• Published 15th Aug 2015
  • 3,085 Views, 145 Comments

What is Left - OnionPie



Five years of cheap thrills in the big city has left Sweetie Belle in bad debt with dangerous ponies. Forced to pay up, she returns to Ponyville to seek money from an estranged sister she loathes with a passion.

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3. The Sister

“Good evening,” I said, smirking at Rarity as I stopped before the group.

The well-dressed guests shared a look. A gray-maned stallion with a ridiculous black hat smiled and spoke first. “Good evening indeed, my dear lady. I do not believe we’ve met, and I’ve met everyone who is anyone this side of Equestria.”

Rarity stammered something incoherent.

“Sweetie Belle,” I said. “I’m Rarity’s sister.” I dragged out the last word, more than enjoying the look on her face.

“Sister?” asked a mare with a face so powdered she’d pass as a clown. “I was not aware you had a sister, Miss Rarity.”

Rarity’s face twitched, mouth half-open.

“I’ve been out of town for a while,” I said. “Just arrived from the city. I’m here about some money.”

“Finance, you say?” the old stallion with the hat asked, grinning. “From the city? But of course, you must be here regarding the Dream product. Entrepreneurship runs in your blood, to be sure.” He stepped forward and extended a hoof to me. “Please, my company is very interested in—”

“My husband works in finance, as well,” said a mare in a dark, glittering dress twice her size. She stepped in front of the stallion and extended a hoof to me. “You simply must discuss partnership with—”

Another stallion pushed past. “Any opportunities regarding Dream must—”

“Enough!” Rarity snapped.

Everyone closed their mouths and looked at her.

“Please,” Rarity said, lowering her voice and making a pitiful attempt at a smile. “My lords and ladies, this is hardly the time for such things.”

“But, Miss Rarity,” said the stallion with the hat, “The unveiling is on the morrow. I simply do not understand why you will not consider—”

“There you are,” a voice growled behind me.

I turned to see the doorpony approaching us, his forehead beaded with sweat. “Ah,” I said, grinning. “Just in time.”

“I am deeply sorry Miss Rarity,” the doorpony said between breaths. “This mare… I don’t even know where to begin. She—”

“A simple misunderstanding,” I said, smirking at the flustered doorpony. “You can go now.”

The doorpony looked between me and Rarity.

Rarity half-groaned, half-sighed. “Yes... A misunderstanding. It’s quite alright, Fairflank. Thank you.”

"But..." The doorpony narrowed his eyes at me. “Very well, Miss Rarity. My apologies.” And with that, he stalked off, probably on his way to dry-hump his precious invitations.

“Now, Miss Rarity,” said the stallion with the hat. “As I was saying, I—”

“Later, Lord Vadric.” Rarity stepped between me and the other guests. “I should like a moment alone with my... sister.” She took my foreleg in her magic and half-led, half-dragged me away from the others.

“Ow!” I said, trying to pull my leg free. “What are you—”

She swung me into a secluded space behind a pillar. “What in the world do you think you’re doing here?” she hissed. “And what is that you’re wearing?”

“Mom’s dress,” I said. “Not that it’s any of your—”

“Take that off, right now!”

The harshness in her voice took me aback, but I kept the smug tone I knew she hated. “What, and prance around naked at your party?”

Rarity pointed to the exit. “Leave.”

“No.”

She leaned closer to me. “I said, leave.”

“Or what? You’ll throw me out? I’ll make a scene.” I leaned forward until our noses nearly touched. “Do you really want your precious guests to see you throw your own sister kicking and screaming out on the street?”

Rarity pulled her head back, face twitching. She was about to say something when another voice cut through the noise of the hall.

“Miss Rarity!” A mare’s voice. “The wine has arrived.”

Rarity looked back at the mare—another servant. “Just a moment,” Rarity said, poorly masking the frustration in her voice.

“They won’t let us have them until you sign the papers,” the mare said.

“Have someone else sign,” Rarity said.

“I’m sorry, Mistress. It has to be you.”

Rarity looked at me, back at the servant, then back at me again, expression darkening. “You don’t touch anything. You don’t talk to anyone. You don’t move. You don’t even breathe until I return.”

The sternness of her voice brought back a flood of memories of being scolded as a filly, and for a moment I felt like the powerless little sister all over again, unable to stand up for myself or even talk back.

But I had drowned that filly with drink, dust, and bad company years ago. “I’m afraid I’ll do whatever I want until I get my money, Miss Rarity.”

I expected her to snap or yell at me, like she always had. But she didn’t. She held my eyes a moment longer, then looked away, biting her lip like she used to when she was little. She looked paler than usual. She’d lost a lot of blood. I was surprised she was even standing, let alone walking around, hosting a party. That leg of hers must have been hurting a lot.

“I don’t even want to be here,” I said. “Just give it to me and I’ll go.”

“I can’t.”

“I won’t waste it,” I lied. “I’ll use it for something good.” More lies. “I’ll be responsible with it, I swear.” I knew she could tell—she could always tell when I was lying—and the guilt only made me angrier.

“I have things to do,” Rarity said, turning away from me and approaching the mare waiting for her. “I’ll deal with you later.”

“No,” I said. “You’ll deal with me now.” I walked past Rarity and up to the servant. “Wine, you said?” I took her hoof and gave it a shake. “Hi, I’m Sweetie Belle. Rarity’s sister. Pleasure to meet you.”

“Uhm.” The mare’s eyes darted between me and Rarity.

“Come, darling sister,” I announced in the most Rarity-ish tone I could manage without gagging. “We simply must attend to the wine.”

* * *

Glass clinked inside the crate when the stallion set it down on the floor. He presented clipboard and quill to Rarity. She took them in her magic and made a quick twirl on the paper.

“And here, please,” the stallion said. “Date, too. I’m also going to need... Uh...”

Rarity gasped. “Sweetie Belle!”

“What?”

The crate lid clattered to the floor. Hay lined the inside walls, two dozen of flask corks staring up at me.

I pulled a flask up with my magic and held it hovering in front of me, tilting it side to side, watching the red liquid splash inside. I whistled. “This is the expensive shit.”

Rarity made a nervous giggle. “You must forgive my… her. She’s, uh...”

The stallion shrugged. “Your box, your business.” He took the clipboard and quill back. “I just deliver the stuff.”

“Yes, of course,” Rarity said. “Thank you ever so much.”

He tipped his hat, turned, and walked away.

I popped the cork out.

“What are you doing?” Rarity hissed.

“Making sure you’re not being cheated. You can thank me later.”

Rarity snatched the bottle out of the air and eased the cork back into its throat. “I explicitly told you not to touch anything.”

“You bought this stuff with my money,” I said. “I can touch what I want.”

“That is not how this works.”

“The way this works,” I said, jumping down from the crate and glaring at her, “is you give me my money, and you can party as much as you want without me.”

Rarity eased the bottle back into the crate. “How many times do I need to tell you? It’s not a party. It’s a gathering.”

I stepped closer to her. “I don’t care what you call it. I just want—”

“Why is it so hard for you to understand you’re not getting a single bit from me?”

“It’s my money!”

“Your money? If you weren’t so self-destructive and venomous, they might actually have left you something.”

“You’re a liar and a thief.”

“I’m a—” Rarity nearly walked into a mare who’d stopped in front of us.

“Miss Rarity,” the mare said—the same one who’d told her about the wine. “Miss Vindrila is asking for you.”

“She’s here?” Rarity asked.

“In your office,” the servant said.

“You have an office here?” I asked.

“It’s my building. Of course I have an office.”

“Your… building?” I felt dizzy looking around at the vast hall. Just how rich was she?

“Miss Vindrila said it was urgent,” the servant said.

“Excuse me.” Rarity walked past the servant.

I followed her. “Who’s Vindrila?”

“My assistant. And it’s none of your concern.” Rarity stopped in front of a door and looked at me. “Stay here.” She went through the door and slammed it it in my face before I had a chance to see inside.

I tightened my jaw in frustration. She’d treat every guest like royalty but push me aside like I’m dirt? I glanced around to make sure no one was watching, and put my ear against the door. I couldn’t hear anything over the noise of the hall.

I looked up at the nearest window. Raindrops licked the stained glass. It was too dark outside to see, but I knew he was out there, somewhere in the rain, counting down the seconds until he’d kill me.

I could try fleeing, hop on a train going far from the city, but as long as they held my contract, they’d track me anywhere, no matter how far I ran. That money was my only hope.

I opened the door. It led into a small waiting room with an empty desk and two doors. I stepped inside, closing the door to the hall behind me. Voices drifted out from behind one of the doors.

I tried the door handle. It was unlocked. I eased it open a crack and peeked inside.

“So what’s wrong, then?” Rarity asked. “Did they reject it?” She was standing by a huge desk with a rain-glistening window behind it.

“No, but they almost did,” said a unicorn mare standing at the center of the wide office. This one wore a simple dress instead of a red uniform. Not one of the servants, then. Her assistant?

I snuck into the room while they were looking elsewhere.

“Then what’s so urgent?” Rarity asked.

The assistant lifted a parchment from her bag and held it hovering before her. “You’re going to have to fill out another one.”

“So soon?” Rarity asked.

The mare looked concerned. “I tried to warn you.”

“What else would you expect me to do? The mayor’s family asked me personally.”

“You should have said no,” her assistant said.

“I don’t have that luxury. Everyone would know that I turned down the offer. My image would—”

“Your image isn’t worth this.” The assistant stepped closer to Rarity and lowered her voice. “You have a choice, you know you do. Maybe it’s time you just… let go.”

“I’ll fill it out,” Rarity said, taking the parchment and pressing it against the desk.

“Rarity, please…”

“Pen,” Rarity said.

“It’s not too late to—”

“Pen,” Rarity snapped.

The mare didn’t move.

Rarity closed her eyes and sighed. “Please. A pen. Please.”

The assistant slowly took out a pen from her bag. Rarity snatched it in her own magic, pressed it to the parchment, and began to write.

“This will be the last one,” the mare said.

“I’ll figure something out.”

“You always say that.”

“And I always…” Rarity noticed me. “I told you to stay outside!”

The mare turned her head, startling when she saw me. “Who’s that?”

“No one.” Rarity looked back at the paper and continued writing.

“Her sister,” I said.

The mare looked wide-eyed at Rarity. “You have a sister?”

Rarity lifted the parchment from the desk and held it out to her assistant “Go. Get it approved before morning.”

The assistant hesitated. “I’m not helping you do this to yourself any longer.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rarity asked.

“I quit.” She turned abruptly, walked past me, and stopped at the door, looking back at me. “Talk some sense into her if you can.” She walked out of the office, slamming the door behind her.

“What was that all about?” I asked.

Rarity sank down in the big office chair and put her head in her hooves, sighing.

“Was that about money?” I approached the desk. “Can you write me one of those papers?”

Rarity snatched the paper from the desk before I could look at it. “It’s not that kind of paper.”

“Find some other paper, then. What they left us is pennies to you now anyway, and I only want half of it.” I waited for her to snap back at me, but she just sat there, staring at that parchment like it was a death sentence.

The door knocked.

Rarity looked up from the parchment, expression pained. “Not now, please.”

The door opened, and the stallion with the hat and the old mare in the glittering, black dress stepped into the room. The two of them smiled at Rarity, but shot each other thinly veiled scowls whenever their eyes met.

Rarity rolled up the parchment and stuffed it in a desk drawer.

“Miss Rarity,” the stallion with the hat said. “Oh, and Mistress… Belle, was it? Always a pleasure. I do hope we’re not intruding.”

Rarity made a half-attempt at a smile. “I’m afraid—”

“She’s busy,” I said. “We’re talking about money.”

“Family finance,” the old stallion said. “Of course, of course. Most important. Lady Milkheart and I simply wished to—”

“We’ve come to an agreement,” the old mare said.

“An agreement, yes,” the stallion said, eyes narrowing at the old mare beside him. “Given the pressing time schedule and—”

“We wish to purchase one third of your company, together. Twelve million.”

I blinked. “Twelve what?”

“Twelve, yes,” the lord mumbled. “From each of us, of course. A most generous offer, I do believe.”

“You flatter me, Your Lordship,” Rarity said, voice quivering. “Both of you, truly, but surely we can discuss this after the ceremony.”

“The crystallization, Miss Rarity,” the old mare said. “We expect a decision tonight.”

Rarity’s warm expression fell.

“Wait,” I said, looking at Rarity. “Ponies are begging to give you millions, but you won’t give me the—”

“Excuse me,” Rarity breathed, pushing herself from the chair. She stumbled on her first step—her injured leg—and moved past the three of us to the door.

“Where do you think you’re going?” I said.

“Consider our proposal, Miss Rarity,” the old mare said after her. “It would be unwise not to.”

I followed Rarity out into the hall. “Hey! I’m not done with you.”

Rarity started up one of the corner staircases.

“Where are you…” I said.

She disappeared over the top of the staircase.

I went after her.

The staircase led to the railed gallery overlooking the hall. I caught a glimpse of her going around a corner, and followed.

Another short hallway stretched ahead and up to another set of steps. A cold wind blew down from up there. There were no lamps, and it was too dark to see what was up those steps.

Rarity slowed as she approached the stairs.

I caught up with her, put a hoof on her shoulder, and put myself between her and the steps. “Will you stop?”

She came to a halt and jerked her shoulder away from me, bumping into a wall.

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked.

Rarity sank down against the wall.

“Why did you just…” I frowned. “Are you… crying?”

Rarity hid her face. She was breathing hard and shaking.

I approached. “Let me see.”

“No! Don’t… look at me.” She huddled up against the wall, face turned away.

I stared at her. She was sobbing. I hadn’t seen anyone cry in a long time.

“Please,” Rarity whispered. “Just go.”

“You know I can’t. Not until I get my…” Guilt slapped me. What was I thinking, pushing her like this? She had tried to kill herself not even an hour ago, and here I was, making it worse, like always.

I pursed my lips and looked back at the gallery overlooking the hall. No, I couldn’t go. She would never leave me like this, no matter what she thought of me. I looked at her but avoided her eyes. “You look like you could use some help.”

“I’m fine.”

“You’re obviously not.”

“And what are you going to do?” Rarity asked. “Make all my problems go away?”

“I don’t understand what possible problems you could have that you can’t just throw money at.”

Rarity didn’t answer.

“At least take a break from the party stuff,” I said.

“I can’t.”

“Why not? You’re the host. It’s your building.”

“A hundred guests are going to walk through that archway within the hour.” Rarity sniffed and stood up. “If everything isn’t perfect by the time they arrive…” Her eyes fixed on a tiny stain on her dress, and she looked like was about to cry all over again.

“Okay, okay, okay,” I said. “Just tell me what needs to be done and I’ll do it for you.”

Rarity said nothing.

“Just trust me for once in your life,” I said. “I’ve thrown lots of parties before. And besides, your face is a mess.”

“What?” Rarity croaked, touching her cheek. Her hoof came back smudged with mascara. “Oh, no.”

“Just… go fix yourself up and take it easy for a minute. What do you need to do that’s so important it can’t wait?”

Rarity looked at me with mascara-running eyes.

“I’m not a filly anymore. I won’t screw up your party. Just tell me how I can help.”

Rarity wiped her eyes. “The band. They need to know what to play.”

“Easy. I can tell them. What songs?”

“The Late Minstrel for the procession,” Rarity said. “After that, anything by Grayhorn will do.”

“Late Minstrel and Grayhorn. Got it. What else?”

“That’s… about it.”

“See?” I said. “It’s no big deal. Everything’s fine. You just relax while I make sure things go smoothly down there, okay?”

Rarity looked like she had more to say, but I turned and hurried back toward the gallery before she had a chance to object.

The hall below was busier than ever, red servants buzzing about like ants preparing a feast for a queen.

I looked down at the stage in the corner of the hall. The curtains had been pulled back, and a band of darkly dressed musicians gathered on the stage, making slow, methodical movements across cellos and violins.

I went down the steps toward them.

Their music filled the air as I approached. It sounded awful: dreary and somber—the kind of music Death probably played when he rowed you to the other shore. Sounded more fit for a graveyard than a party. The guests would hate it. Just the sound of it was enough to drive a mare to suicide.

“Stop!” I called up to them when I reached the stage.

If they heard me, they made no sign of it.

"Hey,” I shouted, louder this time.

They stopped playing and turned their tired eyes to me.

“Yes?” said an old cellist with a half-moon mane.

“You’re fired.”

The cellist looked down at me. It was the kind of situation someone might say, “You’re joking.” But by the looks of him, he didn’t even know what a joke was.

An even more ancient-looking violinist in a dark dress leaned forward. “What?”

"You guys. Fired. Gone. Pick up your stuff and get out."

“Who do you think you are?” asked the cellist.

“I’m Rarity’s sister. She left me in charge of the music.”

The cellist’s eyes widened. “This is preposterous!”

“You can preposterous your asses out of here. You guys play like a funeral band.”

The musicians exchanged looks. "But we are a funeral band!"

I blinked. "You… You are? Wow. I knew she was feeling depressed, but this is just… morbid." I frowned up at them. "Are you guys deaf? Get out!"

The cellist tried speaking again, but coughed instead. Another musician farther back sighed and shook his head. They all rose, packed their instruments, and stalked off the stage with their ancient heads held high, the hall already sounding better without them.

I grinned as they disappeared into the archway. I would give this party what it needed.