A week passed, and soon Evergreen began to show signs of sickness. He became distracted and listless, and was given over to the occasional odd twitch.
Chrysalis knew it was her fault; knew it was the fact that she’d fed her changelings three times since the first feeding. They were ravenous from their ordeals, and as they had no partners to draw upon, she took the entire burden of their needs upon herself. Unfortunately, that burden was also Evergreen’s to share.
She tried to hate him. She tried so hard. But she just couldn’t. Her heart was a traitor to her duty as a queen. She wanted to feel nothing. She needed to feel nothing for him. She needed to be able to watch him waste away and be the imperturbable queen she had always been.
But it broke her heart more and more as she watched his decline.
Every night she pretended to sleep until she knew Evergreen was dozing next to her, and then wept until the blissful darkness of unconsciousness took her. She couldn’t leave him; but she couldn’t stay, either. The world contrived to put barriers between her and the one place thing she had been truly happy.
And still, the changeling army was insatiable in its demands. Every evening, Messenger would turn up at the cottage and wait patiently for her to come outside and speak to him so he could relay messages and the needs of her much-reduced army to their Queen.
Chrysalis could deny her changelings as readily as she could deny her own heart. She was torn between them.
Each step towards her Evergreen was a step away from her army, and each step towards her army was a step away from her love.
But it was worse than that. There was no way to maintain both. Evergreen was already sick; he was only going to get worse. And if she denied her army, they would wither and die with the lack of leadership, or, even worse, rebel. Her army would be decimated, wiped out, if they were found.
It was an impossible choice. Between the stallion she loved, or her very race.
And looking between them, Chrysalis couldn’t choose.
And so Chrysalis found herself alone one night, lying by a lake. She convinced herself that she needed to think, but she really needed a break from thinking. From worrying. Part of the true draw of this place was the break from worrying, from the stress; but now, the stress had followed her, and it was so much worse than before.
She had to leave Evergreen. Had to. But she didn’t think she could bring herself to leave him; and if he came after her, she wouldn’t have the strength to turn him back.
It was an impossible situation, and the indecision ate at her.
All of her choices as queen thus far had been easy, simple, compared to this. No matter what she did, she had to hurt someone she loved, and hurt herself at the same time.
The changeling stared down into the lake, watching her reflection in the light of the moon for a moment, staring into her own soft pink eyes. A ripple crossed the water, and suddenly, she saw a glimpse of what lay underneath the false veneer of her outward appearance as a unicorn.
Demonic green eyes, black skin, pointed teeth, a twisted parody of a unicorns horn, hooves with holes eaten right through them. A hoof quickly swept the water, disrupting the reflection as Chrysalis’ thoughts turned inwards.
What was she? She was, for want of a better term; a parasite. She fed on the love of others. And while that seemed a noble thing, her kind did not garner love through their actions, but rather through subterfuge; tricking a pony into loving them and feeding from the bond.
Chrysalis turned her thoughts to the shopkeeper, to the sensation of his life ebbing from his struggling form as she choked the air from his body. And she had enjoyed it. Enjoyed it.
Chrysalis stared down into the water of the lake, and watched her reflection, letting her changed form drop, revealing the Dark Queen in all her splendor. Her dark form shone in the moonlight, the membranes of her delicate wings sparkling as she stared down at her reflection, gazing into it as though hoping for answer.
Ripples spread outwards from her teardrops as her head drooped, and a single, broken whisper left her as she came to an inescapable conclusion.
“...I’m a monster...”
Chrysalis wasn’t sure how long she lay there for, but a voice finally interrupted her depressed musings.
“Ah knew yer were keeping secrets,” a familiar voice said in an accusing tone.
Chrysalis’ head shot up, and her pupils dilated as she saw Evergreen standing a stones throw away, his head lowered, as he watched her with narrowed eyes. The queen’s ears splayed backwards, and she shuddered, quickly drawing her unicorn form about herself like a protective blanket, rapidly changing into what she had come to view as a completely different pony to her usual self.
Chrysalis berated herself for her stupidity. Why had she let her guard drop? He had seen her true form. She had to leave now. There was no way to stay. He wouldn’t love her anymore, and she wouldn’t have enough energy to sustain herself.
Her mind seemed to hang there as she stared at Evergreen.
He wouldn’t love her any more.
Chrysalis felt her eyes blurring with growing tears, and her bottom lip trembled. She bit down until she drew blood to try and stave off the tears, before just laying her head on her hooves and sobbing faintly.
Her entire world was falling apart in front of her eyes. Her army was decimated, the handful of survivors dependant on her for energy. And the one source of energy she had found, she had fallen in love with. And now, she had alienated him in a fit of stupidity the likes of which she hadn’t come close to since she was but a child.
A detached part of her mind decided that it was perhaps a good thing, as she heard the stallion rise and then thunder off down the forest trail in a gallop, heading towards Ponyville. He didn’t love her any more. And since he now knew her dirty little secret, there was no way she could stay. His hate was a fortifier for her.
It was over. It was all over. Her existence in Equestria was done. A mere side-chapter in the story of the changelings.
And it was a bitter lesson that Chrysalis would take to heart; never love your food.
Chrysalis rose to her hooves, her mind more ordered now. She was free of Evergreen. Free to pursue a new target. Her changelings needed her, and she needed to be a strong queen for them. It was her duty to lead them out of the horror that was their little foray into Equestria.
She hardened her heart against Evergreen. She would forget him, in time. All pain faded eventually. But these were scars she would have to bear.
The queen turned to begin down the path away from Ponyville to start her new life, but found a broad-chested form blocking her path.
Chrysalis’ heart raced as she turned to look upwards, expecting a royal guard. She found only the narrowed green eyes of Evergreen staring down at her, and her heart seemed to stop in her chest.
“What?” Chrysalis asked, her tone hard, as she tried to keep her heart closed to him.
“Yer a Changeling,” he stated.
“You caught on, finally. Stupid oaf,” Chrysalis breathed, tossing her mane and turning away to hide the tears brmming in her eyes.
“Why...?” Evergreen asked, lifting a hoof placatingly, his expression confused and hurt. “Why would yer make me love yer? Is that all I am to yer? A quick meal?”
Evergreen’s accusations sruck at a vulnerable place deep in Chrysalis’ heart. It took several steady breaths to keep the pain out of her voice as she responded, “I... at first. Yes.”
“What? Yer gonna tell me that yer fell in love with me?” he asked, his tone hard, eyes still narrowed on her.
“I... don’t want to lie to you,” Chrysalis said, fighting back fresh tears, staring at the ground in front of her hooves so she didn’t have to meet Evergreen’s accusing gaze.
“But yer a changeling!” Evergreen said, waving a hoof. “A blooming changeling!”
“I know,” she murmured, turning away from him. “I don’t deserve your love.”
The stallion snorted slightly at that, beginning to pace back and forth in front of her, growling, “Yer lied to me.”
“Of course I lied to you,” Chrysalis said, seeing no reason to be untruthful. Her happy life with him was over; what little of it she could have enjoyed. The least she could do was give him closure before she disappeared. A final unselfish act before she returned to her children.
“All of what yer did, was just ter seduce me?” Evergreen snorted, pawing at the ground with a hoof, braying at her in anger.
“I... No,” Chrysalis said, shaking her head once. “I... never lied about my feelings for you.”
“Ah suppose back there in that field was a lie, too?” Evergreen accused, pointing a hoof in the general direction of where she had giving herself fully to someone for the first time.
Chrysalis shook her head, but didn’t have the heart to respond.
The stallion snarled, resuming his angry pacing back and forth in front of her. “Ah should turn yer in ter the guard, Ah should.”
“I thought that’s what you were doing?” Chrysalis queried. She had expected to see guards watching them from the sky; but a quick glance proved that they were alone.
“Ah was going to,” Evergreen said with a growl, still pacing, before turning and staring at her. He strode forwards to stand in front of her. “Ah changed my mind though. Ah want yer ter tell me the truth before ah turn yer in.”
Chrysalis splayed her ears back at that, looking up at him, whispering, “...Whatever you want.”
“Ah want yer to change,” Evergreen stated flatly. “Change in ter the demon. Ah want ter look yer in the eyes when yer say it.”
The queen gave a sad nod and closed her eyes, letting the changes in her form drop. Her silken wings unfolded from her back, delighting in their freedom as her form resolved itself from white unicorn, to Dark Queen in a few short seconds, leaving her standing before the stallion in all of her glory.
“Now look at me, and tell me that yer don’t love me,” Evergreen demanded, eyes narrowing at her.
Chrysalis lifted her eyes to peer into the angry green eyes of the only creature she ever loved, and tried to say what he demanded of her. She fumbled over the words, unable to choke them out through the lump in her throat.
“Say it!” the stallion hissed, lifting a hoof as though to strike her.
Chrysalis recoiled at the raised hoof, and in between broken sobs, managed to choke out; “I-I never l-loved y-you...”
Her duty done, Chrysalis laid her head on the ground and covered her face with a foreleg to try and block out the world.
It was several long, long moments before she felt something. A spark.
The forming of a bond.
Tentatively, she moved her hoof from her face to peer up at Evergreen, who was now sitting on the lakeside nearby, staring into the water thoughtfully.
And the bond was growing. It was impossible; but she felt it.
“Ah...” Evergreen started, opening his mouth, and then closing it again. He turned accusing eyes on her, “Ah don’t believe you.”
Chrysalis’ eyes widened, and she spluttered for a second, before she choked out, “N-no. I-I don’t love you!”
“Ah don’t believe you,” the stallion said flatly, turning towards her properly and rising to step closer, staring down at her.
“I-I was just u-using you!” Chrysalis protested brokenly. He had to hate her. He had to! This was already breaking her heart to leave him when he hated her. If he still felt something for her... how could she ever leave? He was going to make her choose between his love or his life.
“Ah don’t believe you,” Evergreen repeated stubbornly, staring down into her demonic eyes, his own eyes resolute. “Yer a terrible liar, Cee. Or whatever yer name is.”
Chrysalis felt the bond strengthening, and every passing second was breaking her heart more and more.
“No!” she cried, trying to hit him with a hoof, her voice shaky and shrill, “You have to hate me! Y-you have to go!”
“Ah will not leave,” Evergreen said, suddenly lying himself down in front of her. He rested his nose on his hooves, staring resolutely into her eyes. “Ah won’t go until yer can say that yer don’t love me, and yer are being truthful.”
“I don’t love you!” Chrysalis shrilled, almost in hysterics. “I hate you! You have to go! D-don’t make me choose Evergreen! Just go!”
Evergreen watched her with sad eyes as she spoke, and shook his head slowly. “If yer ask me to go again, I will, and yer’ll never see me again.”
Chrysalis opened her mouth to tell him to leave, but the words failed somewhere in between her throat and her mouth, coming out as a choked sob.
“Ah listened to yer crying yerself ter sleep every night,” he stated, watching her reactions. “Ah thought yer were jus’ feeling guilty... but there’s more ter it than that, isn’t there?”
The changeling stared up at Evergreen helplessly, her ears pinning back further as she tried to stem the tears streaming down her cheeks.
“I-I don’t want to hurt you...” Chrysalis breathed, shaking her head. “But every moment I’m with you just hurts you more.”
“Yer were... crying fer me?” Evergreen asked, ears perking up at her for a moment.
“A-and b-because I have to choose between you and m-my entire species... a-and I think you were going to w-win,” Chyrsalis stuttered, closing her eyes and burying her nose between her forehooves.
The stallion nodded gently at that. “Ah see... And why is it so hard ter choose between me and yer entire species?”
“B-because I hate you, you stupid oaf,” Chrysalis said, trying to inject determination into her tone, lifting her gaze to him again.
Evergreen pulled himself closer to her across the ground. At first, she tried to shy away, but he doggedly pursued her until he could wrap his hooves around her neck. She stiffened at the sensation of someone touching her true form. She never let anyone touch her true form, ever. But the warmth of his body against her own was impossible to resist and eventually, she just slumped against him, burying her face in his mane.
“I hate you,” Chrysalis repeated, beating at his chest with her hoof impotently as she sobbed brokenly into his mane. “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.”
The stallion waited out her hysterics patiently, holding her close with his hooves around her, gently rubbing back and forth in a soothing fashion.
Eventually, Chrysalis’ tirade and her sobs stilled, and she resigned into quiet weeping against his neck.
“W-why are you making me choose, you stupid o-oaf?” she asked brokenly, staring up at him.
“Because yer love me,” Evergreen stated.
“I hate you,” Chrysalis whispered hopefully, pushing at him with her hooves. “You have to hate me.”
“I can see it in yer eyes. Aint no demon gonna go crying over the feelings of a stallion they don’t care nothing for. Yer a demon. A changeling. Yer feed on love all the time. But ah bet yer never felt real love before, have yer?” Evergreen accused, nudging her once with his nose.
Chrysalis’ ears splayed backwards and she gave the faintest of whimpers at the cutting truth of his words.
“Ah’m not good at this sappy emotional stuff. But yer love me. Ah came up here wanting ter hate yer...Ah was hurt cause I thought yer were using me. But yer just like a lost little filly in love fer the first time,” Evergreen said, his eyes staring down into her own.
“I-I am not...” Chrysalis whispered in defiance.
“Yer are. And we need ter talk about me and yer.” he said seriously, staring down at her. “Yer a demon. And there aint no getting past that.”
His words stung, but she knew the truth behind them. She was a monster.
“And Ah figure that pegasus from earlier was a changeling too. And Ah can’t permit in good conscience having them running around free... but demon or no, Ah can’t watch yer cry without feeling it in my heart,” Evergreen explained, staring down at her. His hooves soothingly rubbed up and down her form. “My momma always said that love was a fleetin’ thing. And that when it comes, yer gotta grab it with both hooves and hold on no matter how hard it bucks, ‘cause yer might never get that chance again.”
Chrysalis stared up at him, shaking her head in rebuttal. She opened her mouth to speak, but Evergreen cut her off.
“And ah know one thing. Ah never wanted this. Ah was happy in my cottage all alone. But ah look forwards, and know that if ah was to look back, I’d regret it one day fer not giving yer the chance. And if yer can say that yer can look back on this and never regret it a bit, then ah’ll let yer walk away right now,” Evergreen said fiercely, staring down into her eyes.
Chrysalis’ ears splayed backwards, and she couldn’t answer him. Staring down at her hooves for a moment, she lifted her gaze back up to him, sniffling once and trying to stem her tears, shaking her head helplessly.
“I-I hate you, you big oaf,” Chrysalis whispered as she wrapped her hooves around Evergreen and held him close.