• Published 24th Oct 2020
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Danganronpa: In Harmony's Wake - Dewdrops on the Grass



Trapped on a cruise ship with fifteen others, all with lost memories, Sunset Shimmer struggles to survive a killing game orchestrated by a mysterious being only known as Monoponi. Post Season Nine FIM. Now complete!

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Chapter Three: A Maelstrom of Murder Part 4

Chapter Three:

A Maelstrom of Murder

Daily Life Part 4

After stopping by the food court to finish breakfast, and taking a bit of time to exercise in the fitness center, 10:00 rolled around. My first guard shift, the stationary one by the stairwell. I quickly changed in my cabin, then headed over. Along the way, I collected a chair from the food court, opting for one of the lighter ones with more plastic than wood. Once I reached the little stairwell alcove, I set the chair down, plopped my butt on it, and waited.

And waited.

Aaaaand waited.

“Wow this is boring,” I muttered, taking a quick peek at my Monopad. Only fifteen minutes had passed. Of course. “I should’ve brought a book.”

I tapped out a brief check-in text, then set my Monopad down. I hope Rainbow Dash is doing okay. I remembered the look of fury on her face when Tiara confronted her on the bridge deck. She looked ready to punch the living daylights out of Tiara, or anyone else who got in her way. And who could blame her, after losing Fluttershy?

Damn it. I don’t care what Trixie or Tiara said. I still feel guilty about that. And I’m going to. I have to. Every person who dies on this ship is blood on my hands, because I failed to keep them together.

A cold chill ran through me. I stuffed my hands in my pockets, hoping to keep them warm. I know I shouldn’t blame myself. I know it’s Monoponi’s fault, or whoever it is behind him. I still don’t have the first clue who he really is. I wish we could find more clues, even if it’s just about how he got this ship. Maybe I should go to the library and try the archives door. It was locked before, but maybe it’s--

The clatter of footsteps on the stairwell scattered my thoughts. I sat up straight, Monopad at the ready. I flipped on the voice recorder too, just in case. But I shouldn’t have bothered. The massive orange puff of Adagio’s hair emerged alongside the siren herself, carrying a basket and traipsing up the steps in a lackadaisical manner. “Oh, hey,” Adagio said when she reached the top.

I waved in greeting. “What’s up?”

She set down the basket in her hands. It was full of a mixture of clothes, hers and mine. “Laundry. Diamond Tiara sent us all a schedule via text earlier.”

“She did?” I checked my Monopad and spotted the missed text. “Oh, I guess she did. I didn’t hear my Monopad go off.” I narrowed my eyes, then scoffed at myself. “Because I set it on silent. Whoops.” I switched that off immediately.

Chuckling dryly, Adagio said, “Figured you’d appreciate a clean tracksuit next time you work out.” She pinched her nose, waving her other hand in front of it. “Seriously, Sunset, you sweat like a pig.”

“Hey!” I objected, glaring at her. She just laughed all the harder, and soon I was laughing with her. “Yeah, I guess I do, huh?”

“You do.” She picked up her basket, winked at me, then spun on her heels and strolled away, putting that little bit of extra sashay in her hips she knew I liked. “See you later,” she said, blowing me a kiss over her shoulder.

“Well that was… something,” I muttered, shaking my head with a laugh. “Dang it, now I don’t remember what I was thinking about.”

More footsteps approached, coming from the cabins. Was Adagio coming back? But no, the footfalls were different. Harder, more weight, flat shoes rather than Adagio’s favored spiked heels. “Oh, hey Flash,” I greeted as he walked up. “How’s your patrol going?”

“Fine so far,” he said, grinning. “Hey, mind if I take a couple minutes to talk about something?”

“Sure!” I gestured to the empty space next to me. “I’d say pull up a chair, but.”

He chuckled, opting to lean against the wall next to me. “So, things are going a lot better between Twilight and me now.”

“I noticed that much,” I replied, smiling back. “I’m surprised she got over her whole trust thing with you so fast.”

“You and me both.” Flash stretched out his arms, then interlaced his fingers together behind his head. “I think it was because Fluttershy bit it. That scared her into realizing she wasn’t angry with any of us, just with you.”

My face fell. “Right. That. I don’t know how I can make up for it. I didn’t mean to li--”

“Hey, you don’t have to justify yourself to me,” Flash interrupted, clapping me on the shoulder. “I don’t hold it against you. You weren’t trying to hide it, right?”

“No. I really was going to tell everyone the first night.”

“Well there you go, then.” He shrugged, taking his hand back and placing it behind his head again. “It’s Twi’s problem, not yours. She’ll get over it.”

“Has she said anything to you?” I asked. At his questioning look, I added, “About me, I mean?”

“Oh.” Flash’s smile twisted into a concerned frown. “Yeah, actually. She wouldn’t shut up about it. How your insights into the killing game and into Monoponi help show you can’t be trusted. She’s convinced you’re going to do something to kill us all, sooner or later.” He let out a dry chuckle. “She said this motive was perfect for you. She even said you’ve been leading us in the trials so that when you do murder someone, you could blame it on someone else and we’d all buy it.”

“Ahehe,” I laughed nervously, once again reminded of the fact I considered that very course of action. Probably shouldn’t tell him that, though, unless I want to spook him. “I guess I should talk to her then. Maybe I can get her to calm down.”

“You sure that’s a good idea?” Flash inquired, his frown deepening. “She seriously doesn’t trust you, man. You could make things worse.”

“I know, but I still have to try,” I declared, pumping my fist in determination. “I’m not going to let this ruin our friendship.”

Arching his eyebrows, Flash said, “Well, okay. Just be careful.” His Monopad bleeped. “Oh crap, it’s already 10:30. I need to keep moving. Gotta stay on patrol, right? Take it easy, Sunset.”

As he left, I went to type out my next check in text, realizing in the process that my Monopad had been recording this whole time. “Whoops,” I muttered, turning that off. “Gotta watch out for that.”

The rest of my guard shift passed at a glacial pace, every minute feeling like days. On occasion I’d see someone pass by, but no one stopped to talk. Even Trixie just waved as she walked by carrying a big basket of laundry down the steps, then back up a good hour later. Finally, 2:00 PM rolled around, and Trixie came back so she could take over my guard spot, gratefully accepting the chair. But before I left, a thought occurred to me, so I asked her if I could borrow the picture of her, me, and Wallflower.

“Why?” she asked.

“I have an idea,” I said. “Sorry, no time to explain.”

With a shrug, Trixie dug it out of her cloak and handed it over. “Just be sure to bring it back. Trixie prizes this photo.”

“Thanks!” Now to find Twilight. I think if I play my cards right, between that dream and this picture, I might be able to mend the rift between us.

With the photo in hand, I made my way to the library, figuring it was the best place to find the researcher. And sure enough, Twilight Sparkle was present, reading in her usual chair on the third floor. She looked up on hearing my footsteps, her face twisting into one of irritated disgust.

So, despite the frown on her face twisting up more and more as I approached, I held up my hand and said quietly, “Hey, can we talk?”

She sighed, closed her book, and set it down next to her. “Why?”

Okay, not a great start. Rather than loom over her, I opted to take a seat in a nearby chair. “There’s something I didn’t tell you about, when we were talking about Equestria yesterday. I wanted to talk to you about it alone.”

Arching an eyebrow, Twilight considered me for a moment. Then she reached into her pack and pulled out her notebook, readying her pen. “Fine. Talk.”

Well, here goes nothing. “So, the other night, after the trial, I had this dream, about Equestria.”

“A dream,” Twilight said flatly. “You’re wasting my time to talk about a dream.”

“No, wait, listen, please. This dream involved you. Or at least, what I think was you.”

Twilight, in the middle of getting out of her chair, looked up at me, then sat back down. “About me?”

I took the time to describe the dream in detail, talking about all the ponies I’d seen, the happy life in Ponyville, and how it all revolved around one purple pony, the same one I’d seen blasted by the others. “I couldn’t make out their cutie marks at all,” I finished, “so I don’t know who the others were. But I’m certain the purple one was you. Or at least, connected to you. Like some kind of alternate.”

Twilight scribbled several notes down on her notebook. “Interesting,” she said, for once looking much like the Twilight I’d gotten to know prior to the second trial. “That must be the explanation for what Monoponi said about me in the first trial. This pony is connected to the reason for this killing game. I’m certain of it.”

“See, that’s what I thought too. It’s why I didn’t bring this up in front of everyone else,” I said, a smile coming to my face. “I didn’t want anyone to become suspicious of you.”

“Really?” Twilight sank back in her chair, conflicted emotions whirling across her features. “Even though it would’ve made you look less suspicious by comparison?”

“I doubt it would have done that,” I said, shaking my head. “No one believes I’m the traitor anymore. Not even Tiara. I don’t want conflict. I want this killing game to stop.”

The researcher worked her jaw, fresh doubt emerging to fight off the rest of her emotions. “But you’re still a pony. You still knew so much, anticipated so much.”

Okay, time to bring out the big guns. “I know. But I’ve got something here that will hopefully change your mind.” I brought out the picture and handed it to her.

She snatched it from my hand, frowning, before examining it closely. The more she looked, the wider her eyes became. “But, how? How is this possible? None of us knew each other before we got on this ship.”

“That’s what we thought too, when Trixie and I saw the picture,” I replied. “But we already know Monoponi stole our memories. He told us as much, remember? So I think this picture means that some of us knew each other. Maybe all of us. I think it’s likely we were all friends, and he took the memory of our friendship away.”

“But that’s, that would mean… oh my god.” Twilight gasped, her voice rising in volume in a hurry. “Oh my god, Timber and Wallflower, they must have been friends. And Sweetie and Apple Bloom too. And they killed each other. They killed their own friends! They-”

Leaping up in a panic I slapped a hand over her mouth. “Sssh!” I hissed. She struggled, pulling at my arm, mumbling scared noises through my hand. “Twilight, you almost broke the library rule!”

Twilight ceased her struggles. Slowly, I took my hand away, allowing the girl to speak again. She was too busy hyperventilating to speak, the fear in her eyes stark and obvious. I held her hand and made calming shushing noises. “Breathe, Twilight. Breathe. You’re okay. It’s okay. You didn’t actually break it. You’re okay.”

The poor nervous woman hugged herself, shaking like a leaf. “Oh my god I could’ve died,” she mumbled. “Monoponi would’ve killed me.”

“But he won’t,” I said firmly.

I stayed with her till she managed to calm her breathing. “You, you…” she huffed, staring at me with eyes agog. “You saved my life just now. You didn’t have to do that.” She blinked owlishly, hairs popping out of her bun in irregular curls. “You didn’t have to, but you did. Why?”

“It’s like I told you before, Twilight,” I replied with a sympathetic smile, “I’m trying to get everyone off this ship. Together. Alive.”

She stared at me, her expression cooling down into a curious gaze, without the cold scientific detachment she’d used with me so often lately. “You’re serious. You really mean what you say.”

My smile became strained, but I tried not to let it get to me. “Yes, Twilight. I do. Like I said before, I’m sorry you felt I betrayed your trust. I never meant for that to happen. I should’ve come clean about Equestria long before the second trial. I know I didn’t, and that was my mistake, and I’m sorry.”

For a moment there, I thought I’d gotten through to her. I thought she’d listen to me, that we’d managed to patch up the rift between us. Then all of a sudden, the cold detachment slipped right back into place. She flung my hand off hers like it was a buzzing insect. “I almost fell for that,” she growled, her voice taking on an element of black rage I’d never heard from her before. “I almost fell for that complete bullshit just now.”

“Huh?” My jaw fell open in shock. “What?”

“You heard me,” she spat, every word like a fresh dagger stabbing my heart. “I almost fell for your act. But I didn’t. Know why? Because of one little thing Monoponi said earlier, when he presented the motive. He said we had a count on this ship. Like he was trying to keep as many people alive as long as possible, to draw this out. You’re working with him. That’s why you stopped me just now. Not because you care about my life, but because you care about the game.”

“What?!” I barely kept my own volume under my control. “No, Twilight, that’s not it at all!”

“Really?” Twilight’s words dripped with mocking sarcasm. “I don’t know how you keep pulling the wool over everyone else’s eyes, but I can see right through it. You’ve been playing with our heads, toying with our emotions. I’ll bet every book I’ve ever owned you’ve been enjoying this killing game. From the start you’ve done everything you could to worm your way into our good graces, acting sooo innocent and helpful, always getting back up no matter how many times everyone else slapped you down. You’ve led us through two trials, guiding us at every twist and turn, keeping us focused so we wouldn’t notice what you’re really doing.”

My breath stuck in my throat, like a bulkhead door slamming shut, blocking off my lungs. My whole body ran cold, my blood like ice in my veins. “What?” I whispered, barely able to comprehend what I was hearing anymore. This had gone so abruptly south I didn’t know how to react.

“Sweetie Belle was right all along. You really are the traitor. You’re working with Monoponi to keep us dancing to his tune.” Twilight kept pouring on her acid-laced words till I was drowning in them. “Look at how you’ve befriended Trixie. Your relationship with Adagio Dazzle. You’ve even tamed Diamond Tiara somehow. Everything you’ve done has been to keep the game interesting, to keep us on our toes, to keep people from moving too fast, acting out of line. Especially Adagio. You had to pay special attention to her, didn’t you?”

I fell back in my chair, so overwhelmed by this accusation all I could do was manage to whisper, “What do you mean?” as tears ran down my face.

“I should’ve realized it the instant I got this secret, but I didn’t put it all together until just now.” Twilight pulled out her own Monopad and switched it on. “When I first saw it, I was wary of her. Suspicious. But I didn’t think much of it beyond that. I didn’t want her to realize what I knew. But couple that together with the knowledge of your relationship with her? The one that you started? You’re keeping her in check.

Before I could ask her again, she held up her Monopad, showing off the secret she’d been sent by Monoponi back during the last motive.

Monoponi’s Secrets!

ADAGIO DAZZLE

“Adagio Dazzle, sexy, sensual, dangerous. But just how dangerous is this sinister songstress? Quite a bit, as it turns out! She’s got blood on her hands. That’s right! Adagio Dazzle has killed before! Will she kill again? Probably! Better stop her before it happens!”

This secret didn’t surprise me much, not after what Adagio had already told me. Was it a little creepy? Sure, but she was a siren. Creepy was kind of her thing. But worrying about Adagio was the last thing on my mind right now. “That doesn’t--I--”

“I’ll bet Monoponi assigned you to her. Isn’t that right?” Twilight snorted, turning off her Monopad and putting it away. “He knew she’d be all too happy to kill someone in this game, but he didn’t want her to go all homicidal right away. Oh no, no, no. He’s trying to keep things interesting. He told us that himself in the first trial. He wants to keep her around, so that when she does kill, it’s surprising. It’s heart-breaking. It makes for good. Drama.

“No, no, come on, Twilight, none of that is true,” I said, finally managing to defend myself against this absurd accusation. “I’m not working with him, damn it.”

“Oh yes you are,” Twilight countered. A maniacal grin spread across her face as more and more hairs burst out of her bun. “I’m certain of it now. He made a mistake, telling us we could discuss our secrets. He shouldn’t have done that. He should’ve let you continue with whatever stupid plan you have here with me. I’ll bet you made that dream up just so you could try and get closer to me. Manipulate me. Turn me into a killer. Well I won’t listen. Not anymore. I’m going to tell everyone about this. Everyone!”

“No, Twilight, please!” Tears streamed down my face from a mixture of panic and outright sorrow as I reached out to try and take her hand again. “Please, listen to me. None of that is true. I’m not the traitor!”

She batted my hand away with enough force to leave a bruise. “Save it. I won’t believe a word from your mouth from here on out.” Twilight gathered up her things, stuffed them all in her backpack along with the book she’d been reading, all except for the picture. That, she threw in my face. As she walked out, she stopped just long enough to look over her shoulder and add, “Oh, and if I were you, Sunset? I’d watch my back.”

With that threat looming over me, she left, leaving me stunned. Overwhelmed. My face fell into my hands as I cried. I cried it all out, letting every bit of frustration go. Damn it. Damn it! I wanted to scream, to pitch a fit, to really make some noise as I sobbed, but I couldn’t. I still had enough wits about me to keep it quiet. I’m not sure how long I spent sitting there before my tears ran dry, but when they finally did, I was exhausted. And starving.

As I made my way back towards the food court, my thoughts raced a mile a minute. Now what am I going to do? Twilight’s completely against me now. God, she was starting to get convincing too. She’s not right… is she?

I froze in place, fear trickling down my spine. Could it be possible? Am I the traitor? What if Monoponi is using memory magic on me so I won’t remember what he tells me to do? What if he has me programmed so I act out everything he wants, then he--wait, no, what the hell am I thinking?

I slapped a palm to my face. That’s not possible. He’s been treating me like garbage every chance he gets. If he’d only done it when others were around, I’d worry it was just an act, a show he was putting on. But if that was the case, why would he have threatened me with death the day before the pool party? No, Twilight is wrong. She has to be wrong. I refuse to believe I’m some kind of puppet dangling on his hoof strings. I just hope no one listens to her. I don’t think anyone will at this point, but it’s still worrisome.

Resuming my walk, I reached the promenade in a hurry, with Twilight thankfully nowhere to be seen. I wasn’t the only one eating lunch. Pinkie Pie had a huge heaping pile of food on her plate, and was picking at it with more energy than I expected. She seemed calmer than earlier, less likely to wig out. Maybe she came down from her high. “Hey, Pinkie,” I greeted as I sat down next to her with my chicken taco salad.

“Oh hi Sunny,” Pinkie said, managing a small smile. It didn’t reach her eyes. Her hair remained flat as a pancake, no flounce at all.

“How’re you feeling?” I asked gently. “Hanging in there?”

Pinkied tucked a spoonful of mashed potatoes in her mouth. “Uhuh,” she mumbled, then swallowed. “Life could be worse, you know? At least we’re alive.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond to that. I stabbed a piece of chicken on my plate and popped it into my mouth, chewing thoughtfully. “Listen, Pinkie--”

“Twilight came by just now,” Pinkie interrupted, as she jammed another spoonful of potatoes down her gullet. “She said something about you being the traitor ‘cause of Adagio.”

I dropped my fork to my plate with a clatter, splashing a bit of salsa onto my shirt. “She did.”

“Yeah, she was so angry!” Pinkie set her spoon down so she could throw her arms out and gesticulate. “And scary too. She kept going on and on and stroked her hair and gnashed her teeth like some kind of freaky deaky loonie roonie!” A cold shiver ran through Pinkie. She clutched at her pocket and pulled something out, holding it just out of sight.

I glanced nervously at Pinkie’s hand for a moment, then took up my fork. “Then what happened?”

Pinkie giggle snorted. “I told her she was a silly billy and to go soak her head. She made some kind of goofy noise at me and then left. What a weirdo.”

I relaxed just a skosh, and took up a forkful of lettuce and chicken. “That’s… that’s good.”

“Aww, it’s okay Sunny, I know what you want to say. You were worried I’d listen to her, right?” Pinkie clapped me on the shoulder so hard I choked on my food, forcing me to grab for my cup of water. “But I won’t. I’ll never let you down, Sunny. You’re my friend, and I trust you.”

A nice warmth filled my chest at that. “Heh, thanks. I’m glad someone believes in me.”

Pinkie shivered again, harder this time. “Y-y-eah, I-I’ve always got y-your b-b-b-back,” she muttered.

“Are you okay, Pinkie?” I asked, the growing smile on my face replaced with concern. “Are you cold? Do you want my jacket?”

“Um, um, sure, that’d be great,” Pinkie said, sweat beading up on her brow, her mouth split by a nervous grin. “Hey Sunny, can you, um, can you turn around, for a minute? Please?”

My heart skipped a beat. “Uh, why?”

Her grin twisted into a grimace, edging on a nasty snarl. “Please,” she repeated through gritted teeth. “Now.”

Trying desperately to ignore the cold trickle of fear down my spine, I did as she asked, tensing up my body to bolt in case I heard the swish of something flying through the air. Briefly I heard some kind of popping sound, mixed with Pinkie letting out a loud sigh of relief. Then I heard a click, and a rustle of fabric. “Okay, you can turn around now,” she said.

Did she just… “Pinkie, what’d you do?” I asked, facing her.

Pinkie waved her arm lazily, bursting into giggles. “Ooooh nothing. Nothing you gotta worry about Sunny. I’m feeling suuuper loosey goosey now.”

She did. She took something. “Pinkie,” I said, crestfallen. I shucked my jacket and handed it over. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Uh-huh!” she chirped as she donned the jacket. “Oooh, warm! Thanks, Sunny.”

“Sure. You uh, you can keep it.” I set a hand on her shoulder. “Listen, Pinkie, if there’s something wrong, you can talk to me about it, okay? I’m a pretty good listener.”

Pinkie opened her mouth to speak, then snapped it shut. I watched a flurry of emotions pass across her features, then she spoke. “Sunny,” she said in a low, sorrowful tone, “can I ask you something?”

I nodded. “Go ahead.”

She sniffled as a few tears fell down her cheeks. “What would you do if you feel like you did something really, really bad, because someone else asked you to do something and said it was okay, and it wasn’t okay?”

Uh-oh. Does she mean…maybe I shouldn’t pry too hard. I might scare her off. “I guess I’d probably go ask the person who told me to do it why they said it was okay.”

“But what if you’re scared?” Pinkie asked. “What if you’re afraid they’ll yell at you, or worse?”

“Uh, well, in my case,” I said, scratching the back of my head, “I’d probably tell my friends where I was going? Or maybe take someone with me as backup.”

Pinkie squeezed her eyes shut. “But, but, what if you’re afraid everyone will think you did something bad? A-a-and everyone would be super mad, and you might get in big trouble, a-and maybe go to jail forever, or worse, you--”

“Pinkie.” My voice silenced her tirade. “What did you do?”

She gasped, holding a hand to her mouth. “Mmm-mm, mm-mm!” she mumbled, her eyes wider than dinner plates with panic.

“Woah, easy there, Pinkie, it’s okay,” I said, scooting my chair back to give her more space. “I wasn’t accusing you of anything. I’m just asking. If you don’t want to tell me, that’s okay.”

“Oh.” Pinkie dropped her hand, her whole body relaxing. “I was just wondering, then. Thanks, Sunny.” She gave me a sad smile. “It helped.”

Did it really? “Sure, I guess.”

She stood up and prepared to dump her tray. “Wait, Pinkie,” I said, holding out a hand. “Can you promise me something, please?”

Her eyes flashed momentarily with anger before she sighed. “What is it?”

I took a moment to carefully choose my words. “If you’ve got a problem, any kind of problem, please tell me, okay? I can help you.”

“Problem? Me? I don’t have a problem! No problem here, no siree!” Pinkie laughed sheepishly over and over in a long-lasting giggle fit. “Nope. No problems. None at all. Thanks Sunny.”

She pranced off before I could say anything else. Damn it. Now I’m certain she’s on some kind of drug. Maybe I should check the pharmacy, see what’s available. I hope it’s not something addictive. Last thing we need is a junkie running around.

I’d only ever stepped inside the pharmacy twice before. Once when I bought my small first aid kit, and once during the investigation of Wallflower’s death. There were shelves full of first aid kits, of all sizes, right at the front, and the register was also at the front, so both times I hadn’t bothered to go any deeper. Now, as I explored the shelves, I was utterly astonished at the variety available.

There were plenty of the usual drugs I was familiar with, of course. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, naproxen sodium, the usual over the counter pain relievers. Plenty of anti-allergy medicine, cold and flu treatments, a whole heap of cough syrup, and more. Plus an entire section devoted to vitamins. All of the vitamins. I’d never seen ten different doses of vitamin K on a shelf before. Then there were the bandages, the tampons, pads, and other anti-period medications, anti-fungal creams, antibiotic ointment, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc.

So far it hadn’t been much I wouldn’t expect to see at any pharmacy. But this was Monoponi’s ship, so as I wandered deeper, I discovered the… nastier section. Shelves stocked high with more illicit substances, the kind you think of when you think of the word drug. Oh, plenty of it was just marijuana, in the form of edibles, drinkables, tinctures, mixtures, and so on, nothing too strong, nothing illegal. But then, there were the… black painted shelves, marked with warning signs. Cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, oxycodone, GHB, PCP, LSD, MDMA, ketamine, anabolic steroids, the list went on, including many I hadn’t even heard of before. All of it available, and all of it shockingly addictive.

I also expected to find a shelf full of poisons, and thanked my lucky stars when I didn’t see any. Though given the bevy of substances available, I doubted we’d need anything explicitly marked as poison. Why bother with giving us something that lists explicit symptoms when you could just as easily force someone to OD on cocaine or some other drug. Sheesh, no wonder Monoponi left this place open last night. Even if we make it out of here some of us might end up in rehab thanks to this.

Whatever Pinkie was taking, I hoped it wasn’t one of these. I hoped she had more sense than that, sense enough to just use something like the strong marijuana. That stuff wasn’t addictive, at least.

While I was in the pharmacy I decided to purchase some multivitamins, some caffeine pills in case of long nights, and some pads. As I made my way back to the front, I realized there was a small shelf I’d missed, containing tote bags, water bottles, coffee mugs, and so on. Huh, that’s convenient. Must be where Pinkie got hers.

I returned to my cabin with my purchases, and pondered what to do next. Then I snapped my fingers. “Right, the archives. I wanted to check that.” I texted Adagio, asking her to meet me at the library.

We met up with little fanfare. I spotted Rarity reading in a corner of the first floor, and wisely let her be. Instead we went over to the archive door. “You really think we’re going to find anything?” Adagio asked with an arched eyebrow.

“No, but…” I tried the door anyway, jimmying the doorknob. Still locked. “Darn. Worth a shot. Oh well.”

I asked Adagio to follow me to the second floor, taking her to a side corner. Once there I quickly went over what happened between Twilight and myself. “Shit,” she breathed when I finished, her face paling.

“Adagio, please tell me that the ‘blood’ on your hands wasn’t recent,” I said with a troubled frown. When she didn’t answer immediately, my heart sank. “Adagio, please.”

“It wasn’t on purpose,” she whispered. “A few years ago, before my sisters and I lost our gems, we ran across a group of three homeless men warming themselves by a fire in a barrel. We saw a chance to get a quick snack, so we took it. We manipulated them into arguing with each other. But we underestimated how much these men hated each other. It turned violent, vicious. One of them beat another to death, then ran after the third until they were both swept up by the cops.”

“Oh damn,” I replied, slack-jawed.

She shivered, wrapping her arms around herself. “Sirens feed on negative emotions, Sunset, but we don’t kill people. At least, we’re not supposed to.”

Twin instincts blared in my head, one saying to run, the other saying to hug her. I went with the second one. “Was that the first time that happened?”

“...No,” Adagio said, bowing her head and squeezing her eyes shut. “It never happened in Equestria, but here, on Earth? It’s happened over and over.” She opened her eyes, full of malice. “Humans. I told you, Sunset. They’re violent. Hateful. They do things no pony or siren ever would, and they do it casually, without even thinking about it. I’ve seen it again and again.”

She wasn’t wrong. When I first arrived on Earth, completely new to this world, I read as many history books as I could, whenever I got the chance. The level of violence, of warfare, in human history exceeds that of Equestria by tens, even hundreds of times over. Equestrians, whether they were pony, siren, or anything else, hardly ever do that. Oh, there were those who overthrew other countries now and again. Violence wasn’t unheard of. But humans seemed to revel in it to such a ridiculous excess by comparison. No wonder Adagio hadn’t trusted anyone other than me.

I didn’t waste Adagio’s time by muttering platitudes. Instead, I held her tighter, staying with her until I felt her relax. “Thanks,” she grumbled, wriggling out of my grip as her cheeks bloomed.

“You’re welcome. I snickered at her obvious embarrassment. The brief flicker of happiness faded as I said, “So what do we do about Twilight?”

“We? Nothing.” Adagio crossed her arms over her chest. “Not together, anyway. We’ll only make her look more credible if we react like that. Let her rant. She’ll probably miss the evening meeting anyway, since her guard shift is at 2:00 AM.”

“I guess you’re right.”

Adagio uncrossed her arms and shifted her weight to one leg. “By the way,” she said, gesturing with her hand and frowning, “I think I’m going to spend tonight in my own cabin. I’m tired of listening to Trixie moan in her sleep about rotelle.” She raised one eyebrow at me. “Unless you think you can convince her to sleep on her own instead.”

I shook my head. “No, I doubt it. If anything, Trixie’s even more terrified after Fluttershy died. And I don’t blame her. You do what you need to. I can deal with Trixie’s sleep talking.”

Sure enough, when the evening meeting rolled around, Twilight was nowhere to be seen. Neither was Rainbow Dash. Both were in their rooms asleep, according to Scootaloo. Diamond Tiara spent most of the meeting going on and on about how we needed to stick together as a team, to the point of being a little nauseating even for my taste. No one else contributed much, especially not Pinkie Pie, who was back to her mood swings.

I spent the rest of the evening with Trixie in the game corner, finding a co-op RPG to play together. We chatted some about her father, since I brought up her secret. “Trixie knows he abandoned her,” she pouted, “but she still loves him. One of these days, when she can afford to travel the world, she’ll find him again.”

Focused on the game, it took me a few minutes before I could respond. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“Honestly? No. But Trixie will do it anyway.” Trixie sent her character in game careening into a horde of goblins like a bowling ball. “You’ve never met him. You don’t know the magic he’s capable of. Trixie is incredible, powerful and great, but compared to him? She’s a mere apprentice.”

“Huh. Sounds pretty nice then. Maybe when we all escape from here we should catch one of his magic shows, if he still holds them.”

Trixie smiled. “Trixie would like that.”

DING-DONG BING-BONG

As Monoponi’s nighttime announcement rang throughout the ship, we headed back to my cabin, waving to Scootaloo as the poor exhausted woman walked back to hers, her long patrol shift finally over. Once we got in, I went to change into my pajamas. Trixie had found me a pair in the same place she’d found her own. Turns out they’d been in one of the laundry room dryers, a set of pajamas for all of us in matching colors. Who knew?

Sinking into the freshly laundered sheets, I concluded that yes, Trixie was right. They needed the wash. “No Adagio?” Trixie inquired as she joined me.

“No, she wanted to sleep in her own cabin tonight.” I grinned at my illusionist friend. “She hates your sleep talking.”

Trixie held a hand to her breast. “What? Trixie does not sleep talk! She would never!”

“Uh, I hate to break the bad news Trixie, but you do,” I said, snickering.

With a dramatic roll of her eyes and a sigh, Trixie laid down. “Trixie is offended by this assertion. She asks that you prove it.”

I pulled out my Monopad and grinned cheekily. “I can, if you want me to.”

Trixie blew a sigh out through her nose as she glared at me. “That won’t be necessary. Trixie concedes.”

I laughed as I rolled over, finding a more comfortable posture. “I hope I can sleep tonight. I’m pretty worried about Twilight.”

Trixie’s face fell. “Oh. Yes. Trixie was confronted by Twilight earlier today. She was ranting and raving so much she gave Trixie a headache.” She reached out to pull my arm over, holding it like it was a security blanket. “Sunset, there’s nothing true about what she said, is there?”

I shook my head firmly. “No, Trixie. There isn’t. Twilight’s picking apart at coincidences and making up things out of nothing. Don’t worry about it.”

Trixie frowned, but said nothing as she switched the light off. Soon, I was out like a light, completely dead to the world, lost in bizarre dreams until morning.

DING-DONG BING-BONG

As usual, I awoke to the morning announcement, tuning out Monoponi’s irritating voice. Despite my worries from the previous night, I’d slept pretty well. “Morning, Trixie,” I said, sitting up with a yawn.

Then I blinked. Trixie wasn’t in bed. She was already in the bathroom, showering. I shrugged. “Must’ve woken up early.”

So I waited patiently for my turn, and soon enough we were both headed to the food court, having met up with Adagio along the way. The siren looked remarkably alert. “Sleep well?” I said, grinning.

“Soundly,” Adagio grinned back. “That was a good idea.”

“Oh, by the way, you left your first aid kit in my room last night,” I said, taking a moment to rummage through my backpack and pull out the massive thing. “Here.”

Adagio had the good grace to look abashed as she took it. “Thank you. Don’t know why I forgot it.”

As we arrived, we split up to gather our breakfast, then joined the others. Apart from Applejack, who was standing guard at the access stairwell, and Rarity, who waved at me with a small smile as she walked by on patrol, just about everyone was there already. Even Rainbow Dash and Twilight were present. Twilight was in one corner of the food court, sitting next to Flash, glaring my way with a look of utter black hatred. Rainbow seemed even angrier this morning than she had the last, tearing into her breakfast sandwich like she hadn’t eaten in months.

It was only after I’d taken a few bites of my fruit salad that I realized someone was missing. “Hey, guys, where’s Pinkie Pie?”

Diamond Tiara frowned. “Didn’t anyone see her when we all got up?”

“Nuh-uh,” Scootaloo replied, her face crinkling up with worry. “I haven’t. I didn’t check her room either.”

Diamond Tiara whipped out her Monopad and shot off a quick text. “Just asked Applejack to check for us. I swear, if she’s sleeping in…” Her Monopad bleeped, and as she read it, her face grew concerned. “She’s not answering her door.”

“I’ll try texting her,” Scootaloo said, bringing out her own Monopad.

“Uh, I don’t want to worry anyone, but when was the last time anyone saw her?” Flash said, standing up in a hurry.

“I saw her when I started my guard shift, and a few times throughout it,” Tiara answered, also getting to her feet. “But I don’t remember if I saw her go back to her cabin.”

Twilight set her fork down. “Should we go look for her?”

“Do we really have to?” Rainbow Dash groused, her voice bitter.

Scootaloo looked up, her eyes full of panic. “Guys, she’s not answering her texts either.”

Adagio stood up. “I think we should, yes.”

Tiara nodded, and tapped out a text to Applejack and Rarity. “Alright everyone, split up! We’ll track her down.”

“Where do you think she is?” Adagio asked me as she, Trixie, and I formed a team.

“Trixie thinks she could be anywhere,” Trixie said sadly, squeezing her cloak in her hands. “Trixie is afraid she might be--”

“No. Don’t say it. Please,” I said. I directed us towards the pharmacy first, just in case, but she wasn’t there. So we swept towards the promenade offshoot, heading for the theater first. Before we entered it, though, we heard a bone-chilling scream echo from down the promenade stairs.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!”

“That sounded like Rarity!” I blurted. “Come on, this way!”

We ran as fast as we could, leaping down the stairs, into the open door of the fitness center, finding Rarity staring at the floor in the weight-room. “Are you okay, Rarity?” I asked as we arrived.

“I--I’m fine darlings, but look, blood!” She pointed, and sure enough, there was a large puddle of blood soaking into the carpet, all rust-pink and gross. The rest of the weight room didn’t look much better, with half the machines tipped over, dumbbells knocked loose, etc. But Pinkie’s body was nowhere to be seen.

“She’s not here. Rarity, come on, let’s check the rest of the center. She might need our help.”

With Rarity in tow as our fourth, we entered the corridor for the basketball and squash courts. I didn’t see anything in either of them, so I hurried us forward into the indoor pool area. Please be okay. God, Pinkie Pie, please be okay!

But as we entered, I discovered my prayers had fallen on deaf ears. Once again, my heart sank into a deep, bottomless abyss, the gnawing emptiness clawing at my soul, threatening to swallow me whole.

Because there, floating face up in the pool, her whole body swollen up like a balloon, was the decaying remains of Pinkamena Diane Pie.

Author's Note:

:pinkiegasp:

Pinkie Pie was not intended to be a surprise victim, so I hope I didn't startle too many with this one. The real surprises are yet to come.

Next time: the investigation.

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