It had been three days since Rarity's conversation with Twilight and things had not improved between the two of them, as much as Rarity wanted them to. Twilight was distant whenever the two of them interacted, no matter what the occasion was. Even when Pinkie Pie had thrown a party for some reason or another and Twilight did seem to be having fun, Rarity could still sense that something was off.
At that moment, the six friends were all hanging out at the spa, as per Rarity's suggestion, and they all seemed to be having a wonderfully relaxing time. Rainbow Dash had finally given in and compromised with her friends by allowing herself to be given a back rub and based on the relaxed half grin on her face, it seemed that she had found this to be an excellent choice.
Applejack gave a contented sigh as Aloe worked a knot out of her back. "Ah gotta admit, girls, Ah don't come here too often but it's times like these that make me wish Ah could afford to come more. This sure does beat cartin' apples around all day."
"Oh I certainly agree that it's nice to get out and relax for a little while. I've had a large order of dresses that I've been working on and it's so nice not having to concentrate on minute stitching for eight hours a day." Rarity turned her attention and smile to Twilight. "What about you, Twilight, are you enjoying your time?"
Twilight hardly glanced at Rarity but gave her a small nod and an affirming grunt all the same.
Rarity sighed and turned her gaze away from her friend. Would Twilight ever get over this? She hoped so but in truth, Rarity knew that she had every right to hate her forever for what she had done.
Rarity scanned her friends to see how they were doing when she saw Applejack staring straight at her. Applejack had a contemplative look on her face, but it was also one of worry.
Rarity raised her eyebrow at her. "Is something wrong, Applejack?"
Applejack frowned and stood up, placing her Stetson on her head. "Sorry everypony, Ah have to get goin' now. Ah gotta get some lunch in me before Ah head back to the farm. Y'all just enjoy your stay here."
"Oh, okay then," said Fluttershy.
"See ya later Applejack! Have a good day!" said Pinkie.
"Will do Pinkie Pie," said Applejack before she turned to Rarity. "Rarity, come have lunch with me."
Rarity frowned and cocked her head. "Er... well I really would love to, Applejack, but you see—"
"Rarity," said Applejack a little more sternly than before. "Come have lunch with me." The group looked at Applejack confusedly and Rarity gave a nervous giggle.
"Oh, well now that you mention it I am rather famished. I think I'll take you up on that then," said Rarity.
Applejack nodded. "Thank you," she said curtly.
"Well," said Rarity as she got up, "it was nice to see all of you again. I wish you all a good day as well."
"TTFN Rarity!" said Pinkie.
"Yes, uh, TTFN to you too, I suppose," said Rarity. She followed Applejack out of the spa without another word. Applejack led Rarity towards a simple roadside café near the middle of town square and they were seated almost immediately at a small table for two. The duo looked silently at their menus for a brief moment before a waiter took their order.
As they sat and waited for their food, Rarity felt the compulsive need to say something to Applejack. Applejack undoubtedly had something very important to say to Rarity as her request for Rarity to join her for lunch was undoubtedly not a request at all but a command. Rarity was half-expecting to Applejack to tell her that she knew that Rarity was a serial killer.
After a few minutes of waiting in silence, their food arrived and Applejack immediately dug in, while Rarity was slower to start eating her food. Every minute that passed in silence felt like an hour to her and it was pure torture. A few more minutes of this and Rarity would begin to lose her temper at Applejack, something that she didn't want to do at all.
Thankfully, Applejack looked up from her food and looked at Rarity. "Ah have something to talk to you about, Rarity."
Rarity desperately wanted to say 'no duh', but she refrained from doing so. "Indeed?"
Applejack nodded. "What's goin' on between you and Twilight? Ah ain't no idiot, and the way you two have been interactin' lately has got us all real worried 'bout you two."
There was Applejack being the Element of Honesty again. Her bluntness often caught Rarity off-guard and this was one of those times. Obviously there was no way that she could tell Applejack the truth, but she had to at least try to skim the surface of the issue. However, when she opened her mouth to speak, she found that no words came to her.
Applejack frowned at her silence. "Does it have anythin' to do with when we hit you with the Elements a few years back?"
Rarity could at least respond with the truth with that question. "Yes, yes it does."
"It was a real bad thing, wasn't it?" Applejack asked.
Rarity nodded. "The reason that you had to cleanse me with the Elements was due to me wanting to get rid of..." How in Equestria was she supposed to word this? “Certain memories and emotions brought on by some bad times in my life." It wasn't the best explanation, but it would have to do. It didn't seem to mollify Applejack though.
"If it's 'bout that, if it's about somethin' good we did for ya, then why is it still botherin' Twilight now? Come to think of it, what made her act like this around you only just recently? You would think that anythin' bad about that night woulda been worked out between you two in the past two years."
Rarity sighed and took a bite of her sandwich, relishing what a blessing it was to have tough conversations like this while eating as Rarity found out that she had time to formulate an answer.
She swallowed her bite of sandwich. "I had hoped that that would be the case, yes. But it seems that there are still... issues that she is having about those events."
"But why?" asked Applejack, hints of desperation creeping up in her voice. "What could you have possibly done or thought that would be so bad that Twilight would treat you like this two years after we fixed it? It can't have been somethin' like murder. Equestria hasn't seen a murder in over three hundred years! Besides, the Elements wouldn't choose a murderer to wield them, so Ah know that it can't be somethin' like that!"
With each naive word, Rarity's stomach clenched and the mask of normal emotion that she had been wearing for the past few days slowly began to slip. Applejack looked at her expectantly. Rarity's forelegs began shaking and she lifted up her sandwich for another bite but it was quickly swatted down by Applejack.
"What's goin' on, Rarity? Ah can't stand seein' two of my best friends treatin' each other like this!" said Applejack. Rarity stared down at her half-eaten sandwich and wondered what in Equestria she could possibly say. Applejack gave a frustrated groan and pulled the plate away. "Now look, Rarity, you were the first pony in our group that Ah met." Rarity's eyes snapped up and she looked at Applejack upon hearing this. "You were there for me the night that mah parents died, and even though you hardly knew me you went with me to comfort me in my hour of need. Your sister had just been born that night but you chose instead to give a grievin' girl an ear to listen when she needed it the most. Ah suppose it's stuff like that that makes you the Element of Generosity."
Rarity tried her best to hold back tears upon hearing this. If only she knew.
Applejack took a second to collect her thoughts before continuing on. "It's for reasons like that that Ah'm honored to call you one of my closest friends. Ah want to be there to help you with your hard times, particularly ones that deal with your friendships, just like you were there to help me when I needed you the most."
Rarity looked back down at the table and flattened her ears. "Even though it's in the past, you would still disown me as a friend if I told you why I needed the Elements that night."
This appeared to really hit Applejack where it hurt and she looked like she was fighting back tears. "But Rarity, do you remember what Pinkie, Rainbow, and Ah said back when you were in the hospital after you got hit by that cart? We said that we would stick by you no matter what you did! We weren't lyin', Rarity!"
"I know you weren't," said Rarity softly.
"Then why can't you open up to me about this? What is so bad that Twilight is refusin' to speak to you right now about an incident that happened two years ago?" asked Applejack. "Ah mean, don't you trust us?"
"Of course I do, darling!" said Rarity. "But there are just certain things that are unforgivable, no matter how strong the bonds of friendship are."
Applejack scoffed. "What, did you roll the cart that killed mah parents down the hill so it would run them over?"
"Of course not!" said Rarity.
"Well then it can't be that bad, can it?" said Applejack.
Rarity ground her teeth together and she had to resist the urge to yell at Applejack for prying in places that she had no business going. However, she stood up and placed six bits on the table. "Yes Applejack, I'm afraid that it truly is that bad. It is worse than you can possibly imagine and it was certainly worse than Twilight could ever imagine."
Applejack glared at Rarity and crossed her forelegs. "Rarity, Ah ain't lettin' this go until you tell me. Do you really want to have this conversation every day?"
Rarity grimaced and deeply exhaled. "You don't want to know, Applejack. It's private."
Applejack scoffed and shook her head. "Like Ah said, whatever's happenin' between the two of you might split our group and the Elements of Harmony apart. Whatever happened can't be private anymore after that. We want to help you!"
Rarity took a deep breath and drooped her ears. Applejack was right; she didn't want to have this conversation every time the two saw each other, and she did not want to avoid Applejack like Twilight had been avoiding her. As she saw it, there was only one option. "Applejack, if you truly want to know what it is, if you really feel that you can handle literally anything that I can say, then follow me. Otherwise, I suggest you go home."
Applejack stood up and placed three bits of her own on the table. "Lead the way."
"If that is truly your choice then I suppose I had better respect it, shouldn't I?" said Rarity.
"Yeah, Ah suppose you'd better."
Rarity nodded. "Then follow me."
Rarity led Applejack towards the edges of the Everfree Forest. As their journey continued and Applejack became aware of their destination, she got steadily more nervous. "You can bow out whenever you want to Applejack."
Applejack shook her head. "I ain't quittin' on this now."
"I know. That's what I'm afraid of," Rarity whispered quietly enough that Applejack couldn't hear her.
Another ten minutes brought them to their destination. Rarity remembered it as the place where she had first learned that Applejack had a sister, the place where she had tried to lead Applejack to her death. With each step a feeling of unease and fear began building up inside of her. She was about to tell Applejack what she had done. The thought of that frightened her but at the same time she almost desperately wanted to.
No, the last time I had opened up to a friend I nearly destroyed her memory and alienated her forever!
But Applejack wouldn't stop until she has and answer, Rarity!
Yes, but she I can make up a lie. Give her a reasonable sounding story to mollify her.
Lie to the Element of Honesty, Rarity? What good has lying to her done you thus far? She'd know.
"We here?" asked Applejack, her voice breaking through her thought process.
Rarity whimpered quietly but she slowly nodded. "Applejack, if you want to leave now, I won't stop you. I promised that I would tell you someday and if you don't want that day to be today—"
"Rarity, just tell me."
"I mean, we can put this conversation off for months, even years if you want to and all you have to do is say the word!"
Applejack's eyes narrowed and she took a threatening step towards her friend. "Rarity, tell me."
The want to answer was building up inside of her, itching to get out so that this matter with Applejack would be settled. "A-Applejack I'm not sure you really want to hear this. You'd—"
"RARITY, TELL ME!"
"I MURDERED THREE FOALS!"
Now it was out. She had told a second friend what she had done, albeit a small part of it. Still, that one part would undoubtedly shatter their relationship beyond repair.
Applejack's eyes widened and tears immediately began pouring from her eyes. She took a step back and Rarity wondered if she was going to run away. "What did you say?" Applejack whispered, hoping that she had heard Rarity wrong and that Rarity's real secret was something far less disturbing.
"I murdered three foals," repeated Rarity.
Applejack took a second to process the news. She looked absolutely dumbfounded. "Why?"
Rarity took a deep breath and began her story. "It happened when I was only eight years old. It was the first day of school and I was immediately bullied by three of the nastiest foals one could ever meet. It upset me and my teacher let me relax in a creek to calm me down. It did wonders for me and I decided that that creek would be my special place where I could just be...Rarity." Applejack had stopped backing away and she was listening intently now. "The foals did not cease their torment, and the only place I felt that I could gain a respite from them was the creek.
"One day, I went to the creek later that day to discover that the three of them had been waiting for me there. They told me they were going to beat me up and that nopony would care because my family was poor. In hindsight it was rather ridiculous, but at the time the thought of getting beaten within an inch of my life was too scary to me.
"When the leader came up to me to begin hitting me, I grabbed a rock and I hit him in the head with it. I didn't mean to kill him, but that's exactly what happened. In a panic I killed the other two foals and threw their bodies into the Everfree Forest for the predators to dispose of."
Applejack was blinking very fast now and tears were still pouring from her face. She cleared her throat before speaking up. "So what does that have to do with Twilight?"
"Twilight found out about it, in a story that I feel that I must save for another time, and she wanted to help me. You see, over the years, my guilt about the murders slowly began to get stronger and stronger. Eventually it got to the point where it was consuming me, even if I didn't show it. When Twilight found out, she immediately suggested that we use the Elements to cleanse my guilt. That's what we were doing with the Elements that night with Princess Luna."
Applejack nodded. "So, why is she actin' all funny around you now?"
"A few days ago, she asked me details about it. You see, she hadn't pressed me for details when she had first found out, but for whatever reason she felt that she needed to know more about it. I think she wanted to help me if the issue ever re-surfaced. It was... a bit much for her."
"I see," said Applejack.
Rarity sighed. "I take it you want nothing to do with me now, is that correct?"
Applejack shook her head. "I just need some time away from you right now is all. But I Pinkie Promise that I won't tell anypony."
Without another word, Applejack turned around and walked away.
* * * *
With her head low to the ground, Rarity made the journey back to Carousel Boutique. She felt that she needed a hot bubble bath and a good nap after the events of today. She certainly wasn't going to get any work done after her talk with Applejack.
All of a sudden, a familiar voice called out to her. "Hey Rarity! Rarity, over here!"
Rarity snapped out of her thoughts and turned around to see the last pony that she expected to see right now. He gave her a goofy grin.
"It's me! Hayseed Turniptruck!"
"Oh, yes. How... how are you?" she said glumly.
"I'm doin' just fine. It's so nice to see ya again! Shoot, the last time I saw you, we was back in Canterlot!"
"Indeed we were," said Rarity. Oh how desperately she wished she could end this conversation and just get home. However, it seemed that Hayseed wouldn't leave her alone. Rarity walked back to Carousel Boutique and Hayseed followed her the entire way, talking her ear off the entire time.
After what seemed like hours, Rarity and Hayseed arrived at Rarity's home. By that point, Rarity was past mere irritation at Hayseed. She had dropped hints over and over again that he should leave, but the numbskull was too thick to pick up on any of them.
As she reached her front door, she turned back to Hayseed. "Well, it's been marvelous catching up with you, but I really must get back to work," she said curtly.
"Well shoot, we should talk some more! I leave for Canterlot tomorrow to do some jobs and we should totally get together again before I leave, ya know?"
Rarity's anger exploded, but she managed to keep it internal. "Hayseed, get inside."
Hayseed was taken aback for a moment but he regained his composure and his goofy grin. "Well I think that would be just wonderful! We can catch up even more while you work!"
The two walked into Rarity's house and Rarity immediately walked over to her saddlebags and pulled out a syringe. She stuck it into Hayseed's neck without another word and he dropped to the ground.
* * * *
Hayseed woke up in the same way that the rest of Rarity's victims did: strapped to the table in her basement. He looked around for a moment and whimpered in fear. Rarity wheeled the tray in front of him and gave him a cold stare. Hayseed tried to give a nervous laugh.
"R-Rarity, is this some kind of—"
"Eight. Separate. Times," spat Rarity. "I told you eight times to go away but you didn't listen! Why, Hayseed, why didn't you listen to me?"
Hayseed opened his mouth and tried to babble out a few words, but he didn't say anything coherent. Rarity grabbed a large knife off of her tray and began cutting the skin around his left foreleg. Hayseed whimpered in pain before he began crying.
Rarity finished circling his foreleg with the knife. "R-R-Rarity, what are you—" Rarity grabbed the skin in her mouth and pulled as hard as she could. Hayseed screamed as loud as he could as all of the skin on his left foreleg was peeled off.
Rarity threw the skin aside and began working on the right side.
"Rarity, whatever I did, I'm sorry. Please stop doin' this!" Hayseed begged.
"Shut up!" she bellowed as she began skinning his right foreleg too. Within a minute, his right foreleg was missing all of its skin too. Rarity leaned down a bit to begin skinning his right hind leg when he began talking again.
"Rarity, I... I've always liked you," he said weakly. "I mean, I really liked you in a sort of ‘I had a crush on you’ way."
At this, Rarity shot up and with a look of pure fury in her eyes, she stared into his eyes. "What did you say?!" she screeched.
Before he could continue, Rarity let out a cry of anger and she stabbed the knife into his legs before kicking over her tray. The knives scattered all over the place and she angrily began to clean them up. She became aware of Hayseed's whimpering and her anger rose even more and she picked up the tray and began hitting him with it.
The force with which she pummeled Hayseed with the tray could have cracked boulders. At each blow Hayseed gave cries of pain that eventually began to get weaker and weaker.
After a few minutes of non-stop beating, she threw the bloody tray down. Hayseed was still alive but had been beaten into an almost unrecognizable bloody mess. Rarity looked down and used her magic to grab a knife from off of the floor. She placed the tip on Hayseed's neck and pressed the edge against his neck.
Hayseed spat out some blood and a few teeth before uttering his last words. "Rarity... why?" With that last utterance, Rarity slit his throat and he was gone.
Rarity stepped back to admire her handy-work. To her surprise, she felt...empty. Normally a kill did a lot for her emotionally, it replenished her in a way. But as she stared at the bloody mess that used to be Hayseed Turniptruck, she felt... nothing.
As she looked over the corpse, her jaw dropped slightly as the realization of what she had just done hit her. "Why did I do that?" she said softly to herself. "He was annoying, but why did I do that to him?"
She began blinking very fast and taking sharper breaths. "Hayseed, I-I'm so sorry. If you can hear me now, I'm so sorry I just..." She grabbed a washcloth and began cleaning the blood off of his face. It was a mostly lost cause as the blood pouring from the wounds to his head undid anything she had done, but she continued on all the same.
After a short while, Rarity noticed that the bleeding had mostly stopped and Hayseed's face looked more like it had before she had done this terrible thing to him. She used her magic to close his eyes and after a few moments of silence, she cleaned herself off and went back upstairs.
A few minutes passed, which Rarity spent sitting at her kitchen table, before anything happened. As it was, the thing that happened was Rarity's doorbell rang. She slowly got up and went to go answer it. To her surprise, she found Applejack on the other side of her door.
"Oh, Applejack, please come in!" she said. Applejack nodded and slowly walked in. Her red eyes and tear streaked fur left no doubt that Applejack had been crying.
Rarity led Applejack to her kitchen table where the two of them sat down. The two sat in silence for a moment - in a scene that uncomfortably reminded Rarity of their lunch earlier that day - before Applejack spoke up.
"Ah was thinkin' long and hard about what to do after you told me about... that," said Applejack. "Ah knew that Ah wasn't gonna turn you in, but a lot of me didn't want to have anythin' to do with you either."
"Applejack, I—" she began, but Applejack held up a hoof to silence her.
"But then Ah really thought about the story, how you said that it was mostly self-defense on your part, particularly the first one," she said. Applejack looked up at Rarity and it seemed that she was about to begin crying again. "Ah know you Rarity; Ah know that if you had the choice, you would never have done it. You only did it because you felt helpless and that was the only thing you thought you could do to protect yourself from them. Ah realized that Ah couldn't blame you for protecting yourself, even if the way you did it was very, very wrong."
"I never wanted it to happen and to this day," Rarity sniffled "I still wish I could take it back."
Applejack nodded. "Ah know you do, Rarity. Ah know you do."
Applejack stood up and held out her forelegs, inviting Rarity into a hug. Rarity stood up and the two hugged each other.
In that moment, the flood of emotions that Rarity had tried to repress throughout this whole affair hit her and she began to cry. She wept into Applejack's shoulder and Applejack began to rub Rarity's back.
"It'll be okay," she soothed. "Everything will be okay, Rarity. Just you wait and see. Just you wait and see."