A week had passed since Twilight's conversation with Rarity, and there had been no trace of her at the hospital since then. Rarity found that she could hardly blame her for that. She had wiped her and her sister's memory almost to the point of no return, on top of the fact that she was a psychotic murderer. Rarity had to admit that she wouldn't want anything to do with herself where she in Twilight's horseshoes.
Sweetie Belle had been discharged from the hospital a few days after their conversation with a clean bill of mental health. Rarity had watched her go, sure that she would tell somepony as soon as she had gotten out of the hospital. Luckily for her, she hadn't said anything to anypony the entire time she was there. Although because of that, she was ordered to have three therapy sessions once she was discharged.
Rarity's eyes followed Sweetie Belle as she was escorted out of the hospital by Applejack and Apple Bloom. Sweetie Belle turned back to Rarity, their eyes meeting for a brief moment before Sweetie Belle crossed herself and put a hoof over her eye. Tears had fallen from Rarity's eyes at seeing this, but Sweetie Belle had walked out of the room without a word. After the door to her room had closed, Rarity had curled up as best as she could and wept into her pillow, scared that she would never have a happy relationship with her sister ever again.
With the exception of Twilight, Rarity's friends had come to visit her in the hospital as often as they could. Fluttershy's visits were a tad awkward, as they usually were mostly silent following the greetings. Rarity still found it a pain to talk early on, and since Fluttershy rarely talked in situations like this anyway, there really wasn't too much that was said between the two.
Pinkie's visits more than made up for that at any rate, as she would talk Rarity's ears off whenever she got the chance. Most ponies would likely find it annoying after a while, especially while recovering from a big accident, but Rarity found that she didn't mind. Pinkie usually had interesting things to say, and Rarity was glad for the distractions, not to mention that seeing a friend like her was a joy every time.
However, what she was mildly annoyed at was the sheer volume of treats that Pinkie would bring for Rarity, despite the fact that Rarity was hardly capable of eating half as much as she brought. Still, it wasn't like she could say no to a pony like Pinkie, but the little nibbles of the cupcakes that Pinkie had a habit of bringing were delicious, and she did enjoy sharing them with the doctors who came by to help her, as well as the other ponies that came in to visit her.
Rainbow Dash always popped in briefly whenever she passed by the hospital, if only for a few minutes sometimes, to check on how Rarity was doing. Rarity would weakly respond to whatever Rainbow would talk to her about before Rainbow would take a couple cupcakes and be off.
Of all of them, though, the one pony who was by her bedside as often as possible was Applejack. Rarity's near-death experience hit Applejack the hardest of all, and everypony knew why. To see Rarity, the pony who had been there to help her though the night that her parents had died, in the same situation that her parents had been in was absolutely devastating for Applejack. She had told the doctors to immediately notify her for any changes in Rarity's condition, good or bad, and whenever they didn't follow up on it, Applejack was by her side as soon as she could get to the hospital.
Rarity understood Applejack's concern for her, but felt that she didn't deserve it. She had nearly murdered Applejack the night that her parents had died, but her friend still appreciated what Rarity had done for her that night more than anything.
Every moment of free time that Applejack had was spent by Rarity's side, making sure that she was as comfortable as possible. It tore Rarity apart inside to see Applejack this way, but she accepted her help and support just the same. It was moments like these that made Rarity realize that despite the fact that the two of them would butt heads occasionally, Applejack cared for Rarity like she was kin, a feeling that Rarity reciprocated.
On this particular day, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash were visiting her. It was a bright and happy Saturday morning, and everypony was out enjoying the sunshine. The weather did not reflect the mood in the room, though. It wasn't for lack of trying, of course. Her visitors had large smiles on their faces, and they had enthusiastically greeted Rarity the second they walked in. Rarity had noticed that there was something a little false behind their smiles the seconds she saw them.
They were worried, she could tell.
Applejack walked up to her and gently rubbed her shoulder. "How are you feelin' today, sugar cube?"
"Oh, well you know I am still in a lot of pain, my ribs and legs especially, but I'm doing better. My cuts and bruises are beginning to heal up, and they're talking about taking out the stitches in the ones in my hind leg and back." Speaking wasn't a pain anymore, but she still didn't have the vibrancy that she used to.
Rainbow Dash smiled, though Rarity sensed that it was a bit overblown for her benefit. "That's good."
"Yeah!" said Pinkie Pie. “When you do, I'm gonna have to make you some of my super special 'hooray I just got the stitches out of those nasty gashes on by back and leg' cupcakes!"
"Well, thank you Pinkie Pie," said Rarity, giving her friend a smile. "I know that you've all sacrificed so much to help me."
Pinkie Pie merely widened her usual grin. "Aw, not really. I mean, what are friends for anyway?"
Rarity's grin faded, and she leaned her head into her pillow. "I wonder sometimes if I deserve friends like you."
Rainbow Dash frowned and cocked her head. "Why in Equestria wouldn't you deserve friends like us?"
Rarity's gaze trailed to the floor, and her ears flattened against her head. "Well, you all do so much for me, and sometimes I feel that I don't feel that I always reciprocate it very well."
Applejack smiled at her and gently patted her on the leg. "Yer a perfectly wonderful friend, sugarcube. We wouldn't trade you as a friend no matter what you do."
Rarity's gaze snapped back up to her friends, and her eyes went wide. "No matter what?"
Rainbow put her hoof on one of Rarity's hind legs. "No matter what."
"Even if..." A tight feeling welled up inside of her, and her lower jaw quivered slightly. "Even if I did some truly terrible things in my life?"
Pinkie Pie bounced up to Rarity, beaming at her, and put her hoof next to Rainbow Dash's "No matter what means no matter what."
"So you're saying that if I burned down a house, or destroyed something special to you out of anger, or even murdered another pony you'd still love me like family?"
Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash exchanged bemused looks while Applejack's brow creased into a frown. "Uh, Rarity? Is there somethin' you'd like to talk to us about?"
Rarity shook her head and put on her best reassuring smile. "I'm sorry, it's just with everything that's happened, I've been thinking a lot about my life." Her small smile faded and her gaze trailed to the floor again. "I almost lost it, and I almost lost you. All of it has made me wonder if I deserve the wonderful things that I have."
Her three friends' worried expressions quickly gave way to ones of relief as they resumed their smiles. "We would stick by you if you burned down a house," Rainbow Dash insisted.
"Or destroyed something super-duper special of ours out of anger," Pinkie Pie agreed with a nod.
"Even if you did kill another pony we would." Applejack brushed a few strands of Rarity's unkempt mane away from her eyes. "You ain't a bad pony, sugarcube. You'd only ever hurt another pony if that pony tried to hurt us, and we know that you'd feel real bad about it later. Besides, we all know that if we did those things, you'd stick by us until the end of time."
Rarity's eyes filled with tears. She still knew that they would abandon her if they found out what she really was. They wouldn't care if she did it to protect them; they'd still be beyond disgusted with her for what she did, and with themselves for having anything to do with her. Still, she'd let them believe that she was a good pony for now. She knew that Twilight would turn her in after their upcoming conversation, but for now, she could pretend that nothing was wrong, and that nothing would ever come between them.
* * * *
"Alright, up ya go, sugar cube."
Rarity tensed up as she was gently lifted from her bed to a wheelchair parked next to it by her doctor. She relaxed when she felt no pain upon being placed in it, and she leaned against the padded back, trying to get used to it. She would have to try now; this was where she would be confined for quite a while, if her doctor's diagnosis was any indication. She looked over to Applejack and Rainbow Dash, both of whom gave her large smiles.
"How is it bein' outta that bed, Rare?" Applejack asked.
Rarity gave a light, amused scoff. "No offense to the good doctor here, but I did feel rather... confined in my bed." Rarity grimaced as she examined the wheelchair. "Though, this may not be a major improvement."
"It's a necessary evil, I'm afraid," said the doctor as he gave Rarity a once-over. "Your legs aren't nearly healed enough to support your weight. I'd say you have a month or so to be in here."
Rarity shifted in her seat, already feeling as if she was being tied to the contraption. Still, it did give her more mobility than the bed did. She would count down the days until she could get back onto her hooves, though.
"Well..." The doctor closed Rarity's file and placed it on her bedside table. "I think that's it on our end. You're ready to go home, Ms. Rarity."
"Didja hear that, Rare?" Applejack gently wrapped a foreleg around Rarity's neck. "You get ta go home."
Rarity chuckled and affectionately nuzzled Applejack. "Thank Celestia for that."
The three ponies followed the doctor out of Rarity's room to the entrance of the hospital; Rainbow Dash flying behind Rarity and pushing her wheelchair. After a few pieces of paperwork, Rarity was finally released. She was wheeled to the front entrance of the hospital, and Applejack held the door open for her, letting the warm sunlight shine through, bathing Rarity in its glow. She smiled and closed her eyes, letting her body truly relax for the first time in a while. It was a sign that she was truly free from that place.
Applejack chuckled as they went towards Rarity's house. "Heh, enjoyin' yourself there, sugarcube?"
Rarity opened one eye and returned her smirk. "Well, one can hardly blame me for finding a little sunlight appealing after being cooped up in that dreadful place for so long." She widened her smile and looked up into the clear blue sky. "It feels truly freeing to be out here, even if I am confined to this wretched old thing."
"Eh, you'll be outta that thing in no time at all!" said Rainbow Dash. "Don't let it get you down."
Rarity's smile faded, and she leaned back in the chair with a sigh. "No, I don't suppose that I should." Rarity's smile returned as she saw her beloved boutique grow steadily larger as they approached it. "It will be quite nice to return to my home, at any rate."
"The other girls have done a little movin' so you can have yer bedroom in yer workroom," said Applejack. "Can't exactly have you goin' up those stairs with this thing."
Rarity turned her smile to Applejack. "Oh, well that was very thoughtful of you, darling. I admit that I wondered how I would get around that issue."
Rainbow Dash chuckled and stopped the wheelchair right in front of Rarity's door. "Oh, I think you've got some pretty awesome ponies who are friends with you, Rarity."
Applejack once again opened the door for Rarity, and Rainbow Dash wheeled her inside. The door was closed behind them, bathing the room in total darkness for a brief moment before the lights were flipped on.
The light illuminating the room revealed what must have been half of Ponyville inside Rarity's home, all of whom were beaming at her. Her house had been decked out in colorful streamers and balloons, and a large banner was hung up that said 'hooray you're out of the hospital!' It could only have been the work of one pony, and the culprit herself wasted no time in pronking up to her. Rarity made a half-hearted effort to listen to her happy babbling, as she had eyes for only one pony in the room. Despite everything that had happened, Twilight was amongst the gathered ponies, smiling like nothing was wrong at all. There even seemed to be a genuine scrap of happiness behind her expression. However, the moment she locked eyes with Rarity, her smile faded, and she turned to talk to somepony else.
Rarity sighed, but put on a smile for Pinkie Pie.
The party turned out to be an absolute blast, as per usual. The food that Pinkie and the Cakes had made was delicious, the music was fun, and even though Rarity couldn't dance in her current state, she still loved watching the guests enjoying themselves. The mere idea that they would come out to support her in this time of hardship was overwhelming for her. She knew full well that she deserved none of this, and that every single pony in the room would turn their backs on her the second they found out what she was.
It was during the party, when everypony was dancing to one of the songs playing, that for the first time in her life Rarity regretted being a serial killer. She had become good at wearing masks of emotion over the years, and right now she was having the hardest time keeping her façade of happiness on. Everypony in the room was happy for her, happy that she was okay, happy that she was alive and among them again. She felt that her mere existence was an insult to these innocent ponies.
The party guests had all lined up to sign her casts. They had all put loving sentences or just their signatures to show their support. Rarity had to convince Pinkie Pie to restrain herself from signing the casts for a fifth time or else there wouldn't be room for anypony else. To Rarity's surprise, Twilight came up to her and scribbled her name on one of the casts too. She walked away before Rarity really had a chance to talk to her, though.
Rarity's eyes followed Twilight across the room. Despite the fact that she had seemed happy at the beginning of the party, she had grown more cold and distant as the party went on. Occasionally, Rarity would notice Twilight sneaking glances at her whens he thought that Rarity was looking. Only once did the two make true eye contact, and when they did, the expression in Twilight's eyes made her stomach twist into knots.
Tonight would be the night that Twilight would truly confront her.
* * * *
Eventually the hours faded away, and the party came to a close. The food was devoured, and Rarity hardly had any leftovers to store in her fridge, something that would hardly be a problem as the ponies of Ponyville had a habit of making dinners for ponies that were sick or injured like she had been. She could expect a long line of ponies waiting to give her meals for quite a while, most likely headed by Pinkie Pie and the Cake family.
Rarity glanced outside the window as she put the last leftover dish inside her fridge. It was dark now, about nine-thirty at night. Sweetie Belle had gone up to bed at around eight o' clock while the party was still going on. Not even Apple Bloom and Scootaloo had been able to get her to talk much, and Rarity knew that Sweetie Belle was the most full of life when around her friends.
Rarity used her magic to wheel herself into the main room towards the makeshift living space that had been made for her in her workroom. As she wheeled herself towards it, she heard the door to her house open up. Rarity knew who it was without even looking, but she looked anyway. Twilight Sparkle stood in her doorway, looking blankly at Rarity, her emotionless eyes sending a shiver down Rarity's spine. Rarity gulped and gave Twilight a shaky smile. "Good evening, Twilight."
"Hello, Rarity," Twilight replied.
Upon further examination, Twilight was a wreck. Her blank gaze barely masked a slight aura of unease, and every now and again her right ear would twitch ever so slightly. Her left leg was lifted, indicating to Rarity that she would very much like to run away back to her library house, but whatever willpower she possessed kept her there. Rarity decided that she couldn't blame her for her unease; not with what she was undoubtedly here for.
"I suppose you are here for our agreed talk, yes?"
Twilight inclined her head in a slight nod. "I am. First, I want you to show me your kill room." Twilight scanned the entryway. "I know it’s here somewhere. Show me."
Rarity bit her lip. "Twilight, I—"
Twilight's gaze turned cold, and she slammed her hoof on the ground in front of Rarity. "You said everything, Rarity! You said you would tell me everything! Right now, I want to know where you take ponies to butcher them, okay?!"
The two locked gazes, one pleading the other aggressive. Rarity was the one to break eye contact, and she flattened her ears and slumped her shoulders with a sigh. "Follow me."
Rarity wheeled herself over to the closet and opened the door. She used her magic to play the musical key, which she had changed to "Giggle at the Ghosties" after the events with Sweetie Belle. Twilight flinched a bit when the door opened, but resolutely looked down the staircase, waiting to go down.
"It's down there, Twilight. I'd go but—" Twilight ignited her horn and used her magic to pick Rarity up and carry her down the stairs. Rarity would have protested this rough treatment under any other circumstances, but Twilight was not to be trifled with right now.
When they reached the bottom of the steps and entered the basement, Twilight saw Rarity's table and placed Rarity down onto it. After examining the table for a brief moment, she used her magic to strap Rarity in and put the table vertically.
Rarity flattened her ears and her gaze followed Twilight. "Uh, Twilight, what are you doing?"
Even as Rarity watched Twilight, she knew that something wasn't right. Something was very wrong about all of this. Twilight's demeanor, the way that she casually placed Rarity on the table as if she had planned it, the complete lack of emotion that she displayed despite the fact that she was surrounded by anypony's worst nightmare. It frightened her.
"Don't worry, I just want to keep you there while I look around," Twilight replied curtly. She had turned her attention to the poster and was reading it.
Rarity chuckled nervously. "Oh... yes. Of course."
After Twilight read the poster on the wall, she turned her attention to Rarity's collection of pony hides. She turned the table so Rarity could look at it as well. "Who do I know here?" Twilight motioned to the feathery pelt. "I figure that the one with feathers is Gilda, but who are some of these other ones?"
"Well, the one with paint on it is Trixie," said Rarity. "The hooves belong to Janice who worked at the Post Office. The green one is—"
Twilight nodded and held up a hoof to stem any further explanation from Rarity. Rarity was unsure of what to think about Twilight's calmness until she looked at Twilight's legs. They were shaking as if she was expending a great deal of effort to keep from collapsing. She was also blinking quickly as if holding back tears.
"How do you generally do it?" she asked. Yes, there it was, more proof that the room was effecting her. Whatever resolve Twilight had when looking around had left her and it was reflected in her voice. Rarity even saw her glance at the door once or twice. Still, Twilight hadn't bolted, so she might as well answer her question.
"The workbench over there, there is a button underneath it. Press it and you'll see how."
Twilight nodded and used her magic to turn the table to face the workbench. She spent a brief moment examining the workbench, feeling around for the button, before the top popped open revealing Rarity's extensive collection of knives. Twilight's eyes widened with horror and she let out a small gasp. Rarity didn't have to look to guess why. Seeing rows of sharp, glistening knives laid out before her and realizing what they were used for would have disturbed all but the most callous ponies.
Twilight reached her hoof in and stroked the handle of one of the knives. "You like to draw it out," she said softly.
Rarity flattened her ears and turned her head away. "Well, yes. That's... that's kind of the point."
"How many?" asked Twilight. "How many ponies have you killed?"
"Seventy-four ponies, one griffin, and twenty Diamond Dogs."
Twilight turned back to Rarity and cocked her head ever so slightly. "You killed the Diamond Dogs who ponynapped you?"
"That's what I was coming back from doing when I got hit by the cart. Not all of the gashes are from being hit." Rarity motioned down to her hind leg with her head. "The one on my back and the one on my right hind leg are both from the Diamond Dogs."
A look of disbelief spread across Twilight's face, and she let out an incredulous scoff. "Are you telling me that you went underground, faced twenty Diamond Dogs at once and won?!"
Despite the situation, Rarity's chest swelled up with a touch of pride. "Well, I had killed two when they had taken me originally, and I slit the throat of a solitary guard when I was traveling towards their main hall, but I fought seventeen at once and won, yes."
Twilight kept her expression of disbelief for a few more moments before turning back to the knives. "How often do you do this?" she asked, picking up and examining individual knives before returning them to their spots.
"Whenever I feel I need to," said Rarity.
Twilight nodded and used her magic to turn the table back to its original position.
Rarity heard Twilight continue to examine the individual knives that Rarity had collected in silence. Within a few seconds, Rarity heard Twilight begin taking a few very deep breaths followed by a noise that made her eyes widen with fear.
It was the sound of one of her knives being put on the tray. "Uh, Twilight, darling, would you mind telling me what you are doing?" Her voice squeaked as a rapidly increasing feeling of dread rose in her chest.
"Twilight, I know that this is upsetting for you, but let's not do anything rash, yes?" She laughed nervously. Surely Twilight isn't going to...
"Er... Twilight? Why are you putting knives on the tray? Twilight, please answer me!"
Rarity tried to struggle out of the straps, but the slightest quick moment caused a sharp pain to shoot through her forelegs. The bulky casts prevented too much movement at any rate, and Twilight would know if she tried to use her magic.
Tears began to fall down Rarity's face as she continued to struggle despite the pain. "Please, Twilight, just talk to me about this! Don't become like me, Twilight, I never want anypony in the world to be like me! Put the knives back and we can have a conversation like civilized ponies!"
Twilight silently wheeled the tray in front of Rarity, allowing her to see the largest knives she owned laid meticulously out in front of her. In the right hooves, they would inflict serious pain. Rarity continued her weak struggles hardly caring about how undignified she certainly looked. A quick glance at her captor revealed Twilight's look to be one of grim determination.
"Please don't do this," Rarity whispered.
Twilight shook her head and pointed at the poster behind her before lifting up Rarity's skinning knife and advancing slowly towards Rarity.
For the second time in recent history, a scream echoed throughout Carousel Boutique.