• 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 3

Chapter Four:
Passing in the Night
Daily Life Part 3

DING-DONG BING-BONG

I awoke to the sound of the morning announcement, buried in a sea of orange curls. I dug my way out and sat up, wincing and clutching my aching stomach. Applejack’s elbow had reopened the bruises I’d been dealt there before, and added a nasty new one to the mix. I guess I should feel lucky she didn’t break any ribs. She sure hit me hard enough to do it, jeez.

Adagio murmured something as she sat up in bed, wrapped her arms around me, and pulled me back down, peppering the back of my neck with kisses. “No, don’t get up,” she mumbled. She ran her hands up and down my body. “Stay.”

A ripple of laughter ran through me as I snuggled into her embrace. “Okay. I can stay a little longer. But they’ll be waiting for us at the meeting.”

“Screw the meeting,” Adagio mumbled, waving a hand limply in the direction of the door. “‘S stupid.”

Before I could respond, there was a sharp knock at the door, and an insistent bleep at my Monopad. “Sunset? You in there?” Applejack’s voice came through the door. “Ah want to talk to you.”

“I’mma kill her,” Adagio grumbled as she sat up, her hands twisted into claws.

“No, no, no killing,” I said with a laugh, patting her down. “Just lay down. I’ll handle this.”

I drew a robe around my naked body then opened the door, just enough to see Applejack standing there. “What is it, Applejack?”

“Uh…” Applejack’s eyes strayed down to my robe, then widened dramatically. I glanced down and grimaced, wrapping the robe tighter so my boobs didn’t poke out. “Sorry, Ah didn’t realize you, uh, weren’t dressed.”

“What is it, Applejack?” I repeated insistently.

Applejack stood up straighter, nodding. “Listen, Ah wanted to apologize for hittin’ you last night. Ah shouldn’t have done that, and Ah’m sorry.”

I frowned, raised my eyebrows, then nodded. “Alright. Apology accepted. Actually, do you mind waiting a minute while I get dressed? There’s something else I wanted to talk to you about anyway.”

“Uh. sure Ah guess.”

I closed the door behind me, doffed the robe, then rummaged for a set of spare clothes in the closet. “What’re you doing?” Adagio asked, raising her head just enough to look my way.

“I need to talk to Applejack about something. I’ll be back soon,” I said, smiling at her. Adagio’s adorable when she acts like this. She’s become a total softy. "Oh, and don't forget, I made you a key, in case you need to leave while I'm gone. It's on the table."

"Mmrgh. Thanks." The siren slumped onto the bed, and snores arose very quickly. I wore her out last night, didn’t I?

Making sure to lock the door behind me, I left the cabin and asked Applejack to follow me to the outdoor lounge. Thanks to a day of sunshine, the deck had dried up entirely, as had the chairs, leaving us with plenty of seating. We sat down together near the bar, facing the ocean waves. “First off, how’s your arm?” I asked her.

Applejack rolled back her sleeve, showing me the fresh bandage she’d wrapped around the bite wound. “Not bad. Could be worse Ah guess. Ah deserved it, too, bein’ a complete moron like Ah was last night.”

“Yeah, not gonna lie, Applejack,” I replied, “but you were kind of a jerk. Like, a big jerk.”

Applejack sighed, bowing her head. Her ponytail slipped down into her face. “Ah know Ah was. And Ah’m sorry, Ah am. And you don’t gotta worry, Ah ain’t gonna spill Adagio’s secret neither.” She looked up at me and trembled. “She’s, uh, quite the interestin’ woman, ain’t she?”

I took in her expression and snickered. “Should I be worried?”

As I expected, the farmer’s cheeks turned beet red from embarrassment as she pulled her hat down around her face. “N-no, A-Ah’m not gonna---no! Landsakes, no!”

“Relax, Applejack, I’m just kidding,” I laughed. I stood up to poke my head behind the bar, and found us a pair of water bottles in one of the small fridges under the counter. I handed one to her. “Here.”

Applejack fixed her hat back in place. “Oh, thank you,” she said, popping off the cap and taking a long swig. “Ah was a mite parched.”

“Anyway,” I said, after taking a drink from my own bottle, “there’s someone else who has her eye on you. And she asked me to talk to you about it. You know who I mean.”

Applejack tensed up, her lips thinning. “Rarity,” she grunted.

“Yup,” I replied. “Rarity. She likes you. She wants to be with you. And you keep doing things to upset her.”

The farmer set her bottle down and leaned forward, eyeing me from under the brim of her hat. “Ah’m not sure how much of this is really your business, but Ah guess if she asked you to talk to me, least Ah can do is listen.”

“Okay.” I set my own bottle down and joined her in leaning forward. “Here’s the thing, then: you and I both know from that picture we found that you and Rarity were married prior to this whole killing game. That means you two loved each other, before your memories were stolen. And I saw the way you two interacted after the second trial. You clicked, like that.” I snapped my fingers for emphasis. “So why the hell are you letting Diamond Tiara get in the way?”

Applejack’s eyes flashed with ire. “Because that damned Tiara’s word ain’t worth a hill of beans. She’s everythin’ Ah despise: a rich, entitled little piece of work that ain’t ever worked a day in her life, had everythin’ handed to her on a silver platter, and then acts like she’s better than me because of it. Ah worked for what Ah have. Hard. Farmin’s not easy. It’s respectable, honest work, and Ah just can’t stand the type of person that looks down on that.”

“Applejack,” I said, after taking a moment to choose my words, “If we were having this conversation right after the second trial? I’d agree with you. Because I’ve seen ponies like Tiara back in Equestria. All high and mighty aristocrats who think being born into money and power makes them more important, more valuable, with more rights than the rest of us. But you didn’t have the heart to heart that I did with Tiara, the night Fluttershy died. You haven’t seen the way she’s been trying to change. You’re too busy seeing what you want to see to notice it.”

I sat back so I could take another drink of water, then sat forward again. “I know the secret Monoponi had for her sounds convincing. But you can’t let him manipulate you. You know he twists words around. You saw the way he phrased some of the other secrets we had. You saw the way he manipulated us into… into letting him execute Twilight. So what’re you going to trust more? Your own senses, or Monoponi?”

“Ah’m gonna trust myself!” Applejack thundered, clapping herself on the chest with her fist. “Ah ain’t gonna trust that Monoponi at all.”

“Exactly. So why don’t you turn that honesty sense of yours on Tiara, at the morning meeting, and tell me what you really see.” I looked her square in the eye, resolute and firm. “I’m not asking you to be best friends with Tiara. You don’t even have to like her. But I don’t want you to let her stand between you and the relationship you can have with Rarity. Especially since you never know when you might lose your chance. For good.”

Applejack heaved a massive sigh, and sat back in her own chair. “You know,” she said, “if we weren’t in this damn killin’ game, Ah’d be tempted to pop you one for tellin’ me what to do with my love life. Ah’m still tempted. Ah don’t like bein’ told what to do.”

Gee, I hadn’t noticed. “I get it. I’m only saying this because Rarity asked me to.”

“Ah know that,” Applejack said, waving it off. “And Ah do appreciate the thought behind it.” She frowned, running a finger on the brim of her hat. “And you know, Ah was just thinkin’ about what Apple Bloom’d tell me to do, if… if she was still here. Ah think she’d say the same thing you’re sayin’.” She took a shuddering breath, wiping at a single tear on the edge of her eye. “So Ah’ll do it. Ah’ll give it a shot. And if it turns out you’re right… Ah’ll apologize. To everyone.”

I smiled, and stood, holding out a hand to shake. Applejack took it in both of hers. “Thank you, Applejack. It’s all I ask.”

With a firm nod and firmer handshake, Applejack left the lounge, heading for the cabins. After a moment, I followed so I could collect my wayward lover.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long before we arrived at the morning meeting, though I’d had to fetch Adagio a good size coffee to go with her breakfast. I watched warily as Applejack sat down at the far end of the table from Tiara and Rarity, both of whom fired glares her way. Tiara especially, wincing in pain every so often despite her plateful of soft foods.

Meanwhile, Tiara wasn’t the only one who looked like hell. Flash looked no better than he had the previous night. If anything, he was worse, wearing a large arctic coat rather than his usual jacket, shivering every so often as he cradled a hot cup of coffee in one hand, and a bowl of soup in the other. Dark purple etched lines under his eyes like wrinkles in a sheet, and a large splotch of purple and dark green on his forehead showed he’d hit it at some point, leaving a nasty bruise. “H-hey,” he said, smiling weakly at me. “Dash and I’re gonna race some go-karts today. You wanna join us?”

“Uh, you sure you’re up for that, dude?” Rainbow Dash asked, arching an eyebrow at him over her plate of eggs. “You don’t look so hot.”

Flash grimaced, rolling his eyes. “I’m fine. I’m just a bit cold and tired. Nothing some coffee won’t fix.” He glanced over at me. “So whaddya say, Sunset?”

“Sure, sounds fun,” I grinned. “I’m gonna warn you now though, I’ll probably smoke you. I own a motorcycle and I drive that thing hard.

“Uh huh. Sure,” Rainbow Dash replied with a smug smirk. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“Ahem,” Tiara cleared her throat, tapping a spoon to her glass. “I have something I need to say.”

We all quieted down and waited patiently for Tiara to speak. I was more than a little afraid she was about to backslide, that everything I’d said to Applejack would be for naught. I shouldn’t have worried, because the first thing Tiara did was turn to Applejack and say, “I’m sorry I hit you. I overreacted, and my personal feelings are no excuse for my actions. I apologize.”

I watched Applejack carefully evaluate Tiara. For once, the hatred and disdain were absent from her expression. Her scrutinizing was free of judgement. Sudden comprehension dawned in her eyes, along with more than a little bit of shame. To my shocked delight, she stood up, walked over to Tiara, and put out her hand. “Apology accepted, Diamond Tiara. Ah’m sorry for hittin’ you back. If there’s anythin’ Ah can do to help you, you let me know, alright?”

“Wow,” Adagio whispered, looking at me in utter shock. “What did you do?”

I sat back in my chair and tucked my hands behind my head, grinning like a loon as Tiara quietly shook Applejack’s hand and said, “Likewise.”

I flashed Adagio a pointed look. She grimaced, grunted in exasperation, then muttered, “I’m sorry I bit you,” between clenched teeth.

The farmer gave her a firm nod. “Ah accept your apology too.” Applejack immediately turned to Rarity, and tucked her arms behind her back. “And Ah’m sorry for the way Ah’ve talked to you, Rarity. Ah’ve been a real horse’s ass, and Ah’ll try to do whatever Ah can to make up for it.”

Rarity bit her lower lip, glancing back and forth between me and Applejack. “You know,” she said, “before last night, there was nothing I wanted to hear more. After last night, though…” She sighed, stepped forward, and embraced the farmer. “All right. I’ll give you one chance. One last chance. But that’s it. If you do anything terrible like you did last night, I won’t forgive you again.”

Applejack wrapped her arms around Rarity, one hand limply stroking at Rarity’s back. “Ah, uh, Ah won’t. Ah promise.”

“Aww, they’re getting along again,” Scootaloo said, holding her hands to her cheek and giggling. “That’s awesome.”

"If you say so kid," Rainbow Dash said, sticking out her tongue. "Bleh." She looked around the room a few times, as if trying to figure out how to change the subject, then her gaze settled on Tiara. "Hey, wait a sec. Tiara, you never shared the secret you were given. We didn't get the chance."

"I didn't?" Tiara said, caught off guard. She glanced momentarily at Applejack and winced, then shrugged. "Okay. I've got Scootaloo's."

"Uh oh," I heard Scootaloo mumble. She set a hand to her forehead and sighed. "Great, what's he got on me?"

Monoponi’s Secrets!

SCOOTALOO

“Scootaloo likes to pretend she's an innocent, friendly kid, but the Canterlot police know otherwise! She's a public menace, and has vandalized storefronts and schools all over the city! Gateway crime, if you ask your Captain!”

Scootaloo rolled her eyes, hard. "Really. That's what he went with?"

"Ah'm guessin' it weren't that simple," Applejack said.

The younger woman's face bloomed with pink as she looked away. "Well, it is and isn't. I like riding scooters, and when I was in high school I used to do stunts with them. I kinda sorta maybe accidentally crashed into a store or two when doing one in the mall. And maybe I... spray painted some graffiti on my high school gym wall." She groaned, her face falling into her hands. "It was so stupid. I did it on a dare. I don't even remember who dared me to do it!"

"Wait, what kind of graffiti are we talking about here?" I asked, leaning forward.

"Nothing bad!" Scootaloo protested. "It was a... a..." She blushed harder and hid her face in her arms, then in a muffled voice said, "It was a self-portrait of me on my scooter, okay?"

Rainbow Dash broke into laughter. "Bwahaha, that's awesome! I wish I could've seen it!"

"Me too," Applejack snickered. "Ah can't say Ah approve of taggin' a school gym, but Ah guess there's worse things you could've done."

I managed to hold my own laughter down to a slight chuckle. "She's right, Scootaloo. It's not like you were writing racial slurs or something."

"Holy shit no, I would never," Scootaloo said, cringing. "If anything, I'd do the exact opposite. Spray anti-racist stuff, I mean."

"Good girl." Resting my hand on my chin, I continued, "So, I guess that's everyone's secret here except for yours, Dash."

Rainbow momentarily paled before laughing it off. "Hehe, n-not like it matters, right? Who cares what stupid shit Monoponi's got on me anyway?"

"I sure don't," Scootaloo said with a nod. She whirled on Dash. “Hey, Rainbow Dash, mind if I join you, Flash, and Sunset on the karts?”

“Heck yeah! The more the better!” Dash whooped, clapping a hand on Scootaloo’s shoulder, accidentally knocking the younger woman’s face into her bowl of cereal. “Heheh, whoops, sorry.”

“I think I’ll join, if you don’t mind,” Adagio said, favoring me with a calculating look. “It sounds fun.”

“Sweet,” Dash said. “Anyone else? We got room for one more!”

Tiara shook her head. “I would, but, uh…” she pointed at her mouth and cringed. “Still hurts too much.”

“I’d like to spend some quality time with Applejack, if you don’t mind,” Rarity said, smiling halfheartedly at the farmer.

“Alright, that’s cool. Soon as we’re done here, we’ll get these races started!”

I returned to eating my breakfast, now eager to finish. Everyone’s getting along for once. It was a bit rocky there last night, but it looks like we might just be coming closer together as a group. It’s the magic of friendship. Nothing’s going to mess with it now.

DING-DONG BING-BONG

Of course, I just had to tempt fate, didn’t it?

The screens switched on with a buzz of static, revealing Monoponi lounging back in his chair, sipping at his snifter of brandy. “Goooood morning, my lovely passengers! I know you’ve got a big day planned ahead of you, but I just couldn’t wait any longer to debut my newest fun little activity for you all! Please assemble on the bridge deck. Remember, participation is mandatory, upupupupu!”

“Great,” Diamond Tiara moaned, doubling over at the waist. “Now I have to go get Trixie.” She held a hand to her aching jaw and grunted.

“No, let me do it,” I said, stepping forward. “You go ahead to the bridge deck. I can get her.”

“You sure about that, sugarcube?” Applejack inquired, arching an eyebrow. “Last Ah checked, you were mighty pissed at her.”

Rarity’s lips curled up into a concerned pout. “Indeed, darling, are you certain that’s a good idea?”

No. “Yes,” I answered. I held out my hand expectantly. I had the backup key on me, but I didn’t want Tiara to know about it.

Tiara handed over the key without further protest. “Yeah, sure, take it. Mrrgh.” She spun on her heel and strode slowly towards the bridge deck, holding her jaw all the while.

As the others followed, Adagio slipped up behind me, joining me on the way to the cabins. “I’m not letting you do this alone,” she said. “Or else you might do something you’ll regret.”

“I’m not going to kill her, Adagio,” I murmured. “To be honest, I want the chance to talk to her. That’s why I volunteered.”

Adagio’s upper lip curled upside down, wrinkling her nose. “Talk to her? What for? What’s there to say?”

I sighed, and stopped just before we reached Trixie’s sealed door. I pointed to my heart. “Because I’ve got a lot I need to process with this, okay? She killed Pinkie Pie because of me. And I was already feeling guilty over suggesting Fluttershy take Pinkie into the jewelry shop. Then I told Pinkie to go speak to Rainbow Dash. I know it’s not my fault, but it feels like it was my fault.” I closed my eyes and bowed my head, closing my hand into a fist and holding it against my breast. “Every time I think about Trixie, I explode with anger all over again. Until I talk this out with her, I won’t be able to deal with it. I need to do this for me. So as soon as we’re done with Monoponi, I’m coming back here with her, and I’m talking to her. Alone.”

Adagio stared at me, eyes full of doubt and uncertainty. She pursed her lips as she considered what I had to say. Finally, she reached into her pocket, pulled out her knife, then flipped it around, holding the hilt up to me. “Take this, then. Just in case.”

I glared at the knife. “I said I wasn’t going to kill her.”

Adagio forced the knife into my hand. “I won’t let you do this without something to defend yourself with.” Her lips curled into a small smile. “And you never know. Maybe we’ll be lucky, and she’ll put herself out of our misery with it.”

“That’s not funny,” I growled as I shoved the knife into my jacket’s inside pocket.

She recoiled, frowning at herself. “Sorry.”

I turned to Trixie’s door, pulled out the key Tiara gave me, and knocked on the door before unlocking it. “Trixie, we’ve come to get you out,” I called, before slowly unlocking and opening the door.

Trixie was waiting for us, standing on her crutches. The stump of her right leg poked just outside of her skirt, looking smooth and unblemished, thanks to the wonders of healing magic, of course. Now that I was actually taking the time to look at her and not just get angry because I spotted her, I noticed her clothes were sweat-stained and gross, her hair matted and unbrushed, with tons of tangles. Her overall complexion was pale, waxy, and gaunt. She had bags under her eyes that challenged Flash’s for supremacy, and held herself weakly, like she had little energy. Small wonder too, judging by the trays of mostly untouched food stacked on the cabin’s dresser. She’d been given regular meals by Tiara since we’d locked her up, so she had plenty of opportunity to eat.

I sighed, not sure whether I felt sorry for her, angry at her foolishly starving herself when she’d lost so much blood the other day, and no small amount of disturbingly cruel satisfaction at her suffering. I settled for shaking my head, and waving out the door. “Come on, Trixie.”

“I’m coming,” she mumbled, her voice rasping and gravelly, like someone who’d barely touched a cup of water in days. I need to fix that. The water and the food, when I talk to her.

As I watched her slowly exit the room, I also realized something else I hadn’t noticed before: ever since the trial, she hadn’t once referred to herself in the third person. Always first person pronouns. Like she didn’t care about throwing up her shield anymore. Which she probably doesn’t. God, she really is ashamed of herself, isn’t she?

I followed Trixie out of the room, observing Adagio’s reaction to the former illusionist. The siren’s lips curled up in a gross sneer, her sparkling amethyst eyes flashing wildly, like she was trying to inflict whatever barest remnants of her magic she held upon Trixie like it was a weapon. I was suddenly very glad she’d handed me the knife after all.

We were the last to arrive on the bridge deck, of course. Monoponi awaited us patiently, all happy smiles without a hint of his usual jagged teeth. “Good, good, you’re here. Thank you all sooo much for coming!” he said, injecting a good heaping of parental pride into his tone, like some kind of schoolteacher.

Instantly I was on alert. “Thank you for inviting us,” I managed to mutter, sounding not entirely ungrateful. I’ll play along. For a bit. I tried to ignore the look of sheer disbelief Adagio fired my way.

“My goodness! So polite! So sincere!” Monoponi cheered. “Oh it makes me happy to see my passengers being kind and caring. Look at you all, getting along so well. Except… oh no! What’s this?!” He teleported off the balcony and directly in front of Tiara, who yelped and threw herself backwards only to be caught by Monoponi’s magic. “You’re hurt! Well we can’t have that, can we?”

Tiara screamed, her eyes widening to the size of dinner plates as Monoponi’s magic took hold of her mouth, forcing open her jaw to probe inside. Her screams died off into confused mumblings as his magic withdrew. She poked at her jaw several times with her finger. “My teeth!” she said. “They’re back!”

“Well of course! We can’t have you walking around unable to eat anything other than yogurt and mashed potatoes. That’d just be pathetic!” Monoponi grinned cheekily.

“Yeah, it would be, I guess,” Tiara replied, still poking at her teeth. “Thanks. I think.”

“Miss Applejack!” Monoponi called out. His magic swirled around his horn and lanced out, engulfing her arm and nose. “We can’t have you with a bite wound. That’s just unsanitary. And no one likes a broken nose.”

The bandage slipped off her arm, showing nary a blemish or scratch. Applejack frowned, her brow creasing. “Uh, thanks?”

Monoponi turned his attention to me. “Don’t think I forgot you, Sunset! I know you took a blow to the stomach. We can’t have you being in pain.” His magic coursed through me, a soothing trickle like being immersed in a warm bath with oil being massaged into my muscles, classical healing magic. Strong, too, because most healing magic didn’t heal instantly like this, or else ponies wouldn’t need hospitals. Where does he get the power from? Princess Celestia would find some of these spells difficult!

Trixie leaned onto one of her crutches and held up the other. “Can you fix my leg too?” she asked.

Monoponi burst into laughter, waving his forehoof at her. “Oh, Trixie, you’re such a kidder. You know I can’t do that. That was a punishment for failing to get along. No reversing punishments now!” He held his forehooves to his mouth, using his wings to stay on his hind legs. “I’m glad you’re all doing so well together. It worries me when my passengers don’t get along. You’re all supposed to be enjoying this ocean voyage, gosh darn it, and by golly you’re gonna!”

“What the hell are you doing?” I blurted out, despite my previous intent to play along. “You can’t seriously believe we’re going to buy this act. Or are you just doing this because no one rose to your bait yesterday?”

Monoponi dropped to his forehooves and glared at me. “Sunset, you should learn to be a bit more grateful. I just did you a favor.”

“You’re also keeping us trapped here and forcing us to murder each other,” I pointed out, crossing my arms over my chest. “No one’s going to fall for your Stockholm syndrome bullshit.”

Monoponi frowned deeply, pursing his lips. He sighed, bowed his head, then trotted over to me, getting right up in my face. “Sunset. I have put up with your interference time and again. Every time I try to make things more exciting and fun, you have to be a complete stick in the mud and ruin it.” He reached up and set a hoof on my shoulder, sending a pulse of tension roiling through me. Don’t push it away don’t push it away if you push it he’ll take it as an attack and kill you don’t push it away don’t push it away.

“Take it from a friend, Sunset: if you learn how to get along with others, you’ll be much better off in life. I thought you might’ve finally learned that, with how you negotiated the peace between Applejack and Diamond Tiara. But I see you still have a ways to go.” He reached up his other hoof and actually hugged me he was hugging me he's warm and fluffy and gross oh god get off of me you sick bastard! “But I believe in you. I know you can do it!”

He released me, and flashed back up to his balcony, leaving me shivering all over, clutching myself as my whole body tinged green. It was all I could do to keep from throwing up all over the deck plates. “Now then, I mentioned I had an exciting new activity for you today. As you might imagine, it is in fact a motive. But not just any motive. Oh no no no! This is a motive to help teach you how to get along with others!”

“What, like an accomplice or somethin?” Applejack asked, glaring at the alicorn.

“No, no, nothing so droll. Besides, the last motive already dealt with your fellow passengers. Why be repetitive when you can be creative instead?”

“Then what is it?” Diamond Tiara demanded, planting her hands at her hips. She smiled her freshly restored toothy smile. “If you would be so kind, Captain Monoponi sir.”

“Ahahaha, see, she gets it!” Monoponi cackled, pointing at Tiara with his hoof. “Well, well, since you asked so nicely, I think I’ll tell you.” He posed on his rear hoofs, extending his wings out to their fullest while holding his forehooves to the sky. “Your motive, this time, my passengers, is a favor. A single political favor that I, your Captain, can accomplish with my influence. You see, it pays to have friends in high places. This favor can be anything you can imagine. Want me to wipe your tax burden for the next ten years? Done! Need a pardon for a dastardly deed or two, like, say, tax fraud? Or murder? Done! Whatever you need, Monoponi will provide. Buuut like any favor, it is quid pro quo. I’ll scratch your back, but you’ve got to scratch mine first. And you all know how I like my back being scratched!”

“You really have the influence to do all that?” Applejack gasped, gaping at him. I could see the gears turning in her mind, the possibilities churning.

Monoponi dropped down on all four hooves and beamed at the farmer. “But of course! Shouldn’t this magnificent ship make that clear? How do you think I can afford to use a ship like this for our lovely ocean voyage? I am more influential than you might think.”

“You’d have to be,” Tiara said, nodding in understanding. She rubbed her chin with one hand. “My daddy could afford to run this ship. For, like, maybe a few months. And he’d bankrupt himself in the process, with all the fuel costs, and energy, and food and everything.”

“So to be this rich,” Rarity added, a look of naked greed in her eyes, “why you’d have to be a mogul, a billionaire. Or be very high up in the government. With that kind of power, you really could do anything.

Rainbow Dash snorted, slamming her foot on the deck for attention. “Oh come on, you guys! Don’t listen to him! He’s trying to get into your head. Whatever he’s promising, it’s all lies.”

“Lies? I do not lie, Rainbow Dash,” Monoponi insisted. “When have I ever told you a single lie, hmm?”

“How about executing Twilight, you piece of shit!” Flash roared, or tried to roar. It came out more like a lion cub trying to imitate his dad than anything else.

“But I didn’t lie to you then!” Monoponi objected. “I said, very clearly, that whoever you voted for won.”

“What about the secrets?” I said, holding up a finger. “You said the traitor’s secret was that they were a traitor. But we shared our secrets together last night. No one had a secret like that.”

“Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t,” Monoponi chirped, holding a hoof to his mouth. “Upupu, maybe the secret holder for that one’s already dead! Who knows?”

Already dead? Then what was the point of us sharing our secrets together? “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to provide us the secrets given to those who already died?”

Monoponi glared at me. “Really,” he said dryly. “You’re really asking me that. Even for you, Sunset, that’s a stupid question. Of course I won’t! You lost your chance at that when they died!”

“Then there’s still a traitor among us?” Rarity asked, her greed dampened by fear.

“Always was,” Monoponi said. “You still haven’t managed to kill them. It’s really quite surprising that they’ve stuck around for this long. I was sure they’d be offed by now!”

That’s kind of an odd thing to say, given they’re supposed to be your mole. ...or are they? We never asked. “Monoponi,” I said, “are you giving the traitor any support? Special information? Or are they funneling information to you? What makes them the traitor?”

“Huh.” Monoponi cocked his head at me, his ears falling flat against his skull. “I’m surprised one of you actually asked me that. I never thought you would.”

“Stop dodging the question and answer it already,” Adagio said.

“Well, now I don’t know what to say,” Monoponi admitted, fidgeting with his forehooves. “You were never supposed to ask me. I don’t want to lie to you, now do I?”

Rainbow Dash let out a wordless growl, stepping forward with a fist raised. “Just tell us already.”

“Well, they’re responsible for your memory loss,” Monoponi said, rubbing his chin.

“And we’ve known that from the beginning,” Tiara said. “That’s not new information.”

“But surely that’s enough!” Monoponi retorted, waving his forehoof. “I mean, I know it’d be enough for me. I’d be eager to slaughter someone for stealing my memories.”

“They’re not doing anything for you, are they?” I pressed, the corners of my mouth curling up. “You’re dodging the question because you don’t want to admit that.”

“Fine! Fine! You want to know something so badly, Sunset? Hmm? You’re so eager for knowledge? Well, let’s see what you do with this chestnut!” Monoponi summoned up a peal of thunder as loud as dynamite, stunning us all into submission. “The traitor has been assisting me from the very beginning, helping to make this game as entertaining and exciting as possible. Things wouldn’t be nearly as interesting without them! Now, if you’re satisfied, I’m going to vamoose. You all have fun with your races!” With that, he vanished in a flash of light.

We were left to stand there, muttering to each other and ourselves. “If they’ve been assisting from the beginning,” Rarity said, clutching her arms to her chest protectively, “then they’re actively working against us. Right?”

“Ah dunno,” Applejack said, raising her hat up with one hand so she could scratch her head with the other. “Ah don’t like the way he phrased it. Felt like he was tryin’ ta lead up to it so we’d get that assumption in mind.”

“Then you’re saying he’s misleading us again,” Adagio said, glancing between all of us as she spoke. “He’s saying they’re making things interesting without actively working with him.”

“Well what else could he mean?” Rainbow Dash asked, holding up a hand in confusion. “I’m not gonna listen to what he said. And I’m not gonna listen to his motive either. Let’s just go get some racing in. You all coming?”

“I’ll be along in a bit,” I said, gesturing to Trixie.

Leaving the others to their own devices, I escorted Trixie back to her room. There’s only one person I can think of who’s been keeping the game “interesting.” And that’s Diamond Tiara. Maybe she’s working with Monoponi, maybe not, but either way, no one else has caused as much conflict or as many issues as she has. She’s the one who imposed herself as a leader, from the very beginning. She told us to do the guard shifts, helped Trixie buy her swords, even organized the search for me, giving Timber the opportunity to steal the first aid kit. She’s been in the middle of everything, whether it’s leading the charge, or as a suspect.

I need to keep my eye on her. I’m certain she’s the traitor. No wonder Monoponi was surprised she’s still alive. I am too, given how many times she’s provoked everyone around her.

Twilight’s words about Tiara ingratiating herself with me came to mind. Maybe Twilight was onto something. She was trying to distract us from her own guilt, but what if she was right? What if that’s exactly what Tiara’s doing? And here I am falling for it, like the big sap I am.

Ugh. I don’t have time to think about this right now. I’ve got a conversation with Trixie awaiting me.

As we reached the door, I unlocked it, and ushered Trixie inside. I then followed her in and closed the door behind me. “Trixie, can we talk?”

Trixie paused in the middle of sitting down on her bed, her eyes wide as she looked up at me. “You want to talk to me?”

Hearing her voice fanned the flames of rage that began to stir in my heart, but I threw a proverbial bucket of cold water over it. “Yes. If I may.”

Trixie pressed her lips inward, like she was biting them both at once. She scooted over on the bed, giving me plenty of room to sit with a good distance between us. “Okay,” she murmured. “Are you going to hit me again?”

“No. I shouldn’t have done that,” I said, having to fight to get every word out past the instinctive anger inside. “I’m sorry.”

“Okay,” she repeated, still sounding scared. “What do you want then?”

“First of all,” I said, after taking a few moments to think, “I’m still very, very upset with you. You killed someone, Trixie. You did it on purpose, and you made her suffer in the process. Pinkie Pie didn’t deserve to die, no matter what she’d done. She was my friend, and you killed her, because you wanted to escape this place with me. But I still don’t understand why you did it, Trixie. You knew if you succeeded, everyone else would die, right? Did Rarity’s friendship mean nothing to you? What about Adagio? You two were getting along. She had just started thinking of you as a friend, until you threw it all away. Why?”

Trixie’s face fell into her hands as she cried quiet tears. “I was so scared, Sunset. I told you how scared I was before, after Timber died, remember? I wanted to get out of here so badly. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I still don’t. B-but after Twilight ranted at me, I was so afraid.”

Pain welled up in my forehead thanks to a quickly forming stress headache.“But I told you there was nothing to her arguments. She was wrong.”

“I know you did,” Trixie said as she looked up at me, dabbing at her eyes with a spare tissue. “But I was still worried. I couldn’t sleep. So I wandered down to the spa, so I could clear my head. But the tub there was cold, so I went into the fitness center's hot tub. I didn’t want Pinkie or Rainbow to see me, because I was feeling scared of everyone at the time, so I dodged around them.” She let out a shuddering sigh, her breath hitching in her throat. “But, but, not long after I got in, I heard shouting, and saw what Rainbow did. A-and I thought Rainbow might’ve killed Pinkie, so I ran up to the door. I didn’t even mean to hold it closed at first. I was leaning against it to see inside. And then she started begging…” she trailed off, shaking her head.

“And that’s when you realized the opportunity,” I prompted, after a few moments of silence.

Trixie nodded, heaving a sigh. “I thought it was the only chance we’d have. So I held the door closed, and didn’t let her out. She kept screaming, and slamming her fists on the door, and despite her panic I kept it closed till she passed out. When I saw her unconscious, I almost stopped, right there. I didn’t want to hurt her. But, but, I’d already gone too far! If I let her wake up, she’d tell everyone what I’d done!”

“Then why were you grinning?” I demanded, stabbing my finger into the blanket. “You laughed as you killed her.”

“I, I was…” Trixie doubled over, almost falling off the bed in the process. “I wasn’t really laughing at her. I was laughing because I thought I’d gotten away with it. I was relieved. I thought we were going to escape. Together. I wasn't happy about what I did. I felt sick and twisted inside. It all hit me at once as soon as I left the sauna. I'd killed someone. It was awful.”

I thought back to the security footage, remembering that I’d seen a look of shame and guilt cross her face. “You regretted what you did.”

“Yes!” Trixie threw her hands out, letting them fall to the bed with a quiet thump against the silk. “I realized I was going to end up killing everyone here, just for myself. I realized how beyond selfish I was being. But it was too late. I couldn’t take it back. I was committed. So I told myself it was for you. All for you, to keep you safe. You could hate me, stop being friends with me, call me the scum of the earth, whatever so long as you’d get to live.” She fell back onto the bed, and spread out her arms and one remaining leg. “I didn’t just rearrange things so you’d be able to ID Rainbow Dash, you know. I think I did it because I wanted to be caught. I wanted you to catch me.”

“You did?” I said, stunned.

She looked right up at me with those dull purple eyes, so similar in color to Adagio’s. “Yes. I deserve to die for what I did, Sunset. I killed Pinkie. I should’ve been executed. That’s why I voted for Twilight. Because I realized he was trying to trick us. I could see it in his eyes. So I used my vote to try to save her.”

I searched her gaze, looking for some hint of deception, some sign she was lying. But there was nothing there save naked, honest truth. “You really were trying to save Twilight! But why didn’t you say anything?!”

“Would you have believed me? Would any of you have listened?” Trixie shook her head. “I thought about telling you, but... I knew you wouldn’t listen. Not after what I'd done. So I didn’t bother. Maybe if he’d let me vote first I'd have said something, but he didn’t.” She slammed one hand into her mattress in a petulant expression of self-disdain. “It should’ve been me on that wheel. Twilight didn’t deserve to die. I did.”

“Is that why you’re starving yourself?” I said quietly, looking at the untouched trays of food.

“Yes,” Trixie admitted. “I don’t deserve to live anymore, Sunset.”

“There’s quicker ways, you know,” I whispered, feeling more than a little bit of cold shame take hold of my heart, tossing out the embers of the fire, replacing it with blocks of ice. “You could strangle yourself with the sheets. Or drown in the tub.” I pulled out the knife from my pocket. “Or use something like this.” I set it down on the bed. “Why starve?”

Trixie snorted. “Because I deserve to suffer. I shouldn’t get an easy way out. Not after what I’ve done.”

I closed my eyes, letting her words wash over me, mixing with my own thoughts on the matter, churning like a blender set on puree until I abruptly pulled the plug. My eyes shot open, filled with grim determination. “No. No you don’t, Trixie. I won’t let you do this to yourself.”

“What?” Trixie whispered, staring at me in shock. “Why?”

“Because,” I said, wrapping one arm around her torso and hoisting her up into a sitting position, so I could place my other hand on her shoulder. “Friends don’t let friends hurt themselves.”

Trixie’s eyes watered up like a river behind a dam until they burst, flooding with tears as she fell against me, holding me tighter than she ever had as she wailed at the top of her lungs. As I held her, my heart soared. An open wound I hadn’t even noticed was present in it began to heal, closing up bit by bit. It wasn’t healed entirely. Not even close.

But it was a start.

I held her tight for a good while, letting her cry it out. I didn’t cry with her. My emotions were already spent in other ways. “Better?” I asked when she finally withdrew from the hug.

“A little,” Trixie admitted, rubbing at her eyes, smiling past her tears. It was the first smile to grace her face since the trial.

“Good,” I said. I smiled in turn, though mine was a bit more strained. “I haven’t forgiven you, Trixie, not yet. But I’m getting there. I can try to help everyone else get there too. Eventually. But first thing’s first. You need a good meal.” I looked back at the trays on the floor, cringing at the sight. “Aaand none of this will do. I’ll be back with something for you here in a few minutes.”

I took a moment to stack all the trays together neatly so I could carry them, then left the door. I did lock the lock behind me, both because I still thought Trixie needed to stay here, but also for her protection, lest someone else get any ideas thanks to the new motive. I ignored the looks I got from others as I dropped off the trays at the food court, and ordered something new for her, something filling and tasty without being too heavy. “Where’re you going with that?” Tiara asked me.

“Trixie. She needs something to eat,” I muttered, turning tail and heading back as quickly as possible.

“Well, fine, but bring my key back when you’re done!” she shouted after me.

I quickly made my way back inside the cabin and shut the door behind me. Trixie was sitting in the chair by the desk, having cleared a space. Despite her stated intent of starving herself, she tore into the food like a ravening beast. “Woah, easy there, don’t take it so fast,” I said. “You’ll throw up.”

Trixie paused in her chewing, her face flushing. “Oh,” she mumbled through her mouthful of food. She ate slower after that, but still managed to finish her meal within ten minutes of getting it. She set her emptied tray aside. “Thank you, Sunset,” she said, letting out a small sigh of contentment. “I needed that.”

“Hmph.” I patted her on the shoulder. “Good. Please don’t refuse to eat anything else brought to you, okay? I’m not going to let you starve yourself. I’ll force feed you if I need to.”

“Ahehehe, I don’t think you’ll need to do that,” Trixie laughed sheepishly. Her laughter quickly faded, her face falling. “Are you sure you still want to be my friend, after everything that happened?”

“Yeah,” I said, clapping her on the shoulder. “I’m pretty sure, Trixie. Like I said, though, I haven’t forgiven you yet, so… don’t push it.”

“Mmm-hmm, I understand,” Trixie nodded several times in rapid succession.

“I do have a question though,” I said, plopping my rear down on the bed. “You’re always speaking in first person now. Why?”

I saw Trixie visibly cringe, recoiling inward like a turtle slipping back into its shell. She hissed, gripping a fist by her side. “My magic career is over, like Monoponi said. I don’t deserve to be the Great and Powerful Trixie anymore.” She glared down at her stump of a leg. “I’ll never work the stage again.”

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have prodded that nerve. “Well, you never know,” I said, a sheepish smile gracing my lips. “Maybe when we get out of here, you can get a prosthetic. You could work it into an act even. The magic disappearing leg!”

She shot me a withering glare. “Really. The magic disappearing leg,” she said, every word not so much dripping with sarcasm as dumped into a bucket of it and deep-fried. “Sunset, if we get out of here, alive, I’m probably going to jail for the rest of my life. The most I’ll ever get to entertain are my fellow prisoners. See how I make this shiv disappear into this woman’s back!”

The unexpected joke elicited a bark of laughter from me. “Okay, point taken. Look, I’ll tell you what: when we get out of here, I’ll do whatever I can to get you some kind of reduced sentence. A plea bargain or something.” At her doubting look, I added, “I know I’m not exactly a lawyer, but I’ll think of something.”

“Assuming I deserve it,” Trixie muttered. “But thank you, I guess.”

"Sure." We sat in silence for a couple of moments until a thought occurred to me. "Say, Trixie, whose secret did you get? You didn't happen to get Rainbow Dash's by any chance, did you?"

She shook her head. "No. I got Apple Bloom's. She pirated movies." Trixie rolled her eyes. "Like anyone cares."

"Hmm..." Before I could do much thinking about that, my Monopad let out a shrill beep. I turned it on and saw Rainbow Dash sent me a frantic “where the hell are you” text. “Okay, I’ve got to go, Trixie. You’ll have to stay locked in here for now.” I leaned forward and grinned. “Don’t tell Tiara, but I made a separate key just for me. I can bring you some books or something later, when I get the chance, if you want. Something to keep you entertained. I’m sure it’s boring as hell in here.”

Trixie inclined her head. “That might be nice. I left my copy of my dad’s book in your room. Could you get that one too?”

“Yeah, you got it,” I said. I stood up to leave, making sure to take back Adagio's knife first. I wasn't about to tempt Trixie with it in her fragile state. As I reached the door, I looked over my shoulder. “Trixie, promise me something please.”

“What is it?” Trixie asked.

I pointedly looked at her hat and cape, which had been hanging on the dresser, where she’d tossed them. The cape still had flecks of blood on it from her lost leg. “Don’t give up on who you are. You’re the Great and Powerful Trixie, whether you feel like it or not right now. Don’t forget that.”

She pursed her lips, her eyes misting with unshed tears, but she nodded. “Oh… okay. I… Trixie won’t.”

I smiled warmly, flashed her a thumbs up, and left, locking the door carefully behind me. This was the right decision, I mused. I’m glad I did this. I couldn’t live with myself if I’d left things the way they were. I know they’ll never be the same, between Trixie and myself, or Trixie and everyone else. But if we can just keep these friendships going, keep them alive, then we can keep each other alive. We can defeat this motive, and any others Monoponi tries to inflict on us.

I have to keep believing. I have to. I can’t give up hope. Not now, not ever. I won’t let him win. I refuse. I am Sunset Shimmer, damn it.

And I don’t lose.

Author's Note:

Some of you may question Sunset's choice to remain friends with Trixie. It wasn't an easy decision. But it is the right one, in my mind. Like every other killer in this game, Trixie is not a bloodthirsty monster. She was placed into a situation of high stress, as an already anxiety-prone person, who was so afraid for her own survival and that of her friend that, when opportunity came, she acted. Would she have ever done this outside of the killing game? No.

Plus, it's MLP. One of the best things about it is the way in which people are willing to forgive. Discord ruled Equestria and the world for who knows how long, betrayed it several times, and was forgiven. Luna tried to kill her own sister and was forgiven. Starlight destroyed entire timelines, and could be argued to be the biggest mass murder in Equestrian history. And she was forgiven.

Trixie hasn't been forgiven yet. But she's taken the first step towards it.

All of the above was written about a good month ago or so, when I thought people would have a harder time accepting Trixie's actions. But I guess I did a better job of making her sympathetic than I expected, because everyone felt bad for her. So, uh, yay for everyone getting what they wanted re Trixie? :twilightblush:

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