• Published 26th Jan 2014
  • 4,493 Views, 513 Comments

The Heart of an Author - Oroboro

Mystery. Love. Magic. Murder. Truth. These are all important elements in the murder mystery Fluttershy has written, and is now asking Twilight to read. But she struggles to solve the mystery in which it turns out she's the protagonist.

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Chapter 16 - Trust

Twilight tore apart the study as she searched through it again and again. There had to be a clue here somewhere. Something, anything to shed light on what had happened in this room. What had happened to Celestia, and Luna, and Pinkie Pie, and...

Her eyes kept being drawn to the pile of ashes in the center of the room, and she shuddered, trying her hardest to deny that possibility.

"Twilight..." Rainbow Dash mumbled as she watched from the corner. "Tell me what I need to do, and I'll do it. Just, anything, I need to..."

"Don't touch anything!" Twilight snapped as she pulled her head out from under a dresser. "I don't want you contaminating any evidence. Not to mention...”

Twilight trailed off, frowning as she raised a hoof to her mouth. "Wait, where's Applejack? She saw what happened, right? Wasn't she right behind you?"

Rainbow Dash started, spinning around. "I... no. I flew up here as fast as I could, and Applejack isn't as fast as me, so..."

Twilight cursed under her breath. "It might not be safe for us to split up. Especially if something was already after her."

"Ain't no need to go running about on my account."

"Applejack!" Twilight cried out, turning to find her friend standing in the doorway. "Are you okay!?"

Applejack barked a short laugh, her voice bitter and hollow. "Twilight, I ain't never been less okay."

Twilight stared at Applejack, looking over the state of her friend. Her eyes were baggy and glazed over with the sheen of a pony who had already given themselves up for death. "Applejack, please. Tell us what happened here. Where are Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie?"

"It's hard to say," Applejack said flatly, turning away to stare at the burned table. "Everything happened so fast."

"What are you talking about?!" Rainbow Dash yelled, stomping her hooves. "You were just telling us about how the others were in danger! Well, where are they? What happened here? Who did this?"

Applejack lowered her head and bit her lip. "I..."

Twilight stepped in between the two of them and spread her wings. "Rainbow, please calm down. Applejack is going through a lot right now."

When Rainbow Dash backed off with a huff, Twilight turned to speak with a soothing voice, "Now, Applejack, I know this is hard, but it's really important that I know what happened here."

Applejack closed her eyes and nodded. Her mouth worked silently, mimicking the words she was going to say before she finally spoke. "When... When the three of us got here, something was wrong with Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. Before we could do anything about it, that mare from the portrait, Golden Wish, appeared and started talking all kinds of nonsense. Then she summoned a bunch of shadows, which attacked us. I was able to round them up into the hall, but I got locked out of the room. That's when I came to get you."

Twilight blinked, her mouth falling open. "You're serious? She's actually real? I never thought..." She paused to look over the charred remains of the furniture. "What about all this, then?"

"No idea," Applejack said, shaking her head. "Just the shadows, and then I came to get you."

Rainbow Dash sank to her knees and let out a strangled cry. "This can't be real. Pinkie... Flutters... there's a chance they're okay, right? Maybe they're just being held hostage or something. Twilight, please..."

Twilight closed her eyes and swallowed. She could feel the oppressive weight of despair crushing her to the floor, piled on along with the expectations of her friends that she could somehow still save the day.

There was still a tiny glimmer of hope that they were alive somewhere. Unless she saw their bodies with her own eyes, she could continue to hold onto that possibility, no matter how remote it might be.

"Applejack, you said you lured the shadows into the hall, right? Can I see them?"

Applejack took her hat off and wiped at her forehead. "I can show you, yeah. Dunno if they stuck around, though."

"What do you mean by shadows, anyway?" Rainbow Dash asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Uh, well," Applejack stammered as she led them out of the study, "like shadow ponies, I guess? Kinda hard to describe. I guess I could say they looked a bit like changelings, but more shadowy."

Twilight pushed ahead to take the lead, her horn at the ready. "And what did you mean about the Princesses acting 'strange'? Can you elaborate on that?"

Applejack let out a sigh. "I said it all happened pretty fast, so I'm not super clear on the details. They looked like puppets, or something."

So this 'Golden Wish' was able to disable both of them in some way. The idea that such a powerful and malicious alicorn could actually exist was still hard to process.

Rainbow Dash stopped at the bottom of the stairs, then flew up to the top of the entrance hall to get a better look. "I'm not seeing any shadows, AJ. At least, not the kind that move around on their own."

Applejack shrugged. "This was where I left them."

Twilight looked for signs of a struggle but didn't see any. But when it came to magical shadow beasts, who knew? She flew up to join Rainbow in the air, then landed next to that ominous portrait overlooking the entrance to the mansion.

"Are you real, then?" Twilight asked, her voice soft. "Should I expect you to come to life right now to finish what you've started? Or are you just an illusion, skulking in the shadows?"

The portrait gave no response, and Twilight let out a sigh. She needed more information; who was doing this, why, and how? But the books she had stayed up all night researching were useless, and there wasn't anything else to...

"Fluttershy!" Twilight cried out, smacking her head with a hoof. "How could I have forgotten?"

Rainbow Dash dropped down next to her in an instant. "What is it, do you know where she is?!"

Twilight shook her head. "I'm afraid not. But I did have a conversation with her late last night, and I remembered that she said she had a book about Golden Wish in her room. I would've borrowed it, but it was way too late at night."

Rainbow Dash's face fell. "Oh. You really think this is the time to be reading books? Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie could still be in danger, we need to find them!"

"By doing what, just checking every room one by one? This mansion is huge, and there's probably some secret room somewhere we wouldn't be able to find. The book could lead us to where we need to go. Plus, if we have to start looking somewhere, Fluttershy's room is as good of a place to start as any."

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. "How about you go do that, then. I'm going to go save them."

She tensed up to immediately speed away, but Twilight grabbed her firmly with her magic. "No way, Dash. It's too dangerous to go out there alone. We need to stick together.”

"Let me go!" Rainbow Dash growled, struggling against the magical bonds.

In a soft voice, Twilight added, "Please? I can't stand to lose any more friends today."

Rainbow Dash wilted and let herself be lowered to the ground. "I'm scared, Twi, I just..."

Twilight nodded, her eyes alight with determination. "I know. I'm scared too, but we'll get through this together, I promise."

Applejack mumbled something in agreement as she joined them at the top of the stairs.

"Right then. Everypony stick close to me and keep your eyes and ears open. We really have no idea what our opponent is capable of," Twilight said.

Twilight lifted a hoof to start leading the way but paused and turned to look at the others. "Er, do either of you actually know where Fluttershy's room is?"

Rainbow Dash shrugged, and they both turned to look at Applejack.

Applejack blinked, slowly raising her head. "Er, sorry, what was the question again?"

Rainbow Dash scowled, dashing over and butting her forehead against Applejack's. "Fluttershy! You know, the friend of ours who's missing right now? The one who you left to die! You could at least pretend to care about the rest of us, but no. Rarity's the only thing that matters to you, isn't she!?"

"Rainbow Dash!" Twilight cried out, pulling her away with magic once again. "That's completely uncalled for! We can't afford to be fighting each other at a time like this."

"But she...!”

Twilight continued struggling with the pegasus, but stopped suddenly when she heard the sound of Applejack laughing.

"It's alright, Twi. She's right; Rarity was my everything. I love you girls, but compared to her, y'all aren't even on the scale. And now she's gone."

"Applejack..." Twilight stared at her in disbelief.

Applejack took a few steps down the hall, then turned back. "Fluttershy's room is this way. You coming or what?"

As they made their way to Fluttershy's room, Twilight had time to imagine up all sorts of horrible nightmares that could be waiting for her. Fortunately, as she shakily pushed the door open, her fears, for once, were unfounded.

"Fluttershy? Pinkie Pie? Hello?" Twilight called out, her eyes darting about and her horn at the ready. There was no sign of any other ponies inside, though the room did look well lived in.

"She's not here," Rainbow Dash muttered as she lowered her head. "There's gotta be a better place to look."

"Well, help me find what I'm looking for and we might have a place to start," Twilight said as she began levitating Fluttershy's personal belongings into the air. "Should be a book. No idea what it looks like or what it's called."

Rainbow Dash let out a long groan as she pointed towards a small bookshelf in the corner. "I think Fluttershy's been catching up on her reading. This is a waste of time!"

Twilight shook her head. "Please, Rainbow. I need to focus on doing this right now. We can't just run around scared hoping we stumble onto the answer."

Rainbow Dash continued to grumble under her breath, but said nothing more as she began searching the closet.

Twilight pulled all the books off the shelves with her magic, quickly scanning the titles. There were romances, mysteries, and horror-novels, and some others she didn’t recognize immediately, but nothing about vengeful alicorn spirits. "Applejack, I know you told me a bunch last night, but now that you've actually seen her, is there anything more you can tell me about Golden Wish?"

Applejack kicked at the desk lightly as she lowered her head. "I, uh, well, she looks exactly like that portrait out in the hall, and she talked a bunch of nonsense about stories I didn't really understand."

Twilight frowned as she continued her search. "And what did you mean exactly about Celestia and Luna being puppets?"

"I don't reckon I know. Might not’ve really even been them, just fakes or something."

"I see." Something was off. None of this felt right at all, but she just couldn't wrap her head around it.

“Uh, I think I found something.”

Applejack turned around, holding what appeared to be a envelope in her teeth. Twilight took it gingerly and noted that it was addressed to her, but was otherwise relatively unadorned, a plain envelope with no seal.

Applejack shrugged, looking away. “Was on her desk in the back there.”

Twilight carefully opened the envelope and pulled out the letter. The script was small and cute. It definitely looked like it belonged to Fluttershy.

Dear Twilight,

Don’t let the others see this. I think you’re in grave danger.

Um, I’m sorry. I’m not very good at explaining things. By the time you read this, I’ll already be dead. Um, I think so, anyway. I’m not very good at predicting the future, either. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.

Golden Wish is real, Twilight. Everything that’s happened so far is about you somehow. This sick game that’s being played with our lives. There’s something out there on a higher level than us, pulling our strings like puppets. I wish I understood it, and I wish I could have told you sooner. But that’s not the way this story is written.

You’re the only pony that can stop this, Twilight.

I believe in you.


P.S. HONESTY is not always the best policy.

Twilight stared at the letter in front of her, quickly reading it a second, then a third time.

“Well? What’s it say?” Rainbow Dash asked, flying up to peek over her shoulder.

Twilight jumped slightly, quickly pulling the letter away and folding it up. “It’s, um, nothing relevant I’m afraid. Any luck with that book yet?”

Rainbow Dash narrowed her eyes, but turned back to continue searching the closet.

Fluttershy… So she really was dead. And she had somehow seen it coming. Why hadn’t she told her earlier? If she had known something, Twilight might have been able to stop all of this from happening in the first place.

Twilight shook her head, trying to hold back tears. None of this made any sense. What was Fluttershy trying to tell her with all this? And that last line…

“Keep looking for me, would you?” Twilight asked, raising her voice. “I just need a moment to think.”

Not bothering to watch the reactions of the others, Twilight stepped out into the hall, partially closing the door behind her.

Twilight unfolded and smoothed out the letter, holding it up to the light and reading it over again. What did it all mean? Was that bit about honesty trying to suggest something about Applejack? Or was this letter even written by Fluttershy in the first place? The writing looked like it might belong to her, but she wasn’t an expert.

Dark shapes from the other side of the paper caught her eye as the light bled through, and she flipped it over to find that the message wasn’t quite done.

There are no more than eight ponies in this mansion.

Fluttershy is dead.

Pinkie Pie is dead.

Rarity is dead.

At midnight, everypony in this mansion will be dead.

I will kill you.

Who am I?

Twilight turned the page and blinked, staring at the empty sheet in front of her. Had a blank piece of paper gotten mixed in?

The next page was blank as well, as was the one after that. She quickly pulled apart the remaining stack of paper with her magic, spreading them out in the air individually and found no more words awaiting her.

“Fluttershy… where’s the rest of the story?”

“What? It’s right there, isn’t it, Twilight?”

Twilight shook her head, flipping the pages around to check both sides. “There’s nothing here.”

Fluttershy stood up, sifting through the stack of papers herself. “That can’t be right… I finished the story, didn’t I? I know I was tired, but I can’t have gotten that far ahead of myself…”

Twilight pursed her lips. “Could you have left it back at the cottage? You were still working on it when I arrived, weren't you? Maybe we just forgot the grab the last bits.”

Fluttershy sunk low, burying her head under her hooves. “I don’t know, maybe? But if we had left part of it behind, why would we have taken blank pages?”

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right.” Was this really going to be it? It was one thing to have an unsatisfying ending, but to just cut off without any resolution whatsoever? “Well, what do you want to do about it, then?”

Fluttershy whimpered softly. “I think I really didn’t write the end. I must have gotten all twisted up inside my own head and thought I had already put the ending down. I’m sorry, Twilight.”

“Well, how much was really left?”

Fluttershy shook her head. “A chapter or two? It’s hard to say, I guess.”

Twilight walked away, moving to stare outside her window. The bright sunlight and peaceful weather outside served as a stark contrast to the literary world she had become so engrossed in. “What’s the ending, then? Does Twilight win and solve the mystery? Er, either of them?”

Fluttershy opened her mouth to respond, but stopped, lowering her head. “I… don’t want to say.”

“I see…” Twilight chuckled, an odd smile spreading across her face. “So, unless you go back and write it, or tell me the ending, I won’t be able to tell if the cat is alive or dead, right?” Twilight glanced over at Mira. After knocking the vase over, the cat had curled up and gone back to sleep without a care in the world.

It wasn’t as if she was expecting a happy ending, anyway.

“I guess we could stop and I could write it… but I feel so lost now. I was so sure of myself when I was writing it; everything just flowed onto the page. But now, after being here with you, I’m just not sure if I can get into the right state of mind again. Or if this was ever really a good idea in the first place.”

“Well, it’s natural for a writer to doubt herself, and inspiration doesn’t always come easy. But…” Twilight frowned, tapping a hoof against her chin. “The mystery itself. Are there any absolutely vital clues that are revealed in the missing chapters?”

“Hmm…” Fluttershy scrunched her face up as she scratched at her head. “No, I don’t think so. I mean, I haven’t written it yet, but I’m pretty sure everything’s there that needs to be. It’s really just the narrative that’s inconclusive.”

Twilight grinned and lit up her horn. “Well, how about I solve the mystery right here and now? I’ll find the truth, open up that catbox, and we’ll give Twilight and everypony the happy ending they deserve.”

Fluttershy covered her mouth with her hooves, her smile peeking out from either side. “If you really think you can do it, Twilight… I believe you have what it takes.”

"That's what this is all about, right? Me-me solving the mystery. Well, 'Great Detective Twilight Sparkle' is on the case!"

Twilight took a few steps backwards and cast a spell. A soft light began to play across the floor, lines growing to form several boxes in an illusory diagram.

"So, across both books we have four closed rooms total, right? In book one, the shed where you and Pinkie were found. Rarity's room where Applejack and Rarity were found. Then in book two, we have Rarity's room again, and the Princesses’ study. All in all, we've got similar locations both times, as well as a similar grouping of deaths."

Fluttershy leaned in, looking over the diagram with clear interest. “These look good, Twilight. And yeah, those are all the main ones, anyway. I guess there’s some minor stuff you could consider as well, but those are all the closed rooms with bodies in them.”

“Let’s start by working backwards then, with the final closed room.” Twilight pulled the fourth diagram into the air, causing it to float between her and Fluttershy. “A closed room where Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie were murdered. A key was used to lock the door, but the key was then destroyed inside. Somehow the culprit was able to escape the room without using magic, along with the body of Pinkie Pie. Fluttershy is dead, but it wasn’t suicide, nor trap assisted homicide.”

Twilight glanced over at Fluttershy. “I at least assume we can consider the red in that letter to be equally valid? Even if crossing layers doesn’t make any sense.”

Fluttershy nodded, and she continued.

“For the third closed room, we have Rarity murdered inside. Two keys, one locked inside the room, the other sealed in an envelope that was never opened. Once again, no magic, no windows.”

Twilight looked up from the diagrams, catching Fluttershy’s attention. “We don’t have any red truths yet for the first game. I figured it’s already the case, but can I at least get confirmation?”

Fluttershy nodded, placing her hoof on the red orb. “Every closed room is a ‘Golden Closed Room’.”

Well, she had expected that the definition was meant to apply to everything. Both of the first two were relatively similar. Instead of shenanigans involving keys, both were sealed from the inside with a chain lock. Since they were simple enough to unset from the outside with levitation, it wasn’t a particularly popular style of lock in communities with a significant number of unicorns.

Of course, a dexterous earth pony or a pegasus with a wire could accomplish the same feat.

“It seems a bit too simple, but I guess I should check anyway. The culprit was able to set the chain lock from outside the door by using a tool or device such as a wire.

“Well, you’re right on the simple part,” Fluttershy said, grinning. “For the purposes of this game, no tool or device capable of setting a chain lock from the outside exists.

“Hmm.” Twilight stood up and began to pace around the room, levitating a cloth off the table and wiping the sweat from her brow. There was a thread running through each one, a trick explaining how the culprit had managed to commit the crime and escape a seemingly closed room without using magic. Each red truth closes off a possible answer, eventually leaving only one out of a limited number of paths as the ‘truth’. But try as she might, it seemed like the only way to properly deduce how to reach the correct path was by guessing until all other options were exhausted. She couldn’t make the clues add up into a solution. Was it the fault of Fluttershy, or herself?

No… maybe she was looking at this the wrong way. Well, she was almost certainly looking at this the wrong way. Rather than a bunch of individually unique and interesting tricks for each room, perhaps each one was thematically and mechanically linked. A central, ‘Golden Trick’, pulling them all together.

Magic, hidden doors and windows had all been denied across the board. But something each crime could easily hold in common based on the clues left behind… maybe there was something after all. Although in one case it would be a bit of a stretch.

“Fluttershy, I think I have something,” Twilight said, opening her eyes. She hadn’t realized it, but while she was engrossed with her thoughts she had unconsciously set each diagram spinning about her horn. “Are you ready?”

Fluttershy bit her lip and ducked behind her mane, nodding softly.

Twilight took a deep breath, then fired up her spell. “For every closed room, the culprit was still inside the room hiding at the time Twilight opened it!

It was one of the oldest tricks in the book. Why hadn’t she seen it sooner?

“Twilight, I’m…” Fluttershy looked up, blinking several times in rapid succession. “Oh.”

“In each of the closed rooms, there’s more than enough room for it. The layout of the shed was vague, but it’s not unreasonable to assume there were some boxes or crates that would work as a decent hiding spot. For Rarity’s bedroom, under the bed or behind a dresser, or in the third case, disguised as one of the ponykins.” Twilight paused, shuddering. “A creepy thought.”

Fluttershy shook her head. “Golden Wish already explicitly denied the possibility of a pony hiding out in the fourth closed room, don’t you remember?”

Twilight grinned. “If I remember correctly, the exact words were, ‘At the time Twilight Sparkle entered the study, there were no living ponies inside the study. This applies to all three interior rooms'. But there’s a slight gap there, in the first sentence.”

“I’m not sure I follow you.”

Right after Twilight Sparkle opened the study but before she entered it she paused, coughing on the dust kicked up by tearing the door open. The culprit was hiding nearby, and slipped out of the room right before Twilight actually entered it!

Fluttershy fell back on her haunches and raised a hoof to her forehead, chuckling lightly. “Wow. Um, that’s quite a theory, Twilight.”

Twilight found herself beaming as she continued to pace back and forth. “I know, right? It’s a neat trick, but I think it cleanly explains how Golden Wish can run around undetected while still pulling off these murders. To think that Twilight was so close to catching her in the act each time… but unless she checks, she can’t know she’s there, right? It’s your catbox metaphor all over again.”

Fluttershy’s face fell, and she stared at Twilight for a long time, her gaze distant. “For each of the closed rooms, the culprit was not present inside the room at the time the door was opened.

Twilight reeled backwards as if she’d been struck in the face. It was that easy, huh? Her theory, cut to ribbons in an instant. She was so sure…

“Come on, Twilight,” Fluttershy said, her voice soft, “is that really all you’ve got? The truth is right in front of you, I’m sure you can see if it you really look.”

Twilight grit her teeth. Fine, then. It was silly to get attached to any particular theory in the first place. She would just have to keep attacking until she hit the weak spot.

Before the key to Rarity’s room was sealed in an envelope, it was used to create a mold! Afterwards, the mold was used to create a key, which was used to commit the crime before the culprit destroyed it. At the time Twilight received the key, there were only two keys total.”

Fluttershy pawed at the ground, not looking up. “For the purposes of this game, no devices exist capable of forging a new key out of a mold.”

Twilight bit back a curse. “This is getting a little arbitrary, right? In any other mystery, all of these will be perfectly viable solutions and closed room tricks.”

“But this isn’t any other mystery, Twilight. This is mine.”

She was definitely beginning to see why Meta-Twilight had been so frustrated.

“Fine then. After committing the crime in the study, the culprit hid themselves somewhere like a dresser drawer before killing themself. Pinkie Pie’s corpse was hidden in the same manner. This bypasses both red truths, as a dead body is no longer ‘the culprit!’

Fluttershy let out a long sigh and sunk to the floor. “Knocks’ 8th: It is forbidden for the case to be resolved with clues that are not presented. Can you provide any foreshadowing or evidence that would lead you to this conclusion?”

“What?” Twilight asked, stomping a hoof. “Why are you bringing this up now? Since when have any of these colored truths required evidence or backing?”

“I know I made everything get a little crazy, but this is still a mystery, Twilight. Whodunnit, howdunnit, and whydunnit all factor into the truth. Maybe the bodies were hiding in the dresser. What kind of author would I be if there weren't any clues pointing to that, and you were just expected to guess the right answer?” Fluttershy stood up back up, and moved to go stare out the window. “I know I’m not perfect, but…”

Twilight narrowed her eyes. “Why not actually answer the question in red, then? Is it because you can’t?”

Fluttershy shook her head. “Fine, if it’ll really help, the culprit did not die in the study.”

Blocked at every turn. This whole mystery was a vague, confusing mess with twisted logic and unrestrained cruelty. Yet Fluttershy had written the whole sun-blasted story, all so Twilight could solve it. It hadn’t made the slightest lick of sense from the beginning.

Rarity and Applejack committed suicide in the second closed room! After Applejack confessed the truth about her relationship, Rarity freaked out, and after they reconciled they agreed that the only resolution was a lovers suicide!

“It’s more plausible than your last try, but Rarity and Applejack did not commit suicide.And since I already know what you’ll try next, Rarity and Applejack did not kill each other.

For the first closed room, the culprit dismantled the shed in some fashion and then rebuilt it around the bodies!

The shed has remained intact for the entire duration of the game.

The culprit killed Pinkie Pie and put her in the shed, then fed or strapped some kind of small bomb to Fluttershy! After forcing Fluttershy to lock herself in, the culprit detonated it, killing her!

Fluttershy stared at her blankly. “Twilight, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Twilight growled, stomping a hoof. “I’m just getting started! For the fourth closed room, the culprit—

“Stop, just stop! That’s enough, okay?” Fluttershy wiped at her eye with a hoof as she continued to stare out the window. “I’m sorry, but I can’t do this anymore.”

“What are you talking about?” Twilight stared at Fluttershy, her blood still boiling with energy. “This whole thing was your idea. You told me I had to solve this mystery. So I’m trying to solve it!”

Fluttershy hung her head. “I made the mystery solvable… at least, I thought I did. But this will never work. I’m not sure why I ever thought it would. It could be your fault, I guess, but it’s probably mine. I’m sorry for wasting your time, Twilight.”

Fluttershy turned away and started walking to the door, but Twilight teleported in front of her, spreading her wings to block her path. “I won’t let you give up that easily, Fluttershy! Maybe these closed rooms are stumping me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t solve this! I just need a hint, or maybe the actual end of the novel after all.”

“Twilight…” Fluttershy smiled, a pained look on her face. “I appreciate the sentiment, but I don’t think there’s anything more I can give you other than outright telling you the answer. It’s all there. At least, it should be. If you can’t see it… well, it’s probably for the best.”

Fluttershy pushed her way past a stunned Twilight, standing with a disbelieving expression on her face.

“Argh! Then just tell me! If we’ve passed the point of no return, just spoil the thing and tell me why you went through all this trouble in the first place!”

Twilight teleported again, bearing directly down on Fluttershy with a fierce gaze.

Fluttershy flinched back, but continued to make eye contact. “If I just told you the truth, I’m pretty sure you’d hate me. If you figured it out on your own… well, you probably still would, but at least then I tried.”

Twilight blinked, pulling away from her stare. “I could never hate you, Fluttershy. Maybe I’m a little frustrated right now, but we’re friends, remember? Nothing will ever change that.”

“I appreciate that Twilight, but...” Fluttershy continued to stare at Twilight, her eyes beginning to mist over slightly.

Twilight nodded, pulling her wings in and letting Fluttershy have her space. “Just let me know the truth, Fluttershy. I’ll accept it.”

Fluttershy took a deep breath, then shook her head, chuckling softly to herself as she stared at the floor. “Okay then, here’s a truth for you. It was an experiment, Twilight. I just wanted to field test a bunch of unique ideas for a murder mystery. One I’d actually publish. I just wanted you personally invested in everything because you’re the smartest pony I know and you could tear holes in all of my ideas.”

“I… what?”

Fluttershy nodded, her eyes distant. “Yeah. I mean, I guess if you look at it that way, it wasn’t perfect, but I’m sure there’s enough to work with here.”

This couldn’t be true. Fluttershy had put her through all that… just to get ideas on a novel? No. Twilight took a good long look at the pony before her: a strained expression, eyes avoiding contact with her own and ready to tear up. She saw the cracks in the facade and saw her heart peeking through.

“You’re lying.”

Fluttershy bit her lip in a grimace. “Am I? Prove it.”

“Prove it? How do you expect me to do that?”

Fluttershy pushed past her and opened the door. “A lie that everypony accepts becomes the truth. So unless you’ve got a truth of your own that can supercede mine…”

Did she want another blue truth from her? What answer could she possibly give?

“Goodbye, Twilight. Thanks for putting up with somepony like me. Don’t worry, I’ll probably stick to my cottage for a week or two, but after that we can go back to being friends and pretend this never happened. And no, I won’t be writing a third novel.”


Twilight stood in her doorway watching Fluttershy walk away, and didn’t go back inside until long after she was out of sight.

“Twilight, I thought those books were your precious memories. You really shouldn’t treat them like that.”

Spike watched, eyebrow raised, as Twilight threw yet another book across the room, stomping her way through a temper tantrum.

“Who does she think she is, anyway? Getting me all invested in a mystery, in her story. In MY story. Just to deny me an ending, twice, then yank the rug out from under me like that? She makes her villain look downright benevolent!”

Spike let out a sigh. “Come on, Twilight. I still don’t really understand what’s going on here, but Fluttershy was definitely super bummed out when she came to relieve me from animal-care. Do you really think she’s that malicious?”

Twilight wheeled on Spike, her aura flaring up as more books flew into the air. “Of course not! And that’s what makes me so angry! Fluttershy’s still Fluttershy, through and through. How can I possibly be angry at her? It’d be easier if she was a cackling villain!”

Twilight whipped the rest of the books she was holding at the wall, then fell to her haunches, letting some of her anger drain away. She couldn’t stay angry at her, not really. Even if for the moment she was furious.

Just as the second novel had repeated the same setting with similar, but different situations, Twilight found herself in almost the same position she had been last night. Fluttershy had left the incomplete novel here once again, so she could always try re-reading it. There could still be something she overlooked entirely, even if it hadn’t helped the first time.

Or maybe she really should just give it up, let bygones be bygones, and pretend it never happened.

Would that make Fluttershy happy?

Would that make her happy?

“I’m going to bed,” Twilight announced loudly as she began to stomp off towards the stairs.

If she was going to have weird dreams again tonight too, maybe they would help her make sense of things.

Spike watched as Twilight made her way up the stairs. Shrugging, he turned to start working on the mess she had made that he had known he would have to clean up anyway.

He failed to notice the lithe black form creeping up after her.

Author's Note:

Thanks to Kalan and JeffCVT for editing!

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