• Published 15th Jan 2012
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Upon Wings of Sacrifice - Rated Ponystar



Rainbow Dash journeys to find a way to bring back Applejack from the dead...but at what price?

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A Farewell to Honesty

Upon Wings of Sacrifice (Rewrite)

Chapter 3: A Farewell to Honesty

An MLP: FIM fic by The Rated PonyStar

Edited by Fernin, Halcyon and Clavier

Artwork done by: alfa995

***

Nothing.

There was nothing as far as Rainbow Dash could see. Only darkness. Below her, she could feel the cold, rocky ground against her chest. The air felt damp and had an odor not unlike mildew. She recognized that smell and sure enough her hunch was right as a thick field of fog passed over her, covering the area. Getting up, she struggled to stand still as a wave of nausea overwhelmed her. When she regained her composure, she strained to see any landmark, any sign of where she was, but the seemingly endless blanket of mist made it impossible.

Maybe I can fly my way out... thought Rainbow Dash. Spreading her wings, she jumped into the air and flew up, praying for an exit. She soared higher and higher, but nothing changed. The fog seemed to stretch as far as she could see or even fly. A sigh escaped her lips, before she began her descent. She was halted suddenly, yipping in pain, as her body crashed against something hard. Upon closer inspection she saw that she was back on the ground. How’s that possible?! I flew up like a thousand feet into the air!

Now she was lost, confused, and worried. Rainbow Dash got up and walked aimlessly, while making sure to keep her hooves on the ground. She called out for help, but there was no reply. Trying to keep herself from panicking, she sat down and took deep breaths. Where am I? How did I get here? Where is everypony or anypony for that matter. The fog also caused some concern. It had an unnatural feel to it. Something’s wrong with this fog. No pegasus-made fog is this thick or this big. This is starting to get downright freaky...

Her thoughts came to a halt when she spotted something in the distance. She could make out the shape of the figure as that of a pony, but that was all. Dash narrowed her eyes and leaned forward for a better look. “Hey! You there!” The mysterious pony turned around and fled deeper into the mist.

“Wait! Come back!” Rainbow Dash galloped after the figure, but it had too much of a head start. She flapped out her wings and took off, keeping herself floated just above the ground in case. The mysterious pony was fast on its hooves, but Dash wasn’t the fastest flyer in Equestria for nothing. It took little effort to catch up with the runner, and she landed right in the pony’s path. The runaway stopped as Dash tried to get a good look at him or her, but the fog conspired to hinder her vision.

“Hey! Listen bub I need some answers! Where am I? Who are you? What’s goin—”

A sudden buck to the face ended Dash’s inquiry. She tumbled to the ground, dazed and confused. Groaning, Dash got up with a stinging pain in her lower jaw and turned to the crazed pony. “What the hay?! Why did you kick me!” She got no response as the pony turned tail and ran away again. Rainbow Dash growled, “Oh no you don’t!”

Rainbow charged at the retreating figure and tackled it to the ground, struggling to hold her captor still. To her surprise, the pony flipped her over and held her down. With a little effort, Dash pushed her off with her back hooves before putting it in a headlock. The two continued to struggle in the fog, tossing and turning in an attempt to gain dominance. Each time one managed to gain the upper hand, the other would quickly escape and reverse the hold.

The fight came to an end when the mysterious pony used it’s tail to flip Rainbow Dash onto her back. It then pinned her, holding her forelegs down as Dash’s wings vainly flapped against the ground, kicking up dust and little rocks. Dash struggled to move her back legs to flip it off again, but a blow to the gut knocked the wind out of her. She gritted her teeth, struggling to push her confined limps off the ground, but her opponent’s grip was too strong. As she squirmed, her left hoof brushed over something right next to her; it was heavy and felt strong enough to do damage.

Without a second thought, Rainbow Dash used all her strength to push away her opponent’s hoof, knocking the strange pony off balance. Using the chance, Dash grabbed the object with her free hoof and stabbed it into the chest of her assailant. The sound of torn flesh echoed in Rainbow Dash’s ears as the mysterious pony gurgled. Droplets of blood fell onto Dash’s pelt. Her opponent got up and stumbled backwards.

“Rainbow...”

Dash’s insides shuddered. With growing horror, she looked up and silently gasped. The fog was starting to dissipate, making it clear who it was. “A–applejack?”

Applejack, pierced with the dagger in her heart, stared at Dash in disbelief. She gurgled out blood and fell to the ground.

“AJ!” Rainbow Dash rushed to her side and held her up by the head. She pulled the dagger out and threw it away. She tried to stop the bleeding with her hoof, but so much blood had already been lost. “I’m so sorry! Applejack, I’m so sorry!”

Applejack tilted her head and stared into Dash’s soul. The life in her eyes slowly dying out as she got paler. Rainbow could see sorrow, fear, and betrayal in Applejack’s fading emerald windows. She whispered, “Why... Dash? Why...” Her chest rose one last time as her last breath faded into the air.

“No...” whispered Rainbow Dash, her eyes starting to mist. “No! No! Applejack, I’m sorry! Come back!

She shook Applejack’s body and tried to find some sign of life in her cold, empty eyes, but there was nothing. Pressing her ear against Applejack’s bleeding chest, she tried to hear even the faintest sound of a heartbeat. Nothing. Rainbow Dash slowly rose her head, tears dripping down her face, as she stroked her lover’s cheek. Shaking her head, Dash shut her eyes and yelled, “Don’t leave me! Please don’t die, Applejack!” Her wails went unanswered as she continued to hold the limp body close to her. “Oh, Goddess, what have I done!”

Rainbow Dash ceased her crying as a scream echoed in the air. Turning around, she saw a horrified Twilight, who looked as if she seen a ghost. Raising her hoof, she pointing at Dash. “M–murderer! Rainbow Dash just murdered Applejack!”

“N–no! It was an accident! I... I didn’t … I mean I...” stuttered Rainbow Dash. “Please, Twilight! Let me explain, I didn’t mean for this to happen!”

The mist soon began to clear as more horrified gasps were heard. Looking around, Dash’s saw her friends and Applejack’s family staring at her like she was a monster. She tried to speak, but they all screamed and ran away.

“Murderer!”

“Run! Before she kills you too!”

“Celestia save us!”

“No! Come back! Please!” cried out Dash, but they disappeared into the fog. She was alone. Just her and a corpse. All alone in the fog. Rainbow Dash continued to weep as she muttered, “I’m sorry... I’m so sorry...”

***

Rainbow Dash bolted from her bed, heart pounding against her ribcage. Taking deep breaths, she wiped the sweat from her brow. Another nightmare, even worse than the last one. She looked at her hooves, trying to make sure there was no blood on them. To her relief, they were perfectly blue.

Groaning, she pulled herself out of bed, wincing as she felt her bandaged wounds start acting up. Flashbacks of the dream appeared in her mind. The fog. The dagger. Applejack. Bile rising from her esophagus, she rushed towards the bathroom and lifted the toilet seat up. The foul vomit shot out of her mouth like water from a hose, causing her eyes to tear up. When it was finally over she weakly flushed before staggering against the wall, cursing.

“...I feel like manure,” muttered Rainbow Dash, rubbing her eyes. Three days since the nightmares. Three days, since she had a good night’s rest. Rising to her hooves, she turned on the faucet and washed her face. When she looked into the mirror, she winced. “I look like manure too...”

Bloodshot eyes, bags under her eyelids... she hadn’t even washed her mane in goddess knows how long. The rest of her body wasn’t looking good either. She lost weight, and she hadn’t cleaned her coat or wings. Scars from her tussle with the four griffins were easy visible, particularly the nasty cut on her side Falk gave her up in the clouds. If anypony were to pass Rainbow Dash on the street, they would have thought her to have been in a war recently. The only part of here that looked remotely clean was her bandage wrappings which the hospital ordered her to change everyday in return for leaving early. Hay, by the way I look Fluttershy will faint the moment she sees me coming to... the... funeral...

A dark wave of dread washed over Rainbow. That’s right... it’s today.

It made her feel nauseous all over again. Applejack was going to be buried in a wooden prison only to rot away from the worms and bugs. She shook her head, trying to hold back the thought. As she changed her bandages, Rainbow Dash began to ponder if she should go. Could she handle seeing Applejack, the love of her life, one last time before she was gone forever? Am I even worried? After all I... I killed... Rainbow Dash slapped herself. No! Don’t think about it! You’re going to that funeral and you're going to say goodbye to her... it’s the right thing to do.

It was the loyal thing to do.

***

After a quick shower, Rainbow Dash finally left her cloud home. She didn’t have anything special to wear for the occasion and it was too late to go get something. There was bound to be some ponies staring at her for going without clothes, but they could bite her tail for all she cared.

Spreading her wings, she calmly made her way towards town. The doctors had told her to take it easy on the flying, especially on speed. For once in her life, Rainbow Dash wasn’t in any hurry. Not for this occasion.

Even without flying at her normal agility, Rainbow was just glad to spread her wings. Flying was the only thing that ever made her feel normal again, despite all that had happened. It had really helped her this past few days, getting out and being in her natural element. Yet, even this wasn’t enough to erase the dread in her heart.

In a few minutes, she made it to Ponyville. When she landed, she felt her heart sink at what her town looked like. The streets that usually bustled with energetic ponies, were now barren and unadorned, save for black ribbons wrapped around every lamp post. No stores were open, and there was barely any activity in the town. Her once happy home had turned into a graveyard.

Rainbow Dash trotted past the familiar stores and houses. Each stoop had a basket of apples as a commemoration to Applejack. Never had Ponyville suffered such a tragic loss.

And I caused all it...

“Rainbow Dash!”

Rainbow Dash recoiled and hesitantly turned around. To her relief she only saw Twilight Sparkle and Spike heading towards her, neither looking angry. Both of their expressions mirrored the town, sorrowful and broken. She pushed her flashbacks of her nightmare behind her and greeted her friends with a small wave.

“Hey, Rainbow,” greeted Spike, who wore a green tie around his neck. The young dragon’s face held such broken innocence that it made Dash almost want to hug him and tell him everything was going to be alright.

Twilight was even worse though. Dressed in a black dress, her eyes were drooping, obviously from lack of sleep, and she looked ready to cry at any moment. It looked like Twilight had been struggling to deal with this tragedy, and Dash wasn’t surprised. Applejack had been one of Twilight’s first friends, and now she was saying goodbye just a few years after they met. Guilt rose inside Dash’s chest, slowly devouring her despite her efforts to repress it.

“I’m glad you came,” said Twilight. “I was worried you might not be well enough to attend.”.

“I couldn’t abandon you girls... even on a day like today,” said Rainbow Dash with a small smile. The three of them made an effort to hug, but Twilight and Spike stepped back, causing Rainbow Dash to gulp. “W-what?”

“Um, Rainbow?” Twilight nervously looked at her with concern. “Are you okay? You look... well...”

“... terrible,” finished Spike. “Jeez, Rainbow, you look like you just went through Tartarus and back.”

Rainbow Dash released her breath. For a second I thought they...

Twilight glared at Spike. “Spike has a point, Dash. Although I would have used a more polite term.”

The little dragon blushed and muttered an apology.

“You look like you haven’t been taking care of yourself.” Horn glowing, Twilight scanned Rainbow with a ray of green light. “Are you still hurt? Have you eaten? When was the last time you got sleep? Maybe we should call a doctor...”

Rainbow Dash held her hoof out and huffed, “Twilight, will you relax? I’m fine... really...”

Stopping her spell, Twilight sighed and lowered her head. “I’m sorry, Dash. It’s just been a troubling time for me. Next to worrying about you, I’m still trying to comprehend that Applejack really is... well...”

“Dead?” finished Spike, somberly.

The girls winced upon hearing the word. Rainbow could feel her heart break in two. She had been trying to avoid hearing—or even thinking—that word, but it was time to face the truth. Applejack was dead. Her best friend, her rival, the pony she respected the most and loved so much, was dead. She would never have another competition with her. They would never sit down on the grass of Sweet Apple Acres sipping apple juice together. Their chance to become something more then friends, something amazing and awesome, would never come to pass.

As soon as everything had started, it came to an abrupt end.

Twilight gulped before continuing, “Yes, since Applejack d–di... passed away. I’ve never been to a funeral before, and I’ve been asked to say an eulogy. I spent all night researching funeral customs for earth ponies, pegasi, unicorns, and even non-ponies such as dragons and griffins. I’ve managed to find a translated copy of the zebra’s Book of the Dead.”

For the first time in a long time, Rainbow Dash chuckled. It was small, but a laugh was a laugh. “Twilight, you never stop being an egghead, huh?”

Blushing, Twilight replied, “I–I’m just nervous. I want to make sure I say something meaningful this is... this is the last time we’ll ever see her.”

The last time... one last farewell before her eternal rest in the Elysian Fields. Rainbow Dash closed her eyes and cursed even the goddess herself for this horrible tragedy. She didn’t deserve this! You hear me! She wasn’t suppose to die! Not when I finally told her my feelings! Why take her away from me, goddess! Why!

She felt Twilight hug her and led a shoulder to cry on. Dash wiped her eyes and shook her head. “I’m sorry... if only I...”

“Rainbow, don’t,” ordered Twilight. The stern look on her face reminded Dash of the one her mother used to give her. “Don’t blame yourself. You were paralyzed and those griffins are the ones that killed her. It’s not your fault.”

Rainbow Dash cringed. That’s right. They don’t know. I never told them what Applejack asked me to do. They don’t know it was me who... ended her misery. Would they hate me? Should they hate me?

Dash was snapped out of her mixed thoughts by Spike, as he nostalgically murmured, “Hard to believe it was only last week we were all eating out together. Applejack and Pinkie Pie were having a race to see who could eat the most pies that night.”

Twilight giggled. “I remember! Applejack got so sick she lost her lunch all over the floor. Then that waiter came by and slipped on it, causing the soup he was carrying to fly straight into somepony’s mane.”

The three of them snickered; that had been quite a night. They were banned from ever eating there again, but it had been worth it. Their mirth soon faded as Twilight gave a sad smile and said, “Let’s get going... we don’t want to be late.” They turned back towards the direction of Sweet Apple Acres and pressed on.

***

Rainbow Dash expected a lot of ponies to be at the funeral, but the actual number was far beyond what she could have imagined. It seemed that all of Ponyville had come, plus an equal number of those from outside. Each was dressed for the occasion and held faces of utter grief. For Dash, every mourner only made it harder to repress the blame.

As Dash had anticipated, the funeral was to take place just outside where Applejack dedicated her entire life to. Two sections of seats were laid out. On the right, practically every seat was filled. Those who could not find a seat simply stood in a great mass behind the chairs. Tears were shared as the town grieved for the loss of one of its most respected and prominent citizens.

On the left, the somber relatives of the Apple family attended in their droves, each member trying to be strong for his or her peers; it was far more Apple family members than Rainbow even knew existed, let alone had seen. It looked like every relative across Equestria, from Fillydelphia to Appleloosa, had come.

In front of the chairs were a dozen funeral wreaths on stands with baskets of white lilies below them. Each wreath encircled a picture of Applejack, smiling happily, looking as alive as could be. Dash let her gaze drift beyond the wreaths to the final part of the setup, a wooden podium where she saw the—she immediately turned away. She didn’t want to look at it. Not yet.

“Rainbow?” asked Twilight, nuzzling her neck. “It’s okay... I’m here.”

Dash nodded and kept her head down as she followed Twilight and Spike past the rows of ponies in attendance. As they moved to their seats in the first right row on the right, she spotted Rarity, Pinkie, and Fluttershy already waiting for them. Noticing them, Pinkie and Rarity jumped to their hooves and rushed toward them. Fluttershy slowly followed, hooves dragging against the grass.

“Girls! Oh, girls!” cried out Rarity, hugging each of them with tears in her eyes. “I can’t believe this is happening. Applejack is gone. I just... I-I can’t..”

Rainbow Dash wasn’t surprised to see Rarity dressed in her own custom-made outfit. Even at a funeral, she was still Rarity. Instead of a simple black dress like the rest of the girls, Rarity’s featured a soft top that was inlaid with layer upon layer of sparkling dark blue jewels, with small black ribbons of fine silk decorating the sleeves. A long black shawl draped across the alabaster unicorn’s head and her withers, making her pale pelt seem whiter than ever before.

Pinkie embraced them next, hugging them even tighter than Rarity. The once pouffy and bright pink mane that made Pinkie stand out had drooped into long straight locks, like seaweed draped from the dripping hulk of a wrecked ship. Her coat looked more gray than pink, and her bloodshot eyes—eyes that once held such life—looked like dark clouds. Yet still she held a smile. It was a sad smile, but a Pinkie Pie smile nonetheless. “Hi, girls. Sorry, if I look a little... messy.”

“I’ll say, darling,” muttered Rarity, using her magic to help poof up the mane a bit more. “You look almost as bad as Rainbow Dash and Twilight here.”

“Hey,” muttered the two in unison, earning a few giggles.

With the rest of her friends focused on Pinkie’s mane, Dash turned to Fluttershy, who was hanging back, away from the crowd, her thick pink bangs shielding her face. Rainbow, keeping her voice low and friendly, addressed her old friend. “Hello, Fluttershy.”

“… Hello,” whispered Fluttershy, lowering her head.

Dash reached out to hug her, but Fluttershy shied away. Biting her lip, Dash asked, “Fluttershy, are you alright?”

“… No.”

Rainbow thought about pressing further, but stepped back and nodded. She turned back to the rest of her friends, who were helping Twilight get her mane straightened out. When they were finished, Twilight suggested, “Why don’t we take our seats, girls? It’s… about to start.” She led them forward, one by one as Dash did her best to avoid looking at... it.

Pinkie Pie walked beside her and whispered, “Dashie... did you manage to... tell her?”

“Does it matter?” asked Dash, bitterly.

Pinkie bit her lip. “I’m sorry. I just...”

Sighing, Dash answered, “Yes, Pinkie, I did... and... she felt the same.”

A set of hooves wrapped around her neck, nearly choking her. Pinkie noticed this and loosened her grip. “Sorry about that. I can’t even begin to imagine how you’re feeling... but at least she loved you to the very end. That’s what’s important,” said Pinkie, giving her a sad smile. “Remember, it’s not your fault, Dash.”

Dash’s mind turned back to Applejack’s final moments. How they told how much they loved one another before sealing it with a kiss. And then when she took the dagger and—NO! DON’T THINK ABOUT IT!

“... are you okay?” asked Rainbow Dash, trying to focus her mind elsewhere.

Pinkie gave a slight nod. “I’ve lost ponies I’ve cared about before. Don’t worry, I plan to help fix all this saddy waddyness with a party for Applejack so we can remember the good times. That will help cheer ponies up. You’ll come too, right?”

“I... I’ll think about it...” said Dash as she made her way to her seat. The two of them sat down in the front aisle of seats and waited. Dash continued to keep her head down, occasionally hearing a gentle sob or prayer from one of the attendants.

“She looks so... peaceful...” whispered Spike. “I’d swear she was sleeping.”

“That dress she has looks beautiful. I don’t think I could have created something so... fitting for her,” said Rarity, taking out a tissue and wiping her eyes.

Rainbow Dash nearly lifted her head for a glance, but she quickly turned away. Cursing her curiosity, she tried to find something else to occupy her mind. She turned to the left, where she saw Applejack’s family. Granny Smith was dressed in a worn, patched black dress, undoubtedly almost as old as the matron herself. As with Rarity, a shawl was draped over the Apple matriarch’s head. Surprisingly, her face was stoic and firm, and she stood still like a stone instead of shaking. Big Macintosh was slumped beside his grandmother, dressed in a black suit clearly recently purchased. He looked calm, but Dash could see the pain in his eyes. Apple Bloom was the hardest to look at. The filly was sobbing quietly, her tears soaking the black fabric of her dress.

With her own tears threatening to overwhelm her, Rainbow Dash turned away. She couldn’t face Apple Bloom.... not after what had happened...

***

“Applejack!” Big Macintosh galloped towards Rainbow Dash and heaved his sister off the exhausted pegasus. He cradled his fallen sibling, eyes filled with terror and disbelief.

Rainbow Dash collapsed by the entrance to the farm, gasping for air while wincing at the pain she could feel in every part of her body. She didn’t know where else to go. The hospital would have been of no use, and bringing the body back to town would have caused an uproar.

Big Macintosh shouted his sister’s name again, shaking her shoulders in a desperate attempt to wake her. He soon stopped and looked at his sister’s deprecated form, realizing that it was futile. Big Macintosh hugged his bloodied sister as tightly as he could. “AJ… Oh, Celestia and Luna… AJ.”

Cradling his sibling, he looked into Dash’s eyes and pleaded, “How? What happened?”

Rainbow Dash lay still, trying to string up an explanation. She opened her mouth but was silent when she saw Apple Bloom coming outside. Curious, the little filly looked at them and asked, “Big Mac? What’s going on?”

Big Macintosh’s eyes widened. He turned around and yelled louder than Dash had ever heard him. “Apple Bloom! Stay inside!”

It was too late. Apple Bloom had managed to get a glimpse of Applejack and froze. Her horror-struck eyes focused on her sister’s corpse. She then scampered forward, screaming her Applejack’s name as her hooves kicked up dust behind them. When she reached Applejack, she dived into her sister’s torn up chest and shook her. ”AJ! Are ya okay! Speak to me!” She looked to her horrified brother. “Big Mac, we gotta get her to a hospital!”

Big Macintosh was silent, unsure of what to say. What could he say to explain this to his youngest—now only—sister? Apple Bloom looked at him, eyes filled with confusion as her lip trembled. “Wha…what the hay are ya’ll standin’ around here for! Applejack needs help!”

Big Macintosh took a deep breath and shook his head. Apple Bloom blinked a few times, then turned to her sister’s body. Her frightened eyes widened, finally realizing what had happened. She shook her head and stuttered, “N–n–no…No, s–s–she’s not… S–s–she can’t be… She’s Applejack! My s–sister wouldn’t… she wouldn’t leave me…”

“Apple Bloom...” He reached out to hug his sister, but Apple Bloom pushed him away.

“No! She’s not dead! She’s not dead!” Apple Bloom embraced her sister once more. She shook with even more vigor as Applejack’s head flopped back and forth. The blood from Applejack’s coat spread, dirtying Apple Bloom’s own as she continued. “Applejack! Stop lyin’ around and get up! Get up!” Each wail grew softer than the last, until Apple Bloom stared silently into Applejack’s pale face.

“No… Ya can’t leave us. Yer the strongest pony Ah know. Mah big sister would never leave me like this. Ah don’t…” whispered Apple Bloom as she pounded on Applejack’s chest. “Ah don’t want to lose ya like Ah lost Ma and Pa.”

Finally, Big Macintosh took Apple Bloom into his hooves, in spite of her struggling, and lifted her off their fallen sister. Tears fell from their eyes, pattering against Applejack's unmoving pelt. Apple Bloom slowly looked at Dash and muttered, “W–what happened?”

Dash tried to answer, but exhaustion overcame her and she blacked out.

***

A series of gasps awoke Rainbow Dash from her daydream. She turned to her friends, only to find them staring towards the sky, along with everypony else. Dash raised her head. High in the clouds she spotted a golden carriage drawn by six armored pegasi. Swiftly and majestically, it swooped down behind the crowds. Riding calmly in the carriage, manes waving in breezes, were the rulers of Equestria, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. Behind them were Equestria’s most famous couple, Princess Cadence and Prince Shining Armor.

The carriage landed softly on the grass. Everypony bowed to the royal family as they dismounted from the carriage. The entire royal family dressed both regal and stunning.

For Celestia and Luna, the bodice of each black dress was emblazoned with the symbols of the sun and moon. Celestia’s held a shining white shield design behind the dual symbols, while Luna’s held a dark blue one. Both still wore their usual regalia of tiaras and jewelry, but not their usual smiling faces.

Cadence's dress wore a similar design, only instead of the sun and the moon, it held her cutie mark. On her head she wore a black shawl with a blue rose stitched the side. Close beside her was her husband, the newly crowned Prince Shining Armor. He was dressed in his uniform, but black instead of purple. A sword was sheathed by his side, decorated with his family’s crest on the handle.

Twilight was the first to rise to her hooves. She immediately rush into the warming forelegs of her brother and sister-in-law. Bursting into tears, Shining and Candace proceed to whisper in her ears, telling her everything would be alright. Rainbow Dash and the others soon got up and prepared to bow to the royal family, but Celestia raised her hoof and shook her head. Instead, she walked over to each of them and nuzzled their cheeks. “I am so sorry, everypony. I know that this is difficult for all of you. Losing a friend before her time is something I have experienced far too often. We are never prepared for it, no matter what.”

“Thank you for coming, all of you,” said Twilight, with a grateful smile.

“Please. ’Tis the least we can do. Applejack was a noble pony to whom we owe much. I cannot express my gratitude for her part in freeing me from my accursed state,” replied Luna, bowing to Twilight.

“Your friends are my friends, Twilight,” said Cadance, smiling. “Shining and I feel obligated to be here, after all you six have done for us it was the least we could do.”

“Cadance is right, Twily,” agreed Shining. “Besides, what kind of a big brother would I be if I weren’t here to support you?”

Wiping the tears from her eyes, Twilight gave her brother a hug as Celestia stepped forward. “They are correct, Twilight. Applejack has done more than most would for Equestria. It is we who are honored to be here. All of Equestria mourns the loss of the Element of Honesty, but we will work together to recover. As always.”

The princess’s comment continued to hammer the guilt into Dash. She could feel the sweat dripping down her brow as she began to realize that, without Applejack, the Elements of Harmony were powerless. What if Discord or the changeling army came back? What if some new disaster struck? Had Applejack’s death sealed Equestria’s potential doom?

Preoccupied with her thoughts, she barely noticed Big Macintosh walk towards them. As he stood in front of the princesses, he bowed and asked, “Princess Celestia? We would be honored if you and your sister were to lead the service.”

Princess Celestia nodded, and Macintosh gave his sincere thanks before returning to his seat Everyone else followed suit as Princess Celestia, along with her sister, stood in front of the entire crowd. Rainbow Dash made sure to keep her eyes towards them and dared not tilt her head to the left, where... it was.

Clearing her throat, Celestia began. “My subjects, today is a day of grieving for us all. We have lost a brave pony, who all of us knew and loved, a pony that touched us all in many ways. Some of us remember her as family, to others a friend. To all of Equestria, she was a hero. But most importantly, we remember her as somepony we loved for her selflessness and determination to help all ponies no matter the problem. Now she gallops in the Elysian Fields, with the rest of the fallen and the goddess herself. As such, we…”

Ignoring the speech, Rainbow glanced at her friends and their reactions: Spike was rubbing his eyes in an attempt to hide his tears. Rarity was comforting a weeping Fluttershy. Pinkie Pie was weeping silently while blowing her nose with a pink hankie. And Twilight was held in her brother’s embrace.

Rainbow Dash turned away, fighting back her own tears. I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry, everypony! I caused this. This sorrow. This pain. I was too weak, too slow... I couldn’t save her... why couldn’t I save her?! WHY?!

“... it is thanks to her efforts that Equestria was saved from those that threatened our way of life,” continued Princess Celestia. “Because of this, my sister and I will honor Applejack for all that she has done for us by making a statue of her in the royal garden. There she will stand as a symbol of honesty for all of eternity.”

Many ponies began to whisper about the news. To have a statue placed in the Royal Palace Gardens was one of the greatest honors anypony could receive. Only ponies that held the highest of prestige in the history of Equestria were immortalized there.

Celestia soon stepped aside to let her sister take the stand. Princess Luna waited a bit to gather her thoughts before speaking, “ ’Tis true that I had not the pleasure of knowing Applejack as close as some did. But I did not need to know her personally to see how special she was… I felt it.”

Princess Luna’s eyes were filled with regret as she spoke, “When I was… Nightmare Moon… I felt the power of the Elements transformed me from that accused, evil state into my true form. I felt all the powerful emotions that entered my soul and purified me of my darkness. ’Tis to the work of these six mares,” Luna turned to the five sitting up front, “that I owe everything. I owe Applejack my freedom, my life, and my redemption. Thus, I, Princess Luna of the Night, have decided that, for the first time in a thousand years, a new constellation shall be made. It shall be in the design of Applejack’s cutie mark so that the heavens, and future generations, will know of her deeds and my eternal gratitude to her.”

If anypony was shocked before, they were now stupefied. Rather than sadness, the Apple family looked to be rejuvenated with a sense of pride.

“Wow! That’s awesome!” shouted Pinkie Pie.

“I agree,” echoed Twilight in shock. “There hasn’t been a new constellation since Princess Luna was banished! Only she is able to perform such magic; not even Celestia can achieve the amount of wonder Luna can when making stars. This is… it’s just incredible. There are no words to describe it.”

When the response began to die down, Celestia took control again.”Now is the time for those who knew Applejack best to come forward and speak about her life.”

To nopony’s surprise, Big Macintosh stood up first. He walked toward the front and faced the crowd. Clearing his throat, he spoke with a firm, clear voice. “Ah know Ah’m not much of a speaker… but Ah guess this once Ah can say what needs to be said.”

Macintosh lowered his head. “When Ma and Pa died, Ah promised mahself Ah would raise AJ right. She was stubborn as a mule and fierce as they come. But Applejack worked hard and always did the right thing. Ah couldn’t be any prouder of her for who she was and what she did. Ah always hoped she would find some nice colt, settle down, and live her life happy.”

Dash squirmed a bit.

“Now… now s–she’s gone,” said Big Macintosh as he started choking up, “an–d–d… it f-feels like Ah f-failed them all…” Few ponies had seen Big Macintosh cry before. Tears streamed down his face, until he wiped them away. “Applejack wouldn’t want me to continue weepin’… She’d tell me to get mah act together and get ready for harvestin’ time in two weeks.”

Rainbow and her friends couldn’t help but chuckle. Applejack would definitely say that.

“And A–ah will,” Big Macintosh continued. “Ah can’t just stand around weepin’ for her. Ah think the best thing Ah… Ah can do for Applejack is make sure this farm continues to run like it always has. If Ah can do that… Ah think Ah can sleep easier.” Finished, Big Macintosh made his way back to his seat. Apple Bloom leaped into his arms, and the stallion returned her tearful embrace.

Rainbow Dash couldn’t help but feel that she contributed to tearing that family apart. One thing she never admitted to anypony was that she envied Applejack’s family and the bond they shared. Her parents, although loving, were almost never around due to their work. She had to learn things all on her own while her parents were busy with their jobs instead of caring for their daughter. So she felt there could be no repentance for doing this to such a loving family.

Ponies from both sides stepped forward, giving their own speeches one by one. She listened to them all, each grieving speech, tearing her up inside more and more. Yet each speech also brought them one step closer to the moment she dreaded most. The final goodbye.

At last it came to Twilight, who stood up and slowly made her way towards the front of the crowd. She stared at them, her eyes darting left and right for a good while before taking a deep breath. “What more can I say about Applejack that wasn’t already said? We all knew her and we all loved her. She was one of the most selfless and noble ponies I’ve ever met. Everything she did was for other ponies’ benefit. Even when she farmed, she never once did it for herself, but for her family and those who needed food. Losing Applejack isn't just a loss for us here today, but a loss for all of Equestria. There will never be another pony like Applejack… and I know, deep in my heart, her memories and deeds will live on inside of us all. Driving us to be the best ponies we can be, just like her.”

Allowing a brief silence for her words to sink in, Twilight gave a sad smile. “Although we stand as five Elements instead of six today, the spirit of honesty still thrives in us. Applejack’s selflessness… her unparalleled determination… her unbreakable will… All of these qualities will never die. While we grieve that Applejack is gone, we cannot let ourselves be overcome by it. Applejack was a paragon of virtue who has changed not only me, but all of us for the better. And we must continue to remember her by living our lives the same way. It’s what she would want for all us..”

A few ponies smiled at Twilight as she made her way back to her seat, her friends and the princesses giving small nods of approval. Only Rainbow Dash, still staring dully, failed to acknowledge the heartfelt eulogy.

Princess Celestia stepped forward. “Now that we have all said our peace, it is time for...”

The princess stopped as her eyes glanced towards the tiny filly that walked up to her. Not a single word was uttered upon everypony seeing Apple Bloom rise from her chair and stand in front of Celestia. Even Dash held her breath.

As if reading the young filly’s mind, Princess Celestia nodded and stepped back. Slowly turning towards the rest of those in attendance, Apple Bloom closed her eyes and lifted her face toward the sky.

“This is a song… AJ used to sing to me to get me to sleep. It was a song she said Ma used to sing to us when we were each foals. Ah ain’t the best singer, but… Ah want to sing it just once to her…” Apple Bloom took a deep breath:

“Tonight, hear the angels singin’.
Tonight, let your dreams come true.
Tonight, don’t fear the comin’ darkness.
Tonight, know that ah’m here for ya.
So sleep, sleep with the stars above.
Sleep for the dawn that is to rise.
Dream both of fantasy and of love.
And the new day that will come by.”

It might have been the atmosphere or the lyrics, but Apple Bloom’s song brought tears to the eyes of nearly everypony. Her somber melody was so touching it could melt the heart of even Discord himself. Tears carved blue channels through Dash’s face as each lyric tugged at her heart and the hearts of everypony else. Even Celestia and Luna could be seen wiping their eyes.

“And when sweet child, ya wake up in the mornin’ sun.
Know that together… our new adventure has begun.”

When Apple Bloom finished, she hurried back to her family, who hugged her as she cried in their forelegs. When there was silence once more, Celestia said, “Before we bury Applejack, everypony will receive a flower. By earth pony tradition, you will line up one by one, say any last words you have to Applejack, and lay the flower inside. The first row on each side will go first.”

Rainbow’s heart raced faster than ever. She wanted to just fly off, to leave and go as far away as possible. She didn’t care if it was rude or disgraceful; she just couldn’t do it. Despite her brain trying to dissuade her, Dash still got up with her friends as she received a lily from the basket carriers. She struggled to keep her eyes from looking straight, but her efforts were futile. She could only see a vagueness of the wood out of the corner of her eyes, as her friends stood ahead of her blocking the rest of her sight. She stood in line as Apple Bloom went first and put the flower in. “Goodbye, sis… Ah love ya.”

Apple Bloom kissed her sister’s cheek before walking back towards her seat. Granny Smith approached the casket, trying her best not to shake from the weakness of her old bones. “No mother should have to bury her child,” muttered Granny Smith as she placed the flower inside, “but it’s unthinkable for a grandmother to bury her grandchild.”

As Granny Smith trotted slowly back to her seat, Big Macintosh was already moving forward. He dragged his hooves, saying nothing until he was inches away from the coffin. He put the flower in slowly and walked away, shedding his tears silently.

Fluttershy was next. “I used to wish I was as brave as you… I just hope you can look down at me and still give me courage… goodbye.”

After placing her flower inside, Fluttershy flew back to her seat, sobbing. Rarity looked at her with pity before she stepped forward with her own flower. Setting it down, she said, “I would give up every dress I had for just one more argument with you, Applejack. You were a great friend.”

Rarity sniffled a bit before she made her way to Fluttershy, and hugged her, letting her friend cry on her shoulder. Pinkie Pie gave a small smile as she trotted forward and placed her flower inside too. “I’ll make sure to celebrate your birthday every year. And when we meet again, I’ll give you the biggest party ever.”

Following her friends, Pinkie Pie simply joined the other two in their hug. Rainbow Dash was now just a few feet away. She tried to calm her breathing, but it felt like she was suffocating. Sweat dripped down her mane as her hooves shook with terror. Spike, next in line, marched forward stiffly, jaw set and lips pursed to keep them from quivering. His resolve held until the flower left his shaking hand. He then ran back to his seat, tears welling up in his huge emerald eyes. Twilight, the last one before Dash, looked ready to rush over and comfort him, but she was next. She walked over to the coffin. Dropping her flower, she lowered her head and whispered, “Goodbye Applejack. I’ll never forget you.”

Rainbow Dash turned away, just in time to see Twilight leave and rush towards her assistant to comfort him. Spike dove into her chest and held onto her as tightly as he could. Rainbow Dash closed her eyes and stood still. She knew she was suppose to move forward, but she couldn’t. Please... please... I can’t... I just can’t.... I don’t want to see it...

She felt a hoof touch her shoulder, but continued to keep her eyes closed. The soothing sound of Princess Celestia’s voice whispered in her ear, “Rainbow Dash... it’s okay... you can do it.”

It was as if the simplest of words were magic themselves. Slowly, but surely, Dash opened her eyes and saw the coffin. There was no other word to describe it but one: beautiful. It was made from the shiniest and smoothest of well-polished wood, and held the still figure of her love, Applejack. Her hair was cascaded past the shoulders, just how Dash used to dream about. The peaceful, passive smile she held on her face was angelic and melted Dash’s heart. She longed to see Applejack’s shining emerald eyes, but they were shut tight.

She wore a beautiful white silk gown that had small white ribbons. Underneath her crossed hooves, was a bouquet of fresh flowers and her favorite hat, which she would never depart with, even in death. The coffin was finished with blue and red flowers that blanketed Applejack. She looked so pretty, and yet... she was dead. How could anything dead be so lovely?

The flower dropped from Rainbow Dash’s mouth as she forced herself forward with each step, her hooves feeling like iron. As she stood over the face of her lost love, Dash cupped her hoof against Applejack’s cold cheek and whispered, “I’m so sorry, Applejack... I failed you... I love you, but that wasn’t enough to save you... I’m sorry...”

She lowered her head and gently kissed Applejack’s lips, not caring if she was seen or not. As she stepped back, Princess Celestia nuzzled the back of her head from behind. “Rainbow Dash. It’s okay... It’s not your fault”

“Yes it is...” muttered Rainbow Dash, lowering her face.

“No, Rainbow. Do not blame yourself, this is not your fau—”

YES IT IS!

Everypony jumped back as Rainbow Dash turned around, her eyes enraged and puffy. “Shut up! Just shut up! You don’t know anything! Not my fault?! IT IS MY FAULT!

She didn’t care if she was back talking to her princess, she just had to scream it out. “It was my idea that failed! My weakness that lead me to get taken down! My fault they stabbed her! And I... I...” Falling to her haunches, through hiccups and sniffs, she screamed, “I was the one who had to end her misery!” She could hear everypony gasp. “The killing blow wasn’t from the griffins! It was from me!” Dash rose her head to see all eyes staring at her in disbelief. “She... she was suffering... s–she told... t–told me to e–end it! I... I took the d–dagger an–nd... It...”

Her eyes glanced over the shocked audience. Many were still trying to comprehend what they had just heard. But one pony was staring at her, confused. One pony slowly walked up to her and stared her down in disbelief. Whispering, Apple Bloom uttered one word. “Why?”

The two of them stared at each other, neither making a sound. Apple Bloom’s eyes began to water, her whole body trembling in anger. After a moment of sharing this silent glare, her stance broke, and she screamed, charging into Dash and nearly knocking her backwards. Apple Bloom lifted her little forelegs and proceeded to wail on Dash, screaming, “Why?! Why did ya do it?! Why did you kill mah sister?!” Apple Bloom continued to scream, her tears dampening Dash’s chest. Rainbow Dash just stood there, quiet and hollow, as the painless blows became weaker and weaker.

With one last cry, Apple Bloom used all her strength to smack Rainbow Dash, leaving a bruise on her cheek. “Ah hate ya! Ah hate ya! Ah hate ya!”

Apple Bloom fell to grass and hid her face in her forehooves. Nopony said a word as she hid herself from the world, her sobs so soft they could barely be heard. Rainbow Dash tried to say something, but no words came out of her mouth. Hesitantly, she reached out to touch Apple Bloom’s mane, only for the filly to snap at her. “Don’t touch me!” she snarled, before glaring at the ground, wiping her eyes. “Just leave me alone... please... just leave me alone...”

Rainbow Dash just stared at Apple Bloom, then raised her head towards the coffin. She saw the smile on Applejack’s cold face, and turned back to Apple Bloom.

“I’m sorry...” she whispered and then took off into the skies.

Her friends cried out for her to come back, but their voices didn’t reach her. Tearing through clouds, knocking away birds, nothing stood in her path as she flew as fast as she could. Away from Applejack. Away from Apple Bloom. Away from everypony and everything. She just wanted to fly away and never stop.

Animals from below looked up to see a rainbow-colored streak racing across the sky, its aftershock blowing them back. A mach cone began to form in front of Dash, signaling the start of her most famous air move. She pressed further, not caring what she was doing; all she wanted was to escape. The funnel tried to resist more, but the desperate pegasus was able to fight back more easily than she ever had before.

A second later, a loud explosion was heard for miles followed by a series of rainbow circles spreading in the sky. Ponies miles away from Ponyville looked up and felt their hearts captivated upon witnessing the majestic wonder. Smiles stretched across their faces, they didn’t know who or what caused this, but it didn’t matter. To them it was a beautiful spectacle.

But not to the one who caused it. The one who kept flying.

***

At long last, Rainbow Dash made it back home. She clumsily landed on her front porch and opened the door. She entered her house, closed the door, and then she let out the scream she had been holding in for so long.

She charged into her living room and smashed her forehoof onto her coffee table, then kicked it against the wall. Flying to her Wonderbolt posters, Dash ripped them off the wall and tore them up with her teeth, like a wolf upon its downed prey.

Her emotions continued to rage as she stormed into the kitchen, taking her chinaware and throwing them in random directions. Against the wall, windows, furniture, it didn’t matter. Everything was a target and her soft, cloudy floor was the carrier of their remains. She walked across the broken glass, ignoring the multiple cuts she received on her hooves. Her rampage continued as she picked up furniture and tossed it around. She took her trophies and ribbons and threw them into the trash. Even Tank wasn’t safe from her wrath as she kicked him into her bathroom, much to his confusion. Taking another glass, Dash let it loose as it sailed across the room and smashed into a photograph.

The sight of the broken picture made her stop the rampage in horror.

Holding her breath, Dash slowly walked towards the picture, her rage replaced with shock. With a shaking hoof, she took the photo and looked at it. The picture was the one she and her friends had taken after the Nightmare Moon incident. Each of them had one to remember the day they all became best friends. A winking Applejack looked back at her as she curled into a ball, holding the photo close to her heart.

“Applejack…”