• 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 18 - Princess's Gambit

Rarity smiled and lightly patted the bed, motioning for Applejack to join her. “I knew you were hiding something from me. I’m quite pleased, however, that you’re finally trusting me enough to share it, even though I’m sure I won’t like what I hear.” Rarity shared a withering look with Twilight. “Even if you had to be convinced.”

Applejack let out a long sigh and settled into the bed, taking her hat off and holding it over her heart. “I’m really not even sure where to begin. It’s all messed up in my head.”

“Start as far back as you need to, dear. I’m all ears.”

Twilight plopped into a nearby sitting chair and tented her hooves in front of her face, watching the couple intently.

Rarity bit her lip and glanced back over at Twilight. “Darling, I thank you for pushing her into this, but I’m sure we can handle this on our own. You don’t need to hover.”

“Nope,” Twilight said, shaking her head. “Like you said, you might not like what Applejack has to say. Let’s just say I have feeling something bad would happen if I don’t stick around.” She was going to give these two a happy ending if she had to tie them up and drag them to the altar herself. Which might not be such a bad idea…

Applejack narrowed her eyes. “I ain’t told you none of this, Twi. Just what are you getting on about?”

Twilight winced. She was probably pushing a little too hard. “I’m a princess now, Applejack. We know all sorts of things,” she said, waggling her hooves for effect.

“You’ve been a princess for five years now, Twi. That line don’t work no more. But whatever. It’s fine. I don’t mind.”

Applejack closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and slowly let it out. “Do you remember when I first asked you out, during the Mareami vacation?”

Rarity smiled, her eyes growing distant in the haze of nostalgia. “Of course I do. It was such a beautiful evening. So romantic. You were hardly the most dashing of suitors, but you managed to win my heart regardless.”

“Uh, yeah, well,” Applejack said, blushing furiously, “there’s a little more to that story that I never told you. Or anyone, really. Can’t say I right believe it myself, but ever since I got here… I’m not so sure I was the one who won your heart after all.”

Rarity raised an eyebrow, glancing from Applejack to Twilight. “I’m not sure I understand.”

Applejack cursed under her breath. “This is stupid. I don’t even have any proof that this is really an issue. But if it is, how can I possibly just come out and say it? I just…”

Twilight began to open her mouth to just spit everything out and save Applejack the trouble, but stopped herself. It would better to let things play themselves out.

“It’s okay,” Rarity said, lightly running a hoof across Applejack’s cheek. “I love you, Applejack. Nothing will ever change that.”

Applejack bit her lip as tears began to well up in her eyes. “That’s just it. What if you don’t? What if I told you that you didn’t love me, that it was all a lie?”

“Then I would seriously consider that you were lacking in both perception and judgement,” Rarity said curtly.

Applejack sniffed, a short laugh escaping her despite her frustrations. “Dangit, Rar. I’m trying to… I wished for it, alright?”

The room fell silent, and Twilight could feel the tension hanging in the air, broken only by light sniffling from Applejack.

“You… wished for it? Wished for what?” Rarity asked, her voice even.

“You. I wished for you. For the chance I was too much of a coward to take, for the courage to be honest with my feelings, and for the affections of a pony who could never love somepony like me.”

“I…” Rarity frowned, her mouth working soundlessly. “That’s… ridiculous, Applejack. I don’t love you just because you wished for it. My feelings are my own. I know that better than anyone, and you should too.”

Applejack shook her head. “I ain’t talking just a heartfelt sentiment or desire here, Rar. I mean I bumped into a literal wish granting artifact and I literally wished for you to love me.”

That wasn’t true. At least, not according to the story Twilight had read. But Applejack could be forgiven for twisting the event in her memory until she came out looking worse than King Sombra.

“That’s…I can’t believe that.” Rarity shook her head, holding a hoof to her brow and squeezing her eyes shut.

Denial. Easy and obvious for step one. In the novels, both times when Applejack had tried to confess the truth, Rarity had reacted pretty badly. Both times her death had followed shortly after. In the context of the story, Twilight really had no idea if Applejack had literally manipulated Rarity with a wish or not, but she was going to err on the side of ‘not’ and try to head this off before it could get any worse.

“Hold it!” Twilight called out, raising a hoof. “Sorry, I know you two are having a moment and all, but this sounds a little far fetched to me. Since I’m the resident expert on mysterious wish granting artifacts here, could you be a little more specific, Applejack?”

Applejack blinked, looking up from where she had buried her face in a pillow. “I, uh, huh?”

Rarity nodded, her lips pursed. “Twilight’s right. Sorry, sweetheart, but that’s a little bit crazy of an idea to just accept outright.”

“Princess Wishlight,” Applejack said, growling softly. “I’m trying to confess here, do the details matter that much?”

“Yes,” Twilight and Rarity intoned in unison.

Applejack let out a sigh, sinking her head deeper into the bed. “When we were visiting that museum, due to various circumstances, I found myself putting away an exhibit in the storeroom. I knocked some stuff over, and there it was: a gleaming gold bracelet surrounded by bland junk, looking like it was standing in the center of a spotlight, just like you read about in stories. I was drawn to it. There was an inscription, or something. ‘With her power, a true desire of the heart can be made into reality.’ I reached down, felt some kind of power, and thought of you.”

“I do remember finding you in that storeroom,” Rarity said, trying her best to conceal the shaking in her voice. “You’re trying to say you were really in there wishing for me to fall in love with you, and that that wish was granted?”

“What makes you so sure that this artifact from ‘Princess Wishlight’ was even the real deal?” Twilight asked.

“I don’t!” Applejack shouted, standing up and jumping to the floor. “But how could I not? I completely forgot about it at the time, asked Rarity out, and confessed my feelings to her. Everything was perfect; I proposed, and you said something to me like ‘I guess some wishes do come true’. That’s when I remembered what happened. And it began to nag at me with worry. What if I had somehow committed the ultimate sin? I couldn’t accept that, it was impossible, but the more I tried to ignore it, the worse it got. And now we get here, and Fluttershy tells her stupid story, and what else am I supposed to think? Some creepy legend is easy to ignore if it’s just mentioned in passing, but when it’s confirmed like that by a completely unrelated source? It ain’t just a coincidence. I done wrong, I know it in my heart.”

“Applejack…” Rarity muttered. “You really…”

Here it was. Rarity was an understanding friend and lover, but even Twilight could see that Rarity had her limits. If she accepted the idea that Applejack had forced her to love her, it would break her heart and do irreparable damage to their relationship.

Had she? In the context of reality, such a coincidence would be incredibly far fetched, and could easily be dismissed as paranoia, the problem created entirely in Applejack’s head.

But this wasn’t reality. It was a story. Fluttershy had written about these two and set the parameters of their relationship herself. So the question was: did Fluttershy write about Applejack forcing Rarity to love her with a wish, or had she written it so that Applejack was only under the mistaken impression that she did? What meaning did it all have to the story as a whole?

Twilight wanted to believe in her friends. She wanted to believe that Applejack was a good, honest pony who was just a little confused and unsure of herself. She wanted to believe that Rarity’s feelings were genuine, that this was just a misunderstanding, and that the two really could find happiness with each other.

And she wanted to believe that Fluttershy believed in her friends, that she had written them to reflect the special qualities that made each one of them unique, both their virtues and their flaws.

“I’m sorry, Applejack,” Twilight said, looking up. “I believe that you believe you wronged her, but a wish like that just isn’t actually possible.”

Her words cut through the tension in the air like a knife and both mares turned to look at her, their expressions both expectant and hopeful.

“I mean it. Completely impossible. The whole thing is in your head.”

Applejack’s legs wobbled and she started to topple.

Rarity caught her with her magic before jumping over to support her physically. “Hey, it’s okay, sweetheart. It’s going to be okay.”

“So this was all…” Applejack stared past Rarity, her eyes glazed over with a sort of dead ache.

Rarity let out a long sigh, wiping at her brow. “If you’re absolutely certain about this, Twilight, then thank you. I should never have even let myself consider, even for a second, that something like that was actually possible.”

Twilight nodded, glancing Applejack up and down. “I know you’ve been holding on to this for a long time, Applejack, but you have nothing to worry about. I promise.”

Applejack snorted. “I should be… happy about that, right? But all I can think about is how much time I wasted hurting myself, and hurting her.”

“I love you.” Rarity leaned over and brushed her lips lightly against Applejack’s forehead. “See? I’ve laid open my heart, my feelings to you. Can’t you see the truth inside?”

“Of course I can,” Applejack mumbled. “I still never understood why. What could you possibly want with a pathetic wreck like me?”

Twilight felt her face starting to burn up. These were her friends, and the fact that they were able to find love with each other was something she should support and celebrate. It felt oddly voyeuristic, however, and she had a sinking feeling she’d never be able to look the real Applejack or Rarity in the eye ever again.

An odd image of Fluttershy playing with dolls shaped like Rarity and Applejack and making kissing noises with them snuck into her head, and she had to stifle her giggles. She still had a role to play here, after all.

Rarity pulled Applejack close, wrapping her in a soft field of magic as Applejack began to sob into her shoulder.

Twilight pulled herself away to give the couple some privacy.

Golden Wish watched the lover’s reconciliation, an odd expression on her face. “Well done, Twilight. I’m impressed. Really.”

“Thanks, I guess.” Twilight couldn’t help but feel a small twinge of pride. “Their relationship is a major source of conflict throughout the story. With that resolved, what else will you be able to feed on to create the atmosphere of fear and paranoia needed to drive us apart?”

“Hmph.” Golden Wish turned away, raising her nose into the air. “It’s not like that was my entire arsenal, Twilight. And who knows? They might seem to have everything together now, but that could always change in a heartbeat.”

“You’re right,” Twilight said, grinning. “Good thing I’m not done yet.”

“Applejack. You love Rarity, don’t you?”

Applejack looked up at her, raising a hoof to wipe at her eyes and sniffling softly. “I do. More than anything. Though by Celestia’s hide I don’t deserve what I got.”

“And you, Rarity. You love Applejack, yes?”

Rarity raised an eyebrow. “While her self deprecation is beginning to get on my nerves a bit, yes, I do believe I love her very much.”

Applejack laughed weakly. “Sorry, sug.”

“Good. Then prove it. Get married.”

“Twilight,” Rarity said, letting out a small sigh. “I do appreciate your help in this matter, but I have absolutely no intentions of cancelling the engagement.”

Twilight shook her head. “I mean now. Get married here, in this mansion, tonight. Swear your eternal love to each other before me and our friends, and under the guidance of both Celestia and Luna.

They both stared at her, jaws hanging to the floor.

“T-Twilight…” Rarity stuttered as she held a hoof up to her horn. “You can’t be serious. I mean, I can see the appeal, but I’m really more of a big ceremony kind of girl.”

Applejack nodded. “You know me; it’s not my style, but I’m willing to throw Rarity the biggest wedding Equestria has ever seen. It’s the least I owe her. And even then, it would be downright criminal to go and get married without my family.”

“So do it twice,” Twilight said, taking a step forward. “You two need this, I can feel it. We can have a small ceremony here, and a bigger ceremony later, where everyone gets invited. You’ve got to seize love when it happens. You never know what could happen tomorrow.”

“But…” Rarity faltered, working her mouth soundlessly as she searched for objections that didn’t come.

Applejack stared into Rarity’s eyes, and something passed between the two of them that Twilight couldn’t see, but once again found herself blushing for intruding upon. Her pushiness was necessary, if somewhat regrettable. There was probably a lesson about friendship and love to be learned from all of this. If she ever got a chance to relay this story to the real Celestia, she would love to see the look on her face.

“Hon… Rarity. Do you, uh, wanna get married? Tonight?” Applejack asked, her voice barely a whisper.

Rarity bit her lip, her eyes shimmering in the soft candlelight. “…Yeah. I kind of do.”

Twilight bit back an internal squeal of her own.

The two continued staring into each others eyes, the soft smiles of mares in love playing across their faces. She watched as they broke into smirks, then grins, then burst out into full on fits of laughter.

“Oh my,” Rarity said, her laughter subsided. “I’m getting married.”

Applejack leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.

Rarity’s eyes widened, her pupils dilating. “I’m going to get married. Oh no. I brought my dresses with me, but my wedding dress isn’t done yet, and neither is yours, dear, and we need to find a suitable location, and…”

Twilight started laughing herself this time. “Hey, before you two go into panic mode, why don’t we tell the others first? I’m sure they’ll be glad to help.”

“Deep breaths, hon,” Applejack said, lightly stroking Rarity’s back. “She’s right.”

“Yes, of course,” Rarity gasped, her eyes still wide. “Fluttershy will know what to do. And Twilight, I apologize in advance, but I’m going to be asking you for a lot.”

“Anything for the two of you. I just want to see you both happy.” A bitter barb dug into her heart as she considered what was yet to come. This was the least she could do for them. The only real gift she could give.

“Guess we’ll have to go wake Princess Celestia and Luna up too, huh?” Applejack said, standing up and putting her hat back on. “I know they didn’t want to be disturbed, but this is a little too important to ignore.”

“You’re right,” Twilight said. “I think Fluttershy has the key. Let’s all go pay them a visit.”

She felt a chill run down her spine, and she didn’t have to shift back up and see for herself to know that Golden Wish had just gone very, very pale.

"Ugh, you have got to be kidding me! I'm happy for you guys and all, but first you drop this engagement thing on us all, and now you want to get married tonight?" Rainbow Dash said, rolling her eyes as she glided down the hall. "This isn't something you'll hear from me often, but you need to do the opposite of what I do and slow way the heck down."

"Heeeeeeeeeeeee!" Pinkie Pie squealed as she bounced up and down next to Rainbow Dash. "This is going to be super-spectacularicous! I know you might think I won't be able to throw you guys the best after wedding party ever because it's such short notice, and maybe it won't be the best-best, but I totally saw this coming and I have an amazing emergency wedding party plan already!"

Rarity tossed her mane back, her crystalline laughter echoing off of the walls. "I do appreciate it, Pinkie Pie. I'm sure whatever you can manage to pull off will be wonderful."

"And, uh, Rainbow. Maybe you can help us out with something?" Applejack leaned in to whisper something in Rainbow Dash's ear.

After Applejack pulled back Rainbow Dash puffed out her chest as a wide grin spread across her face. "Are you kidding me? I could have pulled a trick like that off when I was a filly. For your wedding, you'll get way better than that!"

Applejack let out a hearty chuckle, her malaise from earlier that night seemingly forgotten.

Twilight closed her eyes as she walked, unable to avoid smiling herself. This warmth, this friendship was all too familiar. Although...

She glanced back to see Fluttershy trailing behind them, her head hung low.

Fluttershy, as written by Fluttershy. It was normally considered poor form to write yourself into a story, but because this narrative was so twisted in the first place she supposed it could be forgiven.

Indeed, everypony around her had to be viewed through a pale-yellow colored lense. They looked, acted, and even smelled like her friends, but every so often something felt just the slightest bit off, maybe an odd phrasing or somepony saying something she normally wouldn’t. They acted like how Fluttershy expected them to, like how she wanted them to for the sake of the story, and how she had written them.

It followed then, that the Fluttershy here was how she imagined herself, although whether it was a direct reflection of her low self esteem or a deliberate and conscious characterization for the sake of the narrative, it was hard to say. In the stories, Fluttershy was certainly involved in some rather suspicious circumstances, all things considered, but she was hardly the only pony here who deserved scrutiny.

And now it was hopefully time to either confirm some of her suspicions, or, at the very least, scrap her ideas and start over.

They all came to a stop, the door to the Celestia’s study looming over them.

“Y’know, I feel a little unwelcome here,” Applejack mumbled, rubbing the back of her head with a hoof. “You wanna knock, or should I?”

Rarity sniffed, then raised her hoof up and knocked lightly on the door. “Princess Celestia? Princess Luna? I’m terribly sorry to bother you, but there’s something rather important we need to discuss. May we come in?”

Her words hung in the air and only silence greeted them in response.

“Maybe they went out?” Rainbow Dash asked, frowning.

Twilight glanced over the door, then turned her head back. “Fluttershy, when we went up to see Princess Celestia earlier today and you talked to her, did she say she was going anywhere?”

Fluttershy squeaked and flinched back slightly before shaking her head. “Um, no. Not that I know of, anyway. But um, I guess it’s possible.”

Rarity knocked again, louder this time, but there was still no answer. “Hmm. I don’t suppose they would be sleeping, would they? It seems a bit early for that, yet, but who am I to judge?”

“Fluttershy, could you let us in? I’ll take the blame if Celestia gets angry, but I wanna check on them just in case,” Twilight said.

Fluttershy let out a small sigh, then moved over to the door with the key. With a soft tearing sound, the door swung open, the low light from within casting shadows across the room.

Twilight stood in the doorway as the others entered the study, creeping softly across the floor in case either princess was asleep.

She took a moment to look over the study. All of the interior doors were closed, and the windows leading outside appeared to be locked from the inside. Everything was set up just as she expected it to be.

“She ain’t in here,” Applejack called softly, poking her head out from one of the bedrooms.

“Nopony is in here either,” Rarity said from the adjoining bedroom.

“And they’re not taking a bathroom break either!” Pinkie Pie called out.

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “We really came all this way to share the good news and they just split on us? What the hay?”

Applejack let out a sigh. “Well, those two can be pretty strange, as far as princesses go.” She looked up to Twilight and added, “Er, no offense.”

“Ooh! Ooh!” Pinkie Pie shouted, raising a hoof up into the air. “I bet you they’re planning a secret surprise party!”

“Oh my,” Rarity said, her eyes glazing over slightly. “I hadn’t even thought of that.”

Applejack chuckled, leaning over to nuzzle Rarity slightly. “Let’s just get on with the preparations then. I’m sure we’ll see them soon enough. Probably got one heck of an entrance planned.”

The five gathered up and prepared to leave the room as it was, but Twilight stood in the doorway, wings spread with a strange glint in her eyes.

“How do you think they left the room, exactly?” Twilight asked, her voice full of barely restrained excitement.

Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow. “Uh, Twilight, you feeling okay? They left through the door. You know, the one you’re standing in?”

A wicked smile crept across her lips. “I’m afraid, Rainbow Dash, that’s impossible.”

Five faces stared at her, full of incredulity and a touch of concern. “Uh, sugarcube, maybe you need to go sit down.”

Twilight took a deep breath, fired up her horn, and spoke with an authority beyond her own. “Princess Celestia and Princess Luna did not leave the study by using the door.”

“W-what!? How can you possibly say something like that? You have no right!” Golden Wish reared back, slamming her front hooves on the ground. Her eyes burned with a fierce flame and Twilight could practically see the veins bulging out of her forehead.

It was exactly the kind of reaction she was hoping for. If Twilight could have saved the expression on her face right then, she would’ve framed it on her wall.

“What’s the matter, Goldy?” Twilight asked, her voice sickly sweet. “You said I had free reign to make my move, didn’t you? Well, this is it. Check.”

Golden Wish sputtered, her face an angry scarlet. After trying several times to get words out and failing, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Twilight…” she said through gritted teeth. “I thought you had at least some respect for the rules of the game. Only the game master can make statements in red without proof.”

Twilight bared her teeth in an unrepentant grin. “Proof, you say?”

“And how exactly do you figure that, Twi?” Applejack asked, raising an eyebrow.

Twilight’s horn began to glow, and with a tearing sound she floated two objects from the hallway and held them up for display.

“Celestia and Luna can’t have left this room because of… tape?” Rainbow Dash asked, planting a hoof on her forehead.

“Not just any tape!” Twilight said, trying her best to keep herself from prancing about with glee. “Super sticky, magically enchanted and easily tearable tape that I put my signature on three times!”

All five ponies responded to her declaration with dead silence, broken only by the soft ticking of the clock.

Pinkie Pie suddenly burst out into a fit of giggles and jumped up into the air. “Oh, I get it now! You put the tape on the door after you came here, and it was still intact on the door when we all showed up! So the princesses couldn’t have left through the door or else they would have broken the seal!”

Twilight’s explanation caught in her throat and she coughed, grumbling under her breath. “Uh, yeah, Pinkie, that’s it exactly.”

“Twilight, darling,” Rarity said, taking a few steps forward and placing a hoof on her shoulder. “This is Princess Celestia and Luna we’re talking about. Do you really think a piece of tape could stop them from leaving if they wanted to?”

“It’s not just a piece of tape,” Twilight said, rolling her eyes and brushing Rarity’s hoof off of her shoulder. “The study is warded, so nopony can teleport in and out. The windows are locked from the inside. If the door had been opened even a crack, the tape would have torn. If the tape had been removed from the outside, it would have torn and left a mark, of which there were none. Because I signed it, it couldn’t have been replaced with a new piece of tape, so, how do you suppose they left the room?"

"Well? Twilight asked. "It looks like we have a closed room here. Do you think you can solve it?"

"That's supposed to be my question to you," Golden Wish growled under her breath. Her tail flicked about with irritation as she locked eyes with Twilight. "You can't just try and shift away the burden of proof. If you want to trap yourself in a closed room so badly, then it's up to you to figure out how Celestia escaped."

"If you want my theory, then try this on for size." Twilight lowered her head, firing up her horn. "The writing is incompetent, and you care more about me not talking to Princess Celestia than you do about maintaining a logically consistent narrative. It's funny how I never got to talk to her, isn't it? So much so that even if I force my way in here, she's just plain gone for 'some reason'. I'll play along with your closed rooms later, but for now you have to prove you can construct the mysteries in good faith. There are a lot of ways to lie, even with the truth. Why should I believe anything from you at this point?"

Golden Wish glared back at her, the hatred blazing in her eyes masked what Twilight was sure was pain. Maybe she had been a little harsh, but the trap was sprung and there was no taking the words back.

“Do you really think you can stop me with just a flimsy piece of paper?” Golden Wish asked, muttering under her breath. “Fine, have it your way.”

“Twilight, this is Princess Celestia we’re talking about,” Rainbow Dash said, landing on the floor and gesturing around the room. “You really think she couldn’t get out of a room in some other way besides teleportation? Maybe she turned into mist and floated through the cracks, or just flew out the window and locked it behind her with magic.”

Twilight shook her head. “First, magic isn’t quite that simple. Second, no tricks accomplishable solely by unicorn magic factored into the construction of this closed room.”

Twilight felt her power wash out from her and over her friends, the truth backed not only by precedence but by the higher authority on her side. She could almost feel the smirk that mirrored her own.

Rainbow Dash shook her head, rubbing at her forehead with her hoof and looking confused. “Huh. If you say so, Twi?”

Rarity raised a hoof. “What about a hidden door of some kind? It wouldn’t exactly be out of sorts in a place like this.

Twilight rolled her eyes. “A hidden door? Please. If there was one, I would have found it already. Knocks’ Third: It is forbidden for hidden passages to exist.”

“Why even bother with this foals game?” Twilight asked. “This is basic stuff we shouldn’t even have to bother going over again. Don’t you have any real theories?”

Golden Wish bit her lip, pawing at the ground. “I…”

Twilight took a deep breath, letting herself calm down a bit. “Look, just accept this checkmate and surrender now. We’ll stop the game before we get to any of the gruesome parts. What are you even fighting for?”

Golden Wish shook her head. “Is that really the answer you want to walk away from all this with? That Fluttershy is just a bad author?”

“Well…” Twilight mumbled, frowning. She wanted to doubt the integrity of Golden Wish, not Fluttershy. But one had written the other. Just how far was the separation? She was tempted to believe that Fluttershy had truly crafted something so puzzling that she couldn’t figure it out, to the point where she had been willing to traverse the boundaries of reality itself for another chance. Or was it far more likely that Fluttershy had just made a ton of mistakes, and the failure to communicate was on her end?

The stage magician puts on a flashy show, but pull back the curtain and you’ll see nothing but a sad and hollow lie.

“Do you have an answer or not?” Twilight asked, her voice cold.

Golden Wish hung her head, opening her mouth to respond but then something seemed to click in her, and a renewed determination alit in her eyes.

“Hang on a minute, I got it!” Pinkie Pie said. She bounced into the air a few times, then turned to Fluttershy. “Fluttershy, you met with Princess Celestia alone earlier, while Twilight waited outside, correct? Mind telling us exactly how that went? And don’t leave out any details, missy!”

Fluttershy flinched back, looking over the assembled ponies now all staring at her. “Um. Yes, that’s right. I went in, asked if Twilight could come in to see her, she said no. Then, um, I stopped to use the washroom, and then I went back out to tell Twilight.”

“I see. Hmm.” Pinkie produced a magnifying glass from somewhere, and looked Fluttershy up and down. “And when you exited the washroom, did you happen to see Princess Celestia?”

Twilight bit her lip and tried not to intervene. She was the detective here, but she might as well let Pinkie have her fun.

Fluttershy held a hoof up to her chin, her eyes distant in thought. “Um, I can’t really remember, but I don’t think so?”

Pinkie Pie continued to nod and making ‘thinking’ noises. After finishing her inspection of Fluttershy she began to pace around the room, looking each of them over in turn before stopping at the window.

“I think I’ve got it!” Pinkie Pie shouted. “Princess Celestia and Luna left through the window!”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “The window is locked from the inside and we already established that it can’t be locked with magic.”

Pinkie Pie bounced over to Twilight, her eyes sparkling. “That’s right! But if the window can only be locked from the inside, that means someone from the inside must have locked it! Isn’t that right, Fluttershy?”

Pinkie whirled and pointed a hoof at Fluttershy, who shrank back and glanced around nervously. “M-me? I’m not sure what you’re…”

“Pinkie, are you trying to say Fluttershy is lying to us?” Applejack asked, sounding skeptical.

“What? No, of course not.” Pinkie Pie said, giggling and jumping over to throw her arms around Fluttershy in a tight hug. “It’s like this. When Fluttershy goes into the washroom, Princess Celestia and Luna decide they’re going to play a prank. So they both sneak out and fly out the window, leaving it open. When Fluttershy came out, she saw it and thought the storm blew it open so she closed it, and then entirely forgot about it until now.”

Twilight stared, her jaw dropping to the floor. A theory like that was completely ridiculous. There’s no way the answer could be something that convoluted, but it existed in a blind spot, and the red provided to her by her seal and her observational skills wouldn’t cover it.

“Is that true, Fluttershy?” Rarity asked.

Fluttershy slowly blinked several times, looking from Pinkie Pie, to the others, and then back again. “Um… now that I think about it, maybe something like that did happen. I’m sorry, everyone.”

Applejack shrugged, pulling her hat off her brow and wiping the sweat off her forehead. “Well, sounds plausible enough to me. A little silly, maybe, but I can totally picture the princesses doing that. Interesting mystery, Twi, but I’m not really sure what the point of this was. They’ll turn up sooner or later, don’t you worry.”

“Another case solved by the Great Detective Pinkie Pie!”

The others began laughing and preparing to leave, while Twilight continued to stare. “But, an answer like that… this closed room is…”

“I knew I should have taped the window too,” Twilight said, spitting on the ground.

Golden Wish regarded her levelly, her eyes full of an icy calm. “It was a good move, Twilight, but it will take more than that if you want to prove me incompetent and cause the logic of this game to fall apart.”

Twilight grit her teeth. This was still just an opening move, after all. Even if she hadn’t gotten the answer she wanted, she had come close and was beginning to work through a few new suspicions of her own. Some of them nagged at her, leaving disconcerting feelings she wasn’t ready to address yet. There was still time to make a few more moves before midnight.

She did, after all, have a wedding to look forward to.

Author's Note:

Expect the next chapter on August 25th.

And if you haven't already, you should check out my newest one-shot, Little Apple featuring many dogs, a couple apples, and surprisingly few murders.

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