• Published 20th Oct 2011
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Death Note: Equestria - Nonagon



A deadly notebook called the Death Note lands in Equestria. Chaos ensues.

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Recovery

8
*Recovery*

It is possible to write the cause and/or details of death prior to filling in the name of the individual. Be sure to insert the name in front of the written cause of death. You have about 19 days (according to the pony calendar) to fill in a name.

A hush fell across the four ponies and dragon as they followed Sideline across Ponyville. She didn’t seem to be leading them anywhere in particular, taking a wide, looping path that steered clear of any main streets. “I don’t get it,” Rainbow Dash whispered, throwing suspicious glances at the cloaked pony. “L could have shown himself to us at any time. Why would he wait until now?”

“I don’t know, Dash,” Colgate whispered back. She’d found herself at the front of the little group, several pony-lengths behind Sideline, carrying Spike on her back. “Maybe... maybe L was waiting for something like this to happen. Maybe this was his plan all along.”

“You mean he wanted all those EBI agents to die?” interjected Linky, eyes wide.

“I don’t think so. But I think he knew that sooner or later the group would split up, and only the ponies most loyal to the cause would remain.”

“I’m hungry,” Ditzy Doo complained, bringing up the rear.

Silence descended again as the group entered Ponyville’s park. Despite the town’s rapid expansion this stretch of land had remained virtually untouched, and the gently rolling meadow still made a popular playground and picnic spot. The park was currently empty; even though the sun was shining the temperature was slowly dropping, and spots of red were starting to become visible on the nearby trees. "L is out here? This can't be right." Colgate frowned and looked over her shoulder. "Spike, you delivered letters to L, right? You must have some idea where he lives."

"Nope. I just left them under a tree around here, and whenever I came back they were gone. Those trees over there." The little dragon pointed in the direction Sideline was heading.

They watched as Sideline approached a tiny grove of trees and stood in the middle of it. She looked around and stomped twice. There was a pause, then with a quiet click a disguised trapdoor sprung open, revealing well-worn steps leading down into darkness. The cloaked pony carefully made her way down. Colgate hesitated, then followed her into the unknown, the others trailing close behind. As soon as Ditzy Doo crossed the first few steps the door swung silently shut behind them, leaving the group in near-total darkness.

Fortunately the stairs were not long, and the assembled ponies soon found themselves in front of a thick iron door. Sideline rapped out a precise series of knocks on the sheer surface and a loud clunk could be heard from the other side. The doors creaked open, leading into a large, perfectly square room. Bright lights illuminated the four sparklingly white walls, each with its own identical doorway leading to a different part of the facility. Tables and desks covered with papers lined the walls, along with countless stratoscreens of all sizes covering every available surface.

The strangest sight by far, however, was on a slightly raised platform in the very centre of the room: a monstrous wooden structure, resembling a cube three pony-lengths in every direction. Every surface was made up of series of thin wooden bars with beads strung across them, along with no end of buttons, levers and strings. Similar layers filled the inside of the structure, resulting in a criss-crossing mesh of struts, gears and belts too complex to take in all at once. The top edges were covered in tiny pink crystals, each angled towards one of the many stratoscreens scattered throughout the room, and larger purple crystals glimmered from somewhere within the chaotic interior.

“Whoa.”

“Unbelievable...”

“I’m hungry.”

"It's called an abacus."

Everypony jumped at the voice. A magnificent grey unicorn stepped out from behind the enormous device, smiling gently. He looked several years older than the rest of them, with a hard, serious face and a straight black mane that parted neatly on either side of his horn. He wore a bow-tie and stylish checkered jacket that cut off just before his cutie mark, two pairs of eighth notes. "An abacus mark five, in fact," he continued, stroking the corner of the machine with his hoof. "Better known to some as the Analytical Engine. It was developed by Princess Luna shortly after her re-emergence in Equestria and has recently been upgraded with crystal compatibility. This machine can calculate numbers a thousand times more quickly than any other wood-based device, as well as plot graphs, organize charts and measure probability. There are currently only twenty of these machines in existence, with fewer than a hundred ponies trained to use them. This particular model was provided by the Princess herself in exchange for taking on the Kira investigation. It was teleported to this facility piece by piece and assembled with my own hooves." He nuzzled the edge of the device affectionately. "I call her Minty."

Colgate swallowed nervously and took a step forward. "W-what is this place?"

"Not many ponies these days remember, but during the civil war one thousand years ago Ponyville was the earth ponies' first line of defense against the reigning unicorns. The town was ultimately destroyed, and was only recently re-established. This bunker, however, has been maintained in secret in the event that a hidden base in Ponyville might ever be needed. An event, in fact, much like this one." The unicorn’s gaze shifted from one pony to the next, the smile slowly leaving his face. “So you are the remaining faithful. Hmph. You’re a little... younger than I’d expected.”

Colgate’s lip trembled. She bowed low. “Sir, I swear I will serve you and Equestria as-”

“OhmygoshLI’myourbiggestfaneverI’vereadallyourbookscanIpleasehaveyourautograph?” Colgate winced as Spike leaped from her back and knelt before the surprised unicorn, his eyes wide and sparkling with admiration.

"L? Me?" The grey pony snorted. "Hardly. My name is Jazz. I came from Canterlot to assist L by operating the abacus. No, the so-called legendary detective," he pointed, "is over there."

As one the assembled ponies turned. While they'd been listening with rapt attention another pony had entered the room from the left and sat at one of the desks, scribbling words onto a piece of paper. Her ears pricked up at the sound of her name and she swiveled around to face the group.

The chair L sat in was a marvel in itself. Instead of resting on four legs it sat atop a central column, allowing the seat to swivel in any direction. This then splayed out at the bottom into five different rods, each ending with a rotatable wheel. But even more bizarre was the way the pony before them sat on this contraption. Instead of folding her legs beneath her she slouched backwards and let them dangle, her spine bending against the backrest at a seemingly impossible angle. The position looked painful, but the mint green unicorn showed no signs of discomfort as she surveyed the group.

An uncomfortable silence fell. L simply stared, a carefully blank expression on her face, apparently waiting for somepony else to speak first. A mixture of surprise and confusion washed over the group, and even Rainbow Dash, who earlier had looked as though she was building up to an angry outburst, was finding it difficult to find words. At last Colgate rose up and stepped towards the seated detective. “Um... hello,” she stuttered. Having already laid prostrate before the wrong pony, she was hesitant to try it again. “I’m Colgate. It’s an honour-”

“I know who you are,” L interrupted. Her voice was surprisingly soft compared to the harsh static of the voice box, but still carried an air of authority and total self-assurance. “The question is, who else in Ponyville knows who you are?” She gave each member of the group a hard stare in turn, leaving them to interpret this on their own. Her eyes landed on Sideline. “Bon Bon, it’s all right. All these ponies have been cleared. You don’t need to wear that in here.”

After a few moments of hesitation the cloaked mare threw back her hood, revealing a pleasant-looking cream earth pony with her mane striped in pink and blue. “As you wish,” she mumbled, stumbling over her words a little after weeks of forced silence. Before anypony could react she rushed from the room, taking the exit to L’s left.

L gave a passing smile to the mare as she galloped past. “Don’t mind Bon Bon,” she said, turning back to the assembled ponies. “It’s her job to worry about me.”

Ditzy Doo piped up, saying what was on everypony’s minds. “You’re a girl.”

“That is correct. Does that surprise you?” L spun around playfully in her chair. “Referring to me as male is simply tradition. Behind the screen, L is always male. Under the hood, Sideline is always female. That’s the way it’s always been.”

“So, uh...” Spike was still frozen at the irritated Jazz’s feet. He stood awkwardly, disappointment working its way across his face. “You’re not the real, I mean, the first L?”

The unicorn shot the dragon a cold glance. “Do I look twelve hundred years old?”

“Uh... no?”

“So.” L spun around in her chair again. Bon Bon reappeared, now without her cloak and carefully balancing an ice cream cone in a holder clenched between her teeth. “Ah, thank you.” The unicorn levitated the cone towards her and gingerly licked the generous vanilla scoop on top.

Rainbow Dash pawed at the ground in annoyance. “I still think you’re a fake,” she said quietly. “You sure don’t look like a detective.”

“Looks can be deceiving.” L swiveled to the side, revealing her cutie mark: a golden stringed instrument the cyan filly didn’t recognize. “At a glance, this design would mark me as a musician and nothing more. However, there is often much more to a cutie mark than is readily apparent. It represents not just a physical feature or purpose, but also the hidden talents required to fulfill that purpose. Just as playing the lyre takes planning, concentration and precision, so do I use those same qualities when I play ponies for my own benefit.

“The same applies to all of us. Though it’s not obvious, we all end up in the places most suited for our unique talents. Take Bon Bon.” L stroked the the earth pony’s cream flank, which bore the image of three candies, making the mare blush. “Her job is to sugar-coat everything, then wrap it up to keep it safe.” She then pointed to Jazz, who was still standing next to his abacus with a stony expression. “Jazz’s job is to pay attention to tiny details and ensure everything happens in the correct order.”

“So, wait... you can look at a pony’s cutie mark and tell what their secret, hidden talents are?” Rainbow Dash seemed to perk up a little at this. “That’s kind of cool.”

“Quite.” The mint unicorn rolled forward slightly and stared into Colgate’s eyes. The effect was diminished slightly when she took another lick of her slowly melting ice cream. “Colgate. Your job is to watch over time and to watch over others; to maintain order, to maintain vigilance, to keep the peace and fight against chaos. You will keep the false name you have taken and continue your duties in this new location. I look forward to working with you directly.”

“Y-yes sir! Ma’am! Absolutely!” Colgate stood proudly and gave her superior a sharp salute, her anxiety rapidly turning into excitement.

L then turned to Linky, who had remained very quiet throughout this exchange. “Linky. Your job is to make small but vital connections between two seemingly unrelated things. Your blessing and your curse is to remain unnoticed, no matter the circumstances. You will assume the name Locket and you will be my eyes and ears in Ponyville.”

“Thank you, L,” Locket mumbled. She sounded almost relieved, which Colgate found odd, but she didn’t question it.

“Ditzy Doo.” The grey mailmare stared in rapt attention, or at least half her face did. “Your job is to float on high, to divert attention when needed, and to look at situations from angles that others cannot. For your safety you will assume the name Derpy Hooves and continue your job of delivering letters and packages, keeping a watchful eye for any suspicious communications. I have already spoken with your supervisor regarding this change and the necessary arrangements have been made.”

The newly dubbed Derpy Hooves nodded, but her mind seemed to be elsewhere. “I’m hungry.”

“The kitchen is that way.” L had barely finished speaking before the pegasus shot off in the direction of her raised hoof, leaving clouds of bran-scented dust in her wake.

Rainbow Dash hopped from one hoof to the next. “Ooh, I’m next! What’s my special talent? Is it lightning-fast thinking? Or lightning-fast investigating? Or lightning-fast, uh, catching bad guys?”

L looked the filly up and down a few times. “And you... Spike.” She turned abruptly towards the little dragon, leaving Dash frozen in surprise. “You’ve spent your whole life assisting others. Those skills will be highly useful now, in this time of crisis. I ask that you now stay by my side, as you have stayed by the sides of those before me.”

Spike saluted, trying to copy Colgate. “Yes, ma’am!” Part of him felt that he should be more excited than this; after all, he’d fantasized about this moment ever since he’d started reading detective novels. Still, something about the way the unicorn had said it felt off to him; like he was less an assistant and more of an accessory.

“Hey!” The cyan pegasus waved for attention. “What about me?”

“Rainbow Dash.” L stared hard at her for several long seconds. “Your job is to fly around very fast.”

There was a pause. “That’s it?”

The detective shrugged. “I’ve got nothing. Thanks to your highly visual antics everypony knows who you are right now, so there’s no sense in taking an alias.”

Dash gave an exaggerated sigh. “Still think you’re a fake,” she muttered.

“As for myself,” L concluded, “I will remain here at all times. I ask that you all continue to refer to me as male and not describe my appearance to anypony, not even those you trust. Within the confines of the facility, however, you may call me... Harpy Chords.”

Spike gasped. “Is that your real name?”

“No.” The unicorn took a bite of her ice cream, which was starting to drip. “Now, I suggest you all find something to eat. We have a long day ahead of us and it’s best that you get settled in quickly. For safety you will all live here for the time being. Individual rooms are to your left, and the eating area is to your right. Bon Bon will show you the way.” Without another word L rolled away and returned to her writing, taking more frequent licks at her dripping cone. Silently Bon Bon gestured to the others and they followed her out of the room and down a wide passage towards the kitchen.

Away from L and able to analyze what had just happened, a mixture of emotions ran through the group. There was surprise and excitement, but also fear and confusion; the green unicorn was so different to their expectations that it was hard to process that she was supposed to be a legend. There was something deeply, unsettlingly off about her. After all, it might be fun to imagine a pony with so many eccentricities... but could anypony actually live like that? Colgate drew up beside Bon Bon as they walked. “Is she always like this?” she half-whispered.

“Like what?”

“You know... direct. Self-assured. Socially... weird.”

“Oh, no,” Bon Bon replied, shaking her head and smiling. “Miss Harpy is a very emotional pony.”

“Really? I wouldn’t have guessed.”

“That’s the idea. Oh, my.” Bon Bon stopped as she entered the kitchen, putting a hoof over her mouth in shock. The others piled up behind her, each freezing in horror at the carnage before them. The once immaculate and aggressively functional kitchen now looked more akin to a disaster area. The sheer magnitude of what had been done in such a short time was staggering, something the likes of which no mortal pony was ever meant to lay eyes on. Atop a towering monstrosity of crumbs, empty cartons and half-devoured vegetables a wall-eyed pegasus sat happily munching on a carrot, seemingly oblivious to the chaos surrounding her. Something sticky dripped onto Bon Bon’s shoulder and she looked up, trembling violently. Sweet Celestia, how did she even... “Derpy, what have you done?”

“I emptied your fridge.”

---

Hoofsteps echoed through the royal palace, audible even on the far side of Canterlot. Celestia tore up the steps of the Lunar Tower, wings outstretched, a look of fury burning on her face. She screeched to a halt in front of a set of large ebony doors and burst through, howling. “LUUUUUNAAAAA!

While Celestia’s bedroom was large and ornate, her sister’s was anything but. The windowless stone walls left little room for anything but a midnight black bed, which was built for an alicorn of Celestia’s size but instead housed a comparatively smaller occupant. From within an ocean of sheets and fluffy pillows the lunar princess cracked open an eyelid. “Wha?”

Celestia stormed across the room and waved a letter in her sister’s face, in tatters from the speed at which it had been dragged through the air. “You used private resources from the EBI to spy on my personal student!” she roared.

“Huh?” Luna held up a hoof to shield her eyes from the harsh light spilling in from outside. “Tia, it’s midday...”

“Listen to me, little sister.” The larger alicorn put her two front hooves on the bed, towering over her younger sibling. “The programs we created were made to protect the ponies of Equestria, not oppress them. The EBI is not your toy to use as you wish. You will never, never use them to spy on my little ponies ever again. Ever.” Celestia lowered her face towards Luna’s and snorted angrily. “Is that understood?”

In her half-awake state, the lunar princess could only nod.

“Good.” Celestia stepped off the bed and folded her wings, looking a little more composed. “I hope that we will not have to speak about this again.” Without another word she whirled around and stomped outside, slamming the double doors behind her with enough force to make the whole tower shake.

Luna blinked, trying to make sense of what had just happened. “They’re my little ponies too, Tia,” she mumbled, pulling a blanket over her head. “I wish you’d remember that.”

---

Once the investigative team had scrounged together some food, chosen their rooms and given Derpy a bath, they reconvened in the main chamber. The atmosphere was now much more informal than it had been before, Bon Bon in particular looking much more comfortable around the new guests. They sat in a rough circle around a small table set up close to the abacus, with L at the head. Bon Bon stood by L’s side, while Jazz sat further away beside his beloved abacus. L finished up the plate of peanut brittle she was snacking on and passed it to Bon Bon before gesturing to the group. “Shall we begin?”

Directly across from her, Colgate nodded. “Let’s. Tell us what your plan is.”

The detective stretched and began to speak. “Here is what we know. Just before nine o’clock last night the pegasus Storm Seeker, leader of the EBI investigation here, ordered an emergency long-distance teleportation from Canterlot to Ponyville. Ever since then he has been missing, presumed dead. Many of the folders in his office were in disarray and a number of important files have been removed. I believe that, sadly, Storm Seeker was being controlled by Kira and used to bring the names of the visiting EBI agents to him.”

“Wait, wait,” Rainbow Dash interrupted. “You mean Kira can control ponies now?”

“Correct. We know that Kira can influence the time and method of his victims’ deaths, as well as subconsciously control their behavior. The exact limits of this power are currently unknown.”

Colgate frowned. “Why weren’t we informed of this?”

“Kira was performing experiments with prison inmates by altering their times and modes of death, perhaps to determine what feats he is or is not capable of. To keep the results of these experiments from him, all records of unusual activity among victims were destroyed. Outside of myself, Princess Luna and the few ponies who reported the deaths, no one was aware that these experiments were taking place.” L’s face darkened. "Which is troubling, as I do not believe Kira would attempt to control Storm Seeker if he believed his experiments to be failures. Which means that Kira must therefore be somepony who has access to the same information I do. While this is unsettling to me, it does narrow down the range of our search considerably."

Derpy Hooves raised a hoof. "Yes, Derpy?"

The mailmare appeared confused for a second, then her face lit up. "My name is Derpy Hooves," she said, looking pleased with herself. She nodded for a few seconds before remembering her question. "Um. How do you know I'm not Kira?"

Colgate laughed. "Derpy, don't be ridic..." She trailed off, thinking. "That... that's actually a good question. Kira would have a lot to gain by joining the investigation. L, I mean Harpy, why were you so quick to trust us?"

L smiled thinly. "That was never a concern. I had my associate Locket personally investigate anypony on the police force I felt would be useful to me."

Everypony stared at the blue earth pony, some in shock, others accusingly. Locket felt herself turn pale. "You didn't have to mention that..." she mumbled.

"A spy!" Rainbow Dash yelled. "I knew it!"

Spike's response was more level. “You... you were working for L this whole time?” he asked, eyes wide and lips trembling. “And you didn't tell us?”

"I... I was just doing my job..." The blue pony squirmed, unused to having so many eyes on her. "I'm just supposed to tell L what I see. That's all..."

"Enough." L pounded a hoof on the table for silence, her voice flat. "What's done is done. There will be no secrets between us now. It's true, Locket has worked for me in the past, but only on a personal basis. She is not directly affiliated with me or any organizations I represent. Now, if we could return to the matter at hand?" Grudgingly everypony shifted their gaze back to the unicorn.

From underneath the table, L produced a small stack of papers. "Of all the potential suspects in Ponyville, very few would have means of accessing information regarding Kira's experiments. I have selected two of the most likely candidates to look at more closely. Case one: Mayor Mare." She drew from the stack a sheet showing a number of pictures of the good-natured mayor of Ponyville, along with several paragraphs of observations. "She is able to delve into official documents kept hidden from the public eye. With the right tools and her own enchanted books of records, it is possible that she may have been able to view the documents before they were destroyed." Before the assembled ponies could fully react to this accusation L drew out another sheet of paper. "The other candidate is even more interesting. Case two, Twilight Sparkle."

"Whoa, whoa!" Spike jumped up in his seat, waving his arms frantically. "L, are you crazy? The Twilight Sparkle, Element of Magic and savior of Equestria many times over? There's no way that can be right!"

"Yeah," Rainbow Dash added, jumping to her friend's defense. "Twilight's just not the type. What gives, L?”

"And yet, the facts line up. Twilight Sparkle lives in a library, and so has easy access to many of the enchanted records books that Mayor Mare does. She is also familiar with communication by dragonfire and crystal technology. On top of that, she is a noted Kira supporter and her studies of friendship have given her a strong sense of social justice."

"No way." Spike shook his head. "I won’t believe it. I've lived with Twilight my whole life. It's impossible that she could turn into a psycho killer without me knowing."

“Where's your proof, L?” Rainbow Dash chided. “Sounds like you're just making stuff up.”

"Oh, I'll give you proof... with these." L gestured to Bon Bon, who ran into the next room. When she returned she carried three small, squirming bags in her mouth. "Bugs," L said with a fiendish grin as Bon Bon laid the bags carefully on the table. "Woodlice for the library, roaches for the mayor's office, and mosquitoes for the outdoors. Undetectable, untraceable, can be planted in seconds and operated from here. These will be ideal for keeping Kira under surveillance."

As the detective spoke Colgate felt her breath becoming sharper. "Harpy, that's illegal."

"Yes, yes it is. But I don't believe that's our primary concern right now."

"What? What is?" Rainbow Dash looked back and forth between the two unicorns in confusion. "What are these things?"

"Crystallized insects," Colgate explained breathlessly. "They look just like the real thing, but they've got tiny recording crystals for faces. When they see or hear anything it's transmitted back to us, letting us..." She gulped. "Letting us spy on ponies. Which, I'll remind you again, is illegal. We could all go to prison just for having these here."

"And what would you have me do, Colgate?" L leaned forwards in her chair and twisted her face into what might have been a frown. "This isn't the academy any more, little pony. There's a killer on the loose, and it's our job to stop her, no matter the cost. You said at the police station that you would give your life to stop these murders. What’s changed since then?”

“T-that’s completely different!” Colgate stammered. “This is about principles. We’re no better than criminals ourselves if we resort to this.”

“No, we’re better than criminals because unlike Kira, we’re doing the right thing. By this point she is the most terrible individual mass murderer in all of history. To not use every possible method at our disposal to catch her is to allow more ponies to die. I will not allow that. There are no lengths to which I will not go to stop Kira, and I expect the same from all of you. History will vindicate us.”

Colgate felt her resolve weakening. “But, to invade the privacy of innocent ponies...”

"I say we do it." Everypony looked in surprise at Spike, who was staring at the squirming bags with a determined look. "Twilight doesn't keep any secrets from me. She's got nothing to hide. I say let's do it so we can prove she's not Kira once and for all."

“Yeah,” Rainbow Dash agreed. “We’ll show you what Twilight’s really like.”

"My name is Derpy Hooves," Derpy interjected for no clear reason.

“Whatever L wants to do is fine,” Locket mumbled.

They all looked expectantly at Colgate. “Is that satisfactory?” L asked.

Grudgingly the blue unicorn sighed. “Fine. But if you’re wrong, and we do all this for nothing...”

“I am seldom wrong.” Satisfied, L sat back and gestured to the bags again. “Once planted, the bugs will work their way through the building to pre-set destinations. When in place, Jazz can control them remotely using signals from the abacus Minty. We will install them this very afternoon and begin monitoring this evening. Derpy, you will take the woodlice to the Books and Branches Library and release them near the front door once Twilight Sparkle has left the building.” Derpy nodded dutifully as one of the bags was levitated over to her. “Colgate, you will perform the same task at the office of Mayor Mare. The mosquitoes will be released strategically and when needed.”

Colgate’s stomach lurched as the second squirming bag made its way across the table towards her. Welcome to the big leagues, she thought glumly. One hour in and I’m already doing espionage.

---

It was dark when Twilight Sparkle returned to the library. "Spike!" she called out, setting down her bags and turning on lights. "Are you home?" When no answer came she dug into her bag and pulled out a big red apple, taking a huge, juicy bite out of it. "You can wait,” she said aloud, seemingly staring into empty space. “I haven't eaten since lunchtime."

Locket shuffled uncomfortably. "This feels wrong," she said quietly. She looked around at the others watching the screen, half-expecting someone to call her out on her hypocrisy, but no one said anything. Along with her, Spike, L and Bon Bon were watching Twilight Sparkle move around the library. The detective munched on a large bag of caramel-coated popcorn, her eyes fixed in front of her with a peculiar single-mindedness. A cluster of stratoscreens had been set up in their corner of the room, each showing a view from a different woodlouse spread throughout the tree. In the opposite corner Colgate, Rainbow Dash and Ditzy Doo watched Mayor Mare from a similar setup. Jazz alternated between the two groups, using the abacus to switch between bugs and adjust angles as needed. "I mean, more wrong than usual." Locket coughed, but nopony seemed to be listening to her. "Does she always talk to herself like this?"

Spike nodded. "Yeah. She always thinks aloud when she's stressed, or when she thinks I'm not listening."

They watched as Twilight entered the library’s kitchen, changing screens as the view switched to another room. She put down her apple and stacked up a few books lying on the counter; without Spike to clean up after her the books she absent-mindedly left around the building were starting to pile up. She went over to the breadbasket and pulled out two slices. Paused. Brushed a couple of wood chips off the counter and into the dustbin. Paused. Quickly snatched up her apple again and took another bite, staring upwards with a thoughtful expression. She left the room, trotting upstairs, sandwich forgotten. “She just got an idea,” Spike explained. “I usually have to clean up after her when she does that.”

Before entering her bedroom Twilight touched her horn to the wooden door. A tiny spark of light jumped from her to it. “Note: Twilight Sparkle has a magical lock on her door,” L stated, a twinge of satisfaction in her voice.

Instead of walking inside Twilight picked up a book from a stack near her door and continued upstairs. At the top floor she turned out onto her balcony, took a long look at the sky, then opened the book and settled down in front of her beloved telescope. L frowned. There were no bugs out on the balcony, so the only view they had was now of Twilight's back. "Jazz, can you get us any closer?"

The grey unicorn trotted over. He looked over the screens and referred to some notes he'd made about the tree's layout. "Afraid not. There are no woodlice closer to the door and we can’t send out something with wings without risking attracting her attention. It's a clear night, too, so she might be there for awhile."

Twilight adjusted her telescope and looked into the lens. Thankfully there were no clouds, so she had good reason to be outside on a night like this. Currently she was focused on the blank patch of sky where, legend had it, the constellation Ursa Major had once been. Certain older ponies said that on some quiet nights, the Great Bear would climb back into the sky to do battle with Scorpio, the Sun Eater. "Byuk," she whispered without looking up, judging accurately that her words would be lost on the faint wind. "Can you hear me?"

The shinigami loomed over her shoulder. "I'm listening," he said in a quieter voice than he needed to.

"We're being watched."

"Huh?" The god spun around wildly, looking every which way for spies. "I don't see anything."

"Bugs," the unicorn whispered. "Little cameras hidden in the walls. They could be anywhere, so you can't talk to me or pick anything up for awhile."

"How can you tell they're there?"

"I had a plan." Twilight bit her lip, trying to control her anxiety. The wood chips. During the time she'd spent helping Pinkie Pie she'd endlessly studied modern and advanced spy tactics, hoping to gain an edge over the well-trained detective. As soon as she'd read about the recently-developed camera bugs she'd constructed her own defense against them: her own enchanted woodlice, made from parts of the tree itself. If another set of bugs entered the walls they would crawl out and turn back into wood. That had been just three days ago. If I'd forgotten to check... if I'd given Byuk that apple... if I'd decided to use the Death Note right away...

Twilight shuddered. She couldn't think about that right now. "Until they're gone I can't write anything in the Death Note or they'll figure me out. They might be following me as well, so I can't use the Life Note outdoors either. L's too sharp, he'd work out what I was doing. But if the deaths stop now, that would look very bad for me. So I have to convince them I'm not Kira within..." She did some quick mental arithmetic and her heart sank. She'd been so wrapped up in planning Pinkie Pie's party that she'd forgotten to keep up with writing names in advance. "Four days."

"Heh. Good luck." The god sounded more amused than anything else. "Looks like you've been outmaneuvered, huh?"

"Hey, I... I made a mistake, okay? Somewhere..." She frowned. But how? My plan was perfect... no, I don’t have time to think about that right now. “It’s okay. I can still get out of this. No matter how sophisticated these bugs are, they can’t follow me into the Everfree Forest. The weird magical energy there keeps crystals from working properly. I’ll go see Zecora tomorrow to pick up some more herbal teas. Then I’ll be able to come up with another plan.” She took a deep breath to calm herself. “Yes. Everything’s going to be okay.”

“Really?” the shinigami jeered. “Sounds like L’s pulling out all the stops on this one. Maybe you’ve finally met your match.”

Twilight smirked. "I wouldn't laugh too hard, if I were you. I can't talk to you while we're being watched, remember? So that means no more apples."

Byuk laughed once, then stopped. His face fell. "But... but..." He rose rapidly into the air, shaking his clawed hooves in anger. "Nooooooooooooooo!"

---

An hour passed before Twilight made her way back indoors. Instantly Byuk was back by her side. "Come on, Twilight. Please?" She ignored him, making her way back down to her bedroom. "Please? You're clever, you can work out a way." She arrived at her door. "Twilight, I need apples."

Twilight paused as she opened her door. She took a half-step inside, then turned around. Shadows covering her face, she spoke as quietly as possible. “Byuk? I promise, I’ll talk to you later, but just for tonight... stay out.” Twilight shut her bedroom door in the surprised god’s face and reset the magical lock. She also put a soundproofing spell on it for good measure, then turned to face her desk. Now, this is going to be the hard part.

As naturally as possible, she strode to the desk and unlocked the second drawer. She brushed aside her diary and reached straight down into the hidden compartment. Far away on the other side of a stratoscreen, Spike gasped. “I didn’t know she had that!” he cried. Bon Bon shushed him.

The group stared, transfixed, as Twilight pulled a well-worn book from her desk and carried it to her bed. “Jazz,” L commanded around a mouthful of popcorn, “get me a close-up of that book.” Jazz immediately began pressing buttons and pushing beads, trying different angles to get a better shot. Twilight put the book on her pillow and flipped the text open to a random page.

“Got it!” Jazz announced triumphantly. One of the side-cameras began to zoom in on the book’s cover. “It’s The...” he squinted and trailed off.

“The Strapping Adventures of Lord Cloppington,” Locket finished. Everypony looked at her. “I recognized the cover. I mean,” she started to blush, “I’ve heard of it.”

Spike scratched his head. “I don’t get it. Is that like one of Rarity’s romance novels?”

“It’s... like that, yes,” answered Locket, staring at her hooves.

The image on the screen finally came into focus: a handsome, pure white stallion rippling with muscles stood bravely overlooking a raging sea with an improbably buxom mare hanging off of each foreleg. Lady Esmeralda Moonlight threw herself onto the narrow bed and began to wail, Twilight read, and despite herself began to smile. “Oh, Lord Cloppington,” the lady cried, “I fear I shall not find peace for the rest of my days. How can I sleep, knowing what beast haunts me?”

Lord Cloppington’s chiseled jaw broke into a magnificent manly grin. “Fear not, fair maiden,” he said, “for my secret lair is well-protected against all manner of nightmarish creatures. So long as I am here with you, not even the vengeance-seeking ghost of your younger brother may enter here... without my permission.”

“Oh, Lord Cloppington!” Lady Esmeralda cried, hurling herself at the magnificent stallion. Twilight giggled. She was glad she’d decided against throwing these old books away. It was an absurd novel, not something she’d ever consider reading for the plot, but she was starting to see what Rarity got out of these books. It was nice to indulge in a fantasy once in a while, and after all she’d been through imagining such a perfect stallion made her feel... safe. She rolled onto her back, levitating the book in front of her face, and started to get truly lost in the novel.

“Such a big, strong pony,” purred Esmeralda. Yes, a big, strong pony to look after her... Twilight pulled her sheets over herself and shifted to get comfortable. Someone dependable, to make all her problems go away. She brushed a hoof against her inner thigh. She could so easily forget about the Death Note, about the many eyes on her, about the possible ramifications of what she was about to do, and just lose herself forever in the beautiful eyes of Lord Cloppington...

Spike’s jaw dropped. Locket gasped and covered the little dragon’s eyes. Everypony but L began to turn a deep shade of crimson. Bon Bon giggled and covered her mouth with her hoof. “Who’d have thought, a nice filly like her...”

“Good point.” L swiveled around and called across the room. “Colgate, Rainbow Dash, come and have a look at this.”

“What is it?” Rainbow Dash yelled back as the pair trotted over. “Is something happening? ‘Cause I tell you, our Mayor Mare is boring as OH SWEET MOTHER CELESTIA.”

“Yes, that’s right,” L continued, seemingly oblivious to the shocked expressions on the blue ponies’ faces. “You two have known Twilight Sparkle for a long time. Have either of you ever known her to fantasize about colts in this manner?”

“Guh... uh... no?” Colgate squeaked. She found herself entranced by her friend’s rhythmic motions, horror-struck but somehow unable to look away.

“What?” Rainbow Dash tore her eyes from the screen and blushed as she realized her wings were stiffening. She forced them back down into a folded position. “Well, uh, not really? It’s not the kind of thing you talk about, you know, with your friends...”

There was a long, awkward silence, broken only by the shuffling of hooves and faint rustles and moans from the sound system. Jazz looked pointedly away from the screen. “I don’t really feel comfortable...”

“That’s quite all right.” L waved a hoof dismissively. “It’s late, you should all get some sleep. I’ll continue to monitor Twilight on my own. Derpy, are you all right by yourself?” she called.

“Miss Mare is sleeping!” came a happy reply. “My name is Derpy Hooves.”

“Excellent.” L turned back to the stratoscreen and levitated up another piece of popcorn.

Wordlessly everypony rushed from the room, Colgate carrying a stunned Spike by the back of his neck. Only Bon Bon stayed, her eyes transfixed on the writhing form beneath the sheets. “Remind you of anything?” she whispered in L’s ear.

“Not while I’m in the chair, Bon Bon,” said L, but she smiled just the same.

---

Colgate emerged from her bedroom yawning and bleary-eyed. Despite the cramped conditions and what she’d endured last night, her cot had turned out to be surprisingly comfortable and she’d ended up sleeping in. The hour would be ungodly early for most, but given her recent sleep schedule she felt well-rested and refreshed. She made her way through the main chamber en route to the kitchen, starting when she saw somepony else awake. “Oh, good morning Harpy.”

“Is it still morning?” The detective took a long sip from a cup of coffee so loaded with sugar it was almost white. She was still in the exact position they’d left her in last night, staring at the stratoscreen with a strange intensity. “I’m sorry if I frightened you.”

“It’s fine,” Colgate laughed nervously. “I just didn’t hear you get up, that’s all.”

“Up?”

“You know, from...” Realization struck. “Have you been sitting there all night?”

“Time waits for nopony. Please, no lectures; I get enough of that from Bon Bon.” The green pony allowed herself to look away from the screen. “You missed Derpy, by the way. She rose even earlier than you to start her deliveries. Very dedicated, that mare.”

“Uh... yeah.” Not for the first time, Colgate started to feel intimidated by the detective’s unceasing stare. “Can I... get you anything?”

L seemed to consider the question. She turned back to the stratoscreen with a thoughtful expression. The current image was a view of the kitchen, where Twilight Sparkle was brewing herself a cup of herbal tea. The unicorn stared at this for several long seconds, either deep in thought or bored out of her skull; it was difficult to tell. “There is one thing,” she said at length. Colgate leaned forwards. “It’s been unfair to Spike to tear him away from his home at such short notice. Perhaps it would be best if we sent him back to the library for today. Could you fetch him for me? I believe he’s still asleep.” Colgate nodded, surprise and sleepiness preventing her from forming an eloquent response. She turned and made her way back down the corridor to Spike’s new room. “And when you’re done,” L called after her, “find Bon Bon. And tell her to bring me a box.”

---

So it was that twenty minutes later, Spike found himself skipping home at a reasonable hour for the first time all month. He carried a big brown parcel with him, tied closed with a single blue ribbon. He paused at the library’s door. For an instant an image appeared in his head, seemingly burned into his retinas, of Twilight on her back...

No. Spike steeled himself. It didn’t change anything. Twilight was a surrogate mother, big sister, and the best friend a little dragon could ever ask for all rolled into one. No matter what he’d seen, no matter what she did behind closed doors, nothing would ever change that. Nothing. He forced a smile and pushed open the door. “Twilight, I’m home!”

Twilight bounded around the corner, genuine delight showing on her face. “Spike! You’re back!” She galloped across the room and embraced her number one assistant. “I missed you.”

Spike tensed up as the unicorn touched him, but then relaxed. He’d been worried he would feel repulsed or sickened at her touch, but deep down nothing had changed. Same home. Same Twilight. Same everything. “I missed you too,” he said truthfully, returning the hug as best he could around the box in his arms. They broke apart and Spike held the package up. “This is from L. It’s to make up for me being away so much of the time.”

“The real L? Really?” Twilight accepted the box, looking skeptical. “You’ve seen him yourself now?”

“Yeah! He’s really great,” Spike replied carefully. He’d had to be reminded by Colgate several times to refer to L as male outside of the base. “I’m really not allowed to tell you more than that, though.”

“Well, okay.” Shoot. I really need to get onto that team now, Twilight thought as she lowered the gift onto the nearest table. But how can I when they’re watching my every move? Still, at least things can’t get any worse. She lifted the lid off the box. Oh, me and my big mouth. Brain. Whatever.

Filling the box to the brim were row after row of teas - some of Twilight’s favorites, some that she’d never even heard of, and, most distressingly, the herbal blend that she normally went to Zecora’s to get. With this much tea at her disposal, it would be weeks before she would have a legitimate reason to go into the Everfree again. “Spike, this is perfect!” she cried, tapping into the delight she knew she’d be feeling right now under any other circumstances. “Thank you so much!” She raised one of the boxes to her eye. “What in Equestria is Earl Grey?”

Well played, L, Twilight thought as she examined the packages before her in mock excitement. But it takes more than that to catch a pony like me. I’ve learned my lesson. I’m smarter than you. Her smile grew a little wider. I’ve always got a plan B.

Far away, from behind a screen, the detective smiled a special smile of her own.

---

Dear Princess Luna,

I feel torn. All I want is to do what’s right for Equestria, but it’s becoming less and less clear what the right thing to do is. At the Academy we were taught to never back down from our principles, to stand up for absolute justice even in the face of defeat. Yet having finally been united with L, I have already found myself an accomplice to acts that go against everything I believe in. I find her to be inconsiderate, amoral, and something of a glutton. Under any other circumstances I would not even consider working with such a pony.

And yet, just this morning I witnessed her perform a genuine and thoughtful act of kindness, not even for herself but for a pony she openly distrusts. I am now less certain than ever of my convictions. Maybe sometimes the worst pony is the best pony after all, and maybe sometimes the wrong thing is the only right thing to do.

Your faithful servant,

Romana

P.S. I’m sorry if this sounds more like a report on friendship than the investigation. L has asked that I not disclose her plan until its completion. I hope that is acceptable to you.