• 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 5

Chapter Three:

A Maelstrom of Murder

Deadly Life

Rarity uttered another spine-tingling shriek, clapping her hands to her head before fainting. I just caught her in time to save her from cracking her head on the tile.

“Holy hell,” Adagio muttered, staring wide-eyed at the bloated corpse. “What happened to her?”

“Murder,” Trixie squeaked as she clapsed her face in her hands. Tears drizzled between her fingers. “It happened again. It happened again!”

DING-DONG DONG-DING

That wretched happy tone signaled Monoponie’s appearance on the poolside screens. He had a large pot of coffee gripped between his forehooves, chugging it like a frat boy on a Friday night. “A body has been discovered!” he chortled. “Please gather at the indoor pool in the fitness center, at once!”

As his image winked off, I gently set Rarity down on the floor, and popped out my first aid kit from my backpack, locating some smelling salts. I wafted them under Rarity’s nose till she sat up, coughing and spluttering. “Ugh, really, darling, must you use that wretched substance?”

“Sorry,” I frowned apologetically as I helped her sit up. “But we can’t be having you passed out right now.”

Rarity let out a sorrowful moan when she saw Pinkie’s body again. “Oh why did this have to happen? Pinkie Pie didn’t deserve this…”

Applejack was the first to arrive, galloping in with her whole body tensed up like a steel suspension cable. “Was it Pink--oh mah sweet lord,” she gasped, skidding to a halt. She took off her hat and held it to her breast.

Diamond Tiara barreled in next, took one look at Pinkie’s body, and cursed.

Flash and Twilight arrived next, with Flash bursting out screaming the instant he saw the body. Twilight gripped his arm, silent tears running down her face.

Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo were the last to arrive. Rainbow grit her teeth, her fists squeezed so hard at her sides they turned white. Scootaloo stomped her foot, glaring at us with a combination of rage and sorrow, tears streaming from her eyes. “Someone did it again,” she spat. “Why? Why can’t we stop killing each other?!”

“Because it’s just too much fun!” Monoponi blurted as he flashed into existence in a large sweeping flight over the pool, coming for a landing right before us. He twirled on his hooves to look at the body. “Well well, Pinkie Pie perished particularly painfully, didn’t she? Ahahahaha!”

“Sure looks like it,” Adagio agreed, her fale turning pale tinged with green. “Her body’s so swollen too. How long ago did she die?”

“Oh, you don’t really expect me to just tell that to you, do you?” Monoponi mocked, holding a hoof to his mouth. “Upupu. That’s what the investigation is for!”

Diamond Tiara slammed a fist into the closest nearby object, in this case one of the bleachers. “But this is impossible! We set up guard schedules and everything! We should’ve had someone patrolling in here all night! How did the killer get through all that? Why didn’t anyone notice her body?”

“Oh, what’s that, your pathetic little security measures failed?” Monoponi rushed at her, eliciting a scream of terror before he retreated. “Ahahaha, you’re still the same old coward. Diamond Tiara, the useless stupid rich kid no one likes or respects. Is it any wonder your plan failed?”

Gritting her teeth, Tiara scrambled to her feet and backed away from the alicorn, putting several of us between her and him. “Goddamn little shit,” I heard her mutter.

“Well, now that that’s out of way,” Monoponi said, twirling about on his hoof till he faced the rest of us. “Are there any other wastes of time you idiots want to indulge in? Hmm?” He held up a hoof to his ear. “What’s that? No pointless accusations of your Captain? No piddling about with pretending you’re all innocent little fillies and colts who’d never harm a hair on anypony else’s head? No? Good! You’re finally learning.”

His horn flashed, and our Monopads all bleeped at once. “Now, before you get started on the investigation, I’m going to ask you to check your Monopad. There’s a special little surprise in store for you, upupupu!”

Feeling a sense of dread overtake me, I switched on my Monopad screen, tabbed over to evidence… and almost dropped the pad on the floor.

Fact #1: Monoponi File IIIa: “The victim is Fluttershy, the Ultimate Veterinarian. She was executed by machine gun turrets on the promenade at approximately 6:15 PM Tuesday evening, due to her theft of a tourmaline encrusted gold ring from the jewelry store.”

“What?” I breathed. “Fluttershy?! But I thought she was executed for rule breaking! What does she have to do with Pinkie Pie?”

Similar outbursts of incredulity arose from everyone else present, except for Rainbow Dash. Shaking in fury didn’t come close to describing the outpouring of anger from her. An aura ignited all around her, glowing in a brilliant burst of white-hot rage scintillating with every color of the rainbow, burning so bright I could barely stand to look at her. What the hell? Since when does Rainbow Dash have magic?!

“Good heavens!” Rarity burst out, hiding behind Applejack, pointing a shaky finger at the glowing Dash. “What on earth is happening?”

“Aaaah!” Trixie cried, diving for the doorway to the courts.

“Woho, that’s not supposed to happen!” Monoponi blurted, a look of panic rising on his face. His horn lit up in dark crimson, lashing out like a bullwhip to curl around Rainbow Dash. She spun like a tornado as he drained the aura from her, leaving her sprawled on the floor, clutching her head and moaning. “Muuuch better. Must’ve missed some the last time.”

I knelt down to look over Rainbow Dash and had to leap away to avoid a sudden splash of vomit, the poor girl heaving up every last bit of food in her belly. As I took out my first aid kit, searching for something to soothe her aching stomach, I said, “The last time? What do you me--”

“No questions! I won’t say a single word! You’ll get nothing from me!” Monoponi clammed up, shoving both forehooves into his mouth to block it off, and mumbled some more inanities I couldn’t make out.

“Fine, whatever.” I could worry about whatever the hell that was later. I dug out some chewable tablets and unwrapped them. “Here, take this, Rainbow.”

“Thanks,” she muttered, tossing them into her mouth.

“Nevermind the glowing light show!” Tiara interrupted, stomping a foot for attention. “What’s up with Fluttershy being a victim?”

All amusement vanished from Monoponi’s face as he gnashed his teeth, wriggling all six limbs in frustration. “Because someone tricked me! Some little shit planted that ring on Fluttershy, and made me do the hard work of killing her for them! This is an outrage! I won’t stand for such mockery, such devious trickery on my ship! No one makes a fool out of Captain Monoponi!”

Oh my god. Is that what Pinkie Pie was talking about to me last night? “But,” I said aloud, “why didn’t you call a trial after it happened?”

“Upupu, the blame lies with you, Sunset!” Monoponi giggled, pointing a hoof squarely at me. “I told you I heard your little conversation the other day! You said there’d be two victims! Well, now there’s two victims! Ahahahaha!”

Several people cast dark, furious glares my way, but I tried to ignore them. It’s not my fault. I didn’t kill Pinkie. I didn’t kill Fluttershy. I won’t accept the blame for this. “So you deliberately goaded us into killing someone else just so you could run a trial for both of them.”

“Exactly!” Tittering, Monoponi twirled on his rear hooves like a ballerina, then settled back down on all fours. “After all, if I’m going to hold a trial, why not make it big? Bold? Exciting even!”

“Wait, if there’s two victims,” Scootaloo pointed out, growing horror ever increasing on her face, “Does that mean there are two blackeneds?!”

My heart hammered like a rampaging elephant trying to burst out through my chest. “Two blackeneds…”

“Is it even possible?!” Rarity squealed, looking close to fainting again. Applejack took a step closer to her, ready to catch her if need be.

“Are there two? Is there one? Who knows?! Well, I do, but I won’t tell you, upupupu!” With a flourish of his horn our Monopads received the second file. “I’ll tell you this. If and only if there are two blackeneds, you’ll have to find both of them to succeed in this trial! Failure to find one will mean your death!” His muzzle split open, revealing his sharp, jagged teeth, dripping with drool. “And nothing would make me happier than to put all of you idiots out of my misery at once!”

“Great,” Twilight grumbled dryly, throwing up her hands so they could clap at her sides. “Wonderful. Fantastic. Brilliant! Absolutely amazing!” She shook her head in disbelief. “Don’t even know how many people we’re looking for this time. How will we know what is and isn’t important?”

“Don’t ask me!” Monoponi retorted, waving a hoof dismissively at her.”That’s for you to decide, not I!”

“Excuse me, Monoponi,” Adagio said, her smile and tone dripping with acidic non-sincerity. “But if there’s two blackeneds, who gets executed? Will you kill them both?”

We all fell silent. It was a damned good question. Who would be executed? I’ll bet he’ll make us pick. He’s that kind of sadist.

“Hmm… hmmm… “ Monoponi spent several minutes scratching his chin, then set a hoof to his mouth. “Ahaha, I know! I won’t tell you!”

“What?” the siren blurted, all traces of respect gone in a flash of ire. “Why not?”

“Because it’s more fun this way,” Monoponi giggled. “You won’t find out who dies until after you’ve successfully determined whether there's one or two blackeneds! Oooh the suspense will be so thrilling! Eyahahahaha!”

“Grrrr…” Adagio hissed, her hands curling up like claws.

I set a hand on her shoulder. “Easy there, Adagio,” I said in a soothing tone. She shrugged me off, but nodded at me all the same.

“Are we done here?” Monoponi demanded, glaring at us all. “Yes? No? Yes? No more questions? Well then get to it, idiots! Your investigation time starts now!” He disappeared in a brilliant flash of crimson light.

Here we go again. Once again, we’ve got to track down the culprit. Or culprits. Whichever it may be. I set my features into grim determination, nodding to myself. Either way, I’m ready. Let’s do this.

Before I did anything else, I bent down again to check on Rainbow. “How’re you doing, Rainbow?”

Rainbow’s cheeks bulged and she clapped a hand to her mouth, rocking back and forth for a moment before relaxing. “Not good,” she moaned. “Like I was tossed through a dryer on spin cycle. At a thousand miles an hour.”

“Maybe you should guard the body, then,” I said, smiling sympathetically.

“But… I… Fluttershy--”

“I know,” I said, holding out a hand. “I know. Don’t worry. I’ll crack the case for you, I promise. Alright? You need to take care of yourself. Being drained like that isn’t good for you.”

“Do you know what Monoponi did, Sunset?” Twilight interrupted, glaring at me. “Wait, what am I saying. Of course you do. Because you’re--”

“I’m only going to say this once,” said Adagio Dazzle as she clapped a hand on Twilight’s shoulder so hard the researcher yelped in pain. Adagio spun Twilight around and focused her wintery cold predatory gaze with bared teeth, causing the younger woman to freeze up in fright. “Don’t. Waste. Our. Time. If you want to accuse Sunset, save it for the trial. Got it?”

“Mmhmm!” Twilight mumbled, nodding like a bobble head.

Adagio flashed her a mocking smile then shoved her away stumbling into Flash Sentry’s waiting arms. “Good.”

“Hey, what the hell, Adagio!” Flash protested, cradling Twilight protectively. “You don’t have to threaten her like that!”

“Shut it, Sentry,” Adagio barked, looking every bit the rude, nasty woman she’d been on the first night of our voyage as she flipped him off. “We don’t have time to argue.”

Flash sneered, his upper lip quivering. “Come on, Twilight, let’s go search somewhere else.” He took a brief moment to glare daggers at me before they left the room altogether.

I sighed in frustration. “Adagio…”

Adagio whirled on me, grimacing. “Like I told him, no time, Sunset.”

“I know, I know… we still need someone else to guard the body with Rainbow though.”

Scootaloo stepped forward, raising a hand. “I’ll stick with Rainbow Dash. I’ll make sure she’s okay.”

Smiling, I handed over my first aid kit. “Take this, then. She’ll probably need more antacids.”

Tossing off a two-fingered salute, Scootaloo took the kit and started keeping watch.

Okay. Time to check the file. I switched my Monopad back on and clicked over to the second file.

Fact #2: Monoponi File IIIb: “The victim is Pinkie Pie, the Ultimate Party Planner. The victim’s body has multiple injuries, including blunt force trauma to the head, puncture wounds on the arms, and the fifth metacarpal bone of both hands are broken. Signs of opioids were discovered in the victim’s blood.”

“Woah nelly,” Applejack breathed as she read over my shoulder. “Poor girl went through the ringer, didn’t she?”

“She sure did. No time of death either, so who knows when it happened.” looked up at the body, recoiling in disgust at the sight. “Did you want to examine the body with me?”

“If it’s all the same to you Ah’d rather keep an eye on Rarity,” Applejack said, shaking her head. “It’s not a pretty sight, so Ah don’t blame her if she doesn’t want to stick around.”

Trixie’s hand shot up. “Um, Sunset, if it’s okay with you, Trixie wants to help.” She stood up shakily, stabilizing herself by grabbing onto my shoulder.

I arched an eyebrow at the illusionist, noting how pale she looked. “Are you sure? This is gonna be pretty gross.”

“Yes,” Trixie said, gulping nervously. “Trixie hasn’t been much help in the past two investigations. She doesn’t want to sit on the sidelines this time.”

“Alright then. Adagio, do you have the gloves?”

The siren reached into her pockets and tossed us each a pair of disposables. “Right here.”

I thanked her, slipped them on with a snap, then made my way towards the body. Pinkie’s bloated corpse drifted in the water, just close enough to be reached without going in. Not wanting to get soaked, Adagio and I carefully took hold of the body and dragged it out of the water, splashing water everywhere into our shoes. “So gross,” I groaned.

Every part of her exposed body was like sandpaper, red, rough, and dried out, like she’d suffered chemical burns. Her lips, eyelids, fingers, arms, legs, and cheeks had swollen up like she’d been filed up by a bicycle pump. Her mouth was open, too, exposing her tongue, like a fat slug. Her hair was sticky with blood in many places, difficult to make out due to the similar color.

Fact #3: Body Condition: “The body was discovered floating face up in the shallow end of the pool. Every part of the exposed skin is covered in red rashes similar to chemical burns.”

Remembering the Monoponi file, I decided to examine her head first, searching for the wound, and found it right on the back of her head where the parietal and occipital skull bones met. It was nasty, a huge gash torn open to the bone, revealing dozens of cracks zigzagging out from the impact site. The entire back of her head was stained pink with her blood. My gorge rose, but I forced it back down, trying to maintain some form of clinical detachment. “Jeez, Pinkie, this must’ve hurt bad,” I muttered.

“What do you think caused it?” Adagio wondered, equally disgusted.

Trixie took one look at the wound and cringed, holding her arm to her mouth. “Trixie doesn’t want to know,” she mumbled.

*Updated* Fact #3: Body Condition: “The body was discovered floating face up in the shallow end of the pool. Every part of the exposed skin is covered in red rashes similar to chemical burns. The back of her skull was broken open by the impact of a blunt object.”

I moved on to her arms. She was still dressed in the jacket I’d lent her, the leather ruined by the water damage. I rolled up the sleeves and checked her left arm first. Sure enough, there were the puncture wounds mentioned, a whole bunch of little ones spotted up and down her arm. “Needles,” I said in a melancholy tone. “She was injecting herself with needles.”

“That’d explain the opioids mentioned in the Monoponi file,” Adagio said, nodding.

“She injected herself right in front of me once, yesterday,” I said, squeezing my eyes shut. “She made me turn away so I couldn’t see her do it. Damn it, I should’ve just stopped her then.”

*Updated* Fact #3: Body Condition: “The body was discovered floating face up in the shallow end of the pool. Every part of the exposed skin is covered in red rashes similar to chemical burns. The back of her skull was broken open by the impact of a blunt object. There are multiple puncture wounds, consistent with needles, on both of her arms.”

“Why is she wearing one of your jackets?” Trixie asked, holding up the material in question.

“Oh, I gave it to her, because she was shivering and cold,” I answered. “Probably a side effect of withdrawal from whatever drug she was using.”

Adagio stood up, stretching out her arms as her knees popped and crackled. “Mrph, we should check her room, see if we can’t find what she was using.”

I raised a hand to my chin, only just barely remembering in time not to actually touch myself with the blood soaked glove. “But aren’t the rooms locked?”

“She might have her room key on her still,” Trixie muttered. Sticking out her tongue from the effort, she fumbled through Pinkie’s skirt pockets till she pulled out something shiny, dangling it in her hand. “Here we go. One key.” She set it down and scooted it over. “Huh, there’s actually a second key here. Nothing else though.” She tossed the second key over.

“Wait, really?” I asked, arching an eyebrow. “Shouldn’t she have her Monopad?” I took a moment to search Pinkie’s pockets, including the pockets of the jacket, but I didn’t find anything. “I thought we were supposed to keep our Monopads on us at all times.”

“Yeah,” Trixie mused with a frown. “That is what Trixie thought too. Maybe someone took it?”

“But that’s against the rules,” I pointed out. “Unless that rule doesn’t apply once someone’s dead.”

“Maybe it doesn’t. We never asked,” Trixie said, shrugging.

Shrugging back, I decided to examine her hands next. Unfortunately, due to the swelling, it was very difficult to tell what was and wasn’t broken in her hand. The skin of her hands had started to slough off, especially along the pinkie finger and wrist. Whatever broke her hands inflicted serious damage, enough to leave them especially vulnerable to watery decomposition.

*Updated* Fact #3: Body Condition: “The body was discovered floating face up in the shallow end of the pool. Every part of the exposed skin is covered in red rashes similar to chemical burns. The back of her skull was broken open by the impact of a blunt object. There are multiple puncture wounds, consistent with needles, on both of her arms. The skin along both hands had started to slough off.”

Adagio stripped off her gloves. “I’d say we’re done here. I want to go check out that scene in the weight room. We didn’t get a close look at it.”

Trixie sprang up from the body in a hurry, holding an arm to her mouth. “Trixie is all too happy to follow.”

“Sure, go ahead. I just want to give the body a quick once over, in case we missed anything,” I replied, kneeling back over it.

I felt Adagio’s hand grip my shoulder. “No time, Sunset. Come on.”

“Wha--hey!” I found myself dragged up to my feet, spun around, and pushed back towards the weight rooms. “But we weren’t done! What if we missed something?”

“I doubt we did,” Adagio growled. “Come on.”

Fine, jeez. I stripped off my gloves and tossed them in a bin as we passed by the courts. We entered the weight room, finding Diamond Tiara walking around, snapping pictures with her Monopad. I quietly took in the scene.

The puddle of blood we’d noticed was right in the center of the room. It was a good six inches or more across, congealed and half dried into an ugly rusty dark pink color. There was a single bloody footprint sticking out of the puddle, just the heel portion, so it could’ve belonged to anyone. All of the equipment around the pool was disturbed, knocked over, or moved out of position.

Fact #4: Weight-Lifting Room: “The central mat is covered in a large half-dried bloodstain with a single bloody footprint heel emerging from it. The equipment in the room was moved around and disturbed, suggesting a struggle.”

I bent down to look closer at the bloodstain and the surrounding area, for anything out of place. “Hey, look at this, guys,” I said. There were a number of hairs scattered around the scene, all over the place. Some of them were curly and pink, just like Pinkie’s hair. The rest were yellow and straight. All except for one. That one was wavy and purple. Odd.

*Updated* Fact #4: Weight-Lifting Room: “The central mat is covered in a large half-dried bloodstain with a single bloody footprint heel emerging from it. The equipment in the room was moved around and disturbed, suggesting a struggle. Curly pink hairs and straight yellow hairs were discovered at the scene, alongside a single wavy purple hair.”

“Hmm…” Trixie muttered, scratching her chin, narrowing her eyes at the two of us. “This isn’t either of you, right?” Adagio’s icy returning stare said it all. Trixie let out a yelp and stepped back. “Sorry, sorry!”

“Anyway,” Adagio groused, scanning the room, “I don’t see the murder weapon anywhere. What do you think they used?”

“Check the shelves,” I ordered, moving over to them. I scanned up and down the shelves of kettlebells, medicine balls, dumbbells… and then I spotted one, with just the slightest hint of pink on it. I pulled on it, winced, then took hold of it with both hands. “Jeez this is heavy.” I held it up as high as I could so I could check the weight. Seventy pounds. No wonder. I managed to turn it around in my hands enough to see the pink splotch I noticed. It was very faint, barely present on one end. Like someone cleaned it off and missed a spot. I checked for any other bits, but I didn’t see any.

Fact #5: Dumbbell: “A seventy pound dumbbell, with a small splotch of blood on one end.”

I handed it over to Adagio, who, to my surprise, easily handled it in one hand. “Huh. Pretty heavy,” she murmured. She held it up over her head, then gave it a couple of practice swings. “This wouldn’t be easy to use for most people.”

“Yeah,” I murmured. “Probably only yourself, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and maybe Flash Sentry could use it.”

“And Rarity,” Trixie added. “Rarity is way stronger than she looks.”

*Updated* Fact #5: Dumbbell: “A seventy pound dumbbell, with a small splotch of blood on one end. Only five people could use it as a weapon: Flash Sentry, Adagio Dazzle, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity.”

While Adagio set the dumbbell down, I walked over to Diamond Tiara. “Hey, Tiara, did you see anything stand out we hadn’t noticed yet?”

Tiara smirked. “Yeah, actually,” she said, pointing at a shelf of free weights in the corner. “Take a look under that shelf.”

Navigating through the machines, I bent down to look under the shelf. Sure enough, there were several loose circular weights there, dripping wet onto a towel tucked underneath them. A jump rope was threaded through each of the weights, tied in loose knots at both ends. Each weight was a good fifty pounds.“What the heck?”

Fact #6: Free Weights and Rope: “A group of four fifty pound free weights, placed under the free weight shelf, dripping with water. They were tied together with a jump rope threaded through and knotted loosely at both ends.”

“Weird, isn’t it?” Tiara commented as I stood back up.

I glanced at Adagio, who shrugged. Poor Trixie looked utterly baffled, holding her hands to her chest as she pouted. “Trixie doesn’t understand.”

“We’ve still got a lot to examine, Trixie, don’t worry,” I said, patting her on the shoulder. “Actually, Tiara, while I have you here, do you think you could share with me the guard schedule over the last day? We didn’t get a time of death for Pinkie.”

Diamond Tiara rummaged through her pack and pulled out her notebook. “Here. Take a picture. S is for stationary, P for patrol.”

Fact #7: Guard Schedule: “The guard schedule on Wednesday into Thursday is as follows:
2:00 PM Trixie S/Scootaloo P
6:00 PM Adagio Dazzle S/Scootaloo P
10:00 PM Diamond Tiara S/Pinkie Pie P
-----Midnight---
2:00 AM Twilight Sparkle S/Rainbow Dash P
6:00 AM Applejack S/Rarity P
10:00 AM Flash Sentry S/Sunset Shimmer P

“Thanks,” I said, noting this down. Then I turned to Trixie and Adagio. “Why don’t we look around the rest of the fitness center? I want to make sure we don’t overlook anything.”

I first took a couple minutes to glance over the cardio room, but I didn’t see anything out of place. Nor was there anything out of place in the open space room, apart from a single missing jump rope, presumably the same one tied to the weights. Then we went into the locker room. Most of the lockers were empty, but one was closed, with a simple padlock on it. “Hmm, I wonder…” I pulled out the second key we found on Pinkie’s body. It was a perfect fit. Inside I found... “What the hell?”

It was the picture. The picture of Applejack and Rarity, along with their sisters, eating at the diner. “Why was this on her? Last I knew, I had it in my… pocket…” My face turned pale. “Uh, Adagio, Trixie, did either of you happen to empty the pockets from my clothes when you did laundry yesterday?”

“Of course I did,” Adagio snorted. “I remember seeing the picture. I put it with a couple of other things on top of my basket. I know I put it back in your cabin.”

“Did you?”

Now it was Adagio’s turn to blanch. “I thought I did…”

“Wait a minute. Let Trixie see that picture, please,” Trixie requested, holding out a hand.

Fact #8: Photo #1: “A picture of Applejack, Rarity, Sweetie Belle, and Apple Bloom eating together at a diner. Applejack and Rarity are wearing matching rings.”

“Oh, right, you haven’t seen this yet, have you?” I said, handing it over with a light blush to my cheeks. “Sorry, Adagio, Pinkie and I found it exploring, and we were trying to keep it quiet. We were worried it might cause… problems.”

“Trixie can see why,” said the illusionist, gaping at the picture in awe. “Rarity and Applejack were married… Trixie did not see that coming.” She handed it back over to me.

I shrugged, and made sure to tuck the picture away safely. The question is, did Pinkie find it, or was it planted?

I checked the locker, running my hands through it in case there was something else. And sure enough, in the back, I found a Monopad, with a name etched in golden letters on the back: Pinkamena Diane Pie. “Huh, here’s her Monopad,” I said as I switched it on. There were several unanswered texts from various people this morning, when we were searching for her. She’d sent check-in-texts during her guard shift, every fifteen minutes like clockwork. She had nothing recorded on the audio. Nothing on pictures either, save for one. “Woah.”

I showed it to the other two. “That’s… ominous looking,” Trixie said, cringing.

Fact #9: Photo #2: “A picture taken by Pinkie Pie’s Monopad in the weight room, showing the silhouette of someone with long hair approaching her with a dumbbell in hand, blanked out due to a bright light behind them. Pinkie’s skirt is visible in the picture.”

“She must’ve taken that just before she died,” Adagio said, shaking her head softly.

Did she? If she did, how’d the Monopad end up in the locker? And why did she have the key? Something about this doesn’t feel right. I switched off Pinkie’s Monopad and placed it carefully in my backpack, along with the lock and key from the locker. I had the feeling they’d prove important.

“Okay, now just the sau--”

“Sunset,” Adagio cut me off instantly, her eyes flashing with crimson. “We need to investigate Pinkie’s room. We don’t have time to waste.”

Okay, enough’s enough. “Adagio, what is your deal? Why do you keep trying to rush us?” I crossed my arms over my chest, refusing to back down as I matched Adagio glare for glare. “Are you trying to hide something?”

“No!” Adagio spat, baring her teeth. Her jaws opened just a tad, as if threatening to lunge for my throat. “Don’t be a fool!”

“Then tell me why you keep pushing us along,” I insisted, lowering my stance and inching my forehead forward, like I was bringing the horn I didn’t have to bear.

“Grrrrr… augh!” Adagio threw up her hands in disgust, giving up the fight. “Because of Rainbow Dash. You understood what we saw, right? That was real Equestrian magic she used.”

The beginnings of a pounding headache arose in my skull. “I’m well aware of that, Adagio.”

“A-and you saw what Monoponi did, right? He drained her. Like some kind of siphon!” My siren lover gesticulated wildly as she spoke, every word more frantic and crazed than the last. “That takes dark magic. Evil magic. The kind that corrupts you, warps you, perverts you into a twisted soulless demon!”

“I know that Adagio!” I retorted, groaning. “But we can’t just drop everything to focus on that. We need to focus on the trial. We have two blackeneds to find, remember?”

“But if Rainbow Dash has magic, doesn’t that mean it’s possible we all have magic?” Adagio gripped a handful of her bushy hair, pulling at it in her frustration. “What if all we have to do to get out of here is--”

“Um, excuse Trixie,” interrupted the illusionist, a look of utter bafflement on her face, “but how do you know how magic works, Adagio?”

Adagio stiffened, her breath quickening. “Uh. er, I, that is--”

“I told her all about it,” I said, jumping in to cover for her. We’ve kept her secret so far. I’m not about to let it out now. “The day after the first trial. She asked me all about it, so I told her as much as I remembered.”

Trixie leered at me, eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Really. But Trixie thought you told us all you could the other day. And you never said anything about this… dark magic stuff.”

I gave her a big toothy smile. “Hey, Twilight just asked me about what Monoponi could do. She never said I needed to tell her everything I knew about magic.” My smile dimmed. “And I had no idea Monoponi could drain magic from others until I watched him do it.”

“Oh.” Trixie blinked once, twice, then shrugged. “Trixie supposes that makes sense.”

I watched Adagio visibly relax, returning to a more sedate posture. “Adagio, I know you’re worried about that magic, but we really should focus on the investigation. We’ll look into the magic afterwards, I promise.”

“Fine,” Adagio harrumphed. She bowed slightly and held out one arm, beckoning me to move forward. “After you.”

We made our way through the other exit from the locker room, into the corridor with the hot tub and sauna. I kept my eyes peeled as I scanned over the area. At first, nothing seemed out of place. The hot tub was undisturbed, the sauna still set to the same temperature. So I poked my head inside, and that’s when I saw it. The interior side of the sauna door was dented. Like something had smacked into it, impacting the metal. The door handle was damaged too, from blunt impacts. There were splashes of blood in the dents and on the handle as well.

Fact #10: Sauna Door: “The sauna door is dented on the inside, with traces of blood in the dents. There is also damage to and blood on the interior door handle.”

“That’s odd,” I said, running my hand along the door. “What caused this?” I glanced at both Trixie and Adagio, but they just shrugged. “Well, I’ll note it down.”

After doing so, I returned to the indoor pool. Pinkie’s body was still laying there, protected by Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash. Rainbow Dash was sitting up and looked less pale than she did earlier. No one else was around. “Okay, give me two seconds to examine the body one more time,” I said as I pulled out a fresh pair of gloves, “and then we’ll go to Pinkie’s cabin.”

Ignoring the glare of irritated impatience Adagio shot my way, I quickly gave the body a once over, checking for any additional wounds or damage or something we missed. It wasn’t until I took a look under Pinkie’s shirt that I saw something… odd. Right above her left breast was a puncture mark. It didn’t look like the ones on her arms. It was stretched out, like something larger penetrated her. Or maybe it was the swelling that made it look that way. Either way it struck me as important.

*Updated* Fact #3: Body Condition: “The body was discovered floating face up in the shallow end of the pool. Every part of the exposed skin is covered in red rashes similar to chemical burns. The back of her skull was broken open by the impact of a blunt object. There are multiple puncture wounds, consistent with needles, on both of her arms. The skin along both hands had started to slough off. There is a large puncture wound on the body’s chest, right above the left breast.”

Now satisfied I’d found everything, I stripped my gloves off and joined Adagio and Trixie in making our way towards the cabins. While on the way, I stopped briefly in the shopping quarter. “I want to check inside the jewelry store,” I said. I poked around, seeing if there were any leftover receipts in the bin or discarded bits of trash, but I saw nothing. There was nothing else of note on the promenade itself either, as most of the mess from her execution had been cleaned, and what was left meant basically nothing.

“Trixie doesn’t know what you expected to find,” grumbled the illusionist as we resumed our course towards the cabins, heading via the bridge deck, since Pinkie’s was right on the end by the lounge.

I brought out Pinkie’s room key as we reached her cabin, and unlocked the door. Entering it, I was immediately overwhelmed by the sheer level of pink in the room. Everywhere, on every available surface, Pinkie Pie had plastered something decorative, ranging from leftover pink streamers from the pool party, to tons of pink construction paper carved into a variety of shapes such as stars, hearts, and balloons, and even in some places outright pink spray paint. She must’ve gotten that from the theater prop shop. A quick peek into the bathroom showed she did the same thing in there, with everything except for the shower and sinks. “Good grief, Pinkie Pie,” I muttered.

“How can she stand this much pink?” groaned Adagio. She whipped out her sunglasses and put them on. “It’s unbearable!”

“Trixie agrees.” Trixie squeezed her eyes into slits, holding up an arm like a shield.

“Alright, well, let’s try and see what we can find.” I said as I got down on my hands and knees and rifled through cabinets. I found nothing of interest in the bathroom other than the usual supplies such as towels, toilet paper, shampoo, etc, though I did find a large number of extra toothpaste tubes, in a variety of flavors. Moving on to the rest of the cabin, as I checked under the bed I saw a spare towel covering something. “Hello, what’s this?” I wondered as I reached in for the object. Removing the towel, I found a large tote bag, identical to the one I saw her carrying the other night. I held it up to show Adagio and Trixie. “This is probably what she kept her drugs in.”

“Ugh, drugs,” Trixie said, sticking out her tongue. “So unsavory.”

“I dunno, an edible from time to time can be pretty relaxing,” Adagio smirked, grinning wider when she saw Trixie’s look of dismay. “What, you don’t care for marijuana?”

“No thank you,” Trixie muttered, backing off. “Trixie is far better off without any mind-altering substances.”

“Well I doubt she was on weed,” I said. I took a deep breath, and opened the bag. My heart sank as I pulled out six large latched cases, each one marked as a different type of opioid drug. Oxycodone, morphine, and heroin. Three of the cases contained only empty syringes. The other three each contained four syringes. Of these, three were mostly empty, but one syringe in each case was completely full and untouched. She probably hadn’t gotten to them yet.

Fact #11: Drug Cases: “Six cases of injectable drugs, two oxycodone, two heroin, two morphine. One case of each type only contained empty syringes. Each of the other three cases have four syringes, two of which were two-thirds empty, one of which was entirely empty, and with the fourth full and untouched.”

“Holy shit,” Adagio muttered, staring at the cases in disbelief. “You’d think only one of these would be good enough. Why did she need so many?”

“Pinkie Pie did everything excessively.” I let out a mournful sigh. “Even drug abuse, it seems. Damn it, Pinkie, I told you that you could talk to me about your problems. You didn’t have to resort to this.”

“But why though?” Adagio shook her head as she assisted me in placing the cases into my backpack, for evidence purposes. “I’ve seen people strung out on drugs before, but not someone like Pinkie. She was too… wholesome.”

“I think there was something she deeply regretted,” I said, sighing again. “She asked for some advice last night, when I gave her my jacket, about having possibly done something very bad.”

Trixie coughed, getting our attention. “Trixie might have an explanation.” She held up a hardcover notebook, marked “Pinkie’s Diary” in large looping letters on the front. “Trixie found it hiding behind her desk.”

I took the diary, and read through it quickly. The first few entries covered the first couple of days on the ship, before anyone died. They had a happy feeling about them, high energy, exuberant and cheerful. She recorded her musings and thoughts about the people around her, and her daily activities. A couple of pages were dedicated to her party planning for the pool party.

Then I reached the entry after Wallflower’s death, and it all went downhill from there. Each entry following the first trial grew more and more melancholic, heartbreaking even. Pinkie admitted, the day after the trial, that she went and bought her first drug, some morphine, from the pharmacy. As the entries wore on, Pinkie admitted to further and further issues, treating the diary as her only confidant. After the second trial, though, things broke. She admitted she used more and more morphine, just to get by. She felt isolated and alone, with no real friends amongst the rest of us. She said she was tempted, more than once, to get something harder, like oxycodone or heroin, but she was always able to resist it.

There was one entry, the day of Fluttershy’s death, where she showed a bit of hope. A bit of excitement that she was forming a new friendship with Fluttershy. But then the very next entry afterwards made my blood freeze in my veins so hard my heart threatened to shatter.

Fact #12: Diary: “A diary discovered in Pinkie Pie’s cabin, wherein she admits using drugs. The following is scribbled repeatedly on several pages, in barely discernible handwriting: “What have I done oh my god what have I done she’s dead she’s dead and it’s my fault it’s all my fault I killed her I killed her why why why why why?!”

“Holy fuck,” I muttered as I read on. Every entry after the first one like that was identical, each one more and more difficult to read, until finally, there was the very last entry.

*Updated* Fact #12: Diary: “A diary discovered in Pinkie Pie’s cabin, wherein she admits using drugs. The following is scribbled repeatedly on several pages, in barely discernible handwriting: “What have I done oh my god what have I done she’s dead she’s dead and it’s my fault it’s all my fault I killed her I killed her why why why why why?!” The last entry in the diary reads: “Thank you Sunny. I’ll do what needs to be done.”

“What the hell did you tell her to do?” Adagio asked, ripping the diary out of my hands so she could read back through it herself.

“Nothing!” I said as I leapt to my feet, glaring daggers at the siren. “I didn’t tell her to do anything. She asked me what to do if someone told her something was okay when it wasn’t, and I said to talk to them about it. That’s all I did.”

“Hmph.” Adagio scanned the diary, her eyes widening at every fresh entry. “Wow. I thought she was crazy, but she was completely nuts.

“None of us are doing well, Adagio,” I retorted with an unhappy sigh. “None of us are coping in a healthy manner.”

Trixie snorted. “Trixie doesn’t see how that justifies getting hooked on three different drugs at once.”

“She got them from the pharmacy, right?” Adagio asked. “Should we go there and check the receipts?”

I carefully took the diary back from Adagio and placed it into my backpack. “We can, but the diary said she bought them over the course of a week or so. I’m not sure it’s necessary.”

Adagio arched an eyebrow at me and sneered. “Oh really? Tell me, Sunset, where in the Monoponi file does it list a cause of death?”

“Uh…” I briefly looked back at the file. “Oh crap. You’re right. It doesn’t. Wait, does that mean she might’ve--”

“Overdosed?” Adagio answered for me. “Yes. The diary said she’d ‘do what needs to be done.’”

Trixie raised one hand in confusion, her face twisting up. “But then how would she get those injuries? Trixie isn’t sure this makes sense.”

“Well it’s worth investigating either way,” I said, heading for the door. Let’s… wait.” Right as I was about to leave, I spotted the bin by the door. There were a few scraps of paper inside. I picked them out and started putting them together piece by piece. Most had been irreparably rendered illegible due to some sort of water damage, but there was still a bit that was readable, for some definitions of readable. It was chicken scratch, heavily slanted to the left, the style vaguely familiar. I’d seen it before somewhere. Maybe the library log?

Fact #13: Discarded Note: “A handwritten note torn to shreds, found in Pinkie Pie’s wastebasket. The handwriting is messy and heavily slanted to the left. Most of the text was illegible, save for the following words: ‘help me surprise Fluttershy.’”

“Well well well,” Adagio said, grinning dangerously. “This could be our ticket to figuring out who did Fluttershy in.”

I stuffed it into my pocket. “Agreed. Let’s get moving. We’ll hit the pharmacy first, then I want to hit up the library to compare this to the book log. After that we’ll check the access corridor, in case there’s some clues there.”

As we passed by the food court, we ran across Twilight and Flash. “Oh, Twilight, good, I need to ask you something,” I said, remembering the guard schedule.

She and Flash wore matching sneers of disdain as I approached. “What do you want? Come to have your girlfriend beat me up some more?”

“I can, if you’d like,” Adagio chuckled dangerously, raising a fist up.

“Cool it you two,” I ordered, sighing in exasperation. “Twilight, I wanted to ask you about your guard shift last night. You worked from 2:00 AM to 6:00 AM, right? The stationary position by the stairwell?”

She stared up at the ceiling, blew a sigh out through her teeth, then brought out a notebook. “Yes, I did,” she answered in a grudging growl. “Four hours of little to do save for reading a book. I hope that’s helpful.”

I rolled my eyes at her sarcasm. “You didn’t hear anything during that time? No noise, no one came by?”

“Uuugh. No. I didn’t hear a thing. Rainbow Dash walked by a couple of times on her patrol, and we did the usual texting check ins, but that was it. Nothing else.” She arched an eyebrow. “Satisfied?”

Fact #14: Twilight’s Account: “According to Twilight, she heard no noise during her entire shift from 2:00 AM to 6:00 AM. She saw Rainbow Dash twice during the night, and performed her regular fifteen minute interval text check-ins.”

“No, not really, but it’ll do,” I groused as I noted that all down, then paused, and hummed. “Actually, wait, there is something else I want to ask you both. Did either of you see anyone acting suspicious around Pinkie Pie’s cabin on Tuesday, before 6:00 PM?”

Twilight scoffed. “Not really, no. I was in the library most of that day. I think I went back to my cabin around maybe 2:30 for a bit, but then I went back to the library.”

“Yeah, I remember seeing you there,” Flash mused, scratching his chin. “I came out of my cabin and saw you walk past me.”

Trixie cocked her head. “Isn’t your cabin close to the bridge deck though? Trixie would think Twilight would go the other way, since it’s faster.”

“I wanted a bit of fresh air,” Twilight said, crossing her arms. “That’s why I left the library to begin with. That, and I needed the bathroom. Happy now?”

*Updated* Fact #14: Twilight’s Account: “According to Twilight, she heard no noise during her entire shift from 2:00 AM to 6:00 AM Thursday morning. She saw Rainbow Dash twice during the night, and performed her regular fifteen minute interval text check-ins. She spent most of Tuesday prior to 6:00 PM in the library, with a brief break for the bathroom and fresh air around 2:30 PM. Flash corroborated this account, stating she passed by his cabin on the end by the lounge.”

“Yes, thank you, Twilight,” I answered. “Flash, did you see anyone else other than Twilight?”

“Uh, you and Trixie walked by right after she did,” he said, snorting. “You were so busy talking I don’t think you noticed me standing there.”

“Aheheh, sorry,” I said with a sheepish laugh as I shared a look with Trixie, who shrugged. “Anyway, thank you. Come on girls, let’s get moving.”

“Trixie will not apologize for being focused on her conversation,” Trixie said grumpily as we headed for the pharmacy.

“Nor should you,” Adagio said, with a surprisingly supportive smile. Then it switched to a smirk. “Not like you’ve got the brain capacity to do anything else while talking.”

“Hmph!” Trixie puffed up her chest and slapped a hand to it. “You just can’t fathom the depths of focus Trixie’s mind can achieve.”

As we arrived, I checked the pharmacy register, but after searching it for a good few minutes, nothing of value came up. I saw the purchases Pinkie made, but no other illegal drug purchases. I did notice with interest that Rainbow Dash stopped by the pharmacy around 3:00 AM to buy some pain reliever. “I thought the pharmacy was only open overnight on Tuesday,” I said.

Trixie pointed to a sign hanging right outside the doorway that read “Now 24/7!”

“Naturally,” Adagio groaned, slapping a hand to her face.

“Well this was a bust,” I said, frowning. “Let’s head to the library next. We should probably hurry. We’ve been investigating for an hour already; I doubt Monoponi will give us much longer.”

We hurried to the library, making our way quickly to the second floor. The library log was right where we’d left it after the second trial. There were a few more entries, of course, but that wasn’t what I was concerned about this time. I wanted to match the handwriting. So I set the note side by side with the log, and scanned, and scanned. “Wait… there!”

I found a match all right. But not the one I was expecting.

Fact #15: Library Log: “The handwriting of the log entry ‘Daring Do and the Cornerstone of Light: Rainbow Dash X/O’ is a near perfect match for the handwriting of the note found in Pinkie Pie’s wastebasket, apart from being slightly slanted to the right.”

*Updated* Fact #13: Discarded Note: “A handwritten note torn to shreds, found in Pinkie Pie’s wastebasket. The handwriting is messy and heavily slanted to the left. Most of the text was illegible, save for the following words: ‘help me surprise Fluttershy.’ The handwriting near perfectly matches a sample of Rainbow Dash’s handwriting.”

Trixie’s eyes bulged as she looked between the note and the log. “What? Rainbow Dash? B-but that--”

I held up a hand. “I know, but don’t speculate right now. We’ll figure this one out in the trial.”

We made for the access corridor next, swinging by via the fitness center route. Diamond Tiara was still hanging around the weight room. “Hey, Tiara, real quick,” I said, calling her over. “I meant to ask if you saw or heard anything during your watch last night.”

“Uh, not really,” she said, her hands squarely on her hip, an irritated expression plastered on her face. “I saw Pinkie Pie pass by once, around 11:00 PM. She went down the stairwell and into the access corridor. Didn’t see anyone else till Twilight came to take over. Pinkie kept sending her regular check-ins so...”

Fact #16: Diamond Tiara’s Account: “According to Diamond Tiara, she saw nothing and heard nothing during her entire guard shift, save for seeing Pinkie Pie around 11:00 PM, going down the stairwell into the access corridor.”

“Thank you,” I muttered as I quickly jotted that down. “Excuse us.”

We headed behind the front desk and into the access corridor proper. I hadn’t really been in here since we first explored, and for good reason: the place was creepy as hell. Dimly lit and dreary, it took us a while to scan through the place, searching for some kind of clue, somewhere. But we saw nothing, the whole way through until we reached the laundry room. I performed a perfunctory examination, and was startled to discover one of the dryers was full of towels, still warm. I quickly checked the washing machines, and found another bundle sitting damp in a large puddle of pink-stained water. The machine, overfilled, failed to complete its cycle. No way of knowing how long those had been sitting there, though. These weren’t digital machines, but shitty low-budget crank dial ones. I gave the towels a sniff just in case the pink wasn’t blood, but the metallic tang was unmistakable.

Fact #17: Towels: “A bundle of towels were found stuffed in the dryer in the laundry room, still warm. Another bundle was discovered in an overfilled washing machine, soaking in a pool of blood-stained water.”

“Well that’s definitely connected,” Adagio said as she examined the wet towels. “Whoever filled this must’ve been in a hurry.”

“Probably,” I agreed.

“Well, isn’t that everything?” Trixie asked as we left the laundry room. “Trixie isn’t sure there’s much else we can find.”

I paused to gather my thoughts, then snapped my fingers. “I still want to ask Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash about their guard duties. And Rarity and Applejack for that matter. They should all still be at the pool. C’mon.”

“Uuugh, back and forth, back and forth,” Trixie whined as we sped down the access corridor. “Trixie thinks we could’ve picked a more efficient route for this investigation!”

“Oh stop whining,” Adagio retorted, her breathing even and steady despite our quick pace. “It’s good exercise.”

As we returned to the indoor pool, I remembered a detail I learned the other day, during the exploration. I wasn’t sure if it would matter, but I decided to note it down just in case.

Fact #18: Indoor Pool: “The indoor pool is twenty-five yards by thirteen yards, with a depth ranging from one to three yards. The pool uses PHMB instead of chlorine.”

Then I ventured over to Rarity and Applejack, who were sitting by the bleachers, facing away from Pinkie’s bloated body. “Hi, Rarity, Applejack,” I greeted, trying out a small smile. “Sorry to bug you, but do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions real quick?”

Rarity let out a world-weary sigh, then smiled right back, one watery and sorrowful. “Of course, darling. What is it?”

“Two things: I wanted to know where you were after dinner last night, and if you saw or heard anything during your guard patrols this morning.”

Applejack pressed her index finger and thumb to her mouth, her face flushing. “Well, we, uh, we went to the spa together.”

“It was truly divine,” Rarity added, a bit of proper cheerfulness twinkling in her eyes, if only for a moment. “One of the best spa experiences I’ve ever had.”

“Likewise.” Applejack let her hand drop. “Ah think we were there till about nine? Then we went back to our rooms. As for mah guard shift, Ah didn’t see nothin’, but I thought I heard some footsteps down the stairs at one point. Maybe around 7:20 AM? Ah wanted to go check, but Ah figured it was better to stay at mah post.”

“What about you, Rarity?” Adagio inquired. “Did you see or hear anything?”

“Unfortunately, no.” Rarity shook her head, then stopped, blinked, and rubbed at her chin. “Actually, wait. I might’ve seen someone come out of the pharmacy this morning, just after 6:10 AM. But I was on the far side of the promenade, and they went towards the bridge deck, so by the time I reached the pharmacy they were gone. I didn’t think much of it. But other than that, I saw and heard nothing until we started searching for Pinkie.”

Fact #19: Applejack and Rarity’s Account: “According to Applejack and Rarity, they were at the spa most of Wednesday evening following the 6:30 PM meeting, and departed for their cabins at 9:00 PM. During her guard shift, Applejack heard footsteps at the bottom of the stairs around 7:20 AM. Rarity saw someone emerge from the pharmacy at 6:10 AM, unable to tell who it was due to being on the far side of the promenade.”

“Thank you, both of you,” I said, nodding gratefully. “Sorry to bother you.”

As I turned to leave, Rarity set a hand on my shoulder. “Darling, Sunset… if you don’t mind, I’d like to spend a bit of time with you, perhaps tomorrow?”

My jaw fell open for a moment before propriety made me snap it shut. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. Please.” Rarity fixed me with a pleading, needful gaze. “I would very much appreciate it.”

I smiled, feeling some of the tension I’d held in my chest the past few days melt away. “I’d love to, then.”

We parted ways with Applejack and Rarity, making our way over to Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo. “Oh, hey,” Scootaloo waved. “Did you need to check the body again?”

“Actually, I wanted to ask the two of you some questions about your guard shifts last night, if you don’t mind,” I said, smiling sympathetically at poor Rainbow Dash, who was still pale and shaky.

“Uh. Yeah. I can, I can do that,” said the athlete, sitting up just a bit straighter. “Shoot.”

I brought out my notepad. “Rainbow Dash, you went to bed early, before the evening meeting, right?” She nodded. “So when you got up for your guard shift, did you happen to see or hear anything suspicious?”

“Nope!” she said immediately. “Didn’t see a thing. I made sure to look everywhere too. Even saw Twilight a couple of times.” Her eyes briefly widened, and she let out a sheepish laugh. “Oh, uh, I did stop by the pharmacy. I had a really bad headache. Still kinda do. That draining thing Monoponi did was nasty.”

“You didn’t see anything? Not even here, in the pool?” Adagio added, her eyes narrowed into slits.

Rainbow Dash shrugged. “I dunno what to tell you. I came by here, like, three times. I never saw anything.”

Trixie snorted, glaring at me. “Well that can’t be right, can it? Pinkie’s body was floating in the pool all night.”

“We don’t know that yet, Trixie. Hush.” I turned to Scootaloo. “What about you, Scoots?”

“Uuuuh…” Scootaloo scratched the back of her head. “I mean, I saw a lot of you wandering around all over the place during the whole day. I was kinda patrolling during the day, for like eight hours. I don’t think I ever saw anything suspicious.” She blinked, and cocked her head. “Well, wait. Now that I think about it, there was one thing. I saw Diamond Tiara hanging around the cabins on Tuesday, maybe at 3:20 PM? She was just walking back and forth, muttering to herself, something about working up courage. I dunno what for. I know that was the day before yesterday, but it seemed important.”

Fact #20: Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash’s Account: “According to Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash, neither one saw anything suspicious during their entire guard shifts. Rainbow Dash did stop at the pharmacy around 3:30 AM. Scootaloo did, however, see Diamond Tiara walking back and forth by the cabins, muttering to herself about courage, on Tuesday, about 3:20 PM.”

I sighed in annoyance as I wrote that all down. “Thanks. That helps, at--”

DING-DONG BING-BONG

The screens switched on, revealing Monoponi lounging on his chair on the bridge, snifter of brandy in his magic grip. “Ah, time sure flies when you’re having fun investigating, doesn’t it?” He took a sip of his brandy. “But all good things must come to an end. You know where to go. See you there, my lovely passengers!” With a burst of static the screens turned off.

“Well, guess that’s all we’re going to get,” Adagio grumbled. “I hope it was enough.”

“It’s enough to have a picture of some things, I think,” I said as I glanced briefly at the evidence. “I still don’t know who did what, though. Or if there’s even two blackeneds.”

“Trixie isn’t convinced there is,” Trixie said as we started walking towards the promenade. “Trixie is willing to bet there’s only one and they’re trying to fool us into thinking there’s two.”

“Ah’m with Trixie on this one,” Applejack said as she and Rarity walked beside us. Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash lagged not far behind. “Ah can’t see it being any other way.”

“Well we shouldn’t assume anything,” Rarity pointed out, with an unhappy sigh. “We’ve been wrong before.”

“Mmhmm.”

Soon, we were all gathered at the food court, waiting before the elevator to the courtroom. All ten of us. There should be twelve of us here. Actually, scratch that. Sixteen. We never should’ve had a murder to begin with, let alone four. But Monoponi won’t let us be, will he?

Speaking of whom, he flashed into existence, settling down on all four hooves before us and taking a bow. “Well, well, here we are again, my lovely passengers. Once more unto the breach, once more we descend into the bowels of the ship, to see which one of you idiots decided they’re too important to stick around this time. Or, in this case, which two of you. Maybe. Who knows? I do, but I won’t tell! It’s up to you to figure it out!”

Rainbow Dash, despite her pallid, sickly condition, took several steps forward, her whole body quivering with rage. “Oh you’d better believe we’re gonna figure it out!” she yelled. “Fluttershy was my best friend!” A few tears drizzled down her cheeks as she spoke, the fire inside her snuffed out. “She was my best friend… and you killed her, you monster.”

“Oh, believe you me, Rainbow Dash, I’m just as mad about it as you are!” Monoponi said, throwing up his forehooves in disgust. “I still can’t believe one of you little shits managed to trick me. Me! I’m not supposed to be a murder weapon. I’m only supposed to dispense justice to the filthy murderers wandering about this ship.”

“Fuck you,” Rainbow Dash cursed under her breath as she turned away from him, not willing to risk his wrath.

“We can’t forget about Pinkie Pie, either,” Scootaloo said, slamming her fist into her open palm. “I don’t know who killed her or why, but she didn’t deserve to suffer the way she did. This is for her as much as it’s for Fluttershy.”

“Certainly,” Rarity seconded, a look of dark fury casting a shadow over her features. “Pinkie Pie, whatever her faults, was a blessing on this earth. To steal her life away for your own selfish desires… I won’t forgive it!”

“Ahem!” Monoponi cleared his throat, silencing the crowd. “If you’ve all pontificated enough? We should get things underway. Va-va-valuse!” A blaze of crimson light surrounded his horn and lanced out to pierce the oversized lock on the trial doors, disintegrating it in a burst of sparkles and light. The gates swung open, the hinges screeching in protest. With one last bow and a gesture to proceed, Monoponi vanished.

Once again, we boarded the elevator. And once again, my thoughts turned to the case at hand.

Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie. Two victims. One cut down unfairly for a crime she didn’t truly commit. The other, torn apart by her own drug abuse, slain in a way we’d yet to uncover. Were these murders connected? Or were they separate?

Were they both the victim of the same crazed killer, cleaning up after their own mess? Did two separate people take their lives, for different reasons?

Whether there were two killers, or just one, why these two? Why Fluttershy? Why Pinkie Pie? Both were the most innocent souls aboard this ship. Neither one would’ve ever hurt another. They were no threat. There was no danger from them.

They deserved to live. They deserved to survive. Their loss would haunt me to the rest of my days.

It was up to me to avenge them. To find their killer or killers. Twice now I’ve done it. Twice now I’ve cracked these cases. Twice now I’ve saved our lives. And I’ll do it again.

I will save our lives in this trial of life and death!

Author's Note:

All the clues you need are here and in prior narration. I wish you all the best of luck with your guesses. Don't forget to spoiler tag them. :twilightsmile:

Next time: we start the trial. This one's going to be quite interesting.

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