It took quite a little while for the sounds of sniffling and soothing humming to wind down in the room. Eventually there came through the cracked doorway a muffled:
“Keep holding me, Richard. No, don’t. Put me down.”
“As you wish, your majesty.”
Those ponies waiting outside - the important ones, having had time to come dashing over - listened to this in the awkward way anyone overhearing something they’d rather not might. They were here in case of ruckus, not to hear...that sort of thing. Felt intrusive. Like pressing their faces against a bedroom window.
They waited, shifting nervously about in the corridor.
Next came the sound of exertion, then frustration, further exertion and a hiss of what was undeniably irritation. The door to the room opened fully. Tension mounted.
Chrysalis then emerged looking haughty, unhappy and maybe just a touch red about the eyes. Richard was standing beside her looking much more cheerful by comparison. And alarmingly tall for those present who hadn’t seen him before.
“You are preventing me from teleporting,” Chrysalis said coldly and addressing Starlight directly, though it was in fact her and Twilight who were preventing her from just zapping away.
Because they could apparently do that if they wanted to. Who knew?
“We need to talk,” Twilight said, using the authoritative tone and taking an equally-authoritative step forward.
“No we do not.”
“We kind of do. You’ve reformed, it’s a bit of a big deal,” Starlight said, playing second-fiddle here for fairly obvious reasons. Not that it made Chrysalis any happier. It made her unhappier. Quelle surprise.
“I have not reformed! Don’t even utter that word in my presence! That you’d dare suggest I could be anything like those traitors who abandoned me - Richard stand closer to me, here. Better - anything like those traitors who turned their back on their Queen! The impudence!”
There was theatrical outrage and there was laying it on a bit thick, and Chrysalis was presently dancing right on the knife-edge. Not that she realised. Everyone else there did, though. But you didn’t get to be Queen by seeing the world the way commoners did.
Richard, for his part, was wondering whether reforming was really just a one-off event and not a continuous process, but he felt that posing this question might disrupt the flow of events and so was happier just to let them carry on and remain quiet. Like a cork in a stream.
“It’s a good thing that’s happened!” Starlight said, doubling down. Chrysalis just goggled at her as though she’d lost what little mind she might have started with, waving a hoof to indicate the sparkly-shiny nightmare she had become.
“This? This is a good thing?! This has ruined everything!”
“How?” Twilight asked.
Seemed a valid question. To them, at least. To one of those there not so much.
Chrysalis groaned. She couldn’t believe that she was having to explain this at all (it should have been obvious) but having to explain it to these damned blasted ponies in particular was really just pushing it too far. Or almost too far.
At the least it presented an excellent excuse to rant. Not that she ever needed much.
“I had plans! So many plans! And the will to execute them! The loathing and the hatred to see them through to their proper conclusion, to see all my enemies - all of you! - cast down, ground into the dirt! To see myself restored to my proper, exalted, deserved position of domination over all things! It was going to be glorious!”
She then pointed accusingly at Richard, who was trying to work out the functional difference between hatred and loathing. He imagined it was to do with intensity of feeling.
“Now all I want to do is have him take me home, make me dinner, bring me that dinner in bed and then hold me while I lay my head on his chest and listen to the reassuring sound of his heartbeat, reminding me that he’s still there and will always be there for me like he said he will be! That’s not normal!” Chrysalis shouted, sounding borderline frantic as well as very upset.
“That doesn’t sound like the worst thing?” Twilight ventured. Not that she had a lot of experience but it didn’t sound like the most horrendous way of spending an evening. Kind of sounded a bit nice if she was being honest.
Chrysalis begged to differ. Loudly.
“It’s awful! It’s distracting! And it’s not my fault!”
That part was important to make clear.
“What do you want for dinner, your majesty?” Richard asked quietly, leaning in.
“Not now, Richard!” Chrysalis hissed back while turning just the slight bit pink about the muzzle before adding, in sotto voce: “I’ll decide on the way back.”
“I could pick something up while we’re in town. Or we could eat out if you’d prefer?” He continued, still quietly.
Briefly, Chrysalis was struck dumb by pleasant images of the two of them sat across some candle-lit table enjoying a meal, with the whole bed-chest-heartbeat setup happening after. She had to shake her head to clear this, feeling herself get dangerously close to smiling as stupidly as Richard always did whenever he was looking at her.
“Stop distracting me! I’ll decide later!”
“As you wish.”
With that dealt with Chrysalis returned her attention to hated Starlight and despised Twilight only to find them - and the others - all smirking at her. Even the shy one was smirking behind her hair! This made her flinch.
“You see? You see how distracting it is?!” She said, again waving in Richard’s direction.
“Have you even looked at yourself yet? Since it, you know, happened?” Starlight asked.
“I do not need to!” Chrysalis sputtered, sparkly wings fluttering in agitation.
“Maybe you should.”
Chrysalis would have kept arguing the point that she didn’t need to (she didn’t) but she had to admit to mild, morbid curiosity. It had been nagging at her ever since it had happened, but now having it pointed out like this had really brought it forward.
And, really, what else did she have to do right then? Other than escape violently with Richard in tow? She was just waiting for her moment for that, so why not?
She turned her attention to Rarity.
“You. Give me your mirror,” she said.
Rarity blinked, surprised to have been addressed so suddenly and so rudely!
“Why do you assume I have a mirror?” She asked.
“Because I know you have one!”
Chrysalis had Rarity in a box on that one and, after a pause, Rarity reached somewhere that was somehow out of view and produced a small hand mirror (hoof mirror?) and passed it over.
“...still crass to assume…” She mumbled sourly, but Chrysalis, having got what she’d wanted, wasn’t listening, instead hovering the mirror in front of her and looking at herself properly for the first time.
To her absolute and all-consuming disgust she saw that what she most looked like now - or the closest point of comparison that leapt immediately to mind - was some horrendous, semi-insectile knock-off of Celestia. Better than Celestia, obviously, but still foul.
Ugh. How could he have done this to her?
“How humiliating,” she said, tongue sticking out as - with yet another flash - she brought back the classic look, then tossing the mirror at Richard who fumbled briefly before catching it. He then quickly went over to hand it back to Rarity before resuming his position beside Chrysalis.
“Really thought it would have made her nicer…” Fluttershy whispered to Rainbow, who nodded in stern agreement. Chrysalis’s ears were attuned to critical comments though, so no whisper could ever have hoped to be soft enough to escape her attention.
“It doesn’t work like that!” She snapped.
“Doesn’t it?” Applejack asked. She too had reckoned on Chrysalis being at least a little bit nicer once she’d been told what had happened.
“No! Chrysalis cried in exasperation, having now decided beyond a doubt that it did not work like that. And of course she was right about this.
Why was this so difficult for everyone except her!
Richard got it. Or liked to think he did, and he felt he was reasonably well-placed to judge being as how he’d hung around with Chrysalis a fair amount both pre-and-post ‘reformation’. And maybe played a part in it, too. Just a small one.
He’d happily admit he didn’t know the first thing about what the change actually involved or actually did or actually meant in practical terms beyond a different colour palette, but he was at least glad that it hadn’t fundamentally changed who she was. She remained very much herself.
Taken the edge off her searing hatred, maybe, but not got rid of it completely. Just softened it, and her in general. Still the same, just happier, apparently, albeit not entirely sure of this yet.
No bad thing in his book. If it had somehow turned her into someone else completely he would have been supremely uncomfortable. After all, the - ahem - ‘affection’ he had developed for her was on account of who she was, not who she might be following a magical transformation. For Richard was a man of particular tastes.
But that was all a given.
“What do you want to do now, your majesty?” Richard asked. Despite the classic look, the returning pink was obvious.
“I told you that feels odd when they’re all watching. I don’t know, Richard! I need - I need space! I need time to think,” she said, eyes screwed shut, one hoof rubbing her temple. “Are you recovered enough to carry me past these vile creatures and take me back home?”
There was an understandable ripple at this, but Rainbow was the only one to actually say ‘Hey!’. Background noise though.
“I imagine I could try, your majesty, but I feel I wouldn’t get very far. They’d likely all go for the knees,” Richard said.
“We would,” Starlight said. The others nodded. It was just obvious.
“Your high centre of gravity is one of your very many flaws, Richard,” Chrysalis sighed.
“I can only apologise.”
“You’re lucky that I value your loyalty,” Chrysalis said, sighing again more deeply this time and leaning into his side without really noticing she was doing it. Richard noticed though, and his smile got wider.
Chrysalis was thinking furiously about how best to turn this situation to her advantage.
Initial thoughts? Violence, obviously, but she discounted that quickly. The cowards had her outnumbered and, more’s the point, Richard was right there, and he was a vulnerability. He’d probably trip her over by accident or something, or get hurt again. Both would be bad. Particularly him getting hurt. Because that would mean he’d need fixing again, and that was just tiresome.
Nothing at all to do with the chunk of ice that seemed to appear in the pit of her stomach anytime she got that image of him all laid out. That was just coincidence.
So no, not that. Not yet at least. Which meant she had to find some other way of coming out on top, some other way of steering things in the proper direction (hers). But what?
And then it clicked. Then all was clear!
She was thinking about it as though this was somehow her problem that she needed to solve, and while it was a problem affecting her (an important problem) it was not a problem she had had any involvement in causing. So therefore it wasn’t her fault. Therefore it was someone else’s fault, and it was up to them to deal with it.
“Yes. Yes! That’s it! This is your fault!” She said with mounting delight and outrage.
At first Twilight thought that Chrysalis was directing this at Starlight, but she wasn’t, she was directing it at Twilight. Realising this, Twilight blinked.
“What? I mean - what?” She asked.
‘Play along’ Richard mouthed. Starlight got it, or at least enough of it to agree with Richard, nudging Twilight and giving her a significant look. Then Twilight twigged it, too.
“Oh - oh! Oh yes. All my fault! Uh, what’s all my fault?”
“This! All of this! What’s happened to me! If you’d just done what you were all meant to do and failed and lost then I would have won and everything would be as it should! This all started back at that wedding! I should have been ruling everything by now! Instead, this, all this!”
“That was, ah, very thoughtless of me?” Twilight said, unsure. She needn’t have worried. No matter what she would have said Chrysalis would have carried on going.
“It was! Now it is time to take responsibility for your actions! I will expect hospitality for myself and my servant while you are working to undo the harm you have inflicted on me! You will work on an antidote or cure for this - this - this PHASE!”
The sheer impossibility of this request left Twilight flummoxed.
“I, uh, I’m not sure it works that way,” She said, delicately. Chrysalis leaned in, the better to hiss menacingly:
“You will make it work that way!”
“...I’ll see what I can do,” Twilight said.
“And, if you find the time, I’m sure I can answer all of those questions you had lined up,” Richard said, something which immediately rekindled Twilight’s enthusiasm - she’d almost forgotten about that!
“Oh! Yes! Please! Yes please!”
Richard smiled warmly at her and nodded, satisfied.
“Assuming that is okay by you?” He asked Chrysalis, who huffed, a little annoyed he’d swooped in at the end and punctured the weight and drama of her fantastic, cunning solution. That, and she wasn’t super-keen on the idea of Richard hanging around with vile Twilight. She’d probably…
...be around him.
But expressing this might suggest that she cared. Would send the wrong message.
“As long as it doesn’t affect her efforts at finding an antidote or cure and your duties to me you can do what you like, Richard…” She said.
“Wonderful, your majesty,” he said without thinking and Chrysalis sulked pinkly.
“So you’ll be...staying...here?” Twilight asked, delicately, just trying to clarify.
“For now! And as a guest! A royal guest, as befits my standing. Staying here - at your expense! - while you work to undo the damage you have caused to myself, my person and my servant.
“But I didn’t-” Twilight started to protest, as Chrysalis knew she would.
“It was in the course of acting against your malicious actions that my servant was injured, therefore you are ultimately to blame! But we are past that, we have moved on. We know where we stand. For now we just need to settle details. Such as where I will be staying,” Chrysalis said.
“You can stay in the castle, if you’d like,” Twilight said with a brightness that masked how ridiculous the idea actually sounded to her. Chrysalis scoffed and rolled her eyes.
“Your castle? I think not! No, we shall take a separate residence. I imagine there must be something in this benighted town that would suffice for the brief period this unfortunate episode will take up. I am not fussy.”
This was a lie, but she didn’t think it was.
“Um. Okay. I think - I think we can find somewhere,” Twilight said, grinning nervously and looking to the others who all looked at her as though she’d lost her fucking mind. Except Starlight. Starlight actually looked pretty happy that things were working out so well. Her and Richard both.
That she would be in anything smaller than whatever Twilight (or anyone, really, but Twilight was the one with the castle here) was living in was galling, yes, but bearable for one with such infinite grace and patience as her Queenly self.
She could always get Richard to attach a long pole to whatever house she ended up in so that it was at least technically taller than Twilight’s castle. Petty and nitpicky, yes, but desperate times called for such things.
A really, really long pole.
“Well there’s no sense in standing here wasting time! On, on! Find me a house, Twilight Sparkle! Then, once I am comfortably waiting in that house, find a way to cure this horrible affliction I have fallen victim to owing to the circumstances your selfishness has put me in!”
“...Okay,” said Twilight, giving up being confused and just decided to go with it. On balance, this was probably the best way things could have gone, really. There hadn’t been any magical laserbeams and the building was still standing - a solid foundation as far as she was concerned. You could build on that!
Twilight trotted off with a nose-in-the-air Chrysalis following. Richard dawdled, as did the others. They looked a little thunderstruck. They’d all come expecting the magical laserbeams! Instead they’d got...whatever that had been!
“What just happened?” Rainbow asked, baffled, breaking the silence.
“A third option,” said Richard, clearing up absolutely nothing. Rainbow’s bafflement only increased.
She hadn’t known about any options, all she’d seen was Chrysalis - who was reformed now, but still apparently a little eccentric and loud - somehow talk herself into a free house. And Twilight being okay with that?
Presumably it was a friendship thing. But still. Very odd.
“Third? What were the other two?” She asked, scratching her head.
“Fighting or running away. This at least feels like a step in the right direction. But I could be wrong. Maybe this will turn out to be a horrible decision. Still, gives me a good chance to take her out to dinner. I think she’d like that,” Richard said.
He turned toward Starlight, her being his main point of contact and the only other person present he was more than passingly familiar with. Or familiar with at all, really.
“Where is good for a meal out around here?” He asked. This was not her area of expertise, unfortunately.
“There’s a couple places. I don’t really know, honestly, don’t eat out that much. They’re all pretty good though. Sorry,” she said, unhappy not to have been able to give him a more useful answer. Richard didn’t mind.
“No, that’s good information, thank you. Be nice to not be the one cooking for a night. Nice to splash out a little, too,” he said.
This reminded Starlight of something that had been bugging her about Richard, and now seemed the perfect time to bring it up.
“How do you pay for anything anyway? The shopping and now this dinner?” She asked.
His alien currency wouldn’t get him very far, after all, and one would think that an alien having something to give him a steady source of income would have caused some comment from somewhere along the line. She was quite curious.
“With money,” Richard said and Starlight gritted her teeth. Ask a stupid question and ask it to a smartarse, too, this is where you end up.
“How do you have money?” She asked, hoping this was direct enough. Richard opened his mouth to answer but then:
“RICHARD! COME HERE! HURRY UP!” Came the shout of Chrysalis and so Richard immediately started moving, pausing only to tap his nose and give Starlight a wink.
“The usual way,” he said, departing.
Starlight stared after him, mouth agape, frustration written across her face.
“Um, who was that?” Fluttershy asked.
“What are you?!” Rainbow yelled, hooves to her mouth.