Make A Mistake With Me - Chapter 3: Backlash for the Lonely - by MistakeAnon

>Sirens. >Three creatures from another world. >Depicted as combination of women and birds in ancient Greece. >… But apparently bear more resemblance to horses and fishes, if the subjects in question are to be believed. >They sow disharmony among the populace with their magical songs, and then feed off the negative energy released, growing stronger. >However, if their red jewels are destroyed, they’ll lose most of their powers as that is the crystallization of the magical energy they’ve gathered. >A certain purple-haired grump likened it to losing all your EXP. >Subject #1: Adagio Dazzle. >The leader. Bossy and diabolical, with a surprisingly competitive attitude. >Unlike her ‘sisters’, her calm appearance belies her true nature, which could be the most aggressive out of all the Dazzlings. >Says she excels in the ‘authority’ aspect of sounds, forcing everyone to obey her will. >Monarch Song. >Personal Assessment: The Poof. >Subject #2: Aria Blaze. >The second-in-command. Surly and aggressive, she’s easily provoked to bouts of verbal and physical abuse. >However, since she rarely gets a specific target for her anger, her outbursts just resemble acts of hysteria. >Says she excels in the ‘strife’ aspect of sounds, driving a wedge between even the closest of friends with simple utterance. >Trickster Song. >Personal Assessment: The Aloof. >Subject #3: Sonata Dusk. >The third one. Carefree and something of an airhead, she often acts before she thinks, leading to trouble. >Due to her innocent heart, her cruel moments may come across as strange, but as with all the sirens it is simply her nature. >Says she excels in the “power” aspect of sounds, being capable of dealing actual physical damage with her voice. >Knight Song. >Personal Assessment: The Goof. >Subject #4: Anonymous. >You. The guy who just found this out. >”HEAAAAT OF THE MOMENT!” >Your hand flies out from under the covers before you even realize it, and hits the snooze button. >Goddammit. >You barely got any sleep. >And now you have to listen to the best of 80’s progressive rock. >Groaning in agony, you turn around and stare at the off-white ceiling. >Your body hurts. >Hurts to the point you want to call in sick. >Alas, you have to pay your dues, no matter how unpleasant. >A particularly probable conversation with Principal Celestia was most likely in plans today. >So, school it is. “But still… gotta remember to swing by the hospital later today.” >You murmur as you shuffle to the bathroom. >Urination in Process. “That sonar did a number on me…” >After relieving yourself and taking a quick shower, it’s back to the kitchen for you. >The black-and-white clock on the wall informs you’ve got a bit over an hour to get to school. >Grumbling curses, you switch on the coffeemaker. >Time for a desperate search for breakfast. >Unfortunately, it’s not like your apartment magically grew anything edible during last night. >Well, something living probably grows in the trash bags that litter the room, but that’s beside the point. >Therefore, you’re forced to devour the meager leftovers of last night’s Chinese takeout. “Tastes like Mr. Yunioshi’s Bargain-Bin-Death. Jesus.” >You spit most of the remaining noodles back into the sink. >Even you have limits to what you can eat. >So, once again it looks like your breakfast consists of nothing but nicotine and caffeine. >Sighing to yourself, you light up the first cigarette of the day as you pour yourself coffee. >To be honest, neither of them tastes like anything this morning. >Your mind is already in other things. >Namely the stuff you heard last night. >About the Dazzlings and their true nature. >Who they are and where they came from. >What happened to them and why things are as they are for them. >It was a lot to take in. >Alternate world where there were no humans. >Banishment by unicorn-Merlin. >Survival through centuries in this world. >Finally finding a glimpse of their world’s magic in this very school… only to lose it. >And also to lose their red jewels. >Along with a Battle of the Bands. >All because they had tried to take over the school in a rather… evil manner. “I guess they got what was coming to them…” >You take a sip of your coffee as you gaze out of the window. >The radio behind you blares out another song. >Sure, the Dazzlings had undoubtedly been villainous. >The Rainbooms had all the reason in the world to stop them from mind-controlling everyone. >But, at the same time, you couldn’t help but to understand those three a little. >They had been stuck in this world for a very long time. >If you were put in a similar situation, you were pretty sure you’d have done the same. >Whatever was necessary to get back home. >Or, at the very least, get back what you had lost. >… Too bad they had ended up losing even more in the process. >You now understood why the Dazzlings were initially so pensive towards reigniting their musical passion. >It must’ve bought up some bad memories. >You feel like slapping the past-you for being so stubborn. >Things had turned out alright, but still… “Well, be that as it may, they’re still villains in the eyes of other students.” >And by extension, you were probably one too. >You hadn’t known what they had done before, and thus, had no reservations about them. >But even if you had… things most likely would have ended up the same. >You weren’t anywhere close to being a ‘good guy,’ after all. >Mean, bullheaded, violent, easy to anger… >There were many words all the ‘normal’ people had used to describe you. >In that sense, you fit together with the Dazzlings just fine. >Suddenly, you realize that the song on the radio has changed. [Embed: Bad Company - Bad Company] >You chuckle as you take a drag from your cigarette. “You said it, brotha.” >You grin at the radio. >Sometimes you were sure the thing was sentient. >However, no matter how long you stare it, it shows no acknowledgment of your amusement. >Heaving a sigh, you gulp down the last of the coffee and stump your cigarette. >Enough introspection. >You and the Dazzlings were what you were. >To hell what others thought. >Villains or good guys… you couldn’t care less. >Really, after what you had been through with them, you didn’t even care if they were otherworldly monsters. >To you, they were only three things. >Adagio. >Aria. >And Sonata. >Your friends. >Nothing more, nothing less. >A revelation like this did nothing to change stuff in the long run. >Sure enough, it might’ve summoned out some weird trans-dimensional creature that was after them, but eh. >Like Adagio had said last night: >”We’ll deal it when it comes down to it.” >None of you knew anything about the freak you had encountered last night with Sonata. >So, the only thing you could do was wait. >Strangelove had said that she’d see you the day after tomorrow. >Annoyingly enough, she hadn’t even been home last night. >You had banged on the door, but got no response. >But… she might have gotten back now. >She did say you were free to talk to her even before the appointment. >Even a bit of info would have been nice. “… Might as well try it.” >You put on your heavier leather jacket. >The morning outside looks rather chilly. >The fur lining should come in handy. >Whistling to yourself, you grab your school bag and head outside. >Coffee burning in your veins has given you some new energy to face today’s challenges head-on. >… As long as they didn’t involve endless alleyways. >You had gotten enough of those for a lifetime. >Your hand hits the wooden surface of the door to the rhythm of Bad Company. >The song stuck to your head. >You haven’t heard any explosions this morning, so you don’t know if Strangelove is around, but— >”Yes? Who is it?” >Well. >Looks like she is. >And it seems she’s rather chipper, judging from the sound of her voice. >All the better. “G’morning, Strangelove. Looks like you haven’t blown yourself up yet.” >”Ah, if it isn’t Anoxiamous!” >You grind your teeth in frustration. “Don’t insinuate I suffer from a complete and total lack of oxygen. The name’s Anonymous, as you very well know.” >You hear her nasally laughter. >She’s enjoying herself far too much. >”But! You’re the one who keeps calling me ‘Stranglelove’!” “I’ve never called you such a violent form of affection!” >”And thus, here we spar.” “What’s gotten into you!? You’re acting particularly bloodthirsty today!” >”Ere we mar?” “No, let’s not go that far. The last thing I need right now is more wounds!” >She huffs in mock-annoyance. >”Then what do you suggest? You’re not leaving me much of a choice here.” “First of all, let’s stick to something peaceful! You know, love and peace or how they say it?” >”Peace? What’s with this strange, foreign word?” “You don’t even *know* what it means!?” >”Ah, right, right! I did see it once in a thrift store. Peace, sold for 20 dollars apiece.” >Your frustration shifts to momentary amazement. “What sorta thrift store sells peace that cheaply!?” >”Looks like the demand was on quite the increase. They must’ve smuggled every piece.” “In that case, call the police! There’s no need for smuggled peace! That’s horrible!” >”It’s humanity’s caprice.” >Your last outburst leaves you breathing heavily, leaning on the door. >Once again, talking with Strangelove was like solving a crossword-puzzle while drunk. >On *ether*. >”Well, talk of humanity’s dark desires aside, Anonymous; what can I do for you?” >Looks like the conversation has finally returned to the land of the sane. >You sigh and scratch your head. “Well, first of all, I wanted to thank you for last night. You really did save our hides back then.” >To your surprise, there’s a small, awkward silence following your words of gratitude. >”Last… night, you say? What for?” >What? “Well… for your phone call. It’s what really saved us when we were stuck in that weirdo-dimension.” >Another silence. >No, not quite. You hear a sound of pen meeting paper. Furious scribbling. >”Y-yes, of course. That phone call. Sorry, must’ve slipped my mind, since it was so early. Well, you’re quite welcome.” “I know you said we should meet later, but is there anything you could tell about what happened? You sounded like you had some ideas last night.” >A stifled cough. >”Unfortunately, not at the moment. I… haven’t researched enough data. You know, about this… weirdo dimension.” >Something in her tone sounds oddly stiff. “Really? Last night you said something about two places being there at once and thus losing all ways out or something.” >She laughs again. This time a bit forcedly. >”Yes, yes, but, ah, well, you know how it is. I don’t want to present anything as a fact before I manage to be reasonably sure. Just wait till this meeting we agreed upon. When… when was that, again?” >Huh? >Now this is getting just weird. “Day after tomorrow, 9pm sharp. Just like you said.” >”Of course, of course! Good, you remembered!” >More scribbling. >”Oh, speaking of times: can you remember at what time I called you, Anonymous?” “Erm, I think it was around 2am. I’m not totally sure. Why?” >”Nothing, just checking. You know, so I can run calculations later.” >Calculations for what? >Is researching what happened that delicate a process? >”Well, in any event, work calls again, Anonymous! You know how it is, SCIENCE and all that. You should hurry to school, too. As said, we’ll talk more later.” >Now she’s shutting you out already? >What was going on? >Every time you talked with her, this mad scientist got weirder and weirder. “A’ight. I’ll catch up with you—“ >Wait. >You just remembered something. >Slipping your hand into your pocket, you fish out a crumpled post-it note. “Ah, that’s right. After we got out of that alleyway, I found this weird note in my car. Plus, someone had smoked one of my cigarettes.” >”Note? Let me see.” >To your surprise, something unthinkable happens. >The door leading to the basement opens ever so slightly. >From the darkness, a purple-hued hand reaches out and grabs the note. >You can see that a sleeve of a lab-coat covers the hand in question. >Then, just as quickly, the hand retreats. >”Hmm… Anonymous? What brand of cigarettes do you smoke?” >The hell? “Uh, Lucky Bastard. Why?” >You hear how Strangelove clicks her tongue in annoyance. >The door opens again, and she shoves the note back to you. >”That Aloha shirt wearing freak…” >You hear her annoyed grumble as she shuts the door. >”Don’t worry about it too much. If I’m right, the one who wrote that note is just a meddler with too much time in his hands.” “… Okay, then?” >”Keep the note. It should come in handy at some point. Just… just remember that if you see this guy in oddly mismatching clothes, stay away from him. He might help you, but he’ll also make your life more complicated than it needs to be.” >A guy in mismatched clothes? >And didn’t she say something about Aloha shirts just now? >You make a solemn promise of avoiding any fruity Hawaii-types in the near future. “Sure. I’ll keep that in mind. I’ll talk to you later, alright?” >”Indeed you will. See you around, Anonymous?” >And with that confusing remark, Strangelove leaves you. >You only hear the sound of her retreating steps, which soon disappear. >Looks like you got all out of her that you were going to get. >Time to head to school, then. “And the pile of questions just grows. The joy…” >Nobody hears your grumbles. >Not Strangelove or whatever God of Irony that keeps watch over you. >Outside your apartment building, the weather is just about what you expected. >Cold wind blows from somewhere, making you wrap your jacket around you tighter. >You hurry to your car while rubbing your hands together to keep them warm. >If things got even colder, you might have to invest to a car heater. >No sense in freezing your ass off during commute. >With a rumble, your Buick comes alive. “At least you understand what I’m going through, Baby.” >You pet the steering wheel. >The GSX purrs in response. >God you loved this car. >It was like a gigantic cat. >The headlights throw their cones towards the dim dawning of the day, piercing final remnants of last night. >Right now, it feels just like another nightmare. >One among the many you’ve seen. >Determined to keep a hold of that feeling, you steer out of the parking lot and into the street. >As you do, you fumble through the glove department. >You pick a random cassette and stick it into the radio. >Last night’s tape was currently on the floor. >You wouldn’t need to listen to Nick Cave for quite a while. [Embed: Foreigner - Long, Long Away From Home] >You grin. >It’s been a while since you heard this one. >Drumming along to the song, you make a sharp turn. >About fifteen minutes worth of travelling. >Enough time for a song or two. “It was a Monday! Day like any other day!” >It’s been a while since you actually sung. >You had almost forgotten how liberating it could feel. “I left the small town for the apple in decay!” >The car growls, as if to accompany you. >As you pull to the parking lot of CHS, you notice a peculiar reaction. >The moment your Saturn Yellow car came into sight, the students gathered there disperse like a flock of seagulls. >Looks like some rumors travel fast. >As do their consequences. >Smiling bitterly to yourself, you park your car and turn off the engine. >It’s nothing you weren’t expecting, really. >Maybe not this early in the day, but you had predicted some cold glances and nasty whispers. >But outright fear? >That’s new. >Maybe they were already assured that you were a complete psycho, ready to punch nearest guy’s teeth down his throat. >You chuckle as you step out of the car. >Should make for an interesting school day, at the very least. >Maybe the Dazzlings wouldn’t get so much flak today, though. New, fresher target after all. >There could be a silver lining even to a storm cloud. >And speaking of the Dazzlings… “Anon!” >0.0 Seconds: You hear a familiar call. >0.2 Seconds: You start turning your head. >0.4 Seconds: You see a blue blur rapidly approaching, most likely breaking the sound barrier in the process. >0.6 Seconds: You begin a scream of surprise and shock. >0.8 Seconds: The long legs stomping against the asphalt jump, carrying their owner high up in the air. >1.0 Seconds: Sonata collides into your chest with a force of a small battering ram. >”Anoooooon!” >The pain. Oh god, the pain. >It’s like your ribs were shattered upon the impact. “S-S-Sonata, what the HELL!?” >Warning. >Some sort of base life form is currently clinging onto you like you were a jungle gym. >She’s also far too happily nuzzling her face against your chest. >Nothing good can come out of this bizarre situation. >Seek escape immediately. >”Iwasafraidyouweren’tcomingtoschoolafterwhatyouheardaboutusbutyoucameafterallsoI’msupersuperhappy!” >Could you repeat that while the high-speed camera is rolling, Sonata? “Okay, I get it! I get it that you’re happy! But still, please, GET OFF ME!” >You try to shake off the hyperactive lemur currently hanging onto your shoulders. >Easier said than done. >In fact, it looks like Sonata is actively enjoying the ride. >Her legs swing back and forth in the air, but her grip shows no signs of breaking. >”Ahahaha! Again, Anon! Again!” >Dear lord. >She’s giggling on frequencies only dogs should hear. >This isn’t right. >”Mmm, just like I thought! Hugging you is the best, for realsies!” >To your horror, she nuzzles her face against you with even more vigor. >”You smell like deodorant, old leather, gasoline and smoke! Ahaha, it’s like hugging a big ol’ bear!” >Warning! >Too close! >Comfort zone breached! “You might enjoy this, but I don’t! Get off me, you crazy goof! I refuse to be your hug pillow! This is disgusting! Stop sniffing me!” >Truth to be told, it wasn’t disgusting at all. >Exactly the opposite, in fact. >Unfortunately, that produced a whole slew of other problems. >Especially during morning when those problems already were sorta out of control every now and then. >”Nooope~! I said last night we’d continue, and, like, now I will!” >Like an Olympic acrobat, she swings her leg against your torso and wraps them around you. >For the first time in your life, you got to experience how it felt like to be a baby monkey’s mother. >Not a fan. >Definitely not a fan. >Luckily all the other students had abandoned the parking lot earlier. Therefore, there was no one to witness your suffering. >You might as well just performed a suicide right then and there if someone— >”Well well, Anonymous. Looks like you’re enjoying your morning.” >Oh. >God no. >No no no no no—! >”Ugh. You’re the worst.” >There, only few feet away, initially obscured by the bouncing blue hair that blocked your vision… >… Were Adagio and Aria. >While the Adagio seems to be deriving some sort of sadistic pleasure form your predicament, the Aria looks ready to murder. >Whether you or Sonata, that point is moot. >Her face simply tells that someone would die soon. >And while the idea of death had seemed inviting just few seconds ago, something told you that if it happened in Aria’s hands, it wouldn’t be a peaceful one. >Time for evasive action. >”Anon?” >You lift your head and look at Adagio. “Yes?” >”Why are you trying to sneak back into your car as if we could not see you?” >… Evasive action: failed. >It looks like there’s no running away from this Boss Battle. >”Not to mention that if you were to carry Sonata away in such a sloth-like manner, I’m afraid I would have to let Aria here loose.” >Never before have you distanced yourself from your car with such speed. >”After all, if we let you leave, this could very well become an incident involving the police. I can already see the headlines: ‘A high school delinquent kidnaps a classmate in a most bizarre physical fashion!’” >Nope. >That was just about the last headline you wanted to see. “Well, if you’re so worried then *help me*! I’m being held against my will. Literally!” >Adagio chuckles. >”I’m sorry, Anonymous. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” “Why not, HAL!?” >”Well, it was us in the first place who asked Sonata to capture you.” >Huh? Capture? >Now you’re feeling a new type of dread. “… Why?” >Just like you feared, Adagio’s expression grows more serious. >Even Sonata seems to stiffen a bit around you. “Principal Celestia wants to see you in her office immediately.” >Principal Celestia. >Immediately upon hearing those words, you can feel the atmosphere grow sour. >Well, of course. >Why wouldn’t she want to see you? >You had assaulted another student yesterday. >Not to mention you had a nice little shouting spat in the middle of the hallway. >Whether it was because of genuine concern for her ‘subjects’, or just to save a face, there had to be a discussion. >Still, you would have thought it wouldn’t happen right now. >In fact, you had expected to wait for whole day to hear that mechanical sound from the PA system call for you. >… Perhaps, just perhaps, principal Celestia wanted to avoid humiliating you in front of your class. “Alright. Gotcha. I’ll head over there immediately.” >You say this with as much gusto as you can. >Too bad your voice still sounds like you’re off to the death row. >Switching gears to a more serious one, you pry Sonata’s hands off you. >She plops back on her feet, looking at you with concern in her raspberry eyes. >”Anon… will you be okay?” >You give her a lopsided grin. “Sure. She’s just gonna chew me out some. Don’t worry, I’m used to it.” >”For realsies? I don’t think that’s something anyone should be used to.” >Well, she’s got you there. >Adagio, on the other hand, pats you on the shoulder. >She might be wearing that smug smile of hers, but you can see her eyes are dead serious. >”Just act like your usual irritable self. I’m sure principal Celestia will want to avoid spending too much time in the same room with you.” “A’ight. I’ll come to bitch about it to you, then.” >She chuckles. >”I’m looking forward to it.” >Aria… >Well, looks like Aria has nothing to say. >She has her arms folded, and is staring grumpily at the asphalt. >With a tired sigh, you wave the others goodbye and start trudging towards the main building. ”— Ow.” >Only to be stopped by a punch to your side. >To your surprise, Aria interrupted your march. >She still refuses to look at you, though. >”Don’t do anything stupid, you moron. We’ve got enough problems of our own to deal with.” >Well, that’s a surprise. >She sounds genuinely worried. >For a moment, you don’t know how to respond. >Eventually, you settle for a wordless reassurance. >You softly pet her head, causing her eyes to snap at you from surprise. >Yeah, surprise. Not disgust, amazingly enough. “I’ll see you three later, then.” >Having said that, you continue your walk. >The school-building ahead of you looms like some sort of ancient monster. >And it’s your job to foolishly venture into its stomach, where the heart of the beast awaits. >You really weren’t looking forward to meeting principal Celestia. >Not because you didn’t want to hear what she had to say. >No, it was simply because… >Well. >You had heard the same lecture over and over again in the past. >As if people thought they were the first ones to notice your personality. >Inside the school, the mood is hardly different. >Whispers. >Stares. >Avoiding your path. >In other words, people doing whatever the hell they wanted. >It was a rather grimly amusing sight, to be honest. >You feel like laughing. >Instead, you settle for a sour smile and head to the principal’s office. >Now this place started to feel like home. >Back when you used to live to the east. >After that incident, all you got was similar reactions wherever you went. >At least this time, you didn’t hear anyone wishing it: ‘had been you instead.’ >No, now it was just your typical high school antics. >Too bad they couldn’t shut you outside their social circles. >It’s not as if you were in any of them. >Such thoughts as your company, you arrive to the office. >You knock. >”Enter.” >You notice the difference immediately. >When you had first talked with the principal, her voice had been calm and gentle. >Now there was definite a steely edge to it. >Grimacing to yourself, you open the door and enter the office beyond it. >The office itself is nice, if dimly lit. >The furniture is pleasantly arranged, centered around an old mahogany desk with some rather fruity emblems carved into it. >Add in the flag and the shelves filled with books and trophies, and you have yourself a very standard ‘principal’s office’ that the students dread. >And speaking of dread… >”Ah. Anonymous. You’re here at last. Have a seat.” >Your asscheeks clench at that tone. >Staring over the desk at you, her elbows leaning against the wooden surface and fingers intertwined, is principal Celestia. >And she doesn’t look a damn bit happy. >The stare of those amethyst eyes bores into you with the force of an industrial jackhammer. >You instinctively avert your gaze as you sit down. >”I presume you already know why I called you here?” “… Yeah.” >There was no reason to play dumb. >What you had done was already big news at CHS. >Plus it wasn’t as if you could fool this woman. >”Yesterday, after school, you assaulted another student. One Mr. Flash Sentry. In addition, it seems you got into a heated argument with Sunset Shimmer.” >Shit. >You thought you had already gotten over it, but being reminded wasn’t fun at all. >”I trust I don’t have to tell you that these are both rather serious occurrences, right?” >Another uncomfortable silence. “… Yeah.” >You just keep repeating that word. >”I understand the circumstances which brought you to CHS were… less than happy, but even so, laying your hands on another student isn’t something I can allow.” >Her eyes narrow. >”Nothing excuses behavior like that. Do you understand?” >You slump in your chair, unable to do more than nod. “… Yeah.” >Suddenly, you hear a light scraping sound against the wooden desk. >To your surprise, you see principal Celestia moving the silver ashtray on her desk closer to you. >… The hell? >”Do you need to smoke?” >You stare at her in disbelief. >Was she seriously asking that question? >Or was she just trying to lure into a trap of some sort? Add more to your list of misdeeds? >You can’t help but to glare at the ashtray with suspicion. “… Sorry, Principal, but it was my understanding that this was smoke-free campus.” >You choose your words carefully. “It would be going against the rules if I smoked here, no?” >You shoot her a glance, expecting to see more of the previous coldness. >To your surprise, it’s gone. >Instead, Celestia is looking at you with a bit of a sad smile. >”Like I said, Anonymous: I understand the reasons that brought you here to CHS. In other words, I read your file. I know why you picked up the habit.” >It’s clear from her eyes that she’s not judging you. >In fact, it’s almost like she *truly* understands. >”I might not condone it or encourage it, but I can tolerate it. Perhaps not on the campus, but here in my own office, it’s okay. After all…” >The sound you hear from her mouth is most surprising. >She actually chuckles. >”… If you’re tensed up like that, you have an expression like you’re ready to kill someone. It’s a bit difficult to talk with you like that.” >You touch your face and realize she’s not kidding. >All your facial muscles are strained to the utmost. >It’s a bit of a surprise you aren’t actually snarling. >… Were you really this afraid of meeting the principal? “Then… then, I suppose I’ll have one. Under student-teacher confidentiality, of course.” >Celestia nods. >”Of course.” >You heave a sigh and fumble for the pack in your pocket. >You pop one cigarette to your lips and light it up. >Soon enough, the bitter smoke drifts towards the ceiling. >”Feeling better?” >You laugh dryly at her question. “Not really. It’s not like this is some miracle herb. But, habit’s a habit. You’d be surprise how brain can associate one thing with another.” >She nods. >”I can see that. It’s been over a month since you arrived, and I believe this is the first time you’ve looked me in the eyes.” >You pause. >… Huh. She was actually right. >You hadn’t met the principal that many times, but every time you did, you felt the instinctive need to avert your gaze. >Maybe it was her gentle demeanor, or that sun-like aura of warmth, but… something about her seemed always too bright to you. >Like a cowardly animal, you always avoided her. “Another habit, I suppose.” >You brush the topic aside with an excuse. >She’s clearly not buying it, though. >”From what I understand, this hasn’t been a problem with the Dazzlings. I take it that you’ve begun trusting them, then?” >You take a drag from your cigarette and frown. >Again? >Was she about to start the same spiel as Baconswirl? “I suppose so, yeah. Is that a problem?” >”No. Frankly speaking, I’m glad. It’s good that you’ve found someone to share your adolescence with.” >Now that’s a fancy way of putting it. >But then again, she’s not wrong either. >”In any event, back to the matter at hand.” >Principal Celestia clears her throat. >”You’ll be glad to know that you won’t be suspended. Indeed, Mr. Sentry will not be pressing any charges. According to him, he accidentally aggravated an already explosive situation. In other words, he claims it was mostly his fault. Your reaction was not a model one, but apparently he understands it.” >You cough smoke in surprise. >The hell? >The guy you drove through a locker isn’t angry about it!? >”He did not suffer any extensive damage either. Just some bruises that’ll heal in time.” >A weight you didn’t even know existed rolls off your shoulders. >That’s one less thing to worry about. >No hospital bills to pay on top of everything else. >Celestia smiles upon seeing your relief. >However, her expression dims a little. >”The more problematic reaction to what happened is that of Sunset Shimmer’s.” >You feel a tinge of irritation immediately when you hear that name. >Well of course. >While the guy you beat up might have laughed it off, not Ms. Meat-Skewer-So-Far-Up-Her-Ass-It-Became-Her-Hair. >Oh, no, she had to create more trouble. “What? Is she throwing a hissy fit or something?” >You express your distaste with your words, which only seems to amuse Celestia. >”Apparently, she’s too busy being depressed to feel angry at you.” >You let out a small groan of confusion. “Huh? Depressed? Why?” >Celestia seems still amused by your reactions, but there’s a hint of seriousness in her eyes. >”Your vehement opposition to her way of handling things, as well as your proclamation that you didn’t like her on a personal level seem to have shocked her quite badly.” >Well, that’s what you get when you push your pampered views onto someone else. >”I don’t know the whole truth of it, but if I had to guess… well, I suppose Sunset Shimmer expected that if anyone would agree with her, it would be a person like you.” >Huh? >Now you’re even more confused. >What was that supposed to mean? >”In a sense, the two of you have rather similar pasts. You’ve both done things you aren’t proud of, and you’ve paid the price. However, the ways you’ve climbed back to your feet are completely different. I suppose you two are two sides of a same coin?” >Wait, what? >Since when did Baconswirl have a rough past? >”I guess being rejected so violently by someone she thought as akin to herself was a shock to her.” >Celestia looks at you with a raised eyebrow. >Celestia sighs softly. >”It also seems that she has not shown up at school today. That, if anything, tells us that she’s taking this rather hard.” >You stubbornly stare at the burning tip of your cigarette. >”That’s why I’d like you to apologize to her when she finally does come back.” >What!? “W-wait just a minute! Why me? Why the hell would I apologize to her? She’s the one who started it all yesterday!” >Celestia nods. >”Of course, I’m expecting her to apologize to you, too. However, remember that while you are not being suspended from school after what happened, you are still to be punished.” >She smiles sweetly and still manages to send a shiver down your spine. >Something tells you it’s best not to argue this. >”Think of this as a part of that punishment.” >You grumble silently and lean back in your chair. >It’s not like you can argue your way out of this. You did make a mistake. >And now you had to man up and take the responsibility. >Still, it wasn’t easy. >After all, your stomach still churned angrily at the thought of meeting with Baconswirl again. >Looks like your anger is still far from dissipating. >… Or, perhaps not. >After all, you *did* drink a cup of coffee this morning. >Sonata had compared the coffee you brewed to lava. >It wasn’t unthinkable for it to cause you heartburn. >To be honest, what you were currently feeling felt more like that than real anger. >Really, being stubborn because of your caffeine intake was just childish. >You’d just need to brew something a little lighter come tomorrow. >No doubt that would calm your upset stomach right quick. “Fine, fine. I’ll apologize to her when she shows her face. I promise.” >Celestia smiles at that. >”I’ll be counting on you, then.” >Damn coffee. >Making you act like an idiot. “Still, Principal Celestia… you said that Ba… Sunset Shimmer had a past similar to mine. Not only her, but I’ve met… some other people who also said they had suffered in the past.” >You take a drag from your cigarette and cock an eyebrow. “Is this common at CHS?” >Celestia seems a bit surprised by your question, and takes her time to answer. >She leans back in her big, comfy chair and stares at the ceiling. >Eventually she starts speaking. >”The way I see it, Anonymous, a school is a place of learning. Not just in the common sense of the word, but also in a more worldly sense. A school trains people the rules and norms of society that awaits us, but through the lens of adolescence. We understand what is wrong and what is right thanks to what we experienced in school.” >Her eyes return to stare at you. >For some reason, you find it hard to break the eye contact. >”Of course, this means that fights, quarrels, sorrow and heartache also happen, just like they do in the world out there. There’s no way around that. It’s just one of life’s many aspects. We all make mistakes.” >A ghost of a smile appears on her lips. >”However, at school, we have the freedom to make as many mistakes as are needed, and learn from them. Conflicts get resolved, and we grow because of them. We learn to understand viewpoints and mindsets of others. Perhaps even sympathize with them. In other words, in school, whether we like them or not, other people help us grow regardless. And we, in turn, help them.” >She chuckles quietly. >”As unfortunate as it is, conflict makes us grow. And that, in my opinion, is what school, and adolescence, are all about. Testing our limits.” >What she said didn’t really answer your question. >But before you can say that, she continues. >”A place like that serves as a perfect soil for broken flowers to heal in.” >Suddenly, it hits you. >Realization. >Understanding of this soil of adolescence you replanted your roots in. >A broken flower, with a chance of growing stronger. >Celestia had said it. >She had ‘read your file.’ >Meaning, from the get-go, she knew exactly what sort of washed-up young idiot she was taking in. >Perhaps, just perhaps, it wasn’t only you, but— >”Yes. While it might not appear so to the outside, many of the students at CHS are… wounded, one way or the other. As you might remember, getting into this school was relatively easy. That’s because I go over each applicant myself. I want to make sure that those who need us, in good and in bad, get the chance they deserve.” >It’s a sobering thought. >Without even realizing it, you stump your cigarette into the ashtray, and scratch your head. >So, almost everyone in this school was, to an extent, not that different from you. >It wasn’t a coincidence that people like the Dazzlings or Sunset had ended up here. >Or you. “So, even if you know the students might be trouble if you let them in, you still… let them? Just so they’d have a place to be? A place where to heal?” >Celestia nods sagely. >”Yes. Both so that they would have a chance to lick their wounds as well as to… have their emotions run their natural course.” >Huh? >It was almost like she was allowing people like the Dazzlings to wreak havoc. >”Don’t look too surprised, Anonymous. By knowing what sort of students come to this school, I also know what they might end up doing. But, as I said before, conflict makes us stronger. After overcoming obstacles, we become that much wiser.” >She shakes her head quietly, as if amused by something. >”So, if someone were to, say, tear apart the interpersonal relationships of our students, they would learn how to strengthen those bonds. Or if someone were to sow seeds of turmoil among the student body, they would learn to look past those problems and stand together.” >Celestia chuckles at the disbelief on your face. >”It does not mean I condone or encourage it. However, I tolerate it, for the sake of the students themselves. Without making mistakes, without facing obstacles, they will not grow. It’s a bit like your smoking habit, I suppose.” >You stare at the ashtray, where the cigarette butt still quietly smolders. >A mistake, huh? >Something to overgrow so we may grow stronger. >While it surprises you, you do understand what principal Celestia is getting at. >Even the Dazzlings, after their loss at the Battle of the Bands, must’ve have grown. >You can’t say for sure, but if you had to guess, the Adagio from three months ago is not the same person as Adagio today. >Not on some levels, at the very least. “Still… that’s kinda risky. You know, letting villains like that in your school.” >Celestia sighs and nods. >”You’re right. There is always a risk involved, and I do not take pleasure in putting my students in danger. I believe in them, but there is always a possibility that something, somewhere, goes awry.” >She folds her arms and leans back in her chair. >”That’s why, if possible, I’d like to find someone whom could do something like that… but whom I could also trust. You’ve heard about the concept of necessary evil, have you not?” >’Necessary evil.’ >A cousin to ‘end justifies the means.’ >Something bad that must exist for things to go right. >For example… a villain to cause conflict through which everyone else can grow. >A bad guy whom everyone else can stand united against. >Even if the person themselves was not actually bad. >A thankless job that only ends in tragedy. “Yeah. I’ve heard of it.” >You can understand Celestia’s dilemma. >If someone like that existed, she could allow them to act as a villain without worry. >But who on earth would don that mantle? >They would either have to be totally insane, or… “Ah.” >… Or already thought as a villain. >You look at Celestia. >Unsurprisingly, you can see a glint of expectation in her eyes. >She’s hiding it well, but you can see through her. >At least in this instance. >Well, it’s obvious. >Not many others are in similar position as you are. >Someone whose true nature is known only by select few. >And whom all the rest have only heard horror stories about. >A villain by label, but not by heart. “You know… asking something like that from a student would be rather cruel.” >You try to say that with a smile, but come up short. >Just like Celestia does. “Exactly. That’s why I could never ask it from one of my students. Or order them to do it as a punishment. It would have to be of the student’s own will, a choice made without my input.” >’Become a villain to help others.’ >It’s such a laughable concept. >Absurd, even. >Give rise to a conflict, yet minimize the actual risks. >You can’t fault Celestia, though. It’s understandable she wants there to be an OFF-switch if something goes wrong. >She doesn’t want those who she’s trying to help to be hurt. >After all, the whole purpose of something like this is to heal. >Heal people like you. >Or the Dazzlings. >But because there’s no one to help her, she might not be able to. >… Crap. >Before you know it, you’ve already made a choice. >Even if it’s totally unlike you. >Maybe you’ve just started to believe in this ‘growth through adversity’ stuff. >Maybe her earnest desire to see people like you healed, one way or another, has touched you. >Or maybe you just want to give something back for putting up with shit like yours. >Nevertheless, when you look Celestia in the eyes once more— “Well. I think I know at least one guy who’d agree to do it.” >She doesn’t look thankful. >She doesn’t look happy. >Instead, she simply nods solemnly. >Like she was crying on the inside. >”Well, if you do know someone like that… I suppose they are punishing themselves enough with such a thankless task.” >You chuckle. >It’s not a happy sound. >But it’s not a bitter one either. “Someone punishing himself by going on a masquerade rampage. The world’s a weird place, ain’t it?” >”Very.” >You both sit in silence. >Celestia studying you, almost as if making sure whether or not she should ask you to back down. >And you, thinking about what you have gotten yourself into. >Did you really want to do this? >After you had just started putting everything on the right track with the Dazzlings? >Would you have to alienate them, too? >Would you push them away so that they’d join others to stand against you? >… Nah. They’d never buy it. >Adagio’s too smart. Hell, even Sonata would see through your ruse immediately. >They know the true you, unlike the other students. >So, would you just have to ignore them? >Or… would you ask them to join you? >Would they even want to? >They’ve barely recovered from what happened to them. >Would they really want to start it up all over again, just to support you? >You sigh. >It’s a stupid question. You knew the answer. >As much as you hated it, they most likely would. >Sonata wouldn’t hesitate in the least. >Adagio would only see it as entertainment. >And Aria might grumble, but she’d still follow. >You knew them well enough to realize the outcome. >And truth to be told, you were little relieved. >Knowing that you’d have people by your side even if things were going straight to hell in a handbasket was reassuring. >You would succeed in a crazy plan like this even if you were alone. >But if you had friends to go through it with you… even better. >You had seen the faces of the Dazzlings whenever you join them at the corner table in cafeteria. >It was like solitary confinement. >Nobody ever came to sit with them, other than you. >After your meeting with them, you had been the one to keep them company during their hard times. >Knowing there’d be someone to do the same to you… it wasn’t a bad feeling at all. >Even if you’d never admit it. >”Well, if that person took upon such a… role, there might be a place for them to start.” >You look at Celestia again. >She’s staring at papers in front of her, on the desk. >They look like various suggestions for fliers of some sort. >”This year, it seems that the Rainbooms are planning on having a concert at the Winter Formal, just before Christmas. It will be a big event. For anyone wanting to challenge them, it would be a perfect opportunity.” >Winter Formal, huh? >Not only that, but The Get Along Gang was planning on playing there? >That certainly gave you some ideas. >Most of which involved the Dazzlings’ renewed passion for music. >There was still plenty of time till then, and if you all practiced enough, then maybe… >You can’t help but to grin a little. >It was a challenge, alright. >But the type of challenge which you might find yourself enjoying. “That sounds like a tempting time for a villain to strike, yeah. Symbolic, even.” >Celestia nods with a hint of a smile. >”In many ways, yes.” >Well, that’s that, then. >You had your challenge set out before you, an inkling of a plan, and the means to do so. >The only thing that was missing was actually setting everything in motion. >It might be difficult, but if you played your cards right… you might be able to help not just the school, but people closer to you. >Celestia might not anticipate or approve it, but you weren’t willing to spill all your ideas just yet. >It was a seed of a scheme, but it might just grow into something much bigger. “Well, if there’s nothing else…” >You raise an eyebrow at Celestia. >She shakes her head. >”No. I think that is all. You’re free to leave, Anonymous.” >Then, for some reason, she giggles. >”Plus I think your friends waiting in the hallway are getting impatient.” >Wait, what? >Those three were… waiting for you? >You glance at the door, and though you can’t feel anyone’s presence, you don’t doubt Celestia. >”It seems they did their best not to eavesdrop on what we were talking about. Still, I can’t say I approve them skipping a class, even if they do it for a friend.” >Her expression tells you that she’s not being entirely serious. >Taking that as your cue, you get up from the chair and nod a goodbye to the principal. “Well, talk to you later then, Principal Celestia.” >”Yes. I’ll look forward to hearing about your apology to Sunset Shimmer.” >Gah. >You had almost forgotten that. >Forcing out a laugh, you nod again and head for the door. >But, before you can make it, you hear one last question asked with a soft voice. >”Anonymous… will you be alright?” >It’s a good question. >Will you be? >Most likely not. >You’re planning on becoming a villain for just about the stupidest reason ever. >More than that, you’re planning on dragging your friends along, too. >That’s a recipe for anything but ‘alright’. >Still, you find yourself oddly calm. >Maybe it’s because you already know where to start. >Whenever there’s a clear goal ahead of you, you can keep your head in the game. “Don’t worry about me, Principal.” >You flash her a grin. “I already got an idea on what to do.” >She looks surprised. >”Oh, really? Care to elaborate?” “Well…” >She most likely wouldn’t get it. >She wasn’t the type. “Not yet. Let’s simply say that it’ll be…” >But you… you can already hear it. >Plucking of guitar strings. >And what follows: >Voodoo Child. “Just. 2. Sweet.” >”Huh!?” >That question came from three different sources, all seated around the corner table at the cafeteria. >You can only shrug your shoulders at their disbelief. >Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to satisfy the Dazzlings. >Apparently your decision on becoming a villain to oppose principal Celestia and the Rainbooms is that big of a deal to them. >”A-Anon, are you for realsies? But why?” >Sonata’s the first one to start drilling you for information. >You make a vague gesture with your fork before stabbing it into the meatloaf on your plate. “Like I told you: all the berating and degrading talk she gave me at the office really got on my nerves. I figured I’d pay her back tenfold. Not to mention the Rainbooms are an eyesore.” >So, okay, you lied a bit. >Hell, you pretty much had to lie. >If you wanted your plan to succeed your way, not Celestia’s way, you had to make your friends think all this came from your own brain. >Not to mention they’d probably be less willing to follow you if they knew it was Celestia behind it all. >For this plan to yield the best result, you had to be crafty. >And as much as you disliked doing it, some white lies were necessary. >”Well… You’re right about the last part. After they defeated us they’ve been treating us like dirt.” >Aria snorted and shot a glare towards the Rainbooms, sitting at the other end of the cafeteria. >”Thinking they can do whatever they want and carry no responsibility… those morons are the worst.” >To your surprise, Sonata nodded at Aria’s words. >”Yup! I mean, I know they’re not *that* bad, but still… they, like, do annoy me sometimes.” >It was like casting a piece of meat into a piranha-pool. >Those old instincts hadn’t completely died, it seems. >However, while Aria and Sonata seemed accepting of your story… >Adagio had raised her eyebrow. >”Really? This all seems rather sudden, Anonymous.” >Dammit, Poof. >Can’t you be a little less clever at times like these? “Blame it on the principal. And I guess Baconswirl. She’s the one who got me riled up in the first place. I’m just giving back as I get.” >The three girls look at each other with confused expressions. >”Baconswirl?” >Aria looks at you while tilting her head. >You groan, shoveling another piece of meatloaf into your mouth. >”You know. Sunset Shimmer.” >They all snap their fingers in unison, as if realization had struck them like a three-pronged bolt of lightning from the sky. >”Ah! Now that you say it…!” >Sonata snickers. >”Baconswirl! Yeah, she’s totally a Baconswirl!” >She and Aria giggle. >Meanwhile, Adagio turns back to look at you. >”So, in other words, you want to pay back at both the Rainbooms and principal Celestia for what they did to you?” >You scratch your arm awkwardly. >It’s a bit of a stretch. >Hell, you’re a bit surprised Sonata and Aria bought it so easily. >But to convince Adagio… it looks like you have to mix in some truth. >Even if you hide the true meaning of what you say with the context. “Well… not only that.” >You stare at your plate, refusing to meet Dagi’s eyes. “It’s for you guys, too.” >That made the atmosphere quiet down. >All of them are staring straight at you. >… To be honest, it’s a bit embarrassing. >After all, while what you meant was that you’d hijack this plan for your own, more specific goal, what it sounded like was, without a doubt… >”… Anonymous. You don’t have to take revenge on them for us.” >Adagio’s words draw a deep blush to your face. >Goddammit. >You almost bury your face in that damn meatloaf. >Sonata laughs a bit awkwardly and pats you on the shoulder. >”A-Adagio’s right, you know? Like, we’re totally okay with things as they are.” >Aria grunts. >”Like hell we are… but she’s right. There’s no reason for you to do something so stupid.” “It’s not like that. I’m not doing it because I want to do something for you.” >Their expressions grow even more confused. >Thus, you press on. “I’m doing it because I want to. Nothing else to it.” >You continue speaking before your words can get stuck to your throat. “I don’t like the ways they handle things. That’s why… That’s why I want to do something about it. For my sake, and at the same time, for yours too. But in the end, it’s my own idea. So it’s not like I’m doing this because of what they did to you. It’s just… well, you get what I mean, right?” >Only Adagio nods in understanding. >”In other words this isn’t a crusade under our banner, but one under your own, spurred on partially by what happened to us?” “Y-yeah! That’s it!” >Thanks to your outburst, Aria and Sonata exchange glances. >”Umm… did you get any of that, Aria?” >”I got that Roadie here is a total idiot, at least.” >Deep Purple’s grin is far from gentle. In fact, she seems to take pleasure in your awkward attempts at explaining your reasoning. >Goddammit. >This is why you hated mixing up truths and lies. “A-ny-ways! That’s the gist of it. I’m doing it because of my own decision, and nothing else. So, it’s my own idea.” >And now comes the hardest part. “And that’s why… I’d like to ask help from you guys. I don’t think I have enough power to pull this off on my own.” >There’s the reason for the distinction. >If this was just a quest of revenge for the Dazzlings, you’d be helping them whether they wanted it or not. >But if it was your own idea, you could actually *ask* if they wanted to join your cause. >You might have been fine with some lies, but you didn’t want to force your friends into anything. >If they were to help you, it’d be of their own volition. >Few quiet seconds feel like they stretch into minutes. >That meatloaf on your plate is looking damn interesting right about now. >Thanks to its brilliance, you don’t have to look at what sort of expression the Dazzlings have. >Still, you can hear the soft rustling of their hair. >Most likely they’re exchanging some non-verbal gestures. “—?” >Suddenly, you feel it. >A soft sensation against your skin. >A light weight atop your right hand. >As you raise eyes to look at this odd phenomenon, you see that Sonata’s placed her hand on yours. >She’s smiling. >Without warning, the weight slightly increases. >To your surprise, Aria has done the same. >She’s not smiling… but you can see the fire in her eyes. >It’s like glowing coals inside her soul have been lit into a blaze. >”Alright.” >And before you know it, it happens for the third time. >You don’t even have to look to know what this third weight is. >But you do anyhow. >Adagio’s put her hand on top of everyone else’s, and that wicked grin has risen to her lips. >When you see that, you feel how the breath you’ve been holding is finally released. >Something feels warm in your chest. >It’s not a sensation you dislike, if you are completely honest. >”We’ll help you. We might have failed in our own attempt, but with you in the helm… things might just be different.” >Adagio’s words make you blush again. >Now there’s a sensation you hate. >You try to hide it to the best of your abilities, but Sonata’s giggle indicates you fail magnificently. >”Yeah! This time we’re gonna do it! For realsies!” >”Those morons don’t stand a chance, yeah.” >Both Goof and Aloof follow the example set by Poof. >But, unlike those two, you can see something else within those fierce eyes of Adagio. >Some lingering doubt. >Not against you or your plans… >… but your motives. >Figures. >There was no way you were gonna completely fool her. >But that’s alright. >Yeah… there’s no need to worry about it, anymore. >With the help of the Dazzlings, you could proceed with your own plan. >Bringing in help with magical abilities meant that the Rainbooms wouldn’t be able to defeat you in human ways. >And if you played your cards right, you could get a repeat of what happened during Battle of the Bands. >The Dazzlings had told you about the strange girl who had appeared to lead the Rainbooms during that time. >And from the rumors you had heard, she had done the same sometime before. >Magic from another world, and a girl who appeared during a crisis… >… There had to be a connection there. >A connection you would find. >If you did, then these three could, perhaps, finally— “Anon? You got super quiet all of a sudden.” >You shake your head. “Sorry. I was just a bit surprised. And glad. Having you guys help me means things will be easier.” >”Ugh, just don’t get all sappy on us. If you do, I’ll quit.” >You grin dryly at Aria. “Gotcha. I’ll be sure to be extra rude towards you.” >”Damn right. Don’t expect me to go easy on you either.” >For a moment, the two of you just stare at each other, both holding back a chuckle. >Too bad Sonata’s there to destroy that moment brilliantly. >”Aww, look, Adagio! Aria’s totally bonding with Anon!” >”Like hell I am!” >Aria strikes the table with her fists. >”Don’t go spouting all that weird crap, Sonata! You’re the one who’s all touchy-feely with Roadie here lately!” >Sonata tilts her head and smiles. >However, you feel no warmth from that smile. >”Oh? You have a problem with that, Aria?” >Eh? >Why did Sonata suddenly get this assertive? >”N-no! Just… just, it’s disgusting! Stop it.” >”Why? Like, it’s not like it bothers you, yeah?” >To your surprise, Aria almost growls. >”Well, it does!” >What. >Why are these two suddenly so hostile? >… And why do you feel like you’re stuck between snake and a mongoose? >”Ladies, ladies. Calm down. Anonymous is starting to look like he’s about to flee.” >Adagio finally speaks up. >Aria and Sonata look at you, their eyes widening as they realize what sort of scene they’re making. >“Erhm… sorry.” >Sonata looks like she wants to dig a hole and disappear there. >”… This is the worst.” >And Aria is likely to join her. >Thankfully, Adagio managed to defuse the situation despite almost failing to hold back her laughter. >Both Sonata and Aria sit back down, red coloring their cheeks. >You’re glad that their embarrassing outburst is over, but… >… What the hell was that all about? >You cock an eyebrow at Adagio, but she simply spreads her hands slightly, as if to say: ‘Well?’ >You mouth letters W, T and F back at her. >To your surprise, she groans as if you had failed at a third grade maths test. >Her forehead meets her palm with quite the speed. >Looking like she’s given up, Adagio learns forward and directs the conversation back to the original track. >”So? If you’re about to challenge the Rainbooms, you must have some sort of plan. Without one, you… ah, ‘we’, don’t stand a chance.” >She corrects herself slyly. >You chuckle. “Yeah, I’ve got an idea or two. Remind me again, what were the two previous attempts at defeating the Rainbooms?” >Adagio rubs her chin. >”Well, first there was, from what I’ve heard, Sunset Shimmer’s attempt. She slowly turned all of the members of the Rainbooms against each other, and after succeeding in her task, somehow stole the Element of Magic from our own world. A certain princess from that world, named Twilight Sparkle, managed to get the Rainbooms to befriend each other and get back the crown, however.” >You nod. It’s pretty much in line with the rumors you had heard. >”Ooh, ooh! Me next!” >Sonata is quick to jump in on the conversation. >”We actually witnessed the Rainbooms defeating Sunset Shimmer, though it was, like, pretty far away. Still, that rainbow-beam was pretty hard to miss!” >Rainbow beam? >That didn’t sound too promising. >”And then there was our own attempt.” >Adagio continues. >”We utilized our own song-based powers to turn the students here against each other and thus set in motion the Battle of the Bands. In short, we made everyone distrust each other. Unfortunately, the Rainbooms eventually managed to find a way around it, and destroy the sources of our power.” >The three of them all glance at their necks. >Ah, the Red Jewels. >They had explained those last night. “Okay. I have a pretty good understanding of what went down now.” >You intertwine your fingers and lean against the table with your elbows. “In short, both times the idea’s been to sow discord and make the students distrust each other. Yeah, I can see how the Rainbooms would be able to cope with that.” >Aria cocks an eyebrow. >”Huh? What do you mean?” “At the end of the day, it’s nothing more than magical version of what could actually happen in a high school. Rumors, for one, could achieve the same outcome.” >You narrow your eyes. “Everyone is against everyone, a free-for-all with no unity. Introduce one staple faction in the midst, and everyone will automatically flock towards it. Use underhanded means, and you’re naturally thought as evil. For humans, it’s easy to oppose evil.” >To your surprise, it seems you already have the undivided attention of the Dazzlings. >They are all staring at you sternly. >With a hint of a smile, you take your fork. >There’s a pile of peas on your plate, right next to the remains of the meatloaf. >You use your fork to spread all the peas on the plate evenly, in a chaotic formation with no rhyme or reason. “That’s a route we can’t take. We’ve already seen where it leads to. The Rainbooms will simply find a way to get everyone together again.” >With your fork, you sweep the peas back into a big pile once more. “No villain in this place can stand against such a united front. No, what we need is something different.” >Raising your fork again, this time you cut the pile of peas down in the middle. >With a simple move, you separate the two piles so that they face each other. >Two piles, both equal in size. “We don’t need to destroy that front. We need to divide it. To their side and to our side. And not by being evil either, but by being… a viable alternative to the Rainbooms.” >Sonata tilts her head in confusion. >Aria scrunches her nose, clearly not getting it yet. >But Adagio nods, a smile similar to yours creeping on her face. >”If their opponent is evil, they can justify their actions. But if it’s just an opposing faction, it’ll be that much harder on them… yes. I like the way you think, Anonymous.” >You chuckle. “Being a villain isn’t just about being evil. It’s about opposing another. And that’ll be our main focus. I’m pretty sure there are plenty of people in this school who aren’t exactly satisfied with how the Rainbooms handle things. We’ll have to get those people under our flag.” >Adagio’s smile turns downright scary. >”And when we do, the Rainbooms can’t just use their magic to restore those people on their side. It’s not about magic, it’s about ideas, after all.” “Exactly.” >Both you and Adagio laugh. >It feels pretty good to have someone be on the exactly same wavelength as you. >To be honest, you half-expected her to start finishing your sentences for you at some point. >”Eh, sorry to burst your bubble, but… are you sure?” >Aria looks a bit doubtful. >”I mean, you really think there are people who’d oppose the Rainbooms and side with us? After what happened?” >You can’t help but to feel a bit proud. >You hadn’t simply thought up an idea without basing it on reality some way. >With a slightly victorious flourish, you point your index finger to the left of your table. “Oh, you’d be surprised. All it takes is to have the right mindset, and looking far enough.” >The Dazzlings turn to look towards the direction you’re pointing at. >There, two younger girls are sitting alone. >One with violet hair adorned by white streaks. >Other with greyish, silver-tinted hair. >You didn’t know their names, but you had seen them here and there. >And now they would help you prove your point. “See those two? Can you spot anything strange about them? Anything at all?” >Both Aria and Adagio look a bit confused. You’re not too surprised. For these two, the answer might not be obvious. >Sonata, on the other hand… “Oh! Wait a minute! There’s just the two of them. They’re not, like, being friends with anyone else.” “Exactly.” >You nod at Sonata, who grins in response. “Now, can you spot who they keep glancing at every once in a while?” >This time the question is easier. >Aria snorts. >”Yeah. They keep glaring daggers at those three girls their age. So what?” “What if I told you that those three girls they don’t like one bit are, in fact, close to the Rainbooms? Two of them are actually younger sisters of both Cosmopolitan and Hart of Dixie.” >A jolt of electricity runs through the Dazzlings. >Figuratively, that is. >Their eyes shoot open, and they turn back to look at you. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” >Old words of wisdom. “This is a big school. Lots of students. There’s bound to be those who feel slighted, jealous or downright angry at others. Not only that, but Rainbooms have made plenty of friends and acquaintances. If we can find students who oppose those friends…” >Adagio’s grin is now that of a full-blown supervillain. >”… We find our own allies.” >That was it in a nutshell. >Exploiting the complex relationships of high schoolers. >Not to inspire chaos and distrust. >But to build another faction to oppose Rainbooms. >The only thing that can beat a united front is another united front. >Therefore, that would be your goal. >Hunt down the right people, convince them of your goals, and in the end— >Challenge the Rainbooms at the Winter Formal! >”It’s a bold plan… but it might just work. It all depends on how we play our cards.” >Adagio needs no further convincing. >Her face tells you she’s raring to go. >”Hah. If we succeed in this, it’ll be totally worth it. Can you imagine the faces of those morons when they find out just how many people want to oppose them?” >Aria’s sadistic streak is on the rise. >You have to admit, you’re looking forward to it, too. “And we’ll make new friends while we’re at it!” >Well, leave it to Sonata to find something innocent in what you’re about to do. >You smile at her. “That too, I guess.” >”However, while we have a plan, how are we going to go about enacting it?” >Adagio’s question momentarily pierces the determined atmosphere. >”It’s not as if we can simply go around asking people to join our cause. That’d be far too suspicious.” “Oh, don’t worry about that. We’ll start with something small, brand ourselves as a distinctively different group from the Rainbooms, and slowly gather new members. Make it appear natural.” >Sonata tilts her head. >”Brand ourselves? Like, with a hot iron?” >You grimace. “No, that’d be way too scary. What I’m talking about is colors, clothing, symbols… that sort of stuff.” >The Dazzlings seem confused. “Think about it. The Rainbooms are all clear individuals in their group. If we want to oppose them, we’ll have to show that we’re even more united than they are. Easiest way to do this is with matching outfits and the like.” >You scratch your chin. “But I suppose that’ll have to wait until everything else is ready. We can start with something simple. Like a name and a hand gesture.” >”Oh? You even had a name thought up?” >Adagio seems a bit excited. >You guess your own attitude is rubbing off on her. “Yeah. Since we’re about turn this school and its established rules upside-down… how about something like ‘New World Order’?” >Adagio looks surprised. >”That’s surprisingly catchy.” >Hell, even Sonata seems to agree. >”Yeah! Sounds good, Anon!” >But Aria… >”… Wait. New World Order? Roadie, don’t tell me the hand gesture you meant is…” >You grin. >You raise your right hand. >With ease of experience, you bring your middle finger, ring finger and thumb together in the middle of your palm. >Meanwhile, you raise your index finger and pinky up in the air like they were horns. “Oh, you bet. It’s just 2 sweet, after all.” >You can’t help but to chuckle like an idiot. >To your surprise, Aria’s horrified expression melts away, giving way to similar idiotic laugh. >”This just keeps getting better and better.” >And then, showing similar familiarity with the gesture, Aria does it herself and touches your hand with hers. >”It’s nWo 4 Life.” “One more for the good guys.” >You both laugh again. >”Well, I don’t know what on earth you two are talking about, but…” >Adagio’s right hand nimbly repeats the gesture, and she comes to touch your hand as well. >Sonata’s clumsy attempt soon follows. >”Sounds fine to me.” >”Yeah! For realsies!” >And thus it begins. >The four of you, displaying the same gesture, like some bizarre musketeers bringing their rapiers together. >You don’t know how this whole farce will end, but… >… Right now, you can’t deny you’re having fun. >”So, Roadie.” >Aria turns to look at you. >”You got a plan how to get the ball rolling?” >You nod. “Yeah. It’s surprisingly simple, really. What you three need to do is to keep a low-profile for now, but in the meanwhile, I’ll get everything ready.” >Adagio clicks her tongue. >”What do you mean? Are there some preparations you need to do?” “Yeah. There’s something I need to find in order do everything correctly.” >Sonata looks confused. >”Oh? Like what?” “Well, first of all… we’re gonna need a couple of outsiders.”