• 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 Four: Passing in the Night Part 1

Chapter Four:
Passing in the Night
Daily Life Part 1

Friday morning, the day after the third trial…

Sunlight streamed through the open porthole window, falling onto my face. “Urgh,” I moaned, holding up an arm to cover my eyes. “Guess the storm passed.”

Snores were my only response. I glanced next to me to see Adagio snoozing away under the cover of her bushy orange hair. Shrugging, I let her sleep, and made my way into the bathroom to take care of business. And a shower. I needed one badly, after yesterday.

Yesterday… that awful, horrible trial. The revelation of Twilight’s foolish mistake, the forced vote between Twilight and Trixie… Twilight’s execution…

But worst of all, Trixie’s betrayal. The memory of it burned under my skin, and combined with the heat from the shower made me feel like I’d been set ablaze. And she hadn’t even tried to explain herself, either. Not even a pathetic excuse. Just two words. “I’m sorry.”

Yeah. Like I’d ever believe her.

I deliberately ran the water cold for the last few minutes of my shower, in the hopes of cooling down my rising anger. It might’ve helped. By the time I got out of the bathroom, the morning announcement had gone off, and Adagio was sitting up in bed, stretching her limbs like a cat.

“Hey,” I said, waving. I made my way to the closet, rummaging for some fresh clothes.

Adagio slipped out of bed and came up behind me, wrapping her arms around my waist. “Morning,” she purred, nuzzling my face with her own.

Wow. Someone’s feeling affectionate today. I leaned back into her embrace, letting the touch soothe my frustrated cocktail of emotions. “You sleep okay?” I asked.

“Better than I expected,” Adagio admitted. She used one hand to lazily stroke at my belly, little quiet loving touches, nothing sexual. “I hardly dreamt at all.”

“Me neither. Probably for the best.”

Adagio gave me one final pat, kissed me on the cheek, then released me. “We should get ready for the meeting. I’m sure Monoponi’s going to throw another exploration session at us right after.”

“Right,” I said, as I slipped on a fresh shirt. “When we’re done with that, we can look into the magic angle a bit further.”

Our course of action decided, we hurried to get ready. As soon as we left our cabin, though, we ran squarely into the last person I wanted to see. “You,” Adagio hissed.

Trixie, sans cloak and hat for some reason, carefully maneuvered around us on her crutches. “Excuse me,” she mumbled, her face composed into a blank, neutral expression.

A dark part of me, the old bullying Sunset, urged me to kick Trixie’s crutches out from under her. Let her collapse to the floor, and laugh at her misery. I didn’t do that, though. If I did, I’d be no better than Monoponi. Or Trixie herself.

So I held out an arm, subtly keeping Adagio back in case she had no such restraint. “Come on, Adagio,” I urged, gesturing down the opposite end of the corridor, towards the bridge deck. “We’ll take the long way around.”

Adagio snorted, and shot a glare Trixie’s way. “Sure. We’re not cripples, after all.”

We rounded the corner, refusing to look back. As soon as we’d passed out of earshot, I sighed, and stopped Adagio long enough so I could say, “Please don’t say things like that.”

Adagio arched an eyebrow, setting her hands on her hips. “Why not? It’s the least she deserves.”

She’s not wrong, I told myself, but I brushed off the thought. Shaking my head, I replied, “That’s not the point.”

“Then what is?”

I took a deep breath, and chose my words carefully. “I used to be a bully, once. A long time ago. I was awful to everyone around me. I abused them. I made fun of them, threw them into lockers, gave them swirlies, dumped people in trash cans, all kinds of things. But I’m better than that now. I became a better person.” I set my hands on her shoulders. “You’re becoming a better person too. I don’t want to see you backslide just because of Trixie. She’s not worth it.”

Adagio frowned darkly, crossing her arms over her chest. She glared at me for several long, quiet moments. Then, with a groan, she threw her hands up and let them clap to her sides. “I guess you’re right. Damn it.” A half grin formed on her face as she playfully pushed my shoulder. “You’re too good of an influence on me.”

“I try,” I shrugged, chuckling dryly.

We walked through the lounge and bridge deck in a hurry. The deck was slick with rainwater, but there were no clouds in sight. Blue skies dominated the horizon in every direction, sunlight streaming down, working to dry off the rain. Once onto the promenade, though, I hesitated, looking down the length of the shopping quarter to where Fluttershy had been executed. Unlike yesterday, there were no remaining crimson force fields blocking off damaged parts. The place was clean, pristine, as if no execution had ever taken place at all. Monoponi worked fast, it seemed.

We found the others sitting together at a single table close to the shopping quarter, save for Trixie, who was struggling to carry a tray balanced on her crutches. She took a seat on the opposite end of the food court, staying as far away from us as she could. Good.

As I fetched my breakfast and sat down with the others, I realized to my surprise Applejack and Rarity both were sitting at the table. They’d picked opposite ends and were deliberately avoiding looking at each other, but they were here, not on their guard shift. “Hey guys,” I said as I took my seat.

Tiara looked up at me with a grimace. “Good, you’re here.” She gestured towards Applejack and Rarity. “As you can see, I’ve decided there’s no point to the guard duties anymore. It failed to keep Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie alive, so what’s the point, right?” Her grimace twisted into a full sneer as she glanced Trixie’s way. “Besides, with miss Legless over there crawling along at a snail’s pace, there’s so few of us left to guard we’d all be spending hours and hours on it.”

“Not like we could trust her anyway,” Flash spoke up, his voice lower in pitch than normal, more gravelly. Poor guy probably spent most of the night crying. “She’s a murderer.”

“We should probably lock her up somewhere,” Rainbow Dash suggested, casually flipping Trixie off as she spoke. “Stick her in her cabin or something.”

“That’s… not a good idea,” I said, taking a bite of sausage. “We’d have to make a lock to put on her door, so she couldn’t unlock it from inside. Besides, it’d be too easy for someone to murder her that way.”

“As if that would be any great loss,” Rarity sniffed, stabbing her eggs with reckless abandon. “To think I called her friend.”

“Maybe she wouldn’t be,” Scootaloo replied, setting down her sandwich so she could gesture with her hand, “but whoever killed her would be executed. She’s not worth that.”

Applejack shoved a forkful of ham into her mouth, chewed thoughtfully, then said, “Ah dunno, Ah’m with Rainbow Dash on this one. Ah don’t think she oughta be runnin’ around free.”

“Sunset, you can build a lock, right?” Adagio said, nudging me in the side with her elbow.

I sighed, setting my fork down. “I can, if I have to. I still don’t think it’s a good idea though.”

“Let’s vote on it, then,” Diamond Tiara said, pulling out a notebook and setting it next to her plate. “Show of hands. All against locking Trixie in her cabin?” I raised my hand, and after a moment, Rarity raised hers as well. No one else did though.

“All in favor?” Diamond Tiara raised her own hand, as did Applejack, Rainbow, Scootaloo, and Adagio. “All right then. Sunset, you’re gonna have to build a lock. I’ll hold onto the key, once you’re done.”

Rolling my eyes in exasperation, I picked up my fork and took up another bite of sausage. “Fine. But someone’s going to have to get her food and water.”

“She’s got water in her bathroom sinks,” Tiara sneered, for a moment sounding like her old self. Then she schooled her expression into one more reasonable. “I’ll take care of feeding her. I’m the leader, so it’s my responsibility. That way no one else has a chance to hurt her.”

Applejack snorted. “Ah guess that’s fine. Then we all know who’s fault it is if she ends up dead.” After swallowing another bite of food, she added, “Unless she kills herself, Ah guess. Ah won’t cry if she does.”

Flash sighed, “You think Monoponi’d make us hold a trial, if she did?”

“He would,” I replied, calling upon my memory of the Danganronpa games. “It wouldn’t be the first time a trial was held for a suicide.”

“Well, at least it’d be an easy one,” Scootaloo said.

Adagio popped a piece of tuna sashimi into her mouth. “So should we throw her into her cabin now, or wait till Sunset’s installed the lock?”

“Eh, we’ll wait,” Tiara said with a dismissive wave. “She can enjoy her last couple hours of freedom. Besides, knowing Monoponi, he’d probably insist she explore along with the rest of us. You know he’s gonna make us do it sooner or later.”

DING-DONG BING-BONG

“Speak of the devil,” Scootaloo groaned.

“Attention all passengers!” Monoponi announced as his image appeared on screen. For some reason, instead of a snifter of brandy, he carried a book in his magic, eying it lazily as he spoke. “Please report to the bridge deck, immediately!

“Welp, so much for finishin’ breakfast,” Applejack snorted, throwing down her fork to her plate with a clatter. “Better get a move on.”

As we all gathered together and made our way to the bridge deck, I took notice of how Flash and Rainbow Dash walked almost in lockstep, the two whispering to each other. Huh. Maybe they bonded over their mutual loss, I mused. Both of them had the one they cared for most stolen from them by Monoponi, after all. Maybe this is just what they both need. I hope they make good friends. I glanced over at Rarity and Applejack, noting how the two stayed as far away from each other as possible, occasionally casting glares one another’s way. Sadly, another set seems to have broken apart. Damn it. I should’ve just given them the picture, before Pinkie’s trial. Maybe things would’ve been different. I’m not holding back anymore. If I find another picture or something I’m just going to share it. Every time I hold back something bad happens. Enough’s enough already.

We gathered before the bridge tower as usual, but Monoponi didn’t appear until after Trixie managed to join us, struggling with every step at a glacial pace. Only then did he step out of the bridge tower door, glaring down at us from the balcony. “Well it’s about time!” he groused, glaring at Trixie. “Seriously, you’d think you’d lost a leg or something. Oh wait! You did! Ahahahahaha!”

To my dismay, Rainbow Dash, Tiara, and Adagio all broke out into snickers with him as Trixie hung her head in shame. It wasn’t anything she didn’t deserve, but that still didn’t mean I liked watching someone be publicly mocked. I was furious at her betrayal of me, yes, but that was personal. That was between her and me. And I’d rather just forget she existed, rather than prolong her suffering. Even if I’d willingly voted for her to be executed.

Somewhere, deep inside me, a small piece of my soul was snuffed out.

“So! I heard you idiots mumbling about your plan to lock away magic chick over there,” Monoponi said, recapturing my attention. “If that’s what you want to do, to help preserve the spirit of our lovely ocean voyage, feel free! I don’t mind at all. But she’s still required to participate in mandatory activities, including trials! So don’t forget to let her out for those.” His muzzle split into that jagged tooth grin I loathed so much. “It’d be such a shame if one of you caused her to break the rules. I won’t tolerate such manipulation of me again. From now on, if you cause someone to break a rule, on purpose? You’re the one who gets executed!”

I glanced at Trixie. For a moment, her gaze met my own, reflecting a sense of regret and shame that I hadn’t noticed before. Then she looked away again, staring at the ground.

“Great, we get it, you’re mad someone used you,” Adagio sneered at Monoponi, waving a hand dismissively at him. “You want to get to the point already?”

Monoponi scowled down at the siren. “Always with the rushing of your Captain. None of you ever want to sit down, have a nice chat with me! No no, it’s “get on with the point” this and “stop wasting our time” that. You’d think you people didn’t appreciate the luxuries I’ve granted you.”

Thankfully, for once, no one rose to his bait. We’re learning. That’s probably going to piss him off more.

And sure enough, he stood there expectantly, waiting for someone to respond, before suddenly throwing up his hooves in disgust. “Fine! I’ll get on with it. You ungrateful little shits. Ahem. As you might have already guessed, we have some lovely new facilities opened up for you! I expect that those amongst you who crave action, thrills, and excitement will enjoy what your Captain has in store! And for those of you who don’t, well… sucks to be you.” He shot us all a nasty glare, then focused on myself and Adagio. “Oh, and while I’m at it, one other thing. You are forbidden from looking into the magic you saw during yesterday’s investigation. Talk about it all you want, but no research!

“What? Why?” I asked, though internally I wasn’t sure why I bothered. Not like he listened any other time we protested.

“Because you weren’t supposed to see it in the first place!” Monoponi shouted, waggling his forehooves in the air. “So forget about it! It doesn’t matter! If I catch even a hint of you looking into it in any detail other than simple discussion? I will consider that treason!”

Crossing my arms over my chest, I snorted in disgust. “Okay. Have it your way then.”

“Good!” A jet of light rose from his horn and lanced off into the promenade. “You know the drill by now. I won’t keep you. Have fuuuuuun!” With that, he disappeared inside the bridge tower.

“Well, here we go again,” Scootaloo moaned, doubling over as she trudged back towards the promenade. “Sure hope we find something good.”

Rarity stepped up to join Scootaloo in walking side by side. “Oh, I’m certain we’ll find something of interest, darling. Though I can’t help but wonder what he meant by action and thrills.”

Diamond Tiara joined them, snorting in derision. “Knowing Monoponi it’s probably something like a haunted house, only you actually get sliced to bits instead of just scared.”

Those three went on ahead, leaving Applejack to wander off by herself. The farmer didn’t say a word as she walked after them, just shaking her head and glaring at Rarity’s back every so often.

“Heeeey, Sunset, Adagio, wait up!” Rainbow cried out, waving to us before we could move. She and Flash ran up to us. “Mind if we tag along with you today?”

I shrugged. “Sure, I guess. Adagio?”

Adagio eyed Flash and Rainbow for a moment, then nodded. “Eh, why not. Keeps it from being too boring.”

“Thanks,” Flash said as the four of us made our way towards the promenade together. He was pale-faced and gaunt, with baggy eyes so darkened by exhaustion it looked like he’d caked on ten tons of eye shadow. He walked with a hunched over stance, hands in his pockets, his voice still hoarse. “It’s been rough lately.”

“You said it,” Rainbow Dash seconded. She didn’t look much better than he did, just as pale-faced and gaunt, with the same level of exhaustion in her eyes. At least her voice was smooth and free of gravel. Or at least as smooth as it usually was for her, anyway. “I need something to take my mind off of everything that’s happened lately.” She nudged Flash in the side and smiled at him. “Luckily this guy here’s pretty chill.”

Flash chuckled dryly. “Hey, I’m just glad you’re not mad at me.”

“Naaah,” Rainbow said, throwing her arm around his shoulder. “It’s not your fault. Way I see it, Flash, you and me are both in the same boat.” She rolled her eyes. “Uh, no pun intended.”

“Sounds like you two are becoming fast friends, then,” I commented with a small smile of my own.

“Totally!” Rainbow agreed, putting a bit of extra grip into her hold on Flash. “I was missing out.”

“Oh, hey, Sunset, do you have a pen and notepad I could borrow?” Flash asked me, with a quiet pleading look in his eyes.

“Sure,” I answered, rummaging around in my pack and pulling out a spare of each. “Here you go. What’d you need it for?”

He placed both into his pants pocket. “Just in case. When I’m feeling like this, I have a hard time remembering things, you know? Helps to write stuff down.”

“Hey bud, whatever you gotta do, you do it,” Rainbow said, giving him yet another grin.

We emerged onto the promenade offshoot, and made our way down the grand staircase, discovering that the corridor below had expanded. Where previously there’d been a wall blocking off anything past the fitness center and spa, there was now a much larger open corridor, equivalent to the one above, albeit only running for another hundred feet or so. There was another grand staircase and matching glass elevator at the far end, and two new doors had appeared.

“Uuuh, let’s try this one first,” I said with a shrug, heading for the large set of double doors on the left. This one was marked “Go-Kart Track” in green letters against a checkered flag background. He can’t be serious, right? A go-kart track?

Once inside, I stopped, stunned. “Woooah!” Rainbow Dash squealed, throwing her hands up in the air. “Awesome!”

It was a cavernous room, about half the size of the theater, dominated by a winding strip of asphalt marked off with chain link fencing, dotted lines on the road indicating lanes. It wound about in a twisted fashion, almost corkscrew like around the room, lending the track a substantial length. Everywhere that lacked asphalt was covered in either concrete or astroturf instead. A series of benches surrounded the track on elevated platforms, allowing an audience an easy view of the races. A series of signs directed passengers either to a registration stand for the races, where they could rent out helmets and other safety equipment, and a concession stand promising all manner of junk food. Both stands were marked with open/close times from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM at night. Near the concession stand was a pair of unisex bathrooms in a small hut. A garage stood at one end of the track, presumably where the go-karts were stored.

I approached the registration stand, ignoring the happy shouts from Flash and Rainbow Dash as I noticed a smaller set of rules listed. It was a series of safety instructions and features the go-karts had.

Rule #1: Be safe! All racers are required to wear helmets, knee pads, and shoulder pads at all times while in the kart.

Rule #2: Be vigilant! Watch out for other racers on the track. We will flag you down and stop your engine if you deliberately crash into another racer.

Rule #3: Be assured! Our karts come with a state of the art safety system, designed to keep you safe. In the event of a crash, this system will lock your seatbelt in place to prevent further injury while a certified member of our staff comes out to assist you.

Rule #4: Be excellent! Don’t be rude to your fellow racers. We’re all here to have fun, after all. Don’t ruin it for others.

Huh. Seems reasonable enough, I concluded. The stand also contained a self-serve register and screen for scanning our Monopads, similar to the ones used by the restaurants on the promenade. I briefly browsed through the menu options. It was mostly a set of package deals, for rental equipment, time slots, etc. The race track could handle up to six go-karts at a time, so it seemed like we could hold a whole event if we wanted. I bet Pinkie Pie would’ve loved this.

The thought of Pinkie tore at my heart, ripping up any good feelings and replacing it with rage once again over Trixie’s betrayal. “Damn it,” I muttered, only just barely restraining the urge to smash my fist into the stand. Instead, seething, heart racing, I chose to wander towards the garage, where Rainbow Dash and Flash were poking around.

The garage in question was more of a covered shed with a large locked garage door than anything else. Windows in the door allowed us to look inside, where I could see a series of karts lined up in two rows, each one with a hook pointed upwards at the end of a tall pole, currently latched onto something out of sight. Six karts total, colored red, green, yellow, pink, blue, and purple. Wait. Those colors seem familiar. My eyes widened as I realized what it meant, and turned just in time to see Flash cry out in panic, gripping both hands to his head as he fell over onto his butt.

But before I could do anything, Rainbow Dash was there, kneeling down, rubbing his back, whispering words of encouragement. “Hey there, it’s okay, you’re gonna be okay.” Soon enough she had him calm, a lot faster than I could have.

“Wow,” I said, as she helped Flash get to his feet. “That was smooth.”

Rainbow Dash clapped Flash on the shoulder and grinned at him. “I used to help Fluttershy through panic attacks all the time. Same basic thing, really.” Despite her words, I noticed the twinkle in her eye dim considerably as she said Fluttershy’s name. She’s not doing any better than he is, is she?

“Sorry you had to see that,” Flash said, hanging his head.

“Hey, no, don’t apologize,” Rainbow said, nudging him in the arm. “Don’t ever apologize for that. We’ve all suffered a lot here, you know? We’re entitled to be scared now and again.”

No. She’s not. She’s using him as a coping mechanism, like some kind of replacement substitute for Fluttershy. She’s so used to watching out for someone that she has to do it just to cope. I snorted. Healthier than some coping mechanisms we’ve seen around here, anyway. “Yeah, Flash, don’t worry about it,” I said, trying out a smile. It came out as more of a twisted grimace due to the anger still simmering under my skin.

But he didn’t seem to mind. “Heh, okay guys,” he said, giving us his own watery smile. “Let’s, uh, let’s maybe go look somewhere else for now?”

“Sure thing, buddy,” Rainbow said, leading him off.

Well, I wanted to look back at the garage, so instead of following them I rejoined Adagio, who was poking around. “Hey, look here,” she said, waving to me to follow her behind the garage. There was a small side door, and unlike the main door, this one wasn’t locked. “Shall we?”

I gestured to go ahead, and she led us inside. There wasn’t too much to see outside of what I’d spotted through the windows. The six go-karts each laid atop a pit for repairs, hooked into a winch on a track, able to lift them up and place them onto the go-kart track itself for racers to use. Surprisingly, I didn’t smell any diesel fumes or any other fuels. So I poked through tool racks and under the carts themselves until I finally realized these used hydrogen fuel cells. “Wow. That’s… expensive tech, for go-karts,” I commented as I relayed this to Adagio. At her confused look, I briefly explained how hydrogen fuel cells worked.

“Oh, so it’s electric,” she said after a few moments, her eyes still glazed over from my explanation. “You could’ve just said that.” She grinned. “Egghead.”

I recoiled at the word, a mixture of anger and anxiety brimming up inside me, my stomach churning like a blender on overdrive. “D-don’t call me that, please,” I murmured. I feel guilty enough over Fluttershy, Pinkie, and Twilight as it is.

Her eyes widened, eyebrows rose, and she frowned apologetically. “Sorry.”

I gripped one fist by my side super tight. “It’s fine,” I hissed through my teeth.

We left the garage. Rainbow and Flash were nowhere to be seen, but rather than leave, I decided to walk around the outskirts of the track, keeping my eyes peeled. I did see a number of beams running over the track, with various signs and flags folded up, ready to drop down and wave as needed. Like the rest of the ship, the place had been completely automated. On the far side, I spotted a door, blending into the scenery. This door opened up, dumping us out into the access corridor, close to the t-junction. “Guess the fitness center isn’t the only thing we can reach this way now,” I mused.

“Hmm… maybe we should try a few more of these doors, then,” Adagio suggested, pointing down the corridor.

We gave them a few tugs a piece, but none of them opened up. “Damn. That was a bust,” I grunted. Still, just to be thorough, we followed the access corridor all the way back towards the stairwell to the cabins, and spotted a new stairwell that wasn’t open before. Following it down, we found another long access corridor, the same length as the one above, minus the laundry room. We kept poking at every door we passed as we went down it, but we didn’t find anything until near the very end.

When we opened that door, a cold blast of air hit us right in the face. “Brrr!” I moaned, rubbing at my arms. “That’s freezing!”

“Eh, it’s not so bad,” Adagio said as she sauntered through the doorway.

As I entered, I discovered we’d emerged into a equipment rental shop. Helmets, knee pads, shoulder pads, and skates. Ice skates. Lots of them. Whole shelves full of different sizes and designs, ranging from run of the mill to designer skates that look like they cost thousands of dollars a pair. An L-shaped front desk contained the usual scanning register. There were even shelves with winter coats, sweat pants, and other equipment to keep comfortable while skating. I contemplated grabbing one, but decided against it for now. Wearing two jackets together would feel too weird.

There was another section to the shop, locked up by a gate. Behind the gate I spotted a full set of hockey equipment, with plenty of pucks, hockey sticks, masks, the works. No goal nets though. Presumably those were part of the rink.

We stepped out from behind the front desk, into a room just as large as the go-kart track above. Like the go-kart track, a series of benches surrounded the rink, allowing people to sit and relax. I spotted Applejack sitting down not too far away, taking a quick breather. About a quarter of the way around the rink, I also spotted… Trixie. She was rocking back and forth, clutching a hand to the stump of her right leg and crying softly.

I looked away before the sight could throw me into a fresh rage, focusing instead on the rest of the rink. It was laid out similarly to most rinks I’d seen, with lines painted under the ice in several concentric ovals providing the implication of lanes for travel. At either end there was a large hockey net floating high above the rink, suspended on booms that could lower them down to be used, exactly as I expected. Glancing behind me, I noticed another set of restrooms sitting next to the equipment shop.

“This is quite the nice place,” Adagio said, sidling up next to me. She pulled me in close, sharing her body heat. The warmth was nice given the cold air in the rink. “Maybe we should go skating together.”

“Maybe later.” I shivered, nuzzling closer to her. “Too cold.”

Adagio frowned in concern, looking down at me. “Are you feeling okay, Sunset?” She held a hand to my head.

I resisted the urge to push her hand away. “I’m fine. Just cold. It’s really, really cold.”

“Okay…” Adagio shook her head. “You don’t feel like you’re burning up, but I’m going to keep an eye on it anyway. When we’re done here, I can check your temperature properly.”

“What, are you my nurse now?” I joked, grinning at her.

Scowling at me, Adagio flicked me in the shoulder. “No, I’m just concerned because if you’re sick, that means something’s gotten on the ship. No one’s been sick since we got here, and that’s worrisome.”

“Oh… oh!” I jumped a few inches in the air from the realization. “Oh crap. Oooh crap.”

“What?” Adagio glared at me. “What is it?”

“So, remember Danganronpa?”

She gave me a dirty look. "How could I forget? We're living it."

My cheeks flushing, I continued, “Ahehe, see, Monoponi’s been ripping it off in a lot of ways. And one of the motives from the games involved a disease, suddenly unleashed on them without warning.”

She blanched, gasping at me. “You don’t think Monoponi would do that to us, do you?”

“Absolutely not!”

We both leapt back as Monoponi flashed into existence, beating his wings angrily as he waved his hooves at us. “What kind of a pathetic copycat do you think I am, huh?!” He settled down onto his hooves. “Honestly, a disease. Pfft. I could come up with a better motive in my sleep! Besides, the situation here’s a bit different. Much more real, wouldn’t you agree, Sunset?”

Okay, that’s a fair point. “Yeah, I guess so,” I grumbled, not happy about ever agreeing with him.

“Well there you go. No diseases as a motive. If you morons get sick, that’s your own fault.” Monoponi stuck his big fat muzzle in the air. “Don’t come crying to me. You’ve got a whole pharmacy worth of goods to deal with it!”

“Then what is going to be the motive then, hmm?” Adagio bent down to look at him, and adopted a sly look, like she was trying to cozy up to him. “Surely you can tell us. Let us know a bit early.”

Monoponi glared up at her, grimacing in disgust. “Like I’d tell you! You’d better not be trying to seduce me, siren.”

Adagio jumped back, gasping in shock. “Seduce you? Ugh! No! Never!” She stuck her tongue out and made retching noises. “I’d rather suck off a donkey!”

“Ahahaha!” Monoponi pointed up at her with one forehoof. “I’ll bet you’ve got personal experience with that! Why don’t you let your little lover Sunset know about some of your sexcapades in Equestria, hmm? I’m sure you’ve got loads of raunchy stories to tell.”

“Equestria? What in tarnation are you on about now, Monoponi?”

To my surprise the alicorn blanched as he whirled, facing the farmer, both wings extended to the fullest. “Ahhh! Don’t sneak up on your Captain like that! It’s bad form! Bad form!”

Applejack’s face screwed up in confusion. “And here Ah thought no one could ever sneak up on you,” she muttered.

“Well… of course not! Don’t be stupid!” Monoponi wiggled his forehooves in her general direction, flushing pink with anger. “Your Captain sees everything that happens on his ship! Everything!” He lit up his horn with crimson. “Honestly, the nerve of you people, even after the lesson I taught you. You’d think none of you respected me at all!” With a pop and a flash of light, he was gone.

“That’s cause there ain’t any who do,” Applejack snarked as she shook her head. Then she glared at us, crossing her arms over her chest. “All right, y’all. Which one of you’s gonna explain what he was talkin’ about?”

“W-w-what do you mean?” I said, holding up a hand behind my head and laughing. “Ahehehe, there’s nothing to talk about! Nope, nothing at all.”

Applejack narrowed her eyes to slits as she stared at me. “Sugarcube, you do remember Ah can tell when someone’s lyin, right’? You’re lyin’ so bad right now Ah could smell you from a mile away!”

I glanced at Adagio, silently begging for help, but she seemed just as clueless as me. “Look, Applejack, it’s nothing to worry about, okay? Just drop it.”

“Oh no. That ain’t gonna fly, Sunset,” Applejack replied. She uncrossed her arms and got up in my face, jabbing me in the chest with a finger. “Don’t think for a second Ah don’t remember you kept that picture from Rarity and me, cause Ah do. Ah’m not puttin’ up with any more secrets! So spill it.”

My mouth dried out like a desert, my heart hammering in my chest. “It’s, I, you see--”

“I’m a siren.”

Both Applejack and I stared slack-jawed at Adagio, who stood there examining her fingernails like she hadn’t a care in the world. “You’re a what now?” Applejack stammered.

“A siren. From Equestria. Like Sunset.” Adagio dropped her hand and looked Applejack square in the eye. “Why else do you think she and I get along so well?”

“Adagio!” I cried. “What’re you doing?!”

Applejack swallowed nervously, looking back and forth between Adagio and me so fast it was like she was watching a tennis match. “So you mean, you’re not human either?”

“Nope.”

The farmer summoned up her nerves, and eyed Adagio just like she’d eyed me a couple moments before. Then her eyes widened like saucers. “You’re tellin’ the truth. You really ain’t human.”

Adagio cocked her head and flashed Applejack a coy smile, showing off her sharp fangs. “That’s right. So, what’re you going to do about it?”

“Do?” Applejack took a step back.

“Yes, what’re you going to do about it?” Adagio stepped forward once, twice, thrice, sashaying till she was right in Applejack’s face. “Are you going to tell everyone? Create more panic? Hmm?”

Applejack tried to step back again, but quick as a flash Adagio had gripped her shirt. “Uh, no, no Ah don’t wanna do that!” she said, laughing nervously.

“No, you don’t, do you?” Adagio pulled on Applejack’s shirt, drawing the farmer closer, close enough Adagio could practically kiss the other woman. She set her other hand on Applejack’s shoulder, and ran her finger along the farmer’s neck in little circles, causing Applejack to take a sudden quick breath. “Now, here’s the deal, Applejack. I’ve kept quiet about this because I didn’t want to scare people. You saw what happened when Sunset’s secret got out. And she’s just a pony. Me? I’m a siren. I’m more dangerous.

“D-dangerous, huh?” Applejack glanced my way briefly, one hand raising just a tad as if stretching out for help before dropping. “H-how dangerous?”

Adagio leaned forward even more till her lips were less than an inch away from the farmer’s. Her finger continued to circle around Applejack’s neck. “Very. Dangerous,” she purred, her voice turning low and husky. “You do know what a siren is, right? We’re predators.

Applejack let out a whimper, her body starting to shake, her knees knocking together. “You uh, you don’t say,” she stammered.

“If I wanted you dead, Applejack, I’d kill you, and there’d be nothing you could do about it,” Adagio continued, causing the farmer to whimper more and more as she went on. “Of course, I wouldn’t actually do that. Sunset’s been teaching me how to be nice. How to get along with others. I’d hate for there to be a reason I’d forget all about her lessons.” Her grip on Applejack’s shirt waned as she pressed her hand in, circling on the farmer’s chest just like she was on her neck.

“Ah-Ah-Ah wouldn’t want to do anythin’ like that,'' Applejack stuttered, her brow running with sweat, soaking into her shirt despite the cold air of the ice rink. I saw a trickle of wetness run down her pant leg and smelled a hint of ammonia. Oh crap, she pissed herself. Applejack actually pissed herself.

“Good.” Adagio abruptly released the farmer and backed away, stopping only when she was beside me again. “Keep it that way, won’t you?”

Applejack, every visible part of her flushing a florid pink, nodded several times like a bobblehead and sprinted off in the direction of the restroom, disappearing inside the women’s in a hurry.

I stared, utterly flabbergasted, at the siren standing proudly beside me. A rush of emotions washed through me, some bizarre mixture of jealousy, confusion, and outright arousal. “What the hell was that?” I muttered.

Adagio preened, smirking at me in the smuggest fashion I’d ever seen. “Siren diplomacy. She already heard Monoponi say what I was. She just wanted you to admit it. So I gave her a reason not to push the matter.”

I looked back towards the restrooms, where I heard a brief bit of terrified shouting.“What if she talks anyway?”

“She won’t,” Adagio said with conviction. “Applejack’s smart. She knows full well if I was going to murder anyone, I would’ve done so by now. She was just curious. And now she’s seen what that got her.”

I heard another shout of fear from the bathroom, shook my head in disbelief, and decided I didn’t want to stand around here anymore. So I started making my way towards the exit on the far side of the ice rink. “Should I be jealous?” I muttered.

Adagio laughed that low, velvety laugh of hers, all chocolate with just a hint of bitterness. “Don’t be stupid, Sunset. You’re the one I love, not--” she clammed up immediately, turning pale as she slapped a hand to her mouth.

A spark sizzled its way throughout my entire nervous system, arcing shock like I’d just shook hands with a tesla coil. “Did, did you just--”

“Oh look there’s the exit let’s go this way Sunset we still have a lot to explore, don’t we?” Adagio growled, dropping into an outright snarl on the last two words as she pushed me forward.

I didn’t respond, allowing her to push me forward as my mind threw out fresh alarms like an air raid at a schoolhouse, all screaming and shouting and little miniature versions of myself running around in panic. She… she said it. She actually said it. She used the L word. The L word! I never thought she’d use the L word! What do I do?!

I glanced back at Adagio, who’d drawn herself up protectively, glaring at everything around her like every piece of her surroundings had personally offended her. What I don’t do is ask her about it. Not now. She’d probably rip my head off if I tried. She’s too embarrassed.

But do I feel the same way? Do I… love her?

I didn’t know. I couldn’t know. On the one hand, I felt closer to her than ever, after Trixie...after the third trial. But on the other hand… the third trial. I’d already been betrayed by one close friend. I’d lost said friend, as sure as if she’d died. I remembered thinking, the night before the trial, about how if I lost either of them I’d fall apart at the seams.

I hadn’t yet. Somehow, despite it all, I hadn’t yet. Maybe it was because Trixie was still alive. Maybe a small part of me was hoping, somehow, I could forgive her, and get my friend back. If I even could. She murdered someone, after all.

But then again, my siren lover was no stranger to killing herself, was she? Sure, she said she’d never done it on purpose, but after watching the way she’d threatened Applejack, I wasn’t so sure anymore. For all I knew she had killed, intentionally, more than once. And yet, despite that… I wasn’t bothered. I didn’t hold it against her. I just accepted her as she was.

...maybe there was a lesson to take from that.

Maybe.

As we passed through the doors back into the promenade, the sudden burst of hot air returned my attention to my surroundings. This section of the promenade was short. To our left was the grand staircase back up to the second floor, and to our right was a short walk up to a dead end. There was one other door, but a quick check showed it to be the door to the first floor of the library. I stopped in just long enough to check the archive door, which was still locked. So instead, Adagio and I made our way up the staircase and headed for the one door we hadn’t touched yet. This one bore a sign in fancy lettering that read “The Pegasus Experience.”

Inside we found a large room, smaller than the go-kart track and ice skating rink, but still decently sized. The room was dominated by two large glass tubes with hatchways in at the bottom, extending all the way up to crest what was presumably the top deck of the ship. There was a small side room labeled “changing room” divided into men’s and women’s, with scanners like the fitness center locker rooms. To one side was yet another equipment rental/checkout stand, this one stocked primarily with several different sizes and shapes of bodysuits, all labeled as indoor sky-diving suits. There was also the standard safety equipment of helmets and knee pads I’d seen everywhere, and a few touristy type goods including coffee mugs and tote bags labeled with the “Pegasus Experience” name and logo, a pair of stylized outstretched feathery wings.

“Oh, hey,” Diamond Tiara said, greeting us. She was standing behind the equipment rental stand, poking around at the equipment. “Neat place, huh?”

Rarity was with her, and she smiled warmly when she saw me. “Oh, Sunset, there you are, darling. I was hoping to run into you. I do hope you haven’t forgotten what I asked of you yesterday?”

Actually, I’d forgotten all about that. “Uh, you said you wanted to spend some time with me, right?”

“Yes, please,” Rarity replied. She strode over and held out her arms. “May I?”

Hesitantly, I opened up my arms and hugged her. “You’re not still mad at me over the trial?”

“So to speak.” Rarity withdrew quickly, still smiling. “Don’t misunderstand. I still have some words for you about your behavior during it, especially regarding that photo. But I’ll save that for later. Shall we meet up after lunch, in the spa, say around 2:00 PM?” She glanced over at Adagio, her smile dimming a tad. “Ah, alone, if that’s alright.”

Adagio arched an eyebrow, glanced between the two of us, then shrugged. “I’m sure I can find something to do.”

“It’s a d--ah, a meetup,” I caught myself before I made a terrible mistake in my word choice. Last thing I need is to give either of these women the wrong impression.

Rarity obviously caught what I’d been about to say, her cheeks blooming. “Anywho, have you seen this place yet? It’s some sort of indoor skydiving experience. Look.”

She pointed at the tubes, and as I looked up I realized Scootaloo was hovering up near the top in one of them, waving her arms and making happy noises. Rainbow Dash was in the other tube, whooping and hollering. “This is just like flying!” I heard her shout.

“So it’s a vertical wind tunnel, then,” I said, rubbing my chin. “Are we sure this is safe? If the fans cut out--”

“There’s safety harnesses attached at the top,” Tiara interrupted, pointing out a set of rules I hadn’t noticed hanging off the rental stand. “You have to put them on before the wind tunnel will turn on.”

I checked the rules real quick, and sure enough, they said just that, along with a few other generalized things, very similar to the rule set from the go-kart track. That’s two for two on the safety features. I’ll bet the ice skating rink had something similar and I just missed it in the… chaos. Yeah, let’s go with chaos. It’s kind of weird actually, how many safety features there are. Maybe it’s just to lure us into a false sense of security. Or give people ideas on what to sabotage. Knowing Monoponi, it’s probably both.

I heard the rustle of an opening door from the changing room, and spotted Flash Sentry coming out, clad in one of the bodysuits. He was carrying something in his hand, staring down at it with a haunted expression in his eyes. “Flash?” I said. “You okay?”

“Huh?” He looked up at me. “Uh, yeah, just… take a look at this, huh?” He waved the object he held, which looked like a photograph.

Oh goodie. Here we go again. What sort of bizarre little peek into our old lives is his going to give us this time? Were Fluttershy and Twilight in a relationship? Or maybe Fluttershy and Pinkie were best friends. Maybe Rainbow Dash and Pinkie were married, because that’d be funny to someone like Monoponi, right?

All of us in the room save for the two flying people crowded about the photograph, taking it in. “What?” I breathed, seeing something I hadn’t anticipated.

Oh, it featured Twilight Sparkle. I knew it would. But it wasn’t just Twilight Sparkle. It was two Twilight Sparkles, one dressed like the one we’d all come to know. The other was taller, dressed in some kind of evening gown, complete with gloves. She wore her hair down, which completely failed to hide the lavender pony ears and wings she bore. She looked like some sort of bizarre pony human fusion, like the kind of thing furry artists liked to draw. Anthro, that was the term. The two Twilights were engaged in some sort of conversation, with the taller one handing over some sort of book to the shorter one. For some reason the book held a symbol rather similar to my cutie mark, albeit with a few minor differences, some extra flourishes of color.

But they weren’t the only one in the picture. Three other someones were behind the two Twilights, waving at the camera, with smiles on their faces.

Me. It was me, right smack dab between Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie.

“Why are there two Twilights?” Rarity said, her face twisted up in confusion.

“Better question: why does one of them have wings?” Diamond Tiara added.

Adagio and I shared a glance, and I sighed. “Because one of them’s from Equestria,” I said. I quickly explained, in brief, the dream I’d had after the second trial. “I was pretty sure our two worlds had counterparts. I guess this confirms it.”

“It looks like you knew them, Sunset,” Flash muttered in a monotone. “Did you?”

I shook my head. “I must have, once upon a time. I don’t remember now though. Probably because of the stolen memories.”

“But why the wings?” Rarity insisted, looking right at me. “Does this mean she has magic?”

“Probably,” Adagio answered for me. “Rainbow Dash had some kind of magic. Maybe we all did, and Monoponi took it from us.”

Rarity frowned darkly. “Hmph. It would be like him to do that, wouldn’t it? Oh, if only I could remember!”

“Why do we keep finding these pictures, anyway?” Tiara wondered as she took the picture and turned it all around in her hands as she examined it further.

“Probably some game Monoponi’s playing with us,” Flash grumbled. “He’s getting a big laugh out of seeing how confused we are.”

It certainly seemed that way to me. Every time we explored a new setting, there was one of these pictures just waiting around for us. First the one in Trixie’s cloak, then the picture of Rarity and Applejack in the spa, and now this one of two Twilights, Fluttershy, Pinkie, and me. Like little hints, barest glimpses into lives we once had, before we were trapped here. Monoponi obviously wanted us to figure something out. Why else would he bother leaving these hints around?

Maybe it was just to confuse us, but somehow, I wasn’t so sure that was the case. Judging by the dream I had, plus this picture, and what Monoponi said to Twilight in the first trial, I was all but certain the other Twilight in this picture was the person close to her he was talking about. But how was she connected to all of this? Who was she?

The dream suggested she was connected to the Elements of Harmony, like some sort of leader figure. The wings further suggested she’d become an alicorn, probably via some sort of ascension process. So she was probably a princess in Equestria. Which meant she was one of the good guys.

At least, I hoped she was. Because the only other possibility was that she was the one behind Monoponi, and this was his way of hinting at that. I had to hope against hope that wasn’t the case.

Twilight Sparkle, if you’re out there, I hope you’re trying to find a way to help us. Please, help us. Save us from this killing game. Because too many of us have died already.

And sooner or later, someone would die again.

Author's Note:

This chapter's title is adapted from "two ships passing in the night," just foreshortened to sound better.

I'm sure there will be absolutely zero consequences to Applejack learning Adagio's secret.

Flash reacted to the colors of the go-karts the way he did because they were the same colors as the gems in Twilight's execution, giving him a nasty flashback as a result.

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