• 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 8

Chapter Three:

A Maelstrom of Murder

Trial Part 3

We were still here, knee-deep in the trial for Pinkie and Fluttershy. We’d been here for hours, but we’d found one of our two blackeneds: Twilight Sparkle. In some ways, it was disheartening for me, to realize she was the one behind it. I’d been so convinced that the note-writer was a monster, I hadn’t stopped to consider the possibility it had all been some sort of tragic accident, without any intent to kill at all.

But that was irrelevant now. She was guilty. We’d determined it, and she would face justice for her crime. We still didn’t know what form that’d take, but we weren’t going to find out by sitting around, nor did I have time to worry about it. I could cope with any consequences later.

We still had another blackened to find, after all.

“So where do we go from here, Sunset?” Flash asked me as he rubbed his chin. There was a haunted look to his eyes, as every so often he kept briefly glancing Twilight’s way. “Should we start with who could’ve lifted the dumbbell?”

“Yes,” I nodded. “Rarity, yourself, Rainbow Dash, Adagio, and Applejack. We need to figure out where you all were during the time of the murder. We know it happened sometime after 11:45 and before 12:15, when the fake picture was taken.” I checked my Monopad and brought up a relevant piece of information.

Fact #7: Guard Schedule: “
10:00 PM Diamond Tiara S/Pinkie Pie P
-----Midnight---
2:00 AM Twilight Sparkle S/Rainbow Dash P”

“So that means it happened during Pinkie Pie and Diamond Tiara’s shift, and before Twilight and Rainbow Dash’s.”

“Well, I’ll start with me, then,” Flash said, dropping his hand. He gestured to Twilight, without looking her way. “I was asleep in Twilight’s cabin. She woke me up when she left, and again when she came back, but I never left.”

Twilight nodded. “That’s right,” she said, one hand going to stroke her hair. “Flash was there the whole time.”

Rainbow Dash snorted, leaning forward and casually flipping Twilight off. “Yeah, like we can really trust your word.”

“Ah can’t say Ah disagree with the sentiment, Dash,” Applejack said, glaring at the researcher, “but Twilight’s got no reason to lie about this. It ain’t gonna accomplish anythin’ for her.”

Rarity glowered at the farmer. “As much as I’d hate to agree with anything this ruffian has to say… she’s right. If we fail to find the second blackened, Twilight would be executed along with the rest of us.”

“Fine, fine, jeez,” Rainbow Dash said, waving a hand dismissively.

“Rarity, Applejack, you both said earlier you were in your cabins after 9:00 PM, and didn’t leave until your shifts started the next morning, is that correct?” I asked.

Applejack glared at me for a moment, before letting her ire subside. “Yeah, Ah’d say so. Though Ah guess some of the proof for that ain’t any good now.”

Rarity, with a sigh, nodded her assent. “Indeed. Without being able to trust Pinkie Pie’s texts, there’s a period of time where either of us could’ve left our cabins unseen.”

“Okay,” I answered, then turned to Rainbow Dash. “What about you?”

Rainbow shrugged, not meeting my gaze. “I was asleep till like, 1:30, got something to eat, then started my shift.”

“Hmm, okay. Adagio?”

Arching an eyebrow at me, her mouth flat, she replied in a voice equally flat, “I was sleeping in my cabin, remember?”

A small smile briefly crossed my face. “I know. I just wanted it down for the record.” The smile vanished. “Okay, so of the five people who could’ve used the dumbbell, only one person’s location is accounted for during the estimated time of death. The other four were all alone, unless someone saw any of them walking around last night.”

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.”

Diamond Tiara looked up from her Monopad, gesturing to the central display. “Like I told you, all I ever saw or heard was Pinkie going downstairs around 11:00 PM.”

“Can you narrow that timeframe, darling?” Rarity inquired, a thoughtful expression clouding her face. “Was it before or after?”

Tiara thought for a moment, staring at the ceiling. “Uuuh, after, I think? I know she sent a check-in text… let me see…” She peered down at her Monopad, then nodded. “Yeah, she sent a text saying she’d be coming by, and then showed up like five minutes later. So 11:05.”

“Hmm… interesting,” Rarity commented. “Because we think she must’ve died by around 11:45, right? So she died at least forty minutes after she went downstairs.”

“That access corridor ain’t exactly short,” Applejack said sullenly. “Unless you’re runnin’ through it, it takes a good ten minutes at least to walk from there to the fitness center.”

Diamond Tiara shook her head. “She wasn’t running. That’s loud enough that it echoes up through the stairwell. She was walking.”

“Hey, Tiara,” Scootaloo asked, holding up a finger. “D’you remember what she looked like when she passed by you? Like, did she seem worried or anything?”

Scoffing in irritation, Tiara took another couple moments to think. “I guess?” she shrugged. “She seemed nervous about something. But she was high as hell, so who knows if that means anything?”

“Pinkie reached the fitness center at 11:15 at the earlier,” Twilight stated, frowning in concentration. “The earliest she died was 11:45...assuming that was a real text.”

“I think it’s safe to say it was,” I said, holding up Pinkie’s Monopad. “You can check for yourself, but it was the last one that was unique. Every text after it was a copy.”

Trixie reached under her hat to scratch at the back of her head. “Trixie isn’t sure how much sense that makes though. If Pinkie sent a text at 11:45, Pinkie thought she was safe, right?”

“Right,” I replied. “So that means she died after that text, but before the picture that was taken at 12:15. That doesn’t leave much time for the culprit to kill her and then set up the crime scene for the photo.”

“We still haven’t figured out the cause of death,” Adagio pointed out while glaring at her Monopad. “And we haven’t explained her hand wounds either.”

“Well, it’s gotta be the dumbbell, right?” Rainbow Dash said, holding up both hands. “I mean, what else could it be?”

What else indeed? I examined the Monoponi file again, in case I’d missed something, then shook my head. “I dunno, Dash, I feel like if that was the case, the Monoponi file would just say so. But it doesn’t.”

“And like with a certain someone’s copying of another person’s handwriting,” Scootaloo added, glaring fiercely at Twilight, “it wouldn’t be the first time someone faked a cause of death after the person was already dead.”

“We also haven’t explained the rashes,” Twilight said, visibly wilting under Scootaloo’s glare. “There has to be a reason her skin is all dried out and red. We already know it wasn’t chlorine, nor the PHMB.” She frowned, rubbing her chin. “Now that I think about it, I wonder if she was severely dehydrated. The skin condition bears a remarkable resemblance to what you’d see in a heat stroke victim.”

Applejack fussed with her hat, then looked up at me. “Sunset, can you think of anythin’ in the fitness center that’d cause heat stroke?”

I shared a quick look with Adagio, then nodded. “Yeah. The sauna.”

~*~
The other, past a steel door, was a smaller wooden-paneled room lined with benches. The general dry, heated atmosphere confirmed this was the promised sauna. Interestingly, instead of steam vents, there were long glowing red rods in the walls visible between the gaps in the planks. Must be infrared, then. There was a temperature gauge set in the wall just outside the sauna door, albeit marked with a warning of “Do not adjust without crew consent.” The gauge contained a simple half circle marked in blue, green, yellow, and red, with smaller temperature numbers. Right now, the marker was set firmly in the green, at approximately one hundred twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit, but the gauge ran in a range from eighty-five degrees at the lowest in the blue all the way up to three hundred in the red.
~*~

“It has a heat setting that goes up ridiculously high, all the way to three hundred.”

“Three hundred?” Twilight raised both eyebrows. “That’d be enough to cause heat stroke within minutes, especially if you were sealed in the room.”

“Do you think it’d be enough to kill someone?” Scootaloo asked, wincing at the thought.

Twilight nodded. “Definitely. It wouldn’t be immediate, but if someone passed out from heatstroke, it wouldn’t take that much more to kill them. Especially if they’re already dehydrated, or close to it. Pinkie Pie was on multiple opioid drugs. All of those can dehydrate you. She was probably more vulnerable than most of us.”

“Woah, hang on a minute,” Rainbow Dash, waving her hands for attention. “This is all, what’s the word?”

“Conjecture?” Twilight suggested.

“Yeah, that. Conjecture. We don’t know if she was in the sauna.” Rainbow scoffed. “I mean come on, she’d have to stay in the sauna for long enough. It’s not like it’s got a locked door.”

She’s right. Unless… “What if someone held the door closed? Or shut it in a way that’d make it difficult to open from the inside?”

Her face twisted up in derision, Rainbow replied, “What, like they slammed it in her face? Why would someone do that?”

Diamond Tiara groaned, slapping a hand to her face. “To kill her, obviously. Why else would someone do it?”

“I dunno!” Rainbow shouted, throwing up her hands. “Who knows? We don’t.”

Rainbow Dash, your denial of this is becoming a little bit suspicious. “Actually, I think we do know, Rainbow.”

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.”

Something made these dents in the door. And something damaged the handle. I think it might’ve been Pinkie Pie.” I shivered all over as I contemplated it. “She was stuck inside, in three hundred degree heat, cooking to death like a rotisserie chicken. She’d do anything to try to get out of there, including smashing her fists so hard she…”

“She breaks the fifth metacarpal,” Twilight finished for me, a grossed out look on her face. “Classic boxer’s fracture. It’s the most common type of hand injury sustained by people who punch things. Including doors.”

“Uuugh,” Rarity whimpered, her whole body shaking. “That poor darling. She must have passed out from the heat, then by the time the culprit opened the door again…”

“She was dead,” Applejack said. She whipped off her hat and held it to her breast. “Mah goodness, Ah can’t imagine how painful that must’ve been.”

“Pinkie Pie baked up like a pie,” Tiara said, her lips quivering. She snorted, then snickered, then let out a small laugh. “I’m sorry, I know it’s not funny, but--”

Applejack cut her off with a fierce scowl. “Tiara, if you ain’t got nothin’ useful to say, do us all a favor and shut your mouth.”

“Tch,” Diamond Tiara hissed, her upper lip curling to reveal her teeth as she huffed.

Adagio snerked at Diamond Tiara, then turned to the rest of us, asking, “But how did she get into the sauna? Why was she there in the first place?”

“Did the culprit force her in there?” Scootaloo wondered, holding her chin on her hand. “Was she knocked unconscious or something?”

Flash arched an eyebrow at the younger woman. “I don’t think so, Scoots. If she’d been knocked unconscious, she never would’ve woken up. The heat would’ve killed her before she could struggle.”

“Which says to me,” I continued, “that she went in there willingly. It might be related to the reason she went into the fitness center to begin with.”

Smashing an open palm on her podium, Rainbow Dash thrust out a finger at me and shouted, “That makes no sense and you know it, Shimmer!”

Whoo boy. Here we go. Accepting the challenge, I stood up straight and said, “Okay, why not?”

Dropping her finger to hold her hand to her hip, Dash answered, “Uh, because that’d be stupid, duh? Someone was trying to kill her, so she ran into the sauna? No way Pinkie would be stupid enough to hide in a place like that.”

Nice try, Dash, but I see through your attempt to reframe things. “I never said she was running from someone. I said she went in there willingly. Based off the injuries she sustained, it’s likely that she had no idea her life was in danger until after she went into the sauna.”

Rainbow squinted at me, scoffing in disbelief. “What? No way. I thought we decided she was hit with the dumbbell first.”

“But that’s not possible,” I pointed out. “If the dumbbell had hit her first, it would’ve killed her. But she had to be alive to cause the injuries she sustained to her hands and the damage to the sauna door. And if she’d been killed before being placed into the sauna, there’d be blood on the floor, drag marks showing her body was moved from the weight room, something the culprit would’ve missed. But there wasn’t anything.”

“You can’t know that!” Rainbow objected, sweeping out an arm in protest. “M-maybe the culprit was really good at cleaning things up!”

Now she’s really grasping at straws. “Even the best cleaners can miss something. The only reason we know which dumbbell was used was because the culprit missed a spot of blood on it. Then there’s the blood on the sauna door, which the culprit also missed. That blood’s the only reason we know she was in the sauna to begin with. If the culprit was that good at cleanup, they would’ve taken care of that.”

“Uugh!” Rainbow groaned, slapping a hand to her face. “Come on, Sunset, just think about it for a second. There’s no reason Pinkie Pie would ever go willingly talk to someone who was gonna kill her. That just doesn’t make sense!”

I’ll rip your argument to pieces!” I declared, calling up some evidence.

Fact #12: Diary: “The last entry in the diary reads: “Thank you Sunny. I’ll do what needs to be done.”

“We already talked about this earlier, Dash. Pinkie wrote in her diary saying she’d do what needs to be done, and thanked me. There’s only one possible thing she could be referring to when she said that. She was following my advice.” My gaze bore into the athlete like a cockatrice, petrifying her into submission. “My advice to speak to the one who told her it was ‘okay to do something bad.’ And there’s only one possible bad thing she could’ve been talking about. Fluttershy’s death.”

I intensified my gaze, causing Rainbow to shake and shudder in fright, pale faced and sweaty. “Which means, from the context we have from the note, there’s only one person she could’ve been seeking out.” I raised a finger and pointed it at Rainbow Dash. “Rainbow Dash, you’re the only one!

“Aaah!” Rainbow Dash yelped, shaking worse than her best friend ever had, sweat pouring down her face, so pale I was a little afraid she’d pass out. “N-no, no, no way!” she rose her hands up, laughing nervously. “W-why would she want to t-talk to me?”

“I don’t think we need to explain this one again,” Twilight said, glaring over her glasses at Rainbow Dash, “but if you insist: I faked your handwriting with my note, remember? And, since I’ve admitted I wrote it, I can tell you all that I signed it too, as Rainbow Dash.”

Trixie thrust out an arm so her cape could billow. “Then the one who killed Pinkie Pie must have been Rainbow Dash! Trixie sees no other possibility!”

Rainbow Dash stood up straight, anger overtaking her fear. “Oh yeah?! Bullshit! Did we forget about the hair on the scene, huh? Applejack and Rarity’s hair were there!”

“Nice try, but no,” I chuckled. “There was only one hair from Rarity at the scene, and given how much she’s exercised in the fitness center, you could have easily found one to plant. As for the yellow hairs…” I deliberately fingered my hair, bringing it forth. “Applejack’s not the only one with yellow in their hair. I’ve got it. Adagio’s got a little bit of it. But you know who else does? You.”

Shaking her head vigorously, Rainbow tucked her long hair down the back of her shirt, as if she was trying to hide it. “T-t-that doesn’t m-mean anything! You don’t know it was my hair!”

“True,” I admitted, “but we don’t know it wasn’t either. Which means the hair is insufficient proof either way, and can be dismissed.”

Rainbow Dash’s breathing sped up, rapid and shallow. “Huh?” she said as she pulled at her shirt, fanning herself. “B-but, what about the dumbbell? D-didn’t we say that the killer hit Pinkie with it while standing still?” Her mouth twitched and quivered between horrified and open and anxious false smiles. “H-how were they supposed to do that without getting blood all over them?”

Scootaloo, her expression haunted and glum, slowly scrolled through her Monopad. “Even I can figure that one out, Dash,” she said sadly.

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.”

“Right there,” she added, pointing. “The blood soaked towels. There’s so many towels in the fitness center, you could’ve easily held some up and used it as cover from the blood. Then you used them to clean off any other blood on you and the dumbbell, and dumped them in the wash.”

Rainbow whirled on the younger woman, her eyes blazing with rage. “Oh fuck off, Scootaloo, there’s no way that’s related to anything! You don’t know when they put the towels in! The other towels were warm, remember? It says it right there! How do you know they weren’t put in at the same time as the others?”

“Because whoever filled it was in a hurry,” I said, drawing Rainbow’s rage. “In order for the other towels to be warm, it means whoever put them there did so in the morning. But Pinkie Pie died last night. The only blood we’ve seen anywhere came from her. Therefore the only time those towels could’ve been put in for washing was last night, when the killer, that is, you, were trying to clean up the scene.”

“No!” Rainbow Dash kicked her podium twice, first with her left foot, then the right, almost digging out a hole in the wood. “I didn’t kill Pinkie Pie, damn it! I didn’t have a reason to.”

“Oh really?” I said, the confidence in my voice freezing Rainbow Dash in place. “Because I think you have a pretty damned obvious reason to kill her.”

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.”

“You wanted revenge. She came to you, asking for forgiveness, admitting her misdeed, and you became so furious you killed her for it.”

“No,” Rainbow whispered, all her rage and fury melting away, replaced by cold fear. “No, no, that’s not true, I didn’t. I wouldn’t.”

“Ah’d say you did,” Applejack spoke up. The farmer had kept silent throughout this exchange, watching the back and forth while keeping a keen eye on Rainbow Dash. “And to be honest? Ah’m not sure Ah can blame yah.” She fired off a nasty glare Rarity’s way. “If Sweetie Belle had come to me durin’ the investigation for mah sister? Ah probably woulda killed her mahself. Y’all remember my threat to do just that before we went into the second trial. Ah wasn’t kiddin’. Ah really would’ve done it if we’d voted wrong.”

Rarity squeezed her eyes shut, tears dripping down her cheeks, her fists held firmly at her sides. “I suppose,” she admitted through gritted teeth, “if our positions were reversed, I might’ve done the same. I loved my sister dearly. Anyone who’d dare harm even the slightest hair on her head would’ve had to answer to me.

I briefly glanced at Monoponi, but the alicorn did naught but silently giggle while watching the proceedings. “See, Rainbow?” I said as I returned my attention to the athlete. “It makes sense. You didn’t mean to kill her, anymore than Twilight meant for Fluttershy to die. But you killed her all the same, because you were too angry to think clearly.”

“No, no!” Rainbow Dash grabbed both sides of her head, leaning back while tears streamed from her face. “No, I didn’t! I didn’t do it! I didn’t kill Pinkie Pie, damn it.” She doubled over, sobbing louder than I’d ever heard her cry before. “I wouldn’t kill Pinkie Pie. I wouldn’t.”

“Rainbow Dash,” Twilight said.

Rainbow shot to her feet, a chaotic mixture of emotions whirling across her features. “Huh?”

Twilight smiled softly at her. “I know how you feel right now. I didn’t want to admit I was responsible for Fluttershy’s death either. I was so convinced it had to be some sort of trick, some kind of trap, that I lost myself in denial.” She shook her head, her smile switching for a concerned frown. “Don’t do that to yourself, Rainbow. It’s not worth it, lying to yourself like that. Trust me.” She sighed, closing her eyes and bowing her head. “You’ll feel much better when you do. It’s like a weight lifting from your shoulders, a weight that feels as heavy as the entire planet.”

She opened her eyes and met Rainbow’s gaze again. “I know you’re scared right now. I’m terrified. We don’t know what Monoponi will do to us. Maybe he’ll only kill one of us. Maybe both. I don’t know. But I know this: if I die, because of what I’ve done? I can accept it, as penance. I’ve made peace with it. The only one you’re hurting right now by denying it is yourself.”

Rainbow slumped to the floor, on her hands and knees. “Damn it,” she wept, her tears staining the carpet. She beat her fists on the floor like a spoiled child. “Daaaamn it!” After a couple of moments of exhausted crying, Rainbow struggled back up to her feet. “Fine. Fine!” She glared at me, but there was no strength to it, no real anger. Just plain, simple resignation. “I… I did it. I killed Pinkie Pie.”

“Trixie knew it,” Trixie grumbled under her breath.

“Rainbow, what were you doing in the fitness center last night, anyway?” I wondered.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Rainbow admitted. “I kept having nightmares about Fluttershy, the way she twitched when the bullets…” she hissed, cutting herself off. It took her a moment before she could continue. “So I was trying to exercise, when all of a sudden I got a text from Pinkie Pie asking where I was. I dunno why I bothered answering her.”

Blinking in confusion, I quickly turned Pinkie’s Monopad back on and scanned through her texts. “I don’t see it here.”

“I deleted it,” Rainbow said, with an unhappy shrug. “Trying to cover my tracks, you know? Anyway, she showed up after a while. Didn’t say anything for the longest time, just exercised with me. Like she was trying to work up the courage. Then I went to relax in the sauna, and she followed me. That’s when she started talking. I just wanted her to shut up, but she kept babbling about Fluttershy, about how sorry she was that Fluttershy died. I finally told her to shut up, because she was pissing me off. And that’s when she said it. She said she was the one who gave Fluttershy the ring.”

“Was that when you killed her?” Flash asked, his face curiously neutral.

“No,” Rainbow shook her head. “I mean, I was pissed as hell, but that wasn’t enough. I asked her why, why did she do it. And you know what she did? She blamed me. She said it was my fault! She wanted to know why I told her it was okay to give Fluttershy that ring. And I had no idea what she was talking about.” Rainbow grit her teeth. “Not that I cared. After she blamed me, I was so mad, so pissed off, I left the sauna, slammed the door shut, and turned up the heat to max. I, I wasn’t trying to kill her, not really. I was just pissed, you know?”

“Then what happened?” Twilight prodded, her expression pensive.

“I left,” Rainbow said simply with a shrug. “I went into the locker room. I don’t remember much of what happened next. I think I might’ve punched a few things? I was just so mad.” She sighed, lowering her gaze to the floor. “And then after a while I realized how stupid I was. I went back to the sauna and turned down the heat, but…”

“But it was too late. She was dead,” I said.

“Yeah,” Rainbow nodded sorrowfully. “I panicked. I knew there’d be a trial. I knew I’d probably get executed, knowing how smart you are, Sunset.” Fresh tears ran down her face. “So I tried to hide it. I took that fake picture, I smashed her head in with the dumbbell, I planted the hair, and I even dumped her body in the pool and weighed it down with those free weights. And I dumped the towels, just like you said, Sunset.” Her voice hitched as she let out a small laugh. “Guess I didn’t do a good enough job.”

"Question," Flash said. "How did you get Pinkie to hold the weight? She wasn't strong enough even if she was alive when you took it."

"I... tied the jump rope around her wrist," Rainbow admitted, casting her eyes away from her fellow blackened. "Just like Sunset said I did. I used it to prop her up too, by tying the other end to one of the weight machines. I framed the picture so you couldn't see the rope in the silhouette. Then I reused the jump rope when I sank her body into the pool."

"I have one too, though Sunset might have to answer it," Twilight said. She glanced at both myself and Rainbow before continuing. "Why didn't Rainbow's magic trigger when Pinkie told her about Fluttershy? If it triggered because of anger, then--"

"Because I didn't want to kill Pinkie!" shouted Rainbow Dash, her features etched with shame. "I was mad, yeah, but...it wasn't enough."

"Of course!" Twilight said, snapping her fingers and pointing at her. "So when Monoponi announced that Fluttershy was a victim, you were so much more mad because you killed someone whom you thought was going to be the blackened."

Rainbow nodded. "Uh huh. I was soooo ready to tear Monoponi in half when I heard that. I was gonna die for killing someone that was gonna die anyway. It felt so pointless I was more pissed than I've ever been in my life."

"Emotions are one way to summon strong magic," I said in agreement. "It's usually highly unstable, and prone to disastrous unintended side effects."

Tiara snickered. "So it's like she went Super--"

"No," I said flatly. "No it's not. At all."

“Well, Ah guess that settles things,” Applejack said, shaking her head. “Dunno why you tried to pin things on me.”

“The motive,” Rainbow answered, gesturing with her right hand. “I kinda figured everyone would think you’d take Rarity with you as your plus one, especially with that picture I found.”

“Oh, so you’re the one who found it, then?” Adagio asked, frowning.

Rainbow Dash nodded as she ran a hand down one of her arms. “Yeah, I found it yesterday morning, like maybe around 11:30? I was just wandering around the access corridor, trying to clear my head, and I saw it on the ground. I didn’t know what to think of it, so I just shoved it in my pocket and forgot about it till I had to cover up Pinkie’s death.” She frowned deeply. “Still don’t get how it ended up in that locker though.”

Diamond Tiara snorted. “Oh who cares anymore? You admitted it. Twilight admitted it. I think we’re done here.”

“Thank heavens this is over,” Rarity said, falling onto her podium. “I’m so exhausted I can barely think.”

“For real, it’s after 3:00 o’clock,” Scootaloo seconded, head bowing from exhaustion. “I’m hungry as a horse. I wanna eat something and then sleep.”

Trixie tried to gesture with her cape, but her pose was weak and stilted. “Trixie agrees with that. Trixie is starving.

Flash sighed, glaring at the floor. “Then let’s just vote already.”

“Definitely,” Adagio agreed, stretching out her back till it popped. “Ugh, I’m sick of standing here.”

“Ah gotta agree. It’s time to vote.”

“Oho? Ohoho? Did I hear someone call for voting time?” Monoponi spoke up, eagerly hopping to his hooves. He held up one to his mouth. “Upupu, are you sure?”

Wait. Why is he saying that? Something doesn’t feel right. I glanced back down at my Monopad, spotted something, and gasped in horror. No. No way.

“Yes, damn it,” Rainbow Dash answered, hanging her head. “Let’s just get this over with.”

Monoponi giggled. “Well, if you’re absolutely certain it’s time, then get ready to use the--”

“Wait!” I cried, my hand shooting up and waving frantically. “Wait! We can’t vote yet!”

Cries and moans of frustration and exhaustion rose up from my fellow passengers. “What the hell, Sunset?” Tiara griped, her hands squarely on her hips despite the bags under her half-lidded eyes. “Why not? Twilight did it. Rainbow did it. They both admitted it! What’s the hold up?”

“Yeah, seriously, Sunset,” Scootaloo whined. “We’ve been here for hours.

“Oh please, Sunset, do not test my patience further!” Rarity complained, smacking her podium lightly with her knuckles. “I can only stand so much.”

“Trixie is so hungry, Sunset,” Trixie moaned, rubbing her belly. “She doesn’t want to stand here anymore.”

Twilight arched an eyebrow at me, but unlike the others, she didn’t protest. Instead, she held up a hand questioningly. “You’ve spotted something, haven’t you? Something we missed.”

“Missed?” Adagio snorted, casually flipping the researcher off with one hand. “We didn’t miss a thing.”

“Actually, there is one question I still have,” I said, turning to face Rainbow Dash. “And it’s a pretty big one.” I cued up a piece of evidence.

Fact #3: Body Condition: “There is a large puncture wound on the body’s chest, right above the left breast.”

I made sure to highlight only the relevant line this time. “Rainbow Dash, did you cause this?”

Rainbow blinked owlishly, rubbing the side of her head. “No. No, I didn’t. I don’t know what would’ve caused that.”

Alright. I’m onto something, then. “Did you dive into the pool this morning and remove the free weights?” I asked.

“No way!” Rainbow protested, sweeping out one hand. “Why would I do that? I dumped her body as part of my cover up. Like Applejack said earlier, even if I was gonna take the weights off her, I’d have left them in the pool.”

Bingo. “And you didn’t put the picture and her Monopad in the locker either?” I pressed.

With a simple shake of her head and a confused shrug, Rainbow answered, “No, I didn’t. I have no idea how they got there. I left them in the weight room.”

“What in tarnation are you goin’ on about now, Sunset?” Applejack demanded, leaning forward with a sullen look on her face.

Okay. Here goes nothing. I sure hope I’m not wrong about this. “I think,” I answered, “it just might be possible that Rainbow Dash is innocent, after all.”

“What?!”

“No way!”

“I don’t believe it!”

“This is absurd!”

“Sunset Shimmer, for fuck’s sake,” Adagio shouted, cutting through the chatter as she slammed her fist on her podium. “She already admitted she did it! Why are you wasting our time now?”

“Because I refuse to vote until I’m certain, Adagio!” I retorted. “And I’m not sure anymore that Rainbow did it!”

“What?!” Rainbow Dash gaped at me, slack-jawed and eyes agog. “B-b-but you just spent like an hour going after me, proving I did it! I even said so! Why would you back away from that now?”

“Please don’t say we’re falling into the culprit’s trap,” Scootaloo begged, crossing her fingers on both hands. “Please don’t say we’re falling into their trap.”

Sorry, Scootaloo. “Because we’re falling right into the true culprit’s trap.”

“God damn it!”

Twilight clapped her hands together for attention. “Sunset, what exactly are you suggesting is the real cause of death, then? Are you saying the heat didn’t kill Pinkie?”

I nodded. “Yes, exactly. I’d be willing to bet it knocked her out, but I don’t think it actually killed her. I think that can be blamed on something else.” I called up the relevant evidence.

Fact #2: Monoponi File IIIb: “Signs of opioids were discovered in the victim’s blood.”

“When I first saw that in the Monoponi file, I assumed it was just from the drugs she was using. That it was a red herring. I already figured she was on something when I spoke to her last night. And we confirmed she was using three different drugs, during the investigation.”

“Aaand? Trixie doesn’t see why that would be any different now,” Trixie grumbled.

“Because now I’m wondering,” I continued, “if it wasn’t a red herring after all. If it was actually a vital clue. Rainbow Dash, you walked away for a while, remember? And we all know the sauna door didn’t have a lock. Did you struggle to open it, when you went back?”

Rainbow Dash gasped, dawning comprehension on her face. “No. No, I didn’t. It opened easily, like it always does.”

“So what kept Pinkie from leaving the sauna?” I asked.

Silence fell upon the courtroom as everyone stood there, stunned. No one answered me for a good few minutes, until Rarity finally said, “Darling, are you saying there was someone else present?”

“Exactly,” I nodded. “I’m saying that the real culprit was there all along. When Rainbow Dash left, they went up to the sauna door and held it shut, preventing Pinkie from escaping. The sauna door has a glass window, letting you see inside, so the culprit would’ve been able to see exactly when Pinkie lost consciousness. I’ll bet they assumed she died, and went to check. When they discovered she was still alive, they had to improvise. And Pinkie had the perfect weapon on her person.”

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.”

“She had syringes of all three drugs, ready to go. I know she carried them around, because she used at least one right in front of me. That puncture wound is right above her heart. If you stabbed all three needles in and injected their entire contents all at once?”

“You’d cause a fatal heart attack,” Twilight said, nodding. “And it’d be quick too, because heat stroke already causes major heart palpitations. And any evidence that she died of a heart attack would’ve been erased thanks to Rainbow Dash’s coverup.”

I placed a hand to my chin. “Right. The funny thing is, I almost didn’t catch this during the investigation, because someone kept rushing me along.”

Adagio hissed at me, baring her teeth. “Don’t blame this on me. I was worried about Rainbow’s magic, remember?”

“Really?” Trixie spoke up, glaring at the siren. “Because Trixie thinks that sounds like a convenient excuse. Too convenient.”

“Adagio was alone all night, wasn’t she?” Rarity said, also casting a furious glare her way. “There was nothing stopping her from laying in wait.”

The siren’s hands rose, curled up like claws. “Shut up!” she barked.

“Wait a minute, wait,” Flash protested with a wave of his hands. “How did this other culprit know what was going to happen between Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie?”

“I doubt they did,” I said before anyone else could answer. “I don’t think this was planned on their part at all. I think they happened to be on the scene by coincidence, spotted an opportunity, and took it, expecting Rainbow Dash to take the fall. It was a crime of convenience.”

Applejack let out a fiery snort as she drummed her fingertips on her podium. “Ah doubt that. There ain’t anywhere for them to hide. That sauna corridor ain’t exactly big. They’d stand out like a sore thumb.”

Diamond Tiara slapped a hand to her face. “Yes there is, Applejack,” she groused, ignoring the look of hatred the farmer shot her way. “Right across from the sauna, there’s a hot tub. It’s dark, so dark you can barely see what’s inside. If someone was sitting in the hot tub, nobody would’ve spotted them.”

“But they’d have a perfect view of what was going on, thanks to the glass door,” I added.

Rainbow Dash smacked a fist on her open palm. “That’s it! That must be why they moved the body and put the free weights back! A-and why they put the picture and the Monopad into the locker! They were trying to make it easier to figure me out!” A great big smile split her mouth from ear to ear. “Then I didn’t do it after all! I didn’t kill Pinkie Pie!”

“Wait!” Adagio shouted, clamoring for attention. “Sunset, this is stupid. Don’t you remember? We counted the number of syringes in each case of drugs Pinkie had in her room. There were four in each one. None were missing! In fact, one of each of them was full!”

“Oh, I have an explanation for that one,” I said.

Fact #19: Applejack and Rarity’s Account: “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.”

“Monoponi, correct me if I’m wrong, but swapping the contents of a case doesn’t count as stealing, does it?” I asked, looking up at him.

“Mmm…” Monoponi leaned back, holding a forehoof under his chin. “It’s iffy,” he admitted. “Because they’re still taking something from the shop. Buuuut since I already allowed one bent rule for this trial, I figured, why not bend a second one? I don’t want to stifle your creativity, upupupu!" Then he glared viciously at us all. "But this is the last time! No more bending rules after this trial! It was bad enough I bent one after trying to enforce them..."

“There you go,” I said, turning back to Adagio. “Rarity saw someone go into the pharmacy early this morning. I’ll bet they swapped the empty syringes with full ones from the cases in the shop, then went and planted the full ones back amongst Pinkie’s own cases of drugs.

“And we already determined earlier that the sound Ah heard downstairs was someone stuffin’ towels into the dryer,” Applejack nodded, with a glare my way. “Ah think that conclusion is still sound, especially since we can explain now why someone would move the body.”

Adagio’s whole body quivered with fury as she glowered at me with the full force of her predatory cold heart. “Sunset, don’t you dare accuse me of this,” she growled, all traces of her usual sensual voice gone, replaced by a lizard-like guttural sound. “I didn’t kill Pinkie Pie anymore than you did.”

My heart leapt for my throat, my stomach churning. But I refused to back down. “I don’t want to accuse you, Adagio,” I said quietly, “but it’s not looking good. You’re strong enough to move the weights. You had plenty of time by yourself. You knew Pinkie Pie was using drugs. You kept pushing me through the investigation and the trial. And… you have a motive. The plus-one.”

“You!” Adagio hissed, but not like her usual hiss. This one sounded like it was ripped from the throat of a seaborne lizard, nothing like what a human throat could produce. “I can’t believe you’d betray me like this!” She reached into her pocket, and pulled out an all-too-familiar knife, holding it up by the blade.

“Woah, woah, time out there!” Monoponi cried, his magic taking hold of the knife and ripped it from her hand. “I enjoy a good stabbing as much as the next villain, but no one spills blood at my trial!” He set it down on his throne. “You can have this back after we’re done.”

“I wasn’t going to stab her,” Adagio grumbled, her voice returning to normal. “I’m not stupid.”

My knees buckled, threatening to give out as I held a hand to my heaving chest. I’d frozen stone cold when I saw the knife, afraid she’d been about to fling it into my throat. “Adagio,” I gasped, coughing. “I’m sorry, but--”

“Save it. It doesn’t matter.” Adagio bowed her head, then raised it again. All signs of anger had vanished from her face, replaced by a cold-hearted neutrality, or perhaps resignation. “Let me just say this: if you fools vote for me, all you’ll be doing is killing us all.”

“Trixie doesn’t buy it!” Trixie shouted, slamming a hand on her podium. “Sunset, do the thing! Prove she did it!”

My eyes met Adagio’s, like two boxers squaring off before a fight. I searched and searched, looking for some sign of guilt, of regret, of anything to indicate she was lying. But I didn’t see it. All I saw was sincerity. A certainty of purpose. And that caused the gears in my brain to turn over yet again, and consider one other possibility I hadn’t bothered to consider before now. A possibility that loomed up inside me, seeming more and more plausible the more I thought about it. Obvious, even, in retrospect. Damn it. God damn it.

A thought occurred to me. A plan formed in my head. And as my own gaze shifted to belief in Adagio, I saw her eyes soften, the Adagio I knew peeking through again. I gave her the slightest of nods, and she nodded back. Okay. Here goes nothing.

“Adagio,” I spoke up, “there’s something we need to check. Would you please do me a favor?” By Celestia I hope I’m right. Please tell me I’m right. Because if I’m wrong, then Adagio did it after all.

“What is it?” Adagio replied simply, her demeanor unwavering despite the softening of her eyes.

“Can you show us your first aid kit?”

I saw a dawning smile of comprehension briefly appear on Adagio’s face before it vanished. “Fine,” she muttered, still playing the act. Rummaging through her backpack, she pulled out the massive kit. “Here,” she said, handing it to Rainbow Dash, who passed it to me. “Go nuts.”

“Um, what are you doing?” Twilight asked, frowning in bemusement.

Flash, still rubbing his chin, said, “Yeah, Sunset, what’s this about?”

“Just checking something,” I said. I leaned down to unlatch the kit, took a deep breath, then opened it up.

And right there, before us all, laying loosely atop the rest of the supplies, were three mostly empty syringes. One marked heroin, one oxycodone, and one morphine. The sight caused my heart to spin around in place, simultaneously wanting to sink into a deep abyss and leap for joy. Because there’s only one thing this could mean.

“Ahah!” Trixie cried, pointing at the kit, gesturing grandly. “You see! She has the drugs! She killed Pinkie Pie!”

“Well now, that seems pretty cut ‘n dry to me,” Applejack said, shaking her head in disbelief. “Ah can’t believe you’d be stupid enough to keep that stuff on you.”

Rarity huffed, letting out a thoroughly unladylike snort. “Indeed!” she seconded. “What a stupid mistake to make.”

“Yeah, even I would’ve dumped those,” Scootaloo said, rolling her eyes. “Jeez, Adagio, you’re not that smart, are you?”

Adagio chuckled dryly, then her laugh grew, and grew, until it became a full throated belly laugh, all chocolate with not even a hint of bitterness. “Oh, you fools,” she said, wiping a tear from her eye. “If you think this implicates me, you’re the idiots.”

“What?” Trixie gasped, and pointed. “But it’s your first aid kit! Trixie thinks the conclusion is obvious!”

“Oh, it is obvious,” Adagio retorted silkily, staring at Trixie with half-lidded eyes.

“Yes!” Trixie stated, slamming a hand on her podium. “You killed Pinkie Pie!”

“No, Trixie,” I said, my voice cutting through her like a scythe through stalks of wheat. “She didn’t kill Pinkie Pie. The first aid kit was in my room all night, remember?”

Trixie paled, whirling on me in a flash. “Sunset?! What are you saying?”

“I’m saying,” I said, readying my finger to point, “Trixie Lulamoon, you’re the only one!

“Woah, woah, Trixie? Seriously?” Rainbow Dash’s eyebrows shot up high enough to kiss her hair.

Tiara gigglesnorted. “Lulamoon? Her last name is Lulamoon? That’s hilarious.”

“Hmm…” Applejack placed a hand on her chin, peering at the illusionist.

“Trixie, there are only two people who could’ve planted those syringes in Adagio’s first aid kit,” I said, while ever growing horror took over Trixie’s face. “You, and me. And I think we all know I didn’t do it.”

“But, but Sunset,” Trixie objected, a pleading look in her eyes. “Adagio could’ve slipped the syringes in there in the morning, after you gave it back.”

“She also could have swapped them out with replacement syringes in the pharmacy,” I countered, my tone growing sharp with anger. “Which is what I thought happened, at first. But now it seems more likely you went into the pharmacy, stole the syringes out of the cases, then swapped things around in Pinkie’s room so you could plant these on Adagio. This was a backup plan for you, wasn’t it? You wanted to be sure we’d vote for her, just in case we figured out Rainbow Dash was innocent. That’s why you found the diary when we searched Pinkie’s room. Hell, I’ll bet you never put the keys back on Pinkie’s body. You probably just used sleight of hand or something to make it look like you found them there.”

“No, no, Trixie would never--”

“Don’t lie to me!” I roared, slamming my own hand down on my podium. “Every single thing we speculated the culprit could’ve done, you could’ve done. I fell asleep right after the evening announcement. I didn’t wake up till the morning one, when you were already in the shower. You were washing off the pool smell, weren’t you? You had to make sure no one realized you went for a swim to pull Pinkie’s body out of the deep end!”

Tears poured down Trixie’s face, the illusionist babbling, “Sunset, please, listen to me, I didn’t--”

“I don’t know why you were down there in the fitness center last night. Maybe you were scared, because of what Twilight said to me, about Adagio. Maybe you couldn’t sleep, and you wanted to relax. Maybe you were just wandering. I don’t know, and I don’t really care, either,” I slammed my hand down on my podium again, causing Trixie to jump back in fright. “You gave in to Monoponi’s motive. I’ll bet you thought if you got away with things, you could take me away as your plus-one. I’m sure in your head you justified it, by saying you were rescuing me from all of this.”

“That’s not tru--”

“Shut up! I don’t want to hear it anymore!” I opened up both hands and slammed them down on my podium, again and again. “God damn it, Trixie, what the hell made you ever think I’d be okay with you murdering someone for me? I wouldn’t accept that from Adagio, anymore than I would from you! Especially not Pinkie Pie. I can’t imagine how much pain she must’ve been in, when you held that door on her. She didn’t deserve to die, damn it.” Tears ran down my own face now, as my face fell into my hands. God, it really was my fault. I might as well be the blackened after all.

“But, Sunset,” Trixie said, after a couple of moments. I looked up to see her tear-stricken face, the deathly pallor to her cheeks. “I couldn’t have gotten the body out of the water.”

Fury boiled in my chest, like a roaring steam engine stoked with fresh coal. “Excuse me?” I snarled.

“You see,” Trixie continued, speaking faster and faster with each word, “the body was tied down with weights, right? A-and, those weights were tied together. They were at least two hundred pounds, all together.Trixie is not strong enough to lift that out of the water. Therefore, Trixie is innocent.

YOU’VE GOT THAT WRONG!” I screamed, almost smashing my Monopad to pieces in my effort to bring up the evidence.

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.”

“The rope was loosely tied to the weights, Trixie,” I spat, every word soaking with acid. “That means the rope could have been untied, and then tied back up later. You didn’t have to remove the weights all at once. You could remove them one at a time. And you’re a strong swimmer. You told us all that way back when Pinkie planned her pool party. You’d have no trouble untying the rope underwater.” I slammed my hand down on my podium once more, this time hard enough to splinter the wood. “So stop fucking lying to our faces and just admit it already. You murdered Pinkie Pie!”

Trixie fell back onto her rump, crying to herself, as we all stood there in silence. We let her cry it out. For my part, I was glad she was crying. She deserved worse, for what she did to Pinkie, for what she tried to do to everyone else here. She wasn’t my friend anymore. She was a monster. I hope we get to vote for who dies after all, because if we do? I’m voting for you, Trixie.

“Sunset?” Scootaloo spoke up after a little while. “Can you, um, can you please put the case together? So there’s no doubt?”

“Yes, please do, darling,” Rarity urged. “I think we’re all ready to get out of here.”

I sighed. “Fine. Let’s get this over with, then.” I took a moment to gather my thoughts, then opened up my eyes wide. “This is how it all went down!”

“This all began two days ago, with the first culprit of this case, or Culprit A. Burned by the betrayal of their trust during the last trial, Culprit A decided they could no longer trust anyone. During our morning meeting the day of Fluttershy’s death, Culprit A had a severe confrontation with Pinkie Pie, the second victim. Due to this confrontation, Culprit A decided to teach Pinkie Pie a lesson.

“Using a note they slipped under Pinkie’s door, they impersonated Rainbow Dash. Through this guise, they told Pinkie Pie that “Rainbow” wanted to give Fluttershy a gift by surprising her, so she’d find it in her pocket. They asked Pinkie to go to the jewelry store with Fluttershy, to find a tourmaline ring prepared in a black box, marked by a piece of red tape. Then Pinkie could sneak the “gift” into Fluttershy’s pocket. Unbeknownst to Pinkie, the “gift” wasn’t already purchased.

“Up until this point, everything had gone according to Culprit A’s plan. Their expectation was that Fluttershy would discover the ring before she left the shop, and be furious with Pinkie Pie for trying to make her break the rules. Culprit A’s ultimate intent was for Pinkie to learn something without anyone actually getting hurt. But they didn’t realize just how good Pinkie Pie was at sneaking. Pinkie Pie was so good, Fluttershy didn’t notice a thing. So when poor Fluttershy left the shop, she inadvertently broke rule number sixteen, the rule against stealing. And as she had broken the rules, she was executed on the spot.

“Culprit A, utterly horrified by what had happened, expected Monoponi would call a trial. When he didn’t, they were left stunned, so uncertain what to think that they lost all rational control. They became paranoid, convinced that Monoponi was out to get them in some way outside of the ship’s trial setting. Hence why they reacted the way they did when I tried to apologize for hiding my pony nature. They thought it was Monoponi trying to trick them into killing for a second time.

“But even with this paranoia, they were caught off guard, completely unprepared, when Monoponi added Fluttershy to the roster for this trial. Their original plan was never intended to result in a trial to begin with. When they imitated Rainbow Dash’s handwriting, they didn’t bother to imitate the slant. They didn’t try to remain unseen when they dropped off the note. When we argued for the note writer as the blackened, they grew even more scared, and tried to blame everything on Diamond Tiara, whose turning of a leaf provided an easy way to shift blame. All of this was done in desperation, a frantic act to stay alive, to stave off accepting the fact that they were a killer.

“It was all, ultimately, a tragic accident, one only one person could have caused, Twilight Sparkle, the Ultimate Researcher, whether on purpose or not, you’re the one who killed Fluttershy.

“But we’re not done. Utterly heartbroken and furious, Rainbow Dash became inconsolable. When Monoponi presented to us the motive, whereupon a blackened could take someone with them so long as that someone was not an accomplice to the crime, she found herself horribly depressed, because the only possible incentive she’d had to give in to the motive had been stolen from her. This led her into a massive downward spiral, consumed by anger and rage. To try and work this all out, she spent most of her time in the fitness center, going back and forth via the access corridor so she ran into as few people as possible. During one of these trips, she found the picture of the Belle and Apple sisters eating in a diner that Adagio, Pinkie, and I discovered in the spa the previous day. It had been left there by mistake when Adagio dropped it while doing laundry.

“Meanwhile, Pinkie Pie, consumed by guilt, found solace in morphine, oxycodone, and heroin. She purchased morphine the day after the first trial. At first, she only used it a little bit, but she dove into it heavily after the second trial. She used the drug as a coping mechanism, injecting herself numerous times. After Fluttershy died, she couldn’t take the guilt. She needed more drugs, so she purchased a large helping of the other two that night. But even that wasn’t enough. The following day, she asked me for advice, and I, without realizing it, told her to confront Rainbow Dash.

That night, right after 11:00 PM, she tracked down Rainbow Dash, seeking to admit what she’d done. She found Rainbow Dash in the fitness center, sitting in the sauna, trying to force herself to relax due to her insomnia. In the ensuing conversation, Pinkie Pie made a crucial mistake. Because of her drug-induced poor judgement, she blamed Rainbow Dash for Fluttershy’s death. This threw Rainbow Dash into a murderous rage. Stomping out of the sauna, Rainbow Dash suddenly slammed the door shut, and cranked up the heat to the redline, then left.

“Culprit B, scared due to the threat Twilight leveled against me earlier that day, was also having a sleepless night. They’d been sitting in the hot tub across from the sauna, just out of sight from both Pinkie and Rainbow Dash. When they saw Rainbow Dash leave, they realized this was a prime opportunity to try and escape the ship, by letting someone else take the fall. They leapt into action, holding the door closed while Pinkie Pie screamed and begged to be let out, beating her fists on the door hard enough to injure her hands. But Pinkie could not escape. She lost consciousness in the heat.

“Thinking she had perished, Culprit B opened the door, and discovered Pinkie still alive. Knowing that Pinkie Pie had been using drugs, they discovered Pinkie had three syringes full on her person. They took all three and stabbed them all together into Pinkie’s heart, injecting them and forcing a fatal overdose. Then they took the syringes with them and ran, using the layout of the fitness center to keep out of Rainbow Dash’s sight. Panicked by their own actions, they fled the fitness center altogether, and returned to my cabin, falling asleep for much of the night.

“After calming down, Rainbow Dash returned to the sauna, and discovered Pinkie Pie’s body. Believing she was the culprit, and understandably not wanting to die, Rainbow Dash decided to try and pin the crime upon someone else. She turned the heat back down, and removed Pinkie’s body from the sauna, not noticing the small bits of blood Pinkie’s fists had left on the inside of the door and on the handle. Taking inspiration from the photo she’d found earlier that day, she decided to frame Applejack. First, she took Pinkie’s skirt off and put it on herself. She then propped up Pinkie Pie’s body, using jump rope to tie a dumbbell in her hand. With a combination of a bright light and careful positioning of Pinkie’s Monopad, she took a picture to give the impression Pinkie had photographed a silhouette of her on-coming doom. She then created the appearance of a struggle in the weight room, by pushing equipment over and around, clipping hairs from both Pinkie and herself to plant them around, then smashed Pinkie’s head in with a seventy-pound dumbbell, using a set of towels to protect herself from blood spray while deliberately allowing plenty of blood to pool on the floor. She left the photograph at the scene, while holding onto Pinkie’s Monopad, so she could send fake check-in texts.

“Then, using that same set of towels, she carefully dragged Pinkie’s body all the way to the pool, being certain not to leave any kind of drag marks. She dumped Pinkie’s body into the pool, and using the same jump rope from earlier threaded between four fifty pound free weights, she kept Pinkie’s body underwater in the deep end. This was where Rainbow Dash intended for us to discover the body. Finally, Rainbow Dash took her bloody towels to the laundry room, threw them into the wash all at once, and set it to clean them, not realizing she’d overfilled the washing machine. She returned to the fitness center to drop off Pinkie’s Monopad after Pinkie’s shift had ended, and proceeded to assume her own shift.

“Early the next morning, around 6:00 AM, just after Rainbow Dash went back to her own cabin to catch a nap, Culprit B awoke in a cold sweat. Realizing they needed to find some way of shifting the blame further, especially since they still had the empty syringes on them, they first went to the pharmacy, to take full syringes from drug cases without purchasing them, an act allowed by Monoponi only because the rules had already been bent once in this case. Their intent was to swap these full ones for partially used ones from Pinkie’s own sets of drugs, which they could then plant in Adagio’s first aid kit to implicate her for the crime. But to do this, they needed Pinkie’s room key. So, after briefly hiding from Rarity, who’d spotted them leaving the pharmacy, they went back to the indoor pool. Upon realizing Pinkie’s body was underwater, and seeing everything Rainbow did, they decided to mess up Rainbow’s plan, in the hopes of making Rainbow seem more obvious, with their blaming of Adagio becoming the backup plan.

“First, stripping off their clothes, they dove into the pool and removed the weights, placing them on a set of towels right up on the edge. They were able to do this because they’re an excellent swimmer. They retrieved Pinkie’s key, and then turned Pinkie’s body over in the water, so she’d be floating face up, knowing that would make it more obvious she hadn’t drowned. Using the towel below the free weights, they dragged them all the way into the weight-room, and left them right under the shelf where they could be found.

“Then, using a padlock and key they found behind the front desk of the fitness center, they took the picture of the Apple and Belle sisters as well as Pinkie’s Monopad and locked them both in a locker.

“Finally, they took a whole bunch of towels, dried themself off with them as well as the pool area and anywhere else they’d dripped water, put their clothes back on, and went via the access corridor to drop off the towels in the dryer. They did this right around 7:20 AM, producing the noise Applejack heard. They then went to Pinkie’s cabin by circling around via the promenade, staying out of sight, and performed the switcheroo with the syringes, making sure to leave the empty ones in the cases so none appeared to be missing.

“Then, returning to my cabin, they planted them in Adagio’s kit and hopped into the shower just before the morning announcement, so they could wash away any sign they’d been in the pool. During the investigation, they pretended to find both Pinkie’s room key and the locker key on the body, by using their skill with sleight of hand. They also made sure we found the diary in Pinkie’s room.

“Culprit B…I thought you were my friend. I thought I could trust you. But you betrayed that trust. You took our friendship and threw it away. I’d never accept you murdering someone just so we could escape together. Trixie Lulamoon, the Ultimate Illusionist... I might never forgive you.”

I knew some parts of what I said were speculation. I couldn’t be sure about every detail, after all. But it was enough to seal the deal. When I finished, Trixie stood up, brushed herself off, and quietly said, “You’re right. Trixie killed Pinkie Pie.” She looked right up at me, her expression unreadable. “Trixie won’t lie anymore.”

“Does this mean we can vote now?” Tiara said, obviously bored as she examined her fingernails.

“Yes, damn it, let’s vote already and get out of here,” Adagio groused.

“We’re ready, Monoponi,” I said, looking up at the alicorn. “Call it.”

“Very well!” Monoponi twirled about on one hoof, landed on both rear hooves, and posed like Celestia raising the sun. “This vote will be a bit different! You’ll have to pick two separate vote targets at once. And do make sure you do it in the right order. Fluttershy first, then Pinkie. Got it? If you fail to vote for both, or if you don’t vote at all, it will result in your death!” His horn lit up, firing off a shot like a rocket to explode in a cascade of sparks above us. “Who will be chosen as the blackened? Will you make the right choice, or the dreadfully wrong one? Your time starts now!”

The screen before me lit up with the image of everyone’s faces. Six now crossed out as invalid choices. To the right were a butterfly and a balloon, signalling which blackened was for which. I didn’t hesitate to slap my hand down, first on Twilight’s face, and then on Trixie’s.

Right on cue the display in the center lit up, this time with two separate vote tallies. In both cases, the vote was unanimous: Twilight as Fluttershy’s blackened, and Trixie as Pinkie’s.

The trial was finally, blessedly, over.

Author's Note:

Congratulations to JCarp and 4428Gamer for successfully sniffing out Trixie even before the investigation! I was impressed by you two catching on to the shower clue. Well done.

A lot of you thought Rainbow Dash was the killer, and that was the point to this case. Even she thought she did it, only for it to turn out she didn't. So if you feel like you were fooled, please don't feel bad. This was hard on purpose. :pinkiesad2:

I also want to congratulate Rainstorm Riddles for also figuring out Trixie in a way I had never once considered. Having Adagio and Trixie cooperate like that in your theory? A part of me wishes I'd actually written it that way now. That's how impressed I was with it. And though you might've been wrong about the magic, your logic for why you thought what you did was solid. And you got so many details right, too. Superb job! :twilightsmile:

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