• 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 9

Chapter Four:
Passing in the Night
Post Trial and Epilogue

Monoponi took one look at the results and snickered, leering my way. “Oho, looks like one of you didn’t care to vote with the others! It’s a shame more of you didn’t do that, because then I’d have the wonderful opportunity to declare you wrong!”

His horn fired off a lance of light into the display, causing a cavalcade of fireworks to explode over the tally, revealing the word “GUILTY!” twice over both copies of Flash’s face. “That’s right, my lovely passengers. The killer of Rainbow Dash, the Ultimate Athlete--and himself for that matter--was none other than Flash Sentry, the Ultimate Boytoy. And I gotta say, I never saw it coming. I mean, Flash Sentry, actually bothering to take charge, to show some initiative and spine instead of hanging back like the passive waste of a man he was? Who knew he had it in him!”

Scootaloo let out a heavy sigh, her whole body shaking with it. “Damn it. I wish he could tell us why, in his own words.”

Rarity gestured with a hand towards Scootaloo. “I also wish he could tell us.”

Monoponi’s forehoof shot to his mouth. “Upupu, I might be able to accommodate you. Now that the trial’s over, I just might be willing to bring him back to you, juuuust long enough to have a lovely chat before we get to the real reason I bothered to keep him around.”

“Before you torture him to death, you mean,” Applejack said, scowling as she she slowly shook her head. “Ah can’t cotton to that. Havin’ the power to save someone from dyin’ only to use it as an excuse to torture ‘em is pure evil, nothing else but.”

“Oh pfft, what even are good and evil anyway?” Monoponi blurted, fluttering off his throne to hover in front of the farmer. “Just a couple of pointless, meaningless concepts, created by equine and human societies for the sake of justifying whatever philosophies happen to be most popular at the time. There was a time once on Equus where mixing your crops together in the same field meant you’d be stoned to death! Now it’s seen as a standard practice. I could list so many more examples, but why bother, when there’s something much more interesting to watch!”

He returned to his throne, pointed his horn at the central display, and shot off a few sparks. Security footage began to play.

~*~
Rainbow Dash knocked on Flash Sentry’s door at roughly 9:30 PM Friday night, judging by the timestamp on the footage. Flash opened the door quickly and smiled despite the bags under his eyes. “Hey Dash, what’s up? Your text was pretty vague.”

“Mind if I come in a sec?” she said, fidgeting in place and bouncing from one foot to the other. She was carrying a package in a small tote bag held behind her. “I’ve got somethin’ for ya.”

Flash chuckled wryly, and opened up the door. “Alright. Long as you’re not plannin’ to kill me or something.”

“Oh, pfft, I’d never do that to my best bud!” Rainbow Dash said, smiling as she came in. She fidgeted even more upon entering, unable to keep in place for more than a second or two before moving around, opting to stand rather than take a seat.

Flash closed the door, then turned to her and arched his eyebrows. “You okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” Rainbow Dash with a nervous laugh. “Just uh, a bit nervous. Cause you’re a guy. We’re alone in your room. I don’t like guys that way. That kind of thing. Nothing personal I swear.”

Flash grinned and winked at her, despite his exhaustion. “Don’t worry, Rainbow. I’m not about to put the moves on you. I know where that’d get me.”

“Knocked right out,” Rainbow Dash said with a grin of her own as she mimed an uppercut.

“Exactly.” Flash opted to take a seat, plopping down on the mattress of his bed. His eyes fluttered closed for a moment before they snapped back open. “So, uh, you said you had something.”

“Yup,” Rainbow said, bringing the bag out and spilling its contents onto the bed, revealing two pill bottles. “I know you don’t want to admit it, but I can tell you’re feeling sick. And I figured, why not get you some meds to help, since we got this big pharmacy, right?”

“Hehe, thanks, Dash. That’s really thoughtful of you,” Flash replied as he picked up the pill bottles, peering at them quizzically. “Did you used to do this for Fluttershy?”

Rainbow’s smile dimmed substantially, but she nodded. “Yeah,” she said quietly. “Shy didn’t get sick too often, so usually she took care of me, but anytime she got sick I spent as much time taking care of her as I could. I picked up a couple of things about medicines in the process. Not a lot, ‘cause I’m not an egghead, buuut I know a bit.”

“Cool,” Flash said with a shrug. He popped open one of the bottles and tapped a pill out onto the palm of his hand. “So uh, what’s what, and how do I take it?”

Rainbow Dash moved in closer so she could point. “That one you just opened up is for your fatigue. Should help you sleep better too. And the other one’s tramadol, that’s for severe pain and fever, cause you’ve had some bad headaches and stuff, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Flash admitted. He reached over to his desk and brought out a third pill bottle. “I’m pretty sure I’ve got strep, so I’ve been taking antibiotics. Guess I’ll take these others with them tonight.” He looked up at Dash and smiled. “Thanks, Dash. You’re the best.”

“Hey, anything for my best bud.” Rainbow made her way to the door and popped it open. “Try and sleep well, cause we’ve got those races in the morning. And hockey! Don’t forget hockey!”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world. Take it easy.”

Rainbow waved and closed the door. Flash quickly got up to lock it, then returned to his bed, letting out a sigh. He stared down at the pills, made a face, then shrugged and decided to grab two of each. “Here goes nothing,” he murmured as he swallowed them, then laid down on his bed.

The camera footage sped up, the timestamp flashing until it showed 9:45 PM. Flash suddenly shot up in bed, his eyes wide, his pupils dilated. He made an odd choking sound as he climbed off the bed. He made it about two steps to the bathroom before he fell over, his whole body convulsing and thrashing for several long minutes. As he thrashed he moved closer and closer to his desk, until finally near the end he smashed his forehead right against the corner, thankfully not hard enough to bleed.

As soon as his seizure ended, he laid there in a heap, tears streaming from his eyes. “What the fuck was that?” he murmured, his breathing rapid and shallow. He managed to sit up after a few moments, and stared in mute horror at the pill bottles he’d left on the bedside table. “What the hell... “

He held a hand up slowly to his forehead, hissing as he felt at the bruise. “God damn it.” After a few more moments he managed to climb to his feet, using the desk chair to help him up, and stumbled into his bathroom, staring at the mirror. A cold shiver ran down his spine as he looked at the wound. “That could’ve killed me,” he muttered. His face twisted up in a rage that turned his otherwise gorgeous face into an ugly sight. “She tried to kill me! Rainbow Dash tried to kill me! I knew it!”

Flash slumped until he fell onto the toilet, sitting on the closed lid. More tears came to his eyes, but these were of sorrow, not pain. “Damn it. I didn’t want to do this,” he mumbled, “but if even she’s trying to kill me, I can’t trust anyone anymore. I gotta… I gotta get outta here. Gotta live, for Twilight’s sake.”

He stared back up at the mirror, his mouth twisting into an apologetic frown. “I’ll have to figure out a way to do it that makes it look like an accident. Sunset’s smart. She’ll figure it out otherwise.”

While he continued to mumble to himself, the footage sped up again, racing and switching up views to the ice rink, showing the time as 11:40 PM. Flash was scurrying about the equipment rental shop, and grabbed an arctic coat to wear. “Ice skates,” he murmured as he brought out the notebook he’d borrowed from. “Use the ice skates. That’s brilliant. She’ll totally want to race again after we get ice skates. I’ll strike then.”

As he wrote down the note, the camera focused to let us read the whole note. “Take her ice skates when you get a chance and sharpen them as sharp as possible. Be careful when putting the ice skates into her kart so she doesn’t see them. Remove the ice skates afterwards so no one knows how you killed Rainbow Dash.”

Then the camera skipped ahead to the go-kart track. “Time for a bathroom break,” Rainbow Dash announced as she hopped out of hers. “Ten minutes?”

“Sure,” Flash agreed, casting a dark glare at Rainbow’s back as the woman stepped into the bathroom. He swiftly made his way over to the backpack and brought out the skates. Pouring some water from a bottle onto the whetstone he’d grabbed, he made short work of sharpening them till he was satisfied. “Perfect,” he mumbled, briefly glancing at the note he’d written before placing the skates in the kart, on their sides. “Beautiful.” He glanced at the bathroom, then on a whim rummaged through her backpack and found a lighter, pocketing it.

The footage skipped ahead again to two karts barreling down the track, approaching the final hairpin turn. The camera gave us a quick view of Flash’s face as he grinned before twitching his steering wheel to send his kart into Dash’s kart. We heard Rainbow scream as her kart careened into the wall before tumbling end over end so fast I could barely understand what I was watching, till she came to a halt.

She screeched a loud curse, blood streaming down her body as she laid there, suspended upside down. “Fuck, my knees!” She looked up at the blood coming off her body and paled, her face turning green. “Flash, help me! Get me out of here!”

Flash calmly stepped out of his kart, walked over to her, and raised both hands with extended middle fingers. “This is for trying to kill me last night.”

“What?!” Rainbow gasped. Her voice weakened as her whole body turned paler and paler, like someone slowly painting over her blue skin with a coat of white. “What the hell are you talking about, Flash?”

“You tried to kill me!” he insisted. “You gave me poison or something in those pills. I almost died.”

“N-no, I didn’t, I would never… Flash, you were my new best bud, why would I… I…”

"Yes you were!" Flash scoffed with a shake of his head. "You were super nervous when you came in. Because you were trying to kill me!

"Wow... wow that's, that's..." Rainbow Dash's eyes flashed with ire before it faded. "That's not why, Flash. I told you it was 'cause you were a guy."

"And I don't believe you."

Rainbow Dash snorted. "I guess not, huh." Then she swallowed audibly. “I’m dying, aren’t I?”

“Yup,” Flash said, a small grin of triumph on his face. His voice shook as he spoke. “Sucks, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah. Pretty bad,” Rainbow said, chuckling. “Doesn’t hurt as much now though. Jeez, you really thought I tried to kill you, huh?” She giggled harder, her expression turning manic. “Haha, that’s hilarious. Like I’d ever kill anyone. Flash, I never figured you’d turn killer. Hahaha, I guess that’s what I get for trusting someone.”

Flash glanced at his Monopad, frowning at the time. He closed and opened his fists, then wiped off his palms on his jeans, leaving a wet coating of sweat. "Would you just die already?”

“Workin’ on it, bud,” Rainbow replied, flipping him a lackluster bird of her own. “Funny. I figured I’d be more scared or something. I had a lot more I wanted to do in life, you know? Places to go, people to meet… but I’m not.” She burst into a small giggle fit. “Guess I’ll get to see if Fluttershy was right about there being a heaven. She was pretty spiritual, you know? She didn’t talk about it much with other people, ‘cause her beliefs were her personal thing, but she believed in an afterlife. I didn’t, but I’m kinda hopin’ there’s one now.”

Rolling his eyes, Flash grunted, “I don’t care. Just die so I can take the skates back.”

“Oh, is that what cut me?” Rainbow said, glancing up at her legs before flopping back down, lacking the energy to move. “That’s pretty smart.” She chuckled again, then managed to hold up her head long enough to look at him. “Hey, tell me one thing: why’d you do it? Besides thinking I tried to kill you, ‘cause I didn’t.”

Flash turned away from her, so she couldn’t see his face. “Twilight,” he admitted. “Because I lost her, I told Sunset I'd win. That I'd beat Monoponi. This is how I'm doing it.”

“That’s it?” Rainbow Dash scoffed. “Wow. I thought you were better than that. Shows what I know.” She let out a loud sigh, and blinked a few times, her eyes starting to droop. “Think I might slip away here. Got one last thing to say to you first, though.”

Flash spun on his heel, an unreadable expression on his face. “What?”

Rainbow gave him her biggest shit-eating grin and flipped him off one more time. “I hope Sunset nails your ass in the trial. Jerk.” With that, she slumped, her eyes closing for good, frozen into a permanent smile.

As he watched her pass, I saw Flash’s expression flicker with more than a little bit of regret before settling into a firm resolve. We then witnessed a quick montage of him desperately trying to get the skates out, discarding evidence, and so on, till the investigation, where it slowed back down to show him throwing out the cloth and lighter into the trash bin before wandering over to the bleachers.

The camera shifted to focus on his face, showing off how pale he’d become. His hands clutched at his distended abdomen, groaning as a surge of pain rolled through him. All of a sudden he let out a massive gurgling noise and collapsed. The camera slowly faded out as Applejack ran over to try and resuscitate him.
~*~

As the display switched off, the courtroom fell into an uneasy silence. Even Monoponi remained quiet, leering at us with a silent, mocking grin as we took in what we’d seen. For my own part, I couldn’t help laughing a little, on the inside, at Rainbow Dash’s nonchalant acceptance of her own death. I wonder if Pinkie would’ve reacted that way, if she had the chance. I think Pinkie would’ve admired Rainbow Dash laughing in the face of death. Then again, maybe she was just giddy from blood loss. We’ll never know.

“Well?!” Monoponi suddenly said, startling us all. “Nothing to say?”

“Ah’m not sure what you expect us to say, Monoponi,” Applejack replied. She’d doffed her hat and had it held firmly to her breast.

Scootaloo glanced up at Applejack as if she was considering seeking a bit of comfort before a shiver of remembrance ran through her body, and she moved back over as far away from Applejack as she could. “I hope I can be as brave as Rainbow Dash when I die,” she murmured.

“I suppose we should all hope as much,” Rarity seconded.

Tiara slouched at her podium, a listless expression on her face, saying nothing. She occasionally looked up at me, frowned, then looked back down at her podium. What’s that look about?

“Hmph. I expected a better response than this. I suppose your Captain shouldn’t be surprised though, what with how tired you all are.” His grin spread from ear to ear. “Besides, I’m sure you’re all eager to hear from Flash himself before the main event.”

I looked up at him, adopting the most pleading expression I could manage. “Please, Monoponi, if you have any decency at all, just let him go. Don’t do this to him. Please.”

Monoponi fell over on his chair laughing. “Eyaahahahaha! I can’t believe you tried that! Ahahaha! You complete moron, Sunset. You really think there’s any so-called decency in me left? Because there’s not!” He stopped laughing and hopped up onto his hooves. “Not much left at all, actually. Which is the same I could say of Flash! Ahaha!”

His horn lit up into the brightest glow of magic I’d seen yet, but not in crimson. Oh no. This was the sinister purple and green of dark magic, roiling with evil energies. A harsh violet glow enveloped his horn, gleaming with an unholy aura much like the false Elements he’d used in Twilight’s execution. As he focused, he slowly aimed a beam at a panel in the ceiling.

When it struck, the panel descended, carrying on it a slab of metal topped by... A corpse. Flash’s corpse, to be precise. The corpse came down on the slab until it sat right behind the portrait at Flash’s former podium spot. The dark magic suffused the corpse, drawing out a sinister red glow from his head before melding into the rest of him. Slowly the purple energy shifted back into Monoponi’s usual crimson color before one last burst ran through, and Flash’s eyes shot open as he heaved the loudest breath I’d ever heard.

Adagio, who’d up until now showed no sign of moving from her bent over position, recoiled away from the crime against nature that had just been committed, withdrawing to the far side of her own podium. She didn’t say anything, but I caught sight of her eyes wide with panic and fear.

Flash coughed and hacked as he sat up on the slab, his eyes blinking rapidly. “What? Where am I? What happened?”

Monoponi’s magic gently took hold of his portrait and moved it aside, giving him room to stand at his podium once more. “You’re back, Flash!” he said with a cold look in his eyes. “Welcome to your trial!”

“What?” Flash managed to stand, holding himself up by his arms at his podium and looked around at us. “When did I get here? Last thing I remember, I was… we were investi...gating.” He finally noticed the expressions of horror on our faces. “What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?” I said, holding out my hands in disbelief. “What’s wrong?! You were just torn from the brink of death by necromantic magic, that’s what’s wrong!”

“I was?” Flash held a hand to his chest, feeling at his throat, then at his stomach. “Hey, I don’t feel sick anymore. How’d that happen?”

“Oh, just a little present from your Captain,” Monoponi replied, chuckling under his breath. “I want to be sure you’re in tip-top shape for what lies ahead!”

“Huh?”

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Diamond Tiara grumbled, apparently tired of all of this faffing about. “Look, dumbass, we know you killed Rainbow Dash. And you almost killed yourself in the process. We held the trial, we voted, and you’re the blackened. Got it?”

“What?!” Flash held up his hands in denial, shaking them rapidly. “No, no, you’ve got it all wrong, I didn’t--”

“We know what you did,” I interrupted, just as eager to put an end to this as Tiara. “We know about the skates, the whetstone, the note, the lighter, the cloth, everything. You already lost, Flash.” I bowed my head and sighed. “And if there was any fairness to life, you’d already be dead.”

Flash dropped his hands so he could cross his arms over his chest, adopting a defensive posture. “Fine. I won’t deny it. What do you mean, I’d already be dead?”

“You weren’t sick from strep, Flash,” Rarity managed to say, despite shivering in her boots at the sight of him. “You were sick from mono. Your spleen swelled up and burst when you crashed.”

“Oh.” Flash glanced down at his stomach. “I guess that’s why the antibiotics didn’t work.”

Monoponi let out a huge wracking cough. “Ahem! Flash Sentry, the only reason you are standing at that podium still is to give these people an excuse for why you decided Rainbow Dash had to die. I’m just as curious as they are. How did you manage to find the backbone necessary to actually do something?”

I watched Flash visibly wilt before me, his hands held at his waist as his gaze dropped to the floor. “I… I don’t know!” he said. “It made sense at the time. I thought Rainbow Dash was trying to kill me, and no one else seemed trustworthy anymore, and I’d lost Twilight and I didn’t want to die and I… I gave in.” He looked up at me, eyes full of contrition, pleading for forgiveness. “I gave in, Sunset. I’m sorry.” He looked away before I could respond. “I’m such a hypocrite. I shamed Twilight for getting Fluttershy killed, and here I am doing the same damn thing with Rainbow Dash. Like I was completing a matched set. What the fuck is wrong with me?”

“You were scared,” I answered, feeling his guilt tug at my heartstrings. “Can I admit something to you, Flash? Something I was going to tell you once?”

He looked back up at me, his face full of heartbreak. “What is it?”

“You remember when we were talking a few days ago, on my guard shift, before Pinkie’s murder?” I sighed, and took a deep breath to steel my nerves. “Well, when you told me Twilight said I was going to kill someone and lead the trial to a false conclusion, I was going to tell you, I once considered doing exactly that.”

“What?” Rarity gasped, holding a hand to her mouth, her eyes full of shock.

“Not you too!” Scootaloo moaned, doubling over at her podium.

“Damn,” Tiara muttered, looking at me, stunned.

Trixie arched an eyebrow at me. “For some reason Trixie does not feel surprised by this.”

Even Adagio raised her head off her podium to look up at me and scowl. She didn’t say anything aloud, but she didn’t need to. The judgement in her eyes alone was so forceful it was like a massive hammer blow to my soul.

I cringed under their words, but managed to continue, “But I didn’t actually do it. The reason why I thought about it isn’t important. What matters, and why I brought this up, was because we’ve all been tempted by Monoponi at one point or another. Rarity, you told me just as much the other day. Scootaloo, maybe you won’t admit to it, even to yourself, but I’m sure something stirred you at one point. None of us are immune.”

“I suppose not,” Rarity said with a dissatisfied frown. “Though I’d have preferred if you hadn’t mentioned it.”

“Sorry.” I closed my eyes, bowed my head for a moment, then opened them up to focus squarely on Flash. “But the only way we avoid falling prey to it is by sticking together. If I’d told you back then, I might’ve scared you. It’s why I didn’t. But it would’ve shown you that you weren’t alone. Maybe that could’ve kept you from giving in.”

“...maybe so,” Flash said with a slow, solemn nod. “But it’s too late now, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. It is,” I admitted.

“Look, guys, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done it, okay?” Flash said to everyone, looking around the room to meet the gaze of each of us. As his eyes fell upon Scootaloo, he added, “Especially you. I know how much you cared about Rainbow Dash. I…”

Scootaloo’s eyes brimmed with tears. She sniffled as she tried wiping them away with the back of her hand. “I get it. I get it! You made a stupid mistake.” She brought up her hands and set them on her podium. “I can’t promise I’ll forgive you, but you know what? I’ll try. Because it’s the right thing to do.”

“I guess I can’t ask for more, huh?” Flash replied. He looked up at Monoponi, who sat impatiently, tapping at his throne with his forehoof. “Time for me to go, I think.”

“Oh goodie!” Monoponi cried, rubbing his forehooves together in glee. “Now then, I’ve prepared a very special punishment for Flash Sentry, the Ultimate Boytoy!”

God, this is going to be horrible. I wish there was something I could say or do… maybe there is. “Hey, Flash!” I called.

“Yeah?” He replied, facing me, his expression unreadable.

“If… if you see Twilight, or any of the others, tell them, I’m sorry I couldn’t save them. And we miss them. All of them.” There. Not much, but it’s the truth.

He continued to stare at me, his face inscrutable. But he then nodded and said, “I will.”

“Let’s give it everything we’ve got! Iiiiiiiiiit’s punishment time!”

Monoponi’s horn flared to summon up the big red button, and he slammed down upon it with a forehoof.

Instead of the usual chain and collar, a small hammer popped up out of the ground in front of Flash and clubbed him in the stomach, knocking him over onto the slab. Quick as a wink the slab rose back up into the ceiling, and as he disappeared from sight, every display in the room lit up to showcase the execution.

GAME OVER

Flash has been found guilty.

Time for the punishment!

Flash, still laying on the slab, hurtled along on a conveyor belt through a narrow corridor barely large enough for him to fit. Wheezing, he had the sense to avoid trying to sit up in the confines of the narrow tunnel, opting to lay on his back instead. The camera paid loving attention to his face, showcasing the various expressions of anxiety he worked through.

Eventually, after a long twisting journey the slab slowly descended again into another room, the one about the size of a basketball court, with a far lower ceiling. Scattered about the room were a plethora of seemingly random things that must’ve been important to Flash in some way. There was a large electric guitar on a stand with his symbol emblazoned upon it, set next to a drum set and another guitar on a stand that felt hauntingly familiar. Several sets of clothing hung on clothing racks, including, oddly enough, a couple of copies of shirts with the same logo on it as Timber’s. There were bits of memorabilia, band or otherwise.

But the centerpiece was the car sitting in the center of the room, a beast of an affair, like the classic muscle car brought into the modern age, all chrome and shine, with a massive engine. Like everything else in the room his symbol was slapped on the side, showing it was his. He walked over to it, and ran a hand along the driver side window, like he ached to get inside. But a quick test of the handle proved the door was locked.

Then a sound caught his attention. A second slab descended into the room, on the opposite side from his own. And like his, it carried a body. But this one wasn’t a corpse with a necromantically preserved brain. This one was familiar, having been examined by my own hands not long ago.

Rainbow Dash.

Before Flash could approach, confusion written all over his face, Monoponi flashed into existence and flew up to hover on a platform at the top of the room. His horn lit up with the same disgustingly dark purple and green combination, a jet of unholy light whisking out to surround Rainbow’s body, energies swirling around it and absorbing into it.

Then she sat up, and opened her eyes. Her cold, dead eyes, glowing with crimson. “Hey there, buddy,” she said in a bizarre overlaid voice, like two people talking at the same time. The primary was her own raspy tones, but underneath, we could clearly hear Monoponi’s squeaky voice, treating her like some kind of zombie puppet. “Guess who else is back from the dead.”

A vicious grin spread on her face, more sadistic and evil than any Rainbow Dash had sported in life.

RAINBOW SLASH: DASHED IN A FLASH

Ultimate Boytoy

Flash Sentry

Execution: Executed

The zombified Rainbow Dash broke into a sprint, hurtling herself at Flash at top speed. He shrieked in fright and ran for it, going for the guitar. “What’s the matter, Flash? You scared?” Rainbow taunted in her double voice as he picked up the instrument and brandished it like a battle axe. “I thought we were best buddies!”

He swung wildly at her in a wide chop, missing completely and leaving himself open. She landed a solid kick to his stomach, knocking him to the ground. “Nice try, Flash!” she laughed as he rolled and slowly climbed to his feet, clutching at his stomach like she’d cracked a rib or two.

She allowed him to go for the guitar, bouncing around him like a boxer with her fists up, rather than the martial arts stance she used in life. More proof that this wasn’t really Rainbow, but Monoponi dancing her body on his magic strings. Flash took up the guitar and changed up his hold to a grip more like a baseball bat, and swung. This time the guitar connected with a loud crack as it struck her skull, sending her spinning to the floor.

Before she could move he was on her, using his guitar like a sledgehammer, screaming in some combination of fright, pain, and horror as he smashed her head over and over again until it split apart. Not satisfied, he continued to bash until it resembled a pile of pulped meat, goopy brain matter splattered everywhere, though very little in the way of blood spilled. She had no blood left in her body, after all.

Sighing in relief, he set the now ruined guitar down and glared up at Monoponi, who gleefully watched from his platform. “That all you got?!” Flash roared.

“Upupu, look behind you!”

Flash spun on his heel and shrieked as he saw Rainbow’s body get up on her feet despite the lack of a functioning head. Dark purple and green magic swirled around her, rebuilding her brain and skull until her head was back in perfect working order. Rainbow grinned nastily, showing off her teeth as she wiped away the last of the brain matter stain on her lips. “You didn’t think it’d be that easy, did you?” she teased.

Like a beast she leapt upon him, tackling him to the floor. Her hands grappled his arms, splaying him out while she straddled his hips. He struggled, but no matter what he did, he couldn’t fight off her strength. With a mad laugh she opened her mouth wide and sank her teeth into his left bicep. With magic fueling her the bite strength was more than enough to tear out a great big chunk of meaty flesh as Flash howled in agony. Blood streamed from the wound, obscuring the sight of torn muscle and ligaments. She paused to chew on her mouthful of human meat before spitting it out on the ground. “Bleh. Tastes like shit.”

While she was distracted, Flash managed to gyrate his hips enough to knock her off kilter, just enough to rip his arm out of her grasp. He swiftly rolled over and grabbed for her shirt with his remaining functioning arm, his left dangling uselessly by his side. With a wordless shout he slammed her head and torso into the metal deck plating over and over, once again smashing it apart into a gory mess, before leaping off her and running for the other side of the room.

He didn’t get far before a freshly regenerated Rainbow Dash chased after him, catching up to him as he passed by his car. She wrapped an arm around his torso and yanked him back, ignoring his attempts to kick at her as she swung him around till his head crashed against the passenger window. Dozens of cracks formed in the glass as she yanked him back by his hair, gleefully laughing as she hurled him face first into the window. The glass shattered into a flurry of pieces, lacerating him with dozens of shards, pulping much of his face into a mess of bleeding lines and ripped up muscles. Both eyes took several pieces of glass, blinding him.

As he shrieked with pain, Rainbow gently pulled him back out of the car and lazily tossed him to the ground. She watched with a sadistic smirk as he felt around with his right hand, seeking something to help him stand. As he managed to find the front bumper of the car, she took a few steps over and stomped on his working hand. She used the heel of her boot to pummel it several times until it cracked and bled, the bones splintering like a pile of wood chips. “Had enough yet?” she mocked.

“I, I won’t…” he slurred, his words barely understandable due to all the blood and cuts on his face.

“Won’t what? Die? That’s a laugh.” Rainbow Dash leaned down and gave him a toothy grin, showing off the bits of muscle and blood still staining her teeth. “Cause now it’s time, buddy. Hope you’re ready!” She stood back up and shrugged. “Actually, no, I hope you’re not. It’ll hurt more that way.”

Before he could say anything she dove upon him, her fingernails becoming so strong she tore great nasty gashes in his torso and belly, ripping him open to expose his organs. She stuffed her hand inside, searching around, laughing as he squirmed and writhed in utter excruciating pain, before she suddenly yanked with all of her strength, ripping out his still-beating heart. “I’d eat this, but I already know you taste gross, so we’ll skip the cliche,” she muttered as she took it in both hands, and tore it in two, showering them both with blood. Then as one last gesture, she took her right fist and punched him in the face so hard she shattered his skull and split his brain into many pieces.

Then the magic left her body, and the corpse of Rainbow Dash collapsed onto Flash like a puppet with its strings cut.

The screens winked off, leaving most of us with what was left of our dinners roiling in our stomachs. My eyes narrowed into slits as I scowled at the reappearing Monoponi. “Bad enough you keep Flash’s brain alive with necromancy,” I said, every word wrapped in enough razor wire to slice through an army. “You have to do the same thing with Rainbow Dash. Why?”

“Why not?” Monoponi said with an exaggerated shrug. “I had to get some use out of her body before I...upupu, oh, don’t you worry your little ethical heart, Sunset. Her ‘soul’ as you’d call it was long gone. That was your Captain having some fun with his toys, that’s all! Ahahaha!”

“Toys,” Rarity repeated, her whole body quivering with rage. “You treat bodies like toys?! Dishonoring the dead just so you can wring some sadistic pleasure from the ordeal?!”

Tiara, her face so green I feared she’d start puking again, managed to let out a small scoff. “Rarity, don’t waste your time. He won’t listen. He’s probably getting a sick little thrill out of listening to you yell at him.”

Rarity’s gaze shot over at Tiara like twin balls of fire before cooling off. “I suppose you’re right, darling. I don’t know why I bother anymore.”

“Oh boo, and here I was hoping to hear more whining from you all on the matter,” Monoponi said with a disappointed look. “Oh well. Tell me, Sunset, do you at least have some inane questions for me? Something I can only answer now that we’ve finished yet another trial?”

A bitter laugh arose within me and spilled out until I was doubled over on my podium. “No,” I managed to answer after a moment. “Why bother? You’re just going to string out little details, leave my head spinning, and then throw some new prohibition on us that keeps us from figuring it out. Like forbidding us from researching Dash’s magic.” The laugh escaped me again as everything clicked in my head at once. “You arranged her death somehow, didn’t you? You’ve done it with every other crime. It’s like you’ve planned everyone’s deaths. Nothing’s taken you by surprise except her magic.”

I looked up from my podium, smiling in bittersweet triumph at the shocked look on his face, the utter surprise and disbelief I’d longed to see him sport. “See? I was right. You’ve planned all of this out. All of it! You gave us just the right motives at just the right times to push us all along. Timber, we might’ve discounted as a coincidence, but Sweetie Belle? You deliberately gave her my secret, knowing she’d try to kill me. Fluttershy? Pinkie? By causing the previous trials you manipulated Pinkie’s emotional situation enough to force the conflict with Twilight. Then, since you already made sure Twilight received Adagio’s secret, and you knew how she’d react to mine coming out in the trial, you knew exactly what she’d do. I wonder, why was it you wanted Fluttershy and Pinkie dead? What kind of threat did they offer to your plans, huh?”

“Shut up,” Monoponi hissed, though without his usual force of personality.

“Why should I?” I said, echoing his own words from earlier. “I’m right. You know I’m right. Whatever your plan is, though, I wonder: is it falling apart, since Rainbow Dash showed her magic? You probably weren’t going to kill her next, were you? I’ll bet you had someone else in mind. Applejack, maybe? The motive sure felt like it was targeted at her. So you probably expected her to kill Rarity originally. Except you had to rearrange things to target Dash instead, and you weren’t anticipating Flash acting the way he did. Everything’s starting to spiral out of control.”

“Sunset, what the hell are you talkin’ about?” Applejack asked me, a look of astonishment on her face. “Where’re you gettin’ these ideas from?”

“I believe, Applejack, it’s from simple observation,” Rarity growled in response. “Observations I happen to agree with.”

“Trixie also thinks Sunset’s onto something here,” Trixie said, nodding to me. She whirled to point at Monoponi. “Whatever your plans are, they’re falling apart!”

“Falling apart? Falling apart?!” Monoponi seethed, vibrating with pure rage like I’d never seen him before. “They are not falling apart at all! Everything’s going exactly the way I wanted to. You--” both hooves shot to cover his mouth as he cursed under his breath.

“Hah! Ahaha!” I shouted in triumph. “I knew it! I knew you had everything planned out. Who else was supposed to be dead right now, huh? Is Trixie being alive a surprise? Scootaloo? Diamond Tiara? I wonder, when exactly did your plans go off the rails? Was it Rainbow Dash, or was I wrong earlier with my guess on Fluttershy and Pinkie? Maybe--”

THAT’S IT!” Monoponi interrupted in a voice so loud I had to clap my hands to my ears. And good thing too, because his horn lit up to summon a peal of thunder. “One more word on this subject and I will execute you on the spot, Sunset, no matter how useful you’ve been!” He pointed one forehoof squarely at me. “You just made the biggest mistake of your life. Keep it up and I’m sure someone’ll end it for you. I’d certainly hope so!” He glared at all of us, then shook his head vigorously in rage. “Rrrgh! All of you! Out! Now!”

He chased us into the elevator, only vanishing once we were all aboard and it began to ascend. While inside, I made my way over to Adagio, who was lurking in a far corner, staring at the wall. “Hey, Adagio, listen, I--”

“No.” She cut me off with a firm cut with her hand. She turned her head just enough so I could see those gorgeous amethyst eyes of hers. They weren’t sparkling this time. Instead they were dull and empty, like she’d checked out, with only her speech showing she was still around. “I don’t want to hear your excuses, or your apologies, or any of it, okay? I just… I just don’t.” Just before she turned away from me, I saw her eyes well up with tears. “I’m sleeping in my own cabin tonight. Leave me be. Please.”

I opened my mouth, raised a finger, then closed my mouth again. Instead of objecting, I whispered a quiet “Okay,” and backed off to the opposite end, close to where Trixie was leaning.

Soon, the elevator discharged us onto the promenade. From the far end by the shop quarter exit we could see sunlight streaming through. “Morning already,” Applejack murmured as she stretched out her arms and let out a mighty yawn.

That yawn passed along to the rest of us right quick. “So it is,” Rarity said. “I think we could all do with some sleep.”

“Seriously,” Tiara thirded, her eyelids heavy and at half-mast, bags under her eyes. There were bags under all our eyes at this point. “Forget the morning meeting. Just don’t miss the evening one.”

“Hey, Tiara, if you want, I can escort Trixie back to her room,” I volunteered.

Tiara reached into her pocket only to find nothing, and frowned. “Wait, don’t you still have the key?”

“I do, actually,” Rarity said, handing it over to me. “Sorry about that. I was going to take it back to Tiara before, well… everything happened.”

“Fine, whatever,” Tiara muttered, waving us both off with one great swoop of her arm. “Just get her in there. I’m too damned tired to give a shit right now.”

With a quiet nod, I escorted Trixie back to her room, waiting for everyone else to wander into their own cabins before I spoke to her. “Hey, Trixie, I just wanted to say, you did a great job during the trial.” A watery smile made its way to my face. “You’ve come a long way since the first one.”

“If Trixie did, it’s only because she learned from the best,” Trixie replied as she crawled her way in on her crutches before settling onto her bed. She set her crutches aside, then looked up to me and patted the side of the bed. “Um, Trixie… Trixie knows you haven’t forgiven her yet, but maybe you could stay with Trixie? For old time’s sake?”

I considered that. I hadn’t slept alone since the first couple of nights on the ship. One way or another I’d always ended up with a sleeping buddy, and I’d found I slept more soundly that way. But at the same time, I’d upset Adagio so much already. Could I really justify this, too? And what about the others? If they saw Trixie wasn’t locked up…

I opened my mouth to say no, I wouldn’t, only to pause when I saw the look in Trixie’s eyes. It was that same look of contrition and self-regret that’d convinced me to help her before, only this time it was mixed with a bit more open desire for friendship. As much as I craved a companion, she probably craved it even more, for a lot of reasons. And I did tell her I’d help her, and she was still my friend.

And god I did not want to be alone. Not now. Not after Monoponi’s threat.

I hope you can forgive me, Adagio.

So I opened the door back up. “C’mon,” I said quietly. “If we’re going to do that, you should sleep in my room. We’ll lock yours so if anyone checks it looks like you’re still in here.”

Trixie’s eyes widened as her jaw fell open in surprise, then twisted into a relieved smile. “You will?” she said in far too loud a voice. “Trixie--”

“Sssh!” I said, holding up a finger. “We’ve got to be quiet, okay?”

Her face turning pale, Trixie nodded several times in rapid succession. “Okay. Trixie will be quiet. Sorry.”

Swiftly I escorted her down the hall to my room, being sure to lock her cabin away before going inside mine. She’d already made herself comfortable on the bed, opting to stay in her clothes.

“Do you mind if I take this stuff off?” I asked her before getting in bed. I didn’t want to sleep in these sweaty clothes if I could avoid it.

Trixie shrugged. “Do as you will.”

I stripped off my clothes till I was left to my underwear. Before getting in bed, however, I decided to grab one or two of my jackets from the closet and string them up by the window, to block the sunlight. “There. We’ll sleep better now.”

“If we can sleep.”

I sighed, and slipped into bed with her. “Yeah. If.”

I took a long time before unconsciousness claimed me, but when it did, it was cold, dark, and full of nightmares.

But at least I wasn’t alone.

Author's Note:

So when I named this Chapter "Passing in the Night" I mentioned before it was an abbreviation of "two ships passing in the night." This phrase is often used to mean two people who meet, have an intense moment or two, then never see each other again. My primary meaning for the chapter was as a reference to the Flash/Rainbow Dash relationship. Brief friends with intense moments followed by never seeing each other again... because they died. Then of course there's the obvious joke, in that both of them died at night, and the trial took place overnight. But it also has a couple of secondary meanings for the story that I'll let you figure out. :twilightsmile:

Flash Sentry made mistakes. Pretty big ones. Although he didn't get the chance to say it outright, he was never certain he wanted to kill until he had that seizure. That's what made up his mind. He'd found a new, good friend, who he thought tried to kill him. That broke the poor guy's mind harder than anything else, even Twilight's death.

I wanted Flash to make it out of this game alive. I really did. But the story demanded his death, thus, I obliged. I'm sorry. :fluttershysad:

The execution is patterned after zombie movies, complete with stupid B-movie title. I thought it would be neat if someone was executed by their victim, in a puppeteer style. I don't know if this has been done before, but whether it has or not, I enjoyed doing it here. Was it a bit over the top? Yes. But that made it fun. As for why Monoponi kept Flash around to do this with? Because I needed an execution. I didn't want to go without an execution for Chapter Four, and while I did, briefly, consider executing Trixie, that just wasn't going to fly. She still has a part to play.

Also I realized upon editing this that I've been ending every single chapter with Sunset going to sleep in bed, and beginning each chapter with her waking up from sleep. That... wasn't on purpose. I didn't mean to be so formulaic about it. Whoops. :twilightblush:

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