway. You think this guy's throat's got problems? Those birds blow theirs out all the time." She conjured up a small tablet. "Here we go. This'll fix that right up." She used the tiniest jolt of magic to melt it in her hoof, mixed the substance in a tiny cup of warm water, and levitated the cup out for the bird to fly over and lap up at its leisure. It did so, and after half a minute, it tried singing again, with imperfect, but noticeably better results.
Vinyl smiled up at the bird. "Hey, not bad! I know you want to please your girl here, but you should take it easy." She turned back to Fluttershy. "Keep him on warm water for, oh, a week, I guess? "He should be good as new."
Fluttershy gasped in delight. "Oh, thank you, uh, um... 'Digiphone,' was it? That is how you say it, right? The brochure I was given wasn't very clear. I'm sorry if I messed it up."
Vinyl laughed. "Nah, totally okay. Look, just call me Vinyl. Way easier, right?"
Fluttershy nodded with a smile. "Absolutely! But..." She cocked her head to the side. "...is that your real name?"
"Dunno." She shrugged, smiled, and turned to Twilight. "Ready?"
Twilight nodded. "I am. Take care, Fluttershy!"
The two unicorns walked away, leaving a still mildly-bewildered Fluttershy to wave them off.
"...and over here is Sugarcube Corner, and over there is Cloverleaf Cafe," said Twilight, giving Vinyl the grand tour of the town. "Have you ever been?"
"Not as of yet," Vinyl said. "But ooh, I've heard those names! I've wanted to try 'em. I've heard that second is one of Ponyville's best spots. Sounds like a good place for some brunch to me." The two walked over. "Magic requires energy and all that. This place live up to its rep?"
"Yep. I've had the lunch specials here tons of times."
"Great! Then it's all on me." She looked over to Twilight and raised her shades. "So forget any 'specials' or 'sales' or whatever. Today, order what you've always wanted."
Twilight gasped. "Seriously? Gosh, thanks!"
"No prob," said Vinyl, draping a foreleg around Twilight and giving her a quick squeeze. "Least I can do for ya', believe me." She sauntered over to the cafe. "C'mon, let's go in and gorge ourselves silly."
Hay and flowers as far as the eye could see. Breads and cookies, snacks and desserts. All the super-high quality stuff, imported from the other end of Equestria.
Twilight still couldn't believe it. They'd managed to eat it all. It had been glorious. But now it was gone. It was all they could do now to bask in the food afterglow, and sip waters while they allowed it to digest.
That was when the check came. Vinyl and Twilight looked at it for two seconds. As the latter did her best to avoid fainting, the former conjured up a purse and gave the waiter enough bits to make his and Twilight's eyes bulge.
"Keep the rest," Vinyl said.
"Th-thank you very much," the waiter barely managed to reply.
"Holy..." Twilight gaped as he staggered off. "I've always wanted a bunch of this stuff, but could never afford it." She looked back at Vinyl. "I don't mean to pry, but how-"
Vinyl waved dismissively. "Don't even finish that question. One of the good things about this life is that it gives me the budget to spoil my friends rotten."
"Doesn't that get expensive? I mean, someone as famous as you has got to have a zillion friends, right?"
"Ehhhh..." Vinyl looked at the table. Her carefree expression disappeared and her voice went soft. "...you'd actually be surprised."
Twilight's eyebrows raised. "Hm? Why?"
Vinyl shook her head, her smile reappearing as quickly as it had left. "Ah, nothing important. Besides, today's about you, not me. Got a question for ya', girl."
"Those birds of Fluttershy's." Vinyl looked up towards the trees lining the west side side of the town. "You ever listen to them yourself, Twilight?"
Twilight smiled and nodded. "Sure I do! Quite a bit, actually. You're right--they are wonderful."
"Well, true, but I mean..." Vinyl had her shades up again and was looking straight at Twilight, but her wide-eyed expression was such that Twilight could have sworn she was being looked through. "...have you really listened to them? Individually, as well as together."
Twilight responded with a puzzeld stare. "What do you mean?"
"It's how you figure out the difference." Vinyl levitated her water glass close, tipped it to take a drink, then put it back down on the table. "What if I told you that there are dozens, no, hundreds, of composers in Equestria who've written great works--famous ones, even?"
Twilight shrugged. "I'd say that's general knowledge."
"Yep. Now, what if I told you that most of them have lived and died, never knowing that despite all the praise and money they might have received for their work... their songs were still incomplete in some way?"
Twilight had no answer for that. Her face communicated as much to Vinyl, whose eyebrows twitched to accompany a chuckle.
The white unicorn closed her eyes and concentrated. Seconds later, an album floated by her side, its cover emblazoned with neon colors. She looked at the title, which read Midnight Electronica, and said, "Yeah. This one should groove nicely."
Twilight cocked her head as she read the title for herself. "Groove?"
"Go with. Run alongside. But in total step." Before Twilight knew what to make of those words, Vinyl took off her shades completely. She reached across the table, clasped Twilight's hooves in hers...
...and there was that look straight into endless eyes again. Her voice was muted, but emotional. Energetic. Passionate.
"Music in itself is a never-ending voyage. Composers steer the ships, but I'm a little different. I ride the waves to scout ahead, then I come back and chart the courses." She paused. "But this'd just be a bunch of babbling if I didn't show you. There any places in this region that are, well, not totally teeming with ponies?"
Twilight nodded. "There's this little spot just outside of Everfree Forest. It's got a lake and everything. I go there when I need to think without anypony bothering me."
"Perfect. Think you could take us there? I-I mean, if it's all right."
"Oh absolutely." Twilight used the moment to return Vinyl's gaze head-on. "Just don't let go, okay?"
Twilight's horn glowed, and in a glitter-filled instant, they disappeared.
It was just as Twilight had described--an open field, surrounded by trees, with a lake in the center.
What Twilight had forgotten, however, was just how peaceful it was. Not a pony to be found. A few birds could be heard tweeting around them, and the grass felt soft under their bodies as they sat.
From Vinyl's expression, she appeared to approve just as much. "Oh, cool! This'll work just great." She looked towards Twilight. "Hope you don't mind--with me, sometimes things get loud."
Twilight smiled. "Don't worry about it."
Vinyl winked. "And then there's the music." She levitated her album, and willed one more into existence beside it, bearing the name Manic Panic Revolution. With that, she sat in front of the lake, and Twilight joined her seconds later, prompting the two to look across.
"You did really great for your first time the other night, Twilight. Then again, I guess all of that just falls into your genius girl rep." Ignoring Twilight's blush, she added, "But today we're gonna try something different."
Vinyl's magic began its work, and one of the records was pulled from its sleeve and spun. After a few seconds she said, "Okay, Twilight. Go ahead and sample this one."
Twilight applied her own magic as well. Crackling electric twangs and beats soon filled her mind, and the landscape became a little more colorful. "What... Vinyl, what's happening? What am I seeing, I-"
"Don't lose it, whatever you do! Now I'm going to play the other record. Join me on that one as well, okay?"
"'As well'?" Twilight gaped. "You mean I'm supposed to play both?"
"Yeah. But work smarter, not harder. Feel the vibrations like before... but don't think of them as two records! Think of them as one."
"As one, huh? O-okay..." Twilight redoubled her concentration, mentally feeling her way across both albums. The beats clashed. The notes stung. Still, she kept it up until the moment when it all clicked--the moment she heard a third, true set of melodies and rhythms, causing a jolt to rush through her whole body.
"You're gettin' it, Twi," she could just barely hear Vinyl say through the sounds. "So now it's time to kick it up a notch!"
Twilight looked to her side, and saw the lights around the records and Vinyl's horn grow larger and brighter.
And in seconds, she understood.
The world even smelled different now. Instead of forest scents, she smelled civilization. Other ponies, everywhere. She could hear them too. Jumping and screaming, whooping in ecstasy.
"Gettin' there, lookin' good... and now for the most important part," Twilight heard, just before she felt a gentle massage of her shoulders from behind. She jumped momentarily, but a soothing, guiding voice in her ear spoke through the music, as if prepared for this from the very start.
"Relax yourself, Twi. I can feel you overthinking from here. It's okay, I used to, too. But eventually it stops being about notes and rhythms and formulas. When you feel your senses being taken over... that's when you let yourself go."
"Let myself go..." Twilight closed her eyes, sighed, and relaxed her back against Vinyl's front.
"Mm-hmm. Perfection through combination, Twilight," said Vinyl, embracing the violet unicorn as the world changed around the both of them. "Some ships were just meant to sail together."
When Twilight came to, she almost lost it again right then and there.
Colorful lights assaulted her eyes. Jubilation slammed against her ears. She looked around, and found herself in the middle of a gigantic paved street with dozens of other ponies who were dancing like crazy, lost in their own diversions.
Determined to make sense of the situation, she levitated above the others to get a better view. Immediately upon seeing a stage in the distance, she heard a voice call out over the loudspeakers set around the venue--a venue surrounded by tall buildings and flashing billboards everywhere she looked:
"Yo! Equine Square! You ready to lose yourself to the groove?"
The gathered ponies roared in response.
"That's what I like to hear!" Vinyl, atop a podium onstage, handled records on a turntable backed by two enormous speakers. "DJ Professor V's here to hit you with the notes and the beats, to send you on a trip you'll wanna repeat! 'Cause that's what you get when you ask for the best!" She looked out across the crowd, and her next words were spoken in a calm, controlled voice. "Though, speaking of the best, I see we've got somepony special in the audience. See that purple unicorn in the center of you all? I want her up here. Help me out, will you, guys?"
"Huh? W-whoa!" After another roar from the crowd, Twilight found herself being magically levitated, then pegasus-airlifted over all present, until she reached the front, upon which she was dropped onto some helpful earth ponies who tossed her onto the stage.
The whole while, the music continued.
For the majority of Twilight's transport time, Vinyl appeared lost in her work. As the light of Twilight's aura approached, however, she looked back up. Her work shades were on again--something that, in this light, Twilight could absolutely understand. Her smile upon seeing Twilight became just as bright--something Twilight had even less of a problem with.
"All right! You made it! You actually made it!" With a tiny squeal, Vinyl rushed over and hugged Twilight the second the latter touched down on the podium, hooves shaking as they felt the vibrations of the wooden floor. "I'm so happy you're here." She called out to the audience again by way of the standing microphone close by. "Mares, stallions, party ponies! There are two folks in my life who I owe my current livelihood to, and you're looking at one of 'em right now! Put your hooves together for Twilight Sparkle!"
Twilight blushed under the subsequent cheers, but hugged Vinyl back. "Glad I made it here, too. That said, where is here?"
"Heh heh. Well, I guess I can come clean." Vinyl gestured around them with one hoof. "Welcome to my zone, Twilight. When you see me playing a gig? Unless it's a real knockout, my body might be there, but my mind's usually here. This party in Manehattan was one of my first--and still my best. The party that put me on the map as a DJ."
"I can see why."
"Yeah. I... like to relive it." She sent a jolt of magic to the microphone, switching it off temporarily. "It was here that I realized I wanted to keep going this route in life. I can be as wild and crazy as I want. I can be myself. And so long as I keep the music going, nopony minds. So now, whenever I need a pick-me-up, this show is mine to play whenever I want." Vinyl glanced down, tints of red easily showing across her white face. "But like I said a couple of days ago, this is the first time in a long time I've been able to be myself around somepony else without use of a stage. So thanks, girl."
Twilight nudged Vinyl's face level with one hoof. "Let's get one thing straight. I'm not providing a charity here. I'm here because I want to be. Because you're fascinating--and I don't mean your music or your magic. Just as a person. So there's nothing to thank me for. Okay?"
A silent deepening of Vinyl's blush was her only reply, which quickly disappeared as she visibly willed herself back into her DJ persona. Switching the microphone back on, she walked to the center of the stage, and addressed the gathered ponies, and gave a boisterous shout of, "You guys ready for more?"
The audience cheered, and Twilight watched Vinyl bask in the attention. She was in the midst of wondering if Vinyl had been expecting it, when a string of words echoed in Twilight's mind, unbidden, in Vinyl's voice.
So many ponies... all my friends. I never thought it'd happen, but here we are. And I refuse to forget it.
As the cheers persisted, Twilight looked back out at the crowd, trying to see where it ended, and failed. She looked back at Vinyl, who had a faraway look on her face Twilight had come to know well, even with her shades on. Sensing the moment, she walked over and placed a foreleg reassuringly over her. "Hey. You all right?"
"H-huh?" Vinyl visibly snapped out of her trance. "Oh, whoa, I'm so sorry! Look at me. I'm supposed to be the hostess, and here I am failing hardcore."
Twilight quickly shook her head. "No, no, it's fine! Think nothing of it. But you've got a show to run, right?"
Vinyl sighed in relief. "That's what I love about you, Twilight. Well, one of the things. You don't worry too much. Now that you're here, though, I planned for tonight's concert to go just a little differently from usual."
Twilight blinked towards Equine Square, looking at as many individual ponies as she could. At first glance they seemed to be dancing erratically, but upon closer inspection, she could see that they moved perfectly in time, and in tune, to the music which blared against her ears. The record had changed some minutes ago--now instead of pulses which were like magitechnology put to sound, they were rapid-fire twangs of more familiar and traditional guitars. "Differently? How?"
Vinyl disappeared from the stage, and reappeared above her audience, slowly lowering herself onto the ground as the crowd parted to give her a wide circle all to herself.
"A new act, of course!" And with a blink of the musical unicorn's eyes, Twilight was transported in the midst of the same circle Vinyl occupied. "You dance, Sparkle?'
Twilight was taken aback, as she realized she was utterly surrounded once more. "Wha... d-dance?" she stammered. "W-well, I..." Her voice shook, and she barely resisted shivering as she looked amongst the overwhelming pony crowd. "O-o-only around friends. Sometimes. And when nopony but them are looking."
"Fair enough. Well then..." Vinyl pushed her shades up to give Twilight a clear view of her eyes for the first time since the party had started. "...would you consider me a friend?"
For an instant, as Twilight looked back into Vinyl's eyes, none of the other ponies might as well have existed. She answered with a quiet nod.
Vinyl's smile was as big as a house. "Great! Feeling's mutual. This is my world we're in, and the last thing anypony cares about here is how much of a nerd they really are." She laughed and winked. "'Cause let's face it: if they did, I couldn't be here either."
Twilight nodded again, then gasped as Vinyl took her hoof. She wanted to wonder what Vinyl meant by that, but the sheer volume, not just of the music but everything around her, stopped her whenever she tried to think too deeply about anything.
As if sensing her thoughts, the DJ continued. "There's only one rule here, Twilight: don't care what anypony thinks. Seriously. It just wastes energy better spent making sure you're happy." Vinyl let go. "C'mon. Let's see what moves you've got."
Twilight hesitated. "You really sure you want to?"
"More than anything!" She laughed. "Don't make me beg? I mean, I will if I gotta. But."
Twilight laughed back, her mood lightening. "W-well, all right, then."
She shuffled her hooves, moving and swaying to the music, and for a short while, all was fine. Then her mind finally managed to overcome the music. Memories of her few public ventures in school rushed to the surface.
She'd tried this before. Ponies all around her, just like this. There had been laughter. There had been fun. But it had all been at her expense.
She looked at the crowd, which were all smiles. Were they smiling with her, or silently laughing at her? She had no way of knowing. Twilight Sparkle hated not knowing, ever. Her enthusiasm ebbed, her movements slowed, and she gave a helpless look to Vinyl...
...who she then saw was mirroring her own moves exactly. She also looked genuinely entertained by the activity. Her eyes were on Twilight, her head was swaying, her trademark toothy smile was still there.
She looked around, and noticed something else: through smiles and all, nopony else was actually staring at them. Everypony else was involved in their own unique styles of movement, some of which were positively outlandish in ways that Twilight, for all her lack of technique, had to suppress laughter upon witnessing.
It was just as Vinyl had said: no one else was caring what anypony thought. There was only enjoyment. Enjoyment for themselves, but all in combination, to create one, glorious, gigantic celebration.
Upon realizing this, Twilight made a decision.
She jumped to two hooves, and cut loose.
In the back of her mind, in her heart of hearts, she was sure she looked absolutely dreadful as she hopped and twirled about on the dance floor, with hardly any sense of direction or reasoning. After a while, she wondered why she hadn't bumped into anyone, and looked around herself between moments to discover Vinyl gesturing for other ponies to clear an even larger space for the two of them. Even then, the majority of those other ponies didn't care, and the few who did showed this by... cheering the two of them on?
This was unexpected. This was illogical. This was... this was perfect.
It was what she'd always wanted.
The music continued, and Twilight's dancing became all the more energetic and coordinated. Even while dancing with just her hind legs, her hooves moved along the floor in precise, twisting paths, until her back was against Vinyl's, who had still been mirroring her movements, keeping up with every step.
The music intensified, and the two faced each other, smiling, laughing, dancing past each other and back again. At one point, Vinyl magically tossed Twilight into the sky to cheers, and she could confirm that the crowd truly did stretch on forever. She landed gently into Vinyl's outstretched forelegs, the two once more sharing a gazing moment before Vinyl let her free.
The second she was let back onto her own hooves, Twilight returned the gesture, and was rewarded with the happiest expression she'd ever seen on the young unicorn since they'd met.
The music increased in tempo during its final segments, with both unicorns giving it their all in kind, and the crowd's cheers having elevated to outright hollers. Amidst the swishing of her mane and gyrating of her hips, Twilight's hooves and vision were both a blur until the final cymbal crash--where, at that moment, she jumped as high as she could under her own power, allowing herself to energetically collapse in mid-air.
The possibility of not being caught never crossed her mind--and as it turned out, it had no reason to. She felt a soft, warm, cushioned landing, just as she blissfully closed her eyes.
When Twilight opened her eyes, the party was over.
She was back in the forest, lying face down. She looked in front of herself, and saw Vinyl smiling below her. Where ponies had once surrounded them, there was once more green grass instead. The sun was almost gone, the stretches of dusk lay out before them, and the first stars stole an early appearance in the sky.
Twilight gasped for breath. "Y-... you..."
Vinyl winked. "Yeah, I... had to catch you." Her voice was also breathy, warm against Twilight's cheek. "Looks like somepony's got a wild side they're not telling anyone about."
"N-no, I..." Laughing in blushing embarrassment made it all the harder for Twilight to catch her breath. "I-I'm not-"
Vinyl placed a hoof to Twilight's muzzle. "Don't even try it, girl. You tore up that dance floor like nopony else. Bet you thought you didn't have it in you, either."
"I, well, no, I..." Twilight's labored gasps turned to happy ones. "I just never knew music could be so... s-so..."
"That's one word for it. Another would be 'liberating', I guess. I've never lost myself in myself like that before, much less been so all right with it."
"And that's what happens when you combine music theory and mathematics. Well, more so than normal, anyway. It's all about making your rhythms and melodies sync up perfectly... and then losing yourself in the results, 'cause after that, you don't gotta worry."
Vinyl levitated Twilight just enough to move out from under her. Both stood up, with Vinyl sidling close. "And if you can find somepony to sync with, so much the better, it seems."
"I-I'll remember that," said Twilight, leaning back against her. "Thanks, Vinyl. I've learned quite a lot today. More than I expected."
"You know what?" The two looked out towards the sunset. "I think I have too."
"Twilight! There you are!" Spike rushed towards Twilight as she and Vinyl returned to Golden Oaks. "Pinkie's been waiting for you."
"Huh?" Twilight looked over to see a pink earth pony give a tiny wave. "Oh, hi. What's up?"
"Twilight!" Pinkie was in her face in record time. "I think we might have a problem!"
Twilight thought about it for a second, then answered with, "Rarity again?"
"I wanted to go to her shop to test-drive some new dessert-themed hairstyles. But she's holed herself in! I've tried everything, from singing to dancing to trying to have Gummy undergo tactical espionage action and unlock her door from the inside and she still just won't come out!" She paused. "Gummy's safe. Rarity screamed the second she saw him and tossed him back out the window."
"You don't say." Twilight rolled her eyes, then froze as she realized. "Wait. You mean to tell me she's been in Carousel Boutique all day?"
"Yeah! And it's been closed all day, too!"
"I..." Twilight sighed. "I don't know. It's largely our fault she's like this, and I don't know what to do about it. I'm not sure if it's right to just barge in on her."
"Don't say that!" Pinkie clutched Twilight's shoulders. "You're the one who always has the plans! I planned on this! If you don't have a plan to plan us out of this then I can't go ahead with my plans to-" Pinkie went taut upon finally sensing the fourth party in the room. She turned to look, and, upon seeing who it was, her eyes and mouth went wide in jubilation.
"Uh..." Vinyl took a step back and blinked. "...hey there?"
"Oh my goooooooooooosh! IT'S DJ PON-3!" Pinkie squealed. "Like, right here! In front of me!"
And then it was Vinyl's turn to freeze. "Well, I'll be d--somepony really can pronounce it. Where were you last month? I had a press conference that went really badly." She shook her head. "Oh well. I'm probably going to drop it, so it's a moot po-"
"What? No way! Are you kidding? I love that name!"
Vinyl blinked again, visibly thrown for a loop. "Okay. While we're on the subject of names, what's yours?"
The pink pony bounced in place. "I'm Pinkie Pie, Ponyville's premiere party planning pony!"
"You're the one Twilight mentioned the other day." The two hugged. "Nice to meet you."
"And it's sooooooo absolutely nice to meet you," Pinkie said, handing Vinyl a white balloon with sunglasses drawn on it in magic marker.
Vinyl stared at it. "Did... did you just make this in the space of half a second?"
Pinkie shrugged. "Maybe? I dunno. I do things. You like it?"
"I..." Vinyl had few words to reply with. "Yeah, I do, actually. Thanks."
"No problem! Oh, and don't worry about your name, either! I'm going to reveal the secret of pronouncing it to everypony! It'll totally stick once I'm done! You'll never know what you did without it!"
Vinyl groaned. "I'm doomed, aren't I?"
Twilight giggled. "Better announce that new name fast."
"Yeah, looks like." She watched Pinkie herd Spike over to help her look for books on baking before adding, "Hey, so, about today..."
"Oh, right!" Twilight perked up. "I really enjoyed today's, um, magic lesson."
"You did? I mean, uh, me too." Vinyl paused. "Wait, you really did?"
Twilight nodded with a smile. "Magic studies usually involve stacks and stacks of books. And while I love books, I'm also a fan of trying new things. Today definitely counts as that. So thanks so much. "
"You're totally welcome! I-If you want another session..." A card was manifested out of thin air and floated towards Twilight. "...here's where I'm staying for the next few days. You wanna stop by, my doors are always open for ya'. See you when I do." Her shades went back on, and she called out. "Pinkie Pie, huh? Just what kind of parties do you plan?"
"Oh, all sorts!" said Pinkie as she came back over, and she and Vinyl made their exit. "Birthdays to weddings to cruises to get-togethers to dances to pageants to..."
Twilight Sparkle looked up upon hearing her name. The voice was familiar, and the only one she would expect around this hour--a quick glance at the clock said midnight. Still, she decided to verify. "Another late-night craving, Spike? You'll get fat."
"And you'll go blind." Spike walked down the steps towards Twilight, who was reading by way of several candles and a light from her horn. "More late-night studying?"
"Mmmmm, not quite." Twilight raised her head and looked at him. "But actually, I'm glad you're here! I'll need you in just a bit."
Spike wandered over to a wall safe. "You've got until I finish my midnight snack."
"Please, Spike?" said Twilight as the dragon entered the combination. Several small clicks were heard, until the safe door opened with a final, louder click. "This is actually really important."
Spike gave a mock dramatic sigh. "Oh, all right. I'll make it a big jewel and take small bites." He grabbed a large emerald and walked back to his comrade. "What're you reading, anyway?"
"My old alumni yearbook."
Spike craned his head to look at the cover. "The Canterlot School For Gifted Unicorns? Thought you didn't try to think about those years too much." He sat in front of Twilight, who draped her forelegs around him.
"I don't. But I'm looking for somepony. Vinyl Scratch told me she graduated from here, but I don't see her name or picture anywhere." She flipped through several pages, then stopped. "Sure see mine, though. Ugh. I looked terrible."
"Awww, I thought you were cute."
Twilight scoffed. "You were one dragon's year old. You thought the upholstery looked cute. Also, edible."
"Heh heh. True." Spike thought for some moments. "Are there any ponies who kind of look like her? You know. Almost all white..."
"Not a bad place to start, I agree. Let me look." She sifted through more pages. "Gosh, this'd be easier if these showed cutie marks. Nothing but head shots here."
"Hang on! What about this unicorn here?" Spike pointed to a picture. "Blue mane, white coat--but wow, other than those, she looks nothing like her."
"No kidding," Twilight said. "Seriously, the others here at least combed their manes. And check out the size of those glasses!"
Spike did his best to hold in his laughter and failed. "Guess I was off, huh?"
"Don't feel bad, I...wait." Twilight's mouth widened in realization. "Wait a minute! Vinyl's a total math geek! And the header at the top of this page says 'Department of Mathematics'!"
"Vinyl? A math nerd?" Spike did a double-take. "Are we talking about the same DJ pony here?"
Twilight ignored him, looking at the name under the picture. "'Binary Match'... why does that name sound so famili-"
Instantly, voices flashed in her mind--voices she'd long forgotten.
"I'm so sorry, Binary. I didn't know."
"Nopony did. It's not your fault. It's not even Princess Celestia's fault. It's mine."
"No it's not-"
"Yes it is! You know, I once thought that by mixing math with magic, you could do anything! But it looks like I was wrong. Some problems, you just can't solve."
"Because I was there!" Twilight said, sitting up. "Spike, take a letter, quick!"
"Huh? To who?"
"Princess Celestia, of course. Who else?"
"At this hour?"
"She'll be up. She's still doing her best to mend her relationship with her sister, so this is actually one of the best times I can reach her."
"Huh. Makes sense." Spike fetched a quill and scroll. "Fire away."
Twilight cleared her throat. "'Dear Princess Celestia, my studies of advanced unicorn magic and of the magic of friendship have come to a compelling intersection.'"
Spike's writing slowed as he clearly showed signs of having trouble. "Um... com.. pail..."
"Grrr... c-o-m-p-e-l-l-i-n-g-i-n-t-e-r-s-e-c-t-i-o-n!" Twilight half-yelled, a frantic edge lacing her voice.
Spike froze. "Okay, I get it. This is important to you. Sheesh."
Twilight caught her breath. "It is. Sorry, though."
"S'okay." Spike wrote down the letters.
"Thanks. Anyway. 'I hereby request access to Canterlot school records for two mares by the names of Binary Match and Magical Melody. Nothing privacy invading, I just want to check some facts. Thank you. Your Faithful Student, Twilight Sparkle.'"
"Got it!" Spike rolled up the scroll and breathed green fire onto it, causing to disappear. Ten minutes later, he let out a huge fiery belch. "Ugh. Maybe I should switch to sapphires."
"No, Spike," she said, pointing to the stack of folder-separated papers his belch had yielded. "It's the materials I asked for. Princess Celestia found them!"
"Whew, thank goodness. Emeralds have way too much flavor for me to give up."
A letter rested atop the papers.
My Cherished Student Twilight Sparkle,
I suppose you're now old enough to handle information such as what you've requested. However, please keep in mind: some things are harder than others, for either unicorn's or friendship's magic, to overcome.
I trust you will use these materials to make the right decisions.
Twilight looked inside one folder. "These are school records for Binary Match--as well as a full picture. Look, Spike, it is her! Her cutie mark's the same and everything!"
"I don't understand any of this stuff, though," said Spike, looking through another folder. "It's just a bunch of weird words I've never heard before."
"Oh, that? That must be Magical Melody's file." She looked inside. "Hmm. All we've got is a filly's picture." She continued to leaf through. "Special talent, prodigy in song and music, life-altering affli-" Twilight froze. "Spike, these aren't school records."
Spike scratched his head. "They're not?"
Twilight looked somberly at the papers in front of her. "No. They're medical records."