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Ring your Bell-issima (ATTN:Goldendaze)


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Suspended over the Las Pegasus Reservoir was an expansive cloud house of the kind preferred by Cloudsdale-born Pegasi.  The City Council didn't mind the placement so much; in fact, they were more than willing to encourage it once they figured out how much the shade prevented water loss from evaporation, not to mention the lack of strain on the city's own infrastructure, still undergoing a barely-sustainable rate of expansion.  

 

Not that such considerations were foremost in Sky Sailing's mind when his cloud-mobile had been allowed to be carried by the winds towards this city, it was just the one place with substantial park-like greenery in the midst of this desert.  He might not have come to Las Pegasus at all if there wasn't a good prospect for new entertainment acts in the many hotel venues and resorts; as it turns out, that had been the best decision in his life!  From a purely serendipitous encounter, he'd befriended, and later fell in love, with the headline dance act of the Mareage Hotel, Wind Dancer.  That had been his introduction into the world of live acts, which had in turn tugged his star from the horizon and flung it to fly alongside Windy's.  As a musician, being in working partnership, as well as life partnership, with a dancer was only natural.

His own style was fairly heavy in magi-crystal synthesizers, much of which he had engineered himself, customizing them to his own musical needs.  Same with the recording studio he'd tucked into his cloud house.  The whole cloud was shaped like a ship, the studio taking up much of the "bow," with the living quarters astern.  The sails were furled, the masts unraised, as he had no plans to drift away anytime soon.

 

At the moment, though, he was in a lull in his recording schedule, and Wind Dancer was easing up on her show schedule, leaving him some idle time to himself.  So, he let it be known through the city's entertainment circles that he had a recording studio, with it's own Record Pressings, available for artists looking for a fairer form of recording contract than was usually offered by the larger studios.  He was an independent artist himself, not really wanting to be bothered with the more cutthroat aspects of business.  Not to mention that the stallion spent a lot of his waking hours in a half-dreaming state, wherein he'd likely be eaten alive by a sharp negotiator.

 

He was making an effort to keep awake today, though.  His enquiries had borne fruit, and there was a mare who was going to visit him with the intent of possibly making use of his equipment.  Bellissima, her name was, and Sky was honestly a little surprised.  The young pop singer had made quite a name for herself, having been discovered at a young age, already an enchanting figure with a voice like an angel.  *Although if she was discovered that young, it's likely her first contract wasn't quite... favorable.*  Small wonder she'd be looking to renegotiate her next.  Still, the sky-blue pegasus made sure to dress well to meet her, ironed shirt and tie, without the flight mask that he sometimes wore as part of his live act.  He even shelled out for a cloud-walking bangle in case Bellissima didn't know the spell.  Didn't want the singer falling through the studio floor!

 

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*Two Days Ago*

 

Bellissima Stella stayed still on the air ship, absolutely terrified to look down. The poor unicorn didn't have many faults, excluding her own attitude problems, but this was the number one fear she had: heights. Though, she'd been to Las Pegasus many times. Every time she rode in her fancy airship, so you'd think she was used to it by then. She could easily afford one with how popular she became over the years. The airship was rather huge, and only had a few ponies on it. The captain, her security guards, and herself. The sacred pony stayed locked in her room until they finally landed, which didn't take much time at all. But, she was starting to feel air sick.

 

Las Pegasus really was the place to shine. So many creatures to impress. It was a perfect place to gain fans, gain attraction. Normally she'd fly here for a concert or two. Her fears simply shifted away when she was performing. She'd forget she was in the sky. That brilliant time always ended when she had to trot back to her hotel. The utter image of clouds blocking her vision made her tense. More tense than normal. 

 

Once her ship finally landed, she sprinted off the dock and right onto the road. The pink unicorn's face was a hue of green as she took a huge breath to calm her heart down. She felt way safer, finally being able to touch something that wasn't flying in the sky. Maybe the city was also flying in the sky, but it felt more secure. Quickly, her guards carried her luggage and surrounded her as they made their way to the hotel. A group of ponies recognized her as their "pop princess". Bell absolutely loved the attention, but didn't acknowledge them. She wanted to fuel her fan's emotions, make them excited to see her. She loved to play with their feelings- it made her feel powerful. Of course, it was embarrassingly horrible to ponder about, but she was a selfish pony. Too bad no pony else could recognize her rudeness. 

 

Comfortably, they made their way to the hotel. 

 

*Present*

 

Bellissima got out of her bed in a rush, sprinting to the bathroom to get ready. The reason she was there in the first place was to try and get the most important deal of her lifetime. She was running late. The night before, she went to bed later than normal, getting a little nervous about meeting the pegasus stallion. She would never admit this anxiety, of course, but because she went to bed late, no matter what, she had to get her 8 hours of sleep. She was very precise about her routines, and tremendously stubborn about them too. 

 

The unicorn used her magic to brush her hair, curl it, put on her mascara, put on some blush, and then put on perfume. She fixed up her bow and kissed at herself in the mirror. Yes, she is self centered enough to kiss herself. But, Bellissima was still outstanding beautiful.

 

She left her hotel looking like a goddess, as she always thought, then trotted elegantly outside to find a flying taxi. She was rushing too much, as she believed she was important enough that even if this stallion had to wait, it would be worth it for her.

 

She knew that this particular stallion's house was somewhere higher in the sky. Her magical abilities were no where near those of a gifted unicorn, so she wouldn't be able to find a way up there herself. Luckily, the gorgeous mare found one and took it, telling the driver where she'd be headed. The taxi driver nodded, looking at her with desirable eyes. 

 

The pompous unicorn scoffed, "What? You've never seen a mare quite like me before, hm?" The driver shook his head, almost running into a building. "How about you pay attention to where you're going. You wouldn't want to mess up my pretty face, sweetheart." 

 

Sooner or later, they got to Sky's house. His house was incredibly interesting.. almost shaped like a ship. It was bigger than she was expecting.

 

Bell hops out of the taxi, paying him the exact amount. She had the extra bells to tip him, but she was no where near generous. She heard the driver fly away, as she started to trot along the clouds. She never even thought about using a cloud spell, though, she had no idea what the spell even was. She thankfully didn't fall through, as she made her way to the door. The unicorn sucked in some air, then knocked on the door ever so lightly. She was a lady after all. 

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The door opened right before Bellissima finished her final tap; one second earlier and she would have booped Sky on the nose! "Oh, you're here.  I thought I'd have to come get you from the reservoir shore."  The pegasus took a moment to take in the sight of Bellissima; let nopony say she let herself down today.  He felt distinctly underdressed, not to say inadequately groomed, compared to her.  If one was being charitable, one could say he was going for the "relaxed executive" look.  If.

 

"Well, you seem to have yourself taken care of, but just for both of our peace of mind, if you please wear this?"  He presented the bangle.  "Don't want you falling through the floor; I've not had many guests here that weren't fliers of some kind."  It was just as well that the bangle was an elegant-looking piece of enchanted wear; he was making good money these days, enough to spend well on gifts, since he hadn't acquired too large a taste in luxuries for himself just yet.  "Anyway, do come in!  I'm Sky Sailing, as you've probably guessed.  I definitely recognize you from your posters, Bellissima!"

 

The doorway in was a sort of cabin structure on the top of the ship's "deck", which had a set of cloud steps into the middle of the house.  Towards the stern end Bellissima could see a kind of parlor for guests, with a kitchen (or would that be galley?) visible beyond, the closed door probably to the bedroom.  The walls were hung with what looked like prints of album cover art, though without the text or labels indicating the band.  Interspersed with these were more recently hung pictures of a certain pegasus mare, who Bellissima might recognize as Wind Dancer, along with a family portrait over the couch of a younger-looking Sky.  

 

The door to the studio was behind them, but Sky decided to lead her into the foyer first.  "Can I get you anything to drink?  I don't know if you've had a chance to get anything to eat today; I know how busy you can get when on tour."

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Bell's hoof immediately retracted as she almost booped Sky's nose. He opened the door faster than she thought. He seemed to anticipate Bellissima's company. She smirked at the thought, but quickly frowned once again to contain her composure. She had to maintain professional, to at least her standers. "Yes- no need to create a hassle, as I'm present now. On time, I presume?" She tried to give a friendly smile, looking fake or not. She wasn't paying attention to her gestures. She thought she was on time, or just a little late. Nothing to fret about. 

 

She took a second to take in the stallion. He was well dressed, which she wasn't expecting. She needed him after all, not the other way around. The unicorn liked how he was trying to make this an important meeting, because it was. She was relieved she wasn't the only pony thinking this was an major occurrence. 

 

The pink mare jutted out of her thoughts as she was met with a bangle. She looked at it with disdain, but levitated it over her left hoof. She knew the consequences if she didn't put it on. It wasn't ugly at least. It looked well made- very high class. She was impressed. "Thanks for the... convenience." The mare gave him another forced smile. He then welcomed her in, which she politely accepted. "Sky Sailing," she repeated. "Ah yes- my posters. How I do need to take new ones. I wasn't particularly fond of the photography. It made me look rather undesirable." She flipped her mane as she walked into the house. 

 

The mare took a brief glance at the house, which she thought was quite brilliant. She'd never step hoof in a house like this, though she stepped into fancier ones. This was just unique. As she looked, she recognized a few covers. A familiar feeling was had when she spotted a pegasus. She'd heard about the dancer before. "Wind Dancer. She's quite talented herself. Maybe not to my degree, but I can safely assume she's got phenomenal aptitude." Bellissima was full of herself. 

 

The kind gentlemen let the famous unicorn in the foyer before him. She took the lead then, letting the door close after the both of them. "A glass of lemon water sounds delightful. Maybe add half a spoonful of sugar. Thank you," she said rather quickly. Her voice was soft, yet confident. "Being on tour does make a celebrity rather busy. I don't recall the last time I got to sit down in a peaceful manor." Bellissima loved to talk about her struggles, but she did feel comfortable enough to be genuine with the conversation. "Of course, that's what a talented pony, such as myself, get's the burden of accomplishing." She then laughed a little at herself. "Do you happen to have cinnamon bread? That always gives me a warm feeling." 

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Sky found himself blinking a little more than usual whenever he looked at Bellissima.  He couldn't describe it, it was like the rimers of sleep were still clouding the windows to his soul, and he couldn't quite see outside.  There was a smile, there, yes?  Why could he not see it clearly?  *I should make myself some coffee.  No, that would take too long.  Maybe some of that iced tea?*  The last thing he wanted to do was seem rude to be a guest.

"I wouldn't say your posters made you look unattractive in any way, but... you did look unapproachable."  He closed his eyes, picturing the image in his mind as he showed her to a seat.  "A beautiful carving, a piece of art, with a huge 'Do Not Touch' sign in front of it."  He opened his eyes, giving her a smile.  "I can understand wanting to have them retaken, for sure.  I don't want to appear standoffish to those around me, especially if they're giving time and money to hear me sing.  Heh, that's still something I'm not quite used to yet, you know?"

 

His gaze was directed, along with hers, to Wind Dancer's picture, and his smile widened.  "That she is.  A real full package; a dancer par excellence, a heart of gold, and she has a fine voice too.  I should introduce you two; I don't think she's used any of your songs as backing tracks, but that's something I think I could help arrange."  If he noticed her piece of self-aggrandizement, Sky didn't show it.  Not that it was likely, from the dreamy, lovey-dovey look on his face.  He shook himself back to the present after a couple of seconds.  "Lemon water with sugar, and cinnamon bread?  Sure, hope you don't mind raisins.  You want it toasted?"  He nipped back into the kitchen to arrange matters, bringing back a couple of glasses and the bread.

 

"So..."  He finally took a seat himself, cold glass of iced tea in wing.  "You're looking for a new recording contract, I hear?  Your old one lapse, or was there a.... hm, less amicable parting?"  The Countess Coluratura affair was still relatively fresh in the minds of the music world, with the shakeup in the pop world being felt still in the relatively unstable charts.  Bellissima had stood out in the crop of young talent seeking to take the Countess' top spot, the concert crowd and radio waves embracing her as one of their own.  But Sky was familiar enough with the idea that shiny, happy appearances could hide shadows backstage.

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Bellissima wasn't expecting for him to agree with her about the posters. She was expecting him to absolutely poor his heart out about how beautiful she was in it. At least, that's what almost every other pony would do. The unicorn imagined a whole flock of ponies around her, telling her how perfect she is. That was the complete opposite here. She was with one other pony, and he agreed with her. It made her raise an eyebrow, not in a negative way. She was just confused at his actions. Though when she started thinking about it more, who was he to tell her that she looked unapproachable? She had to think again. Maybe he's just more down to earth than others.. not a liar.. "I did look rather unapproachable. Maybe it was my posing. I could've swore I smiled in it." She listened to him talk without interrupting. "Yes! It would be a shame if my posters made me seem ghastly. I would be ashamed for my fans if they predicted I was a low-life. Wasting their time would be unfathomable!" 

 

She was lying. Lying hard. She knew the right things she needed to say. Bell was a great liar, almost no pony could predict it. She didn't care much about her fans at all, but rather her fame and fortune. She wanted the attention- no- she needed it. Maybe because in her childhood she never got the attention she needed. Her childhood was rather sad, and she never wanted to feel like that again. Ever. 

 

Bell kind of chuckled when he talked about Wind Dancer. He seemed obviously in love, which Bell has never actually felt. Well, she wasn't really sure what 'love' felt like. "Meeting her would be invigorating. I'm sure both our fans have dreamed of the day we performed together." The amount of new fans she could get would be outstanding to her career, and that's all she thought about. 

 

"I don't mind raisins in the slightest." She hated them. "Yes, toasted, please." 

 

He fixed up their things and sat down, rather quickly. Bell was impressed again. "Thank you," she said politely while levitating her lemon water. She took a small sip. "That's quite refreshing." She nodded her head to his question. "Indeed. I've been looking for one for a while." She took another sip, eyeing her cinnamon bread. Anytime Sky wasn't looking, she'd pick off a raisin and hide it somewhere quickly with her magic. "We parted a while ago. He wanted me to be something I wasn't." She was telling the truth this time. It was actually the opposite story with Countess Coluratura. Bell loves the bright colors and intense vocals in regular pop music. Whatever was in season. The unicorn would sometimes sing acoustic, she actually knows how to play the guitar rather well. The reason she doesn't much was because she would feel too vulnerable. Slow songs typically meant showing emotions, and what she wasn't going to do was walk on stage and talk about her feelings. 

 

Another sip of lemon water. "I have to burden you with a question first." She the paused. "What made you interested in me?"

 

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It would not have required Equestria's best liar to fool Sky Sailing; naturally trusting, he liked to think the best of ponies who happened to be giving him the time of day.  Life had yet to throw anything truly harsh his way; he knew it could on an intellectual level, but the pain of having his trust broken was as yet an unknown experience.  The worldly-wise Bellissima would have easily been able to tell that from his expression.  He did look a little oddly at her when she remarked on herself being perceived as a "low-life," but wasn't inclined to comment.  Nor did he notice, upon his return, the stowing of raisins into a nook in his couch.  "I'm sure Windy would be glad to meet you; she loves being able to give her fans really big surprises.  She can't always give them much face time; she'd never have any privacy otherwise.  She's got a big, generous heart; practically funds the local hospital on her own dime.  She's a bit of a medical miracle herself, I'm sure you've heard; she wouldn't be able to use her wings much at all if not for the one of the resort owners here paying for top-notch surgeons for her."  The outlined contrast in the personalities of the two mares would, to the impartial observer, cast doubt on the idea that the meeting would be a happy one.

 

The conversation turned matters closer to business over the drinks.  "Well, I do find it best to let artists be themselves; a studio or manager can push them further on voyages of self-discovery, but if there's nothing at the end of that, they have to admit it, rather than keep trying to bend somepony out of shape.  I could never be in a metal band, myself; nor in any of the five-stallion pop acts that periodically dominate the charts."  Her question made him pause to think, drinking deep from his glass of iced tea; an ample opportunity to stow away the remainder of the raisins.

 

"Hmm... in general, Miss Bellissima, I tend to rate musicians based on their live shows.  I know what kind of magic can be done in a studio, but you can't really fake the effort that goes into a live show.  Nor the response you get from your audience.  That's what I've kept an eye out for when starting out with my own label, which has mostly meant long days and nights browsing bars, cafes, and street buskers, looking for those playing to an audience of twelve as if they were an audience of two thousand.  I understand that's how you were originally discovered yourself?"

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The topic of Windy was interesting enough, though the pink unicorn had to keep in her sly comments. Probably out of pure jealously. The dancing pegasus seemed to be utterly perfect compared to the singer. Maybe not from an outsider's standpoint, but Bellissima knew herself that she wasn't a saint. She liked that though. The act of being a saint, versus her true self: a selfish, yet talented mare that likes to take advantage of others for her own good. She's been that way since she was a filly, and she didn't have a reason to change.. yet. Maybe somepony can sweep her off her hooves, begging her to change for the greater good, but she hasn't fallen in love yet. She doesn't know what love even is. 

 

"Of course she'll be glad to meet me.." she paused, smiling, "..as I am ecstatic to meet her. She.. sounds like a faultless mare. It would be an awful shame to disregard her company. And of course I've heard about her miracle." She was lying now. She never really paid attention to other's lives, unless she was meeting them the day before. It would be rather awkward if she didn't have anything to conversate over. "I was very delighted to hear of her brilliant story. How very generous of those ponies to help out." 

 

She flicked a couple more raisins onto the couch, taking a bite of her bread.. finally. 

 

"Yes, being yourself is what's beautiful in performing. One would be an idiot to show their fans everything they're not, as it could be backhoofed." Oh! The hypocrisy in her words!

 

Now onto her question. She was looking for a particular answer, something along the lines of 'you're too amazing to pass up'. His response, was interesting, though. Not exactly what she was looking for. She could give an honest answer back to him. She knew being genuine would win him over. "Yes! Yes! The amount of work and practices on live shows is a total drag! In the sense, it's very tiring. But! The outcome is always satisfying." The pink unicorn nodded her head at her own words, taking a sip of her drink. "Discovering myself was definitely hard. Of course, since I was a young foal I loved music. My adoptive parents saw my talent and shifted me around, really for their own fame and fortune. Though, I truly knew I loved performing when I sang at a halftime show at a soccer game, earning my cutie mark. I soon left my parents as a filly, since they were using me, and I knew that. I went around Manehatten, performing many covers of songs to audiences large and small. Restaurants, parks, even in the streets. Just my wonderous self and my guitar. I quickly made a name for myself, and now I'm here." She gave a sweet smile. She'd never really opened up to somepony as much as she just did, but she felt it needed to happen to create a small bond. "I'm sure a lot of musicians share our same narrative."

 

She tossed some more raisins.  

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Again, Sky's trusting nature let the lies and hypocrisy pass him by like the innocent words they appeared to be.  Was it wishful thinking that let ponies be like that; simply not wanting to live in a world where nopony's kind words could be taken at face value?  

"Really?  I enjoy a lot of the setup work, myself, but I suppose that's one of the reasons why actually running a studio and supporting musicians is a good fit for me.  I don't care so much about getting my face out there, so much so that I even wore a mask for my early performances.  It was about making something unique and beautiful."  Bellissima would probably have taken that as encouragement that they would work well together; he could hope so, at least.  

Once she started in on her life story, though, he was entranced.  "Oh, wow.  I'm honestly sorry to hear about that; I've seen it before, with young prodigies being pushed to fame by parents eager to bask in stolen limelight, but few of those ever turn out well.  Success ruins them even more than failure, they haven't learned how to handle even normal life, and then they're pushed into the lights and everything that comes with it.."  He shook his head.  "I just kind of drifted into it myself, serendipitously.  I don't mind admitting I wouldn't have gotten very far if Windy hadn't put in a good word for me with her contacts in the city.  I was content, in a way, just to be drifting wanderer, though I'm sure my parents sometimes wished I hadn't quit my job in Cloudsdale cold storage.  It worked out, though."

 

Sky drained his glass and got up, heedless of the raisins now embedded in his household goods.  "Well, would you like a tour of the studio?  You might have to watch your step, there's a lot of stuff crammed into a fairly small space.  Clouds are kind of at a premium, in the desert!"

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