• Published 11th Feb 2021
  • 1,628 Views, 53 Comments

A Woman Worth Saving - Undome Tinwe

In a city as corrupt as it is beautiful, Detective Rarity searches for her missing lover, Officer Twilight Sparkle, with the help of her former mentor, Celestia.

  • ...

Chapter Four: Home Is Where The Heart Is

It was a shame that I didn't have a taste for tobacco. A good smoke would have completed my aesthetic as I sat up in bed, my back propped up by a pillow, uncaring as to whether the blankets covered my body.

After all, it wasn't as if the copper resting her head on the other pillow hadn't already seen— and touched, and tasted— all of me.

"Wow," Twilight Sparkle said, ever the eloquent one. "That was— wow."

I chuckled. "I would ask if it was good for you as well, but you were quite vocal about your enjoyment earlier." My lover blushed, and I laughed again. "My dear, you cannot possibly still be embarrassed after all we've just done!"

A most delightful pout formed on Twilight's lips. "It's a matter of context!" she protested, slowly sliding herself under the blankets. "Also, I was too distracted to think about it when we were... having relations with each other."

"I do aim to please," I said with pride. "And I am quite grateful that you do as well."

"I wanted to make you happy," Twilight replied, smirking. "How else am I going to convince you to stay now that you've finally gotten what you wanted?"

I laughed at the old little joke between us. "Well, if every time we make love is going to be like this, then I can hardly leave you now, hmm?" Truthfully, even if Twilight had been as frigid in bed as some of the trophy wives I'd had the displeasure of meeting, it wouldn't have mattered. The little honeypot had won over my cold, dead heart, and breathed life into it again.

And damn her if she didn't know it, too. "I guess I can make that sacrifice and we can do this whenever you want, as long as you keep feeding me good intel on The Nightmares." Twilight smirked with a confidence that was usually only reserved for myself.

"Speaking of which, I think we were discussing the Shadowbolt case before you distracted me,"
I said, curious as to what the evidence I'd provided had led to. "Has justice been done yet?"

The playful confidence in Twilight vanished. "Not exactly." She sighed, and I heard the bitterness in her voice that had become more common in the months since we'd met. "Someone's been tampering with the evidence and messing up our investigation. I can't even begin to determine who it might be because all the officers on Nightmare Moon's payroll have closed ranks, which means that I basically can't ask any questions at all. We'll get them eventually, but I'm so tired of fighting with one hand tied behind my back."

"You'll win in the end." I pressed a kiss against her forehead, trying to reassure her. "I have the utmost faith in you."

"I know, but it's still frustrating." Twilight groaned and pressed her face against my arm. "Sometimes, I wonder if I should just do what Celestia did and disappear." She looked up at me, mischief dancing in her eyes. "Maybe we could run away together to some small town that nobody cares about. I could get a job as a librarian and you could sell dresses."

She teased, I knew, but I also sensed the sincerity underneath the teasing. "That sounds lovely," I said, because that was the truth. And because I was telling the truth, I added, "But, unfortunately, you've made an honest woman of me, and I don't think I could turn my back on those in need anymore. And neither could you, my little do-gooder."

"Ugh, fine." Twilight rolled over with a delightful pout on her lips. "I guess I'll keep doing what I swore to do and try to make the world a better place because you told me to."

"Look on the bright side," I replied playfully. "You get to fight crime with a dashing and beautiful sidekick."

"That sounds nice."

After that, we sat in silence for a few minutes, enjoying this stolen moment of peace and pleasure between us. Then, Twilight rolled back to face me, looking unsure of herself for a moment before she got that determined look on her face that was always exhilarating to see.

I held my breath as I waited for her to speak.

"Rarity, I—" She paused, and I saw that she was thinking very hard about her next words. "I really appreciate everything you've for the case. It means a lot to me."

"Think nothing of it?" That hadn't meant to be a question, but I couldn't help but be confused about this new tangent.

"And I've enjoyed spending time with you a lot," my nervous little copper continued, ignoring my reply. "You're one of the only real friends I have, and you respect what I'm trying to do, and I have a lot of fun with you and I like talking to you and—" She cut her ramblings off, pressing her lips together into a hard line. "And I love you," she finally said, fear and uncertainty mingling with sincerity in her expression.

Well, I should have expected that, truth be told. I knew very well the kinds of declarations one was prone to making after a night with moi. Twilight wasn't the first to profess their love to me. I had that effect on many people, and before meeting my darling dearest, I wielded that power as a weapon.

Normally, this would be the point where I laughed off the words, or played along with an insincere declaration myself, already thinking of whom my next conquest would be. But with Twilight, it was different.

For the first time ever, I was in love as well.

How positively mortifying, I thought to myself. After all the games I'd played, someone had finally bewitched me with their wiles. I should have been ashamed of myself, but I was far too enraptured.

And so, I took the greatest risk of my life. "I love you too, my heart," I said, stroking my beloved softly on the cheek. "Despite my best efforts, you gave me a reason to believe in this city again, to believe in myself, and I cannot ever curse or thank you enough for that."

Twilight smirked at that. "It's a good thing I tempted you to the side of good first, because I think you could drive me to darkness if you wanted to." Something danced in her eyes, a conviction that scared me. "I don't know what I'd do if you were ever in danger."

"We'll just have to make sure it doesn't come to that," I said firmly. "Because I'm certainly not abandoning you. We're in this together, for better or worse, until the end."

"Agreed." Another pause as Twilight seemed to remember something. "Oh, I have something to give you too." She rolled over and opened up a drawer, pulling out a pair of necklaces. "Celestia and I bought these a long time ago," she said, blushing slightly. "It was at a faire downtown, one of the only times I actually did anything with her outside of work. She told me that one day I'd find a reason to get out of bed besides the job, and when I found the person responsible, I should have something to give them."

I took the necklace in my hand, examining its crystal centerpiece. There was something inscribed into it. "We were strangers when we first met, but now we are the best of friends." I smiled. "I daresay we are more than friends now, but I appreciate the gesture nonetheless." Though I didn't think too highly of her, I knew Twilight valued anything she still had to remember her mentor by.

After putting the jewelry away in my purse, I kissed her again. "And don't worry too much about me," I said, feeling as if I conquer the whole world by myself with the power of love. "I don't ever intend on putting myself in harm's way. Not when I too have a reason to live beyond by profession."

"Over here!" Rarity cried as she and Celestia scrambled to pick themselves up. She pulled out her own revolver and quickly fired back, hoping to scare off their attacker before they took a second shot.

It seemed to work, as there were a precious few seconds of silence while the two of them darted into a nearby alcove. Rarity chanced a quick glance outside and noted three men in masks and off-the-rack suits with weapons drawn diving for cover themselves, then ducked back before they rallied themselves and fired again.

She was somewhat relieved to see Celestia holding a firearm in her hand, her gaze steely and grim. "I don't suppose these are friends of yours, detective?"

Rarity shook her head. "As if I would let anyone in my presence be dressed in such a fashion. I do have standards, you know." She glanced at the revolver Celestia was gripping. "And how is your aim these days, dear?"

"Worse than it was before I left the force, and to be honest, I was never very good at sharpshooting to begin with." Celestia smiled sadly. "I always preferred to talk things out than to resort to force, if possible. You can use that as more evidence that I'm coward, if you wish."

"Despite our differences, I would never think less of someone who did everything they could to avoid taking a life. And I must admit, I've always thought of myself as more a lover than a fighter." A weight settled in her heart as Rarity spoke, despite her attempts at levity. "When we started this whole business of investigation, I assumed that Twilight was going to be the one to keep me safe."

She chanced another peek outwards, and immediately ducked her head in as a bullet tore through the wood behind where it had been. It looked like they were all hiding in one of the side corridors a short sprint away.

"Twilight's aim was quite impressive, yes." Celestia chuckled darkly. "A shame neither of us learned from her. I sincerely hope it's not the last mistake we ever make."

"We just want the detective!" One of the men shouted. "We don't care about you, lady. Hand her over, and you can walk away from all of this!"

"You must admit, that's a very tempting offer," Rarity said dryly. "Seeing as you seem to know Twilight's fate already, this could be the perfect opportunity to remove the annoying but fabulous and brilliant detective hounding you about her."

"Somehow, I don't think Twilight would forgive me for giving up her girlfriend to the wolves, no matter how persistent she was," Celestia replied, equally droll.

"It's true, she does have some affection for me. In that case, shall we perhaps formulate a plan?" Part of Rarity was surprised at how calmly she was speaking. Despite the stories told about her line of work, she rarely found herself in actual mortal danger. Perhaps the stress of the past day was finally beginning to wear her down into numbness.

"We should at least attempt de-escalation," Celestia said before raising her voice and shouting to their assailants. "You must know by now that someone will have heard your shots. Are your employers paying you enough to face the Chair for trying to kill us?"

The response was a laugh from them. "Nightmare Moon won't let 'em stick any charges to us. 'Sides, not like the coppers are gonna give a shit about some mouthy PI getting knocked off."

"Somehow, I don't think Nightmare Moon's hitmen are going to be intimidated by something as impotent as the police," Rarity said. "If we can make it to my office, the window there should allow us to escape." She pointed to the next door ahead of them, on the other side of the hall, and then fished out her keys from her purse. "I'll keep them distracted while you get in. It's much more important that you make it out of here."

Celestia raised an eyebrow at that. "Oh, is it, now? And how do you figure that, detective?"

"It's simple," Rarity replied. "You know how to find Twilight. I don't. Now, shall we?" She didn't give Celestia time to argue, tossing the keys to Celestia and immediately stepping out and blindly firing down the hall.

As expected, the shot forced their attackers to hide, and Rarity waited a couple seconds before firing again, this time at the corner she knew one of them was hiding behind. She vaguely noted the flurry of activity behind her as Celestia unlocked the door. She knew she was unlikely to hit any of them, that they were no doubt counting down until she ran out of bullets, but that didn't matter. All she needed to do was buy time.

Another shot. Three left now.

She saw a flash of metal emerge from the corridor and fired again, causing it to pull back. Two.

"It's open!"

At that, Rarity emptied the last two shots before blindly diving behind, praying that Celestia had opened the door already. Blessedly, she landed inside the office as the sounds of return fire echoed down the hall, followed by hurried footsteps.

"Get 'em!"

"Grab a chair and break the window," Rarity instructed as she locked the door and grabbed whatever she could to barricade it.

Celestia did as she said, picking up the chair behind the desk and preparing to throw it outwards. Before she could, however, more gunshots rang out, the sounds different from the weapons she had heard before. Then, Rarity heard the words that chilled her to the bone, spoken with a twang that indicated that the speaker wasn't from Canterlot.

"Police! Stand down and drop your weapons! We have this place surrounded!"

"Oh no," Rarity breathed. The last thing they needed was more of Nightmare Moon's goons showing up. The chances of her surviving interrogation were low at best.

It seemed Celestia has a similar idea, as she threw the chair with all her might and shattered the window, shards of glass spraying outwards in a rain of deadly glitter.

Several more shots rang out outside. "Go!" Rarity hissed. "I'll keep them busy! They don't know who you are; you can still save Twilight!" She pressed her back against the door, sincerely hoping that whoever was on the other side did not elect to simply shoot it open.

"Like I said, she would never forgive me if I left you here to make your heroic sacrifice," Celestia replied, using the chair to brush away the broken glass on the windowsill.

"At least she'll be alive to hate you." This was absolutely ridiculous. They didn't have time to argue. "Fine, I'll be right behind you." Maybe a lie would speed things up, if Celestia took her at her word.

Before she could find out, however, there was a gentle knock on the door. "Rarity?" the officer's voice said gently, her voice soft and tinged heavily with an accent from the countryside. "It's safe now. I ain't gonna hurt you." A pause. "Twilight sent me to help you."

Did she trust this copper who claimed to be a friend of Twilight? Rarity shot a glance at Celestia, who simply shrugged.

"She was worried about you," the voice continued to say. "Guess she was right to, huh? Don't worry, I don't actually have this place surrounded. If you wanna run away, I won't chase ya, but it looks like you and Twi are caught up in something big, and I'd like to help if I can. I ain't got no love for the Nightmares either."

The sincerity in that voice could have been faked, but something in Rarity's heart told her it was genuine. And the officer had just admitted to not having them surrounded, which would be a monumentally stupid thing to do if she wanted to take them out.

Slowly, she unlocked the door and pushed aside the furniture she had piled up in front of it. She opened the door to see a woman in uniform standing in front of her. "How do I know that I can trust you?"

The officer shrugged, her golden ponytail swaying as she did. "You don't, really. Just like I don't know if I can trust you. But Twilight asked me to keep you safe, so I figure you've gotta be square with her, at least, and I know she's on the level." Her green eyes sparkled with such raw honesty that Rarity was tempted to believe her on the spot.

"And when did she do this?" Rarity asked, holding on to her suspicion.

"Yesterday," the officer replied. "Told me that she might not show up to work today, and if she didn't, then I should make sure you were safe."

Rarity's eyes narrowed. "So you were the one tailing us all day."

There was no shame in the officer's expression as she nodded. "Yup. Officer Applejack, at your service." She extended a hand forward, which Rarity shook. "You actually managed to lose me just now, but when I heard the gunshots I figured I'd find you here."

"And what of our assailants?"

Applejack stepped to the side, to let Rarity see a thin trail of blood leading outwards. "Clipped one in the arm, and then the rest of 'em ran off. Guess I'm a better bluffer than I thought. Speaking of, we really should get out of here before my colleagues show up — I'm not on duty right now and I figure y'all don't want to be answering any questions at the precinct."

"Very well, officer." There wasn't much to be gained by the officer lying, and Rarity couldn't afford to lose any more time. "I need to collect some documents first."

"This about that big case Twi was building against the Nightmares?" Applejack smirked when Rarity glanced at her in surprise. "She did her best to hide it, but I'm no slouch myself when it comes to detective work, and she kinda gave up eventually around me. Trusted me enough to know I wouldn't rat her out to the rest of the force."

"Well, she's gone missing now," Rarity said, finally allowing herself to relax just a smidge. "We're trying to find her." She walked over to the cabinet where she kept her files and began rifling through them.

"That why you have Celestia herself here with ya?" Rarity looked up to see Applejack turn her attention on the former chief. "I must say, it's an honour to meet you, ma'am. I heard lots of stories about the good you did when I first transferred over."

"That was a long time ago," Celestia replied. "Now I'm just hoping that I can get everyone out of this without any deaths."

"Still better than the ones who stayed to line their pockets with blood money," Applejack said. "Now, how can I help?"

"Well, first, I need the list of companies you sent Twilight," Celestia said to Rarity.

Rarity pulled out the folder and handed it over. "Here are all the documents I was preparing to give to her. The list is on the top. Please tell me this is the end of our merry little search." The frustration of the night bled into her voice as she spoke. "This diversion is testing my faith in your assurances that Twilight Sparkle has yet to be harmed."

Celestia didn't respond, instead scanning through the list with a finger trailing down the paper. She stopped halfway through. "There." She pointed at one of the companies. "Crystal Emporium. I need the records you have on them."

"They should be inside the folder," Rarity replied.

"If I'm correct, we'll find her at one of the locations owned by this company."

"Well, let's go, then!" Applejack declared, looking as impatient as Rarity felt. "I dunno if you want us to call backup, but having some more cops might make it harder for them to make us all disappear."

"It would be better if we split up," Celestia said. "That way, we can cover more ground. And if you see something, you can call for reinforcements."

Immediately, Applejack raised an eyebrow at that. "I wasn't born yesterday, Celestia. I can tell when someone's tryin' to get rid of me."

Celestia sighed. "Is everyone going to see through me today?"

"Only if you keep lying," Rarity said dryly.

"Very well, the truth, then." Celestia locked Applejack with a serious gaze. "You're a good copper, standing by Twilight when everyone else abandoned her. It would be better if you didn't see certain things for now. This is Twilight's investigation, and she should be the one to decide whose secrets to reveal."

The eyebrow remained raised. "Fine, but if things go sideways, I'm hauling your ass in for questioning."

Celestia acknowledged the threat with a nod. "That being said, I do believe that Rarity's car may be compromised. Would you mind giving us a lift to where mine is? I can take the time to compile a list of locations to search."

There was nothing to say against that, and together, the three of them carefully made their way out of the office and piled into Applejack's car. It was an old, dusty, beat-up thing, but it started up fine and Applejack handled it with a care that bespoke of a deeper love for the vehicle, which was all Rarity needed as she sat down on the worn seats and tried not to think about when it had last been washed.

Directions were given, and then they were off. The drive to the Sunset Lounge was quiet, no one wanting to disturb Celestia's perusal of the damning documents. Rarity did her level best not to think about what Nightmare Moon might be doing to her beloved as time continued to while away.

This encounter with Nightmare Moon's enforcers had been terrifying, yes, but beyond the physical threat to Rarity, what had her more disconcerted was that this was the first time Celestia hadn't seemed to know what was going on, which made her assurances of Twilight's well-being even less to be trusted.

Applejack's voice cut through her reverie as they continued down the quiet, dimly-lit streets. "By the way, Rarity, I gotta express my gratitude to you."

"Oh?" Rarity's head tilted curiously as she glanced over at her driver. "For what, pray tell?"

"Making Twilight happy," Applejack replied. "You probably saw how she was getting sore at the whole business of being an officer of the law these last few months. Girl's been finding it harder and harder to come to work each day when no one else seems to care, and I'm glad she's got something outside the force waiting for her now."

She let out a dark chuckle. "I reckon we ain't long for this profession, neither of us. Even if we find Twilight safe and sound, it's only a matter of time until we wise up and get outta the business or someone makes us leave because we raised too much of a stink."

"There's always hope," Rarity said with total conviction. "I don't believe Twilight will ever stop trying to make a difference."

"Didn't say she wouldn't." Sadness tinged Applejack's smile. "Just that one of these days she's gonna realize that banging her head against a brick wall ain't gonna break it, and she needs to start looking for a door."

"And you?" Rarity couldn't help but ask.

Another chuckle, just as dark. "Reckon I'm too bull-headed to think about turning around. Runs in the family," she added proudly.

That got a smile from Rarity. "I daresay the world needs more stubborn folk like you and Twilight."

"Damn shame we're a dying breed these days. At least Big Mac's got that baker who'll help him carry on that family line." The car slowed to a stop. "Here's your stop. Ain't much to look at, if I'm gonna be honest."

"It's what's on the inside that counts," Rarity promised. "Thank you, Applejack."

They got out of the car, and Celestia and Rarity headed over towards the entrance to the Sunset Lounge after asking a reluctant Applejack to stay behind.

Two knocks, then three, then two again. The door opened, revealing Rainbow Dash.

"Oh hey, it's you two." She glanced at Rarity. "Didn't expect you to come back, to be honest."

"We just need to pick up some things," Celestia explained. "May we come in?"

"Sure." As Rainbow Dash opened the door, she glanced outside and scowled. "Oh, c'mon, Celly! Did you actually bring a copper here?"

"She won't come in," Celestia promised.

"She better not," Rainbow grumbled. "Already had to throw out that cop from a couple days ago again. Didn't know you had fans on the force still."

Celestia and Rarity both froze at that. "An officer was asking for me?" the singer asked carefully.

"Yeah," Rainbow replied. "Said she really needed to speak to you. But rules are rules, and I ain't gonna let any copper harass you."

"I see." The two investigators shared a glance that spoke volumes. "Can you describe this officer?"

"Uhh, around her age, I guess." Rainbow pointed to Rarity. "Bit shorter, though. Talked a bit more posh than I'd expect from a copper, but otherwise she was wearing this really bulky hoodie and sunglasses so I couldn't get much else. Sorry."

"It's fine," Celelstia replied. "If you'll excuse us for a moment."

As they turned away from the bouncer, Rarity immediately spoke. "So, they sent someone after you as well, it seems. The question is, does this officer know anything about where Twilight might have been taken?"

"If I'm right, finding this officer will be the key to finding Twilight," Celestia said. "Unfortunately, I doubt Rainbow Dash asked her about her plans."

Before Rarity could reply, another voice called out to them. "Hey, sugar, you back so soon?"

Rarity turned to see Candy standing by the curb on the other side of the alley, waving at them. "Oh, hello, dear," Rarity said. "Unfortunately, I'm still quite busy at the moment. You wouldn't happen to have seen an officer in disguise here earlier, would you?"

"Oh, her?" Candy nodded. "Yeah, stayed clear of that. Didn't want no more trouble tonight, and she didn't seem like the type to be looking for some fun."

It was a long shot, but Rarity had to ask. "You wouldn't happen to see which direction she was headed, would you?"

Candy pointed northwards. "I saw a map of the Harmony Plains in her car, if that helps."

"Thank you," Celestia said, cutting in. "That's very helpful."

"Well, consider it a freebie for your help earlier." Candy winked at them. "Good luck finding your copper."

When Rarity turned to face Celestia again, she saw a grim certainty in her eyes. "You know where she's headed. Do you think it might be connected to finding Twilight?"

"Yes," Celestia replied. "We have to get going as soon as possible."

With that ominous declaration, Celestia and Rarity said their goodbyes to Applejack, asking her to check the warehouses owned by Crystal Emporium just in case Celestia was wrong, and then hurriedly made their way to Celestia's car and strapped in. "So, where are we headed now?" Rarity asked from the passenger's seat.

Celestia rattled off an address, and Rarity's eyebrow rose.

"Platinum Lane is quite close to the heart of Harmony Plains," she said. "All residential and all very, very expensive. Whose house are we paying a visit to?"

"My family's home," Celestia said as they drove off, the streetlights blurring into a smear as the speed limit was quite thoroughly ignored. "And Nightmare Moon's as well."

Rarity was very glad she wasn't the one driving, or she probably would have spun into a ditch at that revelation. "You're related to Nightmare Moon?" Sunset's line about a family feud suddenly made much more sense, as did the odd stalemate that seemed to exist between the two. "Is that way you've never lifted a finger to try to stop her?" If some twisted sense of familial duty had put Twilight in danger...

"I did try to stop the Nightmares once," Celestia said. "I told you this earlier."

The words from their drive to the hospital echoed in Rarity's mind. I lost my sister. "Luna," Rarity said, recalling the name of Celestia's beloved sibling. "You told me that you lost her that day." Horror washed over her. "She was..."

"Luna was what you might call a free spirit," Celestia said, her voice sounding both detached and yet in immeasurable pain. "She never did have much respect for the law, and our family always tried to pretend she didn't exist, until one day, she seemed to clean up her act."

The lights around them grew dimmer as they left the city center and entered the wooded outskirts of Canterlot. "Suddenly, we stopped getting calls from the station to pick her up, stopped having to bribe officers to keep her record clean. She even started dressing properly, and claimed to have struck off on her own and was working for some consulting firm. She didn't need the money, not with how large her trust fund was, but we were so happy that she had found some stability in her life."

Celestia's hand gripped the steering wheel harder. "Of course, what had happened was that she'd gotten far better at not getting caught, and was able to bribe the guards herself with the money she'd made running her new gang of criminals.

"My parents died soon afterwards, and I was always too busy with my police work to pay attention to her, so it was easy for her to become the biggest criminal mastermind in the city." A bitter chuckle escaped from Celestia's lips. "How ironic, that the greatest detective's sister was the one who kept getting away."

Rarity could scarcely breathe now, so entranced as she was by Celestia's tale. "But then you caught her," she said, remembering their earlier talk.

"I did," Celestia said. "I confronted her in the very house we're headed to." The houses around them were getting nicer now, the obvious price tags behind them growing higher and higher as they all did their best to look perfectly harmless yet fabulously wealthy.

"And that's why you said you lost your sister that day." Understanding dawned on Rarity. "That day, when you learned the truth, Luna became dead to you, and you to her."

It was such a tragic tale, and even if Luna had her sights set on Twilight, Rarity couldn't help but feel a pang of sympathy for how much it must have hurt to be betrayed by someone so close to her...

"No," Celestia said, cutting off Rarity's thoughts. "I said that because I put a bullet between her eyes."

"Oh." A moment after saying that, Rarity really processed Celestia's words. "Wait, you what?" Shock and a total conviction that she had misheard Celestia's words kept the maelstrom of emotions now bubbling in Rarity's heart from exploding.

"I was so angry," Celestia said. "All this time, I had worked so hard to make Canterlot a better place. And I was failing, because someone I trusted, someone I was so proud of, was slowly dismantling all my hard work and killing this city from the inside out. I thought I had to choose between her and Canterlot, that if she wasn't around anymore, then The Nightmares would fade away and I could start saving the world again, without her interference."

A wry smile twisted her expression, one that didn't reach her eyes. "Of course, I was also just lashing out. I let rage blind me, and did something unthinkable. Something unforgivable."

Rarity truly didn't know what to say to that. On the one hand, Celestia had killed Nightmare Moon, and Rarity couldn't be too grief-stricken at that loss. On the other hand, she had killed her sister. Rarity thought of Sweetie Belle for a moment, then very consciously banished all thoughts of her out of her head before she went to some very dark places.

How could she have done something so terrible?

How could Rarity blame her?

At the end of the day, it wasn't her place to judge, and moreover, that wasn't what was important now. The past was the past, and while Rarity would never see Celestia the same way after this, Twilight's wellbeing was far more pressing. As was the obvious question that Celestia's story left open.

"If Luna was Nightmare Moon, and you killed her, then who exactly is running this city right now?" Rarity asked as they pulled onto Platinum Lane.

They were almost at the house now, and Rarity dreaded what they would find there. It was so very obvious that she was far beyond her depth, and with so much on the line, she couldn't afford to be in the dark.

"I wasn't the only person who loved Luna," Celestia said, the pain still evident in every word she said. "Someone else cared for her very deeply as well, and after she learned of what happened, she swore to take up the mantle of Nightmare Moon and finish what my sister started."

Rarity could see the house in the distance now. There was a car parked in the driveway, but it was too far away to see whose it was.

Celestia continued to speak as Rarity squinted at the vehicle in the distance. "She'd made a vow, you see, years ago. A vow to stop all the gang wars in Canterlot, the senseless violence that had taken so much from her, and as the new Nightmare Moon, she had the power she needed to make that happen."

They reached the house, and Rarity gasped as she saw the car in much clearer detail. "No," she whispered. "It can't be." The make and model were generic enough, but the decal of a blue, crystalline heart wreathed in gold sent a wave of recollection through her. In the first few weeks of her friendship with Twilight, she'd found her beloved's car parked next to one with the same decal. And when she'd gone in to say hello and possibly fluster her about a possible date she might be on, she'd instead been introduced to...

"I take it you know of my niece?" Celestia said. "She was our cousin's daughter, whom we adopted after her and her husband's deaths."

"Cadance is Nightmare Moon?" And with that, more pieces fell into place, and Rarity's heart dropped even further.

"Her husband's death hit her very, very hard," Celestia said. "She dealt with it very poorly, becoming obsessed with ending the gang violence by any means possible, and becoming my sister's protégé while I wasn't looking." She sighed. "Another person I failed. When Luna died, she took up her reins, and I... I couldn't take another life. Not Cadance's. So I left. Disappeared, and became a singer."

They pulled over a short distance away. Rarity stepped out of the car, still in a state of surreal shock. Nothing seemed real, and even Celestia's voice felt like it was coming from very far away, her own mind struggling with all the information she was now trying to process. "Well, now I know why you were so sure that she hadn't taken Twilight."

"She would never hurt her sister-in-law," Celestia said in agreement. "Which is why I was confused as to what might have happened to her until I saw that the disappearance site had been very deliberately set up to send a message."

"Right." Rarity wracked her brain to recall the clues they'd found. "Whoever took her wanted everyone to know that she'd been taken."

"Yes, it was very important that you knew she was gone." Celestia paused. "And that's why I couldn't share my suspicions with you until now. Because without this final piece of evidence, you would never believe me."

They made their way silently over to the house, hiding behind a hedge wall at the entrance to the estate.

"And what wouldn't I believe?" Rarity asked. At this point, she was ready to take Celestia's word on anything, after all that she'd learned.

"That Twilight Sparkle hasn't been kidnapped." Celestia motioned to Rarity to look around the hedge. "The disappearance site was set up to make sure you thought she was gone, and go to ground as you'd planned, thus keeping you safe."

"That's ridiculous," Rarity immediately replied, but still did as Celestia instructed. "Why would Twilight—?" her question was cut off as she peeked around the hedge and saw the police officer that Rainbow Dash had described earlier.

She'd taken off her hoodie, and was now standing in front of the house, hiding between two windows with her gun drawn. In the bright moonlight, Rarity could clearly see the pink strip in her purple hair sticking out like a sore thumb in the dreary landscape. The truth was undeniable.

Twilight Sparkle was alive and well, and about to confront her sister-in-law, Nightmare Moon.