Make A Mistake With Me - Chapter 6: A Pack of Wolves - by MistakeAnon

>”If you’re about to exact revenge against the Rainbooms, then you’ll definitely need the help of the Great and Powerful Trixie!” >Man, the way she rolls her R’s really started to get on your nerves. >Sure enough, it was kinda endearing at first. >But the more she did it, the more it made you grind your teeth. >Aria seems to be feeling the same, as she busies herself with your cassette collection. “Really? It won’t be easy, you know.” >Oh, and somehow, you had ended up blabbing about how you and the Dazzlings were planning to take on the Planeteers. >Of course, revealing such secrets lit up a righteous fury within the blue-hued girl. >Which is why she’s currently reaching over from the back seat, hands wrapped around yours, and your neck, in the process. >You’re running out of air here, Cap’n. >”No matter! Trixie has plenty of musical experience, so she will gladly take the role of lead guitar once again!” >Aria smirks wickedly. >”Oh, I doubt that. Adagio’s handling that part. But if you wanna compete with her for it, go ahead.” >Trixie squeezes your neck harder out of surprise – and fear, most likely. >”Oh. W-well then, Trixie is happy to just play the backing acoustic guitar.” “That’s Sonata’s job. Sorry, but she’s been training for that and vocals. She won’t have time to learn anything else.” >Aria snorts. >”And before you even ask, I’m on the bass. If you want to be part of this, you’re gonna have to find something else.” >Trixie slumps against the seat of the Buick as you take the car out of the parking lot. >”But… but Trixie has no experience in anything else! Well, other than violin, but would that even help? Wasn’t this supposed to be a rock band?” >That piques your interest. >Violin, huh? “Wait. Folk or classical?” >”Both. Trixie was well-educated in her youth, after all!” “Well, there you go! I mean, sure we might bust out some 80’s songs every now and then, but I was always thinking we’d aim for something more… down-to-earth. Violin will work just fine.” >You pat Trixie’s arm. >A little to reassure her, mostly to inform her that if she didn’t release that damn submission hold, you’d pass out. >Luckily your words make her raise her hands in victory, allowing you to slip out of the jury-rigged Camel Clutch. >”In that case, The Great and Powerful Trixie shall do her best with violin!” >Aria shoots you a glance under her brows. >”So… Roadie. You’ve talked about getting revenge on the Rainbooms, and made clear you plan needs both a band those… Outsiders like Gilda, right? What is it that you’re planning, exactly?” >That question makes you go silent. >There was a reason you hadn’t divulged much of what you were going to do. >Your plan had several layers, and for them to work, you needed everything to be as natural as possible. >First layer was supposed to fool the whole school and the Rainbooms. >Second layer was supposed to fool the Dazzlings and whoever else worked with you. >Third layer was supposed to fool Principal Celestia. >And fourth layer, the last one… well, it was the true plan behind all of this. >The plan which, if everything worked out, would make everything worth it. >Even becoming a villain. >After all, if you succeeded, the Dazzlings could finally— >”Roadie? What’s wrong?” “Ah. Sorry. Just got lost in thought. Anyways, you’ll see eventually. I need you to just trust me with this.” >Aria grumbles a bit, but doesn’t ask any more questions. >Trixie, on the other hand… >”Outsiders? And you already have one? In that case, Trixie shall take on the role of the other Outsider! What a luck we met when we did, no?” >You shake your head. “Sorry, but that’s not gonna work. You’re part of the school, after all. We’ll need someone from outside CHS.” >Aria cocks an eyebrow. >”Why?” “Mostly because we need a ‘threat’ that’s not part of the school. At least for the initial impression. It’s important since we need to set ourselves as a separate entity from CHS, and the Rainbooms.” >Stroking her chin, Aria nods in understanding. >Trixie’s confused look aside, Deep Purple seems to have gotten the gist of it. >After all, you had mentioned before why the old Sunset Shimmer and Dazzlings had failed in their plans. >They had not provided a viable alternative to the Get Along Gang. >Every student was left to fend off for themselves in the chaos. >Thus, this time, you’d opt for something different. >Something that spoke to people’s desire for ‘counter-culture’, so to speak. >Something used by WCW so many years ago… >”Still, it’s not gonna be easy to find another Outsider like Gilda.” >Aria foldsher arms. >”Not many people leave CHS due to social disputes, after all.” >”Oh, Trixie thinks she knows someone who might fit the bill!” >You both glance at the blue-hued girl, who is grinning victoriously. “Really?” >”Yes. Last year, there was a freshman at CHS who was a rival of sorts to Rainbow Dash. They competed in every sport imaginable and were quite the team. However, the way Trixie heard it, something happened at this camp both were attending. The freshman left CHS, humiliated, and has not shown up since!” >You have to admit, it was an intriguing possibility. >Still, you found it somewhat ironic that California Games had been responsible for wrecking two of her friendships so badly. >Then again, she didn’t seem the type to have to grey cells in her head. >Just muscle. “In that case, maybe we should pay this freshman a visit? If she was humiliated because of a Rainbooms’ member, I’d bet she wants some payback.” >That was where Trixie’s shoulders slumped. >”Unfortunately, even Trixie has no idea where to find her. It’s not as if there was anyone left at CHS to keep contact with her.” >Aria clicks her tongue in annoyance. >”So we’ve got a candidate, but no way to find her. Great…” >Both girls grumble, Trixie wracking her brains in trying to remember anything that might help. >However, you get an odd chill down your spine. >Like something you should remember… “No fucking way…” >You rummage through your pocket and fish out a crumbled piece of paper. >With one hand, you pry it open. >There was written something you had already forgotten. >An address. >245 Levin Road. >And the words above it. >’You know when you’ll need it.’ >Curious, Aria peeks at the note in your hand and her eyebrows shoot towards her hairline. >”Roadie… is that the note you and Sonata found?” “Yeah.” >”Levin Road… if Trixie isn’t wrong, that’s at Boyle Heights; in the gated, more well-to-do part of the neighborhood.” >With your car standing in the red lights, you stare at the note with a glare. >To be honest, you don’t want to trust it. >The way you acquired it was so damned suspicious. >Yet at the same time, it seems to have just the answer you need. >And judging by what Trixie said, it wasn’t trying to lure you into some unsafe place. >If you survived Prospect and Troost, you’d survive this. >Eventually, you lift your gaze to Aria. >She’s looking at you somewhat expectantly and in anticipation. >You raise an eyebrow at her. “Say… how mad do you think Adagio would be if we went on a little side-trip?” >”She’s strangle you, I think.” >Aria grins viciously. >”But then again, she’d do that anyway.” “My thoughts exactly.” >As the light turns green, you curve to the right instead of going straight. >The cleaning would have to wait a little while longer. >You’d get to the bottom of this address, and the mysterious freshman who apparently lived there. >When you finally arrive at 245 Levin Road, you let out a quiet whistle. “You weren’t kidding when you said this was well-to-do area, Trixie…” >There’s no other way to call the house before you. >It’s a damn mansion. >The place was as big as the whole damn building you lived in. >Your studio flat could’ve fitted in the garage, most likely. >All of a sudden your previous enthusiasm seems to evaporate into thin air. >”Let’s hope this really is the right address. I’d hate to, like, intrude on some nutjob millionaire’s property.” >Aria’s grumbles reflected your own thoughts. >As you curve to the driveway, you see that you weren’t the only visitors of the day. >Just ahead of you, a motorcycle with two people on it has come to a halt. >1999 Honda Valkyrie 1500, with the big, opposed-six bulging from the engine room giving off an aura of a blacktop-devouring monster. >Chrome and black shining in the early winter sun like a knight from Arthurian legends. >The beast of a machine is just like the one driving it: dangerous in appearance. >As you step out of the car, the female driver in a leather jacket gives you a lazy wave and takes off her helmet. >”Sup, dweeb.” >The hell? “Gilda?” >There’s no mistaking that overblown fur-rug on the jacket’s shoulders, or that hairdo that looks like a hawk’s crest. >It’s the boxer you saw just last night, looking far fresher than you’d expect. “What the hell are you doing here, Gilda?” >”I could ask you dweebs the same thing. You got business with Lightning, too? Didn’t think you knew her.” >Behind you, Trixie snaps her fingers. >”Ah, Lightning Dust! That was the name of the student, Trixie remembers now!” >Gilda folds her arms and cocks an eyebrow. >”Sounds like a tentative yes, then.” “Something like that. Like I said last night, our plan needs some Outsiders. I heard that the girl living here might be a good candidate.” >Gilda nods and flashes you a grin. >”Great minds think alike, then. After last night, I had the exact same idea. That’s why I’m here.“ >For a moment, her face scrunches up slightly. >”That and… well, some personal problems.” >She looks at the person with her, eyes clouded with something akin to annoyance. >Her passenger takes off her helmet as she walks up to Gilda. >What you see takes you by surprise. >Another girl, her short grey hair standing like some sort of goth-lite contraption. >Unlike Gilda, she’s wearing a proper motorcycle suit. >However, from the way it’s opened halfway, you realize it’s still just a fashion statement. >Goddamn amateurs. >”And who’s this *loser* supposed to be? You’d say we’d have a rematch, not gab with some 80’s reject, Gilda!” >Her voice is rough and raspy, almost like a boy going through puberty. >However, despite her aggressiveness, Gilda acts calmly and lights herself a cigarette. She gives you a light as well as you fish out your own. >”I said we’d *maybe* have another rematch today, Limestone, if things went well. See, this is the guy I told you this morning. Limestone, meet Anonymous. Anon, meet Limestone Pie.” >Wait. >Pie? As in relative to that pink eldritch horror of the Rainbooms? >Looks like Gilda sees right through you, as she nods. >”Yeah. This dweeb here’s Pinkie Pie’s sister. Nothing alike, right?” >True, you can’t find any resemblance between this miniature Stone Cold Steve Austin and that annoyingly cheerful idiot. “Huh. Nice to meet you, I guess.” >Limestone snorts at you. >”Whatever.” >Gilda chuckles huskily, taking a drag from her cigarette. >”Don’t say that, dweeb. This guy here is the one thinking about taking on your sister and her friends. Did you forget that part already?” >”What!?” >That put more fire in her, if that was even necessary. >Before you know it, the grey menace is right up your grill, yellow eyes boring a hole through you. >Aria takes a step closer, anger clear on her face. Meanwhile Trixie conveniently excuses herself to answer a phone call. >”Did I hear that right!?” >Jesus, Limestone, what did you eat? Your breath stinks something fierce even to a guy who no longer smells anything, thanks to tobacco. >Of course, you don’t actually say that. >You don’t want to taunt her further. >Thus, you just shrug your shoulders. “Yeah, that’s the case. Nothing against her personally. It’s just something we need to—“ >Before you know it, you take an instinctive step back. >Limestone’s left straight shoots through the air where your head had been a second ago. >Noticing your dodge, she steps forward to deliver a right hook to your gut. >Fuck that noise. >Even if it’s a girl, you’re not about to let someone punch you. >And thanks to last night’s anger management, you’re not immediately seeing red. >You’re able to think clearly enough to try a takedown instead of just pummeling the shit out of her. >As the punch approaches, you take another step back to evade it, but immediately step back in, catching her off-guard. >Using your longer reach, you grab her extended arm by the tricep and land down your right leg wraps around hers in a pigeon stretch. >With your hip, you then drag her body violently to the ground, immediately pushing upwards to prevent her from countering. >Too bad she saw through that move. >You eat mouthful of knees for your trouble, immediately rolling out of the way. >As you jump up, you see Limestone approach with speed in her steps, trying to bring you down with a well-paced Double Axe Handle from a standing position. >You side-step, bringing an elbow to her ribs that sends her recoiling. >She prevents you from capitalizing by wildly kicking in an arc that sends sand flying. >Swiping away the dust, you put your fists up and prepare for more. >Limestone is now circling you, clearly more careful. >She saw that you weren’t about to go down easy. >This brief moment of hesitation allows you to glare daggers at Gilda. “You just *had* to egg her, didn’t you!?” >She just smiles devilishly back and lifts up a flamenco guitar from seemingly out of nowhere. >Aria, who took a seat next to her on the porch already has her guitar out. >Where the hell did they get those, anyway!? >Gilda’s, and your, attention is quickly stolen by the door of the mansion opening. >In the doorway stands a mint-hued girl with a magnificent yellow pompadour hair. >She’s eyeing the unfolding scene with a mirthful expression. >”Gilda, you skank. Just what sort of circus are you holding on my front lawn?” >The boxer laughs, plucking first few notes on her guitar. >”Oh, Lightning! You came just at the right time, dude. Pipsqueak here means to take on Hoss. We’re about to have ourselves a proper Boyle Heights street fight.” >You do a double-take at that. “Wait. You escalated things just so you could make *that* joke!?” >Unfortunately, you’re out of time. >As the girl who’s apparently Lightning Dust sits down with the rest of them (Trixie managed to get in there at some point as well) Limestone decides to go on offense. >She charges in to deliver a flurry of kicks with her right leg, kicking up sand and dust as she does. >You answer it with your own, and for a moment, your shins hit against each other like percussion instruments. >That sets the beat for the two guitarists, and so, under the shining Canterlot sun, they break into a familiar, fast-paced song. [Embed: Rodrigo y Gabriela - Diablo Rojo] >Using just their guitars to create a melody that’s straight out of Mexico, Aria and Gilda set the atmosphere for your bout. >You curse under your breath. >Limestone’s one-two combo is blocked by your arms as you advance, leaving her no room to deliver a proper attack. >Using your bigger size to your advantage, you go for a grab, intending to lock her up. >Instead, she slips from your grasp, somersaulting backwards and striking your chin with her feet. >You stagger for a moment, leaving yourself wide open for her vicious right straight that hits you straight in the stomach. >For a moment your world spins, and your stomach churns. >But before Limestone can capitalize, you drop low and sweep the ground with your leg, throwing her into a wild spin. >She smacks against the sand on all fours, pushing herself up into a vertical roundhouse axe kick aimed at your shoulder. >You dodge in a nick of time, meaning to stomp her extended leg. >She dodges it just barely. >But to your horror, her leg is now safely between yours. >You see a glint of sadism flash in her eyes. >With the force of a rockslide, she shoots it up and pain flashes in your eyes. >White, searing pain. >”Ooh! Straight to cojones!” >Gilda comments gleefully from the sidelines. >It would be funny if it wasn’t excruciatingly agonizing. >Somehow you manage to avoid her next barrage of punches, stumbling backwards. >You manage to regroup yourself despite the pulsating burning in your loins. >You can acknowledge pain later. >You just hope to God nothing’s broken. >Following her punches, Limestones lunges forward, intending to knee you in the gut. >You let her get inside your defense, arms on your shoulders. >However, that’s where you strike. >Grabbing her right shoulder from under, you spin around and put all your power into a throw. >She lets out a surprised yelp as the world around her spins. >For a moment, she’s flung across the air, ground waiting to meet her back. >But, just in time, she steels her legs and lands on her heels, bridging herself to an almost impossible angle. >From there, using your hold as leverage, she tries to kick you in the head. >You’re forced to let go and retreat a step. >Noticing the chance, Limestone rolls backwards and pushes with her hands, launching herself into a flying drop kick. >Too bad for her, you anticipated that. >By retreating outside her range, you’re there to wait for her landing. >Instantly, your arms wrap around her waist. >Suplex time, bitch. >Letting out a roar that matches perfectly with the toque of the guitars, you flung Limestone backwards, trying to slam her into the sand. >The only problem is, so far you’ve done this to guys about your size. >Limestone is a girl. >Ergo, much smaller and lighter. >Thus your German Suplex sends her careening through the air and she smacks to the ground face-first. >She spits out sand, eyes flaring up with pure wrath now. >In a second, you’re both up. >Or, at least you are. >Limestone moves forward, placing her right hand on the ground for balance and lifts her legs up, vaulting them over her head. >A honest-to-God au batido kick almost takes your face off. >You hear the group watching let out a collective gasp. >But the surprises don’t stop there. >While you’re still recovering from your narrow escape, Limestone spins forward and jumps, utilizing her momentum. >Aú sem Mão. >Aerial cartwheel done without hands, and inverted so that it’s eerily similar to a butterfly kick. >Had Limestone been even slightly taller, her kick would have struck you straight to the side of your head. >Now, it just grazes your forehead, her shoe cutting a nice nick into it. >It’s the chance you’ve been waiting for. >As she lands, you leave her no time to turn. >Instead you strike at her with a spinning low kick, hitting the backs of her knees. >Limestone’s legs buckle, and with it, her whole body topples like a tree. >For second time today, she eats sand. >Predictably, she’s bleeding furious. >Like a madman, she rolls through and lands facing you, immediately kicking the dirt to deliver a punch at your face. >Too bad for her. >Her reaction had been, as said, predictable. >As she rises up, you’re already on the move. >Utilizing your own momentum from the spin, you lunge forward, right arm extended completely. >It catches Limestone in the collarbone. >You throw your arm completely into the attack and strike sideways, sending the girl into a wild spin across the air. >Clothesline from Hell, indeed. >Or, rather— >”Lariatoooo!” >Aria’s cheer pierces the air as she momentarily forgets her guitar. >Looking rather embarrassed, she quickly returns to it. >Luckily Gilda managed to mold the melody around the surprising yell. >It sounded almost like it belonged there. >But things are still unfinished. >You’ve already experienced firsthand how tough this girl is. >Thus it’s no surprise that when you turn around, you see her eyes are still blazing. >Like a pouncing tiger, she charges from the grand, letting out a furious roar. >Her hands are stretched out, like she’s trying to strangle you. >Another mistake. >Last mistake. >The music begins morphing as Gilda and Aria play faster and faster, sweat pouring on their foreheads just like with the two of you fighting. >The song heads into a dizzying crescendo, mad as the glint in your eyes. >You taste sweat, sand and even a little bit of blood. >It’s a barbaric, primal sort of feeling. >And you’re loving every second of it, just like Limestone. >This is something you haven’t experienced in a long time. >Just like Limestone, who’s wearing an exhilarated snarl on her face. >You go with the flow, falling backwards as the girl charges you, allowing her to get between your legs. >As the two of you hit the sand, dust flying everywhere, she raises her fists, ready to pummel your face in. >But you’re already on the move. >Lifting your upper body up, you reach over her head and wrap your right arm around hers. >With your left hand that was still supporting you, you grab Limestone’s wrist, proceeding to then grasp your own wrist with your right hand. >Without hesitation you fall backwards, wrapping your left leg around her body to keep her in place. >And then you extend. >Without mercy. >In other words… >Kimura Lock. >Judging by the shock and panic in Limestone’s eyes, even she knows she screwed up big time. >From this position, it was easy to hyperextend the trapped arm. >Hell, apply enough force and you would snap it like a twig. >Limestone’s struggling like mad to see if she can somehow escape the hold. >But there’s nowhere to go. >You apply more pressure, even more pressure, to the point where you start to worry if you’re actually gonna have to do something drastic. >Despite everything you still don’t want to break a girl’s arm, no matter how violent. >No matter how freakishly strong. “Shit! Damnit! I’ll tap, I’ll tap! Just don’t goddam snap it off!” >Limestone’s hoarse yell makes a wave of relief wash over you. >She pounds the sand with her free palm, signaling she’s admitting defeat. >Like it was pre-planned, Aria and Gilda bring the song to a close, and you release the girl in the hold. >Far too tired from the fight, she simply slumps against you. >You have to admit, two sweaty bodies intertwined like this… it would be erotic. >If not for the fact that you two almost beat the living shit out of each other. >Still, there were worse ways to get to know a girl. >Looks like Limestone agrees, as despite losing she’s grinning from ear to ear. >Both of you take big, labored breaths for a moment, trying to steady your breathing. >For those few seconds, the only thing you can hear is the frantic beating of your own heart, and Limestone inhaling and exhaling. >When that alluring cacophony finally settles, you realize the trio watching are cheering and hollering. >Limestone cackles and lifts herself up, supporting herself with her arms against your chest. >”Looks like Gilda was right.” >She says, grinning at you. >”You ain’t half bad. You really might have what it takes to beat Pinkie and her friends.” >You chuckle as well, wiping the sweat from your forehead. “I just hope I don’t have to fight them like *this*. Getting my ass handed to me by a girl once was quite enough.” >”Really? I thought that stupid look on your face means you enjoyed it.” >You jab her shoulder playfully. “Oh shut up. I’m not into shit this kinky.” >”Aww. And here I got my hopes up.” >Still laughing like a couple of idiots, the two of you get up from the ground. >Although she tries to act like it was nothing, you still insist on checking Limestone’s arm. >You knew from experience that Kimura Lock was nothing to joke about. >Luckily, your careful applying of force had not caused extensive damage. >Same can’t be said for your poor testicles. >You walked very gingerly back to the group that was waiting, while warding off Limestone’s gleeful attempts to ‘return the favor’ when it came to damage checks. >You weren’t letting that girl anywhere near your balls after what happened. >”I guess we can announce Anon as the winner, then?” >Gilda laughs and opens a beer, handing you another afterwards. >”Definitely. Guy’s freakishly fast for his size.” >You feel a little pride in Limestone’s comment. It meant something, coming from someone as experienced as her. >Still, the way they talked lit up warning signals in your head. “Wait. Was this… was this all just some stupid test you two cooked up? Something like Limestone wanting to see if I was ready or some bullcrap?” >They both avert their gazes, guilty looks on their faces. >”Maaaaaaybe?” >Gilda’s tone is that of a thief, caught red-handed. >You smack your forehead with your palm. “For the love of…” >”Oh c’mon, Roadie. You managed to work out a little frustration, and Limestone saw what you were made of. Win-win, right?” >Aria says this while plopping a wet towel over your head. >She starts scrubbing furiously, determined to get the stench of sweat out of you. “I guess so. Little warning would’ve been appreciated, though. For a second there I thought you really were after my life.” >You shoot an accusing glare at Limestone, who’s wiping herself with a towel. >She grins sheepishly. >”I had to make sure. Gilda spoke a world about you, but nothing beats firsthand experience, right?” >You cock an eyebrow at the boxer, who blushes a little and looks away. >”Don’t get any ideas, dweeb. I just saw promise in you, and your plan to defeat the Rainbooms.” >This caused Lightning Dust, who had been sitting silently so far, to perk up. >”Oh, so that’s the plan you were hinting at? And I guess you’re here because you want me to contribute, right?” >Aria nods. >”Something like that. Roadie here needs some Outsiders for his plan, and Gilda agreed to be one of them. You seemed like a good candidate as well. Hey, Roadie, shirt off.” “What?” >”I said ‘shirt off’. I’m not sitting in that car while you’re sweating like a pig.” >With some grumbling you do as you are told. >You throw your shirt on the porch and sit down, allowing Aria to get a full access to your torso. >Only… Purple Stuff stops wiping immediately. >When you look at her, you see that she’s staring at your right arm with worry in her eyes. >Oh, right. >The scars. >Of this group, Gilda’s the only one who has seen them before. “They’re old. Don’t worry.” >You say that reassuringly and squeeze Aria’s hand. >She flashes a smile and goes back to work. >The cool, refreshing towel against your back feels like heaven. >Sipping her beer, Lightning Dust lets her eyes scan the group before her, scrutinizing every single one of you. >”Well…” >She finally says, before grinning. >”If it means I get to have a little revenge on Rainbow Dash, I’m game.” >Gilda returns her expression with a wink. >”Oh, definitely. I’m here because of that dweeb as well.” >Lightning Dust slaps her hands together with vigor. >”Well, whaddya need? I’m way better athlete than Dash. Heck, I’m better than her in all aspects! So you got a job, I’m your gal.” >You smirk at the attitude of the pompadour-sporting blonde. >Sure enough, some might have called it cocksure. >But to you, such confidence wasn’t anything new. Hell, you were friends with Dazzlings. It was an almost everyday thing. >Looking at Lightning Dust’s eyes, it was easy to see. >This girl knew she was good and wasn’t afraid to show it. >Such honesty was refreshing in these times when you were supposed to be humble about everything. “You play any instruments?” >You drink your beer with one big gulp, and are immediately handed another by the blonde. >”Sure. I’m especially good with a synth. Been my whole life.” >You nod sternly as you twist the bottle open. “Good, good. We’re definitely in need of… wait. Are you talking about an *actual* synth, or one of those horrible things kids these days use?” >You still remember peeking into the band room while the Rainbooms were practicing. >Cosmopolitan had one of those… things… in her hands. >Keytars. >You shiver in disgust at the mere thought. >Lightning Dust, on the other hand, is giving you a deadpan stare. >”Dude, I have a Yamaha CS-80 in my studio. I think that should count as an actual synth.” >You let out a low whistle. “Wow. Uh, yeah. That definitely counts. Actually, that’s pretty damn impressive. Not many of them around these days, not to mention the prices.” >Smiling smugly, the blonde leans closer. >Aria takes this chance to swat you with the towel (‘Arms up, Roadie’), forcing you to take a big swig from your beer. >”You wanna know what’s even more impressive?” >You raise your eyebrow and lean closer as well. >The athlete looks like a damn Cheshire Cat now. >”I know how to calibrate it myself.” >You spurt out the beer from your mouth into a big cloud of droplets. “W-wait, what!? Seriously! Holy shit.” >”Yeah, I know. Like I said, I am *awesome*. Way more than Dash, at least.” >Despite the dirty look Aria is throwing your way, you put away your beer and offer your hand at Dust. “If you’re capable to half of the stuff you claim, you’re exactly what we need. Welcome aboard, Lightning.” >”Gotcha, Boss. You made the right choice.” >She grasps your hand firmly, and you both shake. >Gilda and Trixie nod enthusiastically. >Aria, on the other hand, still looks a bit miffed. >Most likely because half of that spat out beer hit her. >”Anyway, what do you play, Boss? Looking at your fingers, I’d say guitar?” >Lightning Dust scoots closer, excitement sparkling in her eyes. >Looks like you found a fellow instrument hipster. >The mere fact that you recognized a CS-80 must’ve tipped her off. “Yeah. I currently own a Gibson ES-335 with Picato strings. It doesn’t lose any acoustic power despite being, you know, filled to brim with maple blocks. And sure you got your focused and singing lead lines if you go for bridge pickup, but man… when using just neck pickup, you could paint Jackson Pollock with those midranges. “ >”Yeah! The same type Blackmore sometimes play, right?” >She nods up and down like an overexcited puppy. “Exactly. Ol’ Ritchie might be crazier than Purple Stuff over here, but he knows his stuff when it comes to guitars.” >You finger the air to make a point, only to earn a smack on the ear from Aria. >”Act your age, Roadie.” >You roll your eyes at her, causing Dust to chuckle. “And I suppose I have another guitar at home, too, but that’s… well, it’s something close to Goldtop but… I don’t know anymore. Haven’t played it in years.” >The blonde athlete tilts her head, looking confused. >”Why not? Les Paul might be cliché, but they’re that for reason.” “It was a gift from this one guy.” >You make a vague gesture as if that would explain everything. “It’s a bit hard to explain, but if I started playing it now, after all these years, it’d feel…” >You try to search for a proper word. >”Rude?” >Luckily Aria comes to the rescue as she starts to dry your hair. >Damn that feels good. >You practically shiver under the touch of her fingers through the towel. >What kind of magic is Deep Purple using, exactly? >You never even knew she could handle something so gently. “Exactly. Rude. I can’t explain it, it just does, somehow.” >”Yeah, I think I know what you mean.” >Gilda leans against the railing, smoking yet another cigarette. >”Since it was a gift, you can’t look it as just another instrument. So, you shelve it. Few years pass, and picking it up becomes even harder.” >Taking a drag from the cig, she blows up a big cloud of smoke. >”Had the same thing happen with my Gramps’ gloves. My old man tried to shove them onto me when I started, but I never could wear them. Still can’t.” “And that’s why you should never give gifts.” >You finish the discussion and laugh. >The cool beer and the touch of Aria’s fingers behind your ears is making you tipsier than you have any right to be. >”Umm, excuse me.” >You’re woken from your hazy feelings by Trixie’s sudden voice. >You all turn to look at the blue-hued girl. >She waves her smartphone at you. >That’s right, someone called her before the fight started. >You thought it was just an excuse, but looks like there really was someone after all. >You tilt your head at her. “What’s up, Trixie? Something wrong?” >”Not exactly wrong, no. Trixie would just like to know if, now that Lightning Dust has joined us, you were still looking for more allies?” “Sure. The more the better. Like-minded people are exactly what we need right now.” >Suddenly, Gilda groans and hits her forehead with her palm. >This time the attention switches to her. >”Crap, that’s right. I was supposed to mention this to you, dweeb, but then Limestone’s plan got in the way.” >The grey-haired girl chuckles awkwardly. “What? You found someone, then?” >”I think I did.” >Gilda manages to look somewhat proud of herself. >Well, prouder than usual. >”See, last night, I saved these two kids from… well, something alright. I’m not sure what exactly it was, except for a whole lot of black.” >Immediately you shiver. >Memories from few nights ago come rushing back. >Still, you decide not to interrupt Gilda. You could tell about the otherworldly trap to her later. >You’re just glad she survived. >”Well, those two kids go to CHS, and I know they don’t like the Rainbooms. They’re rivals of Get Along Gang’s sisters, or something. Anyways I asked if they were up to some mayhem with you, and the two of them agreed.” >Right, you probably know who she is talking about. >The pink one and the silver one. >”We were supposed to meet later today, so I might as well bring you there now that we met.” >Gilda concludes by stumping her cigarette. >You nod, rubbing your chin. “Very good. We might bolster our ranks as much as we can before the D-Day.” >”Anonymous!” >Trixie’s sudden shout right next to your ear catches you off-guard. >You yelp and jump backwards, straight into Aria’s lap. >For a moment, Purple Stuff looks like she’s ready to murder you… >… But then, she just relents. >Letting out a sigh that’s somewhere between giving up and disgust, she continues her work, though she refuses to look you in the eyes. >Odd. >Sure enough, it’s way more comfortable like this, but… >Wasn’t Aria way more apprehensive of skinship like this? >”Anonymous, the Great and Powerful Trixie will get very angry soon.” >Shaking off your thoughts, you turn to Trixie, who is practically glaring at you now, hands on her hips. >Oh, right. “W-what is it, Trixie?” >Trixie must inform you that she, too, has thought of someone to help us! You must also applaud Trixie’s efforts!” >Huh. That must be the most backhanded way you’ve heard when it comes to fishing compliments. >Though you have to admit, that indignant, yet excited way she holds herself is strangely adorable. >Like a dog that’s trying to act like its tail is not wagging furiously. “Seriously? That’s great, Trixie. Good job.” >Her smile proceeds to become Ultimate Smug, the Destroyer of Worlds. “So, who is it?” >”A friend of Trixie’s who has been thinking of transferring to CHS.” “Really now? What’s she like?” >Trixie’s quickly goes through the gallery of her phone. >”Very smart. Almost as smart as Trixie! I bet she would give that Sunset Shimmer a run for her money.” >Aria frowns at the girl, clearly getting tired of her theatrics. >”This girl have a name, Trixie?” >”O-oh, yes, of course!” >Trixie quickly shoves the phone for us to see. >What stares back at us is a photo of a tall girl with a long, streaked hair on a ponytail. >Wicked look, and even wickeder eyes. >Purple with a hint of aquamarine. >”Allow Trixie to introduce… Starlight Glimmer!” >At some point you realize that things have gotten a bit strange. >You’re currently cramped in your trusty Buick, waiting for a light outside Boyle Heights to turn green. >In the car with you: Aria, Trixie and Limestone. >First one is cackling at some of the more embarrassing cassettes in the glove compartment. >Second one is once again dangling from the headrest of your seat, eyes glued to what’s ahead. >Third one is going crazy about your car, babbling about horsepower and engines. >Sure enough, it’s already quite lively. >But that’s not all. >Behind you, 1999 Honda Valkyrie 1500 and 1984 Kawasaki GPZ900R stand with their engines rumbling like hungry lions. >Riding them, Gilda and Lightning Dust respectively. >You had to admit, Gilda’s choice didn’t surprise you. >Whether it was clothes, style, lighters or vehicles, she seemed to prefer big and powerful, to the point of being dangerous. >It definitely gave her an aura of a carnivore stalking a world of herbivores. >But as for Lightning’s choice… “Uhmm…” >How should you put it? >There seemed to be something there, knocking at the door of your subconscious. >A joke that your waking mind refused to acknowledge because of how bad it was. >It screamed that you were approaching a zone you should not enter. >Something about danger… >Danger… “Gah!” >You quickly slap your own face, surprising the three girls with you. >You almost realized it. >Let the sleeping dogs lie. >No need to open that particular door to hell. >”Roadie… what the hell are you doing?” >You give a deadpan stare to Aria. “Forging myself as a new man. I’m trying to exhibit self-control similar to a hermit meditating under a waterfall.” >”… Huh?” >Instead of answering, you just point to the wing mirror, where the rumbling GPZ900R digs into the asphalt. >Aria stares for a moment, and then… >”Guh!” >Slaps herself. >With your eyes, you two make a solemn promise to never bring it up again. >Green. >Light that tells you to go. >You push the pedal with your leg and switch gears. >Both with your car and with your mind. >Like some sort of odd convoy, your Buick and the two motorcycles head out of the neighborhood you just visited. >The reason for this sudden twist in what was supposed to be just a short jump to the store and back is convoluted. >First off, meeting with Lightning Dust, Gilda and Limestone at the manor. >Next, the three new contacts they told you about. >The two kids that Gilda saved last night, most likely from the same darkness that tried to devour you and Sonata. >And Starlight Glimmer; the odd friend of Trixie’s. >How would you describe the purple girl, based on her picture…? >An angel in violet? >No, wait… >Wrong language. >’Angel’ in Dutch, not English. >That’s more like it. Something dangerous, hidden in beauty, waiting to strike. >Just by looking at her eyes, I could see that she was hiding plenty, most of which would likely complicate our dealings with her. >But on the other hand, we were supposed to be villains. >Thus she would be perfect for what was about to come. “Venom amidst everything.” >Your muttering doesn’t catch anyone’s attention, luckily. >Following the instructions Gilda gave you earlier, you turn to a side street, intending to eventually end up at some park that’s actually not that far away from CHS. >That’s where you’re supposed to meet both the brats as well as Starlight Glimmer. >Luckily, Trixie managed to arrange the latter to come to the same place where Gilda was supposed to meet the kids. >This way, you didn’t have to wander around the city any more than necessary. >You were beyond late already. >Just one look at your phone, and you could sense Adagio’s frustration through the multitude of ‘Missed Call’ messages it displayed. >You’d make it up to her. >Somehow. >Still, things had certainly started evolving rapidly. >Like blocks of dominos, stacked in rows that somehow created an elaborate picture when they were knocked over. >When you first exited Principal Celestia’s office, you honestly had no idea if you could even pull this off. >But now, pieces fell into place. >You knew Adagio, you were introduced to Gilda. >You knew Gilda, you were introduced to Lightning and Limestone. >You knew Aria, you were introduced to Trixie (accidentally, yes, but that’s beside the point.) >You knew Trixie and Gilda, you were introduced to some kids and Starlight Glimmer. >… Hopefully. >You had no guarantee that those three would join up with you. >But you could always hope. >How did that old song from that animated movie go? >Hope for the best, work for the rest? >Sounds like your life, just about. “Figures. I’m being schooled by a fat French pigeon.” >You grin at yourself as you turn the car towards the parking lot next to the park. >Aria gives you a confused look. >Something in her eyes tells you she’s slowly losing hope she’ll ever completely understand you. >You shrug your shoulders at her. “Non-sequitur thought. It happens, sometimes.” >Deep Purple clicks her tongue. >”Tell me about it, Roadie. You’re not forced to live with Sonata. It’s like someone sat on the remote, and like, the channels just keep changing with each second.” >She pretends to shiver. >”And then you realize it’s life that’s sitting on that remote. You’re not *ever* getting it back from under that fat ass.” >You scrunch your face a little at that mental image. “The most horrible part is that describing life as ‘fat ass’ is terrifyingly accurate.” >Limestone, hearing that, barks a short laugh. >”And that’s why you’ve gotta be ready to spank that ass when the time comes!” >To prove a point, she raises her arm and aims at Trixie. >Loud yelp resonates in the car two seconds later. “Okay, kids, simmer down!” >You have to actually raise your voice as you throw open the door and drag absolutely fuming Trixie out of the car. >Her nails are surprisingly sharp. >”Let Trixie go, Anonymous! She will show that good-for-nothing mongrel to never touch her again!” >Those words cause Limestone to lunge after Trixie, only to end up sprawled on the asphalt. >The scratch-marks on her face accent her angry eyes very nicely. >”It was a joke! You don’t need to go psycho on me! Or if you do, I’ll twist your neck bismuth-shaped!” >Good thing Limestone was too angry to actually proceed with what she promised. >Instead, she waved her arms and grasped the air. >Aria had managed to intercept. >For a moment, the only thing that reigned at the edge of the otherwise silent park was the sound of two idiots trying their very best to engage in melee. >In other words lot of name-calling, heavy huffing and powerless slaps that never hit their target. >You were quite glad when Gilda eventually turned up, bonking both girls on the head. >”The heck are these dweebs doing?” >Gilda glared at the two morons, now nursing their aching heads. >Aria rolled her eyes. >”Slapstick gone so wrong its birth was a mistake.” >Lightning Dust grimaced, having arrived just to hear that. She threw a pitying glance at Limestone and Trixie. >”Man, you’re cold as ever, Gilda. No mercy whether it’s a civilian or not.” >”Oh, you mean Blue here?” >Gilda pointed at Trixie, and Lightning nodded. The boxer laughed huskily. >”Don’t worry, she has a tough head. I knew how hard I could punch.” “Wait… how did you calculate that?” >You raise your eyebrow, doubtful. >Gilda simply shrugs. >”Well, it’s similar to your dome, dweeb. Makes sense for it to be thick.” >For a moment, you wanted to go full Trixie and try to strangle her laughing face. >In any event, you lot had finally gotten to your destination. >The park not far away from CHS was draped in the chilly veil of approaching winter. >Unlike the hills of Boyle Heights, sun rarely shone to this spot. >You were beginning to regret allowing Aria to wipe your body with a wet towel. >The warmth of that moment had been replaced with creeping cold. “So? Where are the brats? Or Starlight Glimmer?” >You rummage through your pocket for your pack of cigarettes. >Gilda scans the park, eventually letting out a frustrated sigh. >”Not here, from the looks of it. And I thought I told those two to be on time…” >Clicking your tongue, you stare at the empty pack of Lucky Bastards in your hand. >With a magnificent three-pointer, you throw it to the nearby trashcan. >Trixie seems a bit miffed as well. >Or it might just be Limestone, who kept eyeballing her furiously. >”Trixie does not see Starlight either. Then again, she said there was something she had to do…” >The pack hits the edge of the trashcan and jumps out, missing the target completely. >You kick the ground, annoyed. “So, we need to wait more? Great. Just great.” >You walk over to the trashcan and pick up the pack. >With a lazy move, you throw the pack upwards, watching as it reaches the apex of its flight. >”You know Roadie, Adagio’s gonna blame this all on you, right?” >Aria looks at you with a schadenfreude smile. >Sudden wind also picks up, catching the cigarette pack and making it veer out of course and back to the grass. >You stare at the accursed object, hoping it’ll catch fire then and there. “I know, I know! Still, considering we’ve found the people we’ve been looking for, even she should understand, right?” >You try to lift the pack from the ground with a swift kick. >”I dunno, Roadie. If she’s super pissed, Dagi’s not gonna care about stuff like proper reasons or even common sense.” >You hit it too hard. >”In that sense, she’s worse than Sonata.” >Yelling in annoyance, you deliver another kick when the pack is mid-air. >It goes flying into the bushes, never to be seen again. “So I’m to be a martyr?” >Aria’s laugh is full of wicked glee. >”Martyr? As if! Roadie, you’re just a sacrifice.” >You entertain the thought of elbow-dropping the bush. >Unfortunately, there’s no turnbuckle. And you doubt that passers-by would approve you, a grown-ass man, climbing the jungle gym just for the sake of revenge. “Lamb to the slaughter, while all these wolves around me point and laugh.” >Your bitter assessment of your own situation leaves a foul taste in your mouth. >When you finally turn around, you see five pair of eyes staring at you with varying degrees of pity. >Stop it, girls. >There are times when even men just want to curl up and cry. >”You have it rough too, hoss. My condolences?” “Don’t phrase it like a question, Gilda. That makes me feel even worse.” >You snarl at the boxer, who just grins back at you. >”Worry not, Anonymous!” >Trixie drapes her arm around your shoulders. >“The Great and Powerful Trixie will be sure to explain everything that happened to Adagio! That will surely clear it up!” “Again, making it worse!” >Not caring about Trixie or how she falls to her knees in shock and defeat, you give the park one last look. >Still no one in sight. >You might as well use this time productively, instead of wallowing in the thoughts of lashing that’s sure to come. “Well, since those three haven’t shown up, I’ll drop by the 7-Eleven around the corner.” >You nod towards the particular convenience store. “I need to buy some cigs. And most likely more beer. I don’t think what we have is gonna see me through today.” >”Alright, hoss. Just don’t be too long. Those kids might be wicked, but I don’t think they’re tardy.” >Gilda gives you a pat on the shoulder. >”Oh! In that case, can you get me a pack as well, Boss?” >As she says that, Lightning Dust hands you some money. >You nod and stuff the notes in your pocket. “A’ight. What kind?” >”Lucky Bastards. Menthol.” >You resist the urge to gag, but fail miserably. >You might have been slowly poisoning your body, but fuck, at least you enjoyed it. >You had never understood how anyone could enjoy menthol cigarettes. “Ugh. Alright.” >Waving a goodbye to the group, you head towards the corner of the street. >It’s not that far away. >Few minutes to walk there, few minutes to browse, and few minutes to walk back. >You should be back here in ten minutes or so. >You just hope that it’s enough for those three to arrive. >You wanted to get back at your apartment before the sun starts to set. >All joking aside, you feel pretty bad leaving Adagio and Sonata to clean up the mess that is your apartment. >Sure, you were planning to cook for the lot, but that was hardly an apology. >Wait, speaking of which… >… Would you have to cook for the others as well? >Meaning, was the whole group intending to come back home with you? >You know Trixie intends to do so, but… >Somehow, you have a bad feeling. >Like seeing two trains speeding towards each other on the same track. >There’s only one conclusion to the whole fiasco. >And you don’t want to be there when the collision occurs. “Wonder if I could get a last minute travel deal to Timbuktu…?” >You mutter that to yourself as you step inside the 7-Eleven, a small chime at the back of the shop announcing your arrival. >With the experience brought by years of rampant alcoholism (or something close to it) you home in on the beers. >Though, as you see the selection, disappointment washes over your face. “What would I give for some Arrogant Bastard…” >Reluctantly, you pick up a 6-pack of Budweiser. >Having bought the beer and the cigarettes, you head out of the convenience store. >When outside, you immediately pop one cigarette to your mouth and light it. >Whether you wanted to admit it or not, stress was piling up. >From many sources and many outlets. >As you take a drag and blow out a cloud of smoke, you watch it shimmer in the light of the setting sun. >Once again, the world is dyed in the ugly color of red. >Unpleasant and unwanted, at least by you. >Hanging like a blot of blood on the sky, sun continues its march without properly warming up the world anymore. >The thin clouds offered no protection from the color as the celestial object dipped its feet below the horizon. >For some reason, or for that very reason, the cigarette on your lips tastes like shit. >You’re about to throw it away, when— >”Yo, ya fake of a Tiger Daddy-O.” >You have to admit. >Of all the strange things you had seen so far, something about this one caught your attention completely. >In the midst of that scarlet world, crimson thing blends to it so well it’s almost scary. >She leans on the railing outside the convenience store, half-empty can of Striga Soda in her hand. >The red leather jacket she wears is somewhere between Bane and Cruella de Vil. >It’s so overly pompous it manages to shame both you and Gilda. >Under it is a black hoodie with its hood pulled up, somehow managing to resemble a pair of feral ears on her head. >From within that hood pours flaming hair, long, strong and lustrous. >And those eyes. >Animalistic eyes that laugh at you. >Only one glance at the appearance of the woman before you tells you all you need to know. >You’ve known the Dazzlings long enough to immediate recognize one crucial fact about this person. >She’s not a human. >And that’s why… “Sorry. You’ve got the wrong person.” >You immediately ignore her and walk away. >”H-hey, where the hell do ya think you’re goin’, ya fake Tiger Daddy-O!?” >She ruins her cool image but completely losing her composure when you turn your back on her. >Shit, shit, shit, shit! >You decidedly did *not* want to get involved in any more supernatural crap. >That darkness and Dazzlings were enough for you. >You did not need woman in over-designed clothes spouting cryptic nonsense at you. “Like I said, you have the wrong guy. Sorry.” >You refuse to even look at her. >Focus on the powerwalk. >Powerwalk is your friend. >It’ll take you away from the crazy woman. >”I swear I’m gonna pound ya till yer mochi, you self-serving piece of—“ >Her angry tirade is cut short without a warning. >Automatically, you look over your shoulder. >About a fraction of a second later, you realize your mistake. >You gave her an opening. >She managed to establish an eye contact. >Her smile has increased in magnitudes of smugness. >”Wait a tic… yer not my useless assistant, are ya? Nah, yer the real deal… or the real fake, whatever ya wanna call yerself.” >Taking a swig of her Striga Soda, she burps and licks her lips in satisfaction. >”Nice to finally meet’cha, Tiger Daddy-O. Looks like coincidences can still happen. Who’d have thunk?” >You grimace, seeking help from your cigarette. >Unfortunately, it has no answers. >Even the smoke cloud it creates is too small for a daring escape. >Still… Tiger Daddy-O? >What was that about? >Sure enough, the scars on your right arm created something of a tiger-stripe pattern, but… >It’s not like this woman had ever seen them. >”Tiger-striped, snake-spined, trickster-eyed, midnight-mind. Just like they said, yer an interesting one alright. A bit too buff for my tastes, though…” >Her eyes do nothing but mock you. >It’s the look of someone who holds all the cards. >You have to shield your face now. >The sun is right behind her, making it hard to see. >She throws a harsh shadow, enveloped by the red air. “… The hell do you want? I haven’t got time for more crazy shit.” >She laughs a rough laugh. >”Oh, I can believe that, Tiger Daddy-O. Pressyne’s Daughters got ya runnin’ ragged, yeah? Oh. Let me rephrase that…” >She sniffs the air like she was some sort of animal. >With a one big gulp, she finishes her soda and throws away the can. >It lands perfectly in the trash bin behind her. >”Not just them. Feather Weight, Will-O-Wisp, Thunderbird, Rock Biter… ya met ‘em all, yeah? Looks like things started movin’ today, then.” >She takes a step closer to you, hands in her pockets. >Like some sort of cursed moai statue. >Faces flash before your eyes, faces you just met. >How did she know? >All those titles… they had to coincide with the girls you’ve gotten to know. >It was like a sick, unfinished nursery rhyme just waiting for an unpleasant woman like her to finish it. “If you say so.” >Still, you’re not giving her the satisfaction of knowing she hit a bullseye. “But if I’m Tiger Daddy-O, what are you? Queen in Crimson?” >She laughs haughtily, throwing her head back. >”Nothing as malicious as that, Tiger Daddy-O. I’m… lessee… yeah. Southpaw. ‘South’ as in ‘Sun-side’. Not necessarily the direction.” >The hell is that supposed to even mean? >Sure enough, she’s setting herself up between you and the sun. >But can that be the only reason? “And? What do you want with me, Southpaw?” >”Ya? Hah! Tiger Daddy-O, I got no beef with ya, not right now. The reason why I’m here is, well, the city.” >Her answer serves only to further confuse you. “The city? What about this place?” >Her grin reveals a protruding canine tooth. >Something cute on a child is disturbing on an adult. >”I got no business with this city. What I’m interested in is the other ‘this city’.” >Confusion doesn’t even begin to describe what you’re feeling right now. >Seeing that you have no idea what she’s talking about, Southpaw shrugs her shoulders. >”Well, even that is on the back burner. Right now, I just wanna get my hands on my assistant. Thinkin’ she can just up and disappear like that… she’s in for a world of hurt.” >Glint of sadism flashes in her eyes. >For a moment, you’re reminded of the darkness you were trapped in with Sonata. >Something similar, something just as dangerous, lurks within that woman. >Only the color is different. >Somehow, you can sense that she isn’t responsible for the black void. >… Though judging from her demeanor, it’s not due to lack of ability. >”So while I search for her, I figured I could take a look-see, get to know this place. Didn’t think it’d be this disappointin’. I suppose only third of it is ready. No reason I can’t ignore it for a while longer.” >She glances around, her eyes scanning the city. >It’s a look of a predator eyeing up a prey, like she wants to gobble the whole town up. >A look like that is enough to send shivers up your spine. >You’ve seen some weird and ugly shit in your time… >… But this has to be the first time you’re looking at someone insane. >”Or maybe there *is* a reason I need to ignore it. Haste makes waste… or in this case, waste makes haste. If ya got no understandin’ of the situation, ya only end up acceleratin’ worst possible outcome. Ya should tell Space Cadet that as well.” >Space Cadet? >Is she talking about Strangelove? >How much does this Southpaw know? How many people are under her magnifying glass? >For some reason you’re feeling more and more defenseless. >”Then again, if I want to make sure, I should just leave a voicemail.” >Southpaw raises her hand. >Her outstretched fingers hunger for you. >It’s been a while. >But right now, when facing this woman who reaches out for you… >You feel fear. >Honest-to-God fear. >Southpaw’s animalistic eyes pierce the redness of the evening sky, shining ferociously. >If she touches you, it’s all over. >Within that hand is a power you don’t want to experience. >Even without experience, even without proof, you’re sure of it. >She’s dangerous. >No, she’s danger itself. “Shit!” >Smell of copper tints the air. >It clots within your nose, making you want to throw up. >Run away. >Right now, as fast as you can. >But even when your brain tells you that, you’re rooted in place. >The moment you locked eyes with Southpaw, she had you nailed to that spot. >Her hand creeps closer. >Like seeking to crush your skull, she aims at your head. >”No need to fight it, Tiger Daddy-O.” >Southpaw laughs that sickening laugh of hers. >”Yer gonna feel good, so why won’t’cha let it happen?” >Alluring honey to sweeten the danger of blood. >You need to get out, you need to get out, you need to get out—! >”Hands off.” >The arm that reaches out to you stops. >A purple hand grabs it by the wrist and twists it away. >Standing between you and Southpaw: Aria. >You didn’t even see her arrive, but here she is. >Her face is twisted by wrath like you’ve never seen before. >She’s seriously angry; angry beyond belief. >And Southpaw? >Currently, her head is trapped between two wooden prongs. >Like she had been caught by a gigantic wooden tuning fork. >Holding that odd staff is a girl you’ve seen only once before, in a picture. >”My, what a shame. Looks like you were caught in act.” >Starlight Glimmer sneers at Southpaw. >And Aria? >”Never try that again, you scum.” >She’s squeezing the woman’s wrist hard enough to break it. >… For some reason, you now understand how those crabs on the beach of Normandy must’ve felt on that fateful day. >You could’ve cut the tension outside that 7-Eleven with a blunt object. >It was thick and heavy like smog on a Hong Kong night, hanging around you as if trying to smother you. >Aria was grasping Southpaw’s stretched hand with a vise grip. >It was a small wonder the arm hadn’t broken already. >Starlight’s hold from her staff, neatly catching Southpaw’s head, doesn’t waver. >You can practically hear a strange hum from the object, otherworldly in nature. >This had to be magic. >Hell, whatever Southpaw had tried to do to you had to have been magic. >Such reaction of fear couldn’t spawn from anything else. >It was unnatural. No, unclean even. >If this world was clean in the way it was meant to be, then magic was a stain of ink that didn’t leave no matter how you rubbed it. >But this world wasn’t paper, it was cloth. Ink was never meant to touch it. >Paper was whatever world this thing called ‘magic’ originated from. >There, you could paint, write and make marvels with it. >Here, you could only cause chaos and ugliness. >Destruction of what was once proper. >In short: ruining it. >”My, my.” >Southpaw is grinning wildly now. Her face looks almost monstrous in its joy. >”Ya really have some interesting friends, Tiger Daddy-O. Who’d have thunk they’d come for yer rescue so quickly?” >She spares a glance at Starlight Shimmer behind her. >The violet girl is sneering at the woman in red. >”Friends? I’m sorry, but I think you have mistaken something.” >Starlight tilts her head in a mocking manner. >”This young man and I are nothing as sweet as that. In the first place, we’ve never even met before. Saying I’m his ‘friend’ is insulting to both of us. We haven’t even had the chance to see whether we’ll like or hate each other.” >She pokes Southpaw’s head softly with her staff. >”But I was promised something interesting in exchange for showing up. And this definitely counts.” >Southpaw cackles softly. >”So ya have such mercenary mindset, magus? How refreshin’! Ya’d think this town or this ‘other’ town would have nothing but girl scouts, but yer a right fresh breeze straight from Hell.” >Putting her hand in her pocket, Southpaw produces another can of Striga Soda. >She cracks it open and takes a sip. >”Too bad this ain’t a highway to hell. Just like a sinner, ya climb up a spider’s thread to paradise, only to end right back at where ya came from.” >Starlight snorts. >”I’m hardly in search of a paradise. This dirty world is just enough for me.” >Apparently satisfied with that, Southpaw turns to look at you and Aria once again. >Her eyes sparkle in the light of the setting red sun. >It is a sickening sight. >”And what comes to ya, Melior, stop snarlin’ at me. Yer ruinin’ yer pretty face.” >Aria takes a shocked step back and shivers. >For a moment, her wrath is replaced by fleeting horror. >But just as quick, she gets her emotions in check. >”Ugh. That name is so medieval and out of fashion. Feels just wrong to hear it now.” >You arch an eyebrow at Deep Purple, but she just shakes her head. >”Don’t worry about it, Roadie. Instead, focus on her. I dunno if you realized it, but she’s not-“ “Not a human, yeah, I gathered that.” >You glare daggers at the woman in crimson to hide the lingering terror. “Everything about her just screams evil sorceress if you ask me.” >Aria chuckles, though it is not a happy sound. >”You’re quick to catch on, Roadie. Yeah, I can just smell Equestrian magic radiating from her. The stench is everywhere.” >Having regained her composure, Aria takes a step forward again. >She tightens her grip on Southpaw’s wrist. >”And not the happy-go-barf Princess-type magic, either. No, this thing’s rotten like us.” >Southpaw answers with her teeth bared. >”I don’t wanna to hear that from a stinkin’, scaled bottom-feeder like ya, Siren.” >Honestly, Aria’s starting to look like something straight out of a horror story. >Her facial muscles are strained to the utmost, her eyes are bloodshot, and lips have retreated enough for her gums to show partially. >Her teeth give her a mask of rage. >She looks ready to tear Southpaw apart right then and there, in the middle of the street. >”Shut up, Kasha. No, wait… You’re not a Kasha, are you? Though even if I say that, you can’t be anything else. The heck are you, even?” >Southpaw giggles and takes another sip from her soda. >She savors the taste with her tongue before answering. >”Well, something like a Kasha, I’d suppose. Ya got origin and the purpose wrong, but if ya wanna get technical, that’s the closet yer gonna get.” >Kasha? The hell is that? >You weren’t that well-versed when it came to supernatural loonies. >”Then what’s a universal garbage collector doing here, trying to plant a suggestion into normal person?” >Southpaw shrugs as much as the staff holding her head lets her. >”Like I told this Tiger Daddy-O here, I’m just scoutin’. Seein’ the scenery, chewin’ the scenery, feelin’ the scenery. Me and my partner are legitimate tourists for now.” >Starlight rolls her eyes. >”As if. If you want to keep your leyline-searching a secret, try not to do it within the hearing range of someone who actually knows magic.” >That elicits a laugh out of Southpaw. >She looks at the girl in violet, eyes suddenly serious and stern. >”Don’t get cocky, magus, even though I praise ya. While ya were still scroungin’ for whatever measly bits of magic there are in this world, I was bringin’ kingdoms to their knees. If ya don’t show proper respect, I’ll bend ya over my knee and snap ya in half.” >She accents her threat by swigging down the last bits of soda in the can. >Aria, and Starlight for that matter, doesn’t seem intimidated in the least. >They’re too angry to be scared. >Too bad it’s you, a proper goddamn human, caught in the crossfire of these magical freaks of nature. >Southpaw seems to notice your nervousness, as she chuckles. >Those bestial eyes move to target you. >”Don’t shiver like that, Tiger Daddy-O. Ya shouldn’t show yer fear in front of predators. Isn’t that the first thing taught to people like us?” >People like us? >Just how the hell are you two similar in personality? >Just being compared to someone like the woman in crimson before you makes your gastric juices boil. >Normalcy is what you strive for. >Magic does not belong to normalcy. >Even if you are a villain, that doesn’t mean— “Ah.” >It hits you like a bag of bricks. “Hah… so that’s it. You’re a villain as well.” >You mask your fear with a confident grin. “Unlike me, you’re a proper, honest-to-God villain. That’s actually kinda rare to see in this world. Should I be honored?” >Southpaw cocks an eyebrow at your retort. >”Hmh? Ain’t ya a proper villain as well? Just look at ya… big, hulkin’ brute, dressed in fur and leather and with dead eyes glarin’ down the world. Ya ain’t foolin’ me, though ya might fool those around ya.” >She wipes her mouth and burps, enjoying the after-taste of that sickeningly bitter soda. >”We’re birds of a feather, ya and I. Nah… skins of a cat? There’s plenty of us, after all. So, ya don’t have to look so reserved in this company. Tiger-striped, snake-spined, trickster-eyed, midnight-mind… yer gonna fit right in.” “Dream on. When it comes to being a villain, I’m the cat’s whiskers.” >Southpaw roars in laughter, throwing her head backwards. >She even pushes back Starlight’s staff. >”Ya get it, ya totally get it! That’s why I like ya, Tiger Daddy-O!” “What a shame, then. After all, we’re out in the open…” >You put your hand on Aria’s shoulder, squeezing it to encourage her. “And my friend here is just dying to swing a dead cat.” >Aria understands the meaning of that. >This meeting has gone on long enough. >You’re not getting anything out of it, and Southpaw is in charge of the pace. >Whatever she’s planning to do, or even if she isn’t planning anything, talking with her brings you lot nothing. >She’s simply running verbal circles around you three, refusing to back down an inch even when facing the wrath of Aria and Starlight. >Indeed, she seems to be drawing some strange sort of amusement from it. >And even if Starlight Glimmer radiates the full confidence and bravado of someone in charge, she’s not. She’s really not. >She’s just a damn good faker. >A liar even better than you are. >From her eyes, you can see that’s she’s worried, worried that the woman you lot are threatening might turn the tables at any second. >A chance which grows ever higher the longer you spent in the company of Southpaw. >Thusly, you made a decision and informed Aria of it. >It was time to end this conversation; violently, if need be. >”You read my mind, Roadie. That’s why you’re the best.” >Aria shivers like a beast about to pounce. >But— >”Oh, man.” >Just as the situation is about to explode into one big free-for-all. >”What did you get yourself into this time, Mistress?” >A hand pats you on the shoulder. >”Picking fights with monsters is all well and good…” >And you find yourself accosted by a familiar voice. >”… But try not to hurt guys with such a handsome face. It’s bad luck, you know?” >Far, far too familiar voice. “Wha—!?” >You spin around, swatting the hand in the process. >However, what you see turns your blood to ice. >No, your blood drains completely and disappears. >After all… >”Yo, White-Gold Stripes.” >The fellow that’s greeting you jovially, with his hand raised and mouth in a juvenile grin. >”Fancy meeting you here.” >Is wearing your face. >No. >It *is* you. “Ah...” >What? “…” >The. “… Fuck?” >Some things in this life are too absurd to look at. >A darkness between everywhere and nowhere, trying to swallow you up, is one of them. >A hunter hiding in that same darkness, his rusted wheels creaking with every inch, is another. >A woman draped in the crimson sunset and eyeing you with eyes of a beast is third. >And this… this is the fourth. >But right now, he’s the only one you can remember. >After all, he, it, whatever, is you. >A perfect reflection staring down at you with a sickening grin. >You were prepared for a lot of things. A battle was about to break out, after all. >Insanity was not one of those things. >”______! ____ ___ __ __!” >Aria’s words don’t register to your ears. >All you hear is static. >She’s trying to shake you, trying to make you look at her. >She even let go of Southpaw’s wrist just to dig her nails into your shoulders. >A fruitless effort to use pain to return you to the world of the sane. >You don’t see what happens behind you, but you can somehow realize it. >It’s not as if your senses have been shut down. >Your brain is just unable to focus on anything but the surrealistic absurdity before you. >The other ‘you’ puts his hand in his pocket and leans closer. >Two faces, two identical faces, inches away from each other. >One looking like a venomous snake. >One drenched in sweat. >”Didn’t expect this, did you?” >Snap. >Something snaps. >It’s not anger, anger’s the last thing in your mind. “GYAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!” >Your world turns red and everything shatters. >A glitched fight-or-flight response causes you to lunge at the other you. >An elbow to the face catches him off-guard, but your following left hook doesn’t. >He moves out of the way, instead catching hold of your arm. >Before you can stop him, he twists the appendage, shooting a column of misery down your spine. >Bad mistake. >After all, Aria finally saw your expression. >”SCUM!” >Something throws you, the other you, and just about everything that’s not nailed down in a 100 meter radius off their feet. >That something is a blast of high-frequency noise and pure wind pressure that Aria launches from her mouth. >A sonic scream grand enough to shatter the windows of the 7-Eleven. >At the same time, light blue aura flares up. >It veils the staff and Starlight Glimmer strikes down, apparently trying to cut Southpaw in half. >Too bad the woman’s not there anymore. >She moved the instant she felt the energy. >With a grace of a feline, she slides across the asphalt and delivers a kick to Aria’s back, sending her tumbling to the street. >A car passing by swerves off the road, trying to avoid the girl and the chaos in general. >You shake off the weak grip the other you has on your hand and launch a torpedo kick straight at Southpaw’s face. >She cackles and moves to the side, avoiding it completely. >With frightening ease, she sweeps the air with a burning aura of magic, sending you flying. >You hit the railing between the road and the pavement with a sickening thud. >Something in your back creaks. >But even if you broke something, you can’t feel it. >Your world fell apart. >Wounds are the last thing you can worry about. >”Over here, hag!” >Spinning her staff around and drawing a circle in the air, Starlight lets loose a volley of blue energy. >The projectiles rip apart the air, leaving a distinct smell of ozone in their wake. >Three of them miss, but two hit Southpaw straight into her raised arm. >The crimson woman tried to shield herself. >Her reward is a burnt jacket and singed skin. >Southpaw responds by growling and gathering more of that infernal energy into her hands, ready to let loose power that made Starlight pale in shame. >”RAH!” >Her attack is cut short when another blast from sonic wall of destruction hits her square in the back. >Aria emerges from where she was thrown, dusting off clothes. >Her hands are showing burns thanks to the asphalt, but other than that, she’s almost perky. >If overflowing murderous intent cascading over everyone counts as perky. >Bad move, Southpaw. >You just awakened a sleeping giant, from the looks of it. >”No time to look elsewhere, White-Gold Stripes.” >The hand of the other you reaches towards your neck and pulls you up. >Immediately you spring into action, planting a swift knee into his stomach before twisting the arm so that it’s now under your lock. >You draw your right arm backwards, ready to bring it forward for a punch. >But what you see makes you waver. >Instead of your own face, you see a warped reflection. >Something familiar molded into a far more feminine shape. >”What? You wouldn’t hit a girl, would you?” >You proceed to do just that. >Satisfying crunch echoes from the clone’s nose as he (she?) bends backwards, blood spurting in a big fountain. >The arc it creates stains the pavement. >Still holding his (her?) nose, the clone screams out in pain, staggering backwards. “The hell are you supposed to be!?” >You manage to growl that as you get a better look at your changed opponent. >It still looks like you, somewhat. >It retains the muscular and tall physique. >However, it is now a lot curvier and with two unmistakable round forms stretching the T-shirt. >Her hair has also gotten lot silkier, though it still looks like a mullet. >Somehow, some way, the thing before you has become your female self in an attempt to throw you off your game. >”Hoss! Duck!” >Sudden shout snaps you back to reality. >On an instinct, you dive for the ground, and just in the nick of time. >Two humanoid shapes pass by where your head just was. >They deliver a beautiful dual airborne kick to the writhing female clone, sending it careening backwards to the ground. >To your utter shock, you find yourself staring at two young girls you’ve seen only few times before. >One in all silver, one in pink and white. >The one with a yellow jacket throws her head back and lets out a mocking laugh. >”Hah! To be taken down so easily… That’s disappointing!” >The silver one giggles mirthfully. >”Just like you in the class president election.” >This earns a glare from her friend. >”What was that!?” >”Nothing, nothing!” >The way the silver one is whistling… she’s not even trying to act innocent. “Okay… the hell is going on anymore?” >You pick yourself up from the ground, glancing from where the original shout had come. >You see Gilda, Lightning Dust and Trixie there, all looking like they had just run a marathon. >5 dollars said that the first two were responsible for throwing the now-arguing midgets. >”T-Trixie admits… she has never seen such throwing arm after Shining Armor and Dean Cadance in the last Friendship Games…” >Blueberry there confirms your suspicions. “Alright, Young Bucks. Enough bickering. We’re not out of the woods yet.” >You wipe your face and turn towards the one problem still remaining. >That is, Southpaw. >She’s currently having a staring contest with Aria and Starlight. >The air itself looks as if it was crackling under the pressure emanating from the trio. >”W-what’s going on?” >The pink princess suddenly grabs a hold of your leg, staring at the unfolding scene. >”Why is the air warping like that?” “Huh?” >It takes a few seconds for you to realize, but she’s right. >It wasn’t just your imagination. >The air around the trio is actually fluctuating. >”What are those three!?” “Wish I knew how to give an easy answer, Silver.” >You take time to push the two kids back, so that you stand between them and the unfolding destruction. >Sure, they saved your life. >But you’re not about to let them get involved any further. >What is happening is straight out of a horror novel. >Light bends and warbles, creating iridescent shadows that flee across your field of vision. >You smell that sickening fragrance of ozone, stench of metallic sparks that fill the air. >Everything shimmers and shines, but not in a good way. >World shouldn’t act this way. >And the reason for the glitch in the system is clear. >One look at Starlight Glimmer’s panicked stare is enough to pinpoint the culprit. >It’s not Southpaw. >It’s Aria. >Deep Purple has her mouth open, and though you can’t hear the sound she’s making, you can *feel* it. >Your neural receptors are all screaming in terror. >One step closer and she’ll shut down your whole nervous system just like that. >It’s a small miracle Starlight and Southpaw are still standing. >Arms folded, back straight, mouth open, Aria looks like some ancient statue of hell. >Her eyes are locked onto the crimson woman, who refuses to buckle under the strain of the silent cacophony. >Something red shines on Aria’s chest with the brilliance of a newborn star. >It’s an awe-inspiring sight. >Terrifying… yet awe-inspiring. >”Haha… hahaha… ya really are a terrifyin’ gal, ain’t ya, Melior. Normal witch would’ve turned tail and fled right ‘bout now.” >With a flurry of her hand, Southpaw draws aside the hem of her jacket, revealing what’s inside it. >”But then again… I’m not a normal witch, savvy? If yer goin’ all out, I might as well. It’s still only one third done, but what the hell… let’s have ourselves a right bloodbath, here and now.” >Or rather, what *isn’t* inside it. “What the hell…?” >There’s nothing. >Absolute blackness. >… That is, until a pair of eyes opens up in that darkness. >Then another. >And another. >Until hundreds and hundreds of monstrous eyes stare from within that black void. >Accompanied by just as many guttural growls. >For a moment, everything hangs in a terrible balance. >Aria’s voice above the range of our hearing, about to bring the city-block down. >The monsters hidden within Southpaw’s jacket, ready to drag their targets to the darkness. >When either of them makes a move, all of that is released. >You have no trouble believing that the two of them are going to bring hell down on earth. >You don’t need to be an expert in magic to realize that. >Seconds tick away. >Tension gathers like a growing thunderball in the sky. >But what eventually breaks the terrible silence… >— Is something that nobody expects. [Embed: Europe - Final Countdown] >You have never, ever been taken so off-guard by a bunch of Swedes. >And neither has the rest of the group. >All eyes are now on Southpaw, who looks like she wants to sink through the pavement. >After a moment without words, completely dominated by the blaring song, she finally caves in and lets go of the hem of her jacket. >This is followed by her fishing out a red smart phone which she swipes open. >Bringing the phone to her ear, she listens for a moment, confused look on her face. >”W-what? Hold on, what are ya… Oh. Oh! Well, yeah, that’s…” >She scrunches her nose, looking displeased. >”Yeah. Yeah. Understood. I’ll… okay, okay, I gotcha. No need to get yer panties in a twist.” >Letting out an inaudible groan, Southpaw makes an impatient gesture with her hand. >”Sure, sure, whatever. Ya ain’t getting’ nowhere screamin’ like that, honey.” >After listening for a moment more, Southpaw nods. >”Yeah, he’s here. Want me to put him on?” >Getting her answer, the crimson woman throws her phone to you. >Fumbling with it for a bit, you finally bring it to your ear. >There’s nothing to be heard on the other end of the line. “H-hello?” >Your wary voice causes the caller to chuckler. >Wait. >You know that nasally laugh. >”Why hello there, Anopsia!” “Goddammit, Strangelove.”