• Published 10th Mar 2021
  • 1,495 Views, 108 Comments

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 8 - The Battle

What promised to be an already difficult day was further complicated by the note. It was waiting for her on her usual desk in her first period class, neatly folded. Chrysalis was handwritten on the surface of the folded paper, the lowercase I dotted with a heart. She thought it might have been a love note at first and sighed. She was finished with dating for a long time. Still, she unfolded it, deciding it couldn’t hurt to read it anyway. Her heart dropped into her stomach when she did.

I know your secret. I have proof. Meet me at the Sugarcube Corner Cafe tonight at 6, or everyone will know what you really are.

“What the fuck…” Chrysalis muttered, looking around.

Students were still filing into the room. In fact, Chrysalis had been one of the first in. The person who wrote the note had to be one of them, right? No one outside of this class would know which desk was hers.

“Well, this is certainly unexpected,” said Queen, her dark doppelganger sitting in the desk beside her, as usual appearing to only have one foot in reality. Except was it just Chrysalis or were Queen’s previously fuzzy features much more defined now? “So, what are you going to do about this? Assuming the ‘secret’ that our mysterious blackmailer is alluding to is the fact that you’re a shapeshifting monster from another dimension, this could be…problematic for us.”

Chrysalis didn’t need to hear Queen’s input right now, so she turned away from her and stared at the note. Chrysalis didn’t know how the hell the author of this note could possibly know what she was, let alone have proof, and for a moment held out hope that there was simply a misunderstanding. But she knew there was no way the note could be referring to anything else other than her true identity.

Unfortunately, Queen was right: if proof got out that she wasn’t entirely human, it would create a pretty big mess of her life. She could probably rely on Sunset Shimmer to mitigate the worst of the damage, but even she wouldn’t be able to fix things entirely if the truth about her reached enough people. Sunset herself had admitted that a problem which revealed her own identity had been publicized, and while thankfully most people believed it to be video effects, all it would take is someone thorough enough to put two and two together. An actual VFX artist, for instance, would probably be able to tell Sunset’s now removed video was more than just that.

What was more, Sunset had mentioned during Chrysalis’s first week on this world that she was looking into the existence of a possible faction of hostile magic users. She had assured Chrysalis that there was probably no danger—that this group, whoever they were, likely weren’t aware of the goings on here in Canterlot. Still, if something like the video of Sunset Shimmer was to get out and expose Chrysalis, what would happen if someone from this mysterious group saw it? The thought of that sent a shiver through Chrysalis’s spine.

“Hey, Chrys,” a boy’s voice said beside her, and where the mental projection of Queen had been sitting moments ago now sat Star Tracker, who looked at her curiously.

The worse damage would be if the truth reached her friends. Her nightmare from last night was still clear in her mind. The looks of horror and disgust on the faces of Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo when they saw what Chrysalis really was still haunted her. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing the first true friends she’d ever had in her millennium of living.

Ignorant of her worries, Star looked at the paper in her hands and asked, “What’ve you got there?”

Chrysalis reflexively crumpled up the paper in her hands, trying to act nonchalant as she replied, “Just some garbage.”

Star seemed to buy it, nor did he seem to notice Chrysalis reach down and slip the crumpled garbage into her backpack. He went on to tell her about some funny article he read the other night about some movie director, but Chrysalis was only half listening. Even as Ms. Fossil began the class, Chrysalis wasn’t focused on the lesson.

Her eyes kept darting around the room, checking the faces of every student present. Most of the students in this class were mere acquaintances. Chrysalis knew all of their names but not much else.

There were three kids in this class that she really knew well. One of them was Star Tracker, of course. The other was Toola Roola, who as usual for the past couple of weeks was notable only by her absence. The third was a fashionable girl with amber hair and purple-rimmed glasses named Zipporwhill. She stood out to Chrysalis for exactly one reason: she often hung out with Silver Spoon in some of their classes together. Zipporwhill wasn’t acting particularly suspicious, quietly taking notes and paying attention to the lesson. But Chrysalis couldn’t think of anyone else who would have left that note on her desk.

When the period bell rang, Chrysalis tried to make herself relax. She knew she was being paranoid. Zipporwhill was a sweet kid from what Chrysalis could garner from the few interactions she had with her. The girl loved dogs more than anything in the world, and only seemed to talk to Silver Spoon to look at pictures of her own dog. In fact, she was the only person from her brief time as Diamond Tiara’s friend that Chrysalis still regularly talked to. Sure, her family might have had some wealth, and she might have had a decent fashion sense, but Zipporwhill simply didn’t fit in with Diamond Tiara’s clique.

When Chrysalis got to her locker to take out her textbooks for her next period, she pulled the ball of paper out of her bag and uncrumpled it to read it through again. The location of the meet up was the SugarcubeCorner. It was the place where Chrysalis had first started to have doubts about her friendship with Diamond Tiara. That had to be significant.

“Mornin’ Chrys,” Apple Bloom’s voice was suddenly right behind her, and Chrysalis quickly put the note away. “What’cha readin’ there?”

“Nothing! Just an assignment. Don’t worry about it!” Chrysalis answered quickly.

Apple Bloom was not as easily fooled as Star Tracker. “You seem awfully defensive over an assignment.”

Chrysalis sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. She was too tired for this. “Look, it’s something personal, okay? I don’t want to talk about it.”

With a frown, Apple Bloom shrugged and said, “Okay, you could have just said that.”

It was unspoken, but Chrysalis knew what Apple Bloom meant. You could have just said that instead of lying to my face.

“I’m sorry, Bloomie, it’s just….”

“I know. You’ve been going through a hard time lately,” Apple Bloom said, her face turning sympathetic. “You have your appointment with the therapist this afternoon, right?”

“That’s right,” Chrysalis said, having nearly forgotten her appointment now that the blackmail note was so prevalent in her mind. Her appointment was at 4:30pm, so she’d still have plenty of time to meet with the blackmailer. She’d have to think of something to tell Celestia and Sable, though, especially considering how strict Sable was getting with her curfew.

“Well, I hope it helps,” said Apple Bloom, patting Chrysalis on the shoulder. “I probably sound like a broken record, but you can talk to me and the girls if you need to, okay? About anything.” Her eyes flicked to the locker where Chrysalis had put the note. Chrysalis knew what she meant.

Chrysalis nodded, wishing that were true. Apple Bloom then headed to her next class and Chrysalis closed her locker to do the same.

“Such sweet friends,” Queen said, casually leaning against an adjacent locker with her arms folded. “It’s a shame they’re only your friends because they don’t know the real you.”

Chrysalis just ignored her, something she was getting better at. Her gaze was fixed on the pair of girls down the hall. Zipporwhill was talking cheerfully to Silver Spoon, showing the girl her cell phone, where there was presumably a picture of a cute dog. Silver Spoon grinned and said something to Zipporwhill before walking away. Zipporwhill then noticed Chrysalis staring at her and gave her a smile and a wave, holding up her phone so Chrysalis could see the image of a schnauzer on its back with its tongue lolling out of its mouth. Chrysalis tried to give her a smile back as she watched her go.

Chrysalis decided then that she was going to have a talk with Zipporwhill over the lunch period. She wanted to know definitively who was involved, even if she already had a sneaking suspicion.

A low murmur filled the classroom as all of the freshmen in the science class were doing group work. All of them, save for one. Diamond Tiara, Silver Spoon and Cozy Glow sat at their table, their lab work all but forgotten.

“I just confirmed that she got your message, and has no way to link it back to us,” Silver Spoon said before asking, “Do you…think she suspects?”

“Of course she suspects, Spoony,” Diamond said. “What matters is she can’t prove anything.” She looked at Cozy. “Is everything ready on your end?”

“Yes indeedy!” Cozy cheerfully exclaimed. “The video’s currently unlisted on YouTube and TikTok, and I’ve got posts on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram standing by.”

“As do I.” Silver frowned and looked at Diamond. “Are you sure it’s a good idea to meet her alone?” she asked, adding in a near whisper, “We all know what she’s capable of!”

“You don’t need to remind me,” Diamond said, clearing her throat for no other reason than to prove that she still could.

“Which is exactly why you need backup. Maybe get Rover and his friends to hang out nearby.”

Diamond let out an exasperated sigh. “I am so tired of dealing with that moron. He’s been far too unreliable lately.”

Plus, if Diamond was being honest with herself, she felt slimy every time she talked to him. It made her think of a person dangling meat just out of reach of a hungry dog, except Diamond herself was the meat, and the dog in question was starting to get wary he was being led on. She’d needed to placate him the last time they spoke by getting a little...frisky with him, and it felt like she was giving a part of herself away.

“I’ll be fine,” Diamond said when she noticed Silver still looked unsure. “Whatever Chrysalis may be, she’s smart. She knows what’s at stake. She won’t try anything.”

“Yeah, what exactly is at stake for her anyway?” Silver asked. “I’ve watched the video, and those were some cheesy special effects. I don’t see why something like that would be damning to her.”

Diamond let out a long sigh. She didn’t want to have to explain it, not even to her closest friend. Perhaps it was because she couldn’t even explain it to herself. “Silver, we’ve been friends for years now. So would it be reasonable to ask for you to just trust me?”

Diamond hoped that would be the end of it, but to her surprise, Silver didn’t back down. “Well, as your friend, I want you to know that I think this is a bad idea.”

“I hate to be a Negative Nelly, but I have to agree with Silvy,” Cozy said. “The fact is, this whole plan of yours is…well, it’s rushed.”

“Noted. Now, if you’re both done…” Diamond started, but to her shock, it was Cozy who shut her down.

“But I’m not done, okay?” she said, her sweet smile becoming just a tad manic. “If you really want to deal with Chrysalis, you have to do it slowly. Methodically. These kinds of things take time to do properly, and you’re moving forward too quickly.”

Diamond knew she was right, of course. The smart thing to do would be to wait until she had more ammo and a fool-proof plan. But she thought of her mother’s stern words when she dropped her off that morning. Thought about what she might say if she were here now.

You need to stop dragging your feet and be decisive, Diamond Tiara. Do you think I got to where I am now without taking any risks?

“It’s too late to turn back now, since she already has my note,” Diamond said, hoping that would be the end of it. She was growing tired of this conversation now.

“But Di, just listen,” Silver pressed on. “You don’t have to….”

“No, YOU LISTEN, SILVER! I’M DOING THIS SO YOU CAN EITHER HELP ME OR SHUT UP!”

Diamond didn’t even realize just how much she had raised her voice until she heard the sudden silence and saw the judging stares from the other students. Ms. Cheerilee gave her a warning glare over the rim of her glasses.

Diamond cleared her throat and said, “Sorry, Ms. Cheerilee.”

The murmur of the classroom soon returned as each group’s conversation resumed. Each group, that is, except for Diamond’s. Cozy and Silver exchanged a look, and Diamond had half a mind to yell at them again. Where did they get off trying to tell her what she should do? If everything with Chrysalis and her mother wasn’t already driving her insane, her friends not falling in line definitely would.

“C’mon, let’s do the stupid lab work,” Diamond said, and on that at least her two friends finally fell into lock step.

In the corner of the southeast wing of Canterlot High was a small, dead-end hallway where students rarely went. None of the lockers that lined the halls had a student assigned to it, and the overhead lights were burnt out, casting the hallway in darkness. According to Sunset Shimmer, something was wrong with the wiring in this corner of the building, because the custodian hadn’t been able to get the lights working for years and had apparently requested that the school hire an electrician on more than one occasion. Sunset had also mentioned that a student claimed she saw a rat down that hallway once, and as a result even the most troubled students at this school didn’t hang out here. That is, unless they planned on doing something unscrupulous, like threatening one of their peers.

Chrysalis spotted her target leaving her classroom along with the other students getting out for lunch. So, approaching her with care, Chrysalis put an arm around her in faux friendliness.

“Zipporwhill!” Chrysalis exclaimed, and Zipporwhill jumped in place. “Just the girl I wanted to talk to. Do you have a minute?”

Looking as nervous as one might look with someone nearly twice their height suddenly holding them, Zipporwhill said, “Uh…yes, I guess I could talk,” in her vaguely Latino accent.

Chrysalis was already gently but firmly leading her away. “Great. Don’t worry, this won’t take long.”

She led the much smaller girl down the hall and around the corner so they were both in the dark dead-end hallway. Chrysalis remained silent for a bit, allowing the dark atmosphere of the hallway and her own countenance to make her quarry squirm a bit as she dug around in her bag. It was a good way for Chrysalis to gauge whether she seemed guilty.

“So, um…what’s this about, Chrys?” Zipporwhill asked.

Finally, Chrysalis produced the folded paper with her name on it and showed it to Zipporwhill. “Does this look familiar to you?”

Zipporwhill’s eyes briefly grew bigger when she saw the paper. She then looked away. “N-no. Can’t say it does.”

“My, she’s a terrible liar,” said Queen, who appeared to be idly leaning against one of the lockers next to Zipporwhill. Chrysalis just continued to ignore her.

“I know you’re the one who left this on my desk, Zipp. So why don’t you cut the bullshit and tell me who put you up to it?” Chrysalis demanded.

“Nobody!”

“So, you admit you put it on my desk?” Chrysalis said, deciding that a little more intimidation was warranted and subtly altering her appearance to that effect: making herself slightly taller, making her eyes glow ever so slightly and of course, making her canines just a tiny bit more pronounced.

Zipporwhill’s eyes darted around, desperately searching for a way out. “I…I have to go.”

She then turned and took a step back into the main hallway, but Chrysalis wasn’t letting her get away that easily. She grabbed her by the wrist.

“H-hey! Let go!” Zipporwhill cried as she struggled helplessly against Chrysalis’s iron grip.

“Oh no, we’re not done talking yet—OW!” Chrysalis shouted as Zipporwhill kicked her in the shin.

Chrysalis’s grip remained firm though, even as Zipporwhill’s panic-fueled struggling increased. In an effort to keep the girl contained, Chrysalis grabbed her shoulder with her other hand and pushed her against the lockers.

“Goddammit stop!” Chrysalis exclaimed. “I’m not going to hurt you, I just want….”

“HELP! HE—” Zipporwhill started screaming, but Chrysalis covered her mouth with the palm of her hand, keeping her pinned to the lockers.

“Oh, this is going really well,” Queen drolled, her projection rolling its eyes.

“Will you just shut up and let me talk to her?!” Chrysalis hissed, momentarily forgetting that Queen wasn’t really there.

She returned her focus to Zipporwhill who for her part had stopped screaming into Chrysalis’s hand and was now just looking at her with wide eyes on the precipice of tears. “Now, if I remove my hand, are you gonna scream again?” Chrysalis asked.

Zipporwhill shook her head, and Chrysalis slowly, cautiously, removed her hand from her mouth. Zipporwhill took a few trembling breaths. “Oh God…oh God…. She told me you were crazy, but I didn’t think….”

“Who told you, Zipp?” Chrysalis asked. “The same person who told you to leave this note for me?”

Zipporwhill held her gaze for a second before her eyes darted away. “Are you going to hurt her?”

“That’s a good question. What are you going to do when you find out the identity of your blackmailer?” Queen asked.

Chrysalis would cross that bridge when she got to it. “Who gave you that note, Zipporwhill?”

Zipporwhill just shook her head, closing her eyes tight. “I can’t tell you. I made a promise.”

“Still won’t crack. I have to admit, she’s a lot tougher than she looks,” Queen said as she leaned in closer. “But we’ve broken tougher before, haven’t we?”

Chrysalis knew what Queen was doing. What she wanted her to do. She wanted to say that she wouldn’t do it. Wanted to say that she wasn’t that person anymore. But at this moment, with her life as a normal girl at stake, Chrysalis couldn’t say it. Not even to herself.

“Here, let me help you,” Queen said. Then to Chrysalis’s shock, her mental doppelganger took her hand in her own and moved it, guiding it to Zipporwhill’s throat. “No more half-measures, Crisalide.”

Chrysalis didn’t fight it. She let her hand close around Zipporwhill’s throat and started to squeeze. The smaller girl’s eyes bulged, and she desperately tried to pry Chrysalis’s hand off, to no avail. Chrysalis just glared at her. Chrysalis would not lose the life she had made for herself here. She would not let this girl take it from her!

Finally, Zipporwhill wheezed out, “S…Silv….”

Realizing she was finally talking, Chrysalis released her grip on Zipporwhill’s throat, at last remembering herself.

“It was Silver Spoon,” Zipporwhill gasped after a coughing fit. “She told me I could hang out with her, Diamond and Cozy if I gave you that and promised not to tell anyone, b-but if being one of the popular girls means dealing with psychos like you then fuck that!

Zipporwhill turned and made her retreat from the dark hallway, and this time Chrysalis didn’t stop her, having learned what she wanted. Zipporwhill passed by Apple Bloom as she rounded the corner and disappeared. Chrysalis didn’t know how long she’d been standing there, but judging by the horrified look on her face, it was long enough.

“What the fuck, Chrys?!” she exclaimed.

Chrysalis’s heart dropped in her chest. “Wait, Bloomie…it’s not what you think!”

“Oh? Care to explain, then? Because I think you were just trying to kill Zipp!”

Beside her, Queen smiled. “That’s it. Explain to her how you’re being blackmailed over the fact you aren’t human. I’m sure that’ll go great!”

Chrysalis sighed. It was clear that she’d just lost a potential friend in Zipporwhill for good. She knew that even if she didn’t lose Apple Bloom as well, their friendship would certainly never fully heal. What they needed was trust, and Chrysalis was certain she’d just thrown it out the window.

The only thing left to do was to try to get it back. “Okay, Bloomie. Let’s find Scoots and Sweetie. I’ll tell you everything.”

The four girls were seated outside on the grass, leaning against the red brick of the school’s wall. It was a shockingly beautiful day despite being the middle of November, and the girls needed little more than light jackets to stay warm. It was for this reason that the four of them had agreed to pack their own lunches today rather than eat the day’s offerings of cafeteria food, which Chrysalis appreciated. Not only did the cycle of cheap school board-approved food get dull after a while, but Chrysalis wanted relative privacy for the conversation that was about to take place.

Apple Bloom had already told the other two what she’d found Chrysalis doing at the start of the lunch period, so Chrysalis wasted no time laying it out on the proverbial table.

“‘I know your secret?’” Scootaloo said, reading from the note Chrysalis had put out. “What does this mean, Chrys?”

“I take it this has something to do with why you were terrorizing Zipporwhill in that sketchy hallway,” Apple Bloom said.

“That’s right. First of all, I’m sorry you had to see that, Bloomie. That person…she’s not me, not anymore. Still, a little bit of her slipped out then, and I deeply regret it,” Chrysalis said before continuing, “Now to answer your question, Zipporwhill was the one who left the blackmail note on my desk this morning.”

“Aw, but Zipp always seemed so nice,” Sweetie said. “I can’t imagine her blackmailing anyone.”

“That’s because she didn’t. She told me herself: Diamond Tiara’s friends put her up to it,” Chrysalis said, sighing as the benefit of hindsight painted a much clearer picture for her. A picture that, unfortunately, didn’t capture her best side. “Now that I think about it, she probably didn’t even know what was in the note. I’m sure if I just told her that it was blackmail in the first place, I wouldn’t have even needed to get so rough with her, but…I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly.”

It was hard to miss the hint of suspicion in Apple Bloom’s voice as she said, “It sounds like whatever Diamond has on you is making you worried.”

Apple Bloom hadn’t asked, but the question hung in the air. Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo both leaned forward, not bothering to hide their eagerness. Chrysalis sighed.

“Look, I don’t know what this ‘proof’ is that Diamond claims she has. For all I know, it could be a bluff,” she said, taking a deep breath.

Her three friends were still looking at her expectantly. This was it. The moment of truth. Or rather, the lack thereof.

“You guys remember how I told you that I used to be like the old Sunset, except like, eight times worse? Well, it was no exaggeration,” Chrysalis started, pausing as she considered how she was going to play this next part out. “When I was living in Klamath Falls, I was…well, troubled. I guess I was just lashing out at the world, still processing all of my pain and anger from years of sexual abuse and being thrown into a strange new country on top of that. The fact that my mother wasn’t really around to help me process any of it didn’t make matters any easier—basically, I was on my own and...well, things went sideways, hard.”

It was not a lie, Chrysalis told herself. It was like some of her favorite movies she’d watched with Celestia and Sable, or with Star Tracker and the others in the movie club. This story is based on true events. Only the names, dates and locations have been changed.

“You see, I didn’t just fall in with a bad crowd—I was the queen of the bad crowd. In just a few short years I’d amassed an army of young delinquents and terrorized the place that had become my new home. I had decided that if I had endure having everything taken from me, I was going to take back whatever I could from the world. So, I had my subjects—uh, that was what I called the members of my little gang—steal anything I wanted. If anyone stood against me, I had them put in their place. Anyone my army couldn’t beat into submission, I destroyed their lives in other ways.” Sometimes literally, Chrysalis thought, but didn’t voice. Instead she added, “I even ruined the wedding of an authority figure who was giving us trouble.

“It took me getting arrested and spending a few nights in juvie before I realized that I had no future living that kind of life. In fact, I’d pretty much given up on having any kind of future at all before Celestia came into my life.” Chrysalis found herself getting teary eyed as the truth at the center of the lie she was telling started to hit her. “If it wasn’t for Celestia, I don’t know where I’d be right now,” she sniffed. “I’d probably be back there, with no one but my ‘subjects’ for company. Or I’d be imprisoned, or maybe even dead. Just another broken child the world forgot….”

Chrysalis sniffed again and wiped her nose with the back of her hand.

She then heard a slow clap and noted the dark form of Queen in her peripheral vision. “Brava! Brava! I daresay that was your finest work yet!”

Chrysalis said nothing, merely waiting to see how her friends reacted.

“So, you’re telling me you were basically a twelve-year-old Heisenberg?” Scootaloo asked, grinning. “Damn, that’s fucking iconic, Chrys!”

Clearly annoyed by Scootaloo’s take on Chrysalis’s apparent life of crime, but choosing to ignore it, Sweetie Belle reached out and touched Chrysalis’s shoulder. “Jeez Chrys, I had no idea you had such a hard life,” she said, looking to be on the verge of tears herself. “I can’t believe Diamond Tiara is trying to use that against you.”

“Yeah, what exactly do you think she has? Maybe your criminal record?” Apple Bloom asked.

“I dunno, maybe,” Chrysalis lied. She had no criminal record, not on this world anyway. Still, it would have been preferable to whatever damning evidence Diamond really had.

“That girl has gone too far this time,” Sweetie Belle said, her soft green eyes turning hard.

“My thoughts exactly!” Scootaloo said, practically bouncing in place. “Just tell us how we can help you deal with her!” Then with a chuckle, Scootaloo added, “We can be your new ‘subjects’!”

Laughing, Chrysalis said, “Thanks, but I don’t plan on going back to being a queen any time soon.”

Chrysalis spared a smile and a glance in Queen’s direction, reveling a bit in her frown.

“So, what are you planning to do about her then, Chrys?” Apple Bloom asked.

Honestly, Chrysalis wasn’t sure. She had options: Sunset Shimmer had power and connections, but Chrysalis was tired of always relying on her. Sunset was always happy to help—it was in her kind nature—but more and more Chrysalis was feeling like a burden to her. She already had Sunset looking into her “Queen” problem. It wouldn’t feel right to make her clean up another of her messes. No, this was her battle.

“I’ll play along with Diamond’s game for now,” she said. “I’ll go to the meet at the Sugarcube Corner Cafe so I can get some idea of her hand. Figure out what exactly she has, and what she wants. I’ll figure out where to go from there.”

“If you think that’s best…” Sweetie said. It was clear from her downcast expression that she really wanted to help with this, and Chrysalis could tell that the others felt the same.

Another problem suddenly made itself apparent. “Sable’s been really strict lately about my curfew, though. He expects me home before six every night,” she said.

“Right, that’s a problem if the meet is right at six,” Apple Bloom mused.

“You can still go over to a friend’s place for the evening, right?” Scootaloo asked.

“Yeah, as long as Sable or Celestia picks me up, he’s okay with it.”

Scootaloo put an arm around Chrysalis and gave her a hearty slap on the back, grinning wide. “Then you’re coming over to my place for dinner tonight. My folks have been wanting to meet you for ages now!” Then with a more mischievous look, she added, “I’ll just tell them you’re coming at seven instead of six.”

Chrysalis nodded, feeling a little bit better about the whole situation now that they had a plan (even if it was a vague one). “Okay, that can work.”

The four of them sat there eating in comfortable silence for a minute or two. All the while, Apple Bloom glanced from Chrysalis down to the food in her lap and back to Chrysalis again. Something was clearly on her mind, but Chrysalis didn’t want to push the issue. She was just glad that things seemed to have turned out okay between them.

“Hey Chrys, thanks for telling us that,” Apple Bloom said. “I’m sure that couldn’t have been easy for you.”

Lying to her friends never was. “It’s no problem. It was past time I opened up more about my past anyway.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Apple Bloom said, taking a breath. Chrysalis could taste how nervous she was suddenly becoming. “Considering Diamond really seems to have it out for you, maybe it’s past time I opened up about my own past with her.”

Chrysalis raised a brow and unconsciously scooted closer. Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo just continued finishing off their meals, clearly having heard this story already.

“You know we used to be friends since we were kids, right?” Apple Bloom asked, and Chrysalis nodded. “Well, by the time both of us started going to middle school across the field…things changed.”

Chrysalis had a pretty good idea of how this part of the story went. According to Diamond, the two of them had started drifting apart in their middle school years. Diamond said it was because she had grown up while Apple Bloom had refused to do so, but Chrysalis suspected she wasn’t an entirely reliable narrator. Ever since ditching her, Chrysalis had figured the truth was that Apple Bloom simply couldn’t deal with the uptight sociopath Diamond had become.

Then Apple Bloom continued her story, and Chrysalis realized she had never been more wrong about anything in her life.

“As our first year across the field went on, I noticed…things about Diamond that I hadn’t ever noticed before.” Apple Bloom’s face started to turn red. “Y’know, things like how soft her hair looked, and how cute her confident smile was, and…y’know…how pretty her eyes were.”

Chrysalis was in such disbelief of what she was hearing she didn’t hear the little snort of amusement from Scootaloo. Chrysalis remembered when she was still agonizing over her date with Star Tracker, and how Apple Bloom had deflected when the topic of her own romantic history came up. “Wait…are you telling me that you were…into Diamond Tiara?!”

“Yeah, threw us off the first time we heard it too,” Sweetie said with a grin.

“I didn’t really know what I was feeling at the time, but yeah. If one good thing came out of knowing Diamond Tiara, it was learning that I’m not exactly straight,” Apple Bloom said. “I realized that when she kissed me one day when we were hanging out. We’d been talking about who we liked and…I dunno, guess she figured out how I felt. What was more, she seemed to feel the same way. In the weeks after that, we started spending more time together…exploring how we felt about each other.”

“You guys were…experimenting?” Chrysalis asked, genuinely curious. She tried to wrap her mind around the idea of Apple Bloom and Diamond Tiara being intimate and just couldn’t.

“Yep. We never went all the way if that’s what you’re asking, but…things did get physical.”

Apple Bloom’s face was turning very red now, so Chrysalis decided it was best to move along. “How did it go wrong?”

Sighing, Apple Bloom said, “Honestly, I have no idea. One day she showed up at school and was…different. Colder. I tried asking her what was wrong, but she brushed me aside. Before I knew it, she’d found a new group of friends, and she barely even acknowledged I existed.” Apple Bloom uneasily rubbed her arm. “When I tried confronting her about everything, she just laughed at me. Called me a ‘clingy dyke’ in front of all of her friends and said she left because she was tired of me drooling all over her.”

Judging by the pain that contorted Apple Bloom’s face and left an unpleasant burning sensation on Chrysalis’s tongue—like food that was way too spicy—it still hurt to think about. “Damn that’s awful, Bloomie,” Chrysalis said.

“Yeah. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.” Apple Bloom took a moment to clear her throat as her voice started getting hoarse. “There was this prissy rich boy in her friend group at the time. Don’t remember his name, but I think he goes to Muenchinger now. Anyway, Diamond started dating him shortly after that. I was heartbroken...and furious.

“So I did something stupid.” Taking the deepest breath she had yet that conversation, Apple Bloom said, “I approached her boyfriend after school one day and said I needed to tell him something important. I really laid it on thick, like I was repenting something terrible.

“I told him that Diamond and I had been having sex while he’d been dating her. ‘I was weak,’ I said, hamming up the regret. ‘I should have told her no, but we have our history together and one thing led to another….’ He bought it. He cussed me out and stormed off, and I felt on top of the world. My plan worked. He and Diamond broke up. What I didn’t plan on was the rumor mill that followed.

“Suddenly, Diamond’s ‘lesbian affair’ was the talk of the whole school. I was already a social outcast by that point, so I was just a footnote in the rumors, but Diamond had been the popular rich girl. The rumors that evolved around her quickly mutated into some truly crazy shit. That she had an STD, that she touched herself in the girls’ locker room. There were even people who believed she was part of some secret underground lesbian sex ring.”

“Jesus Christ…” Chrysalis muttered.

“Indeed, she’s almost as ruthless as you are,” Queen’s voice mirthfully echoed in Chrysalis’s mind. “Perhaps I was wrong about your friends after all!”

“Yeah, she was on a fast track to getting into Zacherle, but the whole ordeal must have rattled her enough to affect her grades, because here she is going to CHS with us.” Chrysalis looked at Apple Bloom’s face, and the amount of regret she saw there rivaled full-grown adults with a lifetime of mistakes behind them. “My attempt to mess with her relationship with her boyfriend ended up messing up her entire life. Ever since then she’s been doing everything in her power to make my life miserable….” Apple Bloom looked directly at Chrysalis. “As well as anyone I’m friends with.”

It took Chrysalis a good minute to process everything she’d just heard. “I appreciate you trusting me with this, Bloomie. Really, but I don’t think Diamond’s coming after me now because of you.” Chrysalis looked down at her hand and idly flexed it. “She has as much cause to hate me as she does you.”

Scootaloo huffed and said, “You know, I’d actually feel bad for Diamond Tiara if she weren’t such a snobby bitch.”

“Scootaloo’s right. For once,” Sweetie said. “I told you before, Bloomie. What you did to her then doesn’t excuse what she’s doing now.”

“Your friends are actually making a lot of sense,” Queen said, still lingering just outside of Chrysalis’s vision. “Save your pity for someone who’s not threatening to expose us. When you go to meet Diamond Tiara, remember what I told you before.

“No more half measures.”

After the school day ended, Chrysalis found herself sitting in the waiting room of the therapist’s office. Celestia was seated beside her, idly flipping through one of the magazines on the table. Celestia had gotten out of work a little early that day so she could take Chrysalis to her appointment and had arrived at school to pick her up about ten minutes after classes had ended. Chrysalis had told Celestia of her plans to have dinner at Scootaloo’s place, and Celestia thought it was a nice idea.

They ended up being twenty-five minutes early for Chrysalis’s appointment, so the receptionist told them to take a seat while the therapist, Dr. Chrysoberyl, finished with her current appointment. For some reason, the therapist’s name struck a chord of familiarity with Chrysalis, and it wasn’t just the first five letters of her name. Chrysalis didn’t dwell on it though. She had a lot more important things on her mind. Things that she wanted to get off her chest now that she was alone in the waiting room with Celestia.

“Hey, Mom?” she said. The title still felt a bit weird, but Chrysalis was making more of an effort to use it. As far as she was concerned, Celestia had more than earned it. “You were pretty popular in high school, right?”

Celestia put down her magazine. “Yeah, why?”

“Did you ever have any kids try to, I dunno…mess up your life?”

Looking at Chrysalis with concern, Celestia asked, “Is someone at school giving you trouble?”

“Kinda,” Chrysalis said, not wanting to elaborate on the full scope of the situation.

“Well, despite being popular, my high school life didn’t exactly have very much drama,” Celestia said. “Honestly, my worst enemy in high school ended up being my sister.”

Luna?”

“Yeah. Or ‘Nightmare Moon’ as she called herself then. Guess she got tired of living in my shadow, because in her freshman year she started acting out. Dressing in all black, hanging out with the ‘bad crowd.’ Picking fights. She became something of a tyrant.”

Chrysalis tried to imagine her stoic and mature principal as a goth rebel. The image seemed as impossible as that of Apple Bloom and Diamond Tiara being together. “Huh. I wouldn’t have thought there’d be a Nightmare Moon in this world too,” Chrysalis mused.

“That’s right, I heard there was a ‘Nightmare Moon’ incident in the other world, too,” Celestia said. “Makes me glad my Nightmare Moon was just a troubled kid instead of, well, an angry god.”

Chrysalis couldn’t help but smile a bit. “How’d you deal with her? I somehow doubt that banishing her to the moon for a thousand years was an option.”

Celestia laughed. “Well, I confronted her. I wanted to reason with her, but she wanted to fight, so that’s what I ended up doing. I broke her arm.”

“No shit?”

“No shit,” Celestia said, for once not jumping on Chrysalis for swearing. “I don’t recommend doing that with the person giving you trouble, of course.”

Chrysalis thought of Queen’s words to her. No more half measures. “But what if it’s the only way I can make them stop?”

“There’s always a better way,” Celestia said with a sigh. “If I could go back, I’d do it all differently. Because yes, breaking her arm did eventually put Luna back on the right path, but…she’s my sister, and I’ll always regret hurting her.”

“By the sounds of it, she didn’t give you much of a choice.”

“Perhaps. Maybe ‘Nightmare Moon’ and I were always destined to fight. But that doesn’t change the simple fact that breaking Luna’s arm didn’t address the heart of the matter: That she felt isolated and alone. That she was dealing with an inner battle that I was too wrapped up in my own world to notice.” Celestia then added, “In the end, a bully is really just someone who feels they have no one to turn to.”

Chrysalis thought about what Apple Bloom had told her at lunch. Before that, she’d always assumed that Diamond Tiara was a bitch because that was just her nature. But things weren’t ever really that simple, were they?

“I’ll keep that in mind, I guess,” Chrysalis said. “But…I dunno. I think the person I’m dealing with is a little past the point of being reasoned with.”

“Well, you never know just how much of a difference a little empathy could make,” Celestia said, reaching over and ruffling Chrysalis’s hair. “I remember a certain someone who seemed too far gone to be helped, but I tried anyway, and she seems to have turned out alright!”

Chrysalis giggled as she tried to bat away Celestia’s hand. “Alright alright, point taken.”

She still wasn’t sure how she would handle her Diamond Tiara situation, but at the very least Celestia had given her something to think about. It was around that time that Dr. Chrysoberyl came out, and Chrysalis and Celestia both stood as Chrysoberyl wished her previous patient a good week. She and Celestia greeted each other as old friends and then Chrysoberyl introduced herself to Chrysalis.

“We’ll spend our hour today just going over your background. That is, as long as you’re comfortable talking about it,” Chrysoberyl explained. “That way I can get an idea of how best to help you.”

“Sounds good,” Chrysalis said, realizing once again that she would have to tell the story that she and Celestia had both fabricated for her to be able to exist in this world. Perhaps mixing in a little of the lie she’d told her friends at lunch.

The lying didn’t really bother her much before when she first started living with Celestia and Sable; it was no different from the hundreds of times she’d gone undercover as the queen of the changelings. Besides, everyone in her life that really mattered already knew the truth about who she was and where she was from and understood the necessity of the lie.

But then she told her elaborate story to her friends and Apple Bloom had responded by completely opening up about an uncomfortable truth from her own past. It was the first time Chrysalis had felt genuinely awful about lying, and the thought of doing the same to this woman who was only trying to help her made her stomach churn a little. More and more Chrysalis was starting to think that this whole therapy thing was going to be an exercise in futility.

About one hour later, Chrysalis was on her way to the meeting with Diamond. Celestia had offered to drop her off at Scootaloo’s place, but Chrysalis had insisted on taking the CanterRail. Chrysalis had made a half-hearted excuse about not wanting Celestia to go out of her way (Scootaloo’s place was fairly off the beaten path for them), but the real reason was simply that Chrysalis wasn’t going to Scootaloo’s place. Not yet anyway.

The therapy session went alright. Honestly, the most Chrysalis had gotten out of it was realizing why Dr. Chrysoberyl seemed so familiar to her. Chrysalis was pretty sure her pony counterpart had been a member of the Covenant of Shadows while Chrysalis had been secretly running it. The only reason Chrysalis even remembered her at all is because she had seemed to be playing her own game, and Chrysalis had been keeping a close eye on her in case whatever she was planning came into conflict with her own plans. For a moment, Chrysalis wondered what had become of the pony Chrysoberyl. If she hadn’t died in the Covenant hideout’s collapse, she was surely in prison by now.

The thought was nothing more than a temporary distraction. By the time the subway train emptied out at the stop before hers, Chrysalis’s thoughts were already back on her current situation.

“All this time thinking, and you still haven’t figured out what you’re going to do,” Queen said.

Chrysalis looked across the train from where she was seated and saw her reflection in the window clearly in the blackness of the underground tunnel zooming by.

“I have a plan,” Chrysalis told it.

Her reflection licked its lips and said, “Your plan is to show up. Beyond that you have nothing!”

“Okay. What do you suggest, then?”

“From where I’m sitting you have two options,” Queen said. “Either you do nothing, and Diamond Tiara exposes who and what you really are to the world, alienating your friends and giving you no reason to stay here. Or, you bury the bitch just as you have done with everyone who has crossed you before, proving once and for all that you will always be Queen Chrysalis and making me so proud!” Queen then smiled wide and shrugged. “Either way works for me!”

“Or I could just do whatever it is Diamond Tiara wants.”

Queen scoffed, “Come now, even the new you would never stand for that.”

She was right, of course. No matter what happened tonight, Chrysalis refused to simply roll over and let herself be blackmailed. Even if it meant the worst possible outcome, she would fight this battle.

“Good. You still have some fight in you,” Queen said, apparently sensing her resolve. “You have to ask yourself what you’re willing to do, Chrysalis. How far will you go to keep this new life of yours?”

It was a thought that scared Chrysalis more than she liked. That she truly would do anything to keep the happy life she’d found for herself now. Anything. Even falling back on old tactics. Even selling her soul.

My soul’s already forfeit anyway. Yes, maybe it was foolish of her to believe she could ever have a happy life as just a regular kid. Maybe she would always be a monster.

Chrysalis nearly missed her stop, just barely managing to get off the train before the doors closed.

Despite rushing to the Sugarcube Corner Cafe as quickly as reasonable, Chrysalis still didn’t arrive until almost fifteen minutes after six. She spotted Diamond Tiara immediately as she entered; apparently it was a slow evening, and she was the only customer present. She was looming over a latte and was idly stroking a finger across the screen of her phone in a corner booth. The very same corner booth over which she had started a fight with Apple Bloom and her friends so many weeks ago. Taking a deep breath, Chrysalis calmly and confidently strode over to join her.

The battle had begun.

“Kept me waiting a while, Chrys,” Diamond said as she sat down across from her. “For a moment there I thought you weren’t gonna show.”

Chrysalis made no retort, and a server quickly stopped by their booth to ask her if she wanted to order something. Chrysalis asked for a Coke.

“Ah, this takes me back,” Diamond sighed, taking a sip of her latte. “Weren’t things simpler back when we were friends?”

Chrysalis didn’t have the patience for her mind games. “Diamond, how about you cut the crap and get down to brass tacks here?”

With a careless shrug, Diamond tapped the screen of her phone a couple of times and then turned it for Chrysalis to see. At first, Chrysalis wasn’t exactly sure what she was looking at. The video playing showed a forest at night, tinted green by the camera’s night vision. Then the camera’s shaking settled, and she noticed the three boys standing face to face with a giant wolf. All at once the memory of that Halloween night returned, and Chrysalis knew exactly what she was going to see before it played out on the screen.

She remembered assuming the form of the giant wolf, recalling her memory of a recent viewing of Harry Potter for inspiration. She remembered tasting the terror in Rover and his friends as she appeared before them in this form, and most importantly, she remembered checking to make sure no one else had been around before returning to her human form. Clearly, she hadn’t been careful enough, if this video’s existence was any indication. Admittedly, seeing the werewolf transform back into her made her feel very foolish.

“Now, before you get any ideas about ‘silencing’ me before this gets out, I should let you know that both Silver and Cozy are standing by with their own copies of this video,” Diamond explained, wasting no time. She was nervous, Chrysalis could taste it, but someone without her unique abilities would only see Diamond as calm and calculating. “I’ve given them instructions to put it live across all social media platforms—including my own—if they don’t hear from me in…” Diamond checked the time. “...nineteen minutes.”

It was at that moment that Chrysalis spotted another customer in the establishment who hadn’t been there a moment ago. Queen looked up at her from the adjacent table with an amused grin. “How cute, she thinks she has this all figured out. This is going to be easier than I thought!”

Queen was right. Clearly Diamond did not know the full extent of Chrysalis’s shapeshifting abilities, or she would have accounted for them in her plan. Chrysalis had seen her unlock her phone with her thumbprint: poor security against a shapeshifter. Taking Diamond’s phone and using it to call Silver and Cozy while mimicking her voice would be child’s play.

To drive the point home further, Diamond asked, “I’m kind of curious, what exactly are you, anyway? An alien? Some kind of secret experiment?”

Amusingly, she was actually closer to the mark than she realized. “Something like that,” was Chrysalis’s only answer.

Shrugging, Diamond replied, “Whatever, you don’t have to tell me. Knowing what you are isn’t part of my terms.”

“Figures. So, what do you want?”

“I only want what I’ve wanted from the beginning: Your connections and occasional muscle,” Diamond explained. “I want you to put me in contact with Sunset Shimmer and tell her that whatever she might have heard happened between me and her friends’ sisters was just a misunderstanding. I’ll take care of the rest. Aside from that, just make sure you and your new friends stay out of my way. I may occasionally call on you to help straighten out anyone else who tries to fuck with me—your unique abilities are certainly good for scaring people—but other than that, there’s no reason we can’t both carry on with our lives as normal.”

Having said her piece, Diamond leaned back in her seat, arms folded and a confident smirk on her lips, clearly waiting for an answer. Chrysalis tried to hold herself back, but she just couldn’t help it. She started to chuckle and very quickly devolved into outright laughter as relief washed over her. Diamond’s smirk fell away as Chrysalis showed no signs of stopping.

“I’m not sure I get the joke,” Diamond said. “Care to enlighten me?”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Chrysalis gasped, reining in her giggles before she continued, “It’s just…that’s it?! My fate is in your hands and that’s the extent of what your imagination can conjure? Help you make friends with Sunset? Is this your first time blackmailing someone?”

Her frown deepening as another wave of laughter overtook Chrysalis, Diamond said, “Sunset Shimmer is my key to….”

“To being seen as her legitimate successor, I know,” Chrysalis said. “But you should know, even if I agreed to what you’re asking, things won’t go the way you think they will. Sunset is far too smart for you. She won’t be fooled for a second.”

For her part, Diamond still looked remarkably calm even though the conversation was not likely going the way she thought it would. “Let me worry about convincing her. All you need to worry about is making sure this,” Diamond tapped the video on the phone screen, “doesn’t see the light of day.”

“Right, let’s circle back to the video for a second,” Chrysalis said, tapping Diamond’s screen to play the blackmail video back again. “Who do you think is going to see this and think, ‘Yeah, that’s definitely a real monster,’ and not, I don’t know, a cool visual effects exercise?”

Diamond looked away, and a pained, bitter edge entered her voice as she said, “Trust me, you’d be surprised at the kind of insane rumors people are willing to believe.”

A twinge of sympathy hit Chrysalis at that moment, as she realized exactly what Diamond was referring to.

“Look, I’m sorry about what happened between you and Apple Bloom. That whole situation was fucked, but this—what you’re doing right now—isn’t gonna fix what happened.”

With a “Hmph,” Diamond said, “So she told you about that, huh?” Chrysalis nodded, and Diamond said, “Well, whatever. I’m over it. This has nothing to do with what happened then.” Diamond leaned forward. “So, can I count on your cooperation or not?”

As Chrysalis considered her options, the figure made of shadow and smoke in her peripheral vision stood and moved closer; not walking so much as gliding. “You’re doing a great job, Chrysalis. You’ve thrown her off balance. All you need to do next is deal with her.” Chrysalis tried her best not to look as Queen leaned over the table, flashing rows of sharp teeth as she grinned, her face mere inches away. “You know what to do next. Show her why she never should have crossed us!”

Chrysalis knew what she had to do. It would be no different than the secret sabotage missions she would personally undertake when she was the queen of the changelings. First, she would need to take out Diamond—there was no need to kill her, merely knocking her out and stashing her away somewhere would suffice. Then she could assume her form and start the real work. She would infiltrate Diamond’s clique as the girl herself and gather intel. Find out where each of their copies of the blackmail video was and destroy them. Then she would dismantle all of Diamond's relationships so she was left with nothing. Make sure Diamond would never try anything like this again.

Except, Diamond won’t stop, she or maybe Queen thought. She’ll just keep plotting. Come up with another plan, and next time she’ll have a much better idea of what we’re capable of.

“You’ll have to deal with her permanently, or else you’ll be dealing with her for the rest of your school days. Maybe even the rest of your life,” Queen whispered into her ear.

“Yes. It would barely even require any effort,” Chrysalis muttered, not realizing she’d said those same words before.

“W-what?” Diamond asked, and Chrysalis could taste the fear emanating from her—not as much as when her hand was around the other girl’s throat, but the difference was gradually shrinking.

Yes, Chrysalis had already promised Diamond Tiara that she’d kill her if she ever messed with her again. Yet here she was, blackmailing her. A second warning would be even less effective. Chrysalis couldn’t afford to bluff any longer.

“That’s right,” Queen said. “No more half measures, remember?”

“Chrysalis?” Diamond asked, shifting nervously in her seat. She had a brave face even as she seemed ready to bolt out of there. “What’s it going to be, huh?”

That was the big question. Because in addition to Queen’s voice whispering in her ear, Chrysalis could also hear another. It was Celestia’s voice, she realized. Not a vengeful entity living in her mind, but the memory of what Celestia had said to her; the angel on her shoulder counteracting the devil that was Queen on the other.

In the end, a bully is really just someone who feels they have no one to turn to, Celestia’s voice said.

“She can’t be reasoned with,” Queen said.

And, Celestia’s memory responded, you never know just how much of a difference a little empathy could make.

“No. More. Half. Measures.”

It occurred to Chrysalis then that this was the real battle she’d come here to fight. A battle of good versus evil, not between her and Diamond, but between the two halves of herself. Yes, it sounded melodramatic, but she had this unshakable feeling that how she dealt with Diamond Tiara today would set the course for how she would live the rest of her life in this world. Would she only go through life passively, saying that she was good while falling on old tactics? Or would she truly be good?

The answer was obvious. “Why is this so important to you anyway?” Chrysalis asked, looking at Diamond calmly.

Diamond seemed confused. “Why? What do you mean, why? This is to prepare me for a successful political career.”

“You can have that without bullying and blackmailing your way through high school.” Chrysalis pierced her with her gaze, neither malicious nor condescending, as she asked, “Come on, Di. Why can’t you just…be a normal kid?”

“I…” Diamond started but trailed off. Chrysalis could taste a sudden whirlwind of emotions from her as she answered, “I’m just destined for greater things, I guess.”

Chrysalis laughed, but this time it wasn’t the mocking sound that it had been before. There was something much more whimsical—almost sad—about it now. “Funny, someone’s been telling me the same thing a lot lately,” she said, sparing a glance Queen’s way. “But what that person fails to realize is that our ‘destiny’ is what we make it. No one can choose it for us.”

Diamond Tiara looked back at Chrysalis with a furrowed brow. “What kind of mind games are you trying to play now?”

“No games. Just simple advice,” Chrysalis said. She then noticed that Diamond’s hand had subconsciously ventured its way up to her neck, and Chrysalis realized she was likely feeling a phantom hand around it. “For whatever it’s worth, I’m sorry for what happened during our last talk. You were completely out of line, but I went too far. I shouldn’t have hurt you like I did.”

Diamond blinked, for a moment at a loss for words. “I…I-I don't.... Do you really think saying you're sorry is going to get you out of this?!” she shouted, then took a moment to center herself. “This is the last time I’m asking: Do I have your cooperation?”

Chrysalis stood from the table. “Talk to Sunset yourself—you don’t need me as your go-between. The only thing you’re going to get from me is advice: make your offer of friendship genuine. Be humble and sincere and you should apologize for your part of what happened between you and Apple Bloom—she feels just as horrible for her part of what happened as you do, trust me. If you can do that, you might just have a shot!”

With a smile and a wink, Chrysalis said sincerely, “Best of luck!” and then turned and walked out of the Corner, feeling the heavy weight leave her shoulders. Behind her, Diamond Tiara sat in her booth, radiating a tempest of confused emotions, and at the center of them all a throbbing pain as deep as it was old.

Chrysalis understood exactly how she was feeling. Diamond’s emotions tasted just like her own had after her defeat in Equestria. She knew exactly where Diamond was now because she had been there herself. But she had thrown Diamond a lifeline. Whether she took it now was up to her.



As Chrysalis walked down the street to the CanterRail station, where a train would take her to Scootaloo’s place for dinner, Queen fell into lock step beside her.

“Congratulations on taking the high road,” she said bitterly. “Enjoy it while it lasts—by this time tomorrow everyone you know will have seen that video. I wonder what you’ll do then!”

“I’ll deal with it…my way, not yours!”

Chrysalis continued to walk, surprised by the unexpected silence from Queen. It gave her breathing room to think…about everything. Not just about Diamond Tiara, but everything that had been on her mind for the last few days. All of her conversations with Queen—in particular the moments where her walls had seemed to come down—as well as what Celestia had said to her today that ultimately decided tonight’s battle.

“I don’t think Diamond Tiara putting out that video is as certain as you think,” Chrysalis said to Queen, even though she could no longer see her walking beside her. “My mother’s right: a little empathy goes a long way. It saved me, after all…I think it can help Diamond too. More than just her, in fact.”

Queen hesitated to ask, “What do you mean?”

“Remember what you told me the other night? About my nightmares being mine and mine alone?” Chrysalis asked. “I don’t think that’s entirely true.”

“You delude yourself,” Queen said. “I told you before, I have no control over what you dream.”

“I remember, and I think you’re being honest. But you're also wrong. At least one of my nightmares was yours.” Chrysalis thought of the last dream she’d had as Queen Calyx, and the horrible things she’d endured. “I realized something just now: Whatever our differences are, we’ve both suffered the same. Don’t try to tell me it’s different.”

Queen was silent for a moment before replying, “Yes, we have both suffered.”

“Then why the hostility?” Chrysalis asked. “I’m not the one who murdered you all those centuries ago. I didn’t ask to have our bodies and minds merged.”

“And yet, here we are. Two peas in a pod,” Queen said. “And since we’re being honest with each other now, allow me to point out that I was the one who wanted us to work together. The bulk of the hostility was on your end!”

“Yeah, that’s fair, but can you really blame me? You are trying to take away my happy life here, after all,” Chrysalis said. “That being said, I am truly sorry for everything you’ve been through.”

Queen didn’t answer for a while, and Chrysalis almost thought she’d left her alone for the time being until Queen said, “I…I-I don’t care if you’re sorry! Sorry doesn’t change what happened. Sorry doesn’t give me justice!

“Perhaps not, but neither does lashing out at the world,” Chrysalis said, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. “I think you’ve had it wrong all this time. I’m not the one who’s been running from my destiny. You are.”

“Preposterous.”

“It’s understandable. You’ve been dealt a real shitty hand. I honestly feel bad for you. But the sooner you come to terms with your destiny, the easier it will be for both of us.”

Diamond Tiara stormed her way down the street towards the bus stop, fuming. It just made no sense! She’d expected any number of reactions from Chrysalis when she revealed her hand to her. Rage had been almost certain, as were the likely death threats that would follow. Diamond had also hoped that the prospect of having her secret outed would make Chrysalis afraid—feel the same fear and helplessness that Diamond herself had felt when she had been at the other girl’s mercy.

But Diamond hadn’t been prepared for…whatever that was. Here she was, using her trump card to finally put that bitch in her place and she…felt sorry for her? Yes, there was no mistaking it. What Diamond had seen in Chrysalis’s eyes was not fear, anger, or hate. It was pity. The very idea enraged Diamond far more than if Chrysalis had simply told her to get fucked.

Why can’t you just…be a normal kid?

It was that question that played itself over and over again in Diamond’s mind. Who was she to tell her to be a normal kid, considering she was…whatever she was? It just made no sense! Be a normal kid. Why did that of all things get so deep under her skin?

Diamond’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of her phone ringing in her handbag. Seeing Silver Spoon’s picture come up on her phone screen made her realize that she’d completely forgotten to check in with them after her meeting with Chrysalis.

“Hey Silvy,” Diamond answered.

“There you are! I was getting worried," Silver Spoon said.

“Did you release the video?” Diamond asked urgently.

“No, not yet. I wanted to make sure you didn’t just forget to call first.”

Not realizing she had taken a breath of relief, Diamond listened as Silver asked, “Was the meeting a success?

If she was being honest, Diamond wasn’t sure. It hadn’t gone the way she had planned, but somehow it didn’t feel like it had necessarily gone wrong.

“Di? You still there?” Silver asked when Diamond didn’t answer.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m here.”

“Well, what happened? Is Chrysalis going to play ball or not?”

This, Diamond knew the answer to. “No. She didn’t go for it.”

There was a slight pause on Silver’s end. “Okay…so, we’re uploading the video now, right?”

“No! Not yet.”

“But…you said….”

“I KNOW WHAT I SAID!” Diamond stopped walking and took a breath to calm down. “Look, the situation is more complicated than we thought, okay?”

“How so?”

“I just…need to think, okay?! May I do that?!

Silver sounded annoyed when she said, “The hell’s gotten into you, Di?

“Just hold off on the video for now, okay? I’ll figure this out!” Not waiting for a reply, Diamond hung up and kept walking.

I bet Chrysalis doesn’t have to put up with this bullshit, Diamond thought, and then another popped into her head.

Was she…jealous of Chrysalis? Just what did she have to be jealous of?!

Sudden bright lights and the sound of screeching tires pulled Diamond out of her spiraling thoughts, and she looked up just in time to see the hood of a brown van come to an abrupt stop as it pulled out of a driveway mere inches from her. Furious, she looked up at the driver, a scraggly bearded man who merely looked at her impatiently. A man with a face marked with scars sat in the passenger seat and glared at her with annoyance. Diamond could hear music blasting from inside the van—something by one of the Beatles, it sounded like.

You come on like a dream, peaches and cream,
Lips like strawberry wine

Diamond kicked the van’s bumper and yelled, PAY MORE ATTENTION, ASSHOLE! Before continuing on her way.

She heard the van pull out onto the street beside her as she walked, but something wasn’t right. Rather than accelerate and drive down the road, Diamond could hear the van roll slowly along behind her. She stopped walking and heard the van roll to a stop, its engine still idling. For some reason, it was the realization that the van was driving down the wrong side of the road that made Diamond realize she was in danger.

She started walking again, and again she heard the van roll forward, following her at a slow but steady pace. Diamond started walking faster, and the van increased its speed to match. There was no one else around. She was alone on an empty side street.

Her heart pounding, Diamond bolted across the street diagonally and she heard the van’s engine roar to life as it accelerated after her like a hungry beast. A row of cars was parked along this side of the street, and Diamond darted between them as she started running down the sidewalk back the way she came—in the direction of people, she hoped.

Behind her, Diamond could hear the telltale beep…beep…beep of the van as it backed up. A quick glance over her shoulder revealed that the van wasn’t turning around: it was accelerating backwards, getting faster and faster. The van accelerated past her, still bellowing its battle cry of beep…beep…beep over the roar of its engines, the sound of Ringo Starr’s voice creating a doppler effect as it sped past.

…You're my baby, you're my pet,
We fell in love on the night we met…

Ahead of her, Diamond could see what appeared to be a closed parking lot protected by retractable steel bollards. If she could make it past them, the van wouldn’t be able to follow, and she’d be able to cut across the lot to the street on the other side, where she might be able to find other people or a store to duck into. Unfortunately, the van was faster, and had anticipated her move. Diamond’s way forward was suddenly blocked, and all she could see was the logo of a cockroach under a flyswatter above the words S & S Pest Removal.

The squished pest then slid aside with the van’s side door and about half a dozen men poured out. Her heart catching in her throat, Diamond whirled around and tried to run the other way. As she did she reached into her handbag to pull out her phone. She was getting exhausted: she knew she couldn’t keep running. Her best bet was to call someone. Her friends, her parents, the police, it didn’t matter.

Diamond unlocked her phone but before she could even close out the video of the werewolf turning into Chrysalis, she felt a hand grab her by the arm. Terrified now, she tried to scream, but another hand quickly covered her mouth. Yet another hand grabbed the phone from her own, and Diamond was vaguely aware that the scarred man she’d seen in the van’s passenger seat was holding her phone, looking at the screen with apparent curiosity.

Diamond squirmed and fought with all her might, but knew it was no use. She had one last option: She bit hard into the hand covering her mouth and heard a shout of pain as the hand retreated. She took the opportunity she was given to fall back on her last, desperate play.

HELP! HELP, SOMEBODY!” she screamed, but was very quickly drowned out as the volume of the song playing on the radio in the van suddenly increased elevenfold. The song only got louder as she was roughly dragged back towards the van.

You walked out of my dreams, and into my car.
Now you're my angel divine

Even though she knew it was pointless, Diamond kept screaming, praying to whatever god was listening that someone would save her. Instead, she felt a sudden sharp pinch and pressure on her neck, and realized she’d been injected with something as the whole world started to spin and darkness closed around her. The last thing she could hear was the distorted voice of Ringo.

You're sixteen, you're beautiful, and you're mine.
All mine, all mine, all mine. All mine, all mine, all mine...

Author's Note: