Eighteen months later
Rarity stepped back from her work after placing the final stitch in it. Oh how marvelous it looked, particularly when the rising moonlight hit it just right. The way the white cotton fabric glistened as the moonbeams reflected off of it would ensure that it would be a quick sell and one of her best.
Rarity sighed contentedly and used her magic to put away her sewing kit. Ever since she had been cleansed of her desire to kill by the Elements of Harmony, her work had gotten far better. She supposed that that was the result of being able to spend more time on it as opposed to having to devote some time to her murders.
Her life in general had also gotten much better. She was closer to Sweetie Belle than ever, even if it had taken a little while for her to trust Rarity again, and Saturday mornings would often find the two hanging out in the park or even occasionally at the spa. She was even closer to her friends because she knew that she had nothing to hide from them anymore, and so she could always be the real Rarity around them. Just like they said, they didn't ask any questions about what had happened that night, and they trusted that Twilight and Rarity knew what was best for everypony involved.
Yes, the last eighteen months had been the best months of Rarity's life, and she looked forward to much more happiness.
Rarity was brought out of her thoughts by a knock on her door. She closed the cabinet that held her sewing kit and opened the door to see Pinkie Pie standing there with her usual trademark grin. "Oh, good evening Pinkie, how may I help you?"
Pinkie Pie widened her grin and grabbed Rarity's head in her hooves. "Cider season starts tomorrow!"
Rarity copied Pinkie's smile. "It does?" She glanced at a nearby calendar. "You're right, it does!" Rarity squealed in delight and bounced into the air. Everypony in Ponyville looked forward to cider season. The Apple family made by far the best apple cider in all of Equestria, and every year ponies would line up in droves for the chance to drink some.
"Yes, and I thought that it would be an awesome idea to camp out in front of their stand!" Pinkie began bouncing with Rarity. "I'm so excited for cider season that I can't even sleep so I thought that it would be awesome to have once super-duper 'it's almost cider season' sleepover!"
"Why, what a marvelous idea, Pinkie Pie! I'll go get my tent right away!" said Rarity. She quickly went up to a real storage closet next to her room to retrieve her tent, and soon the two of them were walking to Sweet Apple Acres, chatting away happily at the prospect of the cider that they would be able to drink tomorrow.
The duo was soon joined by Twilight and Spike, who had tents and large grins of their own. "I see you've collected Rarity, Pinkie," said Twilight.
Pinkie Pie grinned and nodded. "Yes! I thought that the more ponies we had the more fun this sleepover would be!"
"Oh, I most certainly agree, darling. Shall we start with Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy?" Rarity suggested.
"Fluttershy has actually had a pretty long day," Pinkie pointed out. "She had a lot to deal with during her work taking care of her animal friends. We should just let her sleep for now; I'm sure she'll get some cider, though."
"Very well, I suppose you are right. To Rainbow Dash's house then?"
"To Rainbow Dash's house!" said Twilight.
The four of them walked for a few minutes, chatting excitedly with each other about the following morning, and in a few short minutes they had reached Rainbow Dash's floating cloud house. The lights were off, meaning that their pegasus friend had gone to bed for the night, but they hoped that they could reach her.
"Oh Rainbow Daaaaaash!" Pinkie Pie called. "We're going to go to Sweet Apple Acres to camp out before cider season starts!"
The four of them heard a noise coming from inside Rainbow's house and within a few seconds, Rainbow Dash wearily poked her head out of one of the windows. She groaned and rubbed her eyes with her hooves. "Waddya want, Pinkie Pie?"
"We're going to go camp out at Sweet Apple Acres so we can be there when cider season starts! Do you wanna come?" Pinkie replied.
Rainbow Dash groaned again and leaned her head against the windowsill. "It’s too late for a party, Pinkie Pie. I'm going back to bed."
Pinkie shook her head and reached a hoof out to her friend. "Wait, this isn't a party it's a... sleepover." It was too late; Rainbow Dash had already gone back inside her home. Realizing that she wasn't coming with them, the four of them looked at each other and shrugged.
They walked directly to Sweet Apple Acres now, stopping only to explain to the ponies that they ran into what they were doing. To Pinkie's utter delight, most of the ponies that they ran into seemed just as excited about the idea of camping out in front of Sweet Apple Acres as she was, and soon a line of ponies with tents and sleeping bags had formed behind Pinkie, Rarity, Spike, and Twilight.
When the mob of ponies reached Sweet Apple Acres, there was a brief moment of silence as everypony stared at the stretch of land next to the already erected cider stand. The single beat ended, and a storm of dust kicked up as everypony made a mad dash for the best positions in line. Rarity ran towards the fence, dodging Lyra and Cheerilee for a position. A glance to the left revealed that Pinkie Pie had already set up her tent a few hooves away from the stand, and Rarity made the dash for second place. However, as the chaos died down, Rarity found herself behind Twilight and Spike in line. She could still see the apple cider stand fairly well, and thus she knew that she would be sure to receive some cider come morning.
Rarity set up her tent behind Twilight and got in to settle down for the night. Before she could, Twilight poked her head out of her tent. "Psst, Rarity! Are you asleep yet?"
"Not yet." Rarity giggled. "I just got into my tent, but I don't know if I can sleep right now. I'm so excited for cider season!"
"Me too!" A dreamy look crossed Twilight's face, and she licked her lips. "The cider from last year was so wonderful, and I've always heard that it gets better and better every year!"
The two talked for a few more hours about what the cider would be like before they both agreed that sleep was in order, as both of them had much to do the following day and they didn't want to be tired out for the morning rush.
Rarity fired up her horn and zipped her tent shut. She curled up snugly in her sleeping bag and slowly drifted off to dreamland. Before she knew it, she was awoken by the sound of Pinkie Pie talking excitedly to Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash, the latter of which did not sound happy.
Rarity stretched and rubbed her eyes sleepily as she emerged from her tent just in time to see Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy go glumly to the back of the line. She felt pity for Fluttershy as the she had been too tired to do something like this last night, but Rainbow Dash was perfectly able to join them if she had merely listened. Oh well, Rainbow had been pretty tired last night too, she supposed.
Twilight came out of her tent too, and she fixed her frazzled mane with a quick spell before using her magic to transport her tent back to her home. Once Rarity exited her tent, Twilight did the same for Rarity. Rarity thanked her friend, prompting a smile from Twilight.
Her tent put away, Rarity got in line behind Twilight and Spike. Twilight turned her head back towards Spike. "Isn't this exciting, Spike? Opening day of cider season!"
Spike grinned and nodded. "Yeah! That means only thirty more days 'til sapphire season!"
Rarity rolled her eyes, preferring to focus on cider season right now. She couldn't understand how Spike could waste precious gems like that by eating them.
Applejack's amplified voice echoed throughout the farm, cutting all conversations short. "Attention everypony! Cider season is now officially open!"
The ponies in line chattered excitedly among themselves as the ponies began buying and drinking their cider. Rarity was only slightly surprised to see Pinkie Pie walk by, her forelegs full of cider mugs. Rarity smiled at the antics of the her friend. She definitely saved up for cider season.
Getting there early had served Rarity well, and soon she placed her two bits into the money box. Apple Bloom pushed down on a lever and the mug under the tap began filling to the brim with delicious cider. Rarity grinned and picked up the mug, downing the whole thing in one gulp. She liked her lips and sighed contentedly. It was heavenly, just like every year.
She thanked Applejack and moved forward so other ponies could get their cider. She walked towards Twilight who was talking to Spike. "Wasn't that cider amazing, Spike? I knew that it was good, but that was without a doubt the best cider that I have ever had. They're right when they say that it improves every year!"
"Oh without a doubt. It just goes to show you that the Apple family is the best at everything Apple related!" said Spike.
"Without a doubt indeed, Spike!" said Rarity with a smile. She was never so glad that she hadn't bashed Applejack's brains in with a rock than at this moment.
Twilight, Spike, and Rarity stayed around and watched the ponies drinking cider. They loved pony watching together whenever they got the chance and seeing the happiness of so many ponies was fun for them. However, they still hadn't seen Fluttershy or Rainbow Dash.
“Do you think they'll get any cider today?" asked Rarity as she watched Big Macintosh move the third to the last barrel in position.
Twilight flattened her ears and looked down the line. "I sure hope so. I would hate for them to miss out on this batch. It was quite extraordinary."
A few minutes later, they saw Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy moving quickly forward in line. If they didn't get any, it would be very close. There were only about a dozen ponies in line before them as Big Macintosh moved the last barrel into position. Apple Bloom began pumping cider out of the tap anew. Rarity and Twilight held their breaths as Fluttershy came up. Apple Bloom pushed the lever down and to their relief; Fluttershy's mug was filled up with cider. She moved forward so Rainbow Dash could get hers. Apple Bloom pushed down the lever and... the cider sputtered out. Well, that was the end of cider for today. Rainbow Dash looked heartbroken but her expression changed to one of anger almost immediately. Applejack moved in front of the stand to address the ponies that had not gotten any cider.
"Uh... sorry everypony, that's it for today," she said. A disappointed groan echoed throughout the line. Rainbow would have none of this weak apology.
"Surprise, surprise! You ran out again!" Rainbow snapped.
"Yeah, you always run out!" growled another pony next to her. Applejack continued to give apologies and promises of more cider the next day if they would just be patient.
Rarity turned to Twilight and frowned. "How rude of them! I mean, yes it's disappointing that they don't get any cider, but I mean really, cider season lasts for a whole three weeks!"
Twilight nodded. "Yeah. Although, if I did know what I was in for, I would be pretty disappointed that I didn't get any as well."
"I suppose you're right," said Rarity. "I hope that Rainbow eventually does get some cider. She gets angrier every year."
Twilight gasped. "She hasn't ever gotten any Sweet Apple Acres cider?"
"I'm afraid not, darling." Rarity sighed. "Basically cider season for Rainbow Dash means standing in line just to be disappointed three weeks out of the year."
Twilight jaw dropped as she stared at Rainbow. "Poor Rainbow Dash! Still, she could have just come with us last night."
Before Rarity could respond, the two of them heard a noise coming from down the road to their left. They turned their heads to look at what was the source of the noise and they were surprised to see a sort of automated carriage chugging its way down the road. The ponies all gathered around to see exactly what the meaning was of this new invention that had come to their town.
The automated carriage slowed down and completely stopped right next to the cider stand, knocking over the fence nearby to the irritation of Granny Smith. Before the ponies could question this further, two ponies popped out of the strange device, two unicorn stallions in ghastly blue striped jackets with bow ties and topped of with a straw hat. They looked suspicious to Rarity, but she decided to give them a chance. Old Rarity would have killed them just because she could. But she was New Rarity now, and New Rarity didn't just kill strangers anymore.
To Rarity's surprise, the two told the town that their machine made cider. Even Old Rarity wouldn't have killed the two of them now. She got to drink more cider today. They demonstrated their machine after borrowing some apples from the Apples and their machine started producing barrels of cider far faster than the Apple family possibly could. The two ponies, who seemed to be twins, called themselves Flim and Flam. Odd names, to be sure, but she wouldn't judge them on that.
The two seemed to be negotiating a deal with the Apple family about going into the cider business together. Ooh, that would be an interesting prospect. Rainbow Dash could finally get her cider now! However, to Rarity's surprise, the Apples didn't seem to want to deal with the two of them. Rarity thought that it would be a win-win for everypony involved. Pinkie Pie walked over to Rarity and Twilight.
"Pinkie Pie darling, what is going on between the Apples and the brothers?" asked Rarity.
"Well Flim and Flam are being super-duper mean about the deal that they're trying to make! They want seventy five percent of all apple cider sales that come out of Sweet Apple Acres."
Twilight and Rarity gasped simultaneously. "But that's just absolutely ridiculous!" said Twilight. "They'd lose the farm if they agreed to that deal!"
"Yeah," said Pinkie Pie as she looked towards the Apple family who seemed to have denied the deal by now as Flim and Flam looked irritated but still smug. "I don't know why they think the Apples would ever agree to that deal!" Twilight and Rarity nodded and at that moment, Flam jumped up on his machine.
"Don't you worry everypony! There'll be plenty of cider for all of you!" said Flam. Normally Rarity would have been pleased by this, but she saw Flim lean in say something to Applejack. Applejack gulped and began shaking where she stood, her pupils having shrunk to pinpricks.
A few minutes later, the brothers hopped onto their remarkable machine and drove off. feeling that they were needed by their friend, Twilight and Rarity quickly dashed over to Applejack as soon as the brothers were out of sight.
"Hey y'all," said Applejack in her best attempt at casual conversation. "Did ya enjoy yer cider?"
"Of course I did, Applejack, but please tell me that you didn't agree to that nasty deal!" said Rarity.
"Of course we didn't, but they said we'll have to be competitors now!" Applejack grimaced and looked down the road where the brothers had departed. "They're gonna try to run us outta business."
Twilight glanced uneasily in the direction the brothers had driven off in. "Well how can they do that? The ponies of this town are loyal right? They'd never throw you aside to get more cider... right?"
"Ah just don't know, Twilight," Applejack muttered. "Ah just don't know."
* * * *
Rarity awoke the next morning and looked at her clock. Rarity groaned to herself and muttered under her breath. It was eleven o' clock and the cider would surely be long gone by this point, so there was no point in trying to get more. Still, she had gotten some yesterday, and there was certainly no need to get some every single day of cider season.
Rarity got up out of bed and went into her workroom. As long as she didn't have wonderful, wonderful cider to drink, she might as well get some work done. She stretched a bit before walking downstairs to work on her latest creation. She had recently begun work on a red dress that she was making for a mare who said that she was using it to draw the attention of stallions in large crowds. It seemed like a silly thing to her but she had paid for it, and Rarity would do her best to make sure that this particular mare loved it.
She adjusted her glasses and began working on the midsection of the dress. Oh, this particular mare had the strangest proportions, sort of an hourglass figure, but nothing that Rarity couldn't handle with ease. She hummed to herself while she worked, Giggle at the Ghosties, stopping abruptly when it struck her just what she was humming. She checked the room to see if Sweetie Belle was listening and breathed a sigh of relief when it seemed that she wasn't. It was best that she didn't seem like she was missing her old way of life.
Rarity shuddered. To think that she had actually used to do that! The thought was horrifying to Rarity. Almost every night for the first few months she would wake up screaming in terror, dreaming about how Sweetie Belle had murdered Scarlet Tomato, how she had left three fillies orphaned when she had killed their mother and oldest sister, how Scootaloo had turned out even though Rarity had butchered her parents. She didn't know how she lived with herself anymore. She supposed that the Elements of Harmony helped control the grief and regret inside of her.
Rarity moved the needle down into the dress, stitching it up to... no, no she wasn't doing that. She was plunging a knife into somepony's chest! Rarity squealed as she saw the blood seep out of the wound. "No, this can't be a dream. I wasn't asleep!" She looked down at her right hoof and sure enough, it was holding a large knife that was plunged into the chest of a pony that was strapped down to her table and weakly struggling to get out.
Rarity gasped and attempted to pull the knife out but it wouldn't budge. She struggled to get it out, apologizing profusely to the pony that she had just murdered. If she could get the knife out than maybe this pony wouldn't die. She could get her to a hospital and she wouldn't have fresh blood on her hooves.
Rarity stopped trying to pull the knife out and finally looked at the pony she was killing. Twilight. She had just stabbed Twilight.
"No! Twilight! I didn't mean to I'm so sorry!" She buried her face in Twilight's shoulder and gently stroked her mane. Blood was staining her white coat as it had done so many times before.
Twilight blinked slowly, tears dripping from her eyes. She weakly opened her mouth and tried stuttering out her last words. "Rarity... I... thought that you didn't... have to do this anymore," she moaned. "I... I thought that you were... free."
"I was free! I don't know how this happened, Twilight! I don't know what you're doing here!"
"Y.-you monster," choked Twilight. "I should have let Celestia destroy you."
Rarity nodded. "Yes, I know, Twilight."
Twilight opened her mouth to speak more, but her breaths were becoming more and more labored. "R...Rarity." Twilight's voice was softer than ever. It would not be long now.
Rarity grabbed Twilight's hoof in one of hers and leaned in. "Yes, Twilight?"
Knock knock knock.
Rarity snapped out of her vision and back to reality. She looked down at the dress that she had been making. She had pulled so hard with the needle and thread that the outfit was scrunched up and tears were staining the red fabric.
Rarity wiped her eyes. It had been almost a year since she had had her last episode - she didn't really know what else to call them - and she had thought that she could repress them. They were always the same; she was killing one of her best friends. It was Applejack last time. However, she still ranked the one where she killed Fluttershy by cutting off her face when she was still alive as the worst one.
Knock knock knock.
Oh, right, the door. Rarity wiped away the last of her tears and answered the door. To her surprise, she found Twilight and a very scared looking Applejack on the other side. "Oh my goodness, whatever is the matter Applejack?"
"Can we come in?" asked Twilight. "Something just terrible has happened."
"Oh yes of course!" Rarity moved aside so the two could enter her house. "Come to the kitchen and tell me everything at once!"
The three of them walked over to her kitchen and sat down at her table. Applejack still had the same scared look on her face so Twilight decided that she had better start. "So, Flim and Flam came by again today when they ran out of cider. They tried to sell some cider to the ponies that didn't have any, but Applejack stopped them because they were made from her apples. So, long story short, the brothers and the Apples made a bet that whoever can produce the most cider in one hour tomorrow gains the exclusive right to sell cider here in Ponyville."
Applejack began shaking in fear now. Rarity got up and poured her a glass of water that she promptly made Applejack drink. Applejack's shaking slowed down and her demeanor seemed more centered. "Thanks Rarity," she muttered. "Ah'm just so worried about this whole thing. If we lose we lose the farm!"
"How dreadful!" cried Rarity. "Do you think that you can beat their machine?"
Applejack shrugged and took another sip of water. "Ah dunno, but we sure as hay aren't gonna let them take it without a fight. Ah just hope that we can beat that contraption of theirs, otherwise... well, otherwise we have to leave Ponyville and go work on the farms of one of our relatives."
"You can't stay here?" asked Rarity. "I'm sure that you can find a job somewhere."
Applejack snorted and shook her head. "Like where?"
Rarity didn't have an answer so the trio sat in silence for a while. Twilight had her hoof over Applejack's shoulder and Applejack seemed to be contemplating her glass of water. However, after a few moments a look of fury came across Applejack's face and she smashed the glass on the table.
"They can't do this to us!" Applejack slammed her hoof on the table. "Our family has worked that farm for generations! Mah parents are buried there, they can't just have it!" Twilight used her magic to repair the glass but Applejack seemed too angry to notice anything at the moment. Applejack had gotten up from the table and was now pacing around the kitchen angrily. "Ah'd rather be dead than see the farm of my ancestors in the hooves of those... those... heathens! They're a disgrace to the name of apples!" Twilight and Rarity exchanged uneasy looks but Applejack didn't notice. Rarity swore that Applejack's eyes turned a little red. "If they win tomorrow Ah'm gonna go into where they are sleepin' with an axe and—"
Twilight gasped. "Applejack!"
Twilight's interjection seemed to bring Applejack out of her rant. Tears filled her eyes. "Heavens to Betsy, what did Ah just say?" Applejack's bottom lip began quivering and the next second brought about a flurry of tears as Applejack began crying in earnest now. Her legs betrayed her and she curled up into a ball on the floor.
Rarity put a gentle hoof on her shoulder. "Applejack, darling, are you alright?" The question sounded foolish in her mind, but she didn't know what else to say.
"N-n-no, Ah a-ain't alright. D-d-did you hear w-w-what Ah j-just said?" Applejack whimpered and covered her eyes with her forelegs. "Ah w-w-wanted to k-k-k-kill them!"
"Oh Applejack, we know that you would never harm a fly! You have just had a great injustice done to your family and you don't know how to react to it." Rarity gave Applejack a comforting smile and placed a comforting hoof on her shoulder. "But know this: even if you do lose, each and every one of us will help your entire family. Who knows? Ponyville might not stand for those two forever either."
Applejack wiped her eyes with the back of her hoof. "But what happens if they don't? Mah parents are buried there, Twilight, you and Ah both know that they won't respect that!"
"I promise you, Applejack, I promise that I will do everything in my power to make sure that they do." Rarity sat down next to Applejack and began gently rubbing her back. "Celestia help them if they so much look at the graves of your parents the wrong way!"
Applejack flashed Rarity a watery smile and finally managed to stand up. She wiped her eyes again and pulled Rarity into a hug. "Ah don't know what Ah'd do without you girls. Ah know that no matter what happens, you'll be by my side all the way."
Rarity smiled and nuzzled Applejack's shoulder. "We're family, Applejack. I believe in protecting my family."
Applejack managed to control her sobs and she let go of Rarity. "Thanks to the both of ya. Ah'm glad that Ah have you here to help me through stuff like this." She wiped her eyes one more time and began walking towards the door. "Ah gotta go back to the farm. We have a lot of preparin' to do for tomorrow and Ah gotta get to it."
"Let us know if you need anything, anything at all," said Twilight.
Applejack nodded. "Ah will, Twi. Ah will." Applejack took a deep breath as she walked out the door. Rarity looked sadly at the door for a few seconds before turning back to Twilight. To her surprise, Twilight was looking at her with a look of unease.
Rarity raised an eyebrow at her. "Is something the matter?"
"Rarity, would you mind explaining what all that was about?" asked Twilight.
Rarity frowned and cocked her head. "Why whatever do you mean, darling?"
"That stuff you said about how things would end up badly for the brothers if they do stuff like desecrate the graves of AJ's parents."
Rarity's eyes widened as she realized what Twilight was getting at and raised a hoof defensively. "Twilight, that part of me is gone! I have no intention of harming those two, even if they do win tomorrow. I haven't killed anypony for almost two years now and there have been dozens of ponies that I would have killed if I hadn't been cleansed by the Elements." Rarity smiled reassuringly and put a hoof on Twilight's shoulder. "I do wish the two of them ill luck tomorrow, but I do not wish them death."
Twilight stared at Rarity for a few seconds, something that deeply unnerved the white unicorn but she feared what Twilight would say if she spoke up. Her suspicion seemed to have put her in a curious mood.
Finally, to Rarity's relief, Twilight scoffed quietly to herself and shook her head. "I know that you won't kill them," she mumbled. "I don't even know why I was worried about it. You're right, that part of you is gone."
"Forever if I have my way," insisted Rarity.
Twilight smiled and pulled Rarity into a brief hug. "I know." Twilight glanced back at the door. "Well, I have to go too. I have lots of studying to catch up on."
"Best of luck to you with that Twilight," said Rarity.
Twilight walked out of the kitchen towards the door to Rarity's home. Before she left, Rarity saw her stop to confusedly examine the dress that Rarity was making, and Rarity felt her stomach tie itself into knots. She couldn't help but suspect that Twilight knew that the mess there was the result of a vision, for the lack of a better word, of Rarity murdering her.
Rarity breathed a sigh of relief as Twilight shrugged and exited the shop.
* * * *
Rarity awoke bright and early the next day. There was no way in Tartarus that she was going to miss the contest between the Flim-Flam Brothers and the Apple family. She didn't even stop to say goodbye to Sweetie Belle, who had woken up a few minutes before Rarity did, as she rushed out the door to Sweet Apple Acres.
She arrived just as Twilight and Pinkie Pie did. They snaked through the large crowd that had formed to see if they couldn't find Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy.
Within a few minutes their search became successful and the five friends watched as the Apple family prepared for their upcoming battle. Rarity saw that Flim and Flam were simply lounging around on their machine, smug smiles on their faces. The sight of the two of them being so callous with their attempts to destroy the livelihood of a family of innocent, hardworking ponies made Rarity's blood boil.
"Do you think they can do it?" asked Fluttershy.
"I sure hope so." Rainbow Dash pawed at the ground and fluttered her wings uneasily. "I don't see how they can right now, though. It only takes a few seconds to produce a barrel of cider with that machine."
"Well we shouldn't jump to conclusions with how well they're gonna do until we see both in action," said Twilight. "Who knows? They could be much faster." Rarity noted the tone in Twilight's voice. She didn't sound like she believed what she was saying at all. Twilight walked uneasily up to Applejack who was kicking away at a kicking bag, no doubt preparing to buck apples. Rarity turned to Rainbow Dash.
"How do you feel about them now, Rainbow Dash?"
Rainbow glared at Rarity. "If I had known what kind of swindlers they were then I would never have even touched the handle of any cup of cider that they gave me!" she said. "I want to see the Apples whup them just as much as you do!"
Before Rarity could respond, the amplified voice of the mayor rang throughout the morning air. "Attention everypony!" said the Mayor as Twilight walked back over to rejoin the group of friends. "The teams have one hour to produce as much cider as they can! After which, the barrels will be counted and the winner will be named the sole cider provider for all of Ponyville!" The Mayor looked at both teams in succession. "Are both teams ready?"
"Ready!" said Applejack determinedly.
"Ready!" said Flim and Flam together.
"Then let's..." the hourglass timer was inverted and the sand began to slip to the bottom.”...GO!"
The Apple family immediately began to run to their respective stations. Applejack began bucking trees as fast as she could and it was all Apple Bloom could do to catch them as they fell. Apple Bloom rushed the buckets over to Granny Smith who began sorting the apples as fast as she could, throwing the good ones into a large press that was powered by Big Macintosh. Within only a few minutes, the Apples had filled up one barrel of cider.
Rarity smiled with joy and looked to see what the brothers were doing. Surely they couldn't have... Rarity gasped when she saw a stack of six full barrels behind their machine.
The next half hour was torture for the five friends to watch. Every barrel filled by the Apples was matched with three by the twins. Rarity relayed her observation to Twilight who had a look of grim determination on her face. She walked up to the Mayor with the other four following. "Miss Mayor, are honorary family members allowed to help in the competition?"
The Mayor frowned at the question. "Well, I'm not sure." She turned to the brothers. "Flim, Flam, would you object to honorary family members helping?"
Rarity's frustration of at the two brothers continued to rise as they still wouldn't wipe those smug grins off of their faces.
"Are you kidding?" said Flim.
"We don't care if the whole kingdom of Canterlot helps, it's a lost cause!" Flam replied.
The Mayor turned back to Twilight. "Well, I guess it’s okay," she said, though Rarity could tell by her tone that she was still a little uncertain. She turned to Applejack. "Applejack, what do you think?"
Applejack delivered a powerful blow to the nearest tree before answering. Rarity saw that Applejack looked like she was about to drop from exhaustion right then and there, but she smiled at her friends all the same. "Ah think Ah'd love to have the rest of my family helpin' out."
"All right!" said Pinkie, Fluttershy, Rainbow, and Rarity in unison. The four quickly lined up to get their assignments from Twilight. She put Rarity on quality control and after a motivational sentence, the race continued.
Rarity rushed over to the unsorted barrels full of apples and used her magic to bring the closest one towards her and began sorting.
"Lovely, lovely, horrid, lovely, horrid, lovely, horrid," she said as she sorted, assigning the title to the respective apples. On and on it went, sorting apples with her magic and throwing them into the press. She started to get into 'The Zone' and soon she was totally immersed in sorting apples. Nothing else mattered right now, only sorting the apples. She vaguely heard Applejack say something about them being back into the competition, but she pushed it aside for now and kept right on sorting. Sort apples, that's all she had to do right now, sort apples. Nothing else mattered except sorting apples. Sort the apples, sort the apples, sort...
"Time's up!" said The Mayor. Rarity immediately snapped out of 'The Zone' and she put the apple that she had been about to sort back into the bucket before dropping from exhaustion. The sorting had taken a lot more out of her than she had imagined.
Rarity lied on the ground, trying to catch her breath. Had they won? Would those nasty ponies leave Ponyville? Rarity sure hoped so because if they did win, she wondered if the urge to murder them would return. But no, the Elements had cleansed her; even if they beat up Applejack, they still wouldn't earn a spot in her basement, and she would just let the law handle it. She wasn't going to kill them, they weren't going to die. Although, Rarity began to wonder why she kept coming back to the issue of whether or not she would kill them.
At that moment, the four words that Rarity had hoped that she would not hear were spoken by The Mayor. "Flim and Flam win!"
Rarity bolted up and saw the gargantuan stack of barrels behind the brothers. They easily had at least three times as many barrels as the Apples did. Rarity's jaw dropped. What were they going to do now? She saw Rainbow about to rip both brothers a new one but she was stopped by Applejack. Then the brothers began laughing. Laughing. They were laughing at the misery of the Apple family. It was a disgusting caw of a laugh.
Blinked and when she opened her eyes and suddenly found herself back in her clearing. Curious, her eyes scanned the only to be met with the sight of filly self backing away from the three bullies who intended to do her serious harm. She saw her younger self spot the rock and inch towards it, desperately hoping that she wouldn't need to use it.
As Dug advanced, filly Rarity fired up her horn and a magical glow engulfed the rock. "Rarity!" she called out, desperately to her younger self, hoping that she could prevent her from doing this terrible deed. To her surprise, her filly self seemed to hear her and she dropped the rock. She turned towards the source of the noise but was immediately knocked back when Dug's hoof connected with her face.
Rarity could only watch on in horror as her filly self was ruthlessly beaten. Kicker was living up to his name and kicking Rarity in the side while Annie bit Rarity's leg. Dug continued punching Rarity in the head, not caring in the slightest that Rarity was screaming. Both Raritys were screaming at what was happening to the younger one, but neither were in a position to stop it.
Eventually, filly Rarity managed to use the last of her strength to push Dug off of her and she began running away. Dug gave a snarl of anger and picked up the rock that Rarity was going to use to prevent this very thing from happening to her.
He threw it at her and it connected with the back of her skull. Filly Rarity fell down to the ground like a marionette whose strings had just been cut and Adult Rarity screamed in terror and rushed over to her filly self.
She scooped up her motionless younger self and cradled her in her forelegs. "Shh, it's okay, Rarity. They're not going to hurt you. You'll be just fine." Tears began pouring from her face and she leaned in to check the filly's heartbeat.
It wasn't there. She was dead.
Rarity whimpered and began trying to wipe the blood off, as if by some random chance she was cleaned up then she wouldn't be dead. It wouldn't stop, though, the blood wouldn't stop coming out!
Laughter, she heard more laughter. She glanced up to see Dug, Kicker, and Annie laughing at her. Only it wasn't their laugh, the laughs were those of Flim and Flam.
Rarity snapped out of her vision in time to see Applejack sadly walking away. The brothers had already set up a stand to sell their cider. Rarity saw that the town looked horrified to see that the Apples had lost. How could they be horrified now of all times?! They were the ones who had tolerated the brothers, and now look at what was happening!
Tears began to form in Applejack's eyes. Rarity wanted to go over to her, to comfort her, to tell her that everything was going to be alright, that the Flim Flam Brothers were just a terrible nightmare that all of them were sharing, but she knew that they weren't. The brothers were very real and they had just kicked the Apple family off of the farm.
Rarity began to cry as well and she looked over to the cider stand that the brothers had set up. To her surprise, not to mention joy, the townsfolk seemed very unhappy with the cider that they had just been served. They were complaining about it and no amount of begging from the brothers seemed to do the trick.
Rarity's jaw dropped as the brothers did a little dance move before they jumped on their machine and zoomed away from Ponyville.
Rarity watched the wretched contraption drive away from the farm with an increasing level of joy in her heart. They... they were gone! Yes! They were gone!
* * * *
The cider that Rarity had drunk that day had been the best that she had ever tasted. It was made even better by the fact that it was the fruits of not just the labor of the Apple family, but the other five friends as well. The whole town drank cider until nopony could drink anymore. Even Rainbow Dash managed to secure herself a cup or two. By the end of the day, the Apples still had at least a dozen barrels of leftover cider.
Rarity had gone home not long after the first members of the crowd had started to disperse. She had a lot of thinking to do.
She walked into her home and locked the door. Sweetie Belle had been picked up by her parents earlier that day, so there was no reason to worry about her.
Rarity glanced over at her storage closet briefly before she began pacing. "Rarity, when you heard those beastly stallions laugh... what did you see?"
"Well, Rarity, I think that you saw what would have happened if you hadn't killed those foals all those years ago."
"But how do I know that, Rarity?"
"What else could it have been?"
"I don't know, Rarity, but if it is what would have happened, does that mean that I was always destined to kill? Does that mean that fate made me into who I am? Am I supposed to be a murderer?"
"Rarity, I... I think so. If you hadn't killed Dug, you would be dead. If you had killed Dug but not the other two, then you would likely have been executed for his death and in either case, you wouldn't have become a wielder of an Element of Harmony! You needed to murder those three foals to save the lives of millions."
"Does that mean that it's my destiny? That I should kill until I can't kill anymore?"
"Rarity, you forget that you never saw it as a coincidence that you killed three foals and a few weeks later, your cutie mark appeared with three gems on it. That side of you is a part of who you are."
Rarity sighed and looked towards the closet that led to her secret room. Despite every ounce of common sense she possessed telling her not to; Rarity began walking towards the closet. She played the tune, the secret door opened up, and she walked down into her basement.
It was just like she had remembered it: the hides and manes covering her walls, protected from decay by her magic, the table where so many of her kills had been performed, the workbench that housed her knives, all of it just where it was supposed to be.
Over the course of the past eighteen months, Rarity had always wondered why she had not cleared out her basement. It was still enough evidence to get her executed but she still held on to it. Looking around now she remembered why: even if she was cleansed now, this was still a large part of who she was.
She walked over to her workbench and opened it up. Her collection of knives looked as shiny and sharp as the day that she had obtained them. Rarity picked up her butchers knife. The feeling of holding it in her hooves was like seeing an old friend for the first time in years.
At the touch of the handle of the knife, a jolt of what felt like electricity coursed through her foreleg. Only it wasn't painful and the feeling in her foreleg when the jolt faded away was akin to the one she felt when she finished up a relaxing day at the spa.
It felt... marvelous.
Taking a deep breath, she raised the knife high and swung it downwards as if imagining that it would connect with pony flesh instead of air.
There it was again, that wonderful, wonderful feeling that this was what she was meant to do. This was her place in the world and nothing, not event the Elements of Harmony, could change that. She could not change this side of her any more than she could change her cutie mark.
She knew what she had to do.
She smiled to herself as she placed the knife on her tray.
* * * *
Three weeks. That's how long it had taken her to track down Flim and Flam. She kept her ears out for any information on the swindling duo every time she left Ponyville to make deliveries or meet with important clients, but her efforts were often fruitless.
Her patience was rewarded, though, when she found out that the duo was trying to peddle their wares in Trottingham. Rarity left for the small town at once.
Finding the brothers was not an issue at all. The two of them simply attracted attention wherever they went. They practically demanded it from everypony that they met, and she spotted them showing their machine to a few uninterested townsponies who quickly left them alone.
It was time for them to meet their makers.
Rarity intercepted them late at night, when their machine had long since powered down and they were about to turn in for the night. She approached them, giddy with excitement at what she was about to do. They saw her come up and watched her get closer with interest.
"Hellllooo boys," said Rarity in her overly-sweet voice.
Flim glanced over at his brother, then back to Rarity with a frown. "Uh, hi."
"Do we know you?" asked Flam.
"Oh I'm from Ponyville. I remembered seeing you two the last time you were there and I thought that I'd stop to say hello." The brothers looked at each other uneasily. Noting the unease, Rarity changed her tactic. "Well, there's another reason that I approached you. You see, it turns out that the Apple family has failed to pay their income tax for quite some time and they had to leave town in a hurry a few days ago. Since then, Sweet Apple Acres is available to buy. I saw you from across the street and figured that you two would get better use out of it than most ponies in Equestria."
Ah yes, that did the trick. The reaction from the brothers was almost immediate. "Do you really mean it?" asked Flim.
"Why, of course I do! Why in Equestria would I lie?"
Flam grinned eagerly and used his magic to power up their machine. "I think we have a farm to go buy, Flim!"
Rarity cleared her throat and raised a hoof before the two could speed off completely. "Oh, I'm going in that direction as well. Could you maybe give me a lift?"
Flim and Flam vigorously nodded. "I think it's the least we could do... uh, what's your name?"
"Oh, Annie," said Rarity sweetly.
She hopped on to the contraption which sped away into the night. Rarity smiled at herself. She didn't remember it being this easy. "How much longer until we get close to Ponyville?" asked Rarity after a few hours.
"Oh, a few minutes or so," said Flim.
"Wonderful," said Rarity. She opened her saddlebag and pulled out two familiar syringes. "Um, I hate to be a bother, but can you stop for a brief moment? I'm getting a little motion sick. Just a moment is all I need."
The brothers nodded in unison and Flim stopped the vehicle. Immediately Rarity stabbed the needles into their necks and both were unconscious immediately. Rarity hopped off of the machine and placed the two brothers into two potato sacks. She groaned as she pulled them off of their machine. They wouldn't be easy to transport back but she had darkness on her side.
Rarity turned their machine back on and drove it towards a nearby swamp. With a push of magic, she pushed it into the murky depths. The machine began to sink slowly and Rarity took great delight in watching it go down. However, after a few minutes it stopped sinking. Rarity's heart stopped. It was only three quarters of the way in. Rarity squeaked and ran towards the edge of the swamp. If worst came to worse, she may have to push it in herself. However, before Rarity could think more on that, the machine began to sink once more and Rarity let out a sigh of relief. The swamp took the whole thing.
Rarity had no trouble bringing the brothers back to her basement aside from their weight, but her magic helped with that a bit, and she secured them and waited for them to wake up.
She had to wait for a while before they did, but she wasn't disappointed by their reaction to their predicament. Flim looked around, horrified at what he saw. Flam merely screamed in pain.
Rarity had realized that she didn't have space for dual kills in her basement, she only had the one table, and so she had to improvise. She had hung a hook from her ceiling, a hook that was currently embedded in Flam's back.
"Why hello boys," Rarity chirped. "Glad to see that you're awake."
Flim turned his terrified gaze to Rarity while Flam merely contorted in pain more. "What's going on here?"
"Well, I have decided that I am going to play a little game with you," said Rarity as she hooked up a battery to the hook that held Flam. "I have a button here and your job is to tell me when to press it. Tell me to do it whenever you want me to. I am going to take this vegetable peeler here and go to work peeling off your skin bit-by-bit. Every time you press the button, I stop and button sends a volt of electricity into your brother here. Every time you press, I up the voltage but stop skinning you alive for a few minutes." Flim whimpered as Rarity picked up the vegetable peeler. She placed the button on the tray next to her. "The game begins... now!"
Rarity placed the vegetable peeler on Flim's right foreleg and began her work. "My, my, this is in top form today, isn't it?"
"Push it!" wailed Film. Rarity nodded and pushed the button. Flam convulsed as electricity coursed through his body.
"Oh, I forgot to mention, by the sixth push the voltage is fatal," said Rarity as she adjusted a dial that upped the voltage. She reached for the peeler again.
"No! Push the button!" cried Flim. Rarity nodded and pushed it once more. Flam screamed in pain and Rarity upped the voltage once more. The brothers made eye contact, each of them sporting a look of sorrow and pain. "I... I'm sorry brother."
"Don't let her kill me," Flam wailed.
Rarity rolled her eyes. "One of you isn't going to make it out of here alive. If Flim is still alive once I'm done peeling his skin off, I'll just move to slicing his flesh with a knife." She picked up the peeler once more and when Flim was silent, she began her work anew. Flim screamed in pain and began crying out each time Rarity ran the peeler over his skin. To Rarity's surprise, she heard Flam speak behind her.
"Push the button!" moaned Flam.
Rarity turned around and raised an eyebrow at him. "What was that?"
"Push the button," he repeated.
"No!" Flim wailed. Rarity paid him no heed and pushed the button. Flam convulsed some more and cried out in pain. Rarity upped the voltage.
"Push the button," said Flam once more. Rarity nodded and pushed it. Flim could only look on in horror as his brother kept insisting that Rarity push the button. True to Rarity's word, the sixth push was fatal and Flam hung lifeless from the hook. Rarity examined Flim. The skin on his leg was almost completely gone. However, much to her displeasure, Flim had fainted. She was about to groan, but she stopped herself when an idea struck her. She picked up a knife and got to work.
* * * *
Flim awoke an hour later, the memories from his last bout of consciousness returning in an instant and he began weakly struggling to get out of the straps.
"You know, it's very rude to pass out like that," Rarity scolded from behind Flim.
Flim looked towards where his brother was hanging and screamed in terror at the bloody mass that he saw. "What did you do to my brother?!"
"Well, let's see; the torso has been severed mid-thorax, there are no major organs remaining, his right foreleg has been severed above the elbow—"
"What did you do to his face?!"
"I cut it off," said Rarity.
Flim whimpered and tore his eyes away from the corpse. "Where is it?"
A maniacal giggle echoed throughout the basement. "Why, you're wearing it darling."
"I cut off his face to make a sort of mask then I put it on your face. Simple enough?"
Film paused for a second then screamed louder than he had this entire time. Although this time, the screams were mixed with sobs of sorrow. Rarity rolled her eyes and took Flam's face off of Flim. She put it on her own. "Hey, let's make cider!" said Rarity in her best impression of Flam's voice. Film merely continued to sob and Rarity took his brother's face off.
Rarity grinned at the broken pony's sorrow and moved her tray closer to her. She looked at her victim with a smile and picked up her hammer. "Goodbye darling," she said happily. His eyes widened as Rarity raised the hammer. She swung downwards.
Rarity put her hammer down and jumped into the air with a squeal of joy. She scooped up some of Flim's blood and let it drizzle over her head before dancing around the room, humming the Winter Wrap-Up song that she had learned.
It was good to be back.