• 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 7

Chapter Four:
Passing in the Night
Trial Part 1

Fact #1: Monoponi File IV: “The victim is Rainbow Dash, the Ultimate Athlete. Approximate time of death is between 8:30 PM and 9:30 PM. The victim has several injuries, including a cerebral hematoma, multiple contusions on both arms, and severe lacerations to the back of both knees. Toxicology reports no poisons or drugs apart from caffeine.”

Fact #2: Flash Sentry’s Account: “According to Flash, he and Rainbow were holding one final race near the end of the night. During the race, Flash’s fatigue caused him to twitch with his steering wheel, and he and Rainbow Dash crashed into each other. Rainbow had been in the process of taking a very sharp turn, and hit the wall, tumbling over and over until she came to a halt upside down. He tried to free her, but the security system wouldn’t let him, so he ran for help until he found Applejack and Scootaloo. During their races, he and Rainbow Dash took a ten minute bathroom break, during which time the karts were unattended.”

Fact #3: Rainbow Dash Body Condition: “The body was found trapped upside down in a go-kart, unable to be removed. She was wearing all requisite safety equipment except for the helmet, which was missing. Her complexion was pale and waxy, her skin almost ghostly white. A large bruise had formed over her left eye, where her head had struck the go-kart’s rolling bar. Most of her lower body was bloodstained, especially her legs, torso, and arms, where it had flowed onto the ground. The source of the blood was the lacerations behind her knees. Her Monopad was nowhere to be found.”

Fact #4: Ice Skates: “A pair of ice skates. They were discovered in the go-kart, blade up, soaked in blood. Their edges were far sharper than the usual ice skate blade.”

Fact #5: Shoe Sizes: “Size six: Rainbow Dash, Diamond Tiara. Size seven: Scootaloo. Size eight: Rarity, Trixie. Size nine: Sunset Shimmer. Size ten: Flash Sentry. Size eleven: Adagio Dazzle. Size fourteen: Applejack.”

Fact #6: Missing Helmet: “Rainbow Dash’s safety helmet. The chin strap was partially sliced through by a dull blade, creating a tear large enough to catch and destroy the strap.”

Fact #7: Red Go-Kart: “The kart assigned to Rainbow Dash by the go-kart track system. It was discovered laying upside down on its rolling cage near the finish line. One of the roll bars was improperly welded, creating a small protrusion at chin height for Rainbow Dash that a strap could easily catch and tear on.”

Fact #8: Rainbow’s Backpack: “Rainbow Dash’s backpack, which she left by the kart garage during her evening races. According to Flash Sentry, her ice skates should’ve been in there, but no skates were found. Her Monopad was not present.”

Fact #9: Whetstone: “A rectangular piece of stone, taken from the theater prop shop, used for sharpening blades. It was found in the unisex go-kart bathroom, under the toilet in one of the stalls. It was found still damp from use.”

Fact #10: Damaged Note: “A waterlogged and burned note found underneath the whetstone, in the unisex go-kart bathroom. The following words were the only legible things left, in this order: ‘skate’ ‘careful’ ‘ash.’”

Fact #11: Rainbow’s Monopad: “Rainbow’s Monopad was discovered in the theater, wiped clean of all data. There were traces of water on it.”

Fact #12: Adagio’s Account: “Rarity, Trixie, and Sunset Shimmer were together in Trixie’s room, chatting. Adagio Dazzle stayed in her cabin, apart from a brief visit to the promenade, where she saw Diamond Tiara and Scootaloo.”

Fact #13: Anatomy Handbook 2020 Edition: “A nursing textbook from the library, containing a variety of anatomy charts. A circulatory chart shows, amongst other things, that behind the knee lies the confluence of the femoral and popliteal arteries.”

Fact #14: Monoponi File IVb: “The victim is Flash Sentry, the Ultimate Boytoy. Time of death is approximately 10:45 PM. Signs of amphetamines and opioids were discovered in his system.”

Fact #15: Flash Sentry Body Condition: “The body was found in the ice skating rink, behind one of the bleachers. His entire body was ghostly pale. His throat is spotted with white, and lymph nodes in his neck were swollen. His stomach was also swollen, and there was a peculiar mottled rash on the back of his thighs. His sternum was broken by Applejack during an attempt at resuscitation.”

Fact #16: Diamond Tiara’s Account: “Prior to the murder, Tiara spent her time after the hockey game in the library, leaving only briefly to use the promenade bathroom, spotting Applejack leaving the convenience store on her way out. Later, during the investigation, she saw Applejack put something in the trash bin right after Flash Sentry passed out before going to help him.”

Fact #17: Shop Receipts: “The following purchases were recorded:
RB@IR Fri1922: Ice skates, knee pads, helmet, arctic coat, arctic pants.
FS@IR Fri2342: Arctic coat.
AJ@IR Sat1641: Ice skates, helmet, knee pads.
FS@IR Sat1643: Ice skates.
RD@IR Sat1644: Ice skates, arctic coat, hockey stick x 6, puck, hockey mask x 6.
SS@IR Sat1647: Ice skates.
AD@IR Sat1648: Ice skates.
SL@IR Sat 1651: Ice skates.
DT@IR Sat1654: Ice skates, helmet, knee pads, shoulder pads.
FS@RX Fri0821: Cough syrup, ibuprofen , antibiotics.
RD@RX Fri1935: Tramadol, pads, methylphenidate.
AJ@RX Sat1405: Methylphenidate, tramadol, dental dams, medical tape rolls x 4.”

Fact #18: Bloodied Cloth: “A cloth discovered in the trash bin next to the ice rink equipment rental shop. The cloth was half soaked in the blood, the rest damp with water.”

Fact #19: Empty Pill Bottle: “An empty bottle found in the ice skating rink, in the trash bin next to the equipment rental shop. There was no label on the bottle, and the cap was missing.”

Fact #20: Used Lighter: “A cigarette lighter discovered in the trash bin next to the ice rink equipment rental shop, spattered with blood. It was drained of fuel. Scribbled on the bottom of the lighter, in sharpie, were the letters ‘RD.’”

Fact #21: Scootaloo’s Account: “According to Scootaloo, she and Applejack left the ice rink after the hockey game, and spent some time in the game corner. She claims that Applejack left to get them some snacks, while she stayed in the game corner, then both played games until Flash came for help with Rainbow Dash.”

Fact #22: Applejack’s Account: “According to Applejack, she and Scootaloo spent the evening in the game corner. She claims Scootaloo left at one point to get them some snacks from the convenience store, while she stayed. Later, she attempted to resuscitate Flash the instant he fell, but failed, despite giving him so many chest compressions his sternum broke.”

Fact #23: Disease Handbook 2020 Edition: “A nursing textbook from the library, containing information on all sorts of diseases. It states, amongst other things, symptoms for the following diseases:
Strep Throat: Fever, headache, sore throat with white spots, swollen lymph nodes in neck, swollen and inflamed tonsils, red spots on the roof of the mouth, and scarlet fever rash.
Mononucleosis: Fatigue, headache, sore throat with white spots, fever, swollen lymph nodes in neck and armpits, swollen tonsils, skin rash, soft swollen spleen.
Tonsillitis: Red tonsils, sore throat with white spots, sore lymph nodes in neck, vocal change, fever, trouble swallowing, halitosis, stiff neck
Oral Thrush: Sore throat with white spots, burning or aching tongue, bleeding in the throat, cotton mouth.”

Fact #24: Drug Handbook 2020 Edition: “A nursing textbook from the library, containing information on all sorts of drugs. It states, amongst other things, that methylphenidate is used to treat conditions such as ADD, ADHD, and cases of fatigue such as narcolepsy, and that tramadol is usually prescribed for severe pain. When combined, the two can cause severe seizures and even death.”

Fact #25: Injuries and Maladies 2020 Edition: “A nursing textbook from the library, containing a large repository of information regarding various bodily conditions. Amongst other things it lists the following causes for pale skin: fainting, frostbite, certain medications, vitamin deficiencies, exsanguination, and internal bleeding.”

As we came off the elevator, I took note of the change in the courtroom. Like always, Monoponi had decorated it in “honor” of the victims. In this case most of the room had been painted a cyan blue, similar to Rainbow’s skin color, and plastered with various images of footballs, rugby balls, baseballs, soccer balls, hockey pucks and sticks, and more. Even the overhead lighting had been changed up. Where previously he’d had a series of fluorescents resembling kitchen lighting that beamed straight down upon us, he’d replaced it with a series of spotlights in every color of the rainbow beaming down at angles, like stadium lights. I looked around to see if Flash Sentry was acknowledged anywhere, and then finally spotted part of one wall was slapdash covered with images of sports cars and guitars, with a coat of sapphire blue paint splattered all over the cyan beneath it, like he’d done it in a hurry.

We took our usual spots at our podiums, several chills running down my spine as I realized more portraits faced me now than actual people. Less than half of us are left. Damn you, Monoponi, you monster.

The first portrait I took in was Twilight Sparkle’s, our third culprit. Like Pinkie Pie, she looked worried, even scared in her portrait, with the cross right between her eyes. Memories of her execution entered my mind, but I swiftly pushed them away, lest I get too angry or depressed. I’m sorry, Twilight. I’m especially sorry I couldn’t keep Flash alive for you.

When my face fell upon Rainbow Dash’s portrait, I was surprised to see her casual pose, with her eyes closed. Every other portrait up till now had their eyes open. I wonder if that means anything? Probably not. I don’t even know where he gets these pictures from.


Like Rainbow Dash, Flash’s portrait featured closed eyes. But where Rainbow’s expression could be taken in any number of ways, Flash’s could only be taken in one: Happy. Excited. He actually looked adorable even in his portrait, which was so counter to the way he died it felt more insulting than any other portrait featured thus far. The sheer level of energy seemed obscene. Flash, if there is an afterlife, I hope you were able to reunite with Twilight. If any couple deserves it, it’d be you two.

“Well well, all settled in, are we?” Monoponi said as he flashed into existence on his throne, another large cup of coffee floating in his magic nearby. He took a loud slurp of it before continuing. “Good. Before we get started, allow me to remind you of the special rule involved. Because we have two victims, there is the possibility of two blackeneds! If two blackeneds are involved, you must find and vote for them both, correctly, in order to successfully navigate this trial. Fail to do so, and it’s off the plank with you all!”

He held a hoof to his mouth and giggled. “Upupu, though it won’t really be a plank. I have something far more fun in store if you mess it up! Ahahaha!” He cleared his throat. “Ahem. Be sure not to call for voting time until you are certain you’ve found the blackened or blackeneds, because if you miss one… well, you get the point. Enough timewasting. Get on with it!”

“So we’re starting with Rainbow Dash, right?” Scootaloo said immediately, slapping a hand on her podium. “She died first. We ought to figure out how.”

“She was all pale, like a ghost, right?” Tiara said, nudging her chin with her knuckles. “And she hit her head. Did that kill her?”

“Ah don’t think so,” Applejack retorted with a shake of her head. “Flash told us she was still kickin’ after the crash. If hittin’ her head killed her she would’ve died instantly.”

“Applejack’s right,” I said, nodding. “I’m reasonably certain Rainbow Dash died because she bled to death, and the cause was these.”

Fact #4: Ice Skates: “A pair of ice skates. They were discovered in the go-kart, blade up, soaked in blood. Their edges were far sharper than the usual ice skate blade.”

Rarity held a hand to her mouth. “Oh my. I saw you pull those out of the kart during the investigation, but I didn’t realize they were so sharp!”

Adagio held up her bandaged finger. “So sharp I cut myself just checking the edge. They were more like swords than skates.”

“But why were they so sharp?” Trixie pondered, rubbing her chin. At the glare she received from everyone save Rarity and myself, she gathered up her confidence and said, “Trixie will not be silent in this trial. Trixie is here to help solve the case, just like the rest of you.”

“Seriously, guys, lay off of Trixie,” I added, flashing the illusionist a thumbs up. “I know we all have reason to distrust her, or even hate her, but she’s a part of this group like any of us. And we can be certain she’s innocent, too.”

Scootaloo arched an eyebrow at me and held out a hand questioningly. “You sure about that? I know she was locked up, but--”

“The only one who had the key was Diamond Tiara,” I said, keeping my own duplicate copy quiet for now. “She lent it out to me on occasion, and to Rarity right after the hockey game, but other than for the motive presentation Trixie was never let out of her room. And I escorted her right back afterwards.”

Diamond Tiara nodded and pointed at me. “Yup, Sunset’s right. I never gave the key to anyone else, and it’s not like Trixie could unlock her door from inside anyway. Someone would’ve had to let her out.”

“Indeed,” Trixie said, acting out a muted form of her usual grand gesture. “Trixie saw the lock herself. It was a sliding bar linked into a padlock. The only way out for Trixie would have been out the window.” Trixie’s mouth flattened out and she pointed at her stump leg. “Trixie can’t climb.”

“And if she tried, she’d end up in the ocean!” Monoponi added, bouncing on his chair. “Don’t expect me to save you if you ever go overboard!”

“Okay, okay,” Scootaloo said, backing off and crossing her arms over her chest. “I get it.”

“So we know what killed Rainbow Dash,” Adagio said, prompting us to continue. “What we don’t know is why.”

"Ah'm wonderin' somethin', while we're at it," Applejack said, frowning down at her Monopad. "Whose skates were they?"

Arching a surprised eyebrow at the question, I answered, "Pretty sure they're Rainbow's. They're size six, and only two people wear that size."

Fact #5: Shoe Sizes: “Size six: Rainbow Dash, Diamond Tiara. Size seven: Scootaloo. Size eight: Rarity, Trixie. Size nine: Sunset Shimmer. Size ten: Flash Sentry. Size eleven: Adagio Dazzle. Size fourteen: Applejack.”

"Unless you're trying to suggest they were Tiara's."

"They're not!" Tiara blurted. "I put mine away in my room right after the game."

Applejack glared right back at me, eyes gleaming from underneath the brim of her hat. "No. Ah'm not sayin' that. Ah just wanted to be sure. 'Cause it seems pretty funky to me that she'd put her own skates in her kart."

"It is pretty strange," I agreed, then frowned in thought. "We'll have to figure out why they were there."

“I’m a bit confused on the how portion,” Tiara interjected with a frown. “Like, I mean, how the skates killed her. Did she slice up her neck or something?”

“No, no, darling, it was her knees. The back of her knees,” Rarity said, rolling her eyes. “You were there. Didn’t you see it?”

Tiara’s cheeks flushed and she looked away. “I wasn’t paying attention.”

I resisted the urge to facepalm, instead bringing up some more evidence.

Fact #13: Anatomy Handbook 2020 Edition: “A nursing textbook from the library, containing a variety of anatomy charts. A circulatory chart shows, amongst other things, that behind the knee lies the confluence of the femoral and popliteal arteries.”

“Specifically, Tiara, she was sliced right here, in these two arteries mentioned, the femoral and popliteal. These are major arteries for the leg, and without proper and swift medical attention she’d bleed to death within minutes. So I’m confident when I say this is what killed her.”

“Then did the head wound matter at all?” Rarity inquired, raising a finger to the ceiling. “Or do you think it’s unrelated?”

“I’m not sure yet,” I answered honestly with a shake of my head. “She only hit her head because her helmet’s chin strap tore.”

Trixie hummed, setting a hand down on her podium. “Then Trixie thinks it’s meaningless, as it sounds to Trixie like an accident.”

“Ah don’t know about that,” Applejack intervened, punching up something on her Monopad.

Fact #6: Missing Helmet: “Rainbow Dash’s safety helmet. The chin strap was partially sliced through by a dull blade, creating a tear large enough to catch and destroy the strap.”

“This weren’t no accident. Someone deliberately cut through the strap. Ah can be sure because these helmets were brand new.”

I nodded to the farmer. “Right, I did see that when I was checking registers earlier. And we can all confirm it with our own safety equipment.” I smiled apologetically to Trixie. “Sorry, Trixie, you wouldn’t have known because you’re the only one who didn’t buy a helmet.”

Trixie shrugged. “No need to apologize to Trixie, Sunset.”

“Do we know what kind of blade might’ve been used to slice the strap?” Scootaloo asked, pulling at her lips with her thumb and forefinger as she thought. “Was it a knife?”

“Perhaps someone purchased a weapon from the game corner,” Rarity suggested. “We haven’t bothered monitoring it since…” she trailed off, a mixture of sorrow and seething anger crossing her face.

Tiara shook her head. “No way. Maybe you guys haven’t been paying attention to it, but I check it all the time. No one’s bought any weapons.” She frowned in puzzlement and looked up at Monoponi. “Besides, he raised the prices, didn’t you?”

“I did! A repeat murder is no fun for anyone!” Monoponi replied with a flourish of his forehoof. “So if you want a murder weapon from the game corner, you’re going to have to earn it! One thousand tickets!”

“A thousand tickets, huh?” Scootaloo mused. “That’d take days of playing!”

“And it’d be way too obvious anyway,” I added. “I don’t think the helmet was cut with a knife. I think something else was used.”

Rarity gazed at me, eyes narrowed. “Well don’t hold us in suspense, darling. Go ahead and tell us what it was.”

I nodded, took a breath, then said, “It was the ice skates.”

“What? But Ah thought we already confirmed they were super sharp!” Applejack objected, slapping her palm down on her podium. “The blade used for the helmet strap was dull.”

“Exactly,” I replied with a small smile forming on my face. “The culprit used the ice skate to tear at the helmet strap and then sharpened the skates.”

“But why would they do that?” the farmer replied, glaring at me from beneath the rim of her stetson. “Why not just cut the strap clean through after they sharpened the skates?”

My smile widened. “Applejack, you’d notice if your chin strap wouldn’t secure, right? Rainbow Dash was a world-class athlete. She might overlook a bit of damage to the strap if it just looked frayed, but she definitely would notice if it was clean cut.”

Applejack scowled at me. “Ah don’t appreciate that shit eatin’ grin of yours, sugarcube. You don’t need to mock me.” She snorted and ran a thumb on the rim of her hat before continuing. “Alright, so you’re sure the culprit was the one who damaged the helmet strap, right?”

“Of course I’m sure,” I said with confidence. “There’s no other possible explanation.”

Trixie will tear your argument asunder!” Trixie cried, pointing right at me.

My eyes widened as I reeled back like I’d been punched in the chest. “Excuse me?” That’s my thing! You can’t do my thing! Especially not to me! What the hell, Trixie?

Trixie tapped a few buttons on her Monopad and pointed at the resulting evidence.

Fact #7: Red Go-Kart: “The kart assigned to Rainbow Dash by the go-kart track system. It was discovered laying upside down on its rolling cage near the finish line. One of the roll bars was improperly welded, creating a small protrusion at chin height for Rainbow Dash that a strap could easily catch and tear on.”

“Trixie recalls that when you were investigating, you noticed this protrusion on the kart, at chin height, where a strap could catch, correct? And you further stated this is what caused the helmet to tear off entirely, yes?”

I blinked owlishly, cocking my head. “Yeah, what about--”

“Therefore,” Trixie cut me off, pounding the tip of her finger into her podium, “doesn’t that mean it’s possible, nay, likely, that no one cut the strap at all? The protrusion is rough, and unless Trixie’s memory is faulty, Rainbow Dash raced around that track numerous times. So as far as Trixie is concerned, it’s far more likely the culprit had nothing to do with the helmet, and it coming off was mere coincidence.”

My jaw fell open so far I feared it’d hit the floor. “I… I…”

“Holy shit,” Scootaloo muttered, eyes agog as she looked between Trixie and me. “Did Trixie just blow Sunset out of the water? Trixie?!”

Adagio pursed her lips, held up her hands, and slowly clapped. “I’m actually impressed,” she murmured. “Well done. I’ve never seen someone cream Sunset so hard.” She smirked my way and waggled her eyebrows. “Except m--”

“Oookay, that’s enough of that,” I said, trying to fight off the heated pink blush that rose up to suffuse my whole face. I coughed several times to clear my throat, and to cut off further color commentary. “Trixie, you’ve got a good point, and you might be right. My only concern is that this was a murder. Can we really be sure the culprit had nothing to do with the helmet?”

Trixie, who’d sported the smuggest smirk I’d ever seen her wear, withered under my question, much of her confidence evaporating. “Well, Trixie supposes not,” she admitted, touching her lips with one finger. Then she pointed that finger right back at me. “But there’s no reason to assume they did either. We have no proof either way.”

“Meaning we should dismiss it for now,” I admitted, throwing up one hand in surrender. “Okay, okay, we’ll move on. Thank you, Trixie.”

“You’re welcome.” Trixie said with a small smile.

Tiara raised a fist to her mouth and snickered. "Hey, Sunset, question. So like I said, I wasn't paying attention. Was anything else missing besides her helmet?"

"No," I answered quickly.

Fact #3: Rainbow Dash Body Condition: “The body was found trapped upside down in a go-kart, unable to be removed. She was wearing all requisite safety equipment except for the helmet, which was missing. Her complexion was pale and waxy, her skin almost ghostly white. A large bruise had formed over her left eye, where her head had struck the go-kart’s rolling bar. Most of her lower body was bloodstained, especially her legs, torso, and arms, where it had flowed onto the ground. The source of the blood was the lacerations behind her knees. Her Monopad was nowhere to be found.”

"She was wearing all the other safety equipment. Why?"

She shrugged. "Just wondering. Wanted to be sure this murder happened where we think it did. It wouldn't be the first time a body was moved, right?"

I considered that, then nodded. "I see what you're thinking, but I'm certain she died on the go-kart track. There's way too much blood there for her to have died anywhere else.

“Good." Tiara snorted. "That's the last thing we need. Then I’ve got another question for you, Sunset. You seem pretty sure the culprit sharpened the ice skates. Why?”

“Two things,” I said immediately, raising my hand to count off. “First, ice skates, like Scootaloo said during the investigation, aren’t actually all that sharp. They’ll cut you if you swing one at high speed, but not if you run your finger along it. Second, after you all left the go-kart track, I found this in the bathroom.”

Fact #9: Whetstone: “A rectangular piece of stone, taken from the theater prop shop, used for sharpening blades. It was found in the unisex go-kart bathroom, under the toilet in one of the stalls. It was found still damp from use.”

“Adagio and I checked the prop shop after I found it, and confirmed it was taken from there. Whoever our culprit is, they used this to sharpen the blades while Rainbow Dash was occupied, then put the skates in her kart.”

“When did someone have a chance to do that, darling?” Rarity asked, one side of her mouth quirking in bemusement.

“Oh, you might not have heard Flash tell me,” I said as I called up the relevant evidence.

Fact #2: Flash Sentry’s Account: “During their races, he and Rainbow Dash took a ten minute bathroom break, during which time the karts were unattended.”

“Ten minutes is plenty of time to sharpen a set of skates and plant them in a kart. If the culprit did it right, Rainbow Dash never would’ve noticed they were there.”

"Ah ain't so sure about that," Applejack said with a shake of her head. "There was room in those karts, but not that much room, Sunset. How'd the culprit do that?"

"That's eas--"

"Trixie has an answer to that too!" Trixie interrupted.

Okay, Trixie, I'm glad you're getting your confidence back, but come on. Giving my friend a dirty look, I held up my hand and waved it sarcastically. "Go ahead then, Trixie. Tell her."

Trixie winked at me and used a free hand to fluff her hair. "It's simple."

Fact #5: Shoe Sizes: “Size six: Rainbow Dash, Diamond Tiara. Size seven: Scootaloo. Size eight: Rarity, Trixie. Size nine: Sunset Shimmer. Size ten: Flash Sentry. Size eleven: Adagio Dazzle. Size fourteen: Applejack.”

"Rainbow Dash's ice skates were small, just like her shoes. And Rainbow Dash was scatterbrained at the best of times, yes?"

“I guess?” Scootaloo said, still rubbing at her chin. "I mean... she did smack my face into my oatmeal once." Then she blushed. "Actually, maybe more than once."

"So what Trixie suggests is, if the culprit placed the skates in the kart correctly, Rainbow Dash wouldn't notice them until it was too late. And she saw the karts in detail enough to know how: on their sides. That'd leave just enough room for Rainbow to lay her legs down without touching them."

Applejack gaped at the illusionist, her eyes twitching. “But if that’s the case, how’d they end up slicin' the back of her knees open?"

Tossing another wink my way, Trixie gestured to me. I flashed her a grateful smile then answered, "Easy. All the skates had to do was lay there until she either raced long enough and hard enough that they turned over and sliced her that way, or wait for her to crash, which would've caused the skates to slide backwards. When she crashed, she'd push her legs against the bottom of the kart, and gravity plus momentum would do the rest."

Shutting her mouth in a hurry, Applejack crossed her arms and glared at the both of us. "But how could the culprit be so sure she was gonna crash? You ain't sayin' Flash--"

"No, no, of course I'm not saying that," I answered immediately, scoffing. "That's ridiculous. The culprit didn't need to force a crash. Rainbow crashed this morning too, remember?"

~*~
Rainbow Dash stumbled out of her kart, taking a few missteps here and there before shaking her head to clear it. “Woah. I gotta be more careful.”

“Are you okay, Dash?” I asked, stepping over and holding up three fingers. “How many fingers am I holding up?”

She snickered and brushed my hand aside. “Three. I’m fine. Just a bit dizzy. I didn’t hit my head. I’ve taken harder knocks than that being dumped on the mat at the dojo. Cmon, let’s go again!”
~*~

"So it's pretty safe to assume she was likely to crash again, and if she did, the culprit could blame it on Flash, since he was racing with her."

Applejack held up her hands in surrender, despite the daggers in her eyes. "Fine. Ah'll concede the point."

Scootaloo raised a hand. "So, getting back to the whetstone, how did it end up in the bathroom?” She gasped, then narrowed her eyes to slits as she glared at me. “You’re not suggesting it was Rainbow Dash herself, are you?”

“No, no, of course not,” I said, shaking my head. “That wouldn’t make any sense. Especially because of the other thing we found there, with the whetstone.”

Fact #10: Damaged Note: “A waterlogged and burned note found underneath the whetstone, in the unisex go-kart bathroom. The following words were the only legible things left, in this order: ‘skate’ ‘careful’ ‘ash.’”

“The note was so beat up and damaged we can’t tell who might’ve written it. For some reason it was both burnt and waterlogged, like someone tried to burn it and then tossed it under the whetstone before it finished burning.”

“They musta been in a hurry,” Applejack said, frowning at the holographic display of the note in question. “If they snuck to sharpen her skates and then dumped them in her kart, they musta ducked into the bathroom afterwards.”

“Hey! Monoponi!” Tiara blurted.

Monoponi leapt up in his chair, almost losing his grip on his coffee in the process. “What?! Don’t shout at your Captain like that! It’s rude!”

Tiara gave a half-hearted apologetic shrug. “I wanted to know if there’re smoke detectors in the bathrooms, like on the go-kart.”

“Smoke detectors? Of course!” Monoponi set his coffee down on the arm of his throne and took flight, whizzing his way about the courtroom to the ceiling to point at something I’d never noticed before. “I have them everywhere, like right here. Safety is paramount aboard this ship, after all, upupu.”

“Except for when you goad us into murder,” I growled in response.

Monoponi glared down at me. “That’d be different. If one of you was trying to burn another to death, of course I’d turn off the smoke detector, so we didn’t have alarms blaring around the ship. I wouldn’t want to restrict your creativity.”

“But that’s only for a direct murder, right?” Tiara pressed, tapping the side of her head with her finger. “It seems to me like if it was just someone burning a note, that’d set them off, yeah?”

Monoponi fluttered his way down to Tiara and grabbed her cheeks with both forehooves, eliciting a yelp of shock from her. “That’s right! Ooooh you’re so smart, Tiara! I could just… kiss you!

Tiara’s whole face turned a sickly green as she recoiled out of his grip, bent over at the waist and hurled on the floor, thankfully behind her podium where none of us could see it. “Holy fuck no,” she murmured as she stood up, only for her cheeks to bulge and her to slap a hand to her mouth as she bent over and vomited a second time.

“Ahahahaha!” Monoponi cackled, doubling over and rolling in the air with his mirth. “Ahahahaha! That’s for startling your Captain! Eyahahah!” He managed to recover and returned to his throne, still chortling to himself.

Feeling a bit green under the gills myself at the thought of Monoponi kissing anyone, let alone Tiara, I decided to break out some digestive medicine from my first aid kit. “Here.”

She took it and flashed me a grateful look, muttering a quick thanks under her breath as she popped several chewables in her mouth at once, swallowing in rapid succession.

“So, uh, anyhow,” Scootaloo said after favoring Tiara with a sympathetic look, “the culprit must’ve heard the smoke alarm go off and put out the fire with the whetstone.”

“Or with water first, then put it under the whetstone. Either way, I don’t think they expected us to find it,” I said.

Rarity raised a dainty hand. “Sunset, before we go any further with this… why was there a note to begin with? Did the culprit have an accomplice?”

“It’s possible,” I mused, rubbing at my chin. “That might explain why Flash was murdered too, so the accomplice could also escape the ship.” Though we didn’t know about that rule until after Flash was dead, someone might’ve asked Monoponi beforehand. He probably won’t tell us if someone did though.

“What did the note say again?” Adagio asked, frowning at her Monopad. “‘Skate, careful, ash.’ Probably instructions. Skate could refer to sharpening them, careful for being careful to not be seen, and ash to burn the note afterwards.”

“Could be,” I allowed. “We might want to come back to the note though. I’m not sure we have context to figure it out yet.”

Trixie raised a hand. “Trixie would like to know how the culprit burned the note.”

I exchanged a brief look with Adagio, using it to ask, Should we tell them?

She held up a hand to say, Go ahead.

I turned back to Trixie. “Adagio and I found something that might’ve been used, but it wasn’t found on the go-kart track. We found it in the ice rink.”

Fact #20: Used Lighter: “A cigarette lighter discovered in the trash bin next to the ice rink equipment rental shop, spattered with blood. It was drained of fuel. Scribbled on the bottom of the lighter, in sharpie, were the letters ‘RD.’”

“Whu--but I thought you said it didn’t matter!” Scootaloo said, her eyes widening and her mouth twisting up into a heavy frown.

“Sorry,” I said, wincing, “but I didn’t want to give anything away for the trial. I’m sure you understand.”

Scootaloo’s eyes widened more, and she took in a deep, hissing breath. “I thought you trusted me, Sunset,” she said, her voice quavering.

I do, but… I bowed my head and didn’t respond.

“Fine,” Scootaloo growled, sneering at me, hurt reflecting in her eyes. “I see how it is. You’ll talk a big game to cheer us up before we go in, but as soon as we’re here, you don’t trust anybody.” She slammed a fist on her podium. “Damn it, Sunset, why are you like this?”

“Why did you lie to Adagio and me during the investigation?” I shot back, jamming a finger on my own podium.

“What?” she gasped, all her rage vanishing in an instant, replaced by a cloud of fear. “W-w-what’re you talking about? I didn’t lie!”

“Yes you did!” I reiterated. I scrolled in my Monopad to bring up the relevant evidence. “This is what you told us.”

Fact #21: Scootaloo’s Account: “According to Scootaloo, she and Applejack left the ice rink after the hockey game, and spent some time in the game corner. She claims that Applejack left to get them some snacks, while she stayed in the game corner, then both played games until Flash came for help with Rainbow Dash.”

“You said you didn’t leave the game corner, right? Well in that case, why did Adagio see you on the promenade?”

Fact #12: Adagio’s Account: “Rarity, Trixie, and Sunset Shimmer were together in Trixie’s room, chatting. Adagio Dazzle stayed in her cabin, apart from a brief visit to the promenade, where she saw Diamond Tiara and Scootaloo.”

“Uuuuh…” Scootaloo didn’t respond, glancing over to Applejack, as if asking for help. She burst into a cold sweat when Applejack didn’t acknowledge her, throwing one hand behind her head. “I, I, I… went to the bathroom! That’s it, yeah, I went to the bathroom and just forgot, ahehehe.”

“No you didn’t,” Tiara replied, with a sharp piercing stare at Scootaloo. “If Adagio saw me and you at the same time, then I would’ve seen you in the bathroom. And I didn’t.”

“Ghg!” Scootaloo paled, sweat streaming down her face and soaking her shirt. “I uh, well, maybe I was in and out before you got there.”

“Then why did I see you carrying something from the convenience store, hmmm?” Adagio leaned forward till her chin was propped up on both elbows, her eyes at half mast. “What did you have in that bag? The murder weapon, perhaps?”

“No!” Scootaloo slammed her sweaty palms down on her podium, and they slid off with a gross sounding squelch. “I would never hurt Rainbow Dash, and I didn’t have a reason to hurt Flash either!”

This feels like I’m walking down the wrong path again. I took a quick peek at my Monopad, then nodded. Oh yeah, definitely the wrong path. I’d better ease up on the gas a bit, and reel her in slow. “Hold on, guys, she’s right. She wouldn’t have a reason. If anything, she’d have every reason to protect Rainbow Dash. You had a big crush on her, didn’t you?”

“...maybe,” Scootaloo admitted, glaring at her podium while shifting back and forth on one foot. “She was so cool, and awesome, and fun to hang out with… and hot… “

“But she saw you as too young. I remember her saying as much during the second trial.”

~*~
I could help you with that, Rainbow Dash,” Scootaloo suddenly said, even as her face bloomed with pink. She clapped a hand to her mouth as if she couldn’t believe what she’d just said.

Rainbow arched an eyebrow. “Uh, sorry, kid, but I think you’re a bit young for me.”

Scootaloo sank below her podium, and I could practically see steam rising above it from her embarrassment. “But I’m twenty-one,” she whined in a near whisper.
~*~

“That wasn’t fair to you, was it?” I said, trying to pour as much sympathy as I could into my voice. “You’re an adult, she was an adult, it was only three years, what’s the problem, right?”

“Right!” Scootaloo groaned, slamming her face down on her podium. In a muffled voice she continued, “It wasn’t fair at all. It’s not like I was a freshman in high school and she was a senior or something.”

“I’d feel pretty angry, being rejected like that,” I replied. Memories of people daring to reject the old me fluttered briefly through my mind. For the barest hint of an instant, I thought I saw a familiar face amongst them, but it was gone before I could tell who it was. “Even angrier if I saw them later spending all their time on someone else. Maybe angry enough to kill, even.”

Scootaloo’s face shot up from her podium, a desperate pleading look in her eyes. “But I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t kill Rainbow Dash just because she said no to me. What kind of person does that? Yeah, I didn’t like being rejected, but that was her decision. And I respected it!”

“I know that, Scootaloo,” I said gently, wishing I could reach out a hand to place on hers, but she was just too far away, and leaving my podium meant death. “But I wasn’t talking about Rainbow Dash. I was talking about Flash.”

“I didn’t kill Flash either!” Scootaloo protested, paling even more till she was almost white as a sheet. “What kind of a person do you take me for, Sunset? I thought you’d know better by now!”

I nodded. “It’s true. I do know better. In fact, there’s a way we can settle this issue right now.” I took hold of my Monopad and brought it up to show everyone. “Is Scootaloo innocent, or guilty? All it’ll take is a simple check of her profile.”

Scootaloo’s mouth fell open as she made little squeaking noises before abruptly slamming shut. She slapped herself across the face with her palm. “Oh my god, why didn’t I think of that?”

I blitzed through my Monopad screens, brought up Scootaloo’s profile, and showed it to everyone. “She’s innocent. Her Ultimate title’s still spinning. Scootaloo didn’t do a thing.”

“Did… did you know that this whole time?!” Scootaloo shouted, slamming an angry fist on her podium.

“Nope,” I replied. “I only checked after we started this discussion. But that’s my whole point. I forgot about it, and obviously so did you. Why else would you lie? You were worried that leaving the game corner made you look guilty, weren’t you?”

Scootaloo bowed her head low, giving in. “Yeah, I was,” she said glumly. “I had no idea what killed Flash, but I knew I’d look pretty suspicious. So I panicked, and lied. I’m sorry.”

“Hey, it’s okay,” I said, smiling at her. “I forgive you, now that I know.” My smile turned sheepish. “I’m sorry I didn’t check your profile before I started this whole line of discussion.”

The younger woman looked up and me and waved a dismissive hand. “Don’t worry about it. I forgot too.”

"Ahem! I have something to say about that!" Monoponi interrupted, glaring at all of us. "You morons keep harping on about Scootaloo's profile like it means something. Well, tell me this, then: how fair would it be if one of you had a get out of jail free card ready to go in every trial? Huh? How fair is it that Scootaloo can't kill someone without it being obvious, huh?!"

"Wait, what're you saying?" Scootaloo asked, shrinking back from the alicorn.

Monoponi held a hoof to his mouth and cleared his throat. "I really should've said this much sooner, but I thought maybe one of you dense idiots would've taken two seconds to ask me about this long before now. But then, judging by your track record your Captain should have predicted you'd ignore the problem! I mean, look how long it took you to come up with the idea of sharing the secrets I gave you after I made it legal!" Monoponi groaned and laid his face in both forehooves. "You morons are simultaneously the smartest and stupidest bunch of people I have ever had the displeasure to deal with!"

Glaring at him scornfully, I said, "Would you get on with it? What do you have to say about the profile?"

"I am saying that Scootaloo's profile will not change if she murders someone! That's been the case ever since the end of the second trial." He took one forehoof and knocked himself upside the head. "And lay this one at your Captain's hooves for not telling you then. I thought I would make it a bit mysterious, then announce it during the third trial when you idiots should've asked about it. But noooo, you people are so stupid that you forget about it altogether!"

Scootaloo paled considerably and fell against her podium. "Oooh. Oh my god," she muttered, holding a hand against her forehead. "But that doesn't mean--I still didn't--"

"Don't worry, Scootaloo," I said, glaring at Monoponi. "I still believe you. I still don't think you killed Dash or Flash." For now, at least. We'll see if something changes. “I do have one more question though: why’d Applejack go along with your lie?”

Applejack, who’d mostly tuned out of this whole conversation, looked up at me with fire in her eyes. “Did you just call me a liar, Sunset?”

“Well, yes, I did,” I said, rolling my eyes in exasperation. “Because your testimony to us earlier contains the exact same kind of lie.”

Fact #22: Applejack’s Account: “According to Applejack, she and Scootaloo spent the evening in the game corner. She claims Scootaloo left at one point to get them some snacks from the convenience store, while she stayed.”

“Wow, this one’s pretty blatant,” Tiara said, snickering. She pointed a finger at the farmer casually. “Because I saw you coming out of the store.”

Fact #16: Diamond Tiara’s Account: “Prior to the murder, Tiara spent her time after the hockey game in the library, leaving only briefly to use the promenade bathroom, spotting Applejack leaving the convenience store on her way out. “

“So either one of you dressed up as the other so you could run back out, which is ridiculous because you’re almost two feet taller than Scootaloo is,” I said, snorting, “or you both went there.”

Applejack’s lips screwed up into that bizarre pretzel shaped pout as she looked everywhere except at us, holding her hands behind her hat. “Ah don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.”

“Oh for goodness’ sake, Applejack,” Rarity groaned, slapping a hand to her face. “Please do not waste our time. You are a terrible liar.”

Scootaloo reached out and tugged at Applejack’s sleeve. “Yeah, Applejack, give it up. It was pointless anyway.”

“Aww hell, fine,” Applejack sighed. “Yes, Ah lied. We both went to the store together, and then left one at a time. When we realized all the murder was goin’ on, Scootaloo asked me lie on her behalf ‘cause she was scared. She’s been nothin’ but nice to me, so Ah agreed.” The farmer shot the younger woman a withering glare. “If Ah’d thought to check the profile thing like you did just now, Sunset, Ah wouldn’t have bothered.”

"Did you not listen to me earlier, farmer?!" Monoponi blurted, spittle flying from his mouth. "I said--"

"Ah know what you said," Applejack interrupted with a casual middle finger tossed the alicorn's way. "Ah wouldn't've known it then, is what Ah meant."

“Trixie’s glad we’ve sorted that out, but Trixie still isn’t sure why Scootaloo thought lying by saying she was alone was somehow better than establishing an alibi with someone else by staying with them.” Trixie glared at both Applejack and Scootaloo, then shook her head in disbelief. “To Trixie that makes no sense at all. By saying you were alone all you did was make yourself look more suspicious.”

Scootaloo shrugged, and scratched the back of her head with a sheepish smile. “I guess I just didn’t think about it.”

Huh. Maybe Trixie’s onto something. Tiara did see Applejack deposit something in the trash bin. What if this whole lying thing is one big setup? What if it’s a trap? They set up something that looks blatantly suspicious, that points us to look at Scootaloo’s profile, we see she’s innocent, then Applejack plays a big sister role… what if Applejack killed Rainbow Dash and Flash, and Scootaloo was her accomplice? Scootaloo would be innocent so long as she wasn’t the blackened.

But then why would Scootaloo go along with the plan, if she was going to be executed with the rest of us? Unless she thought something she did would allow her to escape anyway… or she…

Wait. What if she--

“Hey, hey! Sunset! You still with us?” Diamond Tiara asked, snapping her fingers.

“Huh? Yeah, yeah, I’m here,” I answered. I’ll hold onto what I’m thinking for now. If I’m right, it’ll cause them to lower their guard, thinking they got away with their plan. If I’m wrong, then… I’m wrong. And I don't want to be wrong. Again. “Sorry, what did you say?”

Tiara arched an eyebrow at me. “I was asking if you and Adagio found Rainbow Dash’s Monopad.”

“Oh! Right. Yes, we did, actually,” I said. I rummaged through my backpack and withdrew it. “Here it is. We found it in the theater prop shop, when we went searching for the source of the whetstone.”

Fact #11: Rainbow’s Monopad: “Rainbow’s Monopad was discovered in the theater, wiped clean of all data. There were traces of water on it.”

“The pad had been wiped clean, both physically and of its data.”

“Well that’s weird,” Scootaloo said, nudging her chin with her knuckles. “Why would the culprit do that?”

“Obviously because there was incriminating evidence,” Adagio said, with an annoyed look at the younger woman. “Whomever the culprit was, something on that Monopad pinned them to the crime.”

“As for why it was wiped clean physically, I’m certain that’s because it fell out of Rainbow Dash’s pocket when she crashed,” I added, “and it was covered in blood.”

“What makes you sure of that?” Rarity asked, raising a hand in confusion.

I exchanged a brief look with Adagio, then answered, “because of the second thing we found at the ice rink, in the same place we found the lighter.”

Fact #18: Bloodied Cloth: “A cloth discovered in the trash bin next to the ice rink equipment rental shop. The cloth was half soaked in the blood, the rest damp with water.”

“This cloth must’ve been used to wipe off the Monopad, because it’s still damp, and the Monopad still had traces of water on it. We didn’t find anything else that could’ve been used to wipe off the pad.”

“So that’s two crucial pieces of evidence discovered in the same location Flash Sentry later perished in,” Rarity mused, her brow furrowing as she concentrated. “That is quite concerning.”

Tiara snapped her fingers, then shot me a questioning look, asking Why haven’t you brought up what I saw yet?

Not yet, I said with a shake of my head and a whisper on my lips.

She crossed her arms over her chest and snorted, glaring up at the ceiling, but said nothing.

“Do we have any idea where that cloth might’ve come from?” asked Applejack, who’d briefly taken off her hat so she could fix the hair tie on her ponytail.

“No, it could’ve come from anywhere,” I answered. I leaned over onto my podium and stared down at my Monopad while I thought. “I don’t think where it came from matters, so much as why it was used and where it was found.”

Trixie set her hands down on her podium just firmly enough to get attention.”Both the cloth and the lighter were disposed of in the same bin. The question on Trixie’s mind is, is why there? Why not leave them where the Monopad was hidden? Or better yet, why not dispose of the lighter in the bathroom where it was used, and the cloth in the theater trash?”

“Do you think it has to do with who the culprit is?” Rarity suggested, shifting her weight onto one leg. “That is, perhaps the culprit had these items on them, and had to hold onto them till they had a chance to get rid of them?”

“But what kinda sense does that make?” Applejack questioned, a dark glare in her eyes as she faced off with Rarity. “If they had time to burn a note, sharpen some skates, and then take Rainbow’s pad afterwards, they… wait a second.”

“What? What is it?” Scootaloo asked, looking up at her with concern twinkling in her eyes.

“Ah just had a thought. We think Rainbow’s Monopad was taken after she died, right?” Applejack said, looking squarely at me.

“Well, yes, it would have to be,” I replied. I scrolled through my Monopad and pointed out the rules. “This was in question last trial too. The Monopads aren’t allowed to be stolen while someone’s alive. They can only be taken after they’re dead.”

“Then who had a chance to take her Monopad?”

Tiara scowled at the farmer, slamming her open palm down on her podium. “You better not be suggesting it was Flash. You and Scootaloo had just as much opportunity to take it! Hell, anyone could’ve taken it.”

“Uh, no they couldn’t,” Scootaloo retorted, glaring at Tiara. “Flash came and got us right away. And everyone else showed up after we did. If anyone took it, they would’ve been seen.”

“Unless they took it while Flash was gone,” I suggested.

That silenced the room for a good couple of minutes. “Are you suggesting the culprit came back after Flash left, so they could steal and destroy evidence?” Rarity asked.

“It’s what I’d do,” I said casually, spreading out my hands. “Set up the murder, wait til the crash happens, get the evidence out when the other person’s gone, then blame everything on the other person. I would’ve removed the skates too, but given she was trapped in the kart, I can see why the culprit didn’t do that.”

“I hope that wasn’t a subtle attempt at admitting your own guilt, darling,” Rarity responded, though the amused look on her face suggested she was joking.

“But where could they have been lying in wait?” Scootaloo wondered. “The bleachers are on elevated platforms. It’s not like they could watch the race.”

“The access corridor door, duh,” Tiara scoffed, thumbing her nose at Scootaloo. “It’s almost invisible from the track, and it’d be easy enough to climb the fence and get back out. Better question: who was alone for long enough to get away with doing this?”

I closed my eyes to think. It really is a good question. Rarity and I were together with Trixie the entire time save for a brief period where we got dinner, but we locked the door behind us when we did that. Scootaloo and Applejack spent their time together. Rainbow Dash and Flash were together until the crash, but they don’t count. That just leaves two. But only one had the right opportunities.

I opened my eyes, and pointed at my only remaining suspect. “Diamond Tiara! You’re the only one!

“Hmph!” Tiara sniffed, jamming her nose up in the air. “Turning my question back on me? I thought we were friends, Sunset.”

“We are,” I replied, a note of irritation leaking into my voice, “but that doesn’t mean you’re not suspicious. You were alone for enough time, and you did explicitly assign yourself to the ice skating rink, where you could dispose of evidence.” And I haven’t forgotten my suspicions that you’re the traitor.

“Hmm…” Applejack said, rubbing her chin. She snapped her fingers and pointed one at the ceiling. “Now that Ah think about it, didn’t you hang out around the equipment shop the whole time we were searchin’ before Flash died? Ah’m pretty sure I remember that happenin’.”

“I was ‘hanging around,’” Tiara retorted acerbically, holding up her fingers to perform air quotes, “because I was searching for clues. What motive would I have to kill Rainbow Dash, anyway?”

"Well, there is the fact that her secret was unknown," I pointed out. "And she acted a bit suspicious when I brought it up this morning."

~*~
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?"
~*~

"So what?" Tiara protested. "Killing the traitor won't accomplish anything. We already know that!"

"Right," I nodded, "but I'm not suggesting that was a possible goal. I'm suggesting that Rainbow Dash would've made for a non-obvious target. Your lacking a reason to kill her is the whole reason you could have killed her."

"Huh?" Scootaloo said, her face going blank.

"Uh, Sunset, Ah gotta say," Applejack said, scratching the back of her head. "Ah don't follow what you're sayin'. At all."

"Seriously," Tiara muttered. "What does that even mean?"

I glanced Adagio's way and nudged my head towards them. Adagio gave me an exasperated look, then sighed and said, "What happens when a blackened wins a trial?"

Tiara faced my lover and frowned. "Uh, the rest of us get executed, duh."

"Exactly."

Scootaloo threw her hands up in the air and let them clap at her sides. "Now I'm even more confused!"

Slapping a hand to my face, I said, "Sorry, let me rephrase what I'm saying. Diamond Tiara, you don't have a personal reason to kill Rainbow Dash. But there is someone here you do have a reason to kill: Applejack."

"Me?!" Applejack spluttered, holding a hand to her chest. "Wha--but Ah, we, Ah apologized to her! 'Cause you told me too, Sunset!"

"Yeah, and I apologized back!" Tiara shouted. "What are you on about, Sunset?"

I held up my hands, asking for calm. "I'm just pointing out it's a possibility. We know that if the blackened wins the trial, everyone else dies. So if you want revenge on someone, but don't want your crime to be obvious, you could kill someone else. And since Rainbow Dash's secret was never revealed, you could try and argue someone else was guilty of killing her because of that."

"Uh, can Ah just say, for the record, since we're talkin' about this and all," Applejack interjected. "Ah didn't think Rainbow was the traitor 'cause her secret was missin'."

"Me either," Scootaloo said.

"Nor I," Rarity chimed in.

Trixie looked at everyone else in turn then at me. "Trixie also did not think this."

"Oh for fuck's sake!" Tiara leaned forward, squeezing her fists by her sides. "Sunset, what the hell are you doing?! Why’re you going after me? I told you what I saw, didn’t I?”

“You did,” I admitted, shrugging apologetically. “But it’s in question now.”

Rarity held up a fist to her mouth and coughed politely. “Excuse me, but, um, what is Tiara talking about?”

“She’s talking about this,” Adagio answered for me.

Fact #16: Diamond Tiara’s Account: “Later, during the investigation, she saw Applejack put something in the trash bin right after Flash Sentry passed out before going to help him.”

“Wha--Ah did not!” Applejack thundered, slamming a fist down on her podium right in the same place where she’d splintered it several times before. “Ah went to help him straight away! Ah’d never leave someone sufferin’ if Ah could help them.”

“You would if you’re the one who killed him!” Tiara fired back. “We don’t know what killed Flash yet! He might’ve been poisoned, and you threw away a pill bottle!”

“How would you know Ah threw away a pill--ggh!” Applejack clapped a hand to her mouth, her eyes wider than dinner plates with naked fear.

Tiara leaned back and let out that anime villainess laugh. “Ohohohoho! I didn’t, but you just admitted it!”

Well it was in question… “Applejack…” I said quietly, my heart sinking. “We did find a pill bottle in the trash bin.”

Fact #19: Empty Pill Bottle: “An empty bottle found in the ice skating rink, in the trash bin next to the equipment rental shop. There was no label on the bottle, and the cap was missing.”

I pointed to the display floating in front of us all. “Why did you do that?”

Applejack clammed up, spinning on her boots to show us her back. “Ah ain’t sayin’ nothin.”

“Come on, Applejack, you gotta defend yourself!” Scootaloo insisted, reaching over to tug at Applejack’s sleeve again. “This doesn’t look good.”

“Good? I’m already convinced,” Rarity growled, black hatred streaming forth from her eyes at Applejack’s back like twin artillery pieces firing a fusillade of shells. “You had the perfect motive to kill one of them, didn’t you, Applejack? That promise of erasing your family’s tax fraud was just too good to resist.”

Applejack’s boot landed a solid backwards kick into her podium, shaking it so much I thought for a moment it’d split into a million pieces. She whirled on Rarity, her face twisted up and her mouth open like a rabid dog, all teeth and snarls. She raised her finger and pointed it at Rarity like she was brandishing a sword. “Shut your fuckin’ mouth, Rarity! Ah ain’t gonna let some hoity toity dressmaker insult mah family and my pride like that.”

“Oh please,” Rarity said, a sneer ruining her good looks with how twisted up it was. “Given the way you’ve treated me, and how you keep pretending to apologize only to take it back the instant anything I do upsets you even the slightest bit, I doubt there’s much pride to be had.”

Applejack’s hands curled up on top of each other like she was trying to strangle Rarity where she stood. “Ah have more pride in my left pinkie finger than you could ever have in your entire life!”

Trixie intervened, throwing out an arm defensively in front of Rarity, or as far as she could reach without leaving her podium, anyway. “Leave Rarity alone!” she ordered.

Rarity flashed Trixie an impatient smile, and gently pushed her arm aside. “Thank you, Trixie dear, but I can fight my own battles.”

Trixie flushed, and withdrew like a turtle into a shell, curling up protectively. “Sorry,” she murmured.

“Hey, am I the only one who noticed this doesn’t mean Tiara didn’t do anything?” Scootaloo interrupted.

Applejack gazed down at her, still furious. “Pardon?” she growled.

Scootaloo recoiled under the gaze, but persevered. “Even if Applejack killed Flash--and I’m not saying you did--that doesn’t mean Tiara couldn’t have killed Rainbow Dash. She tried to shift things away from her the instant we started talking about it. That’s pretty suspicious by itself!”

Damn. She’s right. I didn’t even notice. “Tiara, care to explain?”

“There’s nothing to explain,” Tiara replied, briefly flipping me off before taking it back with her other hand. “I didn’t kill Rainbow Dash and I didn’t kill Flash Sentry. I was alone, but all I did was read books in the library. Besides, I didn’t have a reason.”

“Whaddya mean, you didn’t have a reason?” Applejack grunted, holding up her hands so she could crack the knuckles on both.

“Exactly that.” Tiara glanced down at Applejack’s fists, snickered under her breath, then adopted a confident grin, placing her hands on her hips. “My mother runs the state legislature. I don’t need Monoponi to get things done on a political level. I already have that influence just by being who I am.”

“That’s right, I do remember you telling me about that, when you told me what you thought was your secret.” Which turned out not to be the secret Monoponi had on her, but someone like Tiara probably has so many potential secrets it would’ve been impossible to guess which one it actually was.

Applejack, quivering with rage, grabbed her hat with one hand and threw it down on her podium. “So what?! You still want off this ship, right? We all do! That’s reason enough, even if the motive weren’t what tempted you!”

Tiara held the back of her hand up to her mouth and laughed. “Ohoho, wrong again, Applejack! I want off this ship, but I’m not going to kill someone to do it. How many times have I said lately that we need to work together as a team to get off this ship, together, without any more lives lost? Besides, you have nothing that ties me to either crime. I had opportunity, but without method or motive, your argument is sunk!”

Rarity barked out a bitter laugh of her own. “Meanwhile, you did have opportunity, Applejack. You certainly have motive. And I believe we have a method, don’t we? You already admitted to throwing out the pill bottle.”

The farmer picked up her hat and wrung it with both hands like a sponge. I heard a brief tearing of fabric before she released the poor stetson and let it fall back to her podium. “That bottle had no label. It could’ve been anythin’!”

“Could have, maybe, but I doubt it,” Adagio purred, grinning toothily at Applejack. I swear for a brief moment she licked her teeth, like she was tasting blood, before she called up some evidence on her pad.

Fact #17: Shop Receipts: “The following purchases were recorded:
AJ@RX Sat1405: Methylphenidate, tramadol, dental dams, medical tape rolls x 4.”

“You purchased tramadol and methylphenidate earlier today,” Adagio continued, her voice smooth and silky, like a spider about to reel in her catch and suck the life out of it. “And do you know what Sunset and I learned during our little research trip to the library?”

Fact #24: Drug Handbook 2020 Edition: “A nursing textbook from the library, containing information on all sorts of drugs. It states, amongst other things, that methylphenidate is used to treat conditions such as ADD, ADHD, and cases of fatigue such as narcolepsy, and that tramadol is usually prescribed for severe pain. When combined, the two can cause severe seizures and even death.”

Applejack fell back as the information appeared on the holographic display, her knees knocking together, her legs trembling like they’d collapse at any second. “Ah, Ah, Ah didn’t, that doesn’t mean…” She lost her grip on her podium and fell to her knees, smacking her forehead against the front of her podium, and let out a groan of pain.

“Really.” Rarity arched an eyebrow, absolutely zero sympathy on her face. “Why else would you buy them? As far as I’m aware, you don’t have ADD or ADHD. You’re not narcoleptic. And while you might be a giant pain in my backside, I would hardly describe it as one worth prescribing an opioid.” She let out a thoroughly unladylike snort.

“It, it wasn’t for me,” Applejack said, reaching up with both arms and pulling herself back up. Sweat soaked the farmer thoroughly like she’d worked all day in the sun, especially her palms, making her grip on her podium tricky at best. Her breathing was rapid and shallow, like she was barely getting enough oxygen. “Ah bought ‘em for Flash.”

“So you admit it!” Tiara cried in triumph. She gestured with both hands towards Applejack, then fired off an ecstatic smile my way. “Applejack killed Flash! That’s one blackened down!”

Scootaloo moved as far away from Applejack as she could while still standing at her podium. She looked down upon the farmer with misty eyes and trembling lips. “You, you really did it? Applejack… why?”

“No, Scootaloo, listen to me,” Applejack begged. “It’s not like that. That’s not what Ah meant.”

Adagio let out one of her most sensual, yet dangerous laughs yet, chocolate with so much bitter there was hardly a speck of sweetness to be tasted. “I don’t see what else you could have meant, Applejack. Like Rarity said, you’re a terrible liar.”

Trixie remained silent, her head cocked to one side as she rubbed her chin with one fist, her face blank save for the slightest furrowing of her brow in concentration.

I eyed Applejack curiously, scrutinizing her facial expression, her movement, her behavior. Hold on a minute, I thought as I looked harder. Applejack noticed me looking and gazed right back, but instead of the anger she’d displayed so often lately, I saw instead a cry for help. Something in those eyes spoke of an innocence I didn’t expect. She didn’t do it, did she? She didn’t kill Flash. I nodded, gritting my teeth in determination. She just needs to answer one question, and I’ll be certain. “Applejack, tell me something. Did you know what Flash was sick with?”

“Ah wasn’t sure, but Ah figured it was somethin’ like strep throat,'' Applejack said, blinking in bemusement as she answered the question. “Ah’d already seen him with antibiotics, and he seemed pretty tired and in a lotta pain, so Ah thought maybe he could use something stronger.”

“Oh come on, that’s a load of bullshit!” Tiara shouted, throwing up one hand in an expression of incredulity.

“Maybe not,” I countered, with a raise of my hand. “Applejack, why did you discard that pill bottle?”

“Because Ah didn’t need it,” she muttered, a brief bit of hope appearing in her eyes like the first beginnings of a campfire lit during a windstorm, threatening to wink out at any moment. “Ah combined both sets of pills into one bottle, and was gonna give it to Flash before the trial. Ah was carryin’ around the other bottle in my pocket and figured that was as good a time as any to toss it. Ah started tossin’ it before Ah realized Flash had collapsed.”

“Oh come now, Applejack, you can’t expect us to believe this,” Rarity stated, shaking her head. “It’s absurd.”

Scootaloo bit her lower lip, and held her arms against her chest. “I’m sorry, Applejack, but Rarity’s right. It’s pretty hard to believe.”

“We found the lighter and the cloth in the same trash bin,” Adagio added, a savage grin plastered on her face. “You expect us to believe that’s coincidence?”

“Maybe it is, Adagio!” I insisted, drawing her ire upon me. “I feel like Applejack’s telling the truth.”

“Trixie agrees with Sunset!” Trixie abruptly blurted as she thrust out an arm in a dramatic fashion, trying to ruffle the cape she wasn’t currently wearing. “After thinking things through, Trixie believes that Applejack is not responsible for killing Flash. Because she wasn’t the only one who bought that medicine.”

Fact #17: Shop Receipts: “The following purchases were recorded:
RD@RX Fri1935: Tramadol, pads, methylphenidate.”

“Rainbow Dash did too.”

Applejack looked between the both of us, her face a mixture of uncertainty and gratitude. “Ah’m not sure if Ah really want your support, Trixie, but Ah appreciate it all the same.”

“Sunset! Trixie!” Rarity gasped, glaring at us with hurt in her eyes. “Why are you defending her? Can’t you see she’s obviously the villain?”

I closed my eyes for a moment, sighing in exasperation. “Rarity,” I said, opening my eyes again. “I know Applejack hurt you. I know you’re upset with her, and I’m behind you on that, because the way she acted wasn’t right. But you can’t let that bias you into thinking she has to be guilty just because you don’t like her. That’s the exact same thing you once told Applejack not to do with Diamond Tiara, remember?”

Rarity’s hand shot to her breast as her face twisted up in offended outrage. “I remember that all too well, Sunset,” she growled through clenched teeth. “I don’t need to be reminded. And it won’t change my mind.”

“I’m not budging either, Sunset, no matter how split we are on the issue,” Adagio said, crossing her arms over her chest. Then she blinked, sighed, and slapped a hand to her face. “Oh crap.”

“Split?!” Monoponi shouted gleefully as he shot up from his chair, his wings fluttering to keep him aloft. “Did you say split?”

“Uugh, can we just skip it this time?” I begged, slamming my face down onto my podium out of frustration.

“Not a chance in Tartarus, mon cherie,” Monoponi chided, waggling a forehoof at me. “When we’re split down the middle, there’s only one thing we can do about it. You know what it’s time for! Presenting our very own morphenomenal trial grounds, It’s time for the scrum debate!” His horn lit up, and once more that techno beat filled the air.

Our podiums arose into the air, splitting off into groups of four and three. I readied myself for a tough argument, trying not to feel disturbed or scared about Adagio being on the opposing side.

DID APPLEJACK MURDER FLASH SENTRY?

BEGIN!

Tiara began with an accusatory finger pointed squarely at Applejack. “You’re the one who dumped the pill bottle in the trash, Applejack!”

“I ain’t the culprit just cause I dumped a bottle in the trash,” Applejack retorted with a solid glare.

“You expect us to believe that getting rid of the bottle in the same trash bin as the other evidence is mere coincidence?” Rarity asked, holding up a finger to point at the ceiling.

“A coincidence might seem difficult to believe,” I said, “but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

“But you’re the one who bought the medicine,” Scootaloo said sadly.

Trixie thrust out an arm. “She’s not the only one who bought the medicine. Rainbow Dash did too!”

Adagio grumbled under her breath, glaring at me from her opposing side before saying, “But Flash was poisoned and Rainbow Dash was already dead. Meaning Applejack was the only one who could poison him.”

Narrowing my eyes at my siren lover, I fired back, “We don’t know he was poisoned. We still haven’t determined a cause of death.”

“Surely you don’t buy her excuse that Flash was sick, do you?” Rarity asked, glaring daggers at the farmer.

“He was sick!” Trixie replied, drawing Rarity’s irritation onto her. “Even Trixie could see that, and Trixie barely spent any time with him after you all locked her up!”

“But if that’s the case, Applejack, why didn’t you give him the pills sooner?” Scootaloo inquired, looking askance at the farmer.

“Ah would’ve given them to him sooner if Ah had the chance, but Ah didn’t.” Applejack responded.

Rarity scoffed, rolling her eyes up at the ceiling. “And why didn’t you have that chance, hmm?”

Applejack withered under Rarity’s words, but refused to give in, stating calmly, “Ah didn’t have the chance because Ah was bein’ a complete jerk towards you at the hockey game. And Ah’m sorry.”

“That’s a bunch of bullshit,” Tiara cut in, sweeping her arm like it was a blade. “You had the most motive of all of us to kill someone!”

“Not true,” Trixie said defensively. “Applejack had no motive to kill Flash whatsoever, not when she was trying to repair her relationship with Rarity.”

Rarity let out a wordless growl through her teeth. “As if she truly cares about me.”

Tears came to Applejack’s eyes, but she refused to shed them. “Rarity. Ah care about you more than you know. Ah know Ah’ve been mad. And rude. And judgemental. And Ah’m sorry.”

“Hmph!” Rarity thrust her nose up in the air and turned away from the farmer. “I don’t know if I can ever believe such an apology.”

“Whether you believe it or not, Rarity, Ah’m tellin’ you the truth,” Applejack replied, taking off her hat so she could hold it to her breast. “Ah am truly sorry.”

“When did this become relationship drama hour?” Tiara interrupted, slamming an open palm on her podium. “Let’s get back to the point. Applejack murdered Flash Sentry, and no one else could’ve done it!”

“No, she didn’t murder Flash,” I objected, slamming my own fist on my podium. “Even if she had motive, she didn’t have the right opportunity. And those pills wouldn’t have killed Flash as quickly as he died. There’s too many inconsistencies for it to hold up. So we can’t vote yet, on AJ or anyone else!”

With that last statement, the podiums resumed their normal positions. “There’s just too many unanswered questions for us to decide anything right now,” I said. “Until we can determine a cause of death for Flash, we can’t decide anything on him. I know we’re all tired, and it’s late, and we want to be done with this already. But until we can figure out answers to all of these questions and any others that come up, we’re not done.

The weary and exhausted looks on everyone’s faces belied their own attempts at pretending they were unaffected by the fatigue. But we had to get this right. If there were two blackeneds, we couldn’t let either get away. And Applejack might still be one of them. So, for that matter, could Scootaloo.

And I still wanted to know what Flash was sick with. Maybe there was a better explanation to be found there.

All I know is this: this trial is far from over.

Author's Note:

So here's my answer to the Scootaloo profile issue. A little late in story? Yes, it is, but there's reasons for that. Specifically, that reason being I'm a moron who forgot to address it I deliberately left it to this point so Monoponi could use it against them. That whole rant of his is totally not me calling myself out and trying to turn mistakes into a story opportunity. Nope. Not at all. :scootangel:

Okay, there's actually another reason, but I'll hold that one to my chest for now.

Also a quick thing: there was a detail missing from Part Five that has since been added in, regarding Rainbow Dash wearing her safety equipment. She was wearing all the equipment save for the helmet, as referenced in this part. It's a minor detail, but eh.

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