“We solve one problem, only for another to take its place.”
“Not once did I say it would be easy.”
“True… still, it’s frustrating.”
Celestia chuckled and strode from her bed to Chrysalis on the balcony, her long strides making the walk quickly. The white Alicorn positioned herself next to her Changeling lover and nuzzled her affectionately under her chin, rubbing her face into the softer neck carapace (she made sure to mind her horn). “You’re frustrated? You’re not the one who has to deal with the dignitaries.”
Chrysalis smiled softly, returning Celestia’s nuzzle. “Well, thank Creation for small mercies.” She stated with caring tone that still had an undertone of mockery.
Celestia’s eyes rolled. “You’re terrible sometimes.”
“You love it.”
“No wonder I have to deal with all this crap.”
Chrysalis suddenly broke the two’s nuzzling, much to the annoyance of Celestia. The Solar Goddess’ annoyed face vanished away instantly when she saw Chrysalis face. The Changeling looked dead serious. “Celli, do you really think you can convince the other nations of my… reforming?” Chrysalis looked away with a pained expression. “What if… What if you can’t? What will happen? Will they reprimand Equestria? You? I could never live with myself knowing I brought harm to you or your country. I just…”
Celestia, who advanced and caught her lover’s lips in her own, cut the Changeling short. The kiss was deep and loving, also very sexy. It was a full minute before they broke off their lip locking. The white Alicorn smiled at the black Changeling. “Everything will be fine Chrysalis, I promise. Siasa is already with me and Septimus is the most reasonable Griffin I’ve ever met. Onyx will be satisfied as long as our love doesn’t affect his kingdom.”
“And Grizzled Policy?”
“Will be difficult, I won’t lie. But I’ll appeal to him one way or the other. He is kinder, fairer, and more open-minded than he lets on. If I can put even the tiniest bit of doubt in his belief he will reconsider and eventually see the good in you.” Celestia nuzzled Chrysalis a little more.
Chrysalis giggled a little, the Alicorn rubbing her the right way. “Alright, alright. I trust you.”
“And if things go downward you can just hypnotize them.”
“Celestia…” Chrysalis stated angrily, not finding the joke funny.
“What? It was simply a joke.”
“A bad one.”
“True enough.” Celestia laughed, then stretched out. “Ugh. Well, I guess it’s time to raise the Sun.” The Alicorn walked a little far on the balcony and ignited her horn.
“Mind if I join you?” Chrysalis asked in content voice.
“The real question is why you even need to ask.”
I HAVE A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS…
Cadence rolled her eyes. “Shape Shift, you have bad feelings about everything, you had a bad feeling about the shower last night.”
I’M POSITIVE IT TRIED TO KILL ME WITH THE SHAMPOO.
Cadence shook her head and rolled her eyes yet again, confounded by her assistant’s fearful nature. The two were walking down one of the castle’s many corridors, the ones that led to the diplomatic suites. Cadence’s plan was simple: convince the delegates Chrysalis was still evil and simply using Celestia to further a Changeling plot. It shouldn’t be too hard to convince them, she just had to pluck at the right nerves. Unfortunately for Chrysalis, Cadence knew which nerves to strike.
“Halt! State your business, big pony.”
Cadence looked at the Diamond Dog guards standing in front of Ambassador Onyx’s door. The Diamond Dogs of the Western regions of their homeland had gotten their acts together. Instead of the usual clans, packs, and tribes of the anarchic Eastern Kingdom, the Western Kingdom could actually be called a country. Even Luna had been impressed at how far the Diamond Dogs of this region had evolved socially during her absence. Regardless, they were still just animals, like everyone else. And animals favored nothing higher than self-perseveration and Diamond Dogs were especially paranoid.
“I’m here to see Diplomat Onyx.” Cadence said plainly.
“Why?” The black furred guard asked, his armor clanking slightly as he leaned down to look at Cadence.
“It’s just a friendly chat.” The guard didn’t seem convinced, Cadence pouted at this. “What? Can’t the Princess of the Crystal Empire speak to a fellow diplomat? Geez, Eastern Dogs are kinder than this.” Cadence turned to leave.
“WAIT!” The guards shouted together. “You can go in.” The guards moved aside for the Alicorn, not wanting to be seen as worse than their barbaric Eastern brethren.
“Thank you very much.” Cadence said, bowing slightly before entering the room.
Ambassador Onyx was at the room’s table, nibbling on something that looked like the leg of a chicken (Cadence held back a gag). The Diamond Dog noticed the mare and lifted his head up, nodding to her as she approached. “Oh, Princess Cadence, nice to see. How you? Good, me hope.”
“With you here, how could I be anything but Ambassador?” Cadence smiled as she took a seat opposite to the Dog.
“Flattery. What you want?” Onyx cocked an eyebrow in suspicion.
Smart, as always… Cadence smiled past his question and took on a hurt look. “Why do I need a reason to be flattering? I am the Alicorn of love no? It’s simply a natural reaction for me.”
“Careful you not act that way around mate, might get wrong idea.”
Cadence laughed. “Trust me, I know. Anyway, enough about me, how are you doing? How’s the Western Kingdom?”
Onyx inhaled the rest of his chicken leg and threw the bone away. “Me am fine. As for Kingdom me serve? Worried, this business with Changeling… Bad juju.”
Cadence gave the Dog a confused look. “How so?”
“Changeling’s bad news.” The Ambassador replied. “Want only war, try to steal love. Ruthless, one hive tries to make deal with Western Kingdom. Would have been revolutionary, end hostilities with hive. Other hives destroy that one, kill Queen and drones for not doing things how Changelings always have. Scary. Chrysalis hive not participate in that, still scary.”
“So you’re afraid that Chrysalis is trying the same thing here?” Cadence wondered.
Onyx nodded. “If she not mastermind, she still pawn. If not game me thinks it is, probably some else. Won't lie, paranoid.”
“What?! That’s ridiculous!” Cadence waved a hoof at the Dog. “You shouldn't be scared at all! I mean it’s not like Chrysalis tried to attack your people personally. But then again, if what you say is true, then think of the army she could breed if she took over Equestria. Geez, what if she controlled Celestia’s mind, she could even have the Equestrian army at her command! She’d be unstoppable! She’d probably attack the other countries and rule everything.” Cadence put on her best pondering hypotheticals face, appearing as though her words were simply speculation.
As she had planned, the diplomat had not taken it in that way. “Me… Me not think of that… She could control Celestia… and if she Changeling thrall then she not thinking straight. She is, isn’t she?! She enthralled! She is!”
Cadence took interest in this sentence. “Is that what you think Ambassador? Without any doubt?”
Onyx nodded. “Yes! It true! You explain me truth! I was going give Chrysalis chance but this make sense! She controlling Celestia and making Changeling stronger! She try subtler approach to victory this time! You and me must stop her!” Now that Onyx's mind had become infected by paranoia, it was doubtful he would let up.
Cadence smiled evilly. “That’s all I needed to hear.” The Alicorn’s horn lit up and before Ambassador Onyx could react she blasted him with a spell. The Diamond Dog cringed and slumped to the ground, unconscious. Cadence’s smile lingered and she trotted out of the room. The Diamond Dog Guards caught a glimpse of her before their worlds become a flash and then nothing. Cadence walked past them without incident. “Excuse me boys.” The Alicorn moved quickly down the hall. Shape Shift looked out from his hiding place behind a corner and ran to catch up with his mistress.
Back in Onyx’s room, the Diamond Dog Ambassador brought himself up off the floor, shook the flash from his eyes, and looked around. He had been doing something, but he couldn’t remember what. One thing did stick his mind however: Chrysalis was evil and controlling Celestia in an attempt to gain the power needed to invade his nation. The Ambassador would not let that happen.
Siasa was organizing some papers when a knock came to her door. “Come in.” She shouted, coughing a little as she put her papers away so that she could adjust her voice to Equestrian speak. The zebra turned to see Princess Cadence walked into her room. The zebra smiled at her, and then turned to her guards. “Leave us.” She ordered politely. The guards complied with a nod and left.
“Still not big on letting others listen in huh?” Cadence’s eyes followed the guards as they left.
“Ignorance is bliss.” Siasa replied plainly, running her black hoof through her ponytailed striped mane. “It is better if they are not exposed to the sickening world of politics. I still wish I wasn’t.”
Cadence laughed. “We all have to make sacrifices right?”
“I’d rather sell my soul to the ancestors doomed to the Hollows than spend a hundred years in politics, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”
“You enjoy it.” Cadence coyly replied.
“Only because it is a way to make a difference for my fellow zebras.” Siasa bowed respectfully as Cadence sat next to her. “So why have you come here Cadence, a social visit?”
“Half and half.” Cadence replied. “I wanted to know what your position on Chrysalis was.”
The zebra grabbed a teacup that had been sitting on her work desk; she took a deep whiff into it. “I support Celestia’s judgment, regardless of what the others may think. Celestia has never failed her country before, and I doubt she will anytime soon.” The Zebra took a sip of her drink.
“Oh, yeah I suppose so…” Cadence uttered, sounding as disbelieving and unconvinced as she could. This display caught the zebra’s interest, exactly what Cadence had planned.
“What? You think Celestia has not done her duties well?”
Cadence looked at Siasa with a shocked look, feigning the idea she had just realized what she had actually said. “What?! No, no!” Cadence waved her hooves in front of herself, smiling and looking quite embarrassed. “It was just a simple thought, nothing serious.”
Now Siasa’s interest was very piqued. “No, please Cadence, speak your mind.”
Cadence looked at the diplomat, a nervous look on her face. “Ok… Just uh, don’t tell my Aunt.” The zebra ambassador nodded in compliance. Cadence continued. “Well, it just that recently, Aunt Celestia’s been taking a lot of risks as of late, like with Aunt Luna while she was still Nightmare Moon.”
“That was to save her, Cadence, if you remember.”
Cadence easy felt the angry undertone of the zebra’s voice, a feigned embarrassment. The Alicorn thought out her next sentence, knowing a misplaced word would end this conversation. The Alicorn knew she would never turn Siasa against Celestia, zebras trusted other species greatly. This was, however, also their greatest weakness. They could easily be turned on an ally if they believed that friend was hurting themselves without thought of stopping. Cadence would exploit that. “It’s just that, well, she put the lives of all of Equestria into hooves of six little ponies, most of whom didn’t even know each other. There was a rather large margin for error, error that would have end with an eternal night.”
The zebra cocked her eyebrow and stared at her tea, taking in the words. “True… the move was rather risky. But in the end it worked, and isn’t that what truly matters?”
“Yeah, I suppose. But isn’t wrong to encourage such risky behavior? Sure it worked this time, but what about next time? What if the next Discord can’t be reformed, and the Elements are tricked into defeat? Then what?”
The zebra tensed up, her brain processing the information. True words could hurt, and Cadence made a good point. Celestia risked much by bringing the Changeling to her home, and letting her prance around where ever she saw fit. And then there was all the time Celestia and Chrysalis spent together, certainly enough time to for Chrysalis to work Changeling witchcraft. Exposing oneself to poison over time can build up immunity, but it can just as well kill you.
"We can not," The zebra began. "Judge one based on the few risk actions they have committed. Celestia..."
"Has done riskier things," Cadence interjected. "And has been know to act emotionally, like with Luna."
Siasa bit her lower lip, knowing it to be true. Though one could not blame Celestia for trying to protect her sister, the Solar Alicorn had still kept Nightmare Moon alive, an act that could have easily backfired on her.
"Let's not forget Sombra..."
The zebra swirled her tea around. It was true, Celestia had taken away a thousand years of the Crystal Ponies lives because she did not want to kill King Sombra, a thousand years. The diplomat could not help but contort her face into a contemplating expression. Celestia always acted different when her personal emotions became involved. She suppressed her emotions so much that when she finally did show have them she was a little overzealous. It was one of her few faults (that she knew about) and the zebra knew it was dangerous. If Chrysalis was influencing Celestia into loving her even slightly, then Celestia would automatically side with the Changeling.
The mentioned mare looked up at Cadence. “Yes?”
“What’s wrong?” Cadence asked, concerned. “Are you ok?”
“Yes, I’m fine.” Siasa replied. “I suppose you could say I simply feel a little doubt about Celestia’s actions, not much but… I will need to look into this more.”
Cadence smiled. “That’s all I wanted to hear.”
Siasa’s guards almost broke down the door when they heard the thud that they automatically assumed was their charge. True enough, the zebra ambassador was slumped down on the floor, her memory of the meeting wiped while leaving the doubt behind. The poor guards didn’t have a chance before Cadence did the same to them, her cornflower blue (and slightly corrupted) magic hitting them in the chests and causing them to fall with a slight thud.
“Too easy.” Cadence grinned.
Shape Shift came into the door, looking about. ARE WE GOING TO GRIZZLED POLICY NEXT? Read his little sign.
“No need.” Cadence said. “He doesn’t need convincing, not yet. I’ll wait till directly before the meeting to rile him up.” Cadence walked pasted the motionless bodies of the zebra guards. “Clean the three of them up and make it look like they fell asleep.”
Shape Shift nodded and complied.
Cadence gritted her teeth at the Griffin guard before her, unable to keep the anger from her expression. “What do you mean, I can’t go in?”
“Sorry Princess.” The Griffin responded stoically. “Ambassador Septimus wanted no one to disturb him before the meeting. He wanted a clear and steady mind and he said that talking to involved parties might skew his beliefs.”
“I just want to talk.” Cadence retorted angrily.
“That may be so, but the Ambassador told us no one gets in. He said that for no matter what reason you may come here for everything shall eventually lead to talking about the Changeling. Once again, sorry Ma’am.”
“This is ridiculous!”
“Orders are orders Princess, I’ll not disobey them.”
Cadence was about to verbally lash out at the guard for his stubbornness, but held herself back. The Alicorn smiled. “Very well, I’ll talk to him later.” With a bow, the pink mare turned and left, trying very hard not to grit her teeth into dust.
Shape Shift saw his mistress’s rejection and ran up to her when she was close enough. NOW WHAT?
Cadence sighed. “I suppose we just accept what we have. We have at least three diplomats that either mistrust Chrysalis directly or have their minds littered with doubt, that’ll have to do.”
AND IF THIS PLAN DOESN’T WORK? THEN WHAT?
Cadence grunted in annoyance. “It’ll work Shape Shift, I know it will.”
BUT WHAT IF IT DOESN’T?
“Why are you doubting my plan?” Cadence asked in a dark tone.
THE BETTER QUESTION IS WHY AREN’T YOU?
“Because shut up.” Cadence replied blandly.
YOU ALWAYS SAY THAT…
Cadence rolled her eyes. “Enough! Let’s go. I don’t want to be seen here.”
Shape Shift nodded at her words and the two left the castle’s diplomat wing, waiting with bated breath for the meeting to take place in a few hours.
Inside his closed room Septimus, resting on the carpeted floor, inhaled slightly as he heard Cadence outside. He heard the mare go from angry to surprisingly calm, apparently leaving. The dignitary squinted his eyes and turned his gaze to the outside world seen through his open window. He exhaled calmly as he thought of all the angles needed for the meeting.
"So why didn't you want to see her?"
Septimus looked behind him, to the female Griffin leaning on the wall. She was in full combat armor and looked ready to kill a potential assassin with anything available, though most likely she would go with the spear leaning next to her.
"Simple." Septimus mused. "She will try to convince me to hate Chrysalis, using past mistakes to cement her claims, I'll not have it."
The female Griffin cocked an eyebrow. "Convince you to hate Chrysalis? From what I've heard she and Chrysalis have made up and are friends now."
"Then you are a fool." Septimus said in admiration, as if he envied the Griffin's naivety. "When you have been a diplomat as long as I have, you will see that body language will speak volumes more than words. Princess Cadence's body spoke of frustration, of knowing her enemy is in her home and she can do nothing to end her." He sighed. "Poor Celestia, she is blinded by the ties of family, and can not see it as I can."
The female Griffin got up from her leaning position, a serious expression on her face. "If that's true then we need to warn Princess Celestia right away. Cadence might try and sabotage the meeting as well as the truth behind Chrysalis' reformation."
"She may." Septimus replied. "But we'll do nothing about it just yet."
"But... But sir."
Septimus stretched out some lingering soreness and got up, turning to his subordinate. "The greatest of lessons are learned through trial and fire. Words mean little without the pain to back them up."
The female Griffin almost responded, but silenced herself before any words came out. She simply nodded, accepting her superior's decision (even if she did not agree).
She did believe that the meeting would be interesting, if nothing else.