• Published 29th Oct 2015
  • 2,141 Views, 82 Comments

Crystal Heart Solid: The Twin Crysis - MagnetBolt

What if: Instead of replacing Princess Cadance on her wedding day, Chrysalis goes after Shining Armor another way - by infiltrating the Royal Guard!

  • ...

Chapter Three - Dance Like Nopony's Watching

“Are you ready yet?” Chrysalis yelled, annoyed. It definitely wasn’t proper to use that tone with a princess. It especially wasn’t proper when you were her personal guard - and that’s all she was. Chrysalis had to keep her goals in mind, even if Shining Armor was increasingly far away.

“Almost!” Cadance called, from deeper inside the palace. “Are you feeling any better yet?” She sounded much too happy.

“I’m fine,” Chrysalis said, avoiding actually answering that. She’d had a headache since they’d landed. She wasn’t sure if it was the gray buildings and gray snow or the gray ponies wrapped up in gray cloaks thinking gray thoughts and feeling gray emotions. It was like eating ashes, and she was already counting the minutes until she could leave.

She looked out into the night, though with the glare and the poor window glazing, mostly she was just looking at her own reflection. At least the dress uniform fit fairly well. She adjusted her high collar, pleased with her appearance.

“At least I make this look good,” Chrysalis smiled, turning to look at her own flank. She wiggled it a little. She made it look very good.

“See something you like? I know I do.” Cadance asked. Chrysalis blushed and turned around, standing at attention. The princess was wearing a slim dress, with just enough layering to make it look extremely expensive, as if the pink diamonds sewn into the neckline weren’t enough for that.

“The slit in the skirt goes up so high I can see some of your cutie mark,” Chrysalis said. “I think everypony in the room is going to see something they like.”

“If I’m stuck being eye candy, I might as well make the most of it, right?” Cadance walked around Chrysalis, examining her. “You definitely make for a perfect escort, though. You can be all prim and proper and keep me out of trouble.”

“A dress like that isn’t for staying out of trouble,” Chrysalis said.

“But it will make sure you’re watching me,” Cadance teased. “I want to make sure my private bodyguard is keeping their eyes on my body all night long.”

“That won’t be a problem,’ Chrysalis said. Her eyes widened for a moment as she realized that she’d said that out loud and coughed, trying to cover up her words.

Cadance laughed.

The Palace of the Winter Star was one of the oldest still-occupied structures in Equestria. There were a few ruins that were still standing, but they were just that, ruins, and only of real interest to archaeologists.

Chrysalis walked behind Cadance as they passed windows large enough to use as entire walls, the glass old and wavy, distorting the city outside.

“You know, Celestia told me a story about those windows,” Cadance said, looking back. “They were made a thousand years ago, before ponies had really mastered the art of glassmaking. Large areas of perfectly clear glass like that were almost impossible to make. After the Crystal Empire fell, a lot of refugees came here, and they brought some of their secrets with them. The windows were a gift to the ponies here for letting them stay, and it’s said they’ll never break as long as their descendants call this place their home.”

“Cute,” Chrysalis said. “Before we get to the conference hall, we need to talk.”

“Sure.” Cadance smiled, stopping. “What about? The whole time we were on the Defiant, you barely wanted to talk at all.”

“Security.” Chrysalis rolled her eyes as Cadance gave her a pouting face. “Look, it’s my job to worry about keeping you safe. I just want to make sure we’re on the same page.”

“Don’t worry so much,” Cadance said, smiling. “Look over there.” She pointed. There were stallions in the local guard uniforms standing at attention at a door. “Every entrance and exit has guards posted. Ponies entering the palace are being searched. The yaks weren’t even allowed to bring more than a few of their own soldiers. There’s no danger here.”

“There’s always danger,” Chrysalis countered.

“You’re so serious,” Cadance sighed, leaning against a decorative railing. “Okay. Since you want to foalsit me instead of treating me like an adult, what do you want me to do?”

“First, we have to stick together.” Chrysalis started pacing. “I don’t know this palace, so if you go off without me, it’s going to be hard to find you.”

“Stick together, huh?” Cadance grinned at that. “So you want to keep me close by.”

“Second,” Chrysalis said, ignoring Cadance. “If I tell you we’re leaving, we’re leaving. I don’t care if that means we’re leaving other ponies in danger, or if you’re having fun, or whatever. I’m supposed to keep you safe, not worry about anything else.”

“You know I outrank you, right?” Cadance said. “If I’m going to follow your rules, you have to follow mine, too.”


“If you follow them, I won’t mention to Celestia that you can’t keep your eyes off my flank~”

“I- that’s- I’m just keeping tabs on you for your own safety.” Chrysalis frowned, fighting back a blush, her hears folding back.

“Let’s see… since you want us to stick together, that means my first rule is that you have to be interesting company. No more ignoring me or dodging questions.” Cadance stepped up to Chrysalis and put a hoof under her chin, lifting it up so their eyes met. “Second, since you’re threatening to keep me from having any fun, you have to dance with me at least once.”

“That’s improper,” Chrysalis said, though there wasn’t much force behind it.

“Maybe. But it’s what I want,” Cadance said. She smiled and lowered her hoof. “I don’t want a bodyguard hanging around me if I can’t get along with them as a friend.”

“Fine. One dance.” Chrysalis relented. “But I don’t really know how.”

“Don’t worry,” Cadance said. “You can’t be worse than Twilight.” She smiled at a stray thought. “You know, she still thinks you’re some kind of monster.”

“I’m the worst kind of monster,” Chrysalis said. “The kind that has to keep ponies from jumping you after they’ve had a few drinks and they see what you’re wearing tonight.”

“Scary~” Cadance laughed. “Come on. The conference hall is this way.”

Chrysalis followed her through several guard posts, giving the soldiers sideways glances as they passed. If the civilians in the streets were blurs of gray emotion, they were like walls of steel. She saw Cadance frown as she passed them, evidently feeling the same thing. There was a coldness to them that the regular Royal Guard didn’t share.

“I’m glad I don’t have one of them with me,” Cadance whispered. “You’re a lot nicer than they are.”

“Do you think they had to take a special class on glaring angrily at nothing?” Chrysalis asked.

“I’m pretty sure it’s a standard part of their training.” Cadance giggled, covering her mouth to try and hide her mirth. “Careful. You don’t want to get on their bad side.” She quieted herself as they came up to a set of ornate double doors. The guards stationed there pulled the doors open in perfect concert, moving as smoothly as machines.

A wall of sound hit them, rolling over the two in a surge of light music and voices. Chrysalis could feel the emotions even from here, annoyance and boredom covered up in layers of sickly-sweet false happiness and polite discourse. It was the taste of politicians and bureaucrats.

Cadance didn’t taste like that. She was always genuine. Instead of cloying, there was a sweetness like-

Chrysalis shook her head, dismissing the thought. She needed to focus. The room itself wasn’t so different than Canterlot, at least in the general layout. Musicians on a raised stage, playing something between jazz and classical, light enough to be background music that wouldn’t interrupt anyone’s conversations. Buffet tables off to one side. A dance floor, currently unoccupied, and most important of all - an open bar in the back.

“Diplomacy has a three-drink minimum,” Cadance said, following Chrysalis’ gaze. “You wouldn’t believe how often peace comes down to getting everyone involved drunk enough that they can stand to talk to each other.”

“Trust me, I can guess,” Chrysalis said. “That must be the Yakyakistani delegation.” She nodded subtly towards the massive forms. They seemed to mostly be keeping to themselves, and as she watched, two of them literally butted heads. For a moment she thought they were going to start fighting before they started laughing at each other.

“Let’s mingle,” Cadance said. “Just stay behind me and be polite.”

Chrysalis nodded and followed her, staying silent as Cadance said a few words to each of the ponies there, even greeting the Yaks in their native tongue. She could feel the genuine admiration that other ponies had for the Princess. They practically worshiped her.

It made her jealous. It was what she wanted. That easy, unconditional love. And Cadance made it look so easy. It wasn’t her looks. They didn’t want favors from her. Everywhere she went, she left ponies looking happier for having met her.

Chrysalis watched her, trying to figure out how she always seemed to know the right thing to say.

“What do you drink?” Cadance asked, suddenly turning to Chrysalis.

“Drink?” Chrysalis was caught off-guard. They’d wandered over to the bar while she was only half paying attention. “I can’t drink while I’m on duty.”

“I'll give you permission,” Cadance said, smiling. “It’s fine. Besides, you look like you’re not having much fun.”

“I’m not here to have fun. I’m here to protect you.”

“And you’ll protect me better if you’re a little relaxed,” Cadance smiled warmly. “Come on, what do you want? I know Stone Soup liked straight vodka, but I think it’s a little rough, myself.”

“Let me guess - you’re more of a wine person? Maybe a berry wine?” Chrysalis guessed.

“Wine is okay for cooking, but for drinking, I prefer something a little sweeter.” She turned to the bartender. “Can I get some orange juice and vodka?”

“A screwdriver?” Chrysalis asked. “That still seems like more serious drinking than a Princess should manage.”

“Alicorn metabolism,” Cadance smiled. “It takes a lot before I even get tipsy.” She took her drink from the bartender and sipped at it. “Would you like one?”

“I’ll have, um…” Chrysalis considered. Drinking on duty wasn’t something she liked to do, but she had practically been ordered to do it, and it would certainly help with the cloying fake emotions that were already giving her a headache. She decided to settle on a safe answer. “I’ll have what you’re having.”

“Brave. I like that.” Cadance grinned and got her a drink. “You know, there aren’t many ponies that can say a Princess bought them a drink.”

“I hope not.” Chrysalis sipped at the drink and almost spat it out, coughing for a moment. “I think you accidentally got me straight vodka.”

“Now, now. Don’t waste it,” Cadance scolded. “This is Stalliongrad. They make the drinks very strong at this sort of function.” She paused. “Besides, maybe after you have a few drinks you’ll open up a little.”

“Of course. An agenda. I should have expected that.” Chrysalis took another sip, ready for the strong drink this time.

“So, I think you agreed to answer some of my questions?” Cadance smiled.

“I guess I did.”

“Let’s see… we’ll start with an easy one. How old are you?”

“You could have gotten that from my file,” Chrysalis said. “It’s hardly classified information, even if it’s a little rude to ask a lady her age.”

“Please?” Cadance asked.

“Fine. If you really want to know, I’m the same age you are. We practically even have the same birthday.”

“Ooh~” Cadance smiled. “But only practically? So you’re a little older than me? Or is it younger?”

“I thought only foals cared about a few weeks here and there,” Chrysalis countered.

“Okay, okay,” Cadance sighed. “What about your family?”

“My mom raised me. She didn’t come to Equestria with me.” Chrysalis looked up for a moment, briefly wondering how the Queen was doing. “I wanted a better life. I think she knew I’d end up leaving for good.”

“Do you miss her?” Cadance looked down at her drink. “I never even got to know my real parents. I mean, I’m grateful. I was raised by a lot of ponies, and all of them wanted the best for me, even before I was a princess. But none of them were…”

“Your mom?” Chrysalis guessed. Cadance nodded. “I miss her, sometimes, even if we did butt heads a lot. When things get tough, I wonder if she was right about me wasting my time chasing dreams like… finding a handsome stallion to take care of me and love me.” Chrysalis snorted. “That definitely went off the rails. I tried to chase one and…” She shook her head.

“Not all bad, though,” Cadance smiled. “I like to think I make pretty good company, even if I’m not a stallion.”

“You do,” Chrysalis said, the corner of her mouth turning up slightly.

“Ah, you must be Princess Cadance,” said a friendly voice. “I apologize if I’m interrupting?” An earth pony stallion stepped between Cadance and Chrysalis. Chrysalis felt her hair stand on end for a moment before she got herself back under control. Cadance had told her to be polite, and that meant not blasting somepony just for interrupting a conversation.

“Hello,” Cadance said, shooting Chrysalis an apologetic look. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“My name is Miller,” the pony said, brushing back his golden mane. “Grain Miller. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I saw you a few times in Canterlot, but we were never formally introduced.”

“From Canterlot?” Cadance asked. “So you’re not native?”

“Well, yes and no. I’m a farmer by trade. Or more accurately, I trade crops and own land and let other ponies do most of the work. You sort of need it with grains like wheat, oats, that sort of thing. Fruit sells itself, but barley takes a little more work.”

“A farmer is an odd sight at a peace treaty signing,” Chrysalis noted.

“You’re absolutely right, miss…?”

“Chrysalis. She’s my friend and my personal guard,” Cadance said. “I have to agree, though. It is a bit odd, if you’re not a diplomat or a local businessman.”

“Well, keep this on the down-low,” Miller said, leaning in to speak more quietly. “But with the trade restrictions that are being lifted, the Yaks are going to allow agricultural shipments. Equestria’s main exports are weather and food, and I plan on getting a headstart in the market.”

“I get it,” Chrysalis snorted. “So you’re here to meet their delegation, get your name on their lips, that kind of thing.” She sipped at her drink. The vodka was a lot easier to handle now, every sip numbing her tastebuds bit by bit.

“Exactly!” Miller smiled. “You’d make a good businesspony. Got the looks and the smarts. I can see why our fair Princess took an interest in you.”

Chrysalis hesitated at that. Did he mean Cadance? Stone Soup had mentioned something about Celestia before on the Defiant. Maybe she was just being paranoid.

“I’m here to sell them on something better than grain shipments,” Miller smiled. “I want to sell them the whole package. Seeds, farming techniques, expert help getting farms set up. I’ve even got the perfect crop. Type of hybrid wheat and rye mix called quadrotriticale. High-yield, grows practically anywhere it’s planted, even in permafrost.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know much about farming,” Cadance admitted. “But that does sound like it could help them.”

“I hope so,” Miller sighed. “They’re big on tradition, but they seem sensible enough to try things our way if it might help. This arms reduction treaty is proof of that.” He shook his head and smiled. “But here I am, talking your ear off. I think the least I can do in return is offer you a dance.”

“Oh, well…” Cadance looked at Chrysalis. “Sure. But just one.” She passed Chrysalis her drink and walked out onto the dance floor with him as a simple tune started, other couples joining them once somepony had broken the ice and occupied the dance floor for the first time.

Chrysalis frowned. She wasn’t sure why. It shouldn’t have bothered her. She could tell that Cadance didn’t care for the stallion, any more than she cared for anypony else, but… seeing them dance together annoyed her.

She sipped at her drink, watching them. Cadance was a graceful dancer, better than Chrysalis would have imagined, almost like she was floating and barely touching the ground. Miller had clearly taken at least a few classes himself, though he was a bit stiff compared to the princess.

After Miller, another pony asked for a dance, and Cadance obliged. The mare, a cute pegasus, took her into the air for a whirling spin around the dance floor. When they parted, Cadance ended up with one of the Yaks, letting him lead her on what was clearly a very practiced rendition of a formal dance, the Yak moving precisely to a rhythm just slightly off of the music.

Chrysalis took another pull from her drink and found it empty. She looked at the bottom of the glass wondering how all the vodka had managed to get inside her already. At least it felt warm, even if she was a little sick. And that was probably just the vodka too. It had nothing to do with watching Cadance dance with another pony, this time a tall stallion with the elaborate jewelry of the Saddle Arabians.

“It shouldn’t matter,” Chrysalis muttered to herself. They were, after all, just friends. If that. Cadance didn’t know anything about her.

For a moment, her reflection in the bottom of the glass looked like what she really was. Twisted, black chitin and a patchy mane. A monster. If Cadance knew what she looked like, they wouldn’t be friends. They wouldn’t even be a princess and a bodyguard. They’d be enemies. That was just the way things worked.

“Are you okay?” Cadance asked. Chrysalis blinked. She hadn’t heard the music wind down. She glanced at her reflection in the mirror behind the bar. Despite what she’d seen in the glass, her disguise was still holding up.

Of course, she’d had a lot of practice hiding what she was.

“I’m fine,” Chrysalis snapped, a little more annoyance in her voice than necessary. She felt bad about it immediately, but Cadance just looked at her with obvious worry.

“Are you sure?” She took her glass back, stepping closer to Chrysalis and looking into her eyes. “You look tired.”

“It’s… just been a long trip,” Chrysalis said. “Sorry. I promised I wouldn’t keep you from having fun, and I meant it. I’ll be okay. I just need to wait for the vodka to work its way out of me.”

“If you say so,” Cadance sighed.

“I’m tougher than I look.” Chrysalis leaned against the bar. “You don’t need to worry about me. Worrying is what I’m paid to do, remember?”

“I suppose,” Cadance admitted. She put her drink down on the bar. “But I wanted you to have some fun too. Speaking of which, I think you owe me a dance.”

Chrysalis scoffed. “You haven’t had enough already? I’m probably the worst dancer in the room. I’ve got four left hooves, I can’t fly, and I’ve never taken any classes. I’d be a pretty awful bodyguard if I ended up bruising your hooves stepping all over them.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Cadance said, firmly. “A dance isn’t about being good at dancing, and it doesn’t reflect the type of pony you are. Just look at the ponies I danced with so far…” She nodded across the room.

“Miller learned how to dance in finishing school, but he hasn’t really kept up with it. He only knows older dances, which is fine for impressing business partners, but he doesn’t enjoy it. It’s just another part of doing business for him, not fun.”

She looked at the pegasus, who was dancing with two more partners now. “Raven Wing is only here because her father wanted her to come and be seen with all these important ponies. Dancing with me was just so she’d have a story to tell later when she’s with her real friends.”

Her gaze drifted over to the Yak. “Ambassador Cowron is the most important yak in the entire delegation, and he wanted to show that he respects our traditions. He practiced that dance for weeks to make sure it was exactly perfect, though he didn’t seem to notice we were dancing to a slightly different tune.” She paused. “Or he was too worried to change, with how focused he was on the details.”

“And the Saddle Arabian?” Chrysalis asked, curious now.

“He’s a prince, and not into mares at all. Their culture doesn’t really allow for that in public, though, and he’s an old friend. We have something of a standing agreement that we’ll always dance, to let him save face… even though he’s actually here with his coltfriend.” Cadance waved across the room to the prince, who was standing very close to a pony who Chrysalis wouldn’t have been able to place as colt or mare unless she’d been told in advance.

“It sounds like you already know everypony here,” Chrysalis said. She was starting to feel stupid. It was just like Stone Soup had said - they didn’t tell her anything.

“Almost everypony.” Cadance turned to her. “It comes with being a diplomat. Every country sends the same few ambassadors to all these events. We get to know each other even when we don’t try. I was hoping I could introduce you to some griffons, but they aren’t coming after all. The Emperor doesn’t want ambassadors to be seen at an event like this when they’ve been pushing for a military buildup to fend off the Zebrican irregulars in Ibexiland.”

“This whole thing isn’t exactly what I expected,” Chrysalis admitted.

“I hope not. Most ponies would be terrified to know how much diplomacy is just a social club where we pass on messages from our bosses.” Cadance smiled. “Now come on. I still want a dance from you. It’s not often enough that I get to have a dance that actually means something, instead of being just a story for a kid, or a cost of doing business, or arranged by a government.”

“Cadance…” Chrysalis hesitated.

“Don’t worry. They have a saying here in Stalliongrad - what you can’t do while sober, you can excel at with vodka. With how much you’ve had, you might be surprised how much better you are.”

“Just one dance,” Chrysalis relented.

“Just one,” Cadance nodded, holding her hoof and pulling her onto the dance floor. As if by some pre-arranged signal, the music switched to something slow and simple. A waltz. Cadance pulled Chrysalis closer. “Just let me lead. I asked for them to take it easy once I got on the dance floor with the most attractive mare in the room.”

“That’s cruel,” Chrysalis said. “I don’t think they’d let you bring a mirror out here with you.”

“Ooh. Cheeky.” Cadance smiled sweetly as she moved through a circle with Chrysalis, spinning her with gentle strength. “We both know you’re not humble enough for that, though, which means you’re just flirting.”

“I’m a terrible flirt,” Chrysalis admitted.

“No, you’re actually pretty good at it.” They’d gotten near the center of the dance floor now, couples making way as the pair kept dancing even as the music changed to a new tune.

“I thought we were only having one dance,” Chrysalis said, though she wasn’t making a move to end it.

“It only counts as one as long as we don’t stop,” Cadance whispered.

Stone Soup had been right about vodka keeping the cold away. Chrysalis barely felt it out on the balcony, though maybe the company was helping. Cadance pointed to the stars above.

“...That one’s called the Lady. Those stars frame her face, the really bright one is her eye, and if it’s really dark, you can see these streams of faint light like a mane flowing down around her.” Cadance lowered her hoof. “They say that ponies born while the Lady is high in the sky are gifted with grace and natural nobility.”

“Where I come from that’s called the Fox.The streams are its tail.” Chrysalis smirked. “It’s a symbol of cunning and trickery.”

“I’ve never heard of it being called that,” Cadance tilted her head. “One of these days you have to tell me about where you’re from.”

“You wouldn’t want to hear about it,” Chrysalis said. “Like I said, I came here to find a better life. It’s not exactly like I imagined, but I’m starting to enjoy it.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Cadance said. She shivered and leaned into Chrysalis. “The reception is almost over. It’s probably best for us to take our leave. We’re only guests, after all, and a lot of ponies wouldn’t feel right leaving before a princess.”

“Sure,” Chrysalis said. Cadance pulled away, and the cold wind hit her like a brick. The disguised changeling shivered and followed the young princess back inside, shadowing her as she let her hosts know that she was retiring for the night.

The noise and bustle of the conference faded behind them, and the sickly fake emotions went with them. Chrysalis was already feeling better. She’d have to get used to it if she was going to be guarding Cadance for long, but she didn’t have to enjoy it.

“Are you okay?” Cadance asked, looking back with a worried expression. “You’ve been quiet ever since the dance.”

“Just tired,” Chrysalis said. “It’s a new job, having to keep track of one pony in a crowded room. It’s a lot different from being on patrol or making sure ponies don’t wander through a door into a restricted part of the castle.”

“I thought you did well.” Cadance smiled. “Flash, my last guard… he couldn’t get over the whole Princess thing. He’d never speak to me like I was a pony, and I could hardly keep him from saluting the whole time I was in the room.”

“Celestia likes her guards to be like that, show her deference, that sort of thing,” Chrysalis shrugged. “Or at least that’s what I hear. I never spoke with her.”

“The first time we met you almost seemed terrified at the prospect of meeting Celestia. She’s not that bad, you know. More like a distant aunt than a goddess.” Cadance giggled. “Maybe I have a different perspective on it, though.”

“Where I came from, we heard all the old stories,” Chrysalis said, her voice lowering. “I don’t think anyone in Equestria knows them, anymore. All the monsters she killed, the enemies she brought to ruin. Ponies here love her, because she protects them, and they’ve forgotten that she once burned a country to ashes to do it.”

“I’ve never heard of her doing anything like that…” Cadance’s pace slowed. “You don’t think I’m like that, do you?”

“No, of course not,” Chrysalis scoffed. “You’re much too soft for it. I don’t think you have it in you to actually hurt somepony.”

“You say that almost like it’s a bad thing.”

“It’s not.” Chrysalis stepped in front of her, turning to look at her. “You’re a good pony. Maybe the best one I’ve ever met. I thought I wanted a posting in the castle, but right now, I wouldn’t trade this for anything. Despite the hangover I’m going to have in the morning.”

Cadance smiled. “You might have wanted to chase after a handsome stallion, but you make a pretty decent one yourself.”

“I should be insulted!” Chrysalis huffed jokingly. “A stallion doesn’t have flanks like mine.”

Chrysalis turned to the side and wiggled her hips. Cadance giggled and flapped her wings, getting ahead of her. “You know, there aren’t a lot of guards in this part of the palace. I could get into a lot of trouble.”

“That’s what I’m here for.” Chrysalis stepped towards her, and Cadance shied away.

“And we have to stick close together, right?” Cadance asked, flapping her wings again. She turned away from Chrysalis and flicked her tail.

Chrysalis nodded. “Very close.”

“Then you’re going to have to catch me~” Cadance teased, before she bolted. Chrysalis was stunned for a moment, then grinned, feeling her instincts kick in. She ran after the fleeing pony, skidding on the marble floors of the palace as they got back to the guest rooms. Cadance kept slowing down just enough for Cadance to keep up on hoof. The changeling kept almost catching her, and then Cadance would escape with a wiggle of her butt and a flap of her wings.

“I’ll get you!” Chrysalis hissed, charging up a spell. Cadance looked back and stopped, suddenly alone in the hallway.

“Chrysalis?” She asked, blinking. “I didn’t think I was that far ahead…”

There was a distortion in the air, and she was suddenly tackled by an unseen form. Cadance was flat on her back on the ground as a shimmering shape materialized over her.

“Got you,” Chrysalis said, as she was revealed, panting and flush with excitement over the chase. Cadance looked up at her, breathing heavily, her cheeks red.

“That was a pretty good spell. Invisibility is tough to master,” Cadance said.

“It’s easier if you stay still,” Chrysalis said. “The faster you move, the less effective the active camouflage is.”

“But you know, I can think of all sorts of uses for it. You could sneak into somepony’s room for a secret meeting, or pilfer a few slices of Celestia’s cake, or even do things right in the corridors that are completely improper~”

“You’d have to be very quiet to avoid getting caught,” Chrysalis whispered.

“A princess has to pride herself on self control,” Cadance said, her voice low. “You’d be surprised at what I can withstand.”

Chrysalis leaned in closer. “Royal guards are trained to remain silent no matter what.”

“Oh really?” Cadance lifted her head, her nose only inches from Chrysalis’. “Because I can think of a few things that would probably make you scream~”

There was a cough from the end of the hallway. Cadance and Chrysalis turned their heads towards the sound, and found themselves looking at two of the palace guards, both of them carefully not looking at the scene only a dozen paces away from their post. Despite how stoic they were pretending to be, both were blushing hard enough to turn their cheeks almost beet-red.

“I-I was just helping her up!” Chrysalis said quickly. “After she fell!”

‘Y-yes, that’s all it is,” Cadance agreed. “Thank you, Chrysalis. For helping me up! After I fell!”

Chrysalis quickly stepped back, helping the fallen princess to her hooves. Cadance adjusted her dress, which had fallen rather invitingly open, and trotted quickly away from the guards. Chrysalis watched her go for a moment, then quickly scrambled after her, both of them leaving their dignity where it had fallen, mortally wounded.

“I can’t believe we did that,” Cadance laughed, as they reached their rooms. “Right where those guards could see us!”

“I guess a cute mare can really affect my operational awareness,” Chrysalis lamented. “I should have seen them standing there. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?” Cadance smiled. “That was fun. Sometimes the risk of getting caught just makes it more exciting.”

“Well, you’re a princess. You’ve got a reputation to keep up,” Chrysalis said. “I think it might cause riots in the street if ponies found out Celestia was keeping a secret harem.”

“Please,” Cadance giggled. “She’s terrified of physical relationships. She’d have a secret pâtissier, not a secret harem.”

“Not much like you at all, then,” Chrysalis said. She looked up at the doorways. “Well, guess we’re back. This is your room.”

“Yep. My room,” Cadance said, fluttering her wings. Chrysalis could taste a strand of nervousness. “You know, it’s not that late. You could come in, we could have some coffee brought up…”

Chrysalis hesitated, surprisingly tempted by the offer. After what happened in the hallway, it might start with coffee, but it wasn’t likely to end there.

She opened her mouth to say something, and felt her throat dry as she remembered what she’d briefly seen at the bottom of a stiff drink. She wasn’t a pony. She was a monster, and the only reason Cadance was putting up with her was because she could pretend otherwise. Strip away her disguise, and the princess would be screaming for the palace guard to arrest her instead of inviting her in.

“I… it’s probably not a good idea,” Chrysalis sighed, turning away. “I’ll be across the hallway if you need me.”

“What’s wrong?” Cadance asked, her chest tight with worry.

“It’s nothing you did. You’re… perfect.” Except maybe for the pink. It was still Chrysalis’ least favorite color, but it was starting to grow on her. “It just isn’t a good idea for you to associate with me.”

“I think I should at least get some say in that,” Cadance pouted.

“It’s my job to protect you, even from me,” Chrysalis smirked. “I know my flank is irresistible.”

“Was I moving too fast?” Cadance sighed.

“It’s just…” Chrysalis closed her eyes. “If you knew the real me, you wouldn’t want to get close. Definitely not the sort of pony you’d want to show off to Princess Celestia.”

“I don’t need her approval.” Cadance stepped closer. “I think I’ve seen enough of the real you to know who you are. If you’re that worried, though, what if we take things a little slower?”

“How?” Chrysalis asked.

“There’s no rush back to Canterlot. We can make a few stops along the way to stretch our legs, maybe have a nice dinner in Vanhoover? I think they’ll let us in even without reservations.”

“I’d like that,” Chrysalis said, quietly. Cadance stepped closer and kissed her cheek.

“I might not be able to feel your emotions, but I can still tell how you feel. I’m not blind. Whatever you want to tell me, I’ll listen, and it can stay a secret between us.”

“I’ll… I’ll tell you everything, before we get back to Canterlot.” Chrysalis deflated at the kiss, tension leaving her. Resolve wasn’t quite ready to take its place, but it was coming along. “I need a little while to work up to it.”

“Okay,” Cadance smiled. “I can wait. You don’t have to tell me anything until you’re ready.”

“I’m never going to be ready,” Chrysalis muttered, as she lounged on her bed. She’d given up even trying to sleep. “Mom never really gave me a talk on how to reveal myself to a pony except with very loud words that involved the terms ‘never’ and ‘don’t’.”

She rolled over, unable to get comfortable. Everything was too hot or too cold and there wasn’t a comfortable middle ground between them. Worse, her disguise was starting to itch. She’d been stuck in the form for a long time, practically the whole airship ride up to Stalliongrad. Chrysalis hadn’t been able to find any scrying sensors in her quarters, but she was sure that just meant they were well-hidden.

In a flash of green fire, she dropped her disguise, stretching her legs.

“I could just never tell her,” she considered. “Keep it a secret forever. That’d be the safest thing. But I’d have to distance myself. Celestia could probably see through my disguise if she wanted, and being around Cadance would get me noticed.”

She rolled onto her belly, wings buzzing angrily. She didn’t like that idea, having to keep away from Cadance.

“Okay, what’s the worst that could happen if I tell her?” She slid off of the bed and walked over to the dresser, looking into the mirror. It had been a long time since she’d seen her own face. “She could kill me. Even if she didn’t mean to do it, if she panics, it’s not like I can fight an alicorn.”

That wasn’t likely, though. Cadance was just too nice to blast her into dust.

“Cadance would probably just panic, tell me that we could still be friends, and then want to stay as far away from me as possible. Maybe she’d feel guilty enough about it that she’d even keep my secret as long as I didn’t make any waves.”

Chrysalis picked up her armor. As ill-fitting as it was in her disguise, it wouldn’t even begin to fit her like this.

“If she didn’t reject me, though…” She considered. “That’s what I wanted all along, isn’t it? Someone who would love me for who I am. It was supposed to be some handsome stallion, but changelings are nothing if not adaptable.”

Chrysalis put the armor down carefully, slipping back into bed.

“I hope this isn’t a mistake,” she sighed. “I’ll wait until after that romantic dinner. That way if things go poorly…” She yawned, jaw cracking. “...At least I’ll have gotten a decent meal out of it, and it’ll be easier to leave in Vanhoover than Canterlot.”

Chrysalis grabbed a pillow and pulled it to her chest, drifting off to sleep and imagining she was hugging something softer and warmer, maybe with fluffy wings to wrap around her…

She awoke with a start, rolling off of the bed and to the floor before she was even properly awake. It took a few seconds for her brain to start putting things together. Something had happened, a loud crashing sound. It had been too distant to be in her room. It sounded more like it had come from across the hall.

“Cadance!” Chrysalis hissed. She ran for the door, grabbing the handle with a black hoof, and froze in place. She’d almost run right out without a disguise. She needed to be more careful than that. A wave of green fire consumed her, and she was in her usual guise again, familiar enough that she didn’t need to check it in the mirror.

She threw the door open and ran across the hall, grabbing for the doorknob. Locked.

“Tartarus…” It would take a few minutes to pick the lock. Something else broke inside the room. No time for being subtle, then. She stepped back and charged up magic along her horn, blasting the lock and shattering the wood around it. A kick did the rest, popping the door open.

“Cadance!” Chrysalis yelled. No point in trying to be quiet now after that display. The room was in shambles. Scorch marks littered the walls, and the window had been smashed. She pressed against a wall, looking for any sign of an intruder.

There was nothing. Just eerie silence and a chill infiltrating the palace through the broken glass. A gust blew through the room, and a crinkling sound caught Chrysalis’ attention. She spun around to face the threat and found a scroll on the bedside table, pinned in place by a curved dagger as long as her horn.

Chrysalis glanced around the room to confirm it was empty, then unrolled the scroll.

‘The Night Will Last Forever’

Author's Note:

I hope this is a more proper cliffhanger.

I admit, I mostly wrote this whole thing just so I could write this chapter and some soppy romance.

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