Just Like You

by TechyConversant

First published

A lonely young human finds a friend in another outcast, a black bug-filly named Chrysalis.

You, a young human living in Canterlot, have never fit in with anyone. It's been years since you were found in Equestria, and you've become a small outcast in this world of ponies. Hiding away from everyone, you find solace in another strange being, a weird black bug-like filly that calls herself Chrysalis.


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"Where is he?"

"Did you see which way he went?"

"He's over there, get him!"

Wanted by the royal guard, as usual. You notice the white stallions clad in gold armor approaching behind you...and you didn't feel like getting caught today. Dashing into the fields behind the castle, your legs carry you faster than you thought they could go, but you couldn't run forever.

To your left, salvation. You run through a large gate of bush and shrubbery, and enter the Labyrinth.

"He went into the Labyrinth again!"

"He always escapes into that wretched place."

A guards sighs. "You two wait outside for him to leave."

After instructing his fellow guards, he runs into the Labyrinth after you. But he won't find you. He never does.

Being a child at the royal palace is a pain, sometimes. You're well aware your upbringing is more lucrative, priveliged, and probably envied by most ponies.

You're not a fan, however.

Being 14 now, you were only 7 when taken in by the Princess. You have no clue how you managed to end up in this place, but after a year, crying for your mommy stopped being useful. Now you just like to spend your time alone.

The Princess liked to keep you close, being an 'endangered species', as they called you. She always set up playdates with their students and relatives. But you always felt out of place, and would constantly ask why she never brought other humans.

Then she told you why.

The want to be alone only increased. The royal guard always tried keeping a close eye on you. It gets old, fast. Thus, you began your daily routine, escaping the guards line of sight, dashing to the Labyrinth. The other ponies hate this structure, but you love it. You've memorized it's twists and turns, as you come here every time you want to be alone. Which is quite often.

However, you wouldn't get to be alone today.

As you make your way into the Labyrinth, you recount the twists and turns necessary to reach your favorite point. Left, right, right, left, straight, left...It was clockwork by this point. One last turn, and your destination was reached. The center of the Labyrinth, occupied by a brilliant stone statue of the Princesses. Well, others thought it was brilliant. You liked it because of the stone bench where you could relax.

Taking your favored seat, staring at the statue. Luna and Celestia. She wanted you to call them your 'Mom's. You know who your mom is. She's not them. You still miss her...and you've never even SEEN Luna. But you quickly toss that fleeting emotion aside. You know there's no way to send you back. You asked almost every day for the first few years of your life here. Surely they would have tried to get rid of you by that point. Since you're still here, they failed.

You reach into your jacket pocket and pull out a shiny apple. Taking a bite, you relax on the stone bench. No matter where you are, apples taste awesome. Lying back on the stone slab, you rest your hand behind your head. Eyes closed, you relax. Another day of solitude.


Another bite of your apple is gone. However this time, it wasn't you biting it. You peek open your eyes to see a pair of dark green ones staring down at you.


Unperturbed, you sit up. So much for being alone. The being with green eyes takes a seat next to you on the bench. Well, as much of 'taking a seat' is when lying down on the bench aside you.

"I'm still hungry..." It whines.

She's always like this. Reaching into your jacket pocket, you bring out a second apple. You learned to bring extras after she kept eating yours. You playfully stick it on her horn.


She conjures some green magic, her horn disappearing momentarily, the apple falling into her hooves. The horn reappears, and she happily starts eating.

This apple-eating nuisance is no other than a changeling, Chrysalis. Well, THE changeling, to you. She tells you there are others, but they are disguised at other ponies. That makes you a bit paranoid. Well, it would, if the changeling in front of you could actually change into other ponies. She doesn't seem to be good at changing yet. This one, at least, happens to be your friend. She's been your friend for a few years now. One of your only friends at that.

Well, there's Cadenza and Shiny... But they're just there because the Princess tells them to be. Makes you feel REALLY wanted.

Back to the black thing full of holes.

"Running from the guards again, are we?"

You nod. She knows you come here when being chased. Off in the distance, a cry is heard.

"Anon! Come out wherever you are..." The guard is still looking for you.

Chrissy laughs. "Allow me."

A flash of green overtakes her throat for a second. She then yells in the direction of the guard.

"I found the boy!" She sounds remarkably like a fully grown male guard. Impressions were always her strong point.

"Y...you have?"

"Yes! I'll be bringing him to the castle immediately." She jabs a holed hoof into your side. Oh, right, this is a two man act.

"Yeah, I'm coming back!"

The guard remains silent for a moment. "...very well."

You hear hoofsteps as the guard gets farther and father away...Then closer for a moment. Then farther again.

Once he's out of earshot, Chrissy explodes into a bout of laughter. She still sounds like the guard though, so it's mildly disturbing. Realizing she forgot to change back, she bashfully covers her mouth with her hooves. After a brief awkward silence, you two both laugh. Which is good, the mouth covering bit was futile anyways. You can always look through her hooves.

The hours pass, you spend your time talking, as usual. Nothing in particular, just life in the castle, being an outcast. She can relate to the second one, at least. The sun starts setting, the Princess' doing of course. It's also a sign you really should be getting back.

"I gotta get going."

You get up from the oddly comfortable stone slab.

"Oh come on, so soon?" You look down to Chrissy, who is still on the bench.

"I've been here for a few hours, isn't that enough? Besides, the Princess is gonna be mad if I'm not back soon."

"Well I'm a Princess too, and I say you have to stay!"

You chuckle. She did say she was the Princess of the Changelings. Though, with not seeing any other changelings around, you're hesitant to believe her.

"Okay, 'Princess', but I'm pretty sure that the sun holds a bit more sway than walking cheese."

That struck a chord.


You zip up your jacket, and start walking away.

"See ya later, Chrissy."

"Yeah, see ya..."

Goodbyes are never pleasant with this one. You make your way out of the Labyrinth. Right, straight, right, left, right, right, left...and the gardens appear in front of you. Like clockwork.

You make your way into the castle, past the steps into the throne room, which is empty. Past the hallways that lead to the library. Up the stairs, past the balconies, into your room.

As expected, a certain Princess of the Sun was waiting for you.

"Anon, you're back."

You trudge into the room, dropping your jacket on the floor. Without even glancing at the large white mare in your room, you plop down on your bed.


You hear an audible sigh.

"I worry about you...I knew you were in the gardens."

"Then why didn't you come get me?"


"I want you to come back on your own, you know."

"Well I didn't."

You were being a brat, you know it. But you never cared for the Princess' nagging you. Finally, she gives up. She walks towards the door.

"Anon, you shouldn't spend all your time alone."

You don't respond...as you aren't always alone.

"You're spending the day with Cadenza tomorrow."

Still no response. Another playdate with the younger Princess. Whoopee.

"Goodnight, Anon."


She closes the door, leaving you to solitude once more.

You hated being alone. You hated being TOLD you're alone. You hated being forced to play with others as if it would ease your loneliness. But it doesn't, and you hate it.

The only thing keeping you moderately happy would be apples. Apples, and the odd thing you share those apples with.

At that exact moment, a young changeling falls asleep with her clutch.

She hated being an outcast. She hated being TOLD she was an outcast. She hated being forced to deal with others because she was special. But they don't get her, and she hated it.

The only thing keeping her moderately content were apples. Apples, and the odd thing that gave them to her.

Chapter 1 - Playdate

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"C'mon Anon, let's go play!"

A pink pony skips happily through the statue garden. Another lovely day in Equestria... The weather, that is. The quality of the day itself is pretty low. You're stuck hanging out with the Princess' stupid niece.

'Mi Amore Cadenza'

Dumb name. You walk through the statues slowly, Cadenza skipping to and fro.

"I love this place!"

You don't respond. Not that you don't agree, the statues in the garden are quite beautiful. Some of them, at least. The one with a large dragon-esque thing that looks like it's singing an opera. A tiny bit unnerving. The rest are impressive, however. Some look like champions of war. Other, dressed in fine gowns, ambassadors or peace-pushers. Was an interesting sight the first few times. It quickly loses it's luster.

Cadenza walks over to you. "C'mon Anon, let's play!"

The Princess, Celestia that is, assigned this one to play with you today. By that, she means to keep you in sight 24/7. She's no more a playdate than she is a pink watchdog.

"I'm alright, thanks."

"Aww, come on, you need to cheer up!" She skips around you. "Let's play a game or something!"

Either she's getting horribly bored of being around you, or she actually wants you to feel better. Option A.

"A game?"

Her eyes light up, as those are nearly the first words you've spoken all day.

"Yeah! We can play I Spy, Charades...uh..."

A bit of devious thinking later, you respond, "How about hide and go seek?"

"Ooo, okay! I LOVE that game!" She starts fluttering her wings in excitement.

"Hey, no flying."

With a pout, she returns to the ground. "Fiiiine."

Like a gentleman, you offer, "You can go first, Princess."

She audibly groans. "Princess is such a dumb title. Call me Cadence."

"Fine, Cadenza." You say, rolling your eyes.

She glares, clearly upset with your choice of name. "Hmph. You better start running, because when I catch you, you're getting a smack!" She giggles and hides her face, starting to count.


Now's your chance. You bolt out of the garden area, leaving her to her counting. Heh, what a sucker... A game where the goal is to avoid her? You could play that all day. Where to spend this time, however, was a puzzle. How could you find an effective place to hide? She knows this castle better than you do. Guess you have to go with what you know. You take a sharp turn, heading for the one place you know she won't find you.

The Labyrinth.

Left, right, right, left, straight, left...like clockwork. The statue of the Princesses comes into view. The comfortable stone slab awaits you, as usual. Taking a seat, you can only hope it takes Cadenza a while to find you...if she finds you at all. Maybe someone will find you though.


Looking to your left, the black holed being is already sitting next to you. She holds out a hoof in your direction.


You don't respond, turning back towards the statue. The lack of an offering confuses the changeling.

"What, no apples today?"

You roll your eyes. "Sorry, Chrissy. I was hoping me visiting would be enough."

After a small pause, she responds. "I guess so."

Now that she mentioned it, you could also go for an apple.

"So, Cadenza's all over your flank again?"

"Yeah, another Celestia Playdate."

You told her about these often. You're pretty sure she knows as much about the young Princess as you do, considering how much you share.

"No matter how much you push her away on these, she always keeps playing with you."

Sighing, you turn towards Chrissy. "When your m-...aunt...is the Princess who raises the Sun, you don't have much of a choice."

"You suuure? Maybe it's just because she likes you!" As she says that, you shudder.

How could anyone ever think that? You liking a girl? No way! Girls are gross.

"Yeah, as if I'd ever like a girl."

"Oh so, you don't LIKE girls?"


"So you LIKE boys?"

And THAT just makes you gag. Chrissy laughs at your expense.

"Just shut it, I don't LIKE anyone. And Cadenza surely doesn't LIKE me."

"If you say so~" She snickers lightly. "I don't get why you just try to enjoy time with her."

You fold your arms, pouting. "She's not my friend...she's just the Princess' watchdog, keeping an eye on me." You turn to your companion. "Besides, it's much nicer relaxing here with you."

After a flash of silence, you hear hooves coming closer. That was a LOT faster than you had hoped.

"Ano~n, I know you're in here! I'm gonna find you!"

There goes the relaxing. Chrissy starts freaking out. This is normal, unfortunately. Ever since you met her, she never wanted to see anyone else. She said normal ponies won't understand her like you did. It seemed touchy, so you never questioned her.

"Chrissy, calm down."

That won't work. It was worth a shot though.

"Anon, she can't see me, I need to hide..."

"Then hide!"

"But I don't want to leave yet!"


"What do you mean, you have to stay hidden!"

"Yeah, but you were only here for like 5 minutes..."

She's getting all prissy NOW, of all times?!? Stupid girls!

"Chrissy, I'm sorry I didn't get to stay long, but you need to hide!"

"I'm TIRED of hiding..."

Now she's slumping on the stone bench, tears in her eyes. STUPID GIRLS AND THEIR EMOTIONS! You start shaking her.

"Come on, get up, she's coming!"

"I don't care, I don't want to go back to doing nothing!"

Does she really do nothing else except see you, here? You hear Cadenza's footsteps approach ever closer. Think fast, kid.

"Look, if you hide, I promise I'll come see you tomorrow!"

"But you always come here!" Doesn't do much to stem the tide.

"Ugh...I'll come by every day!"

She looks at you, the tears stopped. "Really? You mean it?"

"YES! Every day! But you need to hide, NOW!"

Chrissy stares at you for a brief moment, her horn glowing a dim green. With a smile and a nod, she runs off into the maze, dashing out of your view...

...and barely escapes being noticed by Cadenza.

"Found you, Anon!" She runs up to you, hoofing you in the gut.


"THAT'S for not saying my name correctly!"

You walk out of the Labyrinth with Cadenza. Purposefully taking a few wrong turns. Wouldn't want her knowing the quick way to the center, would you? When you finally escape, she sighs.

"I'm glad we're out of there. That place gives me the creeps."

"Not me, I like it in there."

"Oh..." Silence.

"Anon, was there anyone in there with you?"

You freeze. She turns back to look at you.


"No, there wasn't."

"You sure? I heard voices..."

"I was talking to myself."

"...you're a weirdo, you know that?"

Whew. You're lead back to the Princess of the Sun, who is lowering the sun and raising the moon past the horizon.

"So, Anon, how was your day with my niece?"

Before you can get a word in edgewise, she explodes.

"It was GREAT! We were in the gardens, and played games, and we we were in the Labyrinth, and it was a lot of fun!!!"

Wow, she really played up a boring day. Did she really enjoy it that much?

"That's wonderful. I trust you'd want to play with him again sometime?"

She nods happily. Well, there's the death sentence. Now you CAN'T avoid it.

"You can run along now, Cadenza."

"Bye Anon, it was fu~n!" She trots off and out of the castle.

Good riddance.


Meanwhile, in a hive, hidden away from Canterlot...

Chrysalis returns to her clutch. She enters the cave where her hive sleeps... The changelings there are vast in number. As she walks through, she approaches the center of the hive. There two changelings are seated, upon large thrones.

"Chrysalis, my dear..." Her father greets her.

"Hi Mommy, hi Daddy."

She hugs the two figures in the thrones, clearly the queen and king of this clutch. She was, after all, a princess. The queen talked to her husband.

"My King...I am starving..."

"I know, my Queen. I'll have the drones bring you some food right a-"

The Queen slams her hoof down upon her throne. "No, not for food! I'm famished...I feel powerless..."

Chrissy watched as her parents discussed. Every day, her mother grew weaker. She walked up to her mother and rubbed against her leg.

"There there, mommy, you'll be okay."

As her head nuzzled her mother's leg, a green energy escaped her horn. It floated in the air, above her head. The spiraling mass of energy caught her mother's attention.

"What..." The mother drew her hoof towards the energy. "This energy..."

The mass flew towards the Queen's horn, being absorbed. A sigh of relief comes from the Queen.

"Is this...love?"

Chapter 2 - Promises

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*ring ring ring*

Off goes the lunch bell All the colts and fillies get up from their seats. They grab their lunches from the cubbies, and rush outside. The picnic tables fill up quickly. At this point, Cadenza would happily trot over to you.

'Anon, come sit with me!' She would say.

That is of course, if you attended school today. But you didn't, so you'd have to imagine this is what's going on. Walking through the royal gardens is much more peaceful. You grip your apple and take a large bite. Always delicious. You have plenty more, too, so you feel free to enjoy them. You had to bring enough for two, again. Not one to go back on promises, it's time to make good on what you said to Chrissy.

"I'll come by every day..." You softly recollect. Maybe she'll ease up after the first 10-20 days.

The entrance of the Labyrinth appears in front of you once again. You may as well install a ramp leading here from your bedroom. As you have before, and are sure to do many more times, you enter. Left, right, right, left, straight, left...like clockwork. The visage of the Princesses comes into view, in it's stone glory. As does the stone bench you love so much. Well, most of it. This time it happens to feature a small black ball with green mane. Upon closer inspection, it's Chrissy, fast asleep. Not the most comfortable place to sleep, you'd imagine. Well, it's not like you haven't slept there before. Who're you to judge?

Careful not to wake her, you take a seat on the other end of the slab. Pulling another apple out of your pocket, you take a bite. The crunch was a bit louder than you expected. Evident by the stirring changeling to your right.

"Mmnnhh..." It lives.

She rolls onto her back and stretches out her holey hooves. "Not yet...5 more minutes..."


"Alright then, more apples for me."

That wakes her up. She shoots upright, happily standing on the slab.

"Anon!" If she was a dog, you could swear she'd be wagging her tail. She almost is. "WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?!?"

Stamping her hoof on the bench, you turn to her unamused. "I'm here pretty early, you know. Usually you have to wait until school lets out."

"Oh, scho~ol, I'm sure." She giggles lightly. "Anything for me?"

You reach into your goodies and pull our her prize. The shiniest, reddest, most delicious apple of the bunch. At least that's what she thinks. She sits down and opens her mouth.


Really? You bring your near trademark deadpan stare. After a few seconds, she notices the distinct lack of apple in front of her.

"Come on, gimme!"

"Get it yourself." You hold the apple up, and she outright refuses.


"Then you don't get an apple."

"Nnnnnn...." She makes this noise that's a cross between a whiny pout and dying of hunger. She's really gonna make you do this. With a sigh, you hold the apple in front of her face.


Just like that, it's gone, and she's happily munching away.

"Delicious!" Mouth still full, a piece of apple flies onto your cheek. Ew.

You wipe it off and flick it away, taking a bite of your own apple. The sun's high in the sky, a beautiful day, as usual. It almost never rains in Canterlot. Like Celestia would ever want such blemishes on her city. That sucks, though. You like rain.

Chrissy swallows her morsel of deliciousness. "You know, you should show up sooner next time."

Well now.

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me! You promised to see me!"

"I never said WHEN, I just said tomorrow."

"And every day after that!"

She ain't letting this go.

"Yeah yeah, but I didn't say it'd be early."

"I wish I knew that before..."

She WAS sleeping just a second ago. She might have been waiting here a while. A long while. Now you just feel like a jerk.

"Well, I'm sorry."


She turns her head towards you once more.



A few apples later, and you're all out.


"Sorry, Chrissy, ya ate 'em all."

"WHAT?!?" The disbelief in her voice makes it seem she thought the apples were eternal.

"But I'm still hungry..."

"How can you still be hungry? You ate like 4 apples! Is there a hole in your..." You stop yourself halfways, but it's too late. You can't contain yourself. "...pffffttHAHAHAHAHA~"

The first good laugh you've had in a long while, and at her expense! It's a good day. The red rising on her cheeks doesn't seems to agree. With a holed hoof, you're shoved off the bench.


You even drop your apple on the ground. However, you're still in a fit of laughter, so you could care less. Once the giggles subside, you sit up.

"Well now we need more apple, don't we?" She sneers.

Guess so.

"Go get some!" She orders.

Pretty demanding.

"Why do I have to do it?" You retort.

"No one can see me, stupid."

Oh, right.

"Not to mention..." Queue the most heart wrenching puppy eyes you've ever seen. "You hurt my feelings..."

...girls are dumb.

"Whatever." Unfazed by the look, you brush yourself off and start walking towards the exit. "Hey, you'll be back right?"

Worried, eh? You turn back.

"I promise."

Satisfied with your answer, she lays down on the bench. And off you go. Right, straight, right, left, right, right, left...like clockwork. As the gardens reappear, you casually stroll towards the-


And now you're flat on your back.

"Found you!"

Glaring pink p0ny with purple eyes pressed on your chest.


She smiles. "Didn't see you at school today." You can feel the poison in those words.

"You must have missed me." You return, equally venomous.

You go to push her off, but she simply presses down harder. "No, I didn't. YOU skipped!"

Guilty as charged. "So what?"

"Soooo, Aunt Cel's not going to be happy when she hears this!"

Stupid watch dog.

"You're gonna rat me out?"

The devilish grin appears in a flash. "Not if you listen!"

Oh boy.

"If you don't want your mommy finding out about this..."

"Not my mom."

"...then you'll do what I say."

You don't have time for this. "Fine, just get off me."

She obliges, moving as you stand up. At the first moment of freedom, you start walking away.


She runs after you, stopping in front of you. "Stop right now or I'm gonna tell!"

"You wouldn't."

Calling the watchdog on her bluff. The next moment, you see she wasn't bluffing. A deep breath is followed by an ear piercing shout.


You stop her with your hand halfway.

"Okay, okay, okay, just stop!"

You pull your hand away, and she smirks in victory.

"Come on, follow me!" She trots away from the gardens.

You have no choice but to follow, and you feel like you won't be back for a while. Sorry, Chrissy...



Lil' filly Chrysalis sits on the stone bench, watching the entrance to the statue area intently.

'He's been gone for a long time now.' She thinks to herself. 'A really long time.'

'I'm still hungry...those apples weren't enough.' She rubs her stomach. 'But more importantly, I'm bored!'

She kicks the ground with her hoof, kicking up dirt. 'He's supposed to be back by now. With apples! And entertainment!'

She slumps down. Looking around, seeing no one, she realizes something, but does not want to admit it to herself. She's lonely.

A few moments later, she shakes her head. 'Cheer up! He'll be back soon, he promised! He doesn't break promises.'

Looking to the sky, she sees the sun setting.

'It's getting dark already? ...where could he be?"


You really hate tea. You really hate parties. Whoever invented tea parties needs to be kicked in the rear.

"Alright, Anon, would you like more tea?"

You groan audibly. This is torture.


As Cadenza holds up the kettle full of imaginary tea, your gaze shifts to the window.

The sun is going down. THE SUN!!! You quickly stand up, knocking the kettle out of her hand.

"HEY, wha-"

"The sun's going down, I gotta go!" With that, you rush out of Cadenza's room, and out of her house.

The streets of Cantorlot are nearly empty as the night approaches. This makes it easier to bolt to your destination. Snagging a red treat from a nearby shopping cart, you drop a few bits on the ground in it's place. You aren't one to steal.

A few minutes later, you arrive at the entrance of the infamous Labyrinth. Left, right, right, left, straight, left...you almost feel like plowing right through to the center. As you arrive, the stone statue glistens in the dark, radiating the moon's light. That light, however, reveals an empty stone bench.

She's gone.

You lurch over, the ache and exhaustion from your run catching up to you. One final look around reveals...that you really are alone. Taking the tasty fruit from your jacket, you solemnly take a bite. Stupid Chrissy. You said you'd be back...you just didn't say WHEN.



Chrysalis returns to her clutch's cave. At the time, she felt...odd. Not hungry, for sure...she had enough apples. She felt...like something was missing. She makes her way to the thrones, where her mother and father sat. Her mother more excited than usual.

"Chrysalis, my dear daughter!"

Her mother steps out of her throne and bends down to give her daughter a hug. However, the fervor of her welcome quickly dissipates.

"...Nothing." She gets up, collecting herself, and returns to the throne. "What a shame...I feel so empty..."

That was it. Chrissy now knew how to describe her feelings.


Chapter 3 - Change

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Waking up is hard to do. You didn't get much sleep after all. Leaving the purchased apples on the stone slab, you left alone. As soon as you returned to the castle, you stayed on the balcony for a few hours. Looking out into the Labyrinth, maybe you'd catch a glimpse of her. But she was gone.

Boy, did you feel like the biggest jerk in the world. Sleeping wasn't easy that night, but the morning came faster than you could have hoped. Now's your chance to make it right! Managing to get up, you rush downstairs to grab some breakfast. A huge assortment of fruits is laid on the table. Grabbing a banana, you start peeling it as you rush out the front door.

If only it were that easy.

"Good morning, Anon."

You turn back to see the Princess of the Sun.

"Good morning."

"Where are you off to so eagerly?" She's prying.

"Uh...school...?" You half-ask.

The stern look on her face shows she isn't buying it. You begin preparing an intricate lie...until the most unlikely, and unwanted, savior appears.

"Hi Anon~" Cadenza. "Come on Anon, we're gonna be late for school!"

Okay, why the heck is she here? More importantly, why does Celestia look so PLEASED by this?

"Why hello Cadance! This explains why he was rushing off."

No it doesn't.

"Don't worry, I'll walk him to school!" She replies eagerly.

What are you, a pet? "I can walk myself, thanks."

You brush past Cadenza as you make your way out the front door.

"Have a good day, Anon!" Celestia bids you farewell as you makes your way down the colossal steps.

As you go for the left turn towards the gardens, you're stopped by a pink roadblock.

"Not today you don't!" This mare.

"Out of my way."

She doesn't budge. "Nope! You're coming to school today."

"I wasn't gonna skip." Lying through your teeth.

"Right. Now come on!"

Looks like Chrissy will have to wait again. At least she has her apples this time.

School is as boring as it always is. You never get called on to answer questions. The teacher just gives you awkward looks. Some of the fillies and colts still aren't used to who...or what, rather...you are. Who needs 'em?

The day goes by and you learn nothing. Any idiot can do math. These ponies apparently have the I.Q. of squirrels. Once the lunch bell rings, you make your way outside, and sit on a bench, alone. You wished it stayed that way. However, as expected, Cadenza trots over to you near instantly, taking a seat.

She's followed by another pony, a white stallion. Shining Armor, his name was. He didn't talk much. Kinda like you. Made him tolerable.

"Hey Shiny."

"Hey Anon."

Cadenza chirps up. "Hiya Anon!"

You don't respond. The split second pained expression is palpable.

Being forced to deal with company, you eat your lunch silently. Cadenza and Shiny talk about little things, with her constantly trying to include you in context.

"Oh, Anon might have an idea..."

"Anon, don't you like that?"

"We should play that some time, Anon?"

None of her advances are met with a response. She's keeping you from doing what you want. And what you WANT is to freakin' leave. After your lunch of an apple, you walk back inside behind Cadenza and Shiny. Taking your seats, your teacher decides to drop a bomb.

Surprise math test.

Well, it's a bomb to everypony else, because you don't give a single care. Math is easy stuff. When the test is passed out, you see ponies all over the room freaking out.

Not you though. The test makes it's way to you, and after glancing it over, you know you could do it in 10 seconds flat.


It's more like 2 minutes, but the idea's the same. Some multiplication, long division, nothing hard. You flip the test over and pull out your notebook. Doodles are a great way to pass time. And you doodle the only thing that's been on your mind all day.

If you had a cutie mark, it sure wouldn't be for art. You made her too tall, for certain. At least you got the holes right. You think. She also looks mischievous.

...that's about right. A hole here, a hole there...you could slap circles anywhere on it and it would still look right. Time passes while you whittle away at your pencil, sketching your changeling friend. A few minutes later, the teacher notices you've finished your test.

"If anyPONY is done with their test, they may bring it up to me and are free to leave."

You felt the acid in her voice when she said any'PONY'. You get it, you aren't like everyone else. She sure loves mentioning it though.

You stash your notebook back in your desk and stand up, test in hand. Being the first one done, as usual, you get a few stares. Specifically from front-row Cadenza, who now rushes to finish her test. You place the paper on your teacher's desk and walk out of the schoolhouse. Goodbye, and good riddance.

You pick up the pace slightly as you head for the castle. The sun is still high in the sky, meaning it's not too late to see Chrissy. You'll still get yelled at, for sure. Especially after yesterday. But it's better than nothing. While you think happily to yourself, the train of thought is interrupted by a far off shout.


You have to be kidding me. Will she ever leave you ALONE?! You don't want to spend another day with tea-party princess, especially when you need to see Chrissy.

Think, Anon, think...got it.

Thinking swiftly, you rip off your jacket and throw it in a nearby bush. Turning around, you notice Cadenza running towards you full speed. She stops right in front of you.

"Anon, I'm NOT letting you run off again!"


She interrupts almost immediately. "CADANCE!"


She smiles happily when you use her favorite moniker.

"...I can't come over your house dressed like this!"

You point to yourself.

"What do you mean?"

Kick up the charm. "We're having another tea party, right?"

She stops and thinks. "Well, we COULD..."

Hook, line, now reel it in.

"I need to look my best then! I need a good shirt, and my ja-" You pat yourself down dramatically. "My jacket? Where did I-"

A theatrical slap to the forehead drives your point home. "I left my jacket back at the school!" You look down to the ground. "I need that jacket or I'll look stupid..."

Come on, take the bait...

"Oh, I can get it for you!"


"Really? That'd be awesome!" You smile wide. Damn good actor, you are. Well, enough to fool her. Celestia, on the other hand...

"I'll grab it and go back to my house, okay?"

"Okay! I'll go change." You reply.

With a smile, she dashes off towards the schoolhouse once more. Grade A Sucker. Once she's out of view, you swipe your jacket and make a break for the gardens.

You get closer to Chrissy with every step, as the Labyrinth appears once more. Left, right, right, left, straight, left...like clockwork. You make the final turn, and the statues come into view. As does the pile of apples you left there last night. She...hasn't even come back yet.

With a sigh, you reunite with the stone bench. She must be really mad to not have come back at all... That or she's busy! But, she's never busy. Ever.

You lay down on the slab, it being as comfortable to you as any bed. Grabbing an apple from the pile, you take a bite. Delicious. Tastes better with company though. After a few bites, the exhaustion from running catches up to you. Your eyelids become heavy as you rest the half-eaten apple on top of the pile. A little nap couldn't hurt.



Cadenza is frantically tearing the schoolhouse apart.

"Jacket, jacket, jacket, jacket..." She mutters to herself.

Returning to the schoolhouse, she finds that every storage space is empty. No bags, no books, but more importantly, no jacket!

"He ALWAYS has it on, how could he have left it here?" She thinks out loud. "He can be such an idiot."

Remembering his mention of another tea party reinvigorates her search. "I NEED TO FIND HIM HIS JACKET!"

She looks around the room, until something strikes her as obvious.

"His desk!" She runs over to it, and flips it open. Nothing.

Except his notebook, with a doodle.

"He must have drew it after he finished that math test early."

She smirks. "He's so smart~"

Glancing at the doodle...she becomes confused. "Is this...a pony made of cheese?"

She places the notebook back in the desk and closes it. "He can be such a weirdo sometimes."

Failing in her search, she gives up. Leaving the schoolhouse, she starts dashing towards her house. There's tea to be had!


A few hours pass...

The sun has started to set, as you creak open your eyes. It's been a while since you've had such a nice nap.


The sound of a freshly eaten apple is heard. Turning your head, you see Chrissy on the ground, eating an apple. She looks up to you. When your eyes meet, she turns away abruptly.


Oh boy, it's like this, is it? You sit upright, stretching slightly.

"Good morning."

Maybe the joke will lighten her up. No response. Hm.

"Toss me an apple?"

You hold your hand open to catch a tasty red morsel. However, it goes whizzing by your face and into the bush-wall behind you. Yikes.

"Look, I'm sorry."

"I don't want to hear it." She stands up, brushes off a few blades of grass, and walks away a few steps.

Oh no, she doesn't get to leave that easy! "Hey, I SAID I was sorry."

"And I SAID I don't want to hear it!" She's nearly yelling at you.

"Why are you so mad?"

"Why? I don't know, maybe because you're a huge liar!"

"I didn't lie about anything!" You retort.

"You said you'd be back with apples!" The two of you begin firing back and forth.

"I am here, and there are apples!"

"It took you a whole day?!?"

Eventually, you take a step back. "I don't even have to come here you know."

"Oh, you're going to lie again? What happened to seeing me every day?"

Before you can get a word in edge-wise, she continues. "It's because of that Cadenza girl, isn't it?"

Rolling your eyes, you sit on the side of the bench and bury your head in your arms. "I don't need to hear anymore of her."

"Is that so?" With a flash of green, Chrissy's voice changes in an instant.

"I'm Mi Amore Cadenza, I like playing dumb games and hanging out with Ano~n!"

The mocking tone is perfectly matched to Cadenza's. Lifting your head to tell her off, you notice something. Her voice isn't the only thing perfectly matching Cadenza's. Her neck and up is pink, with the head you normally know replaced with that of Cadenza.

You doubletake.

You have to be seeing things.

Did she really just...change? Chrissy notices the weird looks you're giving her.


You point, stammering out a few words. "Your....your head..."

With a questionable look, she runs a hoof through her mane, flipping it in front of her head.

White, pink, and purple. Not her normal colors. She shrieks and falls backwards.

"WHAT HAPPENED?!" She shouts in a voice not her own.

"You...look like Cadenza."

As soon as you say it, her look of shock turns into one of pure joy.

"I...changed?!? I CHANGED?!?!" She bounces up to her feet, and rushes over to you. "I changed, I changed, I changed!"

It's so weird watching her saying this in Cadenza's visage.

"I've been waiting until I could change, and now I can!"

Her joy is infectious. But you can't help but wonder...

"What do you think...well...changed...to make it so you can?"

After pausing a moment to think, she deducts, "Maybe I'm just growing up!"

Seems logical.

"I gotta try more!" She crouches down, her horn glowing a bright green, when suddenly the magic rushes over her whole body. The black holed hooves are replaced with pink. Her wings become thicker and feathery. She IS Cadenza.

You're in shock. She kept talking about changing, but you never believed she could. "Wow..."

"This is so GREAT!" She stares at herself, turning to see her changed form. Noticing your looks of amazement, she gets a playful smirk. "Do you LIKE me this way?"

That question breaks your stunned expression. "What? NO! I've had enough of Cadenza."

"You suuuure?" She steps towards the bench, pressing her hooves on your legs. They don't feel like her harder, holed hooves. They feel like a normal pony's.

"But we're supposed to be on a playdate!" She giggles, continuing to imitate Cadenza.

"Please stop."

"But Ano~n..." The mimicry of that whine pains your ears. It's just. Like. Cadenza. "You promised we were going to pla~y..."

She pushes you, your back falling flat on the stone bench. Standing on top of you, she leans in close.

"Found you!"

Serious deja-vu hits. She sounds just like when Cadenza tackled you yesterday.

Was she...watching?

You don't say anything, not sure how to respond. The devilish smile on Chrissy...Cadenza...her face only grows as she continues to pin you down. Why are you nervous? Last time Cadenza pushed you down you just threw her off. But this isn't Cadenza. It's Chrissy. Why is this different? Get her off you!

But...you don't move. You just let her pin you. As you just stare at her, the grin on her face wide...


You both freeze. It couldn't be. Simultaneously, you turn your heads to the Labyrinth's exit. You can see somepony staring at you two.

This isn't good...

Chapter 4 - Never Again

View Online

That moment in time seems to last an eternity. Chrissy pinning you down against the stone slab. The dark night sky bearing down on you two. And a pair of prying eyes catches the whole sight. In an instant, Chrissy, still in the guise of Cadenza, hops off of you and runs. Taking another exit, she rushes into the Labyrinth. This leaves you with the invader. It walks closer, coming into view.

Purple mane. Pink coat. Wings. It's...Cadenza?

But you just saw Chrissy run away.

Oh...this is bad...

"A-anon! What was, I..." She stammers at what she just saw. How could she process it? She saw HERSELF.

"Cadenza, wait-"

"SHUT UP!" She interrupts, still hysterical.

You have no idea how you're getting out of this one. "Cadenza, listen to me."

The panic in her voice rises. "WHAT WAS THAT THING?!? IT...It looked like...." Her eyes become wide with realization.

Think fast...you do the only thing you know you could do.


"What thing?"

She seems apalled you would say that. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHAT THING?!? It was on top of you!"

"I was lying on the bench, Cadenza..." You say, showing concern.

"NO, it was holding you down! It looked like...me! I mean she...I...." Her eyes go wide, debating her own sanity. You grab her shoulders, shaking her lightly.

"Cadenza, listen to yourself!" Come on, come on...

"But...but I saw..."

"I don't know WHAT you saw, but it wasn't there." You say reassuringly.

In what can be only described as hysterical, her mannerisms continue to degrade. "YES I WAS! I mean, she...I..."

"Listen to yourself!" It's working. To be honest, if everything she was saying weren't 100% true, she would sound crazy.


"Look, Cadenza-"

"Cadance." The first 'sane' thing she's said.

"...there wasn't anyone here." You finish, giving a solemn smile.

"..." Her silence confirms that your words have stuck with her.

A few moments later, you're leading her out of the labyrinth. The pink mare simply looks to the floor, following your footsteps out. Right, straight, right, left, left, right...you didn't bother to change up the route.As you walk into the gardens, you look behind you. Cadenza's steps are lagging, and as she leaves the Labyrinth, she grinds to a halt.

"...Anon." She says quietly.


"Promise me." She demands.


Her downwards look changes to a piercing glare, tear filled eyes staring at you.

"Promise me that I didn't see anything."

You stop for a moment, but catch up to your thoughts. "Cadenza, you know-"

Her ear piercing scream interrupts you. "PROMISE ME."

"You didn't see anything!"

She continues to gaze at you with an angered expression.

You look her in the eyes, "Cadance, I promise."

With that, the gaze fades, replaced with a happy grin. "Okay!"

She wipes the tears away. Finally, it seems like she believes you.

"I'm going home now, I'll see you tomorrow~" She trots off, heading back towards town.

But before she's completely out of view, she yells, "YOU STILL OWE ME A TEA PARTY!"


The next morning...

*ring ring ring*

That school bell never ceases to be an annoyance. You trudge inside, jacket and backpack in tow. Last night was...odd. To say the very least.

You barely slept, worried about Chrissy. Her number one worry, her only fear. Being seen...it happened. What kind of friend were you? You let this happen by being careless! What if she never comes back to the Labyrinth? You messed up big time. And to top it all off, it was Cadenza who saw you two. Luckily, you managed to convince her that she was crazy and didn't see anything. She is just a filly after all. You may be just as young, but you were clever.

Walking into school, you leave your bag with the others, and take a seat in the back. Everyone seems to be staring at you today...a few of the girls make glances and giggle.

Except Cadenza. Weird.

Today's lesson? Writing. Another easy one. You get your work done in half the time, considering you don't have to write with your teeth. Passing in the assignment, you sit back down to your desk. More doodles, you suppose. Lifting the desktop open, you grab your notebook. Flipping past your past drawings, you find a fresh piece of paper.

A few minutes pass, and the bell rings once more. You didn't get much drawn It was more like staring at your pencil tip, hoping it would move on it's own. You leave your notebook on the desk, heading outside for recess. As you take a seat on a bench outside, Shining follows suit.

"Hey Anon."

"Hey Shiny."

He pulls out his lunch, speaking through his teeth. "So, uh, is what everypony saying true?"

This gets your attention. "What do you mean? What IS everypony saying?"

"Well, that you and Cadenza were in the Labyrinth last night."

You freeze. How the heck could anyone know.


Speak of the devil.

Shining waves. "Hey, Cadance."

Instead of a greeting returned, Shining recieves a glorious declaration. "Why yes, Shining, it IS true."

She can't be...

"I can't believe everypony found out about it~"

She grins, looking at you. To everypony else, this was a cute smirk at her special somepony. To you, it was a look of victory.

"No, we weren't! I swear!"

You try to convince the crowd, which wasn't working.

"Anon, there's no need to be bashful!" She sits next to you on the bench, uncomfortably close.

A flash of memory hits your mind. She's reminding you of Chrissy from last night.

You stare at her close. "C...Chrissy?"

She stops for a second, then gives you an angry look. "Cadance!"

Swiftly, she smacks you in the back of the head.

Definitely Cadenza, and she's playing you like a fiddle.

"Look, we weren't at the gardens!" You plead to the crowd.

Another smirk. "I never said anything about the gardens~"

Oh man, she's playing hardball, and everypony's buying it. Ponies stare at you two, giggling.

"Cadance, stop, tell them-"

She smiles, and taps your shoulder. "Anon, listen to yourself!"

That tone of voice. Those words. She's... mimicking you. From last night. Stupid girls.

You stand up and walk back inside, not willing to deal with their jostling anymore. Swiping your backpack and jacket, you head for the front door.

"ANON! School isn't over yet!" The teacher scolds.

"I'm already done." You toss the assignment on her desk and leave.

Stupid girls, stupid school ponies. Rushing away from the schoolhouse, you head into the castle. Up the steps, through the halls, and upstairs to your room. You slam the door shut, and fall onto the bed.

The Labyrinth is no longer a safe haven. Chrissy could be in trouble right now as it is...

Never again.



*ring ring ring*

The schoolbell rings once more, to signal the end of the day. Cadenza looks over her writing. It wasn't the best...but soon her magic will work.

'Then Mi Amore Cadenza will never have to write with her teeth again!' She thinks. 'Haha!'

Writing is the last thing on her mind, however. That Anon has been pretty sneaky lately...and last night took the cake! She KNEW she saw something. It looked like...her!

'But...I'M me!' She ponders, 'Besides, nopony else is that pretty!'

All the other ponies are gone. She walks over to Anon's desk.

'Anon left his notebook of silly doodles on his desk...'

She can't help but sneak a peek.

'...There's the drawing from the other day! That swiss cheese pony...Hmm...'

She takes the drawing, placing the book back in his desk. Leaving the school, she beelines straight for her home.

'I need to ask the smartest person in all of Equestria about this!'

Rushing inside, she runs up to this very person. "Mommy! Mommy!" She starts waving the drawing around. "Look what I drew!"

Her mom looks down at her beloved daughter. "Hello, Mi Amore! What have you got there?"

She levitates the drawing out of Cadenza's mouth and inspects it. "Oho! I never knew you liked ancient myths, my sweetie!"

'Ancient myths?'

"Uh, yeah! I liked drawing the...uh..."


"YEAH, changeling!" She feigns stupidity. And it's working.

"But what's a changeling, exactly?"

"Interesting creatures indeed, said to be able to take another pony's form!"

Cadenza stands there speechless.

"I personally liked the Windigo, from the old stories..."

Not bothering to hear the rest, she jumps up, snatching the picture in her teeth, and dashes away.

"THANKS MOOOOOM!" She screams, running out the door.

'Somepony's got explaining to do.'


Returning to Anon...

Your face has been buried in your pillow for the last few hours. Comfortable? Absolutely. Helpful? Not in the least.

Chrissy still wracked your mind. Is she safe? You sure hope so. As you go to reach for an apple, you overhear something.

"Is Anon here?"

"Why yes, he's right upstairs!"

Oh no. Who could possibly want to see you? Your door swings open.

"Why hello there, Anon." The pink menace returns.

"Cadenza. Look, you need to-"

She slams the door behind her.

"CADANCE. And 'I' don't NEED to do ANYTHING." What... "You PROMISED me I saw nothing."

She starts walking towards you.

"Cadance, I don't-"

Cadenza pulls something out of her bag. Your drawing. How...

"I knew I wasn't crazy...this CHANGELING of yours was impersonating me!" Ah crap, she knows, she knows!!!

"I can explain!"

She puts a hoof on your chest, giving you a shove. "You don't NEED to explain. All you need to do is listen." What could she... "If you don't want your friend getting found out, you're going to do what I say, got it?"

Wha...she can't be serious.


She stomps her hoof, shaking the room lightly. "CADANCE!"

Best not say it wrong again. "Okay, Cadance...I..." You look at her pleadingly. In her eyes, you see no remorse. She's not kidding.

But...Chrissy. You promised yourself...never again.


With a smile, she steps back. "Okay, my special somepony..."

Whatever it takes.


Last night...

A young changeling runs out of the labyrinth. Tears fill her eyes, as a light green flame overtakes her body. The pink coat of the mare she was mimicking disappeared. The wings she grew for the facade attempted to carry her away, but to no avail. Flight was out of her reach as the wings faded, leaving her green wings exposed. Her pink horn and purple mane, in a flash of green, returned to their original hues.

Chrissy was Chrissy once more. And for now, she ran.

She had been seen, by no other than the mare she was impersonating. She broke the first rule set upon her. The first thing taught to young changelings.

Never. Be. Seen.

She had been found, and it's all over now. Rushing back to her clutch, she passes by the sleeping changelings right to her parents. They sit on the throne. Awake, surprisingly.

The mother notices her daughter's presence immediately. "My dear daughter!"

She sits up from her throne to meet her daughter. Chrissy hugs her legs, and instead of being returned the favor, she only feels the familiar pull of her mother's magic. The light green glow extracted from her horn, flowing into her mother's.

Her father was much more sympathetic. "Chrysalis, my daughter, you look sad. Is something wrong?"

With a sniffle, Chrissy runs to her father, receiving a hug as she gives one. "I...made a mistake..."

Her father looks down to her. "Hm?"

She shuffles a hoof, and looks up at him. "I've been hiding in plain sight...but...I got seen..."

The changeling king gasps at this prospect. "You've been sneaking out to see ponies?!? And you were seen?!?"

Her mother, after indulging in the glow she extracted, returns to her throne. "As long as she's alive, it's quite alright."

Chrissy begins to weep once more. "I'm sorry mommy, I'm sorry daddy..."

Her father bends down to hug her once more. "It's okay, my dear. But NO MORE visiting the ponies, okay?"

It's at this point her mother interjects. "My king, don't you think that's a little harsh? We shouldn't limit her like this!"

Looking up from the hug, he glares at the queen. "We are not going to allow our daughter to risk her own safety, and the safety of the hive!"

The queen is clearly disgusted with him. "You are a weak fool, our daughter is plenty capable. Come here, Chrysalis."

Chrissy walks to her mother.

"Little one, where have you been going?"

She looks down at the floor, ashamed.

"Don't be ashamed, my dear. Tell me where you've been..."

"C..Canterlot..." Her mother recoils.

"My, that's where all this love has been coming from?"

The king intervenes. "NO! We cannot allow her to-"

"Quiet you old fool!"

He sits down in his throne, letting the queen have her way.

"My dear Chrysalis...whoever you have been getting this love from..."

Chrissy seemed confused. She still did not understand this 'love'.

"I need you to keep following them. Watch them from afar...but do not be seen..."

The mother allows her horn to glow once more, the energy she had absorbed continuing to sustain her.

"You need to do this for as long as you can, do you understand?" Chrissy thinks about it...and nods. "Yes Mommy."

Chrissy would listen to her mother's orders. Watch from afar...do not be seen...

For as long as she could.

Chapter 5 - Happy

View Online

The sun rises, entering the open window, shining directly on your face. Celestia had a way of ensuring this always happened. You stir awake, climbing out of bed. No time to waste, today was a pretty special day after all.

It was your special somepony's birthday! Cadance is turning 16, same age as you. The royals have planned a huge party, and you're to attend, of course. She wouldn't go anywhere without you. It's been that way for years.

You throw on your casual clothing, swipe your backpack, and head downstairs for breakfast. As usual, a grand feast lies before you, and Celestia sits at the head of the table.

"Anon, good morning!" She recites cheerfully.

"Good morning." You sit down, and start chowing down on some pancakes. Celestia does the same, albeit with more etiquette.

"So, excited for the party tonight?"

No. "Mmhm." You swallow. "Is it going to be as big as last year?"

Celestia laughs lightheartedly, "Even bigger! She'll only turn 16 once, you know."

"By that logic, shouldn't EVERY birthday be this grand?" You smirk, eating a banana. She smiles at your wit.

After a few minutes, you clean your plate and get up. "Thanks for the grub." You sling your backpack over your shoulder. "Heading to the academy now."

Celestia smiles and waves. "Have a wonderful day!" It's nice when your caretaker can trust what you say.

Stepping out, the royal guards wave you off. You turn back, bidding them farewell. They've lightened up to you recently, for sure. As you keep going, your turn your gaze left for a moment, glancing at the Royal Gardens.

'...just keep walking, Anon.'

About a half minute of walking later, a certain special somepony finally makes her way to you.

"Hi Ano~n!" Cadenz- Cadance runs up, giving you a big hug.

"Hey you." You return the hug, then let go. "You're a bit later than usual, eh?"

She frowns. "I'm sorry, I was held up by my family this morning because I-" Stopping herself, she gets a big grin. "Besides, shouldn't you be saying something to me~?"

"Hmmm...can't think of it." You feign ignorance, and begin walking towards the academy.

In a quick moment, she catches up. "HEY! Don't tell me you forgot!" She whines.

Leave me alone. "Is it...your cute-cinera?" You joke. This makes her frown.

"That's mean!" Apparently Cadance was a late bloomer for cutie marks, she still hadn't received hers. Neither had Shining.

"If it makes you feel better, I don't have mine yet!" This makes her giggle. Gotta keep her happy... "How about we wait for a certain somepony's party?" You nudge her in the shoulder.

She pouts. "Fiiiine. But that present better be nicer than last year. I mean, an apple, really?"

Chuckling, you rub the back of your head. "Yeah, didn't put too much thought into that one..." I did.

You both arrive at Canterlot Academy, and the ponies greet you happily.

"Hey, there's the cute couple!" They would say. Shut up.

As you walked into the prestigious school, Shining was there. "Hey Cadance, Anon." You give a wave, as Cadance gives him a small hug.

"Enjoying guard training?" You ask.

"Yeah, it's pretty awesome. My defensive magic is becoming pretty potent." He bows his head, and a spark of pink comes from his horn. After a moment, he's surrounded by a translucent sphere.

"Whoa..." Unicorn magic always impressed you. Maybe it's because you can't do it yourself. You give the sphere a knock...pretty darn solid. He lifts his head, and the shield dissipates.

"How about you Cadance?" He asks. Cadance, being an alicorn, can fly AND use magic. Sort of. Her magic's not too good. Suddenly, you feel a pressure behind your head. It pushes you sideways, and before you know it, you're liplocked with your special somepony.

Fucking disgusting.

After a moment, you're allowed to pull back, the pressure gone. You see Cadenza's horn spark, and stop glowing.

"Mine's coming along nicely." She smirks, giggling. An awkward silence is shortly interrupted by the ringing of the academy bell.

*ding, dong, ding, dong*

Class time.



A changeling girl wakes up alone. She knew it was morning. Certainly not thanks to the sunlight, it never reaches this far into the caverns. The light of the crystals are so ambiguous, it could be night to anyone else. However, this changeling has woken up at this precise moment more times than she'd care to recollect, but still can.


These caverns were her favorite spot. Right under the Canterlot Castle, she could perfectly fulfill her assigned mission. Follow him. Watch from afar. Do not be seen. Even though her parents had told her she could cease...

Every day her mother would await Chrysalis' return, and absorb the faint green glow she seemed to bring home every day. 'Love', her mother called it. Her parents would never tell her what love was. Once, while her target and his...special somepony...went off to school, she decided to find out.

Her Cadenza transformation was still flawless, without regard to age. After all she watched the Princess almost as much as she watched him. After she left view, the freshly transformed changeling went to Cadenza's mother, and asked. She remembers the response ever so clearly.

"Love, my dear Mi Amore, is the warm feeling when you think of somepony whom you can't be without. When your insides wrench when you think of losing that somepony, never wanting them to leave."

Was this what her mother craved? That feeling? Every time the changeling would spy on her target...she would remember what she had been told. About 'love'. Is this what she felt?

And if so, why did the glow stop? Once Chrysalis began returning home empty, her mother ignored her. She even sent out many changelings to collect 'love', since her daughter was 'so inadequate' as she had not-so-gently put.

But she still felt the aching. The wrenching inside her as he passed. Was this not 'love'?

That didn't matter though. This was her mission and she would do it diligently. Even if she wasn't asked.


*ding, dong, ding, dong*

And that's a wrap. Ponies flood out of the classrooms, and rush out to the streets. Many of them are rushing home to prepare for tonight's festivities.

You're no exception. A bit of preparing is left to do-


Of course. You turn to see Cadance shoving her way through the crowd.

"Where are you going?! I was hoping we could spend my birthday together!"

You smile, shrugging. "Sorry, Cadance. I have some last minute things to do."

This doesn't please her. "WHAT? But today is my BIRTHDAY!"

"Exactly, and there's a couple things that need-"

"I don't CARE." She stomps a hoof to the ground. You notice the look in her eyes.

That look is familiar. Never again.

Quickly, you give place your hands on her shoulders. "Cadance, trust me, you'll want to see what I have planned."

A few seconds pass, and her anger subsides, replaced by her happy disposition once again. "Okay! You better come early to the party!"

"It's in my house, how could I not?" You joke. She laughs, and starts trotting away.

"Bye~!" Good riddance.

Well, better get her gift before it's too late. She's a princess, so gift giving isn't easy. Chocolate, flowers, an apple, jewelry...these were things she could have anytime. To make sure she wouldn't pop a gasket, you had to get her something meaningful. Something that would leave her speechless. Something that would shut her up.

Instead of walking home, you walk through town, glancing at the marketplace. You notice plenty of odds and ends available, and jewelry for sale. You silently judge each as you walk by.

Too tacky. Not original. She doesn't deserve that. Not enough flair. The choices get worse as you continue.

Eventually, the marketplace ends. You're left empty handed, and the sun's starting to go down.

Walking back to your home, you see Celestia helping prepare the festivities. By helping, you mean ordering her guards to put up decorations. She notices you out of the corner of her eye.

"Anon, you're home." She walks up to you. "I bet your special somepony is ready for tonight."

Couldn't care less. "Yeah, almost everyone is. Gonna be a big party."

"Have you decided what to give her for a gift?" She can still read you like a book.

"I've, uh, had a bit of trouble."

She smiles warmly. "Whatever you get her, I bet she'll love it."

Returning to her decorating duties, you walk upstairs to your room. Tossing your bag on the floor, you take this moment of peace to relax. Sitting on your bed, you look out your window. The sun is close to setting, meaning the party will begin. And you're without a present. Oh well, you'll have to bite the bullet on this one...

With a sigh, you get up, walking to the window. The sunset looks particularly nice as it looms over the royal gardens, and the labyrinth...It's been years since you've been in there.


One more visit couldn't hurt.

Chapter 6 - Reunion

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The stone slab of the Labyrinth is as inviting as ever to Chrysalis. Having failed in her daily mission, she relaxes on the bench. Normally she was always able to find him, but he wasn't with Cadenza today.

'So much for watch from afar...' She solemnly thought. Reaching into her pack, she pulls out a shiny red apple. The changeling stares at it for a brief moment. Happy memories...with a sigh, she takes a bite out of the apple.


Just as delicious as ever.

As she eats the apple, she looks over the statue, as she has many times before. The Princesses. While she has no knowledge of the Lunar princess, she has more than a mind about the reigning ruler. All she knows is that it's HER fault that she can't be seen...and oh how she wants to be seen.

Luckily for her, that wish would soon be granted.

Left, right, right, left, straight, left...like clockwork. It's been years, but the way in was still etched into your brain. Making the last turn into the courtyard, the familiar statue comes into view. It's just like before. The stone bench, the changeling girl, the Princes-


Unable to believe your eyes, you do a double take. It's Chrissy. It's really her. She's...grown. And she's eating an apple.

"Have one for me?" you say. You're half expecting her to not respond. But she does. Oh does she ever respond. Turning towards you, her face morphs from disbelief to ecstatic.

"ANON!!" Her apple hits the ground as she runs full gallop at you. You deserve this. Bracing yourself for the hit...you're met with a hug. A warm tight hug. "I'm so happy to see you..."

You wrap your arms around her, returning the hug. The moment of pure joy quickly lapses into that of panic. "CHRISSY!!!"

She looks at you, shocked to be pulled from the embrace. "What?"

You remember what happened before. You don't need another Cadance blackmailing you, and you CERTAINLY don't need Chrissy in danger. "What are you doing here, somepony's gonna see you." Your tone is a mix of concerned friend and scolding parent. Chrissy smiles, lightly pushing you on the forehead.

"As serious as ever!" With that, she giggles lightly. You, however, don't think this is a laughing matter.

"Chrissy, seriously, we need to get you out of here. Now."

She can tell the fun and games have stopped. "Don't worry, I have a place. Follow me." As she walks toward the exit, her horn glows a bright green. In a flash, Chrissy's long gone. In her place, a fully armored, much tougher looking Royal Guard.

"Come with me, boy." He sounds frightening...she. She sounds frightening.

"Lead the way, SIR." You place heavy inflection on that last part. Sighing, the Royal Gu-Chrysalis leads you out of the labyrinth. She knows her way out just as well as you do. Before long, you're walking through town. It's no new sight to see you accompanied by a Royal Guard, so no one pays mind. In fact, you're fairly certain that she changed into the exact same guard who tends to bring you around like this.

How would she...

Before you can finish that thought, you're far away from town. The sun continues to set as she's leading you down a small path, the castle above looking farther and farther away. It's very tough to spot, not a soul would be able to find it unless they were looking. Before long, you're met with a cave entrance.

"Here we are." Says the Royal Guard. With another flash of green, her normal self appears once more. With a coy smile, she gestures forward. "Well, coming?"

You follow obediently as she walks into the cavern. This is far more out of the way than the inner labyrinth ever was. As the entrance grows farther away, the natural twilight fades, the glow of the cavern's crystals becoming more and more prevalent. And it is b-e-a-utiful.

"Wow..." Is all you can muster, taking in the beauty.

"Yeah, it's pretty nice. I've been sleeping here for a while."

How long is a while? And what about... "Wait, this is your home? What about your, uh..." You struggle to remember what she called it, "...clutch?"

She laughs lightly. "I still LIVE there...I'm just...crashing here?" A sheepish smile creeps across her face.

A moment later, the two of you stand facing each other. You hardly know what to say. It's been forever since you two have seen each other, and now that you truly have peace and solitude, neither of you speak. Occasionally, when your eyes meet, she'll give you a smile. But that's the extent of your communication for about 10 minutes.

Chrissy finally manages to break the silence.

"Anon...did you miss me?" As she says that, her eyes meet yours. You notice the tears beginning to form in her eyes.

"Yes." You say sternly. All those mornings in the labyrinth, those skipped days of school, relaxing in the daylight next to her. You haven't stopped missing her. You know you're going to miss her when you have to leave and go to the pa-


You turn towards the entrance, noticing how late it has gotten.

"The party should be in full swing right now..." You mutter to yourself. The echo of the cave is enough for Chrissy to catch it.

"Cadenza's birthday." She affirms.

"How did you know?" Turning away from you once more, she doesn't respond. It's odd how much she seems to know about you and your life.

She knew exactly what the guard looked like. She knew today was Cadance's birthday. She even sleeps close to town...

Has she been...stalking you?


Turning back towards you, the tears have begun to fall. "Anon, you need to understand..."

You should be mad about this...she's been following you this whole time without letting you know, and that's not cool. Especially considering how worried you've been for her safety. However, you let her continue.

"I've been...following...you for a long time..." You got THAT much figured out. "But I've never been seen, I swear!"

"So why didn't you ever let me know?"

With a sigh, she lowers her head. "Follow him. Watch from afar. Do not be seen." She recites. The tone of her voice seems odd. Were these...orders?

"Chrissy..." You jerk your head back to the cave entrance. It's well past sundown now. "...we'll talk about this later, but I need to go to the party."

"Oh, so you can see your special somepony?" The acid in her voice burns.

Raising your voice, you nearly shout, "If I don't go, she's going to reveal you! If I don't be her special somepony, she's going to reveal you! If I don't listen to her every single order, it's over!" Chrissy steps back as you continue your rant. "For years I've been putting up with her to keep YOU hidden! You CANNOT be seen, and I'm going to ENSURE that you stay safe!"

You cooldown, nearly panting. Chrissy is dumbstruck. "All this time..." Through heavy breathing, you nod. Chrissy walks towards you, and gently puts her hooves around you.

"Thank you..." She says softly. Your breathing stabilizes, and Chrissy lets go. Her horn's been glowing a bright green for a while now...but as she let you go, it's subtle radiance is astounding. You turn, and start to make your way to the door.

"WAIT!!" Chrissy shouts. As you turn back, you see her run to a small corner of the crystal cavern. Magic-ing her bag, she pulls out a small crystal, and trots back.

"Don't...forget about me. Okay?" The small crystal levitates towards you. You hold out your hands, and when it lands in your grip, you see it's true beauty.

In your hands lies the most beautiful heart, formed of translucent crystal. You can't help but stare at it for a brief moment. Looking up at Chrissy, you hold the heart firmly in your hand. With a nod and a smile, you dash towards the exit. Running up the hidden path, the castle comes closer into view. You wish you didn't have to go to this party. It would have been far nicer to just be with Chrissy...

A few minutes pass, and a certain changeling starts flying towards the castle. She would have no problem infiltrating this party.

After all, her Cadenza transformation was still flawless.

Chapter 7 - Gifts

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In not too long, you arrive at the castle. From the outside, it's obvious there's one heck of a party going on inside. As you walk inside, the scene serves to prove the point. Loud music, bright lights, and lots of ponies dancing their flanks off.


You make your way through the crowd, getting a few bumps before reaching the refreshments table. A saving grace from the ponies dancing, you pour yourself a glass of punch. Turning back to idly watch the dancers, you notice you're next to a familiar face.

"Hey Shiny." You greet the wannabe guard happily. Hey, out of all the guests, it's one whose company you don't mind. He looks over to you with...uncharacteristic apathy.

"Oh. Hey." He takes a sip of punch.

Gee. Figured he'd be a bit happier to be at his best friend's birthday party. Ah well, you aren't one to complain, you'd rather not be here either. It's like torture.

Speaking of torture, you wonder where Cadance is. The sooner you see her, the sooner you can leave. You pull the crystal heart out of your pocket, admiring it for a brief moment. The sooner you leave, the sooner you can go back to C-

"ANON!!!" Speak of the devil. The pink princess beelines through the crowd, coming right for you. Once she makes it to you, she prods a hoof right into your chest. "My party started an HOUR ago, where have you been?!"

As you prepare to bullshit her a small story, her anger subsides. Instead of staring at you, she looks down. Her eyes go wide, accompanied by a soft gasp.

"Oh Anon..." She puts a hoof to her mouth. "It's beautiful..."

Fuck. Sorry about this, Chrissy...

"Yeah...happy birthday, Cadance." You hand her the crystal heart, smiling the best fake smile you can muster. She doesn't deserve it.

She's speechless as she stares at it. Her reflection in it is flawless, as is the crystal heart itself. After composing herself, she throws her arms around you, planting a deep kiss. You return it reluctantly.

"OH THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!" She shouts in excitement over the beautiful gem. Still holding tightly, she leans to your ear. "This deserves something special after the party..."

You throw up in your mouth a little.

Letting go, she happily stares at the heart once more. "I'm gonna go put it on a necklace!!" Lifting the heart with magic, she gives you a wink. She then trots off through the crowd, into the halls of the castle.

Still recovering from the thoughts that entered your mind, you sip some punch to wash down the awful taste she left in your mouth. Watching her leave is the best sight you can think of right now. Though the sight looks a bit...different.

Is that...a cutie mark?

"Anon, ohmygosh, that gift was BEAUTIFUL!" A few of Cadance's friends walk over, complimenting your gift. These are the same mares who, years ago, would have shunned you and made fun of you for being human.

Funny how dating a Princess can change things.

"Yeah, I thought she'd like it." You smile, rubbing the back of your head. They giggle.

"She always talks about how good of a coltfriend you are." One of the mares mentions. The group giggles lightly. You can only wonder what kind of things Cadance has told them.

"Well, uh, I guess I try to be what she deserves." Considering how you put little to no effort into this relationship, that statement holds water.

One of the mares swoons. "If only I could find somepony to make me that happy..." It's easy! Find a legitimate reason to blackmail a colt, and you're golden.

"Shining..." A mare steps forward, rubbing her front hoof, shyly looking away. "Would you..um...like to dance?"

Aww yeah, way to go Shiny! "I appreciate the offer, but I'll have to decline." ...what?

The mare frowns, dejected. "Oh..okay..." The mare walks back to her group, the others giving Shiny mean looks as they leave.

You could have sworn he would have jumped on this opportunity. "Killing them softly, eh Shiny?" You prod.

He sips some punch. "Not my type."



Chrissy flies her way to the castle. Sneaking around the sides, she carefully dodges being seen by the random guard or two. She's on a mission, as she often was.

This time however, there was going to be no following, no watching from afar, and certainly no staying hidden.

Making her way across the windows, she lands on a balcony around the back of the castle. Quickly changing into a Royal Guard, she walks in casually. The other guards nod as she walks past. Perfect change, as always. Walking through the corridors, she keep her mission clear in her mind.

"Find Cadenza...find Cadenza..." After a few minutes of searching the corridors, she winds up with nothing. The occasional guest or two, even a couple escaping the dance floor to kiss.

That reminds her, Anon's here somewhere.

Focusing on the task at hand, she continues her search. As she approaches the main party area, a pink pony comes galloping towards her.

"Pardon me, excuse me!!" She shouts, dashing full speed through the halls. Chrissy steps to the side, allowing Cadenza to pass.


Chrissy turns back, and notices the pink princess take a left, running into a nearby room. She was carrying something too. Whatever, what matters is that she's away from everyone, and all alone.

'Perfect.' Following Cadenza's trail, she stands right in front of the door. 'Guest Room'. Quaint.

Looking around, she notices no one nearby. A devilish grin creeps across her face.


"...and after that, we have to run this obstacle course..." Shining sighs heavily. "Don't even get me STARTED on the obstacle course..."

The last few minutes has been idle conversation with your male compatriot. He continues to drone on and on about his training.

"It can't be all bad, can it?" He shrugs lightly in response. "I mean, it has to be building muscle, or something to that nature." With a smirk, you elbow him in the shoulder. "Come on Shiny, ladies love a stallion in armor!"

"Not all of 'em." His deadpan stare tells you it's time to drop it. What's his problem with mares? Could he be...nah. You've seen him check mares out before. He's just out of it today, apparently.

A few more minutes pass. You dread Cadance returning, wearing that crystal heart around her neck. The gift she believes you ever so thoughtfully got for her...on the same note, you somewhat aren't looking forward to returning to the changeling without the heart! You got catch 22'd, it seems.

Suddenly, the lights in the castle dim. Up near the thrones, Princess Celestia is seen. The crowd cheers as their ruler makes an appearance. It's not even a spectacular display, she just...walked out. Benefits of being a beloved ruler, you suppose.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlecolts..." she begins, and the crowd goes silent. "Thank you so much for coming to my niece's 16th birthday party."

Looking around, everypony has their eyes up front, and have stopped what they were doing. You grab more refreshments. Princess Celestia near her throne? Nothing special.

"Now, before we go back to the dancing and music, I was hoping to have a word from our birthday girl!" The crowd cheers. Celestia smiles, and looks around. "Where is little Cadance?"

"HEY! I'm not little!" Cadance walks out of the hall, sporting the b-e-a-utiful crystal heart that she doesn't deserve. Everyone laughs, and the pink princess happily trots her way up to her aunt, giving her a big hug. You notice something odd, however. As she left with the heart, you could have SWORN she had a cutie mark...

"Thank you ALL for coming tonight, and thank you SO much for the amazing gifts..." She sounds fake. Well, she actually sounds pretty sincere and convincing, but you know all too well when she's faking sincerity. "However, not to sound unappreciative..."

Cadance looks out, scanning the audience. Her eyes lock on you. Of fucking course.

"My favorite present is, by far, this spectacular crystal heart, given to me by none other than my special somepony!"

Dammit. All the eyes in the room turn to you. Boy, you sure LOVE being the center of attention. You give a sheepish wave to the crowd.

"Come up here, Anon!"

Are you fucking serious? The ponies in the crowd start cheering and clopping their hooves. No matter how badly you want to shy away, you have to put on a decent display, as usual...wearing a small smile, you walk to the throne, standing next to Cadance.

"Anon, thank you so much. It means a lot to me..." The princess smiles, as her head moves in closer to you. Really? A kiss? In front of the crowd. Ugh, royalty...

The crowd clops their hooves, knowing she expects a sign of affection. Swallowing the rest of your dignity, you go in, planting one on her lips.


...something's different.

You're all but certain that Cadance doesn't have fangs.

Chapter 8 - Masquerade

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After being caught in thought for what feels like an eternity, the kiss ends, and the crowd's going wild. Partly because it's quite a sight to see a princess, one who may hold complete governing power over an entire region, engaging in an inter-species relationship. Or because 'Aww, young love!'.

In either case, they are dead wrong. Because that is NOT Cadance.

Quite satisfied with herself, the being that is impersonating Cadance smiles, looking right at you. And winks. Oh, that's not completely obvious, not in the least.

You attempt to wrap your head around this. You KNOW who this is. There's literally only one possibility. A few question remain, however. Such as: Where is Cadance? How did she get that heart back? And most importantly, why do you care? This is infinitely better than having to show that witch any public affection.

Though you could strangle Chrissy for putting herself in this kind of danger.

As the crowd settles, Celestia decides to come between the happy couple, meaning you and her. "Everypony, the night is young. Please, enjoy yourselves!" With Celestia's blessing, the crowd gives a little cheer, and disperses lightly, the crowds murmuring among themselves over punch and hors d'oeuvres. That is, until the music kicks back in, and the staring cheering crowd that was erupts into dancing and partying.

'Cadance' trots over to you, wearing the most shit-eating grin you've ever seen. "Come on, sweetie! Let's dance!"

You could kill her, you really could. Leaning in, you angrily whisper, in that 'I wish I could be yelling but need to keep my voice down' tone. "Chrissy, what the HELL are you thin-"

Before you can finish your thought, you're being dragged away from the thrones, right into the crowd. At least she has Cadance's abrasive mannerisms down to a tee. Unable to nag at her any longer, you see the pink princess dancing happily to the beat of the music. As are all the ponies around her. And you.

You. Don't. Dance.

Chrissy opens her eyes while she moves and grooves, sliding suavely over to you. "Ano~n..." She even has the whining mimicked perfectly. "Dance with meeee..."

You can't say no. Not with all these people watching...you still have an image to keep up. After all, Chrissy couldn't possibly permanently replace the young princess...

That thought sent chills down your spine. Anticipation? Fear? Who can say?

Back to the matter at hand. The impostor steps forward, placing a hoof on your shoulder, and walking you farther into the crowd....as she busts out the moves. 'Moves' could be loosely interpreted as rhythmic stumbling. Ponies never seemed very choreographically coordinated to you. Ah well. Ball the fists, bump the shoulder, slide to the side. Rinse and repeat until dancing.

And you thought the ponies were uncoordinated.

Getting into the swing of things, you move closer to your 'special somepony', leaning in towards her face. "You need to get out of here, NOW." You anger-whisper. She simply smirks, continuing to step and slide.

"Why would I leave my own party, Anon?" For fuck's sake, Chrissy. She can clearly see your disgruntled attitude through your so-called dancing. "Besides..." Sneaking in front of you, she wraps a hoof around your shoulder, pulling herself in to where her horn bumps your forehead. Her eyes flash an unmistakable green, accompanying her true voice for a fleeting moment.

"The night is still young..."

Boy, did that send a shiver through you. Returning to her usual self...er, Cadance's usual self, she playfully backs off, continuing to dance to the beat. After that little display...who are you to say no? Letting a little more loose, you actually pull off what most sentient beings might refer to as 'a dance'. The smiles you two send back and forth only grow as the songs play. But not nearly as much as the distance between you two shrinks. Who cares what happens right now? As it stands, she's the princess. She's also your special somepony.

Wouldn't have it any other way.

You decide to go along with the charade for a while. And it's by far the most fun you've had in a very long time. Dancing, mingling, having that princess arm-candy as your company was enjoyed. A few patrons must have noticed that Cadance was a bit more...what's the word. Affectionate? Though it was pretty easy to chalk it up to the b-e-a-utiful necklace that she sported, given to her by you. When in reality, she probably took it back...

Eventually, the fun and games have to cease. As a song comes to a close, you take the chance to slip from the crowd, shooting 'Cadance' a glance, making your way towards the hall. Noticing your rapid departure, she follows quickly behind. In the empty hall, the only thing that can be heard are your tandem footsteps. One more corner...that should be fine. Waiting for her, you see her cheerily come around the bend.

Giving you ample opportunity to harshly grab her shoulders, pressing her into the wall, glaring at her, pent up frustration showing itself.

"Are you INSANE? What did you do with Cadance?" Still sporting the angry whisper.

The princess chuckles, her voice changing back to the changeling's halfway through. "Anon, you don't need to worry about HER at the moment." She sounded so...manipulative.

"Yes, yes I do!" You're about to completely justify your reasoning. But things are never that easy, are they?

"Why? So she can come back and you can pretend to be happy again?" Her voices raises as does her temper. Her once playful look has become a menacing gaze, accented by her now green eyes. "So you can keep living a lie?"

"So I can keep you SAFE?" You retort, your grip tightening. She lightly winces...good.

"She's safely tied up, don't worry. She won't be going an-" Her reassurance is interrupted by your reactive outburst.

"Do you have ANY idea how screwed we are now?!?" You damn-near scream. You almost want to, considering how bad the situation is anyways.

"...I'll take care of her, it'll be fine..." She stays silent, her gaze turning away from you.

"What, are you going to take her back to the clutch? Take her place?" You say, mentioning it as a desperate scenario compared to a solution.

"I'll do what I have to!" She barely glances at you, still turned away. Tears are welling...you've always wanted to make Cadance cry. This isn't what you expected it to feel like.

Running the situation through your head, your grip loosens on your changeling friend, no longer pushing her into the wall. "I can't let you do that..." A heavy sigh escapes your lips. "Where is she?"

"Why should I tell you?" She sounds hurt. Very hurt. "Why do you CARE about her?"

"Because I'm not gonna let you..." Raising your voice, she becomes truly silent. Faint green eyes, leaking tears, she patiently awaits the rest of your answer. "...I'm not letting you become the monster they think you are." She doesn't respond. A crippling silence befalls you two, hanging in the air for a short while. "...we need to talk to Cadance." She solemnly nods, stepping away from the wall...


Jerking your head towards the noise, you see a particularly unkempt pink princess, accompanied by Shining. "Anon! We're being attacked by-" Then she sees who you're accompanied by. Herself.


The word rings through the empty hall. Shining takes initiative, stepping forward. "Anon, get away from that thing, it's a-"

"I know."

"..." Shining stays silent...then steps forward, his horn glowing. "Then you know what it's kind does."

Being discovered is Chrysalis' nightmare come true, and it's becoming reality. "No, no, no..." She continues to murmur, barely able to comprehend it. Her distraught emotions show more than just through her rambling. The pink coat she imitates fades, slowly replaced by her black exterior. The fluffy wings degrade back to hold-filled films.

"She's different." You say, stepping in front of her, whose disguise continues to fail. Eventually, only Chrissy remains, standing behind you. Cadance gasps harshly as soon as it hits her.

"It's...it's you..." Stepping aside Shining, she begins to shout. "F-from the Labyrinth!!"

"Anon, I have a duty to Equestria. Step aside." And with that, the gig is up. Shining lowers his head, his horn glowing, scraping a hoof against the ground. "This is your only warning." He sounds just like a guard.

You hold your ground, lightly turning your head. "Get out of here." Chrissy nods, looking at you through teary eyes. As you turn back, all you can see is an adult-sized draft stallion charging full speed right at you, horn first.

This is gonna hurt.

Chapter 9 - Force

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The galloping stallion is a mere second away from colliding with you. Putting up your hands, you managed to divert his head, and more importantly his horn. The rest of him, however, is still going strong. As his shoulder thrusts into your chest, you're sent sprawling to the floor.

"Anon!!" The bug-mare shouts, eyes affixed on the confrontation, paying no mind to the one she's about to be in. Cadance trots forward, taking advantage of Chrissy's distracted state, getting in a sucker hoof that would have knocked a lesser pony out. Both you and her share the floor for a brief moment.

Rubbing your forehead, you get to a knee. "That's how it's gonna be..." You mutter. While Shining recomposes himself, you flick your gaze to the downed Chrissy, the pink princess standing above her. The mere sight of her on the ground under that pretentious princess' hoof fills you with seething rage. You never thought you could bring yourself to hit a lady.

Luckily for your conscience, that thing is far from a lady. Stepping towards her, you wind up a swing, and gun it forward...

...colliding with a solid, translucent barrier, nearly breaking your hand. Unaware of the attack, Cadenza turns to see your fist firmly planted into the barrier, mere inches from knocking her the fuck out. She makes this connection, and her look of shock morphs briefly into one of shock and sorrow.

"Anon..." She manages to make out, through quivering lips. As the barrier fades, it almost makes you regret your split second decision...until her gaze moves past you, looking behind you with an malicious grin. As you turn your head, you're given a split second to register the stallion winding up in front of you, his back hooves colliding with your chest. The impact sends you into the wall behind you, head first.


You don't know how long you were out before waking up.

Whatever you're laying on is MUCH better than the cold palace floor where you got laid the fuck out. Your chest still aches, feeling heavy, the pressure from the kick still residing. As your eyes flutter open, an exorbitant amount of pink is the first thing to cross your sight.

"Hello, my special somepony."

You could cut the tension in that statement with a knife. Though, if you had a knife, there's something else you'd rather be cutting at this particular moment. Your vision coming back to you, Cadenza lays partially on your chest, looking down at you with a solemn smile, your crystal heart gift sparkling around her neck.

"Ca...dance...?" You manage to squeak out. The pressure on your lungs is making it hard to speak. Cadenza smiles, tilting her head. "Oh, you said it right! That means so much to me, my dear Anon!" Every word begins to sound more devilish than the last.

"Where..." You grunt, the pain beginning to stack upon itself, the aching intensifying. "Where is she..?" Immediately, the princess 'harumphs'.

"Always about her, isn't it? I guess it always has been." You've never heard Cadenza talk like this. Calm, composed. "I'm sure she'll be fine, the dungeons give three square meals."

If you could muster the strength to knock her teeth in, you would. But the pain in your chest resonates across your upper body. As you try to move, you can only grit your teeth in agony.

"Trying to move? Why would you, I'm right here!" She giggles lightly. Every word that comes from her stokes your inner fire. She repositions herself, sliding her body over yours more, every slight movement across your chest sending another wave of bruised pain. Leaning her head in to yours, she flashes a grin, a twisted face of victory. "I told my aunt that the mean changeling hurt you. She entrusted me with your care~"

You didn't like her light tone of voice. You liked the way her hoof dragged along your side even less. She wouldn't.

"I owe you a thanks for the lovely birthday present, after all...~"


The dungeon wall drip with the dank condensation that comes from being so far underground. As the Royal Guards make their rounds, passing by her cell, they would look at her with disgust. For some, it was the first changeling they had ever seen. But to all, she was a monster. A wretch of a being, not belonging within the confines of Canterlot. She felt that way, for sure. The events of tonight still remain fresh in her mind, a new scar that's continuing to cut deep. She remembers clinging to him, her Anon, out cold on the floor. Being ripped away, dragged down to the dark underbelly of the palace. Brought before the princess, who believed she had attacked her adopted son. The immediate reaction tore through her chest. "Dungeon." Stated the solar ruler. No time frame, no special instructions. To the dungeon she was ordered, and to the dungeon she was brought.

She lay against the corner, tears rushing down her cheeks. This is all her fault. Had she done as she was told, this would have never happened. Follow him. Watch from afar. Do not be seen.

Do. Not. Be. Seen.

The single most important tenant of changelings, she had broken twice. Though the second time was sure to be her last.

"Changeling." An order is barked from the other side of the bars. Looking up from her tear-stained mess that is her hooves, she sees the white stallion staring her down, a sight she had already seen plenty of today. Not responding, she turns her head back to the wall to continue her silent grieving.

"I addressed you, and you will answer." He firmly stated. Still no more response from the changeling girl, keeping to herself. The frustrated guard-in-training sighs. "You'll be here until you rot, changeling. That can change if you speak."

Hope seemed lost at this point. Who knew if he was even telling the truth? Did she have a choice? Simply to spare his nagging and seemingly idle threats, she turns to him. "What do you want?"

Pleased he received a response, Shining loosens up, not as tense or uptight as a usual guard's pose.

"Why were you impersonating the princess?"

"So I could have fun at the party." She grins, flashing her fangs. She's already behind bars, what more could he do to her?

"That's a lie and you know it."

"Seems like you do too." Another snarky response. Shining brings a hoof to his face.

"You kissed the human. You danced with him. You did this in plain view. I doubt you just wanted to 'have a little fun'." Chrissy's gaze fades to the side as he recounts her actions. Oh how she misses them. And regrets them.

"Hey, when you're imitating the princess, you gotta act like the princess. And she loves Anon so dearly..." Her eye glints as she glances back at the white stallion. She's been following the princess around enough to see what she didn't. "Isn't that right?"

Shining grits his teeth. She hit a sore spot, and they both know it.

"Regardless. What were your intentions?" He attempts to get back on track. She's having none of it.

"Exactly what you saw." Wiping herself clean of tears, she climbs to her hooves. "Being the princess, if only for a day..."

"You're no Princess Cadance." He retorts. Chrissy chuckles, admittedly a bit innocently. She's already devised a way out of here.

"You're right, I need to practice the 'ignore you' part more." Like an arrow through the heart, the grimace sported by Shining shows she hit her mark. "It's plainly obvious you like the girl. Like might even be an understatement." Chrissy begins slowly walking to the bars.

"Irrelevant." He stiffens up, regaining composure.

"Not at all. You came to her rescue, her knight in...well, you know the saying." Barring herself the obvious play on words, she awaits Shining's response. However, there is none. He remains silent, sitting on the words that were told to him, as if he's processing the situation. Chrissy continues to press the advantage.

"And yet, she 'loves' him. That thing who wanted nothing more than to toss her aside, yet she clung to him like a parasprite." She had to immediately forgive herself for referring to Anon as a 'thing', but it was for the facade. Every word cuts deeper, Shining able to do nothing but listen on.

"All the while, waiting in the wings, was the stalwart companion who never ceased his affection..."

"Enough." He states firmly.

"You love her."

"I said enough!" He lowers his head to the ground, covering with his hooves, wanting to hear no more of her jostling. With a smirk, Chrissy disappears. A flash of green.

"You love me, don't you?" Cadance asks, peering sorrowfully through the bars. As Shining stares. the pupils fade from his eyes. A light green begins to glow from them. As he stands to attention, 'Cadance' coos. "My dear Shining Armor..." Stepping to the bars, she sticks out a hoof and gently touches his cheek.

"...bring me to him."

Chapter 10 - Devotion

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Rumors and whispers buzzed around the previously bustling dance floor. Could it be true? A changeling, here in Canterlot? Surely it can't be. Where did the royal couple go? They must be alright. We can only hope... The only thing more prominent than the low hum of gossip was the alicorn's hoofstep, which resonated through the populated throne room.

"Attention, loyal subjects." Her voice echoed through the hall. Not an ear went unaware of her presence. "I regret to inform that we will be cancelling the party early. Please understand, and calmly exit the palace." The party was in a low roar, discussing what they had just heard. Instead of following orders, which the Princess immediately noted with another firm hoof. The single resonating sound carried the weight of her order effectively, dispersing the crowd in a matter of minutes. A silence hung in the air of the formerly packed throne room. A guard makes his way to Celestia, stoically looking over her former audience.

"My Princess." He states, lowering his head slightly. A sign of respect. "The changeling is in Cell Block B, as requested."

"Thank you." She replies, a bit somber. A changeling, in her kingdom. Those kind always cause unrest. The simple ability to be anyone. Frightening indeed. "Take me to it, I wish an audience."

With her order, the two leave the throne room, heading to the dungeon through the castle's halls.

At the same time, a guard in training and young princess were leaving the very same dungeon. The stallion had a light green glow in the back of his eyes, fueled by his passion for the young princess Cadance, who he clearly let out of a cell she was placed in for no good reason. As they diverge down the right hallway, turning a blind corner, the incandescent Princess comes from the left side, facing the empty hall before the dungeons, making her way down.


You've tripped into mudholes running from guards. You've jumped into murky pondwater. Ran through damp woods with rotting branches.

But nothing makes you feel quite as disgusted as you do now.

The wretch is off to who knows where. You know the door's locked, it wouldn't be worth it to try. It's not like you could do so easily, you're still quite sore from the beating given to your from the wannabe guard, Shiny. Not to mention any additional pressure your frame might have unwillingly endured. Your head is against the pillow, chest rising and falling as you breathe as heavily as required by your injuries. You can feel the light breeze from the window against the wet spots on your cheek where tears once wer-

The window. Turning your head, you see the curtain sway lightly. It's open. The damn thing's open. You strain yourself to sit upright, ribs screaming as you do so. And doing so just affirms the sneaking suspicion you had. This light glance out the glass pane shows just how high you are, or more specifically, just how low the ground is compared to you.

Considering the circumstance, the thought of trying anyway crosses your mind.

You hear a click from behind you, and a slow swinging.

"...glad to see you're up." That sickly voice crosses your ears again, making your stomach wrench. Cadenza. You don't respond, still staring at possible freedom. Considering the second set of steps, you can only assume her bodyguard is here accompanying her. Turning slightly confirms this, seeing the slate white next to the pink pony. She steps forward. "Come on, we're leaving." The princess orders halfheartedly. You still don't move, secretly gauging how much it would hurt yourself to reel back and crack her in the jaw. Or what good it would do. It would definitely FEEL good, and as evidenced not too long ago, that's all that matters to some.

"Anon, she spoke to you." Now that's a voice you feel far more comfortable angrily responding to. Straining your rib cage as you turn, your heated response is stopped preemptively. Shining looks oddly...empty. And his pink companion more so. The look of fake feelings, or devilish sadistic glee, is replaced by a solemn, concerned tone.

"Anon...let's leave..." Her eyes flashed a quick green for him. Though after that line, he didn't need any further proof. No more anger. No more questioning. Nothing against your will. You've had enough, and it's time to fucking leave. You compose yourself, standing upright. It still doesn't feel fantastic, but you can move. That's a plus. You trudge forward slowly, as 'Cadenza' moves out of the room. Her empty-minded bodyguard stays for a moment. What seems like a moment too long. As you're about to pass through the doorway, you notice his gaze flick down at you. Along with a good portion of his weight, shoving you to the floor. Crashing against an endtable, knocking it's miscellaneous contents to the floor, your body burns as the pain from previous injuries arises.

"SHINING." You hear Chrissy's voice break through the guise in a moment of heated emotion. Shining's gaze is still bearing down on you, that previously empty visage now filled with rage.

"Cadance, this human is the cause of all these problems. He's in with the changelings." He states, stare unmoving. Sure sounds like a royal guard now. He's absolutely convinced that the mare next to him is Cadenza. Also, as you're previously aware, he's violently dedicated. "We get rid of him, you'll be safe. I WILL keep you safe."

A step, a glowing horn. Never thought a subtle pink would be so horrifying. Behind him, the mare that isn't Cadenza shouts frantically, even using her magic, horn glowing a vibrant green. But it wouldn't work. He was already under her spell, after all. Madly in love with the mare, to protect at any cost. And sadly, that cost is you.


A voice from the hallway called out to him. A familiar voice that was also begging the same stallion to stop. A pink princess, crystal heart around her neck. Though Shining, her dear friend, was already taken by the doppelganger. Upon turning to the new princess, his eyebrows furrowed. "CHANGELING." He barked, rushing out of the guest room, darting for the interloper. As the loud thud was heard from the hallway, the not-so-Princess Cadenza rushed to you, her guise fading.

"Anon!! Come on, get up, we have to LEAVE..." She sternly orders, like you were a drone. You would gladly follow this bug's orders, of course, if your body responded as well as your mind. The bruised aching pain shot through your system at even her gentlest touch.

"Chrys...get out of here...they're-" You're rudely interrupted.

"Shut up, shut up! We're getting out of here, both of us!" She frantically looks around the room, noticing the window that you not too long ago gazed through, a glimpse of freedom followed by the harshness of reality. For her, however, the reality was in two pairs of thin, yet strong films, on her back, which flared up at the first inkling of an escape. Scooping under your arm with a strength you've yet to see from her, she slowly drags you nearer and nearer to the window. As the pain wracks your body, you're able to catch a glimpse at the scene in the hallway.

Shining had the 'changeling' pinned, snarling like a mad dog. "I should kill you for attempting to hurt the Princess!"

"I AM the Princess!"


It's like they're a married couple. In the middle of a domestic dispute.

You can feel the light breeze from the window as you near it, with help from Chrissy. She opens it wide, hopping outside, helping you to your feet. Able to maintain balance, not without a bit of pain, you place a hand on the windowsill. She floats outside, her buzzing bug wings making a peaceful, almost rhythmic beating against the air. As you begin to climb, she gently helps you sidle over the edge. Placing your feet on a decorative ledge, you get an unsteady, but necessary footing. Turning around, you reach for her. Momentary doubts of whether she can carry you cross your mind, but you trust her with your life.

"There they are!"

The familiar roar of the royal guard, Celestia's right hand. Two onlookers peer at the fighting teens, while the Captain rushes into the guest room. In a moment of panic, Chrissy attempts to get you, a holed hoof within reach of your fingers. As you lean forward to grasp her, the holed hoof disappears. The black bug mare is forcibly dragged into the window, shouting in a mix of despair and worry. Well placed. As your hand closes, nothing in it's reach, the rest of your body falls foward to meet it. Your feet scramble for a new footing, simply slipping from the last.

The night sky is beautiful, your frantic mind decides to toss to the forefront, even as the stars quickly becomes farther and farther away.

Chapter 11 - Gone

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You awaken with a scream, shooting upright. There are multiple reasons as to why this may be the case.

First of all, you were recently falling to your death. That beautiful night sky still burned into your memory, along with the velocity and direction it was leaving you. Surely the fear would be in the forefront of your mind.

Secondly, it could be the pain you were in. Your injuries were adding up, for sure. Hooves, no matter how round and strangely soft they look from a distance, hurt when being shoved into your chest.

And third, the most likely reason, is that you were waking up in Celestia's private study. You've known quite well, ever since you were a child, that if you're in here...you're in trouble.

"You're awake." Turning your head, you notice a tall white mare, a veil of the doorway's light surrounding her. This fades, of course, as the door closes behind her, a distinct locking noise heard as her horn glows.

"Celesti-" You start, not even sure what to follow it up with. But you're interrupted by her head leaning into your shoulder, feeling her sigh against you.

"You had me worried, Anon..." She states, breaking her normally stoic nature. You can feel the warmth emanate off of her. A mother's love? Or simply being the princess of the sun, you can't tell which. Either way, you bring an arm up to hug her, though it pains you a bit. Not nearly as bad as before. You must have had time to recover...

"How long have I been asleep?" Is the first coherent thing you manage to say. She pulls away, looking down at you. "It's been nearly a day. You're safe now." Safe?

"What happened to Shining? Cadance?" A natural reaction. After all, they were the only things endangering your safety.

"They're okay. The guards apprehended the intruder, and it was dealt with. I'm sure Cadance is quite antsy to see you again!"

Your heart sinks, as your mind remembers the gravity of your situation. The last you saw of your bugfriend, she was being dragged into a window. The 'intruder', they call her. Keep a straight face.

"Yeah, I bet..."

How little she knows. What Shining did to your body. What Cadance did to your mind. What the 'intruder' did to your heart. But you have to play along, now. This goes beyond her being revealed, it's far too late for that. You know Celestia, you've seen her rule. She'll do anything to protect her beloved Equestria.

You hope she didn't go too far.

"You rest as long as you need to, Anon." She gets up, smiling down. "I'll be sure to have dinner brought to you!" To which you wave an arm.

"No need. I'm not very hungry..." You are. But you'd prefer no intrusions. Celestia's a tad smarter than that.

"You need to eat something. It'll be up shortly." She says firmly, leaving the study, closing the door. Notably, no locking noise. That's comforting. As you hear her hoofsteps fade to nothing, you stand. Painless, amazingly. There's still a pressure, a bruising at your chest. Pressing it hurts. A lot. So let's not do that again. Walking to the door, you open it, looking out to the hallway. There's a guard next to your door, who turns to you.

"Ah, hello young one. Feeling better, are we?" A grunt, no one recognizable. One of the many guards sent to chase you through the royal gardens. You nod in reply, stepping out. "Try not to strain yourself. I'll let the royalty know you're up and about." As he goes to move, you stop him with a hand to his shoulder.

"No no...I'm, uh, heading there myself. You're relieved for the night." You amaze yourself at your own quick thinking...amazed at the stupidity, that is. You just gave an order. To a guard.

"...sure thing. Take it easy, champ." The guard nods, heading off in the direction of the barracks. The amazement settles in once more, not at the thinking, not at the stupidity...but at the fact it worked. You head the opposite way, but instead of moving towards the dining hall, you have more pressing locations to be. The palace's halls are no secret to you, and it's not long before you're at the entrance to the dungeon. Down the staircase you go, making it to the guard on duty.

"Ah, Anon. Glad you're up and at 'em, it looked like that thing roughed you up good." Keep it cool.

"Yeah. I'd like a few words with it." You say, walking more forwards. The guard shakes his head.

"Sorry, no can do." It hits you hard, enough to break composure.

"Why the hell not?! I need to talk to her!" You say, quite angered. For reasons, of course, the guard is unaware of. Luckily for you, he can fill in his own blanks with what he knows.

"It's not here. The Princess had it taken away." He sneers a bit. Not at you, of course. Just at what he 'knows'. "After what it did, it's probably dead." The dungeon guards tend to keep their minds open, as well as their mouths. After all, how often does anyone come check on them? Saying nothing, stewing in his words, you turn, heading back for the staircase. He's left with a single lingering thought.


Moving back to the staircase, you take the steps up, beginning to climb. No. She's not dead. There's no damn way it's all over just like this. All that work, everything you've been through...everything SHE'S been through. Shaking your head, you look to the doorway, heading into the hall. A bit more pink there than you remember.

"Anon..." A solemn, soft female voice is heard. It's her. Who else would it be? She stays there as you cross the final step to the hallway, looking at her with your sunken eyes. "I'm really glad you're okay..." It's really, really hard to believe. But sincerity is dripping from her lips with every word. She sounds sad. Guilty even.

"Me too." You respond, gauging the situation. You have a hatred for this mare. A seething, deep hatred. But with the news you just received, is it even worth it? She walks towards you.

"Look...I..." She bites her lip, holding back her words. Her gaze is even averted to the side. "...I just want..."

"What?" You say, quite a bit indignant. You've been dealing with enough shit, her stuttering isn't something you need. Swallowing her pride, or something else that's impeding her speech, she takes another step.

"I just want you to come to dinner...I want to forget...and just...move on..." She looks up to you. A well practiced pity stare, you're sure. "Can...WE...move on?" Her necklace twinkles for a moment, her now cutiemark's inspiration. The crystal heart you begrudgingly gave, adorned on her neck. Clearly she's proud of it.

"..." It takes you a moment to still your swirling thoughts. The bug that you had your being set on is...well, gone. Dead. You mentally shiver as you come to terms. Dead. And this mare was willing to do whatever to have you. Would it be so bad? She steps forward once more, very close to you now. Inches. Remaining silent...you nod slowly, resigned to your fate. You bring a hand up to her head as she leans forward, pressing into you. Lightly caressing the thin chain that is now her necklace, your crystal gift the centerpiece. You sigh a sigh of relief as the embrace occurs.

You saw it.

The small smile. Not of pleasure, of contentment, of simple loving joy. Of victory. A devilish smirk you've become all too familiar with. Your fingers grip around the necklace.

She had to convince you.

She raced to see you. She had to talk to you first. There was no way she could let anyone else say anything. Using her soft words and actions, lulling you into submission. You tug against the light gold chain, beginning to turn.

She was afraid she would lose you.

Your other hand presses into her neck, hard, as you turn, still gripping the necklace. She's thrown off balance, literally, and is sent behind you. Which wouldn't be so bad, had you not been standing in front of the entrance to the dungeon. The crystal heart snaps off her neck as she falls backwards, out of your reach.

She knew something.

The sound of the pink mare toppling down the dungeon staircase would have been music to your ears, had you stuck around to savor it. As soon as she was out of your sight, and thus out of mind, you bolted down the hall. Crystal heart in hand, you clutch it tightly. Cadance never gives up until she's sure she's won. From the pettiest of games, to the harsh reality that is your life. You know this from experience. If she had not yet won, that means there must be another player.

Chrissy is alive.

Chapter 12 - Royalty

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Princess Celestia exited her study, the grimace on her face reminiscent of the traumatic event that just occurred. The event was only lightly traumatic for her. If she said this was the first time she caught this rambunctious little human falling from a high place, she'd be lying. They grow up so fast, she would think. However, she can only imagine what her precious Anon must be feeling. She wasn't there, and she wished she could be, but luckily her little niece was in the thick of it all.

Changelings. There are few creatures that Celestia does not truly love that reside in Equestria. From her balcony she would look below, the sun she shines down on them. Ponies, unicorns, pegasi, griffons, all the animals of the forests, rivers, and skies. Maybe even a draconequus, given the right environment. But not even a ruler should expect to deal with these parasitic creatures.

Morphing into the shapes of others, feeding on their very emotion. The stronger ones, she's heard, can even control and manipulate with magic. An act that's quite forbidden, quoting Starswirl the Bearded himself. Not that she'd ever bring herself to do such a thing, of course. Banishment is hard enough on an immortal psyche. No creatures should have such dominion over another, the removal of free will, or it's warping through deceit. Luckily, thanks to young Cadenza, it was easy to see through the uneasy fog.

She saw the whole thing, Cadenza would repeat to the radiant ruler. Rushing to check on her 'precious' Anon...oh, young love is adorable...she saw herself! The disgusting bug, in the young Princess' terms, was disguised as herself, and manipulated the cadet, Shining, into attacking her. Meanwhile, it guided Anon to the balcony, and shoved him off! The royal guard arrived in time to apprehend the creature, but was far too late to save him. Fortunately, Celestia herself was around to do that. Sunlight travels fast.

Her foster child was out cold, passing out the moment he landed on her back. Those moments spent flying to safe ground were agony, the possibility of carrying what might have been a mere husk...as soon as her worries were quashed, she immediately brought him to safety. Having already attacked him in the hallway, coming to finish the job...Celestia's face contorted into a flash of motherly anger. Despicable. The guards had it. This time, Celestia will get her audience.


The magical bindings surrounding her mouth would prove to be far less useful than the ones around her hooves and horn. Chrissy's voice would be gone from the screaming anyhow. Seeing Anon plummet, inches from her saving grasp, only to have it torn away. Even if he hadn't fallen, he'd still be torn away from her, thanks to the royal guard. It's burned into her mind, the look on Anon's face. All of them. Each and every one.

The face of pure, seething hatred. She had Shining take her to him, to save him from all this. As the gullible cadet spoke, Anon had turned to face his faux captors, feeling disgusted to even look like her. His eyes, for that moment, were dark pits of pure, concentrated malice towards the princess. It shook Chrissy to the core, but as she uttered her soft plea to escape, his eyes became sullen, his own emotions exhausting him. A momentary relief, that would be over all too soon.

The face of despair, of fleeting hopes. Surely it mimicked her own at that instance, her holed hoof was so close to him. But in that fateful second, her body was jerked backwards, absconded by the damned guard. If only he knew. He would have waited that mere second, if only to let her him. Surely he would have. No one's that heartless. Remembering who she once impersonated, she corrected herself. Almost no one.

And lastly, the face of joy, at the taste of a red, shiny apple. The deadpan stare after she would deplete the fruity rations. The sorrowful look as they parted. The boredom he would exhibit being forced to deal with that vile pink mare in the years to come. All of the emotions, all of them his. All of them gone. Her eyes closed. What her mouth was not allowed to express, her tears did.

The hoofsteps resonating through the room were enough to jostle her from her sadness. Looking up, she saw the elder princess staring her down, as angry as she was radiant. "Shall I allow her to speak?" One guard inquired, nudging the captured bug harshly. Celestia shook her head.

"All these creatures spout are lies." Leaning in, Chrissy began to muffle.

"Mff ammfmm ohkkff?" She attempted to speak, to no avail. Celestia didn't bother to ask what.

"Changeling. Your kind has always earned my ire." She began, staring the bug down.

"Ahnnmmffnn! Ihhnnff hff oohhkkffmm? Another futile attempt.

"But what you did..." Celestia's eyes burned with the fires of the sun she rose. "...what you did to him was unforgivable."

Chrissy fell dead silent for the brief moment, her eyes widening. She shook her head. He couldn't be. "Nff...nmmmff!!"

"You listen, and you listen good." The acid dripped off the princess' words like the tears that formed at the changeling's face fell from her cheeks. "Tell this to your hive." She steps forward, hoof moving past the bug, their horns nearly touching in confrontation. "If I ever see you, or one of your kind, in my kingdom again..." Her teeth grit in anger, visions of her nearly murdered 'son' in her mind. "The only thing blacker than your empty husks will be the chars I leave behind."

The guards shook in terror. They would be regaling this tale at patrol-duty poker tonight.

Celestia's horn illuminated with strong magic, and pressed into the captive changeling. For the split second before the bug disappeared from their immediate existence, her mouth was free from the bindings. Her scream echoed through the chamber long after her body disappeared. Celestia expected such a response. Few creatures could withstand becoming the object of her displeasure. Unbeknownst to her, the bugmare's breakdown was for a different reason.

She lay in the wastes outside of Canterlot, grains of sand clinging to her tear-stained face. She's the only one now who can hear her pained screams.


Later that night...

A gentle knock at the infirmary door was responded to with a tired, sore moan.

"Mnnhh...." The pink mare tossed in the cot, lightly creaking it. The door opened anyway, as if her incoherent moan was a 'yes, come in'. The white cadet made his way inside, closing the door behind him promptly.

"Cadance." He said, almost as if reporting to a higher up. That amount of urgency. She didn't seem all too interested.

"Shining, you idiot...I'm trying to sleep..." She sits up lightly, groaning in the typical 'teenage mare who totally has somewhere better to be but isn't right now' style.

"I found out what happened to the changeling."

That changed her tune rather quickly. The sound of her sore body cracking as she stretching upright, giving him full attention. Once acclimated...she grinned.

"Tell me! Did she string it up by the balcony? Oooo, perhaps the stocks! They haven't been used since the olden times, I've heard! That's deserving of what it did. Yeah, public execution..." Her tone was oddly, disconcertingly soothing as she perused her own imagination for the fate of the changeling, which to her immediate disgust, was not as she expected.

"She let it go."

"WHAT?!" She's fortunate she was the only patron in the infirmary at the moment, or her little outburst would surely have awaken the other patients. Not that they would have the gainsay to confront her about it, of course. "She didn't kill it? How?! After what it did to you? To Anon?" Her performance regarding Anon is convincing, even though Shining is one of the few she needn't convince. Living the lie makes it easier to stick to, after all.

"Apparently her threats were terrifying, sending a message to her kind." The cadet grins a bit. "The guards with her said they had to change their outfits." Cadance has no time for his little story. Her head is already racing.

She's alive. How hard is it to execute a criminal? Especially one of that magnitude! Attempted murder of royalty. Multiple accounts, no less. She stews it over in her mind. Anon, her dear sweet Anon, must still be sleeping. That was a nasty fall. It's amazing Celestia was nearby. The way she flew through the window, a radiant blur, diving after her son. How did she even know this was happening? Mother's intuition, maybe.

"...that she'd reduce them to cinders if they ever showed up again." Shining finished. Cadance wasn't listening, but caught enough she could use. Bringing her hoof to the heart around her neck...that changeling's been manipulating him since he was young. Since the little inkling of affection crept into her mind. And now, with the bug banished, she's as good as dead to him. That night, she could barely sleep, letting the scenario run through her mind. She would talk to him, and he'd be hers, and hers alone. No creepy bugs. No blackmail. Just true young love. Closing her eyes, she slept with a smile on her face, anticipating the day. Everything would be perfect.

It only took a flight of stairs to break the delusions of grandeur, among other things of hers.

Chapter 13 - Home

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You were running. Cadenza was falling. Chrissy was weeping. Shining was training. Celestia was eating. Everyone was busy in their own way.

You book it through the halls, the pain in your chest a mere remnant of what it used to be. You grip the crystal heart tight as you press on, the edges nearly slicing your palm. Through the halls you traverse, heading for the main exit. Luckily, it being dinner time, the halls are mostly empty. Even those that see you aren't in the know to your situation, so they are simply as startled as they would be by any bipedal naked monkey dashing through the halls would make them. As you escape out the front doors, the two guards standing by attempt to greet you, but you don't stop for pleasantries. Your destination is clear. One of the armored patrol shrugs to the other.

"Glad to see he's up and at 'em." They aren't the brightest at times.

You rush through the streets of Canterlot. The moment you feel yourself becoming short of breath, the crystal heart in your hand gives you your second wind. Not literally, of course. It's not magic. But you'll be damned if something as mundane as exhaustion or your body's limitations will stop you. The buildings rushed by you in a blur as you didn't dare stop, knowing that it would only be a matter of time until you'd be searched for.

Having reached the outskirts of the city, the pressing weight of possible capture is superseded by the need to catch your breath. You stop, hands on your knees, almost ready to collapse. Where...where now? You have no clue where Chrissy would be, should she be alive. Maybe you read Cadenza wrong. Maybe she isn't...no. No, she is. You can't doubt yourself now. Standing upright once more, you scan around. Blindly running forward is always an option, but you'd probably want to stay off the main road down the mountain. Probably not the most hidden spot. Idly, you look down at the crystal in your palm. It comes to you. The cave!

Chrissy hid there for who knows how long, surely it can handle one more night of occupancy. If Cadance hadn't shown you how to get back to the castle, it would be a nightmare trying to find it. Behind a tree and some bushes, past a drop that looks far steeper than it actually is, and down a winding path that leads into the caves...and there it was. A faint glow. The cavern. Approaching it, you step a bit inside...and with a heavy heart, try your luck.


Your voice echoes through the chamber, the reverberating sound your only response. You sigh, which also becomes echoed. The cavern's acoustics are exquisite, for sure. Entering, you feel a rush of memory. It was only a day ago. She stood here, poured her heart out, and gave you a crystal one to compensate. Gripping your personal treasure, you head deep in, much deeper than you had gone before. When suddenly, you hear it. A faint buzzing, like the flapping of insect's wings. The kind you heard moments before your fateful descent.

Excitement rushes over you, and your footsteps echo through the cavern as you rush to the back.

"Chrissy! Chrissy, I'm okay!" You call out. Each step through the cave, new crystal pattern passing you by, until suddenly there's the end of the cavern. "Chri-"

The buzzing noise emanated from a small bag on the ground. The sack moved slightly, little orbs of color with insect wings seen messing with it's contents. You sigh internally. It wouldn't be that easy, of course it wouldn't. Stepping over to the sack, you crouch, opening it up. A few of those odd flies zip and dart out of the bag, startled by the intrusion. As they hover near, you swat your hand at them. "Shoo fly, don't bother me." You say. The small group of flies departs...though you could SWEAR one of them stuck its tongue out at your before they did.

The sack smelled of apples, or the remnants of them. Now it's a pile of bruised cores. No doubt the flies enjoyed them. Almost as much as you would have, the eaten food a stark reminder that you, in fact, skipped out on a delicious meal. Putting the bruised, fly-devoured cores to the side, you spot it. A whole apple! Jackpot. You reach in to grab it, pulling out the favored fruit. Immediately digging your teeth in, you feel the was of flavor cover your tongue. Just like the kind back at the labyrinth. As you munch away, you can't help but observe your surroundings. The crystals of the cavern are a beautiful sight to behold. Jagged formations, tiny divots. One on the wall beside you is even shaped like a heart. Taking a closer look, you run a finger along it's grooves. Smooth, as if it was cut. Holding up your little treasure, you smile. She really did a bang-up job on it. Picture perfect.

Before long, you've finished your meal. It ended far too quickly for your liking. You prepare to toss it in the sack with the other cores, until something catches your eye. The full apple covered something up at the bottom of a bag. You turn the sack over, the apple cores spilling to the cavern floor. Along with a folded piece of parchment floating down, landing atop the pile. Grabbing it, letting the freshly eaten apple's remnants join it's brethren, you unfold it.

Oh look, it's Canterlot. At least, a decent enough depiction of it. A castle on a cliffside is pretty indistinguishable. There was even a plot out of the town, and the royal gardens. Not too far from it, a cave with some jagged spikes. It only takes a moment to process. This is a makeshift map! Chrissy's been here a long time, this must be how she remembered how to get here in the beginning. But 'here' isn't the only marker on the map. Cadenza's house was clear. How did you know it was Cadenza's? Well, one, the positioning on the map. Secondly, of course, was the way 'bitch' is the only word near that location. Must have picked up some lingo from the locals.

But something else peaked your interest. Far below the map of town, a line. A line that crossed a massive expanse. Not just what it surely represented, but a large gap on the map itself. While one might think it's just not detailed, there's something that can be easily akin to that emptiness. The wastelands, behind the mountain. Constant storms, dust, sand, harsh wildlife. Even more forsaken than the fabled Everfree Forest, this plot of land is shunned from the eyes of Canterlot, and Celestia herself. Only an idiot would think to cross them.

However, at the end of the line, at the very bottom of the page, lies the reason you'll be more than willing to be known as an idiot.



Chrysalis arrived at the entrance to the hive. She could feel it. The soft buzzing beneath the ground, of her kin thriving. Her instincts guided her properly, until she found the dark cavern entrance where they resided. The chitinous guards buzzed with the arrival of their princess. Step by step she continued, her holed hooves familiarizing themselves with what she calls home. It's been quite a while, nearly two years, since she walked this hive. If only her return were more joyous, not that the pathetic drones would care otherwise.

She made it to the throne room, the doors opening, heralding her entrance.

"My beautiful daughter..." Her mother's wings buzzed as she floated to her returned daughter.

"Hello mother..." She said solemnly. Well, solemn isn't the right word. That would imply a hint of emotion. Chrysalis' words were simply empty.

"Welcome home..." She knelt down to approach her daughter's height, and began an embrace. It felt warm, if only for a moment, caused by the glowing of the Queen's horn.

"I...I'm sorry..." Was all the little one could speak. She knew she would have to apologize. Her returns, no matter how infrequent, were never greeted by true affection from her mother. Only expectations.

"...not...a drop..." The Queen pulled back, glaring down at her daughter. "Pathetic waste. Why send you to Canterlot at all if this is how you repay me?"

"M-mother, I-" Her sentence was met with a silencing hoof. Not the gentle, pressed to your lip kind. The kind that sends the princess tumbling into the floor.

"You might as well have not returned." She spoke coldly, turning away from the failure. Chrysalis picked herself up off the floor. She was right, after all. Chrissy knew she was a failure. There was no sobbing, no tears. She spent them all on Anon. Only deep seated self hatred remained, and it was all she felt she deserved.

"C..Celestia..." Chrissy squeaked out. The Queen barely turned.

"What of her?"

"She...she captured me...if any more changelings are found..." Chrissy gulps, recalling that moment. The burning glare, the powerful threat. "...our empty husks won't be as blackened as she chars she makes of them..."

The Queen recoiled slightly. Celestia is not a force to be trifled with. Without responding to her offspring, she, accompanied by drones, left the throne room. Chrysalis stood there, wallowing in her own failure, her face desperately wanting to cry, but her heart no longer in it. The Queen stepped through the caverns, a look of disgust on her face. "Pathetic. How hard is it to collect love? Is she really that horrible? Can no one love such a failure..." She rambled, her drones idly nodding and agree with whatever drivel spilled from her lips. She stormed into her chambers, the drones staying behind, knowing better than to interfere.

The king lay in his bed. He looks weak, his chitin a faded grey, eyes sunken. As his beloved enters the room, he only turns slightly. He can barely speak. "Our daughter brought us a message. Celestia plans to exterminate our kind." The king is elated at the return of his daughter, but can hardly show it, only blinking. "Of course, my king, we must take action. Any good ruler would. If we don't find a source of love soon..." She steps to the bed, leaning down to him. "We'll have to take it by force."

The weak noises the husk known as the king made were in protest to her insane words. Changelings are feeble creatures. They hide, they disguise, they steal. The Queen is mad if she thinks to challenge the might of Celestia.

"I'm glad you agree, my king~!" The Queen chides happily, pressing her horn against his. "You'd do anything for whom you love..."

As a pale green glow escapes the king's horn, no more sounds of protest could be heard. He had loved the queen once. He loved his hive nearly as much. But when it became desperate, he would do anything for his queen. But she always took more. Her chitin was perfect, her eyes were vibrant, her smile devious.

Her love, a lie.

The Queen exited her chambers, motioning to her drone. "Dispose of him." The drones nodded, in complete obedience to the monarch. Plans swirled around in her head. The emotions that her colony, the precious colony she cared for so dearly, needed to thrive...were running thin. Her drones were hungry. If only love wasn't so hard to acquire.

Perhaps she's thinking of it all wrong. The love comes from those beings...those beings simply need to be here. Surely Celestia wouldn't miss a few ponies here and there, especially if they were replaced properly. Her fanged grin grew as the gears fell into place. Sustainable emotion. Perfect.

Chrysalis, the young princess of the dying colony, sat in her chambers. The death of her beloved on her holed hooves. Where once her heart thought it could not cry, it's face decided to prove it wrong. Her coos and sobs echoed softly through the caverns, as the buzzing of wings indicated plans being set into motion.