• Published 10th Mar 2021
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Paint the Sky - Flynt Coal



Having been adopted by human Celestia and her boyfriend Sable, the former Queen Chrysalis starts her new life in the human world. But she still has her old demons to contend with.

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Chapter 7 - Inner Demons

This was always the worst part: the anticipation. The Rose had become intimately familiar with pain ever since she had ended up in the cruel clutches of the black unicorn. As horrible as his attentions always were, even worse were the minutes leading up to the next time he grew bored enough to use her body as a plaything. The anticipation this time was arguably worse, and the black unicorn wasn’t even present.

The black unicorn’s seeming right hand—another one of these strange horse-like creatures who called herself Mangle-leg—led the Rose down into the dungeons on her king’s orders. Under the influence of what that wicked creature called “the Compulsion”, the Rose had no choice but to obey. She followed Mangle-leg through dark, dank corridors that stank of death and echoed with the lamentations of the poor souls who—like her—were trapped here. It made the Rose think of Hell.

They passed silent and terrified creatures in cages, and they were so emaciated the Rose did not even recognize them as ponies right away. A torture rack sat just to the side in her peripheral vision, stained with fresh blood. Next, they passed through a room lined with simple beds, about half of which were occupied. Said occupants were chained so tightly they could barely move, though that didn’t stop them from trying. More than one writhed and screamed, and the Rose took note of their bodies with growing dread. Their skin had been flayed and here and there replaced with some sort of black chitin.

Mangle-leg had stopped at one of the beds, and Rose could only watch—a passenger in her own body—as she surveyed its occupant. The pony in this bed was still breathing, but that was the only indication he was even alive. It wasn’t just his skin that had been replaced with patchwork black material. Two of his limbs appeared to have been replaced with black, hole-filled appendages. Worse, they appeared to be rotting away, turning an unnatural greenish white and dripping ichor. The Rose thought she could see something tiny wriggling around inside the holes.

“Kill me…kill me…” the pony begged as Mangle-leg inspected him.

“Rate of decay appears to have increased in Subject Six,” Mangle-leg muttered, quickly jotting down notes with the quill and ink set on the nearby table. She either didn’t hear the pony’s pleas or was merely ignoring them. “It would appear that the body has once again rejected the transplants. Will continue observation on Subject Six for another two days and then commence disposal.”

Kill me…” the pony said again, this time not looking at Mangle-leg, but at the Rose.

She didn’t have time to dwell on him, because Mangle-leg was already moving on, and Rose’s body followed. A tidal wave of fear washed over her as they came to a room with a pair of tables, a raised basin filled with water and shelves with a number of tools and implements she could not identify. What appeared to be blood stained the floor around both tables, one of which was empty and the other which had something on it covered by a tarp. Next to the empty table was a tray lined with a number of sharp tools.

“Here we are, then,” Mangle-leg said. “Strip and lie down on the table. Once I wash up, we’ll begin.”

Her body obeyed of its own accord. Now, here she lay naked on the table, strapped down too tightly to move even if she were in control of her own body. She was able to turn her head though, and she realized that this latest dose of Compulsion was beginning to wear off as she started to look around the room, her breath quickening with anxiety.

Mangle-leg removed the tarp from the table next to her, and what the Rose saw was a horror she couldn’t quite process. Whatever in God’s creation had made such a creature—she was no longer sure she was in the reach of God any further—was dead, its green serpentine eyes wide open and lifeless. Long, mangy cerulean hair framed its face, and a black chitinous horn matching its body protruded from its forehead. Its skin was the same black texture as what was grafted to those still screaming souls chained to the beds in the next room. The Rose knew what was about to happen to her, and a soft whimper escaped her throat—another sign the Compulsion was wearing off.

It was then that the shadows in the room began to twist and move, and the Rose’s terror doubled. She knew that he was here now. Soon, the shadows materialized into a horrifically all-too-familiar form, and standing in the room now was the black unicorn in all of his terrible glory.

Mangle-leg turned around and bowed without hesitation. “My king, I am honored by your presence.”

King Sombra nodded, gesturing for her to rise. “I see you are nearly ready to commence the experiment.”

“Yes, it is my hypothesis that the human’s body should be more receptive to the changeling grafts. Furthermore, using the body of a queen instead of mere drones should yield better results,” Mangle-leg explained, going on to elaborate more on her planned procedure using a lot of words the Rose didn’t understand.

The Rose. That was her name as the black unicorn’s slave; the life she had before seemed so vastly distant now that she could barely remember who she used to be. Then she looked at King Sombra’s face, and alongside the crippling fear and despair another emotion rose to join them. It was raw, seething hatred and with it came the clarity of mind to remember her real name.

Crisalide, she thought, glaring at King Sombra as he finally took notice of her. My name is Crisalide della Lucca and you will remember it when I return all the pain you have given me!

Subconsciously, Crisalide’s hands curled into fists, and seeing this, King Sombra frowned. “I believe she needs another dose of Compulsion, doctor.”

Pulling back Crisalide’s eyelids to inspect her pupils, Mangle-leg nodded. “Interesting, that dose wore off quicker than normal. Perhaps my apprentices provided me with a bad batch. I will administer another dose and look into it later, sire—no need for this...thing...to think on its own.”

Going to one of the shelves lining the wall, Mangle-leg quickly retrieved a vial of liquid and brought it to Crisalide. Covering her nose so Crisalide had no choice but to open her mouth, Mangle-leg forced the liquid down her throat. Crisalide knew better than to struggle after so many times, and very soon her body went limp, her restrained limbs no longer obeying her commands.

“Now, I know you requested more sedatives for your procedures, but I decided they would be better served on the front lines,” Sombra said, speaking to Mangle-leg but staring right into his pet Rose’s eyes. She could feel his hoof caress her face in the mockery of a lover’s touch. “I believe my Rose has the strength to endure the operation without it.” He then smiled a cruel smile. “It will be exceptionally painful, but what mare hasn’t suffered for the sake of beauty?”

Sombra let go of her face roughly and her head lolled to the side, once again putting the creature on the other table at the center of her gaze. The queen, Mangle-leg had called it...but a queen of what? It looked as if it ruled no kingdom, and it didn’t even look as if it were a queen of cats, as the term sometimes went back home. Either way, it did not look particularly royal now, but as Crisalide locked eyes with it, she felt something odd: even though it was clearly dead, Crisalide almost felt still living intelligence behind those green eyes. They were beautiful in their own way, and something about them actually gave her a modicum of comfort as Mangle-leg picked her tools from the nearby tray and got to work.

Mangle-leg hummed to herself as she commenced the operation, methodically cutting through flesh and sinew and sawing through bone. The pain was excruciating. Unbearable and constant. In those long hours, the pain comprised Crisalide’s entire world. It was like she was transported to another realm, where nothing existed but her agony. It was, for lack of a better word, Hell.

“Chrys….”

Tears streamed down her face, and Crisalide wanted to scream, but the Compulsion’s hold on her body was so tight that she could not make a sound. So Crisalide just lay there in her prison of agony as she looked into the eyes of the Queen; the closest thing to a friend she had in this terrible nightmare.

Chrysalis, it’s okay….

Her throat felt raw, which didn’t make sense because she still could not scream, but God knows she was trying.

Chrysalis!

Except she was screaming, Chrysalis realized. She was in bed, sweating through her blankets. Her arms, suddenly free of the Compulsion, flailing desperately to fight her way out of the nightmare. Still screaming, she struck true and felt her fist connect with something soft and alive.

OW! Chrysalis, CHRYSALIS! You’re okay!”

Chrysalis felt a pair of hands grab her wrists and hold them softly but firmly to stop her mad flailing. Her eyes adjusting to the dark, Chrysalis found herself looking into soft lilac eyes fraught with worry.

“It’s okay, Chrys. You were just having a nightmare,” Celestia said softly. She was sitting on the edge of Chrysalis’s bed just beside her wearing her pajamas, her face betraying utter heartbreak. At the door’s edge, silent but no less present, stood Sable, as if there to be a living shield for her. Chrysalis realized all at once that her screaming must have woken them up again, and she wondered what time it was.

“I…I’m sorry I-I….” Chrysalis couldn’t even finish her thought before she started sobbing violently, hugging her knees to her chest and burying her face in them.

She felt Celestia put her arms around her and hold her close, and rather than flinch away from the touch Chrysalis melted into it. At least she was making progress on that front.

“I know, I know, it’s okay. You’re safe,” Celestia whispered, holding her tight.

They stayed like that for a while, with Celestia holding Chrysalis while she cried her way through processing the trauma she had just so viscerally re-lived.

“That’s three nights in a row you’ve been having nightmares now,” Celestia said, brushing some of the hair out of Chrysalis’s face. “I don’t understand. You seemed to be getting better these past few weeks. Did something happen that would have triggered these nightmares?”

More like someone happened, Chrysalis thought, but didn’t say. She had decided not to tell them about her encounter with her false reflection a few nights ago. Chrysalis herself was still trying to wrap her mind around it, and it wasn’t like there was anything Celestia could have done to help anyways. No sense in making her worry any more than she already was.

“I don’t know,” Chrysalis just said.

“Well, a friend of mine—not Velvet—has a private therapy practice specializing in children dealing with trauma,” Celestia said. “I can call her in the morning and try to schedule an appointment.”

Chrysalis doubted that therapy was going to work for her particular situation, but nodded and said, “Okay.”

“Want me to get you some water?”

Her throat hurt from all of her apparent screaming, so Chrysalis nodded again and Sable left to get her water while Celestia continued to hold her.

As she sat there in the embrace, an idea came to Chrysalis. A therapist may not be able to help her, but she could think of one person who could. She elected to text her first thing in the morning; no sense in waking her now.

With that settled, Chrysalis’s mind once again went back to the night she first saw her dark reflection.

Chrysalis stood over the bathroom sink, looking in the mirror at the thing grinning back at her. It wore her face—the real one hidden behind her guise—and had just introduced itself with her name: Queen Chrysalis.

“I’m still dreaming,” Chrysalis muttered, closing her eyes as she tried to shake the cobwebs from her head.

“Oh, I assure you this is no dream,” the other said, and sure enough, Chrysalis opened her eyes to see her still there, gazing out at her through the bathroom mirror. “I’m as real as you are.”

“Okay, I’ll bite. How long have you been here?”

“I’ve been with you since the beginning. Since King Sombra’s mad scientist first grafted our bodies together.”

Chrysalis looked down at her hand, and then at the matching black chitinous hoof in the mirror. She had a pretty good idea about who this entity was, but that last statement confirmed it. Still, it just didn’t make sense.

“How could you be the original changeling queen from Mangle-leg’s experiments?” Chrysalis asked. “That creature was long dead when the surgery took place.”

“I told you my name, I expect you to use it—you’re already using it for yourself, after all!”

“News flash: Crisalide means Chrysalis in English!” She wisely left out that in older Italian dialects it referred to butterflies and moths in general, not the pupae stage. “I haven’t stolen your name, and I certainly didn’t ask for your body to be merged with mine!”

Regardless, Queen huffed in the mirror and continued.

“Well, to answer your question, the changeling hive mind is more than just a neural network for our kind to communicate,” the dead queen explained. “It also acts as data storage for the hive, not unlike the digital storage of computers in this world. Our culture, our history; all is stored in the records of the hive mind: including the minds of all who were a part of it.

“As queen, I should have been reborn in the body of one of my remaining drones after my death, but then Mangle-leg fused our bodies together, giving my original body life enough for my mind to seek it out. By the time I realized what went wrong, I was trapped. A passenger in my own body. I’m sure you can relate.”

Chrysalis pushed aside the horrible memories of being under the effect of the Compulsion. They would not serve her now. “If you’ve been with me all these years, why have you waited until now to reveal yourself?”

“The short answer is: I simply haven’t needed to until now,” the queen said.

“‘Until now,’ huh? What the hell do you want, anyway?” Chrysalis asked coldly.

Queen tsked and shook her head. “Such hostility. Is this the thanks I get for all I’ve done for you over the centuries?”

Chrysalis tilted her head. “All you’ve done for me?”

Her reflection mirrored Chrysalis’s head tilt, but the cruel smile on the queen’s face made the gesture seem almost mocking. “Saving your life, for starters,” she said. “When Sombra tossed our broken body into the molten metal of his forges, you had resigned yourself to death. Welcomed it, in fact. So, I took the reins and cast the cooling spell that saved us. I didn’t have to, you know. I could just as easily have let you die, while I would have been reborn from the hive mind’s annals in a body of my own.

“But I could feel the hatred in you. Your yearning for revenge. It was powerful. I wanted to see what you could do, and you didn’t disappoint. Under my guidance, you brought about a golden age for the changelings! We were powerful! We were feared!

“But then…you started to slip. You saw that prophecy of Sombra’s on that mirror and all of a sudden it was like you were just going through the motions. You bungled the takeover of Canterlot entirely, and then you became so single-minded in your pursuit of those Scions from the prophecy, you didn’t even notice how much of the hive was slipping out of our control. I must admit, I really regretted being in the passenger seat then.”

“So that’s what you want? To take back control of my body?” Chrysalis asked the queen. “Well, I hate to break it to you, but you can’t have it. I’m using it.”

“Hardly,” the queen muttered before addressing her much more directly. “But no, I don’t want to take control of my body from you, Crisalide. The two of us have accomplished far more together than we ever could have apart!” Brushing aside some of the stringy hair from her face, Queen gave Chrysalis an imploring look. “Despite our misgivings, I’m willing to let bygones be bygones if you’ll cooperate with me just like you have before. We have a lot of work to do: a hive to reclaim, for starters. After that, the world’s our oyster! Both of them, even!”

“Yeah, that’s a hard pass,” Chrysalis said, growing weary of this conversation. “I have my own life now, so do me a favor and stay out of it!”

“You call this a life?” Queen sneered. “I mean, just look at you. You were an immortal queen, once. Now, you’re…what? Going to school and making friends with little snot-nosed brats? Going on cute dates? Come now, we’re meant for greater things, Crisalide!”

“Yeah? Well too bad. I’m not going back to that life. This is my home now!” Chrysalis exclaimed, turning her back on the mirror and exiting the bathroom.

But the queen’s voice followed her out into the hall, still sounding like she was right next to her. “You can’t run from your destiny so easily, Crisalide! I wanted to work with you on this like before, but if you’re going to be stubborn, there are ways I can make life very unpleasant for you.”

Chrysalis’s veins went ice cold then. It wasn’t just the queen’s voice she could sense, but also her feelings and intentions. Queen was dead serious.

She could almost see the queen’s smile in her mind’s eye as she said, “Perhaps a few nights without sleep will get you to see things my way.”

Hours before Chrysalis would have her first conversation with the dead changeling queen in her head, a much louder and more heated “discussion” was taking place at a dining room table in one of the fancier homes in upper San Palomino.

WHAT I INVEST IN WITH MY COMPANY ISN’T ANY OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS!

IT IS MY FUCKING BUSINESS WHEN OUR FAMILY’S LIVELIHOOD IS AT STAKE….

OH, CUT THE BULLSHIT! YOU JUST CAN’T STAND NOT BEING IN CONTROL….”

…AND YOU HAVE AN ESTABLISHED PATTERN OF MAKING POOR INVESTMENTS!

…OF EVERY FACET OF OUR LIVES TWENTY-FOUR SEVEN!

Once again Diamond Tiara found herself in the position of a non-combatant caught up in the middle of an all-out war. The kind of nameless soul who would be referred to as “collateral damage” in the news coverage after the fact. She sighed: she’d already put in her earbuds and had started listening to whatever the iTunes shuffle gods would send her the moment she sensed escalation in her parents’ dinnertime talk. It was something she’d developed a keen sense for in recent years. Now though, the dulcet tones of Midnight Moondust were not enough to drown out her parents’ voices. So, Diamond did what any sensible civilian would do in the middle of an armed conflict and made her retreat, taking her plate of dinner with her.

Diamond already knew how this particular battle was going to end, having been a veteran of so many like it. Her father would go and sulk in his home office, where he would remain for the duration of the night, and her mother would open up a bottle (or two) of wine that she’d finish off in a short hour. Diamond’s parents didn’t even seem to notice her leaving the room, which was fine by her. They didn’t pay her much attention at all these days, unless it was to lecture her poor grades and whatever other ways she was a disappointment. Her mother still hadn’t forgiven her for not scoring high enough to get into Zacherle.

She shut the door to her bedroom and finished off her dinner seated at her vanity table. She then sat back against the headboard of her bed, computer in her lap and her stuffed dog Wolfy under her arm. More than once her mother had insisted that she throw the stuffed toy out, telling Diamond that she was getting too old for “kids’ stuff.” Diamond didn’t care much for kids’ stuff herself and had donated most of her old toys on her mother’s suggestion, but just couldn’t bring herself to get rid of Wolfy.

Wolfy had been her mother’s gift to her on the first birthday she could remember and had been her favorite toy ever since. The stuffed toy was worn out over the years and clashed horribly with Diamond’s pristine room of whites and pinks, but she still held it close every night. As silly as it seemed, it made her feel safe. Reminded her of a simpler time when her mother and father still tucked her in and kissed her goodnight. A time when her every desire wasn’t measured by how it would benefit her future.

Diamond’s little nostalgia trip was interrupted by the telltale jingle of an incoming Zoom call, and to her mild surprise it was Cozy Glow calling her. She was almost never the one to start a call.

“Heya Cozy,” Diamond said, making sure to place Wolfy out of frame before turning on her camera. She had an image to maintain, after all—even to her friends.

“Hiya, Di!” Cozy said with a big, sweet smile. “Wanna see something interesting?”

Mildly confused, but a little intrigued, Diamond said, “Sure.”

“Okay, I put a link to my Cloud in chat,” Cozy said, and Diamond went looking for it as she continued, “When I was out on a date at Scoops today, I ran into a very nice little boy with something very interesting on his camera!”

Diamond opened Cozy’s link and pressed play on the video she saw there. When she saw the massive wolf, her eyes flicked over to the stuffed toy at her side. Then the wolf in the video changed, and Diamond realized why Cozy was showing her this.

“Is that…?”

“Chrysalis? Looks like it,” Cozy said.

Diamond played the video again, trying to make sense of it. The rational part of her mind wanted to explain it away as special effects, but deep down she knew it was more than that. Because she’d seen Chrysalis transform herself, hadn’t she? Diamond’s hand again reached up and touched her throat when she remembered her last conversation with the girl weeks ago. The memory had haunted her ever since, both because of what Chrysalis had said and what Diamond had glimpsed. The fangs Chrysalis had borne hadn’t been there before, of that Diamond was certain. And what she’d said to her rang true.

I’ve taken lives before…. Killing you right now would barely even require any effort.

Diamond could no longer lie to herself: the girl terrified her. Yet, whenever she pondered how she would get revenge for her humiliation, a different kind of feeling clenched her throat. She remembered coming home the day she’d first befriended Chrysalis, actually smiling when she told her mom, “I made a new friend today!”

But her mother had taught her years ago that in her position—as the princess of a billion-dollar corporate empire—she had to be careful about who she made friends with. Her “friendship” with Apple Bloom had been a cold but necessary wakeup call.

So, Diamond’s mother had replied to her saying, “Who is this new friend, and how do you plan to gain from them?”

For a brief moment, Diamond’s knee-jerk instinct had been to lash out at her mother. To ask her, “Why can’t I just be her friend because I like her?!”

Fortunately, Diamond had enough self-control to quash that instinct before the words could leave her lips. Her mother had already appeared to be in a bad mood, so Diamond had instead explained her plan to use Chrysalis to get close to Sunset Shimmer. Her mother had simply “hmphed,” but apparently found it acceptable as she hadn’t pushed any farther on the subject.

Even now, Diamond didn’t know why her first instinct had been to defend Chrysalis to her mother, and she certainly didn’t understand why that memory kept coming back whenever she contemplated what to do about her. If Chrysalis really was a monster like Diamond suspected (especially now that she had video proof), she shouldn’t be feeling so torn.

“So Di, do you think you can use it?” Cozy Glow’s voice brought Diamond back to the present.

“Don’t know. It honestly looks like nothing. Probably that kid’s home movie special effects project, or something,” Diamond said, not believing her own words. “There’s no such thing as monsters.”

“If you say so,” Cozy said with a shrug. “I’ll keep it in the Cloud. Just in case you change your mind!”

“Chrys. Hey!

Scootaloo’s voice, combined with the sharp jostling of her shoulder brought Chrysalis out of the dreamless trance she’d been in: not quite asleep, but not entirely awake. Trying to blink some clarity back into her eyes, Chrysalis looked around, her foggy mind trying to remember where she was. She was in Ms. Fossil’s history class, which meant it must have been Tuesday morning.

Standing over her was Scootaloo, who looked at her with mild concern. “You coming? Class is over.”

Chrysalis cursed. She didn’t remember a single thing they’d covered that class. “Can I borrow your notes from today?” Chrysalis asked, her voice sounding hoarse in her ears.

“Yeah dude, of course.”

“Thanks,” Chrysalis said, taking the offered sheets of paper from Scootaloo’s hand as she stood from her desk.

As she exited the classroom with Scootaloo, it occurred to Chrysalis that the two of them had completely swapped roles from her first day in this very class. Instead of Chrysalis helping out an over-tired Scootaloo who was dead to the world, it was the other way around. The thought wasn’t as amusing as she thought it should be.

Feeling like a drained husk, Chrysalis drifted through the halls of the school like a zombie or something similarly half-dead. She was so tired, but with sleep came nightmares, which in turn broke up her sleep. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could go on like this.

You don’t have to keep going on like this, said the voice in her head, and Chrysalis wasn’t sure if it was really Queen or just her own subconscious. Just do what I say and you’ll be able to rest again.

Whatever the true source of the thoughts was, Chrysalis forced herself to ignore them. She would be seeing Sunset Shimmer after school today, and she’d surely know a way to fix this.

AAH! Chrysalis heard somebody shout as she walked right into something she belatedly realized was a person. She squinted her eyes, forcing them to focus on the form of Vice Principal Neighsay. Right away, Chrysalis noticed two things. First, that the vice principal was lecturing her in a raised voice, and two, that his maroon suit jacket was stained with fresh coffee from the thermos in his hand.

“…you need to pay more attention. Just because you’re familiar with the principal and your guardian is the superintendent does not mean you can just drift through school with your head in the clouds!” Neighsay exclaimed, trying desperately to wipe down his stained jacket with a tissue he’d pulled out of his pocket. “What do you have to say for yourself, young lady?”

“Ugh, who does this fool think he is to lecture us?” There was no question that this voice in her mind was Queen. The entity she shared a mind with had become far more talkative throughout her daily life ever since she first made herself known three nights ago, and it was driving Chrysalis insane as much as her sleep deprivation was. “The old Queen Chrysalis would have struck him down where he stands! Come on, Chrys. I know that killer instinct is still in here somewhere!”

“Shut up shut up SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

Neighsay stared at her with wide-eyed disbelief. “What did you just say to me?!”

Chrysalis suddenly felt more awake than she had in days. “N-no, wait! I wasn’t talking to you I was….”

“Detention, Ms. Chrysalis. My office, after school,” said Neighsay, visibly containing his fury as much as he could as he brushed past Chrysalis and continued on his way.

Chrysalis clenched her fists hard, resisting the overwhelming urge to punch the locker beside her and scream out all of her rage and frustration. What ultimately kept her restrained was the thought of the entity in her mind hoping for her to do exactly that: to keep alienating the people around her.

“I’m sure you loved that, didn’t you?” she muttered.

“Chrys?”

She looked over to see not only Scootaloo standing at her side, but Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle as well. She wasn’t sure how long exactly they’d been there.

“Is something wrong?” Apple Bloom asked. “You’ve been acting funny since yesterday.”

“And you look like shit,” Scootaloo said as tactlessly as ever. It was a fair point.

“Really, Scoots?” Sweetie Belle drolled.

“No, that’s fair,” Chrysalis said. “I probably look about as good as I feel.”

Apple Bloom put a hand on her shoulder. “Seriously, what’s going on with you?”

Chrysalis opened her mouth to create some excuse. Or just insist that everything was fine.

“Yes, that’s it. Just lie right to their faces,” the Queen said. “That is what your entire ‘friendship’ is built on, after all.”

Chrysalis ignored her this time and said, “I think I’m losing my goddamn mind and I just…” she buried her face in her hand and sighed. “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do….”

The bell for the next period classes rang, but none of her friends rushed to get there.

“Well, just talk us through it. Maybe we can help,” Sweetie said.

Chrysalis told them as much as she could about the nightmares and sleepless nights without getting into any of the magical changeling stuff.

After she finished, she added, “I’m seeing a friend today who should be able to help. And if that doesn’t work, my mom scheduled a therapist appointment for me tomorrow after school.” She then tried her hardest to give her friends a smile. “I’ll be okay, really.”

Her friends didn’t look convinced. “Okay, if you say so,” Apple Bloom said.

She then said, “See you later,” to her friends as she made her way to her math class, already knowing she would get in trouble for being late but not particularly caring: she already had detention today anyway.



Another unusual change from the previous week had once again presented itself at lunch later in the day. Starting that week, whenever Chrysalis happened to meet Diamond Tiara’s eyes in the cafeteria, something about her former friend’s behavior toward her seemed somehow different. Previously, when Chrysalis and Diamond would lock eyes, all it took was a good glare from Chrysalis to make the girl shrink away. Only when Diamond believed Chrysalis was no longer paying attention to her would she level a scornful glare her way.

But ever since Monday, Diamond Tiara’s hateful stares no longer held such intensity. Instead, Diamond simply regarded her the way a person might look at a math problem on the page in front of them. Chrysalis didn’t know what had changed, but she could see the gears turning in Diamond’s head, and she had the sneaking suspicion that the problem she was trying to solve was Chrysalis herself. It was mildly unsettling, but Chrysalis decided it was best to ignore her. She had a problem of her own that she was focused on solving.

That problem smiled and waved to her from another table. None of the other kids noticed the misshapen form of the changeling queen sitting among them, but Chrysalis could see her, despite her features being fuzzy and unfocused. Chrysalis felt like she still had one foot in a dream, and she did her best to ignore the queen, dismissing her as exactly that.

She tried to turn her attention to the notes from class Scootaloo had lent her, but no matter how hard she tried she just couldn’t make sense of them. It was like her brain had simply stopped being capable of reading words on a page, so desperate it was for sleep. Chrysalis shut her eyes and pounded her head with her fist a few times, but when she opened her eyes again the words on the page in front of her were still fuzzy scribbles.

“Having trouble reading Scootaloo’s notes?” Apple Bloom asked.

“Yeah, I guess I’m more exhausted than I thought,” Chrysalis said.

“Oh, trust me, that has nothing to do with you being sleep-deprived. I don’t think there’s a soul alive who can read Scootaloo’s chickenscratch.”

In spite of everything, Chrysalis laughed.

Thanks to her detention with Mr. Neighsay, Chrysalis didn’t arrive at Sunset Shimmer’s manor until a little later in the afternoon than she had wanted, but Sunset assured her that it was no trouble. Now, Chrysalis lay on the couch in Sunset’s living room, staring at the ceiling like a stereotypical patient in a therapy session. It was good practice for tomorrow, Chrysalis supposed, but what she was doing now was a very different sort of therapy.

Sunset Shimmer knelt beside her; her hand alight with arcane power as she placed it on Chrysalis’s forehead. As Sunset had instructed, Chrysalis lay still and cleared her mind as best she could. She wasn’t sure how long they had stayed like that before Sunset removed her hand and indicated that it was okay for Chrysalis to sit up.

“Well?” she asked, a touch hopeful.

Sunset sighed. “The mental scan I just did was very thorough…but ultimately found no trace of another entity or any kind of foreign magic, for that matter.”

Chrysalis felt a cold pit in her stomach open up. “But…how can that be?” A rather disturbing thought occurred to her. “You don’t think that I’m just…going crazy, do you? That there really isn’t a dead changeling queen occupying my mind and it’s just something my fucked up, traumatized brain conjured up on its own?”

“Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” said the voice in her head

As expected, Sunset answered like she hadn’t heard it. “I mean this in the best possible way, Chrys, but…maybe don’t rule that option out just yet.”

“I don’t know Sunny, I think there really is some entity living in her brain,” Octavia said. Both she and Twilight were in the room too, both of them too concerned for Chrysalis to be kept out. “I hardly need to remind you that Melody managed to elude you the entire time she was trapped in my mind.”

“Exactly, and I know firsthand how much damage nightmares from a magical source can do,” Twilight said, looking at Chrysalis. The girl’s sympathetic gaze was haunted by memories of such a horrible period of her life. “I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.”

“There must be something more you can do,” Chrysalis said, looking to Sunset, trying to keep her voice calm even as she was all but pleading. “Something as powerful as a changeling queen would have to leave some trace of itself if it really is in my mind.”

“Oh, you flatter me, Crisalide.”

“Well, if I probe any deeper I could actually be doing more harm than good,” Sunset explained. Seeing that Octavia was about to protest, Sunset added, “Yes, I know now that I wasn’t the one who broke your mind in half when I tried to flush the Vibe out of your system, Tavi. But the fact that she only appeared after then means that I probably still woke her up.”

The queen chuckled. “You see? Even she can’t help you. The sooner you come to terms with your destiny, the easier this will be for both of us.”

“Yeah, but this changeling queen is already very much awake, and won’t SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Chrysalis looked anxiously at Sunset and the others. “Sorry.”

“I know you’re frustrated, Chrys, but I’m doing everything I can,” Sunset said. “The fact is changeling magic is just too much of an unknown factor even for someone as powerful as me.”

Chrysalis figured she must have looked pretty pathetic in that moment, because Sunset immediately put an arm around her and said, “Hey, I haven’t given up yet, okay? I’m going to contact Twilight and see if she can dig anything up on her end. In the meantime, you’re just going to have to hang in there. I can throw up some protective enchantments designed to protect your mind, but considering I couldn’t detect anything in the first place, I don’t know if that’ll even work. I’m sorry, I know that isn’t what you wanted to hear.”

“No, it’s okay,” Chrysalis mumbled. “Thank you.”

“Also, if the therapist you’re seeing tomorrow prescribes you medication, it might actually help. It did for me,” Octavia said. “The meds made me feel like shit, but they were able to keep Melody quiet. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for you too.”

That made Chrysalis feel a little better. “Couldn’t hurt.”

Of course, Chrysalis realized she was going to have to come up with something to tell the therapist she was seeing tomorrow. She certainly couldn’t tell them the truth. Either way, she still needed to get through another night first.

As Chrysalis undressed in her room to go to sleep for the night, she caught a glimpse of her body in the mirror atop her dresser. Once again, her reflection resembled her true mismatched body under the guise she always kept up, and a quick glance down at her own body at least confirmed that it was still up. Once again, she felt the eyes of the queen slithering up and down her form and Chrysalis hastily turned away.

“Come now, Crisalide. When are you going to stop running from yourself?”

“I’m not running,” Chrysalis spat.

“Yes you are. You’ve been running ever since you went back through the portal.”

Chrysalis chose not to dignify that with a response.

“Oh? Care to prove me wrong? Then turn around and take a good, hard look at yourself.”

Sighing, Chrysalis turned and faced the mirror. Anything to get the bitch in her head to stop talking. Her reflection once again showed nothing more than an ordinary teenage girl in nothing but her underwear. The version of herself she wanted to be. The version she knew was a lie. So, knowing what the queen wanted from her, she focused on her changeling powers and allowed their green flames to wash over her, revealing her true form.

It was the first time in millennia that Chrysalis had really looked at her nearly naked body as it really was. She looked hard at the hooves that made up her left arm and right leg. At the rotted scars and dead flesh where black chitin met pasty skin. At the sickly green carapace of her midsection, from which spread more black chitin over her left hip and right breast. At the pockmarked gossamer wings from her back and the bent horn from her head. She imagined this was how Frankenstein’s monster would have looked had the effects not been limited by the technology of their time.

“See?” said the queen, appearing behind Chrysalis in the mirror as a second monster. Chrysalis knew that there wasn’t really anybody behind her but could still feel the queen’s hand on her shoulder. “Is the real you truly so hard to accept?”

Chrysalis brushed the hand that wasn’t there off her shoulder, changing back to normal. “I’m going to bed now.”

“Of course,” the queen said with a smirk. “Pleasant dreams.”

As expected, they were anything but. Chrysalis was out nearly the second her head hit her pillow. From there, the waking world became a distant dream, and the world of dreams became her reality.

She waited patiently in a cave dimly lit with bioluminescent crystal beneath the shining capital of Equestria. The wheels of her plan were turning. The three bridesmares whose minds she’d enchanted will have laid her trap by now. All Chrysalis needed to do was wait. She didn’t need to wait long. In a flash of green spellfire, her target fell in a pink heap to the cave floor at Chrysalis’s hooves.

“Well, well. Princess Cadance, I presume,” Chrysalis said with a sneer.

The young alicorn was still disoriented as she climbed to her feet but managed to focus her gaze on Chrysalis. “You...you’re the one who threatened Canterlot!”

“My, aren’t you a sharp one?” Chrysalis teased as Cadance tried to blast her with a beam of pure concentrated magic. Chrysalis deflected it with ease. “Not sharp enough, though.”

As Chrysalis’s changeling intelligence had confirmed, the young princess was ill-trained in combat of any kind, preferring diplomacy and empathy over violence. Chrysalis elected to teach her the error of such folly and hit her with a blast of changeling magic designed to inflict pain. With a cry of anguish, Cadance was knocked off her hooves and sent sprawling to the cave floor. She flung more magic beams at Chrysalis in a desperate bid to buy herself breathing room as she tried to stand again. The attacks were even more telegraphed than her initial spell, and Chrysalis made a show of deflecting them effortlessly.

Cadance hadn’t even managed to regain her footing before Chrysalis struck again, blasting the hapless princess into the cave wall with another beam of changeling magic. Then with lightning speed, she flew straight at the injured princess and pinned her against the wall, her smile as wide as her eyes. This princess had a heart so full of love she alone could probably feed the whole hive for years. Chrysalis’s plan would feed it for all time, however. Still, she saw no reason not to indulge in a little feeding of her own right now. She licked her lips in anticipation as her eyes began their own feast on the meat in front of her.

The young princess’s eyes widened in terror and her horn started to glow again. Rather than the obviously telegraphed attack that Chrysalis had expected, the glow of Cadance’s horn simply grew brighter and brighter until Chrysalis was thrown back from an explosion of raw, unfocused magic. Chrysalis had to admit that she may have gotten a tad overconfident as she hit the cave floor several feet away.

Chrysalis was back up quickly, however, and it didn’t take her long to acquire her target. Rather than try to continue to fight, Cadance had taken to the air and was now frantically searching for an escape. Chrysalis had prepared for this possibility, though. The cavern they were currently in was completely sealed, the only way in or out was through the changeling teleportation spell that she and her thralls had set up.

So, Chrysalis took to the air after Cadance, whose eyes widened when she saw her coming. The princess tried to dive and evade her, but Chrysalis moved to intercept, and the two of them collided in a tangle of limbs and crashed down to the cave floor once again.

Chrysalis wasted no time pinning the alicorn down as she sank her fangs into her neck. Cadance screamed and Chrysalis moaned as she sucked up the raw emotional energy of the alicorn. In that moment of near-intimacy, Chrysalis understood the princess far better than the best changeling intelligence could offer her. Chrysalis drank deep from her feelings of love and adoration for her aunt Celestia, and much more significantly, her husband-to-be. One thing was certain, their upcoming marriage was not merely political.

“Mmm, your love for him is strong!” Chrysalis sighed almost orgasmically. “Pity you can’t use it like I can.”

For a few seconds, Cadance could only lie on the ground beneath her panting helplessly. But she managed to level a spiteful glare up at Chrysalis. “Whatever you’re planning…he’ll stop you!”

At that, Chrysalis laughed a long hearty laugh. “How will he stop me if I’m you?”

Then green flames washed over Chrysalis as she transformed her body, and Cadance recoiled as she found herself looking up at her own face twisted in a cruel smile. The princess must have grasped the full scope of Chrysalis’s plan then, because her horn once again began to glow with magic. But she was significantly weakened both from the beating Chrysalis had given her and the feeding that she had indulged in after. The light of her magic flickered unsteadily. Still, Chrysalis elected not to get overconfident again, so she grabbed Cadance by the mane and forcefully slammed her head against the rock of the cavern floor, snuffing out the light of her horn.

“The smart thing for me to do would be to kill you now,” Chrysalis taunted, looking down at Cadance with her own eyes. “But I’m going to make you wait. After your Shining Armor is nothing more than my plaything. After Princess Celestia is laid low at my feet. After my forces seize your kingdom and reduce your ponies to cattle. After everything that you love is gone, and I have personally drained you dry of all the love you have left. Then I will kill you.”

Chrysalis noticed then that Cadance was sobbing, and in that moment, she felt an unpleasant feeling deep in the pit of her stomach. The sight of this girl pulled from her happy life of wealth and privilege into a world of pain and despair brought back the memory of another life. A person in their right mind would have felt empathy for such a person. Chrysalis only felt disgust.

“I will never be that weak again…” she muttered unconsciously.

She then hit Cadance with another pain spell and fed on her again. She heard the princess’s screams and pleas for mercy but they barely registered.

Chrys?!”

She needed to be stronger.

CHRYSALIS, WHAT IN GOD’S NAME ARE YOU DOING?!

Snapping out of her daze, Chrysalis looked up and locked eyes with the horrified face of Celestia. Except it wasn’t Celestia the alicorn ruler of Equestria. It was Celestia, the human woman whose living room Chrysalis was standing in. Chrysalis looked down at her feet where the bloody broken Cadance lay. Only it wasn’t Cadance the alicorn of love, but the human dressed in a smart business blazer and skirt, now torn and stained red.

“Get the hell away from my niece!” Celestia shouted.

“Wha…how…?” Chrysalis sputtered. She felt disoriented, like she’d just woken from a dream. By the looks of things, she had.

She heard a high-pitched shriek, and she turned to see Sweetie Belle standing there, looking at her with wide, horrified eyes. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo came running at the sound, the two of them regarding Chrysalis with the same horror.

“What the hell? Chrysalis?” Apple Bloom exclaimed.

“That’s not Chrysalis. It’s some kind of monster!” Sweetie said, trembling.

“She was always a monster!” Scootaloo said, squaring her shoulders like she was ready to fight. “I can’t believe she was ever our friend!”

“No, girls wait…” Chrysalis tried to say as she raised her hand in a placating gesture. The problem was, her hand was a blood-stained black hoof, and Chrysalis knew right away how she looked to them.

She then heard the sound of the hammer cocking back on a handgun and turned towards the sound. Sable Loam was now standing beside Celestia, looking down the sights of a gun aimed at Chrysalis. He looked at her the way he had when they first met in her base of operations in another life. He looked at her like she was an enemy.

“Step away from Cadance. NOW!” Sable barked.

“Wait, Dad I-I…” was all Chrysalis could say before her throat clenched up.

“We opened our home to you. We opened our hearts!” Celestia cried. “And this is how you thank us?”

Chrysalis’s voice hitched in her throat. “Mom…I-I’m sorry….”

Celestia shook her head and regarded her coldly, like she was a stranger. “You’re no child of mine.”

Chrysalis didn’t think it was possible, but Celestia’s words hurt her worse than any of King Sombra’s tortures ever had. She fell to her knees as her vision swam and sobs wracked her body.

“Look, the monster’s crying!” Apple Bloom exclaimed.

“As if! Haven’t you ever seen crocodile tears before?” Scootaloo said.

“Exactly,” Sweetie Belle added. “A creature like that isn’t capable of love or friendship.”

“Nor does it deserve it,” Celestia said.

“Best we just put it out of its misery,” Sable said, and again Chrysalis heard the click of his gun’s hammer.

Tears still streaming down her face, Chrysalis sobbed, “Please…please, I can be good. I can be good I can be good I can be good I can be good….”

“No, you can’t.”

Chrysalis looked up and saw the regal form of Sunset Shimmer standing over her. Blinding white light shone behind her, giving her a halo as she looked down on Chrysalis with an unreadable face. She looked like an angel about to pass judgement.

“You are what you are,” Sunset said, her voice unwavering. “It was a mistake to bring you back to this world. A mistake to believe that you were capable of redemption…or worthy of it.”

Sunset raised a hand high over her head, and a ball of flaming energy appeared, growing bigger and brighter. “As the Alicorn of Earth, it is my duty to correct this mistake.”

Please, no. I can be good!” Chrysalis begged, but her pleas fell on deaf ears.

Sunset brought her hand down, and Chrysalis was consumed by holy fire. She screamed as it burned through flesh, bone, and her very soul. She screamed even as she realized the flames were no more than blankets, and that she was burning in the heat of her own bed. The space heater beside her was still on, Chrysalis having forgotten to turn it off before she fell asleep.

Chrysalis threw the covers off of her sweat-drenched body and hastily corrected that mistake, turning off the space heater. Still shaking and crying, Chrysalis got out of bed and paced uneasily in her room. She didn’t hear any noise from Celestia and Sable’s room, which meant she at least hadn’t been screaming loud enough to wake them. Small comforts.

She then sensed the other presence and didn’t need to look at her dresser’s mirror to know that Queen was there, grinning her smug grin. It was only then that Chrysalis fully woke up and remembered that what she’d just experienced was only a dream. She knew that her friends and family loved her, but for a few horrible moments fresh out of the dream, she’d forgotten.

“Did you really think that lie would make me change my mind?” she asked.

“Was it a lie, though?” the queen asked. “Or is the real lie this life you’ve created for yourself?”

Chrysalis turned to face her reflection, but her reflection was no longer behind the mirror. The queen stood in the room, a few feet away from Chrysalis. She was leaning against the dresser as if she were really in the room with Chrysalis, just like when she’d seen her in the cafeteria at school. Only, up close Chrysalis could tell that the queen just didn’t look right.

Her fuzzy, foggy appearance that Chrysalis had attributed to distance and her own exhausted mind was still there, only now she was up close, and Chrysalis was awake and alert, even if fueled purely by adrenaline from the nightmare. The queen looked somehow unfinished, her features vague and distorted. There was no real way to describe it, Chrysalis thought of the nature of a drawing: The brain recognizes the lines on paper as a person because it knows that’s what’s meant to be depicted, and in a sense auto-completes the image.

But even the best drawing can’t capture the full detail of a living, breathing, flesh and blood person: the brain can’t take the same shortcuts in reality as it does with lines on paper. Yet, that was exactly what Chrysalis appeared to be looking at: a drawing made flesh. Chrysalis could tell she was looking at a person, but the details just weren’t there. The black chitin that made up her skin was inky and black, with gaps of emptiness here and there. She had a mouth but no eyes. An ear on one side of her head but not the other.

It served to drive home to Chrysalis that this queen was not real. At least, not in a tangible sense. And as futile as it might have been, Chrysalis was not willing to let her get the last word. “Just what do you hope to accomplish, anyway? Just fill my dreams with nightmares until I cave and do what you want? Well, guess what? I would literally rather die than go back to drowning in the hive mind again! And where would that leave you, huh?”

The queen shrugged. “It would probably leave me to be reborn from the hive mind’s records in the body of one of my drones. I thought we went over this.”

Something about that didn’t ring true to Chrysalis, and she realized at once that it was because she could sense the queen’s thoughts and feelings just as much as the queen could sense hers. And this time she was bluffing.

“That’s not true and you know it,” Chrysalis said, and for the first time, the queen frowned. “Because we’re not the Queen of the Changelings anymore. If I die, you won’t be reborn from the hive mind’s records! You’ll join them for all eternity!”

The queen gave Chrysalis a hard, uncompromising glare. Gone were the mocking grins and playful tones of her voice. “All the more reason for us to take back our throne!”

Chrysalis just laughed, reveling in the deepening frown on her dark reflection’s face. “Us? What do you mean ‘us?’ This sounds like a ‘you’ problem to me.”

“Is it? How much longer can you go on without a proper night’s sleep, do you suppose?”

Chrysalis turned away from the mirror and headed back to bed. “You can fill my dreams with all the nightmares you want,” she said. “It’s still better than the waking nightmare of being trapped in the hive mind for centuries.”

As Chrysalis climbed into bed, she heard the queen’s voice say, “You think I have been the one giving you these nightmares?” the queen laughed. “Foolish girl. I am not Nightmare Moon. Dreams are not my domain. All I’ve done these past few days was stop dreaming for you.”

Chrysalis thought of the much more pleasant, but very mysterious dreams she’d had the weeks before. The dreams where she’d been a unicorn queen named Calyx. Ever since the changeling queen revealed herself, Chrysalis had suspected where those dreams had come from. Now it was all but confirmed.

“Doesn’t matter. It changes nothing,” Chrysalis said.

“Doesn’t it, though?” the queen asked. She was now sitting at the foot of Chrysalis’s bed, seeming to look out the window. “Think about it. You’d been having these very same nightmares even when I was gone, haven’t you?” The queen turned from the window and looked right at Chrysalis with faintly glowing green eyes that hadn’t been there moments ago. “Face it, you’re broken. You will always be broken, and you’ll never be able to have the kind of life here that you want. Far better that you go back to something more familiar.”

Chrysalis was about to retort when she caught something that her doppelganger said. “What do you mean ‘when you were gone?’” she asked. The queen was suddenly silent, and Chrysalis sensed a sudden anxiety that wasn’t hers. “There was a period of time that you weren’t with me, wasn’t there? Don’t try to deny it, you know I can tell what you’re thinking.”

The queen growled. “Fine, since I still have hope for our future cooperation, I’m going to be honest with you. There was a lengthy period of time when I was not with you. As for where I was exactly, I’m not sure. All I know is, when you went through the mirror portal back in our underground hideout, I ended up in a dark abyss, all alone. I had no concept of time, no body, and what was more, I could feel my mind unraveling. Pieces of myself disappearing into oblivion. At the time, I thought we’d both died.”

Queen recounted all of this with a steady voice and firm expression, but Chrysalis could sense it: whatever had happened deeply unsettled her, even now. “Then, all of a sudden I was back. A passenger in your mind once again. Only this time everything was different. We were in the human world. Had adopted the appearance of a human girl and were living with two caregivers instead of a changeling hive. It took me a while to figure out that it had been weeks since we went through the portal in the Covenant’s base under Equestria.”

Chrysalis tried to figure out what it all meant. If the queen was telling the truth (and Chrysalis could tell that she was), she really had been gone the moment Chrysalis had jumped through the portal and severed her connection to the hive mind. But if that was what happened, what had changed? Why was the queen suddenly back now? Chrysalis decided it didn’t matter. She now knew that she’d managed to get rid of Queen once before. She could find a way to do it again.

Chrysalis wasn’t the only one to have slept uneasily that night. Diamond Tiara awoke the following morning from a rather distressing nightmare she could now barely remember. The only thing she could recall was the crushing pressure of a heavy weight. Diamonds were created from pressure, she remembered with no loss of irony, but the pressure of the dream had been suffocating. It felt like it was slowly killing her.

But by the time she’d gotten dressed and had breakfast, the dream was far from her mind. As it happened, her mother was heading into the office a little bit later than usual today (and judging by the apparent headache she was nursing in spite of the painkillers Diamond saw her down that morning, she guessed another late night of drinking alone was to blame). So, Diamond climbed into the passenger seat of Spoiled Rich’s luxury sedan and the two of them were on their way.

“Tell me, Diamond. Have you dealt with that girl yet?” Spoiled asked after a lengthy silence.

Twiddling her thumbs, Diamond said, “She hasn’t bothered me since that day. I don’t think I….”

“Too right, Diamond. You don’t think!” Spoiled stated.

Diamond suddenly found herself remembering the heavy pressure from her vaguely recalled dream. Except, now she was reasonably sure her mother had been in it.

“I’ve told you a thousand times, you cannot afford to be seen as weak to your peers. Anyone who disrespects you the way this Chrysalis did needs to be put in their place!” Spoiled continued.

Disrespect was a pretty funny way of saying “almost strangled to death.” But Diamond’s mother hadn’t cared when she came home from the mall that day and told her that.

“You need to learn to solve your own problems, Diamond,” her mother had simply said. “I won’t always be there to help you.”

Funny, you’ve hardly ever been there for me at all, Diamond had thought, but kept silent. As she sat there in the passenger seat now, Diamond said, “I don’t know what to do.”

“I have given you ample means to investigate her past. If she’s really the dangerous criminal you believe her to be, you must have found something.”

Diamond had spent days using her mother’s connections to go through Chrysalis’s files, but to no avail. Her criminal record was absolutely spotless, both here and in her home country of Italy. But something was off about her history, though. Diamond had called the owner of the apartment complex Chrysalis and her mother had supposedly lived in Klamath Falls and there was no record of an “Allegra Musica” ever having an apartment there. Still, it wasn’t much to go on. Diamond shook her head.

“Well, find something and use it. I don’t want to have this conversation with you again.”

Spoiled’s tone indicated there would be no further discussion on the matter, so Diamond simply answered, “Yes, Mother,” and that was that.

Diamond did have something she could use, she supposed. Yes, she’d hesitated to use it before, either out of fear for what Chrysalis might do, or out of misguided sentimentality. No wonder her mother thought she was weak!

When they arrived in front of the school, Diamond said goodbye to her mother and stepped out of the car. She must have had a pretty serious expression on her face, because when Silver Spoon saw her, she said, “Whoa, is everything okay, Di?”

“Fine,” said Diamond. “I’m going to deal with Chrysalis. Today.”