• 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 8

Chapter Four:
Passing in the Night
Trial Part 2

So far, in the trial for Flash and Rainbow Dash, we’d chased each other in circles, to little avail. We’d determined how Rainbow died, but that was about it. Everything else had been shadows, pointlessly chased, with vendettas more important to some of us than actually solving the mystery.

We were thoroughly exhausted, and we still had a long way to go before this was over.

“Well, Ah’m glad none of y’all are about to string me up,” Applejack said, a mixture of relief and annoyance leaking into her voice, “but Ah gotta say, we’d better figure this mess out, and soon. Ah’m ready to hit the hay anytime now.”

“Then we’d better move along,” I said, nodding to her.

Adagio pointed at the farmer. "Hey, you. I've got a question, something I've been wondering about. Did you take any of those pills before you combined them?"

Applejack stared at my lover, puzzled. "Uh, no, Ah didn't. Why would Ah take somethin' meant for Flash?"

"Actually, it's a good question," I interceded on Adagio's behalf. "We did see you twitching a lot during the latter half of the investigation, and one of the things I read about methylphenidate suggested it would interact badly with caffeine. If you took it to stay awake--"

Applejack held up a hand for quiet. "It ain't that, sugarcube. Ah was twitchy 'cause Ah had too much coffee."

"I told you drinking three cups before you brought the rest down for the others was too much," Scootaloo said, shaking her head.

"Well Ah know that now," the farmer groaned.

Rarity let out a loud groan and threw her hands up. "Oh for goodness' sake, is any of this relevant? No? Then let's move on already!"

I grinned sheepishly. "Sorry, Rarity." Clearing my throat, I continued, “First thing on my mind is: what was Flash Sentry sick with?”

“Does that really matter?” Tiara grumbled, rolling her eyes.

“Yes, it does,” I replied firmly, shooting her a quick irritated glare. “Because after everything we’ve discussed? I’m starting to wonder whether or not Flash was murdered after all.”

Rarity arched an eyebrow at me, opening up both hands in bemusement. “What? Sunset, darling,” she said, growling out the word darling like it was a profanity, “Monoponi said he was murdered when you asked him.”

“It’s true! I did!” Monoponi said, raising his hoof and waving it at us. “Like I said, someone alive is responsible for his demise.”

“See, that’s what I’m talking about though,” I countered, frowning in puzzlement. “The way you’re phrasing that is weird. Like you’re trying to say something else without saying it.”

Monoponi’s eyes flashed with crimson light as he leaned down to leer at me. “Oh? Ohoho? Is that what you think? Well, you’ll have to talk it out then, to see if you’re right. I certainly won’t tell you!”

“Fine, I will, if you don’t mind,” I growled in response, before turning back to my fellow passengers. “I’m concerned he might’ve died from his illness.”

“But how is that even possible?” said Tiara as she crossed her arms over her chest. “It’s not like he had cancer or something. You heard Applejack. He probably had strep throat. That’s not lethal.”

“Actually, Trixie believes it used to be quite lethal, before modern medicine,” Trixie interrupted, refusing to back down when Tiara fired off a glare her way. “But that wasn’t an issue.”

“How so, Trixie?” I asked.

Trixie looked at me and raised both eyebrows. “Why are you asking Trixie? You’re the one who wrote it down during the investigation.”

Blinking, I glanced back down at my Monopad, then mentally kicked myself. “Right. Duh. You mean this.”

Fact #17: Shop Receipts: “FS@RX Fri0821: Cough syrup, ibuprofen, antibiotics.”

“Flash bought antibiotics Friday morning, along with some pain reliever and cough syrup to ease his symptoms.”

Applejack hummed, and adjusted her hat. “Well, Ah don’t think antibiotics would’ve cleared things up right away. Ah had strep throat myself once, when Ah was younger, and it took a good two or three days before Ah felt better. Ah think it cleared up after five, but Flash would’ve only had one.”

Adagio glanced at me, her lips forming into a pout as she shot me an annoyed glare. “Okay, you might be onto something then, Sunset, because if I remember correctly, he didn’t look any better this morning. He looked worse.”

“Way worse,” Scootaloo seconded, let out a shivering groan of disgust. “He looked like he’d been run over by a train or something.”

~*~
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.”
~*~

Rarity nudged her chin with her knuckles. “It’s true, he did have quite the nasty looking bruise on his head. I wonder where he got it from.”

“Trixie thinks she might know the answer,” Trixie said, raising her hand. She called up another piece of evidence.

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

“Like Trixie said earlier, Applejack wasn’t the only one to buy those medicines. Rainbow Dash did too.”

Tiara considered that, cocking her head as she thought. “I guess Rainbow and Flash were pretty buddy buddy there before they died.”

“Definitely,” I agreed. “Adagio and I went exploring the new places with them Friday morning, and they were already like twin peas in a pod. They’d each lost somebody and were looking to the other for comfort.”

Tiara snickered, leering at me as she leaned forward. “What, are you suggesting they were sleeping together?”

“No way!” Scootaloo protested, slapping a hand on her podium. “Rainbow Dash wasn’t into guys. And Flash just lost his girlfriend. You seriously think he was the kind of guy to jump in bed with someone else the day after?”

“Why not? I would,” Tiara admitted. When most everyone shot her a furious look, she raised her hands defensively and said, “What? Dead is dead. When a girl needs comfort, she needs comfort.”

“Well you might be that kind of person, Tiara,” I said, trying to keep any judgement out of my voice, “but Flash Sentry wasn’t. He loved Twilight. Quite a lot, actually.” I leaned back at my podium and frowned, my brow furrowing in concentration. “Why was that? They didn’t know each other before we arrived on the ship, right?”

“We can’t be sure of that,” Rarity replied, her lips twisted up into a severe frown of disdain. “After all, it turned out I was married to… to Applejack, and based on the picture we found, you knew Twilight. Both her and her bizarre alternate. So maybe Flash was married to Twilight prior to our kidnapping.”

A look of doubt spread across Adagio’s face. “I don’t know about that,” she said quietly. She glanced between Applejack and Rarity. “I got a feeling you two would be… compatible. I didn’t feel the same thing from Flash and Twilight.”

“Then maybe he just had a big crush on her prior to the killing game,” I said with a shrug. “It doesn’t matter. The point is, here, on this ship, Flash Sentry loved Twilight Sparkle far too much to leap into bed with someone the very next day. He was friends with Rainbow Dash, but not lovers.”

“And so, because they were friends, Trixie thinks Rainbow Dash bought him the medicine,” Trixie said with a nod. “She thinks Rainbow Dash thought it was strep throat too.”

“Ah had no idea those two meds together could cause seizures,” Applejack said, hanging her head in shame. “If Ah had, Ah never would've bought them for him. And if Ah didn’t know, Ah highly doubt Rainbow Dash knew.”

Rarity winced as she considered Applejack’s words. “Then what you’re suggesting is, he took both medicines last night and he had a seizure?”

“If he did, it was a bad one,” Scootaloo said, cringing in sympathy. “I’ve known people who have seizures. There’s usually two types: petit mal and grand mal. Petite just means you space out, look in the distance, like you checked out for a bit. Grand mal is the kind you’d associate with television and stuff, where they jerk around all over the place.”

I reached up to my own head and rubbed it where I’d seen the bruise on Flash’s. “And if he was already sick, that would’ve made it more likely he’d have a bad seizure. Then he hit his head in the process, and the other side effects from the combined meds would’ve made him feel a lot worse in the morning.”

“Okay, okay, so he hit his head because Dash gave him crap medicine. So what?” Tiara shrugged, holding up her hands questioningly. “How does that lead into him dying from his illness?”

“By itself, it doesn’t, but when we combine that with the fact that the antibiotics didn’t seem to have any effect, I think Flash wasn’t ill with strep throat. He had some other illness.”

“Well how’re we supposed to know what it was, then?” Tiara demanded, glaring at me with her hands on her hips.

I chuckled under my breath. “We already did the research into that earlier. When I was examining the body, I noticed the following.”

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.”

I counted off on my hands. “Pale skin, white spots in his throat, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, swollen stomach, and a rash on his thighs.”

Rarity shook her head slowly. “I’m still not certain it was necessary to rob the poor man of his dignity.”

“Well, we’ll know once we look into those symptoms.” I glanced over at Applejack. “AJ, you’re pretty knowledgeable with disease, right?”

“Uh, Ah know some things, mostly from taking care of… of Apple Bloom and Big Mac.” When she spoke Apple Bloom’s name she noticeably weakened, her voice coming out quavering and low. “Ah know strep throat’s got those white spots, and the swollen lymph nodes. Ah think it’s got a rash too, what causes scarlet fever.”

“That matches up with what we saw when we studied the diseases,” Adagio said, nodding. “We looked up several with similar symptoms. Here’s what we found.”

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.”

I smiled gratefully at my siren lover. “Thank you. So, we know from what we saw on his body that a lot of his symptoms are covered here. We can also be pretty sure he was suffering from headaches and fatigue, given how tired he was all the time. A fever is also quite likely, given the way he was wearing that coat around.”

“It was a little weird that he was wearing it even on the promenade,” Scootaloo said, frowning. “He must’ve been cold.

“If the poor darling had a fever, he certainly would be,” Rarity said, a cold shiver running through her body. “I rarely get fevers, but whenever I have them I get so unbelievably cold I have to cover myself in as many blankets as I can manage.”

“I still don’t think he was that sick,” Tiara snorted, waving a hand dismissively. “He was going around racing karts and playing hockey and doing all kinds of things. So he was fine, right?”

I nodded. “See, that’s what I thought too. But now I’m not so sure. That’s why we need to examine this list of illnesses. Maybe he had a condition that was fine until he did something wrong.”

“Well, let’s see,” Rarity hummed as she looked down at her Monopad. “I think we can dismiss oral thrush right off the proverbial bat. That’s more of an infant’s illness than an adult’s. I remember…” she let out a shuddering sigh, a few tears coming to her eyes before she wiped them away. “I remember when Sweetie Belle was two or three years old, she had this. Her throat looked like cottage cheese, it was awful and uncomfortable.”

“His throat definitely didn’t look like that,” I agreed, nodding. “So it wasn’t oral thrush.”

“Ah don’t think he had tonsilitis either,” Applejack said, frowning at her own Monopad. “His voice didn’t sound any different to us, and he didn’t have any issues swallowin’ or with a stiff neck. Ah think we would’ve noticed that when he was playin’ hockey.”

Tiara giggled, holding a hand to her mouth. “I bet Rainbow would’ve noticed if he had bad breath, hahaha!”

“Tiara, drop it,” I ordered, glaring at her. “It’s not funny.”

“Shows what you know,” Tiara retorted petulantly, pointedly looking away from me. “I think it’s hilarious.”

“It still could’ve been strep throat, right?” Scootaloo asked as she considered the list of symptoms. “He had a fever, headache, white spots on his throat, swollen lymph nodes, rash… it all fits.”

Adagio snorted, a half smirk growing on her face. “No, it doesn’t. Squirt.”

“Hey!” Scootaloo slammed both her fists down on her podium and then jabbed a finger Adagio’s direction. “Don’t you dare call me that. That was Rainbow Dash’s nickname for me. I don’t want anyone else calling me that. My name is Scootaloo, okay?”

The siren snorted with laughter, but nodded. “Of course. My apologies. Scootaloo,” she said silkily, her tone containing just a hint of mockery.

“Adagio, come on, stop regressing,” I muttered in irritation.

Adagio crossed her arms and sniffed. “Fine, I’m just trying to have a little fun.”

“Anyway,” Scootaloo said, her face fighting to keep from turning red with rage, “why can’t it be strep throat?”

I smiled, choosing to take charge. “Because the antibiotics weren’t working. Strep throat is a bacterial infection, but these others are either viral or fungal. Antibiotics wouldn’t work on them. And if it wasn’t strep throat, that leaves us with only one option left.”

“Mononucleosis,” Applejack read, frowning in concentration. “Ah think Ah’ve heard of this disease, but ain’t it somethin’ that teenagers get, not adults?”

“Teens and twenties, I think,” I answered, remembering the extra blurbs of info I read in the book that I hadn’t bothered to copy down. “It’s usually abbreviated as just mono, and in a lot of places it’s referred to as the “kissing disease” because it spreads through saliva. It usually has an incubation period of two to four weeks, though, so I’m not sure where Flash would’ve gotten it.”

“Hmm… Monoponi, I have a question for you, if that’s alright,” Rarity said, looking up at him with a strained smile on her face.

Monoponi blinked, sat up straight, then looked down at her. “Yessss?”

“When you kidnapped us, were we placed into the killing game immediately? Or did it take a while before you wiped our memories and allowed us to meet.”

“Upupu, good question, Rarity!” Monoponi chuckled, leaning back so he could put both forehooves to his lips. “I never thought you’d ask. Yes, you morons were on this ship for a couple of weeks before we got the game started. It took a while to sail from our original port of call, after all. And I had to clean up a few… issues, on the way.” His smile dropped, replaced by an irritated frown. “I had to wipe your memories twice. The first time succeeded, but then all you idiots wanted to do was date each other and kiss each other and act like this was a cruise ship for love. I was very happy to wipe that out of my misery!”

I shared a quick glance with Adagio, and I wasn’t the only one. Everyone was glancing at each other, some with nervous or sheepish expressions, others with considered interest. “I uh, I don’t suppose you’re going to tell us anything about what--”

“No!” Monoponi slammed his hoof down on his throne with a loud crack at the same time he summoned up a loud peal of thunder, excruciatingly loud in the confines of the courtroom. “That’s a whole other story, and it’s not important right now! The only thing you people should be concerned with is this: you were passing mono around back and forth like it was going out of style!” He rolled his oversized eyes. “I told you, Sunset, I am no copycat criminal! Never once was I intending for a disease to be a motive on this ship. I thought I’d wiped it out, but obviously I missed the boytoy!”

Tiara adopted a magnificently large smirk. “Was his Ultimate title Boytoy because he got aroun--”

Monoponi rose off his throne with two quick flaps of his wings, rushed into her face, and opened up his great maw, threatening her with his jagged, saliva coated teeth. “Do you really want to finish that question?” he growled in a monstrously deep voice, so unlike his usual high-pitched tone.

“No.” Tiara squeaked, crumpling onto her rump, her face pale from fright.”

“Good.” Monoponi withdrew and returned to his chair. “So let that be a lesson to you all. Don’t ask about the voyage! Boytoy was sick with mono. Get back to the trial already.” He waved both forehooves at us impatiently.

I cleared my throat, trying not to attract his direct attention. “Okay, so, if Flash was sick with mono, we’ll need to look at its symptoms again, to see how they might’ve affected him or threatened his life.”

Fact #23: Disease Handbook 2020 Edition: “Mononucleosis: Fatigue, headache, sore throat with white spots, fever, swollen lymph nodes in neck and armpits, swollen tonsils, skin rash, soft swollen spleen.”

“There!” Rarity said, pointing to the last item on the list. “A soft, swollen spleen. Sunset, did the book say how common that was?”

“It said it was extremely rare,” I answered, frowning unhappily, “but if it does happen, the person sick would need to be extremely careful. A serious injury could rupture the spleen, and if that happened…”

Scootaloo’s mouth fell open in stark realization. “They’d bleed to death on the inside, right?”

“Yeah, they would. And if they bled to death internally, they’d still turn ghostly pale, but we wouldn’t see any of the blood.” My face tinged with green as my stomach churned over picturing it. “The stomach would’ve swollen a bit already from the swollen spleen, but the blood would fill his abdominal cavity. That must’ve been why his stomach was so swollen.”

Applejack sniffed, a look of profound sadness overtaking her face. “Then there was nothin’ Ah could’ve done, huh? By the time Ah tried, he was already dead.”

“But what would’ve caused his spleen to rupture?” Scootaloo asked. Then she snorted and slapped herself on the forehead. “Wait, duh, of course.”

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.”

Scootaloo pointed to the evidence she’d pulled up. “This must’ve been when it happened.” She cringed, holding her stomach. “But shouldn’t he have noticed though?”

“Trixie thinks he might not have, not if he was panicking over Rainbow Dash,” Trixie stated. She set one hand down on her podium while the other stroked at her hair. “Trixie believes the adrenalin alone would’ve caused him to ignore the pain.”

“And I remember when I talked to him he seemed more and more out of it every minute or so,” I added, sighing. “I don’t think there’s anything anyone could’ve done to save him. Something like a ruptured spleen kills in minutes or in hours, and would’ve required a lot of EMTs on standby.”

“Just like Rainbow Dash’s injury,” Rarity said, bowing her head. “They both lived long enough to know they were dying and there was nothing they could do about it.”

“I guess that explains why I heard Flash gurgling,” Tiara said. She’d managed to stand back up at her podium, and her demeanor was noticeably less flippant. “If he was bleeding it might’ve gotten into his lungs.”

I shrugged. “I doubt we’ll ever know, but at least I think we can safely conclude that Flash died from his illness.”

“But wait a minute, though,” Scootaloo said, looking up at me questioningly. “Why did Monoponi say he was murdered, then?”

I wasn’t sure how to answer that. “Um... “ Quickly, I dived in to check the rules, searching for the one on murder. “I’m sure he’d consider it as suicide or something…”

“Ah don’t know about that though,” Applejack said, taking off her hat and setting it down on her podium so she could bow her head over it, blinking repeatedly from exhaustion. “Ah thought he said someone alive was responsible.”

"Yeah, and there's something else that's been bugging me too," Scootaloo said, glancing down at her Monopad. "Look at the lighter again."

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.’”

"Sunset, you said the lighter was just used to burn the note, right? Nothing else?" Scootaloo said.

"Yeaaaah?" I replied, looking up from my pad, my voice lingering with uncertainty.

"So why is it drained?"

Frowning, I decided to pull out the physical lighter rather than just rely upon the Monopad recorded evidence. Peering closely at it, I said hesitantly, "Does anyone know a lot about lighters? Because this looks like a refillable kind to me."

"Toss it here a minute?" Applejack asked. I did as she requested and she looked it over, then nodded and tossed it back. "Eeyup, that's a refillable all right. Must be why it's got RD's initials on it."

"Is that weird?"

Tiara rolled her eyes and glared at me. "Uh, yeah? Most lighters are disposable, Sunset. Cheap shit you can get three for like a buck at a convenience store. I figured if anyone would know that, you would."

"Wha, I...well..." My cheeks flamed. "I don't smoke. We didn't have tobacco or marijuana in Equestria. And I've never been interested since coming to Earth. So... I didn't know."

Rarity hummed, tapping a finger to her chin. "Pardon my curiosity, darling, but if there was no tobacco or marijuana, what do ponies like to... enjoy? Other than alcohol, of course."

My whole face glowed with pink now, hot as fire. "... salt licks."

Applejack, Scootaloo, and Tiara all burst into immediate laughter as Rarity gawked at me, horrified. "Salt licks?" she replied. "Salt licks?!"

Trixie snickered, her mouth tugged up in a grin as she gave me an appraising look. "Is that why Trixie saw you salting your champagne earlier this evening? Trixie thought that was weird."

Even Adagio broke into laughter now, with Applejack guffawing, doubled over at her podium, while Scootaloo kept giggling while muttering about salt under her breath.

I, meanwhile, felt so hot I thought I'd melt into the floorboards and drip away. "L-l-look, it makes sense where I'm from, okay?"

"Suuuure it does," Tiara quipped.

"Ah can picture it now," Applejack spluttered between her laughs. "Lookit this pony gettin' kicked out of a saloon, their lips drier than a desert 'cause they couldn't handle their salt!"

"Better keep the salt shakers away from Sunset," Scootaloo added. "Wouldn't want her to get too high!"

Groaning, I fell against my podium and covered my face with my hands. "You guys..."

Trixie reached out and patted my shoulder. "There there, Sunset. Trixie won't keep the salt away from you. She trusts you to have self control."

That sent Applejack into a fresh bout of laughter, laughing so hard tears streamed down her face, with Scootaloo and Tiara not far behind.

"I still can't wrap my head around it," Rarity muttered, shaking her head at us. "Salt licks! Of all the things...imagine the number of cardiac issues your society must have..."

Sighing, I raised my head again and flashed Trixie a dirty look before focusing my attention on Rarity. "It's still healthier than filling your lungs with smoke until you turn them blacker than a coal miner's could ever get. Look, forget about the salt, you guys. We're in the middle of a trial here."

That statement cut through the mirth, and everyone's laughter quietly died away, replaced by varying levels of embarrassment. "S-so, um, anyway, the lighter fluid," Scootaloo said, tugging at the collar of her shirt. "Why would it be drained?"

"That, I don't know," I said sincerely, happy to be back to a sensible topic of discussion. "Scootaloo, you're the one who knew Rainbow had this thing. Do you know if she kept it full?"

"Uh, maybe?" Scootaloo shrugged. "I don't know. It's not like I ever smoked weed with them. I know they did it at least a few times after we got on the ship, but..."

Adagio raised a finger. "Better question: is lighter fluid sold in the stores here?"

"Uuuh... how're we supposed to know that?" Applejack said, her face going blank. "It ain't like Ah got an inventory of these stores."

"Trixie agrees," Trixie said. "The stores are far too large for us to know everything they sell."

Sighing, I looked up at our captor, who glared right back as if awaiting the inevitable stupid question. "Well, Monoponi? Is it sold in the stores here?"

Monoponi rolled his eyes, raised a hoof and opened his mouth to answer, then shut it again and tapped his hoof against his chin. "You know, I actually don't know," he admitted after a moment. "I guess your Captain better go check for you, since it's for the trial!" He vanished in a flash of light.

We all stood there for a moment in silence before Adagio muttered, "Anyone else think this is a good chance to try and escape?"

"Might be," I replied.

But no one moved. We all looked at each other, as if waiting for someone to dare to move first. Finally, tentatively, with worry gnawing at my stomach, I took a few steps from my podium.

Nothing happened. No gun turrets popped out, no alarms, no magic going off. I took a few more steps, and then a few more, then finally crossed half the room. Nothing. "H-hey, you guys!" I said, facing them. "Looks like it's safe!"

"Goodness gracious, is this our chance?!" Rarity squealed in happiness before fleeing her podium. "Come on now, everyone!"

"Should we try the elevator?" Scootaloo suggested as she joined us.

"No way, that'll take us right up to Monoponi," Tiara said. "We should try the doors."

We all headed over to one of the doors on the far side of the courtroom. Normally, these appeared to lead to the execution chambers, but I suspected there was a great deal of access corridor between those chambers and the courtroom that we could traverse. And none of it would have any reason to be locked, either, since we were never supposed to get this far. "Okay," I said, as I reached out to the doorknob. "Here goes nothing."

Of course, as soon as I tried it, I discovered it wouldn't move. "Damn it! It's locked."

"Stand back, Sunset, lemme at this," Applejack said, bringing up her fists. Everyone else backed away to give her space as she brought up her fists, cracking the knuckles of one hand, then the other, and stretched out her neck for good measure. "Alright, y'all. Ah'm gonna bust this door down." She wound up with her right arm, and sent her fist surging forward.

Just before it hit the door, however, the fist was suddenly gripped in a crimson glow, a flash of light and pop of air emerging from behind us. "What are you doing?!" roared the voice of Monoponi.

Oh shit oh shit oh shit why did we do this he's going to kill us! ran through my head as my heart hammered a thousand miles an hour in my chest. My teeth chattered as I slowly turned around to see Monoponi, blazing with a fierce crimson aura, his eyes agog with pure rage, his wings extended to their fullest. My fellow passengers were equally terrified, especially Applejack, whose face had screwed up as if she was in pain. "U-u-uh, hi?" I blurted, adding a nervous laugh for good measure, because apparently I wanted him to wipe me off the face of the Earth.

"I cannot believe this!" Monoponi shouted, tucking both forehooves to his waist as he hovered there, still holding Applejack's fist in his magic. "I leave you people for less than five minutes and here you all are acting like the rules don't apply to you anymore!"

Tiara shrieked and threw herself behind Scootaloo before pointing at Adagio. "It was her idea!"

Adagio sneered, raising a hand like she yearned to reach out and throttle the rich elitist. "You little piece of--"

"I don't care whose idea it was!" Monoponi interrupted, sounding for all the world like an angry father dealing with his children. "I have every right to execute you all on the spot for this!"

"N-n-no!" Rarity cried. She hid behind me like I was a human shield. "Please, don't!"

"I don't want to diiiiie!" Tiara wailed, clinging to Scootaloo's legs.

"Buuut..." Monoponi unleashed a huge, world weary sigh and released his hold on Applejack's fist, then pointed back at the podiums. "I won't, if you get back to your podiums now!"

Shrieking with fright, Tiara hopped up and in a blaze of speed was back at her podium before anyone else could hardly move. The rest of us weren't far behind, save Trixie, whom Rarity scooped up and carried the rest of the way after Monoponi gave the illusionist stink-eye. Only once we were all back in our proper places did he return to his throne, plopping himself down with a huff. "Now then, we've all learned a valuable lesson here, I trust."

"D-d-d-don't try to e-e-escape?" Tiara stammered, with a hopeful note in her voice.

"No. Don't." With a roll of his huge pony eyes Monoponi held up a hoof and said, "So, getting back to the trial, I believe you were all wondering if the stores sold lighter fluid, yes? Well, they don't. So whatever Rainbow Dash had in her lighter, that's all she had."

Taking a few deep breaths and holding a hand to my fluttering chest in the hopes of slowing my heart rate, I said, "A-and she had this lighter on her when we first woke up here? And I do mean the first time you wiped our memories."

"She did," Monoponi grumbled.

"Okay then," I said, rubbing at my chin in thought. "So if Rainbow never had the chance to refill her lighter, she might've used most of the fluid on the way out here. That wouldn't leave much in it, then whoever had it last used the last of it."

"But how do we know that?" Adagio asked me, arching an eyebrow. As I watched her face I saw her mouth tighten, the slightest hint of embarrassment showing in her eyes, as if she still regretted suggesting the escape just now. "I'm still not convinced Flash died from his illness."

"Wait, what're you suggesting then?" Tiara asked, her face screwed up in confusion. "What, like, someone poisoned his coffee with the lighter fluid and that's what killed him?"

"Oh my," Rarity gasped, holding a hand to her mouth. "How horrible!"

Applejack's mouth twisted in disgust. "Ah can't say that'd be very pleasant. Lighter fluid's full of nasty stuff, like propane, butane, benzene, and a buncha other similar things."

"Who would've had the chance to do that?" I wondered. Wait... Narrowing my eyes in suspicion, I glared at Scootaloo.

"Oh no, don't you dare," Scootaloo growled, shaking a finger at me. "Don't you dare accuse me of spiking his coffee."

"But you're the only one who had a chance other than Applejack," I countered. "And we already know you could get away with murder without your profile changing."

Her eyes filled with tears. "Sunset," she gasped. "I thought... I thought you said you believed in me!"

A sad frown formed on my face. "I... I do... but we can't ignore this possibility."

Scootaloo squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head before letting out a sorrowful sigh. "Okay, okay, I see your point. Fuck! I... I guess it's possible I could've--"

"No, that's wrong!" Trixie interrupted with a flourish of her hand. "It's not possible for you to have poisoned Flash with lighter fluid!"

"Huh?" Scootaloo and I both gasped at once.

Trixie brought her hand up to the side of her mouth. "Hah! It's simple, though Trixie wouldn't expect any of you to be aware of this, for none of you have her experience!"

Adagio grit her teeth and snarled. "What are you going on about now?"

Trixie's confidence wavered under Adagio's glare for a moment before flaring back up to full force. "Trixie has used lighter fluid many times as part of specialized magic tricks involving fire. It's very useful, but it's also very odorous! In other words, it stinks! If Flash's coffee was laced with lighter fluid, he would've noticed it long before taking a sip! The only possible way for him to have drunk it is if he did it on purpose!"

"Woah, woah, time out!" Tiara shouted, making a t-gesture with her hands. "We already have one way Flash could've killed himself! Are you saying there's two?"

"Wait, wait, wait, this doesn't make any sense, you guys," I protested. "It's not like Flash could've had the lighter anyway. And he wasn't suicidal!"

"Hmm..." Trixie went quiet, her brow creasing as she lost herself in thought again.

"Look, I'll prove it's not possible," I said, diving back into the rules. After searching for a moment, I found the rule I was looking for, glared at it in puzzlement, and then pointed it out to the others.

Rule #14: A murder is defined as the causing of death of another passenger, regardless of intent. If you kill, it’s murder, no matter what.

“Monoponi,” I said, looking up at him, “this doesn’t allow for suicide, does it?”

The alicorn frowned down at me, as he rubbed at his own fluffy chin. “Hmm… truth be told, Sunset, I thought none of you would be stupid enough to kill yourselves. But I’ll say this: if someone dies because of a self-inflicted injury, then as far as I’m concerned, they murdered themselves. And a murderer will always be punished on my ship. Always!”

“But it doesn’t make sense!” I insisted, not sure why I was daring to argue with Monoponi of all people. “If Flash died because of his ruptured spleen, or because he guzzled down lighter fluid, how would you punish him? It’s not like you can raise the dead. I know you can’t. Even for your magic, that’s not possible.”

“Upupu, that’s certainly true!” Monoponi chortled in reply. “Resurrecting the dead simply can’t be done. Once you’re dead, you’re dead. Gone. Deceased. Finite! No coming back allowed.”

“Then what you’re telling us is a flat out lie,” I countered, refusing to back down. “If Flash killed himself, then someone alive isn’t responsible for his demise, as you put it. You can’t bring back the dead. Therefore, Flash wasn’t murdered.”

“What, I don't count as a person?" Monoponi gaped, holding a hoof to his chest. "I am offended!"

"Wait, that's what he meant?" Tiara said, her face screwing up in irritated disbelief. "Oh come on, that's complete bullshit."

"Seriously," Scootaloo added.

"Ah can't say I disagree on that," Applejack muttered, grumbling something under her breath about unfairness.

Rarity rolled her eyes before placing her face in her hand and sighing. "It's just like him to mislead us this badly, isn't it?"

Adagio chuckled and held up her hands, then shrugged. "Haven't we learned by now we can't trust what he says?"

"Hmmm..." Trixie placed a hand to her chin, narrowed her eyes, and stared at Monoponi. "Trixie feels like there's more to this than that."

"I agree with them, Monoponi," I said."You couldn't have just been talking about your role as mastermind... could you?"

Monoponi slapped a hoof to his forehead. "No, of course I wasn't! You moron!" He sighed. "I should have said this sooner. There were three meanings to what I said. You've solved one of them."

"Three?" My eyebrows shot up so high they practically kissed the moon. "What are you talking about? Even if we took your role as mastermind into account, it still doesn't justify calling Flash's death a murd--"

"Maybe, Sunset," Monoponi growled back, all amusement gone from his tone. "You’re completely wrong about a basic assumption you’re making. Did you ever think of that, Sunset? Did that ever enter your pea-brained little mind?!”

“A basic assumption,” I repeated, looking away from him so I could think. I closed my eyes deep in concentration, trying to focus on the problem. Flash died because of his ruptured spleen. This has to be true; nothing else makes sense. That means he must’ve hurt himself in the crash, enough to cause his spleen to rupture. So then, under Monoponi’s rules, he killed himself. But Monoponi’s saying that a murderer will always be punished, and the murderer isn’t dead. So how is that possible?

My eyes shot open in realization as my mouth fell open. “No way,” I whispered. “You wouldn’t. You couldn’t!”

“Ahahahaha!” Monoponi cackled, holding both forehooves to his stomach. “I think she finally gets it! Doesn’t she, Sunset?”

“Get what, darling?” Rarity inquired of me.

“Yeah, what’s he talking about, Sunset?” Scootaloo said, her face twisted up in confusion.

Applejack leaned forward to look me in the eye. “Ah’d like it if you told us what you just realized there, Sunset.”

“But it’s wrong,” I breathed, shaking my head furiously as my whole body quivered with a mixture of outrage and disgust. “It’s so wrong.”

Tiara glared at me, one hand on her hip while the other pointed at my face. “Spit it out already!”

Trixie reached over and held my left hand. Simultaneously, Adagio reached as far as she could, just barely managing to touch my right. “It’s okay,” Trixie said. “Go ahead and say it. Trixie is here for you.”

“I think I know what you’re talking about, Sunset,” Adagio said, cringing in disgust. “Uuugh. It’s horrible. But not surprising.”

I nodded gratefully to both of them, then carefully retracted from their touch so I could hold one fist up to Monoponi, my face twisting up into an expression of pure rage. “You monster. I thought it was sick enough, the way you’ve been torturing people to death, the game you’ve put us through, but this is outright necromancy you’re messing with! It’s a violation of his soul!

“Oh please, you know as well as I do that souls don’t exist,” Monoponi snorted, glaring down at me like I was an insect he was contemplating squashing underhoof. He tapped the side of his head with one hoof. “Everything a person is, was, or ever will be is contained right here, in the brain. And if you keep the brain alive after everything else is gone, well, is that really necromancy? Or is it just advanced medicine?”

“What in tarnation,” Applejack breathed, a look of sheer horror etching itself onto her face. “Are you sayin’ Flash is still alive?!”

Rarity screeched in fright, holding the back of one hand up to her forehead as her eyes turned up, her knees buckling, threatening to give way to a fainting spell. “Oh my heavens,” she murmured, barely staying conscious. “How is this possible?”

“Monoponi’s magic,” I replied, still shaking in rage.

~*~
“Damn it, Monoponi!” Flash burst out, pointing at him with one hand. “Why didn’t you show up after the crash, huh? She was trapped in the kart! I couldn’t get her out! If I’d been able to get her out she wouldn’t be dead right now!”

“And I’m supposed to care why, exactly?” Monoponi retorted. He zapped Flash’s arm with magic that surged up his arm and all the way into his head, knocking him dizzy. “The safety system kept her safe from further harm. It did its job. If she died, that’s the fault of the blackened!”
~*~

“He must’ve done it when he made Flash dizzy. It’s dark magic, the worst kind of necromancy, a complete utter misuse of healing magic. It preserves the brain, but only by forcing it to stay alive, consuming itself in the process. It destroys the very person it tries to save, leaving them as little more than a shell. There was so much more he could’ve done to save Flash if he knew Flash was dying, but he didn’t.”

“And why should I?” Monoponi asked me, shrugging his bony pony shoulders. “I’m just your Captain. I’m not here to protect you. I’m here to entertain you! And to make sure you experience the fun and joy of all of our shipboard activities. Including death. Besides, those little effects you’re so worried about? They only happen after the first couple of days. Flash won’t be on life support for that long!”

"You... you haven't done this to any of the other blackeneds, have you?" Rarity whimpered. "My dear Sweetie Belle--"

"Is dead and gone," Monoponi said. "Your Captain only did this because Flash was stupid enough to kill himself.

“But, if he’s still alive,” Scootaloo said, her eyes bouncing around in terror as she looked between me, Monoponi, her fellow passengers, and Flash’s portrait, “w-w-why is his portrait crossed out?”

“Because that idiot didn’t deserve to attend the trial!” Monoponi flew out of his chair, buzzing around like an angry bee, seething and fuming. “He would’ve made it far less entertaining, had he been here. And you, Sunset, you weren’t supposed to figure this out till the end! I had every intention of making this a big dramatic reveal, but no, here you go, once again spoiling everything!” He stopped in mid air, freezing like he was caught in a spiderweb, before whirling to face me, pointing one forehoof squarely at me.I swear, one of these days you’re going to finally step over the line, and when you do, ohoho will I be enjoying your execution!”

Like I give a shit. “Forget about me. What about Flash? If he’s still alive, then--”

“What about him?” Monoponi grumbled. “If you’re expecting me to bring him out and have him join the trial, don’t! I won’t do that. He’s being kept alive for one reason and one reason only. And lest you morons think you’re done with this trial, you still have another murder to solve. So get to it!”

“At least we’ve solved one of them,” Scootaloo said, still giving Flash’s portrait a sad look. “Poor Flash killed himself.”

“A tragic accident, to be sure,” Rarity added, with a shake of her head. “But nevermind that. We need to figure out who murdered Rainbow Dash.”

“That’s not going to be easy,” Adagio murmured, pressing her knuckles to her lips. “We have plenty of evidence, but…”

“But a lot of it points to people who didn’t do a dang thing, like myself,” Applejack finished for her, with a sigh. “Ah hope it’s clear, but Ah didn’t kill Rainbow Dash either. Just because Ah threw a pill bottle away in the same trash bin we found two other pieces of evidence in don’t mean a thing.”

Tiara eyed her warily. “You say that, Applejack, but can we believe you? I mean, the motive’s pretty tempting, for someone like you.”

Applejack glared at her from underneath her hat, then nodded. “Eeyup. You’re right about that, Tiara. It was pretty temptin’. And for a bit there Ah didn’t think Ah had much to lose either, what with Rarity dumpin’ me, and my sister bein’ gone…”

Rarity snorted. “Dumping? You make it sound like it was a simple fling. Try divorce, if we ever get off this ship.”

Scootaloo looked up at the farmer, her breath hitched as she took a step back. “Applejack, you’re not saying you actually considered killing someone, did you?”

Applejack hung her head low and took off her hat, placing it on her podium. She propped herself up by the palms of both hands, her whole body slumped in shame. “Ah did. Not Flash. Not Rainbow Dash either. But Ah did. Ah didn’t think about it for very long or hard before Ah realized Ah was bein' nuttier than cow droppins, but Ah still considered it.”

“Who would you have killed?” Trixie breathed, leaning forward with naked curiosity twinkling in her eyes.

“It was me, wasn’t it?” Scootaloo blurted, her voice full of fire. She clenched both fists at her sides as her face twisted up in horror and fury. “You were going to kill me.”

Applejack slowly nodded, then fell to her knees, sinking beneath her podium. “Don’t ask me how, cause Ah don’t know.”

Rarity reached out to Scootaloo like she wanted to give the younger woman a hug, before drawing back due to the distance between them. “Of course. Not enough you’ve been a brute towards me. Now you have to scare the living daylights out of her. I’m sorry about that, Scootaloo.”

“It’s fine,” Scootaloo said, wiping at her nose and sniffling, keeping one fist at her side. “Nice to know trying to help people gets you rewarded with death threats. Don’t know why I even bother anymore.”

“Because it’s part of who you are,” I said, smiling at her in the hopes of cheering her up. “You’ve been looking out for others ever since we showed up on this ship. Don’t give up on that just because one person scared you, okay? We won’t get out of here if we don’t stick together.”

Scootaloo glanced over at me with an unreadable expression in her eyes for several long moments before looking away again. “Okay,” she murmured, with a shrug. She gave Applejack’s podium one last look, then straightened her stance and adopted a serious expression. “So it wasn’t Applejack. It wasn’t me either, because I’d never hurt Rainbow Dash.”

“And it can’t be Trixie, Rarity, or Sunset,” Trixie added, “because we were all in Trixie’s room.”

“So that leaves Diamond Tiara and Adagio Dazzle as suspects, then,” Rarity mused. “Both of you were alone and had ample opportunity.”

Adagio drew herself up, curling some of her hair around one finger while looking up at the ceiling with a bored expression. “It wasn’t me,” she muttered. “Never been me, never will. I’m dating Sunset, remember? If I escape, she dies.”

“You say that, but--”

“No, I believe her,” I interrupted, raising a hand to stop Rarity. “I know I’m biased, but I believe her. So that leaves us with the only suspect we have left.”

Before I could say my usual accusation phrase a second time, Tiara interrupted, “No, Sunset, I didn’t kill Rainbow Dash. How many times do I need to say it? I didn’t have a motive. I didn’t have a reason. And I want us all to get out of here alive.”

“Then who was it?” I said, spreading out my hands. “If it couldn’t be Rarity, myself or Trixie, nor Applejack or Scootaloo, or you or Adagio, was it Rainbow Dash? Did she kill herself too?”

“A double suicide,” Rarity gasped, holding a hand to her mouth. “How awful!”

“No, no, no, that can’t be right,” Scootaloo protested. “Look, I don’t care how tired Rainbow Dash might’ve been, she’s not stupid enough to put ice skates in her own kart. And even if she did, that doesn’t account for the note, or the lighter, or the cloth, or the Monopad, or the whetstone!”

Applejack arose from beneath her podium, having to grip it for support just to keep standing. “Ah gotta agree. And it ain’t like she would’ve had some suicide pact. That weren’t the kind of person Rainbow Dash was. She ain’t gonna kill herself then have someone else cover it up.”

“Yeah, maybe Wallflower or Fluttershy would’ve done something like that,” Tiara gigglesnorted, “but not Rainbow Dash. No way.”

“Then we’re out of suspects!” I declared. “We’ve eliminated everyone, which means we must be wrong about someone. Someone must be lying. It’s the only possibility.”

No, that’s wrong!” Trixie protested with a slam of her palm on her podium. “We’re overlooking the most obvious suspect of all!” She thrust out her arm to point directly at the last person I’d have expected her to point at. “Flash Sentry, it has to be you!

“What?!” I gasped, frustrated that this was the third time Trixie had used my schtick against me. “That’s ridiculous. Rainbow Dash and Flash were best buddies. Not for very long, but best buddies nonetheless. Why would Flash kill Rainbow Dash?”

“Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense, Trixie,” Scootaloo objected. “Flash was a nice guy. Like a legit nice guy. He’d never hurt anyone.”

Adagio hummed, smirking as she raised an eyebrow at Trixie. “I think you’re onto something. Flash wouldn’t have killed anyone before now, it’s true, but remember: Twilight’s no longer alive.”

“Tch!” Trixie recoiled, lifting her hand off her podium and holding it balled up into a fist at her side. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying, Trixie, that I've realized Monoponi's third meaning. Because this is two more bodies we can lay at your feet,” Adagio’s smirk widened until it stretched from ear to ear, with her eyes narrowed to make it as menacing and terrifying as possible. Even I felt a chill run down my spine at the sight, and not in a good way. “After all, you survived when Twilight died. Really, it’s a wonder that neither Rainbow Dash or Flash killed you. I guess we have Tiara to thank for that, with her idea of locking you away. Seems that probably saved your life.”

“Adagio, what the hell are you doing?” I hissed, leaning over towards her, only to leap back at the predatory gaze to her eyes. It’d been a long while since I’d seen that cold, horrifying gaze, and I wasn’t prepared for it.

“Stay out of it, Sunset,” Adagio growled. “This is between me and Trixie. And it’s been a long time coming, after she betrayed what friendship I showed her!

“What are you--Trixie didn’t kill Rain--”

Adagio slammed a fist down on her podium with herculean strength, sending pieces of wood flying everywhere. “Don’t lie to our faces now, Trixie, not when we all know the truth! Face the facts. It’s your fault Rainbow Dash and Flash Sentry are dead. If Flash Sentry killed Rainbow, he only did it because he lost Twilight. And he only lost Twilight because you survived when she was executed! If they were going to kill anyone, it should’ve been you!”

Adagio’s hands were held up as claws, curled so tight all her knuckles turned white. “I never liked you. You are one of the most infuriating, insipid, downright stupid people I’ve ever had to deal with. And for a while, a short while, because Sunset asked me to, I tried to be nice. I even befriended you. You were one of the first actual friends I ever had. And you immediately turned around and killed someone, while laying the blame at my feet. You betrayed me! This is why I don’t trust humans!”

“Adagio!” I shouted, my eyes wide with panic. “Don’t--”

“What do you mean, you don’t trust humans?” Tiara cut me off, arching both eyebrows at Adagio. “You say that like you’re not human.”

“It’s cause she ain’t.”

Oh fuck. My face contorted with horror. “Applejack, why--”

Applejack shrugged. “Why not? She ain’t botherin’ to hide her secret anymore. Ah ain’t gonna either, if that’s the case.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Scootaloo said, waving her hands like an umpire calling safe at home plate. “We have two non-humans here, not just one? What, is Adagio a pony too?”

Applejack shook her head. “She’s a siren. You know, one of those things that hypnotize people into drowning so they can eat ‘em.”

Adagio whirled on the farmer, her teeth bared. “Do not denigrate sirens that way! I don’t kill people and eat them. I feed on negative emotions.” She unleashed another growl. "Or I did, until I lost my magic."

“And you knew this, Applejack?” Rarity asked, a look of naked astonishment on her face. “I don’t know why I’m surprised, but I am! How did you--”

“She knew because I told her,” Adagio interrupted with a harsh growl. “Because Monoponi gave away the secret and she overheard, so I had to threaten her to keep her silent. Obviously it didn’t work!

Trixie, now furious, turned on me, tears in her eyes as she screamed, “You knew this too, didn’t you, Sunset?!”

“Yes I did, Trixie! I’ve known since the first trial!” I shouted back, raising up my left fist like I was going to lash out. “Don’t you dare act like I’m betraying your trust by keeping this secret. Adagio spilled her heart out to me. She trusted me with something she’d never admit to anyone else. And sirens and ponies are natural enemies!” I lowered my fist, huffing as I tried to control myself. “I know why you’re angry, Trixie. I know you asked me not to keep secrets. But this is one I couldn’t give away. And to be honest, I don’t think you have room to argue. I still haven’t forgiven you for murdering Pinkie Pie.”

Trixie’s whole body slumped as her rage melted away. “Trixie supposes that’s fair,” she murmured.

“But!” I said, whirling on Adagio, utterly infuriated with her, “That does not mean, Adagio, you need to go blaming Trixie for everything! I get it, okay? I get that she betrayed your friendship. I know that’s a hard thing for you to deal with. But blaming her for Flash and Rainbow’s deaths? That’s not acceptable.”

“Of course you’d take her side,” Adagio snarled, her hair flying everywhere in her rage. “You went slinking back to her the moment she turned on the waterworks.”

“I’m not taking her side, I’m saying that you’re being ridiculous!” I countered. “And I don’t appreciate the insinuation that I’m cheating on you with Trixie when you know that’s not true.”

“Arrgh!” Adagio smashed her fist onto the other side of her podium, giving it a matching hole as wood fragments scoured the area like a spray of grapeshot. “Why won’t you listen, Sunset?” She fell over onto her podium, her anger overwhelmed by sudden tears as she openly sobbed, all further arguments fading away into babbling nonsense.

I wanted to rush over and hold her, hug her, let her beat up on my shoulder if she needed, but I couldn’t. I saw out the corner of my eye Monoponi leaning forward, a sadistic gleam of anticipation in his eyes as he waited for me to violate the rules. All I could do was stand there helplessly. “I’m sorry, Adagio,” I whispered.

“Well, I for one am not that surprised to find Sunset wasn’t the only Equestrian in our midst,” Rarity said, glancing back and forth between Adagio and myself. “And for what it’s worth, I’m not all that bothered either. It was a bit of a shock, but I can accept it.” She hummed, rubbing her chin. “Actually, it explains quite a lot about why you two got together romantically. It seemed so… unusual.”

“I’m bothered!” Tiara objected, facing Adagio with a mixture of concern and unease. “A pony’s one thing, but a siren? Even if she doesn’t murder people, how do we know we can trust her?”

“We don’t,” Applejack replied. “Ah sure as shootin’ don’t, not anymore. She threatened to kill me if Ah spoke. Ah would’ve said somethin’ sooner, but Ah didn’t want to betray Sunset’s trust in me.”

Scootaloo looked at me, then at Adagio, then quietly shook her head, snorting under her breath. “I don’t know what to think anymore.”

“I think this means Adagio might’ve done it after all,” Tiara said, pointing at the siren. “You saw the way she reacted when Trixie accused Flash.”

“Diamond Tiara, that doesn’t make any sense,” Trixie said, visibly summoning up courage to speak. “If Adagio was the culprit, she wouldn’t try to stop Trixie from blaming Flash Sentry. She would allow Trixie to go ahead, and let us come to the wrong conclusion.”

And now that I think about it, it makes more and more sense, too. “Trixie’s right. I know she looks a lot more suspicious now that we all know she’s a siren,” and wow do I hate having to say that aloud, “but I still believe in Adagio. She didn’t do it.”

“But why would Flash kill Rainbow Dash, huh?” Scootalo said, throwing out her arm. “I didn’t know him as well as Rainbow Dash, but you said it yourself, Sunset: they were best buddies. Why would Flash suddenly turn on her?”

Trixie looked at me as if asking permission, and I gestured for her to go ahead. “Trixie believes that Adagio was right about one thing: Flash lost Twilight. If Flash knew he was sick, which Trixie knows he did, because he bought antibiotics, then he might’ve thought it was serious. Deadly serious. Between those two factors, Trixie thinks that is reason enough for him to consider killing.”

“But that’s stupid!” shouted the younger woman. “That’s not a reason to kill Rainbow Dash.”

“Not by itself,” I said, offering my support to Trixie’s argument. But let’s consider something we already concluded earlier.”

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

“We know that Rainbow Dash bought this medicine, and you already told us how bad a seizure it would cause. What if Flash misunderstood what happened? What if Flash thought it was Rainbow Dash trying to kill him?”

Scootaloo threw her hands up in confusion. “What? Why wouldn’t he just ask her, then?”

“Because his judgement was compromised,” Trixie answered. “Flash was sick, he had been through severe emotional trauma, and he had just suffered a head injury. Plus, this is a killing game. If Trixie thought someone had just tried to kill her, Trixie would not be brave enough to ask them to their face.”

“So he should’ve told someone else then!” Scootaloo said, smacking a palm down on her podium with a loud slap! “He wouldn’t decide to kill her just like that.”

“But what if he was already on the lookout for a target?” I suggested. “Like Trixie said, he was sick, he lost Twilight, he wasn’t in his right mind. He thinks someone tried to kill him, so he decides he’s going to kill her before she tries again and succeeds. Flash had plenty of opportunity to sharpen the skates, too. He could’ve easily taken the time to sharpen them during the bathroom break he told us about, and placed them in the kart without Rainbow Dash noticing.”

“And Flash was also assigned to the ice rink,” Trixie added, nodding gratefully to me. “Trixie believes he threw away the cloth and the lighter there, because in his poor judgement he couldn’t think of anywhere else to put them."

Scootaloo doubled over and held her stomach, like she’d just been gut-punched, before her face shot up to glare at us both. “But what about the note! You can’t explain the note unless he had an accomplice. It told him to burn it, remember?”

“Actually, no, I don’t think that’s what happened,” I replied, kicking myself mentally for not realizing this earlier. “And I can prove it.”

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

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

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

“Flash borrowed a notebook and pen from me yesterday. He specifically said he needed to write things down to help him remember. I’m betting we misinterpreted one of the words written down. It wasn’t ash as in burn. It was Dash. As in, Rainbow Dash. He wrote the note to remind himself of his plan, and then tried to dispose of it when he realized he needed to get rid of evidence.”

“And all the little mistakes the culprit made in getting rid of said evidence makes far more sense if Flash was the one who did it,” Trixie said.

“Then why wipe the Monopad?” Scootaloo demanded, crossing her arms over her chest as she refused to give in. “What was so suspicious about it?”

"Oh that one's easy," I replied with a grin. "Remember what I said earlier, about her missing secret?"

"Yeaaaah, but we already all said that we didn't think that meant she was the traitor," Scootaloo said flatly.

Trixie winked at me, then said, "But what Sunset was onto something, when she brought it up against Diamond Tiara? What if Flash's plan during the trial was to argue Rainbow Dash was the traitor? Wiping her Monopad would make it very difficult to prove otherwise. He could've used that as a reason why someone else would've killed her and framed him for it."

Scootaloo held a hand up to her mouth and bit into it out of sheer frustration. “Rrgh! No! He tried to rescue her from the kart. Why would he do that if he was trying to kill her?”

“He wasn’t trying to rescue her,” Trixie said. “He was trying to get the ice skates.”

~*~
“Damn it, Monoponi!” Flash burst out, pointing at him with one hand. “Why didn’t you show up after the crash, huh? She was trapped in the kart! I couldn’t get her out! If I’d been able to get her out she wouldn’t be dead right now!”
~*~

“Remember the way he shouted at Monoponi? He was angry because he couldn’t get her out.”

“It matches up with his later reaction,” I added.

~*~
Together, the four of us lifted the cart and, with some grunting and heavy straining on my part, we managed to set it back on its wheels. The instant they touched the ground, I heard a loud click from the kart, and the safety bar and seatbelt undid themselves. “What the hell?” Scootaloo said, throwing up her hands in disbelief, a couple of fresh tears coming to her eyes. “All we had to do was turn the cart over t-to get her out?!”

“If I’d known that, I would’ve done it!” Flash shouted, a surge of anger compelling him to smash a fist into his kart, almost spilling his coffee in the process. “God damn it!”
~*~

“At the time, we thought he was angry because he was trying to save her, but he was actually angry because he couldn’t dispose of the skates.”

Trixie raised a hand. "Trixie supposes it's also possible he could've drank the lighter fluid, if he realized he was dying."

"What?" Scootaloo's mouth formed an o as she stared at Trixie. "Why would he do that?"

"Hah! Isn't it obvious?" Trixie spread out her hands. "If Flash realized he was dying from his burst spleen, his plans would've been for naught! So why not make things even more confusing for us?"

"What, you mean, like a final screw you?" I said, frowning. "It's... possible, but I dunno. I can't see Flash being that bitter. He wasn't a hateful kind of guy. I don't think it was easy for him to justify murdering Rainbow Dash at all, and like we said, he only did it because he thought Dash had tried to kill him first. Besides... you said that stuff stunk, right? Well wouldn't we have noticed it on his breath then?"

"Oh." Trixie brought in her hands, a small spot of pink appearing on each cheek. "Trixie hadn't considered that."

I gave her a grin. "Don't worry, Trixie. It was worth looking into. I'm pretty sure I was right with my guess though, about him using up the last of it trying to burn the note. Or, I dunno, maybe he accidentally dumped some when he threw it in the trash. I did find it upside down in there."

"Nevertheless!" Trixie shouted, raising a hand once more. "It's clear, Flash killed Rainbow Dash. There's no one else who could've done it!"

Scootaloo squeezed her eyes shut hard, holding a hand up to her temple like she’d had a sudden brain freeze. “I still won’t accept it! Not unless you can prove to me that he had time to do all of this. He came for us right after Rainbow Dash crashed, before she even died. So unless you have proof he didn’t do that, I won’t believe it was Flash!”

A grin of triumph slipped onto my face, a matching one sliding into place on Trixie’s as we both raised our arms together, pointed at Scootaloo, and shouted as one, “YOU’VE GOT THAT WRONG!

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.”

“See the time of death?” Trixie said, pointing at the evidence floating on the holographic display. “8:30 to 9:30. Bit strange to give such a wide range of time, isn’t it?”

“But that’s not all,” I added. “When Trixie, Rarity, and I arrived on scene at the body, it was already past 10:00 PM. The nighttime announcement had already played. And we know exactly when the body discovery alarm went off, because Rarity told us. Remember, Rarity?”

~*~
“Well, I think that’s probably enough for now,” Rarity said, capping the three quarters empty champagne bottle. “A lady knows when to call it quits, after all. And it is quite late.” She checked her Monopad. “9:55 PM. Not supremely late, but enough for me. I’m quite tired.”

“You’re not the only one,” I said, stretching out my arms and yawning. “This was fun.”

“Mmmhmm,” Trixie said, smiling at both of us. “Trixie is very happy she has good friends like Rarity and Sunset. She hopes you’ll be able to visit again.”

“Well, that’s dependent on Diamond Tiara, but she was kind enough to loan me the key to begin with,” Rarity said, rubbing her chin while staring at the ceiling. “I should really make sure this gets back to her. In any event, Trixie, I bid you--”

DING-DONG-DONG-DING
~*~

“I do remember!” Rarity gasped. “It was just before nighttime. 9:55!”

“That’s twenty five minutes between the latest possible time Rainbow Dash could’ve died, and you, Flash, and Applejack discovering the body,” I said, turning back to Scootaloo.

“Even if Flash searched every other room before finding you two in the game corner, Trixie thinks that’s just too much time,” Trixie concluded. “Therefore, Flash had the time to kill Rainbow Dash.”

“He had the motive,” I said.

“He had the opportunity,” Trixie said.

“And he had the intent,” we chimed together. “Flash is guilty.”

“Okay! Okay! Enough!” Scootaloo said, putting up her hands. “I surrender! You win! Stop talking in unison already! God.”

“Huh,” I said, frowning at myself. “I didn’t even realize we were doing it.”

“Trixie did,” said the illusionist with a giggle. She quickly stifled it, and bowed her head to me. “Trixie apologizes if she stole your thunder.”

“No, no, it’s fine, you did great,” I said, waving it off. “But I think I’ll handle this last part, if you don’t mind.”

Trixie nodded. “Please do. Trixie may have gotten better at this trial business, but she doubts she could put together the case as well as you do.”

“Alright then.” I closed my eyes to concentrate, then opened them back up. This’s how it all went down!”

“This all started the morning after the third trial. Due to the trauma and loss they suffered, the culprit intended to kill someone to escape, but had to figure out who. While trying to figure this out, they bonded with Rainbow Dash, over their respective loss of Fluttershy and Twilight, choosing to explore the new areas together. Throughout that exploration, we all noticed the culprit had a hoarse voice, and was quite fatigued. Though we didn’t know it at the time, this was a sign they had mononucleosis, a disease that, amongst other symptoms, can cause an enlarged spleen. The culprit knew they were sick, and knew it could be serious, which was why they had to escape.

Later that evening, Rainbow Dash, who decided she’d help her new best bud, purchased two different kinds of medicines she knew could help relieve some of the culprit’s worst symptoms. However, Rainbow Dash was not aware these two medicines, tramadol and methylphenidate, could cause seizures and even death when used together. Neither did the culprit, so when the culprit took the medicine, they ended up experiencing a seizure, hitting their head in the process. Between their head wound and their illness, their judgement was so compromised they assumed Rainbow Dash had just tried to kill them. So they decided she’d make the perfect target, and decided they’d use her own hockey skates as a murder weapon, writing themself a reminder note with the pen and paper I’d lent them.

The night of the murder, Applejack and Rarity had an explosive argument at the hockey game over Trixie that led to Rarity storming off, with the key to Trixie’s room given to her by Diamond Tiara, after decking Applejack. Applejack was forced to clean up in the bathroom with Scootaloo, and then later the two left to stay in the game corner, while later lying about what they did. Adagio stayed alone, as did Tiara. All of these things together would later lead us to repeatedly suspect everyone except for Rarity, Trixie, and myself of the crime, due to the three of us being in Trixie’s room during the murder.

“The culprit and Rainbow Dash decided to keep hanging out after our hockey game, because Rainbow was irritated she’d been repeatedly defeated in both racing and go-karts earlier that day. She challenged them to a series of races on the go-kart course. Rainbow brought her ice skates with her, leaving them in her backpack, which was sitting by the kart garage. Seizing the opportunity, the culprit oversharpened the skates, and placed them into Rainbow’s kart, on their sides so she wouldn’t notice them. During the subsequent races, Rainbow Dash took several turns tight and narrow, causing her skates to tip over, their blades pointed up at the back of her knees, exactly according to the culprit’s plan.

“The culprit needed to cause a deliberate crash in order for the skates to actually cut her. As such, during their final race, the culprit pretended to fall victim to their fatigue, twitching with the steering wheel. Their go-kart careened into Rainbow Dash’s, sending them both crashing into the wall. Rainbow Dash’s kart rolled end over end, resulting in it being upside down, suspended on its rolling cage. This engaged the cart’s safety system, which kept Rainbow Dash trapped inside her cart. This also caused her ice skates’ blades to slice open her femoral arteries. Rainbow Dash passed out shortly thereafter, and her Monopad and cigarette lighter fell out of her pockets into the blood. The culprit intended to remove the ice skates from the kart, to create a further mystery, but the safety system prevented it.

Unbeknownst to the culprit, Rainbow Dash was not the only one inflicted with a fatal injury. Due to the combination of adrenalin from their successful murder plan, their anxiety over covering it up, and their general fatigue, they failed to notice the pain from their ruptured spleen. Already weakened and soft due to the culprit’s illness, the spleen burst open thanks to the crash, and would lead to the culprit bleeding to death internally an hour or so later.

“Once she died, the culprit fled the scene. Worried they’d be fingered as the blackened if they didn’t dispose of at least some of the evidence, they went into the bathroom to burn their reminder note. When the smoke alarm went off, they panicked, and doused the note in water, leaving behind the whetstone on accident. They took Rainbow’s Monopad to the theater to wash it off and wipe the data, intending to put the whetstone back, only to suddenly realize they didn’t have it. Further panicked, they did a poor job of hiding the pad, leaving it under an easily spotted tarp. They kept the cloth and lighter on them to dispose of elsewhere, hoping that distributing the evidence would make it harder to find anything that tied them to the cause of death.

Feeling they’d run out of time, they had to enact the coverup portion of their plan. They went to find Scootaloo and Applejack, and got them to follow them back to the kart. When they arrived, they discovered the body, prompting the body discovery announcement to play. The rest of us arrived shortly thereafter, and began the investigation. The culprit played along with us, feeding us mostly truth, but leaving out crucial details.

“During the investigation, the culprit joined Applejack and Diamond Tiara in searching the ice skating rink, giving the culprit a perfect chance to dispose of the lighter and cloth in the trash bin. While Tiara was checking out the skates available for rent, looking for any that were missing, the culprit and Applejack went together to check the bleachers. During this check, the culprit, who’d been feeling more and more distressed, suddenly collapsed. Right after they did so, Diamond Tiara witnessed Applejack tossing away something in the trash, in what she thought was an attempt to dispose of evidence. Applejack then attempted CPR, breaking the culprit’s ribs in the process of trying to resuscitate them. But she failed, and they too died from internal blood loss. We can only speculate on what the culprit might’ve done during the trial to deflect suspicion.

Despite all the confusion, and the deliberate attempts by the culprit to mislead us into thinking this was a tragic accident, this was in fact an act of cold-blooded murder committed by the Ultimate Boytoy himself, Flash Sentry!

“Welp, Ah’d say Ah’m convinced,” Applejack said, with a nod of her head. “Ah can’t find any fault in that explanation.”

“Me neither, as loathe as I am to agree with you,” Rarity replied, glaring at the farmer.

“Yeah, sounds good to me too,” Tiara chimed in.

Scootaloo hung her head low. “I still can’t believe it. Why’d Flash do it? Why?”

I glanced over at Adagio, but after bursting into tears the siren had stayed completely silent, still laying with her face on her podium covered up by her mass of orange curly hair, like she was hiding underneath a blanket. I decided to let her be. I had a feeling I’d be in for an argument later.

“Well it sounds to your Captain like you lot are ready to vote!” Monoponi said, jumping up to stand on his podium. “Please vote with the Monopads before you. “Remember now, just like before, you’re voting for two victims, not one, in the order they died. Be sure not to screw this up. Or actually, do, because then I’d get to execute the lot of you! Ahahahaha! And don’t forgeeeeet, if you fail to vote, you die!” His horn fired several jets of light into the ceiling like mini rockets, each exploding in a shower of sparks. “Who will be chosen as the blackened? Will you make the right choice, or the dreadfully wrong one? Your time starts now!”

Our podiums lit up with the squared selection screen for voting. So many faces were crossed out, with so few of us left. Sighing, and hoping like hell this was the last time I’d ever have to do this, I slowly pressed down on Flash Sentry’s face twice, once for Dash, and once for himself.

As the time to vote slowly ran out, I glanced back over to Adagio again, hoping she wouldn’t make the foolish mistake of forgetting to vote. But I saw her finger press down, twice, before she fell back onto her podium.

Soon after, a chime went off, and the center display lit up with twin vote tallies, for Rainbow Dash and Flash. In both cases the vote was almost unanimous, except for one on each. One voted for Trixie on Rainbow, and the other for me on Flash. A quick glance at Adagio, whose face bore a hateful, angry expression, told me exactly who did it.

But it didn’t matter. Enough of us still voted correctly, and the trial was over.

Author's Note:

So, I said this in a comment in response to RDDash on the previous part, but I will say this again: I failed in making this mystery fair to you, the readers, as can be shown by how so many people were convinced the cause of death was poisoning, when in fact it was his illness, in addition to several other facts.

The ice skates, in retrospect, don’t make much sense, because your author failed to research properly what go-karts looked like, and conflated her mental image of them with bumper cars, which are sealed and have more room. Even then, however… I liked the idea so much of someone bleeding to death for a cause of death that I didn’t stop to think as much as I should have about how the skates would do this when planted as a trap in the go-kart. Had I wanted to go with this, I should have done something different.

Same thing with the go-karts themselves, which were not well used in this crime, not as well as they could have been. There were so many better ways I could have made use of them as pointed out by many people.

I was also far too enamored by the twist in this part to realize that I had failed to properly foreshadow it. From my perspective as the author, the healing magic used plus Flash being sick was supposed to be obvious, and Monoponi’s statement was distinctive… but it should have been pointed out as such in the narrative in the investigation, where foreshadowing belonged. Same thing with the spleen bursting--I expected too much from my readers, figuring they would know what the spleen is, where it is, that I didn’t bother to include the information about what a burst spleen would do in the investigation because I feared it would be too obvious a clue. Had I thought this through, I could have included it amongst other information, so that it would be there and readable, but not stand out, meaning it wouldn’t be obvious while providing information that you needed to solve this case.

Unfortunately, I did not realize any of these were issues until I posted the first part to the trial on Tuesday. At that point, it was too late to rewrite the mystery, as I would have to redo more or less everything, and possibly ask my readers to reread other parts to see what changed. Because I lacked time in my schedule to do this and because it would’ve put the story posting on hold for possibly up to two weeks while I fixed what would effectively be the entirety of Chapter Four… I had to accept this as written. At some point in the future I will come back to and rewrite Chapter Four to make the mystery fairer to new readers, but that will have to wait till after the story is concluded.

I apologize, therefore, to my readers for failing you. I promised to you mysteries that you could solve, fairly, before the trial, and while I succeeded with the first three cases, I failed entirely with this one. This is one of several reasons I have brought on board Rainstorm Riddles to assist me with ensuring the same thing does not happen with Chapter Five. It shouldn’t, but I wanted to be certain regardless.

I hope that this trial was an enjoyable read despite the failure of the mystery to be solved fairly, and that you enjoy the proceeding part as well.

I want to congratulate JCarp for solving Rainbow’s murder by noticing the clue involving the go-kart track rules, about intentional crashes. You correctly surmised this meant Flash crashed on purpose and was ultimately responsible for Rainbow’s death. And I also apologize for the misleading clue with the lighter fluid. That was intended as a hint towards the reveal that they’d been on the ship for much longer than they thought, but like several things with this mystery, I failed to make it clear, and my attempt to hint at things only caused you more confusion. I felt really bad for making you throw so many guesses at this mystery. :ajsleepy:

Also, a special shoutout goes to CassandraMyOCisBestPony who came up with a thrilling alternative way for this crime to go down all the way back in the comments of part one to this chapter, correctly surmising Flash would be the blackened and that the go-karts would be involved. I loved reading that so much I wish I'd come up with it.

Another shoutout goes to PonyLoco, because I felt bad for you when you derided yourself as a lunatic coffee theorist. The coffee was one of the ways I misdirected when it came to this mystery. Please don't feel bad! :fluttershysad:

Several of you were speculating that the secrets shared and the traitor were heavy elements in this case, when in fact they were hardly related. So why were the secrets and the traitor pushed so hard when they had nothing to do with the actual murder? Well, it was for two primary reasons.
1. They needed to discuss the secrets and Sunset needed to start figuring out who the traitor was, as set up for later into Chapter Five and Six.
2. It was an intentional red herring, to add to the mystery. When I wrote this case, I assumed the mystery was much easier to solve than it proved to be, and I assumed people would hop onto the idea of Flash being the culprit straight away because they would surmise I would not have two blackeneds again right after having just done so in the previous case, as that would be repetitive and boring. Unfortunately, as with everything else with this mystery, I made mistakes all over the place with these assumptions, thus proving that I do indeed make an ass of myself when I assume.

TL;DR: I messed up with this case, please forgive.

Again my apologies to all my readers for this mess up. Chapter Five’s mystery should prove much fairer to solve.

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