• 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 Five: Whistle for the Wind Part 8

Chapter Five
Whistle for the Wind
Trial Part 3

I screamed for joy at the top of my lungs, and tried to leap up in the air, only to remember at the last second doing that with one leg was a pretty bad idea. “Sunset!” I cried, happy tears streaming down my face, my smile straining at my cheeks. “You’re okay!”

“Oh my stars!” Rarity squealed. If my face was tear-stained, hers was tear-deluged. She danced about in place, hopping like a rabbit while letting out happy squeeing noises every few seconds. They were ear-piercingly loud, but I didn’t care. I was too happy.

“Ah don’t believe it!” Applejack hooted and hollered, taking off her hat and swinging it around on her hand. “Hot diggity dog, Sunset Shimmer’s alive!”

“Yes! Fuck yes!” Scootaloo screamed, pumping both fists in the air repeatedly. “Screw you Monoponi! Sunset lived!”

For a moment, just a moment, Tiara’s features quivered between a flurry of emotions, like she had no idea what to express. Then her face split apart in the most sincere grin she’d ever displayed. “I’ve never been so glad to be wrong!” she said, before breaking into full bellied guffaws.

“Jeez, you guys,” Sunset said, laughing at us even as she stepped up to her podium. Her voice was rough, hoarse, with a tinny, far-away sound to it, like she'd gargled gravel and was speaking through a tin can tied to a string. “You’re acting like I died or something.”

“We thought you did!” I replied, reaching out to hug her. As I touched her arm, I realized I set my hand right on the one in the sling. Sunset hissed and drew back, and my smile dimmed. “Oooh, sorry.”

“Don’t worry bout it,” Sunset said as she reached out with her other arm to hug me instead. “I thought I was dead too, for a while.” Feeling her press against me, something I thought I’d never feel again… it healed the wound in my heart. I felt whole again. Revitalized.

When I withdrew, I took in her appearance, wincing at every detail. She was filthy, her skin covered by dried sweat stains and little piles of salt. Her hair was matted, unkempt, and greasy, thoroughly in need of a wash. Her slung arm was tied up with a bloodstained sheet, and a large piece of gauze was tied around her bicep with a strip of medical tape. Her wrists showed marks of some sort of securing tie or strap, like a zip tie. Her clothes stank of sweat and urine, the ammonia smell strongest around the front of her pants. She was holding a small bag, I realized, which was full of bottles of water, plus her Monopad. Even as she took her podium and frowned at the portrait before shoving it out of the way, she reached in, popped the cap off and guzzled the water down, emptying the bottle in a few seconds.

“How?!” Monoponi screeched at the top of his lungs. He lifted off from his throne and circled the courtroom, flying around at dizzying speeds until I wanted to hurl just from watching him. “How?! This isn’t possible! You’re supposed to be dead! The lifereader said you were dead! Hoooooow?!”

“Oh, is that what this was?” Sunset said, reaching into her bag to pull out a crushed pile of crystal dust contained in a little one ounce plastic cup. “It fell off my chest and I kinda stepped on it when I freed myself. Sorry if I scared anybody!”

Rarity paused in her happy dance and glared at Sunset, her face contorting into a pout. She smacked Sunset on the shoulder with the back of her hand, a light tap at most. “Don’t you dare do that again!” she said before reaching out to carefully hug Sunset. “I thought I’d lost you.”

Sunset’s face turned scarlet as she returned the embrace. “Ehehe, nope, still here,” she said.

I watched to see if Rarity would be stupid enough to kiss Sunset, but she had enough wits about her not to do that. Instead Rarity, her own face flushed with pink, retreated from the hug after just a moment, still vibrating in place like a hyperactive child.

“Glad to see you’re okay, Sunset!” Scootaloo said, tossing off a two finger salute. A few tears trickled down her cheeks, despite her tough attitude.

“You and me both,” Sunset said, returning the salute with a grin.

Applejack finished spinning her hat and slapped it right back on her head. I hadn’t seen her look this happy since before Apple Bloom died. “Ah still can’t believe it. How’d you do it? We all plum thought you were a goner!”

“I’d be very interested to know that as well!” Monoponi growled, his voice dropping a solid octave or two. He stopped spinning around the room and came to hover right before Sunset, placing his fore hooves on his hips as his rear legs hung down.

Sunset set her bag down, looked up at him, and her face twisted into an expression of hideous rage. “Oh I bet you would, you fucking piece of trash,” she snarled. She raised a finger to point at him. “This never would’ve happened if you hadn’t given us that photo album. You set her up. You goaded her into it! You destroyed everything good I’d done in helping her change who she was!”

“Me?” Monoponi cocked his head quizzically, placing one forehoof against his chest. “I didn’t do anything. That was all your precious Adagio Dazzle! It’s not my fault she took offense at the fact her darling lover was the one who stole her magic away. Nor is it my fault she saw everyone wielding weapons as a threat. You’re the moron who brought armed backup to an apology session!”

“No. No you don’t,” Sunset hissed. “You don’t get to reframe this. Not this time. I won’t… I won’t…” Sunset fell forward, her eyes spinning. She let out low moans for a moment before her face turned a hideous shade of green. She slapped a hand to her mouth but it was too late. She ducked her head over the front of her podium and unleashed a liquidy pile of vomit. Monoponi shot upwards just in time to avoid being splashed by it.

Everyone cringed or made noises of disgust as she lifted her head back up. “Fuck,” she groaned, one hand holding her stomach. “I think I drank the water too fast…”

“That you did,” Applejack said, with her voice and expression full of sympathy. “Take it slow. Easy sips now. Don’t be gulpin’ it down like it’s gonna disappear in a second. Ah know it’s hard, ‘cause you’re dehydrated, but you’re gonna hurt yourself if you don’t slow down.”

“R-right,” muttered Sunset as she reached down for a fresh bottle. She twisted off the cap, slowly this time, and took a little sip. Then she glared at it before setting it down. “God I want to chug this so bad.”

“Please don’t,” Scootaloo said, her face turning grim. “You could kill yourself if you do that too much. We don’t want to lose you now.”

“Oh, I don’t know, I think that’d be just swell!” Monoponi said, glaring at Sunset with hate-filled eyes. “Because it’d mean she’d actually be dead. Like she’s supposed to be!

Sunset casually flipped him off with the hand that wasn’t holding her water bottle. “Get over it, asshole. I lived. Deal with it.”

“I’m tempted to,” Monoponi said, his tone shifting to a dangerously, terrifyingly sweet one. “Goodness me am I tempted to just say forget the rules and grind you into dust!” He smashed both his forehooves together, his eyes flashing bright red as he spoke. Then he dropped them, and calmly returned to his throne. “But I won’t. I’ve bent the rules before, but I’ve never broken them, and I won’t now.”

Sunset took another small slurp of water, then set her bottle down. “Fine with me.” She looked at each of us in turn, then focused on me, and smiled. “Thanks for letting me know I needed to come down here, Trixie. I would’ve stayed up top otherwise.”

“But of course,” I said, grinning like a loon. “The Great and Powerful Trixie never abandons her friends!”

“That you don’t.” Sunset looked over at Adagio’s portrait, closed her eyes, and let out a sigh. “So she’s dead. I guess this is a trial for her, huh?”

“Eeyup,” Applejack replied with a sympathetic frown. “Was for you too, till you showed up.”

“And I cannot express how grateful I am that you did,” Rarity added. She raised her hand like she wanted to hug Sunset again, but then seemed to think better of it, dropping it back by her side. “It’s been an awful past couple of days.”

“You’re telling me,” Sunset said dryly. She reached into her bag, pulled out her Monopad, and hooked it into her podium. “Word of advice? Don’t get tied up and dumped in a dark room for a day and a half. I don’t recommend it.”

Everyone, except Monoponi, let out a bit of laughter over that joke. “Okay, but really, how’d you get out?” Tiara asked, leaning forward, her face a picture of excitement.

“It wasn’t easy,” Sunset answered after taking another drink. Setting the bottle down, she gestured at her tied up arm. “Adagio… broke my elbow. And stabbed me in the arm. Aaaand almost knocked out a couple of teeth. She was pretty vicious.”

Rarity balled up her fists, her lips curling into a sneer as her face began to turn purple. “Why that, that, that brute! How dare she treat you that way?”

“I know, right?” Sunset shook her head. “It was awful. What was worse though, was she told me her whole plan. She was gonna blame the whole thing on Applejack. Said that she’d realized Monoponi had the right idea, that I’d corrupted her soul by trying to turn her into what she wasn't, and a whole lot of things I… I wish I could’ve stopped her from thinking or feeling.” She took in a deep, shuddering breath, and let it out, her eyes blinking rapidly. “She drugged me too, with ketamine. I think that crap dried me out more than the stay in the archives did.”

“Damn, Sunset,” Scootaloo whistled. “You shouldn’t be standing here. You should be laid up in a hospital bed with an IV full of saline in your arm.” She looked over at Monoponi, her eyes brimming with concern. “Aren’t you going to do something? Heal her already!”

Monoponi’s horn glowed with crimson light, and a similar glow took hold of Scootaloo’s jaw before shutting it for her. “Not happening.”

“I don’t want his help anyway,” Sunset said with a scowl. “This is all his fault. Everything that’s happened on this ship is his fault. Not ours.”

“You can say that all you want,” Monoponi replied, leering at her with a toothy grin, “but it’ll never be truuuuuue!”

Firing one last nasty glare his way, Sunset turned back to us. “So anyway, I was knocked out for I don’t know how long. I kinda drifted in and out for a while. Kept hearing footsteps every now and then, and once there was a knock on the door. Not a loud one, but it was still enough to scare the piss out of me.” She cringed. “Literally. Or what I had left, anyway.”

“Eugh, um, Sunset, darling,” Rarity said, pinching her nose and giving her a strained smile, “Maybe ease up on the grosser details? Just a bit. Please.”

Sunset nodded, her mouth forming into a sheepish smile. “Sorry. A-Anyway, I don’t know who it was, but you woke me up enough to remember where I was and what was happening. I was gagged. She had my arms tied behind my back, and my ankles tied up too. Hurt like hell, my arm being twisted like that.” She glanced down at her bound arm and sighed. “I dunno, my arm might be a lost cause at this point.”

“No, no way,” Scootaloo said, shaking her head. “It’ll suck for, like, months, but some proper PT, some surgery? It can be fixed.”

Sunset arched an eyebrow at the younger woman. “When did you become so medically educated?”

“Uh…” Scootaloo reached a hand behind her head, her face flushing. “I… I boned up on it after the fourth trial. I’ve been studying. I wanted… I wanted to be helpful.”

“Huh. Good work,” Sunset said, tipping her water bottle to her. “So, after I woke up proper, I figured I needed to try something to escape. I knew she had the key, and I knew the rules would keep me from trying to break open the door, but I thought I’d worry about that after I freed myself.”

“What did you do then?” Tiara asked, clinging to Sunset’s every word like an obsessed fangirl.

“Well, it was dark. Total darkness, apart from a single bit of light beaming out from under the door, which was just enough to see vague shapes. I managed to maneuver myself around by rolling over. It was… not easy. It hurt every time I landed on my ribs.” She held her free hand to her ribs, her face contorting with pain. “I lost count of how many times I screamed into my gag. She’d stuffed cloth in my mouth and stuck it on with duct tape. It burned like crazy!

I took a moment to study Sunset’s face, taking in a few details I’d missed, like the raw skin around her lips. Or the bags under her eyes. Or the few wrinkles that had appeared, making her look a good ten years older than she was. But especially her lips. The duct tape must’ve torn away at her skin, wearing at it like acid, because the skin wasn’t just raw. It was burnt, little spots missing or showing deep pink, like capillaries were peeking through the skin layers.

“But eventually I got over to the table. It was the only thing in the room with sharp corners,” Sunset continued. “I had to hold up my legs in the weirdest way to try and saw at the zip tie with it, but I managed. It took a long time. I think I even passed out once or twice in the process, only to wake back up and go at it again.” She took another shaky breath and let it out. “I… I almost gave up, after passing out for the second time. I was so tired. So thirsty. It would’ve been so easy to give in and fade away.”

Rarity gasped sharply, holding a hand up to cover her mouth, her eyes brimming up with tears. “W-what stopped you?” she said quietly.

“It was the funniest thing,” Sunset answered, her mouth quirking up into a wistful smile. “I heard voices. Everyone’s voices. I didn’t know what you were saying, but it didn’t matter. You were there. You were right there, right on the other side of that door. I had to do something.” Her smile dropped. “If it hadn’t been for the damned library rule I would’ve rolled over and kicked at the door to make some noise, but I didn’t want to risk it. So I worked faster, and faster, and finally managed to break the tie on my legs.”

She reached for her water bottle and took a drink, then paused for a moment before continuing. “I didn’t want to push myself too hard, but I still had to do something to get your attention. So I managed to stand up after a few failures and walk over. My arms were still tied up, as was my mouth, so I’m not sure what I was hoping to do. Maybe knock on the door with my head?” She snickered. “Probably a stupid idea. But when I got over there, I saw something glowing. It was my Monopad. The little alarm light was blinking, because Trixie sent me a text.”

As everyone’s eyes focused on me for a moment, I took a bow. “As Trixie said, she always looks out for her friends.”

Applejack belted out a laugh, but this one was kind. “You know what? Ah’m startin’ to think you do, Trixie.”

My cheeks burned as I looked away. “Trixie thanks you,” I said quickly.

“It helped me feel like I hadn’t been forgotten. Like everyone still cared,” Sunset said. Her mouth formed a grin, but it was shaky, accompanied by a dry sniff. “That was pretty hard to remember, being stuck in the dark like that.”

“We do care about you, Sunset,” Rarity said softly. “All of us do.”

I saw Sunset eye Tiara for a moment with a bit of doubt, but Tiara met her stare right back. “Yes, Sunset, even me,” Tiara said with a chuckle.

“Hehe, I know,” Sunset replied. “So anyway, I moved over to the table. There was a chair there, so I was able to sit down on it backwards and take my arms to the table corner. It was agonizing, trying to tear that zip tie off, but I kept working it and working it and eventually, it snapped. The instant it did, I reached up with my right hand and tore off the duct tape so I could spit that fucking cloth out. That thing tasted nasty. I was so thirsty, but I had to focus on getting out first.”

Applejack scratched her chin. "Ah'm curious why Adagio bothered tapin' the pad to the underside of the door. Seems like it was risky. Not to mention convenient."

"That should be easy for Trixie to explain," I said with a happy little laugh. "It was because of the rule regarding Monopads. We have to keep our pads near us at all times, right? But Adagio didn't want to risk Sunset calling for help, nor did she want it to be visible to anyone searching the area. Taping it to the underside of the door was the only logical choice left. Trixie was only able to free it by using Rarity’s sewing kit. Without something like that to use, Sunset never would’ve been able to get the pad off the door even if she did free herself."

"Oh, Ah guess that makes sense," Applejack nodded. “But, wait, Sunset, why didn’t you text us? Ah mean, if you had the Monopad there, why not use it?”

“Uuuuh, you see… “ Sunset let out little giggles of nervous laughter. “The battery died. I had just long enough to read Trixie’s text message and then it went dark.” She pointed down at her pad, which hadn’t glowed once. “It’s still charging.”

“Oh jeez, that must’ve been terrifying,” Scootaloo said, cringing. “I would’ve been scared out of my mind.”

“I was. It almost broke me,” Sunset admitted, with not a trace of deceit in her voice. “It felt like I had a way out stolen away from me the instant I found it. So I sat there for a while, wishing I could cry, waiting for my vision to readjust to the dim light. And then I noticed the other thing laying next to the door.”

Reaching into her jeans pockets, she pulled out a key hanging from a keyring. It was unremarkable, ordinary, except for the laminated label trailing on it reading “Ship’s Archives.”

“The key!” Tiara gasped, pointing at it. “So the culprit did give it to you!”

“Yup,” Sunset said. “It must’ve been accidentally covered up by my Monopad, or else I would’ve seen the key when I picked it up. At least, that’s what I assume. Hard to know how long it might’ve been sitting there.”

“Actually, we believe we can guess,” Rarity said. “If I’m right and the culprit found it during the night, then it’s been there since at least 5:00 AM.”

“And it’s about noon now,” Scootaloo said after glancing at her Monopad clock. “So if we’re right, it’s been there for about seven hours. More or less.”

Sunset looked down at the key in her hand, frowned, then stuck it back in her pocket and shrugged. “Eh. I couldn’t have used it till I freed my hands anyway. Of course I unlocked the door straight away. It took awhile to adjust to the light. When I did, I saw a bunch of blood trails, but nothing else.”

“Wait, what? What happened to Adagio’s body?” Tiara inquired.

“Oh, that? Your Captain always moves the body as soon as the trial starts,” Monoponi answered in a matter of fact tone. “No need to leave a corpse stinking up the place when it’s no longer useful.”

“I shudder to ask, but… “ Rarity trembled as she spoke. “What happened to all the bodies?”

Monoponi stared at her for a moment, then spread his gaping jaws in a very large, very nasty sharp-toothed smile. “They have their uses.”

Rarity looked away from him, her face unreadable. “That’s what I was afraid of.”

“So, obviously, I was a bit freaked out,” Sunset said. “I mean, blood on the floor, no one’s around, there’s been another murder, right? But who? I didn’t know. I… suspected, but until I came down here I had no idea. But I wasn’t ready to come down right away. I needed to do something to treat my injuries. So I went up to my cabin, grabbed a bag and as many water bottles as I could, and used my first aid kit in there to patch up my arm, turning the bandage I was using into a sling.”

Her lips pulled back as she glared down at her patchwork effort. “If I’d had even a little bit of time, I would’ve cleaned up, used proper supplies, but I had no idea how long the trial was going to last. Trixie’s message told me I’d be okay so long as I made it before the vote, so once I was ready I went to the elevator. It was waiting for me. I don’t know why, but it was.”

“The elevator was waiting for you,” Monoponi said grumpily, “because I had to send it back up. So these morons would believe you’d show up. I never thought you actually would!”

Strange how taken by surprise he was, I realized. He and Sunset traded words back and forth while I watched. It’s like he’s only able to see what’s happening on the ship if he’s not down here. He’s not all-seeing.

While they continued to argue, I decided to write down these thoughts into a text to Sunset. She’d see it when her Monopad turned on. She’d know what to do with it. Maybe there was some magic based reason he couldn’t see things down here.

As soon as I finished, Sunset turned to me and said, “Hey, so, I have no idea what’s going on in this trial, and I’m not in good shape. You’re the one running the trial, right?”

I beamed, showing off my fabulous teeth, “But of course. Who else would have the skills and abilities to fill your shoes?”

“Aaand there she goes on an ego trip,” Applejack said. She rolled her eyes, but in a good natured, exasperated kind of way, not a bad way.

Sunset looked down at her Monopad and tried the power switch. It bleeped for a moment before displaying a low battery indicator, then the screen went dark. “Well, you mind bringing me up to speed? I uh, I can’t see any of the evidence.”

I pushed mine closer. “Here, let Trixie show you.”

We spent the next several minutes going over evidence while Monoponi fumed, his ire slowly building up until, just as I reached the point where we’d left off, he exploded in a shout of, “Enough time wasting already! This trial has gone on for too long. Get a move on already!”

Sunset sighed, rubbing her forehead with her good hand. “Damn it. I’m not going to be able to lead this. Trixie, can you keep it going? I’ll let you finish things out. Seems like you’ve done a good job so far.”

I gave her a smile, but it was bittersweet. “Of course. Trixie is up to the challenge.” Taking a moment to regain my nerves, I turned to the others. “So, we had just decided that the culprit used everything in the church as a distraction, yes?”

“Ah think so,” Applejack said, reaching up to scratch at her hair behind her ponytail. “Still not sure how though.”

“What if the culprit met Adagio at the museum, and then had her follow them to the church?” Rarity suggested. “That might explain why the murder occurred there. The culprit could’ve had a trap set up.”

Sunset shook her head, frowning. “I dunno about that, Rarity. Adagio was…” her face fell, shifting between sorrow, regret, and longing. “She was smart. And with how vicious she was acting, if she thought someone knew what she was up to? She’d kill them. She wouldn’t follow them anywhere, especially not into a trap.”

“And Ah think we’d notice if someone had defensive wounds or somethin’ from strugglin’ with her,” Applejack said. She rolled up her sleeves, showing off her powerful biceps. “See? Nothin’. Ah can show my legs too if you want.”

Rarity rolled her eyes, but proceeded to push her sleeves up as well. “As you can see, no wounds.”

I looked over at Scootaloo and Tiara, and gestured for them to go ahead. With matching sighs they did as requested. “Nothing,” Scootaloo said.”

“Nada,” Tiara echoed.

Nodding gratefully, I then rolled up my own sleeves. “And as you can see, Trixie is also unharmed.”

“Not that you could’ve done it anyway,” Sunset said. “You were locked up.”

I felt a smile come to my face, even more bittersweet than the last. “Trixie was, yes.”

“Anyhow,” Applejack said after casting a curious glance at me, “Ah gotta agree with Sunset. Adagio weren’t the most book smart person but she had street smarts like no one else. Ah don’t think the culprit could’ve led her in there if she was chasin’ ‘em.”

Rarity shivered. “And I think we all know she was strong enough to overpower any of us. Even you would’ve struggled with her, Applejack.”

“Ah know I would’ve,” Applejack replied, shivering in kind. She unconsciously ran a hand along her arm where the bite wound once was. “Ah remember havin’ those teeth sink into me. Ah never want to feel somethin’ like that again.”

“So doesn’t that mean the culprit took Adagio by surprise?” Scootaloo said, her face screwing up in puzzlement. “But, how?”

“Wait a minute,” Tiara said, gasping in surprise. She looked at me, her eyes dancing with excitement. “What if the note was fake?”

“You mean the note the culprit sent Adagio?” I said.

“Yeah, yeah, that one,” Tiara replied eagerly. “Like, what if that’s not where the culprit and Adagio met? What if the culprit sent her a different note, and then made that note as part of their cover up?”

“But why would they bother with that, darling?” Rarity asked, spreading out her hands in confusion. “I’m still not sure I understand why there was a mystery in the first place.”

“Well, apart from the fact that Monoponi would’ve executed the culprit if they didn’t bother to make a compellin’ mystery,” Applejack mused as she rested her chin on her fist, “Ah think it was for Sunset here.”

Sunset held a hand to her breast. “For me? Why?”

“Oh! I get it,” Scootaloo said. “It’s because Monoponi told the culprit they couldn’t interfere with Adagio’s murder. So the only option they had was to force a trial. I’ll bet they probably assumed this meant Monoponi would’ve freed you, Sunset, so you could participate.”

“Or maybe not,” Rarity added, nodding as she comprehended. “Perhaps the culprit was told by Monoponi the same thing he told us.”

Fact #8: Monoponi’s Ruling: “According to Monoponi, if Sunset Shimmer is still alive, then she will not be punished unless she fails to make it to the trial before it ends.”

“Sounds like something he’d do,” Sunset muttered before subtly flipping Monoponi off from underneath her podium. “He’d want to be sure someone died either way. Isn’t that right?”

“Hey, I already told these morons I wasn’t giving them any more free information!” Monoponi said, shaking a forehoof at Sunset. “You’re no exception to that! Figure it out for yourselves!”

“So that’s a yes, then,” Sunset said with a cheeky grin.


“Ahem,” I cleared my throat. “Trixie thinks there may be some evidence indicating the note was faked.”

“Oh, you mean that, don’t you?” Rarity said.

Fact #19: Printer Log: “The log of the printer in the museum director’s office. It shows two documents were printed, on Monday at 11:55 PM and Wednesday at 4:30 AM.”

“Yes, Trixie is referring to the printer log,” I answered with a dramatic wave of my cloak. “Trixie searched the museum director’s computer long and hard to find traces of the notes, and this was the only thing she found.”

Applejack peered at the log on her own pad. “Huh. Ah think you might be right. There was another note printed Monday evenin’.”

“And that corresponds to the time Sunset was kidnapped, right Sunset?” Scootaloo said, looking at her.

“Uhh…” Sunset’s eyes lost their focus for a moment as she fell forward, breathing heavily. “Uh… I… eugh!” She shook her head, moaned in pain as she held it, and then reached out and took another drink of water. “Sorry. I’ve got a splitting headache and it’s fucking killing me. Uh, yeah, yeah, I think Adagio kidnapped me around 10:45 or something. She was waiting for me when I left Trixie’s room.”

“Oh, I might be able to help you with that,” Scootaloo said. She pulled off her backpack, dug into it, and brought out a small first aid kit. “Got some aspirin here. Want it?”

“Holy shit, yes, give it here,” Sunset said.

Scootaloo started to leave her podium before suddenly freezing in place, a magical crimson aura wrapped around her throat. “Gch!” she choked, her eyes widening in panic.

“Oh no you don’t,” Monoponi warned, his eyes narrowed in irritation. “Bad enough Miss-Prissy over there left her podium long enough to hug Miss-I-Don’t-Die-When-I’m-Supposed-To! No one else leaves until this trial is over.”

Scootaloo took a step back and the hold on her throat released. She broke into a horrendous coughing fit lasting several moments before she got her breath back. “Okay, okay, fuck,” she muttered. “I won’t. Applejack can you pass this to Rarity, please?”

“Uuuuh…” Applejack’s eyes darted towards the seamstress, who glared at her with an impatient, expectant look, then back to Scootaloo. “Ah can.” She took the bottle and stretched out hand it to Rarity.

Rarity took it without issue and passed it to me, and I gave it to Sunset. “There you go, dear,” Rarity said with a small smile just for Sunset.

“Thanks,” Sunset said before popping down several pills and swallowing them back with a sip of water. “Ugh. Hope that kicks in soon.”

Scootaloo, still rubbing her throat from where Monoponi had gripped it, glared down at her Monopad. "Hey wait a second guys. I just realized something."

Fact #12: Broken Telescope: “One of the telescopes on the museum observatory balcony was discovered with its mirrors broken. There were a few torn bits of paper and duct tape inside.”

"We never figured out what that paper and duct tape was for. Was this the second note?"

I arched both eyebrows at that, my lips pursed. "Trixie isn't sure that makes much sense. Rarity never said she found a note in there when she examined it."

"It's true, I didn't," Rarity said with a nod. "The paper and tape was already like that. So I don't think it had anything to do with the other note. I think that must've been left over from Adagio placing the key inside. She must've wrapped it in paper and tape to make it easier to find, and to prevent it from getting lost."

"Trixie agrees," I said immediately. "It has no relevance."

"But then where'd the other note go?" Scootaloo said.

“Diamond,” Rarity said after casting another sympathetic glance Sunset’s way, “I think your theory about the note must be correct. If the culprit knew the only way to save Sunset was to kill Adagio, then they must’ve prepared for it that night.”

“But there weren’t nothin’ set up in the church on Tuesday,” Applejack said with a brief shake of her head. “See that’s what’s got me confused. Why would the culprit write a note Monday night and then wait a day?”

“Maybe they didn’t have enough time to set up the murder Monday night?” Scootaloo suggested. “Or maybe they were hoping we would find Sunset and free her ourselves.”

Tiara rapped her knuckles against her podium and then nodded. “Yeah that’s probably what they did. Why risk a murder if they don’t have to?”

“Mmm, they might’ve needed time to plan, too,” Rarity said, frowning deeply. “A complex mystery is difficult to pull off. So they had to gather materials. Set up the scene. Make sure that however they performed the murder, they made it difficult to solve, so to give Sunset more time.”

“Hmm, Ah’ll bet it took a lot of hard effort to put together that trap, too,” Applejack said. “Ah mean, it takes skill to rig stuff like that up. But Ah still don’t get what exactly they must’ve done. We need to figure that out. The course of events, Ah mean.”

“So you mean, like, what they did and when?” Tiara asked.

“Yeah,” Applejack said, nodding. “Like, Ah get that they used instruments and incense and stuff to distract Adagio, but, like, how did it work?”

“Well,” Rarity said after a moment, “maybe you had the right idea earlier, Applejack. You suggested they put the bucket, full of water, atop the door. What if that’s exactly what they did?”

“Ah beg your pardon?” Applejack said, her mouth and tone flatlining.

“Trixie sees what Rarity means,” I spoke up. “If Trixie received a mysterious note threatening to expose some dastardly deed she performed, she would expect a trap.”

“....oh my god,” Scootaloo groaned, slapping a hand to her face. “That’s it. That’s what the culprit did. They put the bucket of water up there, then when Adagio looked for a trap, she’d see it and think that was the trap.”

“Which left her open for somethin’ else,” Applejack replied, an understanding grin spreading on her face. “This culprit’s pretty smart. You found confetti there, right?”

“We did,” I said.

“Well Ah’ll bet the culprit set up somethin’ to spread confetti everywhere when Adagio opened up the door to the church hall,” Applejack said. “She probably opened the door from far away so the bucket wouldn’t dump on her, only to get that stuff dumped on her.”

“Yes, and then she’d have her nose assaulted by the incense, and the lights would be flickering too,” Rarity added. Her lips thinned. “It would be atrocious.”

“Betcha the instruments were part of it too,” Scootaloo added. “The culprit set them up to make a racket.”

“Good grief,” Sunset muttered. “So she had a face full of confetti, flickering lights, overwhelming smell and noise? It’s almost like the culprit set off a flashbang.”

“Or at least it had the same effect,” Rarity agreed. She hummed and tapped her fingers on her podium. “You know, if it weren’t impossible, I’d almost wonder if Pinkie Pie did this.”

Scootaloo snorted a wry laugh. “Kinda feels like something she’d do, huh? Bunch of pranks set to go off and then wha-bam! Surprise rock to the face!”

“Ah’ll bet the rock was just to seal the deal so the culprit could stab her,” Applejack said. Then she frowned. “Wait a minute. If the culprit set this all up after you were in there, Scootaloo, why did they use a rock from the museum?”

“Convenience, probably,” Tiara muttered. “If I saw a broken case in the museum? I’d use it in my murder. It sure confused us for a while, ‘specially since you wouldn’t talk.”

Her cheeks flooding with pink, Scootaloo managed a half smile and flipped Tiara off. “Screw you too, Tiara.”

“Hah, you wish you could,” Tiara said before laughing good-naturedly.

Scootaloo’s whole face turned beet red before she looked away for a moment. Then she drew herself up, looked back at Tiara, and said, “Maybe I will if you give me the chance.”

Now it was Tiara’s turn to blush profusely. “You… what.”

“Just sayin’,” Scootaloo winked, before putting her hands back behind her head. Her cheeks burned, but she was grinning like mad even so.

Applejack whistled and clapped the younger woman on the shoulder. “Whewie, that’s some gumption you just showed there, Scootaloo.”

“Wha--you say that like I’d be interested!” Tiara said, her mouth puckering up like she bit a lemon.

Seemingly emboldened by Applejack’s support, Scootaloo quipped, “If you’re not, why are you blushing?”

“B-because, I…” Tiara trailed off before looking away, her whole body steaming red. “Oh shut up!”

Okay, that’s enough being gross and sexual. “Can we get back to the matter at hand, please?” I groaned.

“Yes, puh-lease let’s do that,” Rarity muttered with a disdainful look on her face. “Honestly…”

“So I’m wondering,” Scootaloo said, dropping her hands down to her podium, “What would the culprit have done if I hadn’t broken the museum case?”

Applejack pursed her lips and considered that for a moment before answering, “Ah’m guessin’ the culprit probably intended to do somethin’ else first. It ain’t like there’s a shortage of stuff to hit someone with. Maybe they were gonna use the bucket?”

“Or perhaps something from one of the altars,” Rarity mused. “Or even one of the instruments. We never found anything else prepared.”

“If I was this culprit,” Sunset spoke up, “I would’ve gotten rid of anything I planned to use afterwards.” She frowned. “Actually that’s kind of weird. Why was there so much stuff left around?”

“Yeah, if they hadn’t left all that stuff in the church,” Scootaloo said, “We never would’ve known anything happened there.”

“Well we might’ve suspected somethin’ when we found the prayer mat,” Applejack said with a deep frown, “which makes their choice of the office kinda strange too. Why dispose of it there?”

“Indeed,” Rarity said, rubbing her chin delicately with one hand while using the other to straighten out her hair. “As soon as we found that note on Adagio’s body we were certain to check there. And since the culprit did make two notes, one of them fake, that means the fake one must’ve been planted on purpose.”

“Seriously,” Tiara muttered, her mouth twisting into a disgusted sneer. “Like, how stupid do you have to be to hide something in the same place you’re deliberately guiding someone to check?”

“Trixie thinks it wasn’t stupid at all,” I said with a shake of my head. “She thinks the culprit wanted to be caught.”

Applejack eyed me curiously. “You sure about that, Trixie? Ah mean they did try and make a fake scene.”

“Yes, they did, but we already agreed it was to save Sunset,” I countered, gesturing towards Sunset with both hands. “And Trixie thinks if that was their goal, then it’s been accomplished, don’t you agree?”

“Ah guess…”

Rarity bit at her lip, her eyes widening with fright. “But, but surely not. That means they’d expect to get executed.”

“It does,” I agreed with a soft smile.

Applejack let out a loud, flustered sigh and reached up to adjust her hat. “Means whoever the culprit is, they care about Sunset a whole lot. Enough to die for her.” She then flashed Rarity a dark look.

“W-w-why are you looking at me like that?” Rarity spluttered, her knees knocking together as she took a couple steps back.

“Because out of all of us, you’re the one who cares about Sunset the most,” Applejack retorted.

Scootaloo eyed the farmer with a skeptical look. “Oh come on. Didn’t we all agree like two hours ago that Rarity didn’t do it? We had that whole debate and everything.”

“Wait, what do you mean, she cares about me the most?” Sunset asked, looking askance at Rarity.

Rarity’s mouth spread into a wide, toothy sheepish grin. “Ahehehe, I uh, I don’t know what they’re talking about,” she tittered.

Sunset eyed her for a moment, then nodded. “Oh, they’re talking about your crush on me. Got it.”

Rarity’s eyes shrank to mere dots. “What.”

“Yeah, you got a crush on me,” Sunset said casually while taking a drink of water. “You’re scared for your life, you feel lost without your sister, and you can’t be with Applejack. So you’ve become infatuated with me instead.”

Rarity’s mouth fell open as she froze in place, very quiet squeaking noises emerging from her throat.

“Wow. So you noticed that, huh Sunset?” Scootaloo said, grinning behind her hand as she struggled not to burst into laughter.

“It was pretty obvious,” Sunset replied.

“W-w-well, excuse me for trying to be subtle!” Rarity suddenly blurted, her face burning so hot I could feel the heat from my podium. “Fine. Yes. I like you, Sunset. Is that so wrong?”

“No,” Sunset shrugged. “But now’s really not the time to discuss this. After the trial?”

“Fine. After the trial,” Rarity said, nodding.

Tiara stood up straight and slapped on that cocky smirk she wore so often, then fluffed her hair with the back of her hand. “Besides, I think we’re all willing to die for Sunset at this point.”

“Seriously?” Sunset scoffed, staring at Tiara with a look of utter disbelief plastered across her face. “Even you?”

“Yes even me!” Tiara insisted, her cheeks turning pink once more. “...you’re my friend, Sunset. You gave me a chance, even when I was a super huge jerk to you. Repeatedly. That… that means a lot to me.”

Sunset’s face still bore more than a shred of doubt as she muttered, “Okay then. Glad to hear it.”

Applejack blew out a sigh, then tipped her hat to Sunset. “She’s right. Ah can’t tell you how much Ah appreciate that you helped me when mah sister died. If it weren’t for you Ah think Ah’d still be on that stage, starin’ into nothin’.” Then she looked away for a moment. “Ah guess then you did accuse me of killin’ someone. Twice. And if Ah was less charitable Ah could blame you for what Adagio did. But Ah wouldn’t be the kind of woman Ah am if Ah did that.” She glanced at Rarity, then let out a sorrowful sigh. “As much as Ah want to be mad at you for all kinds of things, Ah just can’t. You’re too good a person for me to hate.”

Sunset blinked, one corner of her mouth turning down as she glanced between the seamstress and the farmer, then let out a sigh of her own. “Right. Thanks. I think.” Then she glanced at Scootaloo. “What about you?”

“Me?” Scootaloo said, holding a hand to her chest. “Yeah, I would too. You’ve done so much for us, Sunset. You’ve kept us alive.” She dropped her hand to her podium and stared down at it. “I feel like I would’ve died a few times over by now if it weren’t for you. I never felt confident in the trials. Everything was so confusing. But you kept figuring it out, over and over, no matter how many times I doubted you.” She looked back up at Sunset. “I’m sorry I ever doubted you even for a moment, Sunset.”

Sunset shook her head and grinned at the younger woman. “Hey, no problem.” Then she eyed me. “And I already know your answer.”

It was my turn to blush, and I hated it. “You do.”

Then Sunset abruptly said, “And one of you’s going to. Die for me, that is.”

Everyone fell silent, the good mood vanishing in an instant, replaced by uncertain tension. She wasn’t wrong. One of us was going to die today, or all of us would.

Sunset shook her head sadly. “I’m glad you guys care about me. I can’t say how much that means. But… Adagio’s dead. And one of you killed her, just to save me.” She frowned down at her water bottle before taking a sip. “Part of me wishes you hadn’t. I don’t want to lose any of you. But I also know you didn’t have a choice.”

“Ah guess not,” Applejack muttered. “So what now? We know how the culprit killed Adagio. We know where, and why. And we know they wanted to be caught. Only question is, who was it?”

“We all had the opportunity and the motive,” Rarity said. She let out a bitter laugh. “I suppose it’s plausible even my defense of Adagio earlier in the trial could be taken as me making excuses to postpone it.”

“I was just thinking that,” Scootaloo said, nodding sadly.

“Yours too,” Applejack said, pointing at Scootaloo. “Ah mean, your whole thing about the broken case. And it’d explain why the culprit didn’t have some other means to hit Adagio over the head.”

Scootaloo smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “Looks like that.”

“So who was it, then?” Sunset asked, looking at all of us in turn, only for all of us to look away from her. “If you’re afraid of telling me, that’s okay, but there’s not much point in staying quiet now. I’m here. You did it.”

But no one said a word.

A disappointed frown formed on Sunset’s face. “So you’re going to make us drag it out of you? Even now? Why? If you’re scared of dying, I get it. I know exactly what that’s like. But you knew you would, when you embarked on this plan. You accepted it. I'm not trying to be insensitive or self centered, but... I need to lay the hell down. I need rest. I can’t stand at this podium much longer. So come on.”

Tiara faced Sunset again. “Um, Sunset, I kind of have a question, if that’s okay.”

Rolling her eyes, Sunset gestured to her with her bottle. “Fine. Shoot.”

“Why didn’t you remember you gave Adagio a key to your room?”

Sunset shot her a flat look. “Because I’m an idiot. An idiot who hoped that my girlfriend wouldn’t try to murder me.”

“But you said to me that night--”

“I know what I said!” Sunset shouted, her eyes going wide with anger. She jabbed a finger Tiara’s way like she was trying to stab her with a knife. “I know what I fucking said, okay? Don’t tell me I don’t know! I had plenty of time to think about my mistake while I was locked up in that fucking archive room. Believe me, if I’d known Adagio was going to ambush me, I’d have done something else. Anything else. Rekeyed my room lock, cordoned myself off in a restaurant kitchen, something!”

Diamond Tiara let out a gasp and drew back, her expression brimming with hurt. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to--”

“I know, I know,” Sunset said, her anger fading away as she looked away from Tiara. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap. I just… damn it.” She took her free hand and rubbed it forcefully down her face, then sighed. “I cared about Adagio, you know. I loved her. And I don’t say that lightly. I fell in love with her. She might’ve been a mean person, but… but she was like me. She was just like I was, once upon a time. I thought she was changing, like I did. I thought I was helping turn her into a better person. I thought I was saving her from being miserable.”

She gripped her fist hard enough her fingernails scraped the flesh of her palm and drew blood. “And then I found my guitar, and that photo album, and everything I thought I'd accomplished turned out to mean nothing! I was the one who took away her magic. Do you know how important that was to her? That was her life! That was the very essence of what made her who she is! That might be hard for you guys to understand, since you’re human, but to a magical being, like us? Magic is everything. You take away our magic and you destroy a piece of our soul.”

Letting her hand fall to her side, Sunset looked up at us, her eyes wet with tears. “And I did that to her. With the help of you, Applejack, and you, Rarity, and Twilight and Rainbow, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy. We did that to her. It looked like we had good reason at the time, but that’s not the point. The point is, I, the person she loved, am the one who destroyed a piece of who she was. It’s no wonder she flipped out on me. She thought I kept it from her on purpose. She didn’t say it outright, but I think she might’ve thought I set out to do this from the beginning. That I knew I hurt her, and I was trying to hurt her more, change her, corrupt her into something she wasn’t.”

Sunset reached out for her water bottle, took another drink, then set it down. “Maybe if this happened outside the killing game, we could’ve resolved it. We could’ve worked it out. But we didn’t. Now I’ll never… never get the chance… to…to…” Abruptly she collapsed against her podium, wailing with grief, her body wracked with heavy sobs.

I started to reach out a hand, but Monoponi’s magic snatched it and shoved it back against me the instant I tried. He did the same thing when Rarity tried to reach out around me. So we let Sunset weep for a good, long time, remaining respectfully quiet, occasionally sharing glances of concern for our friend.

As I watched her cry, pain filled my own chest, slowly but surely building from a dull ache in my heart to a throbbing, white-hot agony, pulsing with every fresh sob, with every newly shed tear. It tore at me like a great clawed beast had sunk its razor sharp talons into my chest and shredded it open, broke open my rib cage, and lashed out with its mighty jaws to rip my heart to pieces. Something I felt, with every passing second, like something I deserved. A fate fit for one such as me.

It wasn’t long before wetness fell against my face, and my breathing became choked by my own snot.

“...Trixie?” Sunset whispered, looking my way, her eyes so puffy and bloodshot from tears she shouldn’t have had to let fall. “It’s… it’s okay, you don’t have to cry for me too.”

“Yes I do,” I said, my chest shaking, my heart hammering a million miles per hour as everything else seemed to disappear. “Yes, I do, Sunset.”

“But why?”

This was it. This was the moment I’d dreaded since Sunset left my room Monday night. Stage fright like none other I’d ever felt took hold of me, threatening to freeze me in place, to hurl me into an abyss, to do anything but face what I had to face now.

But I’m Trixie. The Great and Powerful Trixie. I don’t back down when I’m on stage. And this whole trial had been my crowning achievement, the piece de resistance to my stage career. The spotlight was on me. Time for my cue.

“Because it was me,” I said. “I did it. I killed Adagio.”

Sunset’s mouth fell open as she inhaled sharply, her pupils shrinking as she started shaking her head. “No. No you didn’t. That’s not possible.”

I laughed, bitter, hateful. A laugh of shame, of self pity. “Yes it is. Don’t you remember?”

Sunset’s eyes widened even further as she let out a quiet scream. “No! Not… you couldn’t! You didn’t!”

The sounds and sights of everyone else in the room came flooding back in a cascade of screams, shouts, and cries of disbelief. “What in tarnation do you mean, you killed Adagio?!” Applejack roared at the top of her lungs.

“That’s impossible!” Rarity proclaimed, her eyes full of worry and fear. “You were locked away!”

“I had the key!” Diamond Tiara added, slamming both fists on her podium, her expression full of rage. “I know you were locked up! I checked the lock myself! Tuesday and today!”

“But you’re the only one who couldn’t have done it!” Scootaloo insisted, her chest heaving, though whether it was from anxiety, worry, or fury I couldn’t tell. “How is this possible?”

Sunset fell back against her podium, her eyes going blank, her face catatonic as she muttered, “No, please, no,” under her breath over and over again.

I held up my hands and crossed them, then swept them out like a maestro calling for the end of a performance. Everyone quieted down, save for Sunset’s repetitive whimpering. “Remember how Trixie told you Sunset made herself a key?” I announced, using my stage persona to the fullest to command their attention. “Well that’s not the only thing Sunset did for Trixie.”

I shot up in bed, fumbling through the blankets for my Monopad, and finally turned off the alarm. “6:00 PM. Damn it. Trixie! Hey, Trixie, wake up!”

“Huh?” Trixie mumbled, blinking slowly as she looked up at me from the bed. Her eyes glazed over as she said something incoherent and then fell back onto the bed with a flump.

“Ugh, no, wake up, damn it,” I groaned, reaching down to shake her.

Trixie batted at my arms weakly, until she opened her eyes and grumbled, “I’m up, I’m up. What?”

“We need to get you back in your room,” I said, hopping out of bed. I scooped up a fresh pair of clothes from my closet, opting to skip a shower. “Before anyone else wakes up. Tiara’s expecting us at the meeting, and if anyone finds out you’re in here--”

Trixie meeped, and sat up as quickly as she was able. Slowly, painfully slowly, she edged her way to the edge of the bed, grabbed for her crutches, and managed to stand. “Trixie is ready.”

“Wait here,” I whispered as I carefully opened my door and checked down the corridor both ways. I cocked my head to hear better as well, in case I heard any doors unlocking. Nothing but silence. “C’mon, let’s go!”

Trixie’s room was only a couple of doors down from my own, but it might as well have been twenty miles for how slow she seemed to walk. Every time her crutches creaked as they rose and crunched as they pushed against the carpet, I feared it’d raise the alarm and summon everyone to us.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen. We reached her room, I unlocked it, and managed to get her back inside, promising to see her soon after the meeting. Before I left, however, Trixie proposed something to me. “I don’t know,” I murmured, glancing back and forth every few seconds in case we were caught. “I’ll think about it.”

“Please. Trixie would appreciate it forever if you did,” Trixie said, holding up her hands like she was praying to me.

“Sunset allowed Trixie to stay in her room Sunday morning. Not only for Trixie’s sake, but for Sunset’s. Neither of us wanted to be alone, least of all Trixie.” I lowered my hands and spread them out over my chest. “So that evening, Trixie requested a favor. What she asked is quite simple: a way out. She wanted the ability to leave her cabin at night, whenever she wanted. She was tired of being locked away, trapped in a single room.”

Finding myself with little else to do before Tiara called us all together, I decided to try fixing my guitar in the prop shop. It proved easier than I expected, almost as if it wasn’t the first time I’d had to fix damage like this in my instrument. It left me plenty of time to do a few other things that needed doing before I returned to my cabin with the restored guitar, like Trixie’s favor.
I made my way back to the food court, to our usual meeting table. Trixie was already there, along with Tiara, but no one else yet. Tiara was focused on something before her, some kind of large leather-bound book. Ignoring it for the moment, I sat down next to Trixie and leaned over to whisper, “I took care of that favor for you.”

Her eyes lit up like floodlights at a baseball stadium, but she managed to restrain her excitement to a mere whispered “Thank you!”

“I’m still not sure it’s a good idea, though,” I whispered back.

“Don’t worry, it’ll be fine,” Trixie said a bit louder, more reassuringly.

“Trixie had her wish granted. Sunset remade her lock. She designed the outside so to all appearances, it was locked via the padlock. But in truth, Trixie had a bolt she could turn on the inside that could unlock the door and let her out. So when she heard Sunset scream Monday night, she used that to leave her room. And what she saw was horrible.”

I turned to face Sunset, and held out my hands to her like I was begging her to take them. “Trixie saw her best friend being led at knife-point by Adagio, while that siren talked all about how she was going to murder Sunset via dehydration. Trixie wanted to interfere, to say something, to do something, but she was scared. Scared that before she could act, Adagio would kill her. So she watched, frozen, until it was too late. Until Adagio had locked Sunset away.”

I pulled back my hands and spread them out by my sides. “Trixie barely got back to her cabin in time to avoid Adagio spotting her. She sat there on her bed, crying for Sunset, wishing she could do something, until she summoned up her courage. She opened the door to her room, and who did she see?”

I raised my left hand to point an accusatory finger at Monoponi. “Him! He was waiting for Trixie. He knew Trixie would tell someone, would interfere. He told Trixie he wouldn’t allow her to speak up, and would kill her if she did. But he did offer her a deal. He said that if Trixie murdered Adagio, he’d be willing to let Sunset live. But only if Trixie created a compelling mystery. He barely gave Trixie the time to think before saying if she didn’t make a decision, she’d lose her chance. She had no choice! She had to save Sunset!”

I pulled back my arm and leaned forward at my podium, steepling my hands atop it. “So Trixie hatched a plan. She went to the museum office, and printed up a message to give Adagio. She schemed and plotted all Monday night and most of Tuesday. Then, when everyone else had gone to bed for the night, she set up her trap, and left her message by Adagio’s door. Then she--”

“No! No damn it!” Sunset suddenly sprung back to life, slamming her good hand down on her podium. “I refuse to believe this shit. Trixie, you couldn’t have done this! God, of all the people here, you couldn’t have least of all!”

So. She’ll make me prove it after all. I figured as much. Time to do what you always did best, Sunset. I faced her and raised my eyebrows. “Oh? And why is that?”

“Because you know what’ll happen!” Sunset said, pointing a finger up at Monoponi. “You know he’ll kill you! He already took your leg! You’ve always been terrified of him. Why would you stop being scared now?”

“Who said Trixie wasn’t scared?” I retorted. “Hah! Trixie is petrified. But she didn’t let that stop her.”

“But, but, you regretted killing Pinkie Pie!” Sunset shouted, pointing at Pinkie’s portrait. “You hated it! You felt filthy, rotten, horrible, like the scum of the earth. We all treated you like that for it! Why would you do it again?

I slowly shook my head. “Trixie regrets many things in her life, Sunset. Killing Adagio, to save you? Not one of them.”

“Well you should!” Sunset screeched, pointing at me now. “If you did it! Which you didn’t! Because look at you. You’re crippled. You have one leg! How could you, of all people, possibly overpower Adagio?”

I narrowed my eyes, one corner of my mouth turning up in a half smile. “Really? Did you forget all the things Trixie did to distract Adagio? Trixie didn’t have to overpower her. All Trixie had to do was strike while the iron was hot.”

“Ugh! No! For fuck’s sake, Trixie!” Sunset slapped her hand to her forehead and squeezed her eyes shut, then they popped open again. “No. I won’t buy it. You know how I felt when you killed Pinkie for me. You know how angry I was. Why would you ever think I’d be okay with it a second time? Especially if it was Adagio! I loved her, damn it!”

“Trixie knows you did,” I said, holding up both hands at shoulder height, then shrugging and shaking my head. “But she also didn’t want you to die. She could accept you hating her, so long as you got to live.”

“No!” Sunset leaned towards me, and reached out to grab the front of my shirt. I didn’t react as she pulled me forward. “God damn it, Trixie, listen to yourself! You’re acting like this is some kind of redemption bullshit. Like you’re making up for what you did before by trying to sacrifice yourself. But you didn’t do this. Stop lying to us! I’ll never believe you if you don’t prove it, and you can’t! You can’t prove you killed her!

Laughter bubbled up inside my chest like a frothing beer can shaken up by a frat boy as I pulled away from her and tapped on my Monopad screen. “Oh Sunset, Trixie is so sorry she has to say this to you, but YOU’VE GOT THAT WRONG!

Fact #19: Printer Log: “The log of the printer in the museum director’s office. It shows two documents were printed, on Monday at 11:55 PM and Wednesday at 4:30 AM.”

“Remember this?” I said, reaching into my pocket with one hand. “There were two notes Trixie made. And she has the first one right here!

“I know what you did. Meet me at the church, tonight, at 3:00 AM.”

The words on the page left Sunset stunned. She took a step back, then two, then collapsed onto her butt. “No…” she whispered, tears falling down her face like a torrential rainstorm. “Trixie… no…”

“So,” I said, turning back to everyone. “Allow Trixie to end all doubt, once and for all.” I closed my eyes, just like Sunset had so many times before, and then they shot open. “Trixie will show you all the truth of this case!”

“Though the murder in this case only happened yesterday, its true origins lie at the very beginning of our arrival here. The victim, Adagio Dazzle, was arguing with the culprit over the culprit’s choice of pronoun. Though Sunset Shimmer interrupted this conversation, it began a long period of animosity, which never fully resolved, and culminated in the victim’s death.

"Due to the reveal of her siren nature, and the picture discovered that proved Sunset was the one responsible for her losing her magic, Adagio broke off the romantic relationship between the two. Tension grew, especially when Monoponi introduced his limited income punishment. Though Sunset attempted to reconcile with Adagio, she inadvertently confirmed Adagio’s worst fears, and sealed her fate. Adagio decided she needed to escape this ship, and so she set about planning a murder attempt. Back before the fourth trial, Sunset had crafted a key for her room, giving it to Adagio. And during the exploration, she and Adagio discovered that the archives in the library were finally unlocked, with a key found inside. Adagio used both against Sunset, by ambushing her in her room. After torturing her former lover, she escorted Sunset to the library at knife point. She didn’t want Sunset to die that quickly, because it would make it obvious she was responsible. So she tied Sunset up inside the archives room, dosed her with sedatives, and locked it, intending for Sunset to die from dehydration. She taped Sunset's Monopad to the underside of the archive door, close enough that it counted as being within range for the Monopad rule, but out of Sunset's reach, preventing Sunset from calling for help. Then she wrapped up the key in paper and tape, and hid it in a telescope. She also wrote herself a seemingly nonsensical reminder note, so that if searched, the key wouldn’t be on her, as she knew she’d be the prime suspect.

"The culprit, who’d been locked up in their room since the third trial for the crime of murdering Pinkie Pie, had been given a way to get out by Sunset Shimmer. She’d carefully replaced the lock with a fake: it would look to all like it was padlocked, but in reality it was controlled by a bolt from inside the room, allowing the culprit to get out whenever they wanted. Thanks to this ability to roam free, the culprit had witnessed Adagio’s initial kidnapping of Sunset, but was forbidden by Monoponi from speaking out or revealing Sunset’s hidden location. Monoponi then offered them a deal: if they committed a complicated enough murder, he would allow the culprit to give Sunset the means to escape, and bend the rules to give her till the end of the trial to rescue herself. Knowing Sunset’s fate was sealed unless they did something, the culprit accepted.

"The culprit spent much time planning the crime. They took advantage of the fact that no one would suspect them, both due to their impairment and due to everyone’s belief they were locked away. This would require them to hide the true murder scene, so they chose the church foyer, due to the soundproofing, and lured Adagio there with a note printed up from the museum printer.

"Using their knowledge of stagecraft gleaned from their chosen career, they opted to use a three fold trap. The first was a simple bucket of water set atop the door to the church main hall. This was intended to be spotted by the victim, to lure her into a false sense of security. The second was a series of distractions set to go off once the door opened, to bedazzle the victim’s senses. This included a large pile of burning incense candles, various instruments rigged to produce noise, and a burst of confetti paper. While Adagio was distracted, the culprit struck her with a heavy rock taken from the museum across the forehead, which they chose to use only because Scootaloo had shattered the sample case two hours earlier. This dazed Adagio long enough to allow the culprit to finish the job with the sacred athame taken from the dark altar, stabbing it into the back of her neck at the base of her skull. She was killed instantly.

"Allowing the blood to splash on a prepared prayer mat, the culprit laid the body down on it, letting blood stain Adagio’s clothes. They searched Adagio’s pockets, removing both the note they wrote and Adagio’s reminder note. Then, using the mat’s securing strap, which had had several other straps knotted on it to make a rope, they rigged it to surround their waist, akin to a dog sled. Then they dragged Adagio’s corpse to the first fake murder location: the museum theater. There, they unwrapped her body, slashed open her carotid arteries with the athame, and then rolled her over the floor, to create a false blood splatter. They then took the rock they’d take out of the broken museum case, rubbed it in the blood to make sure it was stained, and put it back in the broken case. Then, to further confuse the cause of death, as well as to further cement the idea that the murder took place in the museum, they also took one of the largest pieces of broken glass and stabbed it into the back of Adagio’s head. Leaving her body for the moment, the culprit used the note they found to locate the archive key, hidden inside one of the telescopes on the observation balcony.

"Finished with their first false scene, the culprit wrapped Adagio’s body back up in the prayer mat and dragged it to the library, leaving it on the first floor. Then they rolled up the prayer mat and took it back with them, leaving a trail on the floor every so often to lead from the museum to the library. They stuffed the rolled up mat under the museum office desk.

"Returning to the church foyer, they cleaned up most of the evidence, but deliberately left a few pieces behind, such as the lingering smell of incense, several pools of melted wax, the sodden rug, and a few bits of thread used for the instruments. This was all to leave enough clues for the culprit’s guilt to be proven, as the culprit never intended to survive the trial. As a final bit of insurance, they intentionally dropped off the sacred athame in Sunset’s room, and faked a message on her pillow to give them something to work with during the trial.

"The next day, Adagio’s body was discovered by the others, and Monoponi announced his ruling. Due to everyone’s lack of confidence, the culprit volunteered to lead the investigation. During the investigation, the culprit opted to stick with Rarity, and deliberately obfuscated many clues to further confuse the crime. They also used their skill with sleight of hand to push the key under the archive door, so that Sunset had a way to free herself, and sent Sunset a text as well, to let Sunset know Monoponi’s ruling.

"Once the investigation finished, the culprit was forced to lead the trial as well, and purposefully extended the trial for as long as they were able. They did not expect Monoponi to rig up a light to showcase Sunset’s lifesigns. During the trial, the light went out, and everyone thought Sunset had perished, including the culprit. This led the group to attempt rebellion against Monoponi, but everyone swiftly gave in when he threatened their lives. The culprit stuck to their plan, despite it feeling pointless.

"Fortunately, it turned out Sunset had survived. She had accidentally destroyed Monoponi’s magic sensor when she rescued herself, and had spent a while recovering before managing to haul herself down to the courtroom. She was horrified by Adagio’s death, and was unable to take over the trial both due to her ignorance and her health following her imprisonment. She let the culprit continue to lead, allowing them to rapidly clear matters up and bring things to a close.

"I know you don’t want to believe it, Sunset. I know it hurts. I know I did it again. But I had no choice. I couldn’t let you die, Sunset, nor could I let the others die either. I’m so, so sorry, but the one who killed Adagio… was me. Trixie Lulamoon, the Ultimate Illusionist!”

Applejack tore off her hat, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it. She looked at me with a glare that was simultaneously brimming with hatred and admiration. “Ah can’t believe it. Ah can’t believe you’re a murderer. Again! Ya had a good reason, but still!” Then she sighed and grabbed her hat back up, smoothing out the wrinkles. “Ah don’t know how you fooled me, but you sure did. Least you fessed up this time.”

Scootaloo also glared at me, but then her eyes relaxed as she held up her hand in the same two-finger salute she’d given Sunset. “Well I can’t speak for everyone else, but… I’m glad you did it. You might be a murderer, but you didn’t do it for yourself. I can admire that.”

Tiara frowned darkly, staring at Sunset laying on the floor before looking back up at me, slowly shaking her head. “I’m sorry I ever thought you were a psychopath. I was wrong. I can admit that.” Then she raised up her thumb and smiled at me. “Thanks for saving Sunset. I’m pretty pissed that you made us go through this trial, buuut.. I can forgive you.”

Rarity pressed her lips together, and held up her hands, scowling at me with hatred blacker than darkest midnight. Then she closed her eyes, bowed her head, and set her hands down. “Trixie. I consider you my friend. I also consider killing to be wrong. It is the worst thing any individual can do. I forgave you once, because I realized you only did it for Sunset’s sake, and… because I care for Sunset deeply. It was a selfish reason to forgive you. Hearing what you did makes me want to hate you all over again, to feel the same anger I felt the first time. But I can’t.” She opened her eyes, and smiled. “All I can do is thank you, and forgive you again. This time you not only acted for Sunset. You did this for us all. You saved our lives. So, thank you Trixie. I will miss you, when you’re gone.”

“Thank you, everyone,” I said with a quick bow. “Trixie appreciates you all.”

Sunset rose from the floor, propping herself up by her good arm as she stared at me with haunted eyes. “Trixie, I... I don’t… I can’t…”

I reached out with open arms, and Sunset fell into them, laying against my shoulder. “I know what you want to say, Sunset. I know what you’re feeling. I knew what this would do to you, when I chose to do it. But how could I do anything else?”

She pulled back so she could look into my eyes. “But you’re going to die, Trixie,” she said. “You can’t escape it this time.”

“I know that. I know I’m going to die. And I’m scared.” Tears came to my own eyes as I smiled at my best friend. “I don’t want to die. I don’t. But… I knew I didn’t have a real life waiting for me, outside this ship. I knew that, even if we somehow escaped, I would trade one prison for another. We made jokes about it, but I didn’t want to spend decades in a cell, fearing for my safety from every other murderer in the prison. I wouldn’t survive in that environment, Sunset. I’m just a magician. I’d wither away until I lost everything that made me, me.” I let out a bitter laugh. “And yes, I wanted to redeem myself. To do something right, to make up for what I did wrong. To die on my terms, and no one else’s.”

“I wish you hadn’t had to,” Sunset whispered. “I wish Adagio could’ve lived. That we could’ve made up, fixed things, stayed together. I wish you could’ve stayed too. I don’t want to lose you.”

“I know,” I said. I held up one hand and pressed it to Sunset’s cheek. “There’s no justice in it. In any of this. If there was, none of us would’ve ever stepped foot on this ship.” I ran my thumb along the side of her face, then lowered my hand. “Can you do me a favor, Sunset?”

“Anything,” Sunset breathed.

I flashed her my winning smile. “Beat him. Make him lose. For me. For Adagio. For everyone.”

She took in a breath, whimpered, then quickly nodded. “I will. Count on it.”

Suddenly a crimson aura surrounded us both and pulled us apart, slamming us against our respective podiums. “Okay, okay, enough of this sappy crap!” Monoponi shouted. He glowered at all of us, cold-hearted hatred burning like blackened coals in his eyes. “It’s time for the vote. Since Sunset Shimmer lived like the little shit that she is, you won’t have to vote for her murderer. But you still have to vote for Adagio’s! And remember: if you fail to vote, it will result in your death. And don’t think I’ll hold back on it, because I won’t. Give me the chance and I’ll cut you down where you stand. I am that sick of you morons. Your time starts now!”

My Monopad lit up with the same sea of faces that had taunted me every time we had to vote. Most were greyed out, with that cursed blood-pink X. But I couldn’t help but smile in triumph, seeing Sunset’s colored in. So I pressed down on my own face gladly, happy to see an end to this trial.

It was over. I won.

Author's Note:

Congratulations to witegrlninja, Superfun, FlamingSamurai, and JCarp for successfully deducing Trixie was the culprit, and to anyone who guessed her as well. :trixieshiftleft: Witegrlninja was entirely correct when it came to Trixie having gotten used to using crutches. The idea that it was implausible for her to be capable of everything she did was what I was banking on when it came to the difficulty of this mystery. That, and her skill at self-deception and the resulting bend in the narrative. There's a reason she refers to that skill in the part just before she takes over as protagonist. :trixieshiftright:

Like with Sunset's death, I struggled mightily over which would be victim, and which would be culprit, and I don't just mean while writing Chapter Five. From the start with this story, I intended for Sunset to develop a dynamic, a trio as it were, with a best friend and a romantic interest. I also intended for one of the two to try and kill her, and the other to kill them in response, as a way of redeeming themself for something awful they had done. I had not, originally, intended for these two to be Adagio and Trixie. That developed naturally as a result of the events of Chapter One, as well as being drawn from canon material. Ultimately, it felt logical that Sunset would be attracted to someone like Adagio, someone "like her" that would prove enticing, especially to a Sunset who lacked the memories to know why it was such a bad idea. Trixie becoming the best friend, meanwhile, happened because I fell in love with writing her as a character, because it tied back to Forgotten Friendship, and because she has similar chemistry with Sunset that pony Trixie does with Starlight Glimmer, and I really like that relationship.

There were times, while writing, that I waffled on this. Especially back in the early parts of writing Chapter Three, when I was redesigning the story, and especially as Trixie's character, and for that matter, Adagio's, developed, I didn't want to hurt either of them. I wanted to toss out the plan and have them both as survivors. But I had to do it. And when Chapter Three provided the perfect opportunity to give Trixie the "horrible act" I needed the friend to seek redemption for... it all fell into place.

So this mystery proved to be quite difficult. Hopefully it didn't feel unfair. I tried, desperately, to find some way to hint towards Monoponi telling Trixie she couldn't tell anyone, but nothing I came up with hinted towards it without making it dead obvious who did it. That was the one detail that I know will feel like it came out of left field, but that's why I left my hint about the culprit leaving Sunset behind.

Having Sunset be on the receiving end of the Argument Armament is a bonus. And a fun one at that.

There was a question raised by a couple of commenters, that being "Why did Trixie prolong the trial after she thought Sunset died?" And the answer to that is the same as the answer to the other question raised: "Why didn't she just own up to it the instant she saw Sunset was alive?"

Because in both cases... like Trixie said: she's petrified. She doesn't want to die. She accepted she was going to, but that doesn't mean she doesn't still want to live. That, and Monoponi's executions are excruciating. So in both cases, she just kept playing out the act. Especially when she thought Sunset was dead, and her sacrifice would be pointless, she might as well try to live at least a little longer. At least force Monoponi to sit through having them work it out, rather than just give up. She was still too scared to just give in. I know I would be. I'd cling to whatever little bit of life I had left.

Apologies to anyone who thought this Chapter and trial was going in the direction of some sort of big Kokichiesque "mess with the game" plan. I... will be honest. I never once considered that. I never considered it because I figured Sunset would be savvy enough to understand why that doesn't actually work, and how that would be more or less pointless. So I never intended to go that route, and any potential implications towards it were unintended. I loved reading all the speculation about it, don't get me wrong. But it was never in the cards.

Hence this plan instead. A protag switch with the temp protag being the culprit trying desperately to keep Sunset alive was my intended Chapter Five craziness, because I wanted to do my own take on what happened with Kokichi and Kaito in V3 Chapter Five, but I also didn't want to retread old ground. That's why I never considered something that messed with the structure of the killing game itself. There are multiple reasons why doing that did not make sense with this story, and you will understand why in Chapter Six.

Also, a note for when it comes to the whole bleeding after death issue, because this was brought up in the comments of Chapter Four(well after I wrote everything for this one): I took a look into this, and it turns out that you can actually force the body to bleed after death if you apply sufficient pressure. So now you can all have the mental image of Trixie repeatedly throttling Adagio to get her to bleed.

Originally I had an extra hint involving the music choices, specifically in that it would've all been tracks from V3, but as much as I liked it, I changed my mind at the last minute because it felt too obvious. But because I wanted to do a different game than the first, and I couldn't do V3, I picked II's Hope Breaking Noise. ...and in the process made several of you think I was going for a Nagito-style twist because my dumb butt picked his body discovery music for Sunset at the end of Part 6. That was not intentional and I apologize for anyone thinking I was bamboozling. :twilightblush: I only picked it because it was super creepy sounding and I thought that would add to the suspense.

And speaking of the music choices, I'm now curious: how many of you actually click on the music links and listen to it while reading? I'll be honest in that the only reason I bothered doing that to begin with was for the sake of the feel of Danganronpa, for my benefit when writing, so I figure most of you don't bother, but I'm curious nonetheless. :twilightsmile:

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