The Next Generations
Mayor Glasseye was in no merry mood that evening. The lines around his face and under his eyes, the bulging glass one especially, showed it. He hardly even nursed the tall open can of cider he held in his hooves. His political life was currently on the line. Twilight Sparkle, that bitch, was closing in on him in the polls and no matter how hard he tried to divert or kill them off, journalists and cops were digging further into his...connections. As Election Day drew closer, the incumbent mayor of Ponyville became more stressful at the increasingly apparent and strong possibility of losing his seat of power, and all the additional power and wealth that he attached with it.
He sat across the long dining table in the hollow, dust-gathering dining room of Diamond Manor. The owner of the manor was sat at the far end and her guards stationed by the doors on the inside of the room and out, and the only other pony sitting down in the dining room was one of Glasseye's unnamed sycophants. A six-pack of ice-cold cider was set on the table top and being shared between them.
But the Mayor was not the only pony not enjoying himself. Diamond Tiara was on her eighth cigarette of the night, creating a miniature mountain of ash and butts in her tray like she did almost every other night. She had several things swimming through the perpetually pissed off mob boss' mind at the same time, and none of them were positive.
She blew out a stream of smoke, saying quietly to the stallions without looking at them directly, "This Twilight Sparkle. She's becoming a serious pain in my flank." She twirled the holder around playfully. "She's gaining unsettling ground, Glasseye. That's not a good sign for you, especially in terms of your mandate and popularity."
"I am aware of that, Diamond Tiara, but the situation's difficult. She's not your typical whiny liberal feminist; she's a smart bitch with some serious names behind her. I've seen the polls. We're neck and neck. It doesn't look good. Unless I pull a rabbit out of the hat and soon..."
"You're going to win."
"You don't know that to a certainty."
"You're going to win."
"Then why're you so pissed about Sparkle doing well?"
"I'm allowed to be pissed off, aren't I?" She blew a stream of smoke out her nostrils. "You're going to win, but Sparkle isn't a problem that'll just go away after the election. She's gonna be on you like a parasite."
He took a swig of his cider. "So what do you plan to do about her?"
"What do you think? Discredit and if I have to…blow 'er brains out. Nothing really different."
"Oh. So you're just venting, then?"
"Basically," she said, shrugging before leaning forward in her chair, putting her hooves on the table. "Besides, I got bigger fish to fry, right now. We need to figure out what to do about Cobbletrot. He's moving in on my protection."
Glasseye took out a silk hoofkerchief and dabbed it against his perspiring forehead. He was sweating a lot as of recently.
"Ah yes, I was meaning to talk to you about that," he said in a tone of voice that said he most certainly did not want to talk about it, but eventually would have to. "Look...I went and had a meeting with Mr. Cobbletrot at the 'Bloody Hooves' earlier today--"
"You what!?" Diamond Tiara nearly spit the cider out her mouth.
Glasseye held his hoof up as if to calm her and continued slowly, "We discussed the situation. He doesn't want to kick off something with you, Diamond, and frankly, I'm inclined to believe him."
"Diamond, I have a campaign to run. The last thing I need right now is something like a turf war." Glasseye reasoned with her as best he could, but at the same time, kept up a brave front. "I'll win, as you've said, but you're the one going on about a strong mandate. Cobbletrot and I both agree that for the time being, there needs to be a kind of 'peaceful co-existence' between the two of you--"
Diamond Tiara got up and banged the table so hard it made the third pony nearly break his silence and fidget uncomfortably in his seat. She ignored him and hissed at Glasseye, "You're getting a cut, aren't you, you son of a bitch!"
"No, I am not," he told her firmly, still keeping a calm composure. "I just want a Détente. I'm trying to act a facilitator here, Diamond."
She did not respond, and instead paced back and forth restlessly by her chair, grumbling and thinking the situation over.
She stopped after about a minute, her back facing Glasseye and declaring, "Nope, can't do it."
"He stole the Apples from me. I can't forgive him for that."
He groaned at hearing that, putting his hoof to his head, saying, "Diamond, I'm sure he didn't even know about--"
"Oh, he knew. He knew how much I wanted the Apple family under my hoof! That little bucker stole them just to spite me! I'll fix them, though. Oh, I will..." She raved on, banging the table. "And you want me to work with 'im?"
"I never asked you to work with him." At this point, Glasseye was getting frustrated with Diamond Tiara's stubbornness. "I'm just asking you not to start a war!"
"A war? Are you serious?!" Diamond Tiara was almost laughing at his concerns. "Glasseye, there isn't going to be a war. That runt doesn't have the guts. But if you're pissing yourself with worry, Glasseye, I'll give it to ya straight..." She walked back to her chair and sat down. "I'll hold back as much as my generous temper will allow. But if Pipsqueak pushed me any further, and I mean any further…he's dead, election or not. Got it?"
The mayor knew it best not to pursue the matter any further, at least, not right now while Diamond Tiara was still in her bad mood. He nodded, took his can of cider and drunk the remaining fizzy half.
She irritably rolled her eyes and looked over her shoulder and barked, "What?"
"It's me, boss," called Snail's voice from behind the thick ornate door. "Snails."
"Oh, I've been waiting for this. This oughta be good!" Diamond Tiara growled as she practically leaped off her chair stormed to the door. She reached the door and grabbed the handle, telling Glasseye and the third pony before opening it, "Be back in a minute, gentlecolts." She slammed the door, shaking everything that was not bolted down. Immediately afterwards, the stallions heard a horrific shriek from the other side of the door, regardless of its supposed thickness. It was loud enough to even shake up the third pony's barely touched can standing on the table, spilling some of its contents onto the varnished surface.
Moments later, the door opened and Diamond Tiara's head popped back in, forehead sweating and pulsating and she said, "Meeting's over, boys. Just wait here a few minutes, then you can leave."
She pulled back her head, slammed the door even harder than before and spun around and shoved Snails by the collar up against the filthy wall.
"Who...was it!?" Diamond Tiara hissed with so much venom that it might as well have been spewing out her mouth. "Was it those damn Griffins!? Dogs?! Gobs!? ...was it COBBLETROT!?!"
"NO! NO! U-uh, I-I mean...w-we don't know! I-I mean, I don't know, I'm just the messenger," Snails insisted fearfully, tilting his head back to the wall, as if fearing she was going to gouge his eyes out. "Snips told me all we know is some punks jumped our boys at the exchange. It was pitch-black, boss, these guys took out the lights! Snips said our boys were taken completely off-guard!"
In an arc of pink, Diamond Tiara slapped Snails hard enough to send him to the floor. He scrambled up against the wall in a slumped sitting position, staring up at the livid mare and holding his damaged muzzle.
"Look, they left all the fakes alone. They just took the guns! I dunno why, but they just did--GAAARGH!!!" He was cut-off midway when she took out her own gun and smashed the butt of it across his forehead, creating a small gash.
"Shut the buck up! I don't want your pathetic excuses!" Diamond Tiara pointed the firing end of the gun inches from in between the new guy's eyes. "This town BELONGS TO ME! ME! Nopony steals from ME! Not that punk you took my two million, and especially not Cobbletrot! And don't you dare say it wasn't him! Now you go tell Snips that you idiots better find out just what the buck is going on here and butcher those buckers who took my damn guns. If you don't…" She lowered the gun so that it aimed at Snip's stomach. "I'll shoot you through the spine!" She twisted it around and pistol whipped him across the head once more and stormed off down the hall. "Oh, and go tell dumb and dumber they can leave now!"
Snails held his gash and managed through clenched teeth, "Yes...yes, ma'am." He remembered something and though it pained him, he yelled after her, "Wait. Wait!"
She turned around and snapped, "What?"
"We...we hired a hitmare to take care of that punk who swiped your two million."
"And that's important how?"
"It's, uhh...the good news following bad?"
A pulse was visible on Diamond Tiara's forehead. She flared her nostrils and muttered, waving her gun about, "Just get in there, you idiot."
The last surviving member of the Diamond family spent the next hour roaming the dark halls of the decaying mansion, knocking over furniture and pounding the walls as she stewed in her anger. There was hardly a piece of furniture in halls left undamaged by the end of the night.
This town belonged to her. Not Glasseye, not Twilight Sparkle, and certainly not Cobbletrot. It was all her property, like her father's and his father before him and so on. But now some noponies thought they could just waltz up and help themselves to a slice?! Whether Cobbletrot was behind this or not, she knew what it was: a challenge.
Fine, if they really wanted to die, they could just try and take Ponyville from her...though there were far easier ways to kill oneself.
Brrriiiiiiiiiiiing, went the school bell. It was the start of another long school day for the youth of Ponyville. They were pulled out of bed, shoved out the door and sent off to continue their years long preparation for the rest of their little lives.
There were now far more schools in Ponyville than there were, say, a decade ago, before the 'Great Gallop Forward' was on the horizon, but the one almost every pony parent wanted their child to get enrolled into was the oldest, 'Ponyville Elementary'; the one that most ponies of child-rearing age had attended themselves in filly or colthood. It was not just nostalgic value for them; it was a pretty darn good school that produced quite exceptional results and the student body itself was almost entirely made up of ponies (though its diversity was gradually becoming apparent with time), especially compared to the many new, less quality schools cropping up around town.
Naturally, with its student body expanding, the building of the school had to expand with it. It had to be at least four times bigger than its original form, with the result being an ugly mesh of wood and concrete. The staff had to grow as well, with new faces as well as old.
Cheerilee was one of those old faces, having now become what many ponies saw as a permanent feature of the school. She was starting to feel the effects of age like her cohorts, but was in good spirits, having finally married her 'very special somepony' and having a colt of her own with him. She had a loving family, a job that was her passion and had already planned her family's holiday to Gobelvania that year. What more could a mare need?
The classroom in which Cheerilee taught was currently filled with all forty-five of her students and as she was yet to arrive, they were left to their own devices. Most of them were chatting loudly over each other or got up from their desks and huddled in groups of their friends. Some took out their Batmare comic books to read, often in groups and out loud (complete with altering their voices to fit the characters), others their trading cards to either trade or actually play games with them as they were designed for. A paper airplane also found its way through the room, landing square in a colt's eye, who appropriately screamed, "OW! MY EYE! I'M NOT SUPPOSED TO GET PAPER IN IT!"
The classroom door opened and in walked Cheerilee and immediately the class began to settle, with students returning to their desks and shoving their junk back into their desks and bags.
"Good morning, class," she beamed.
"Good morning, Mrs Cheerilee," they echoed, some less enthusiastic than others.
Cheerilee approached her desk, but stopped to look back at the still open door and beckoned, "Come in, sweetheart, we haven't got all day, now do we?"
Bookworm entered the classroom, as timid as a young Fluttershy and keeping his head held as low as possible. He felt the sniggers of his classmates jab him like needles. It was not easy being the smart colt in class, but it was especially hard when your mother was the teacher. He went to his desk and did his best not to draw attention to himself the rest of the day.
Within minutes, Cheerilee set down her bag and completed the register. All students were present and accounted for, the first time in a month. So far, so good.
"Alright, class, settle! Settle!" Cheerilee addressed her now much larger and diverse class, speaking loudly over the chatter that returned after registration. "Before we begin with today's lessons, I've got some important news."
"Shhh! Quiet, Miss Tenure's talking!" came a remark from a student sitting in one corner of the classroom; a Changeling male who sported a wild electric blue mane. He was one of the hoofful of his kind who attended the school, including some of his many brothers and sisters, two brothers of whom, Buzz and Gorgol, were sitting in the corner with him. All three of them broke out in a cackle at his remark, along with the majority of the classroom and Gorgol patted his elder brother on the back.
"That's one strike, Deetle! Do NOT push me, today!" She warned the boy angrily, pointing her hoof at him. As a teacher, her professionalism made her unable to hold prejudices and neither did she truly hold any, but this particular troublemaker and to a lesser extent, his brothers, were a constant pain in her neck from day one.
Many Changelings in Ponyville and all around Equestria had trouble getting their children into good quality schools than the pony majority and most other minority group like griffins and goblins. It did not help how Changelings enrolled their children into schools considerably less than other species. The majority of these children ended up attending poor quality schools with lackluster teaching and a pandemic of low supplies, especially in (often inner-city) neighborhoods with a heavy Changeling face to them.
The boy named Deetle, his brothers and the other Changelings in the school (most from Reinchapel) were very lucky to be here, but this macho, disrespectful and furthermore, disruptive attitude displayed by Deetle and his brothers irritated Cheerilee to no end and created a daily battle between them.
Deetle mockingly made a zipping motion with his hoof across his lips, and Cheerilee gave him a warning glare before she went back to addressing the class.
"Anyway...as you all know, the school is currently under a process of expansion. So starting next week, there will be new students joining our class..."
For a lot of students, Cheerilee's presence faded out in midsentence, allowing them to do their own thing until their immediate attention was required.
Drizzilla was one such filly; she was perched at a desk in the far end of the large classroom by the window, mostly out of Cheerilee's range of view and earshot. She propped up a large book to act as a front as she took some things silently out from her desk and licked her lips. A few seats behind her was Jellybean, fidgeting uncomfortably in the tight space which forced her large tummy against the desk edge. Many of their "friends" and associates like Jack N Box were conveniently in their class, as well.
"...so naturally, we'll have to move in a bit closer to make way for more desks."
"What!? But it's already cramped in here!" Jellybean blurted out from the back. She was pulling her belly away from the desk edge to relieve the soreness.
"Jellybean, what have I told you about shouting out?" Cheerilee admonished her, giving her a stern look.
"Sorry, Mrs Cheerilee," Jellybean put back on her smiling sweet mask. She frowned when the teacher turned away and muttered bitterly, "Still is, though."
Before Cheerilee could continue, Deetle shot up his hoof. "Question!"
She mentally sighed. "Yes, Deetle?"
"Are they all gonna be inkies?"
"Are they all gonna be Changelings? Like me and my bruvs? I know one of my cuzzes is comin' here."
"I don't know, Deetle."
Actually, it did not take a genius to guess the majority of these new students were going to be Changelings. These de-facto segregated "Changeling schools" were grabbing the attention of journalists and activists alike, so the government was coerced into starting 'quotas' for good, mainly pony dominated schools, to try and end this so-called segregation.
"Now today, class, we're going to be continuing with our algebra."
The whole classroom broke out into a chorus of booing led by Deetle and his bruvs, the former raising his hooves to encourage the volume.
"Enough! Class!" Cheerilee raised her voice over them and tapped her hoof on the floorboards twice until they quietened. "There'll be none of that in this classroom. Listen, I understand math isn't the most thrilling subject in the world, but you're going to need it later in life."
"Question!" This time, it was Jack N Box who raised his hoof.
"...what do you mean?"
Jack tilted his head. "How's math gonna be so important when we're grown up, especially algebra?"
"Well, it...you see--"
"It's just that, I mean, unless I'm doing a job that I really need math for, then what's the point?" he shrugged innocently and pointed at the Fez hat he was wearing for the day. "I'm gonna be travelling hat salespony when I'm grown up. How's learning algebra gonna help me with that?"
This prompted a filly sitting near to him to speak up before Cheerilee could attempt to answer. "And I'm gonna be a supermodel!" She boasted, flicking her mane and daydreaming of herself on the catwalk in Canterlot.
Precious leaned back in her chair and yawned lazily, "I'm totally just gonna marry some rich stallion and live off all his bits."
Soon, nearly all the students in the classroom were shouting out their dream jobs that included no need for any understanding of mathematics, or science…or any academic subject whatsoever.
"Quieeet!" Cheerilee said with a harsh enough tone to silence them. Her patience was starting to run thin. "You're all going to learn math, whether you want to or not. And you're gonna learn it because I say so, now textbooks out! Page 69!"
"Ha! Sixty-nine!" Bigmouth, a moronic colt who had a reputation for not knowing when to shell the Tartarus up and thus aptly named, guffawed and elbow nudged the filly sitting next to him. "Am I righ--"
All the students rushed to get their math textbooks out of their bags and to the appropriate page, in case they incur their teacher's rare wrath.
Cheerilee's smile returned and went over to the chalkboard and pulled down on the projection screen. However, what was revealed on the board behind it made her scowl and the students bite their tongues to supress their laughter.
On the board was a crude chalk drawing of a fat Cheerilee dressed up like a clown and surrounded by flies. Underneath was scrawled in capital letters was 'BIG FAT MEANY'.
She glared back at Deetle and barked, "That's strike two, Deetle!"
"What?! I didn't do anything!"
"You signed it!" She pointed at the chalk scrawl underneath the caption, reading, '© Deetle'.
"...oh yeah. I did do that."
After Cheerilee wiped the image from the board, the lesson properly began. Unfortunately, most of the class proved to be lacking behind in their mathematical abilities, and the scores on their last quizzes could not deny. To be more specific, it was mostly the pony students who were not doing so well, with notable exceptions including Drizzilla and her Bookworm. The few minority students on the other hoof, Deetle and the other Changeling children included, were excelling.
"Come on, everypony, you should all be able to do this by now," she sighed exasperatedly, pointing up at the equation on chalkboard. "What does x equal? Anypony wants to at least take a guess?"
Jellybean put her hoof up. "Sixteen?"
"Sorry, dear. Close, but wrong. Anypony else?"
The only griffin in the class, Twistbeak, slowly raised his claws. "Achtzehn?"
"In man language, please, dear."
"That's correct. Thank you, Twistbeak." Cheerilee turned her back to the class and chalked up the answer, and Jellybean took this time to reach out her leg and angrily kick Twistbeak's chair. The griffin frowned but said nothing.
Later that day, the class had moved onto their history lesson, a subject that was more highly received by the students. The topic they were currently working on was the Griffo-Changeling war, 1499-1503 A.D. (After Discord).
"After four years of intense combat, an armistice was signed that ended the fighting in the war, and marked a victory for the Changeling Kingdom and a complete defeat for Clawdor, although not technically a surrender," Precious read aloud from the textbook as she stood up from her desk. "The peace between the two nations would subsequently be settled in 1504, at the Cloudsdale Peace Conference, and later the same year, the Treaty of--ow!" She felt a sharp pain in her back and looked over her shoulder at Jack N Box, who ducked his head behind his own textbook.
"Is there something wrong, Precious?" Cheerilee asked.
"Jack poked me with a pencil!"
"No, I didn't!" Jack protested, poking his head over his book.
Cheerilee looked skeptical, but said sternly, "Jack, I've got my eye on you, mister. Precious, continue."
Clearing her throat and pushing a strand of her mane from her face, Precious returned to reading from the book. "...the Treaty of Cloudsdale. The key delegates at the Cloudsdale Peace Conference included Princess Celestia, the Griffin Kaiser, Otto V, the Changeling King, Cocoon I--OW!!" She spun around at Jack, whom had barely returned to his seat and fumbled with his textbook, which he was now reading upside down. This time the little jerk had pulled her mane. "Knock it off!"
"Knock what off?"
"Jack N Box, I saw that!" Cheerilee scolded, marching over to their desks. "If you can't leave Precious be, then I'm putting you somewhere else. Get yours things and switch places with Bigmouth toot sweet."
Jack begrudgingly did as he was told and found himself moments later sitting far away from Precious in the back.
"Now, whose turn is it next to read?" Cheerilee skimmed through a list on her desk. "Drizzilla. Continue where Precious left off."
In the corner where Drizzilla was sat, the Pegasi filly gulped and stood up, holding the textbook right up close to her face, blocking it from view.
"Negotiations...were difficult. King Cocoon's demands included...high...reparations which came to...three billion in Equestrian bits..." Drizzilla's voice sounded distorted, like she was talking while chewing on something. It certainly raised a few eyebrows amongst her fellow classmates.
Rolling her eyes, Cheerilee strolled casually over to the filly's desk and held out her hoof. "Whatever you're chewing, spit it out, Drizzilla."
"I'm not chewing…anything."
A low, painful groan emanated from behind the book. With great reluctance, Drizzilla slowly lowered the book to reveal her face.
In her mouth were the half-devoured remains of a fish. The carcass was locked tight between her false teeth, squeezing juices and little chunks of meat that went dribbling down the corners of her mouth and chin. She smiled nervously, but only made herself look more ridiculous.
The classroom was at first dead silent, until Jellybean's lip trembled and she broke out into a fit of hysterical laughter, followed by a frenzy of laughter by the rest of the class. In their defence, though, seeing a filly with a raw fish in her mouth was definitely to them something hilarious to behold.
"Ha ha! Lookit, Drizzilla eats raw fish!" Jellybean cackled, pointing at her and the others joined in on the teasing.
"Dang, that is gross!"
"Hey, Drizzilla, want some bread and butter with that?"
"She's a big, fat penguin! Hahahaha!"
Drizzilla scowled and buried her head in her chest, dropping the fish into her hooves. Her cheeks were blushing and she was clearly on the verge of tears.
"Class! Stop tha--" Cheerilee tried to interject.
"Hey, Drizzilla, I'll give you another fish if you clap your flippers!" Jellybean stood up and began clapping her hooves together in an imitation of a seal. "Hahahahahaha!"
Drizzilla shivered in her seat answered quietly in an equally shivering voice, "Oh, that's okay. I've had enough..." She turned to face Jellybean, her face bright scarlet and tears pouring from her eyes. She held the fish overhead and pulled it back. "HERE!" With all her strength and some good accuracy, she flung the carcass in her classmate's direction.
All eyes followed the projectile as it whistled through the air and land Bullseye on its targets: Jellybean's face. The filly first just sat there in stunned shock, letting the fish slide off her face and fall in her lap, until she took in a deep breath shrieked horrifically, crumpling up like a paper bag.
"Alright, now that is ENOUGH!" Cheerilee pounded her hoof into the floor so hard it caused her own desk behind her to wobble. Not a single peep was made after that, not even from Bigmouth, who even held his hoof to his lips to make sure. Cheerilee straightened her mane and took a breather to recompose herself and finally readdressed the class calmly, "Drizzilla, Jellybean, take that fish, throw it out and go wait in the hall for me."
Neither had the guts to defy her and silently left the classroom, heads held low and Drizzilla holding the fish in her teeth.
"Appletini, pick up where Drizzilla left off..."
"I don't get it, Fluttershy. It's like, just because you're their mom, everything bad that happens is automatically you're fault!"
"Uh-huh, I'm listening..."
That was half-true. Fluttershy was in the middle of tending to the many animals under her care outside the cottage she and her family still resided, feeding her rabbits some alfalfa from a satchel she was wearing when Rainbow Dash arrived, lounging on a thick cloud on her back. The blue Pegasi was on one of her many breaks of the day and decided to visit her friend, who was willing to chat but also trying to juggle her workload at the same time. Naturally, their conversation drifted onto a familiar subject; their kids.
"I didn't know it was gonna start raining, yesterday, it wasn't even supposed to!" Rainbow Dash insisted, even though there was little doubt Fluttershy believed her. She was telling her about Drizzilla's 'incident' the other day and its aftermath. "Derpy Hooves told me the night before...okay, maybe that was a bad move." She admitted with a sigh and continued staring straight up at the sky, legs crossed and holding both forehooves behind her head.
"And she thinks it's your fault? Oh my, that's really bad."
"She wouldn't even talk to me when I got home," she continued, a hint in her voice suggesting she felt bad. "She looked pretty upset..."
Fluttershy stopped her tending for a moment and looked their other way as she answered slowly, uncertainly, "Well, that is understandable, what with her...conditions and being out in public and all."
"It sounded like, from what you told me, she was pretty scared, too."
"Yeah, I guess she was."
She kept her eyes away and began feeding seed to a bunch of birds, but said it anyway, "Also, you actually sound like you do feel guilty about it, if just a little."
Rainbow Dash sat up on the cloud, facing opposite her friend's direction and muttered just loud enough for Fluttershy to hear it, "I heard her crying in her room." That was the closest she would get to saying 'yes'.
"Oh," Fluttershy suddenly felt bad herself and ducked her head. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be. It's not your fault."
She hesitated, making sure to think it over first, before asking, "D-Did you go to comfort her?"
"Tried. She yelled at me to leave her alone. She didn't even talk much when I dropped her off at school, this morning, either." The blue mare's inner guilt was now becoming increasingly transparent. She let out a heavy sigh, blowing a strand of her multi-coloured mane from her view, "Why do I always manage to make things worse with that kid, Fluttershy? I just don't know what to do with her, half the time."
"Hmmm, well..." Fluttershy rubbed her chin. "What do you do with Drizzilla?"
"Eh, the usual stuff. Yell, send her to her room, smack her over the head--"
"Oh, no, no, no, no, no, not like that. Sorry, I-I was talking about how you both spend your free time together. You know, what you do as mother and daughter?"
That question left Rainbow Dash stumped and embarrassed. She went quiet and shrugged her shoulders, still facing the other way as she murmured. "Uhh, w-well...you want me to be honest? Not a lot."
This answer took Fluttershy by surprise and she cocked an eyebrow and tilted her head in confusion.
"Really? But surely there has to be something the two of you have in common. I mean, most of the time, Soarin isn't around, so--"
Rainbow Dash turned back to her and let her belly slump against her cloud, lowering it so they were within closer hearing distance of each other. From the look on her face, she was not impressed by what Fluttershy said, like she could not see the glaring problem, even though it was in front of her.
She took in a deep inhale through the nostrils and asked her friend, "Okay, Fluttershy, what's the one thing I like to do every day and at every opportunity?"
"Uhh, flyi--oh. Ohhh..." Fluttershy once again went sheepish as realisation dawned upon her. She then said in a hushed voice, putting a hoof next to her mouth and looking around, all in the baseless fear that somepony was listening in. "You mean it's about her...special condition?"
She did not bother answering that question for there was no point, and instead went silent before asking in a defeated tone, "How do you and Jellybean do it, Fluttershy?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, come on! You two barely fly at all, but you spend plenty of time doing stuff together. What gives?"
Fluttershy shuffled her hooves and appeared offended, as much a pony like her could, that is. "You know, Rainbow, flying isn't the only thing Pegasi do." She noticed the animals she had been neglecting and went back to feeding them as she talked. "I mean, you know how I feel about flying, and Jellybean just doesn't want to. She says it makes her wings cramp up. But we do plenty of other things together," she said, smiling warmly as she recalled their many activities. "Like sewing, cooking, watching soaps, taking care of animals, she's such a little dear..."
"Tell me about it. I wish my kid could be as behaved as yours. Let's face it; Jellybean's pretty much the perfect filly."
"Well, hold on, every filly and colt has their faults, Rainbow. I mean, even Jellybean tends to eat a lot more than she needs to, especially when it comes to cookie dough and...stuff..." Fluttershy trailed off, realizing this was leading nowhere and returned to the matter of Drizzilla. "But it's like I said; flying isn't everything. You do other things too, Rainbow, like, uh…like sports."
Rainbow Dash turned on her side, shrugging as she said, "Meh, I tried. She's not really into that. I took her rock climbing, once."
"How'd that work out?"
"Imagine the world's largest hooves down the world's largest chalkboard, in front of a whole crowd of Pegasi," she scowled and squinched her eyes at recalling that particularly embarrassing memory. "That kid would not stop whining about her mane getting ruined. She's more of a girly girl. Have no idea where she gets it."
"Hmm, 'girly girl'..." Fluttershy muttered, furrowing her brows and replacing some of the animals' water bottles. She perked up and smiled at her friend. "Hey, I just had an idea, Rainbow. If Drizzilla isn't into that kind of stuff, how about something more, well, girly?"
Intrigued, Rainbow Dash sat herself back up. "Like what?"
"Like the pageant my daughter does, every year. It's only in a couple of weeks and lots of fillies are taking part. It sounds like the sort of thing Drizzilla would enjoy."
Getting up and stretching her back, Rainbow Dash gently descended the cloud and landed gracefully in front of Fluttershy, frowning most sceptically and asking, "A pageant? You seriously want me to put Drizzilla in a beauty pageant?"
She ran circles around her face, saying irritably, "I think you're forgetting the whole 'face' issue."
"I thought that's why she wears makeup."
A good point, but still not enough to convince her entirely, so she sighed and said, "Okay, okay…I'll think about asking her."
"That's wonderful, Rainbow, I--"
"FLUTERSHYYY!!! HEY, FLUTTERSHY!""
It was a loud, nasally voice, coming from inside Fluttershy's cottage. Both mares cringed and Fluttershy quietly told her friend, "Excuse me, one moment..." She turned around to face the cottage and answered with an uncharacteristic yell, "WHAT!?"
"WHERE'S MY BOWLING BALL!?"
"HOW SHOULD I KNOW!? WHY DO YOU NEED IT!?"
"I'M GOING BOWLING, WHAT ELSE WOULD I NEED IT FOR!?"
Fluttershy stomped her hoof and hard. "OHHH NO! YOU ARE NOT--" She added to Rainbow Dash in her previously calm and collective manner before dropping her satchel of animal food and taking off, "Sorry, Rainbow, we'll have to talk later. I gotta take care of this...NO! YOU ARE NOT GOING BOWLING AGAIN, MARZIPAN!! THIS IS THE THIRD TIME THIS WEEK!"
"ARE YOU MAD, WOMAN!? THIS IS THE TOURNAMENT!"
"DON'T YOU TALK TO ME LIKE THAT! I'M NOT GOING TO STAY BEHIND AND DO ALL THE WORK WHILE YOU GO PLAYING SOME STUPID TOURNAMENT WITH YOUR FRIENDS! AGAIN!"
Left alone, surrounded by the feeding animals, Rainbow Dash thought about her previous conversation with her lifelong friend. A pageant contest? For somepony like Drizzilla?! At first, it sounded absurd, but it did not sound that bad an idea when she thought about it. It could work, if done right. The least she could do was bring it up to Drizzilla. Where would be the harm in that?
Realising her break was now long over, Rainbow Dash took off and resumed her duties as weather captain, leaving behind the sounds of yelling and breaking of objects coming from the cottage. Despite how hard she worked, the images of her daughter, slavered in makeup and wrapped up in a pretty dress, walking down the catwalk with her head held high and then wearing a golden tiara and holding a bouquet in victory and actually smiling for once remained in her mind for the rest of the working day.
"I killed a mare with my own teeth."
"That's some bullcrap!"
"Honey, I will kick your flank!"
"I'll rip your legs off and beat you with 'em."
The bowling tournament had begun. It was one of the biggest events on the Ponyville Calendar. Ponyvillians of all ages and species came together this time every year to clash balls in hopes of obtaining glory beyond their wildest dreams. The ponies of this town took bowling really seriously.
Sweetie Belle stood with her back to the lane and her hind leg raised. She closed her eyes and drowned out the loud cursing and threats made by the bowlers at each other. Tempers tended to run high at this tournament; security was bumped up just in case. Worst of all, it distracted other players from playing at the top of their game. The best way Sweetie Belle tried to keep calm and focused was by thinking of the calm blue ocean at the beach where she spent her summers as a filly.
"A calm blue ocean...clear skies...soft sandy beach..." She mumbled, smiling serenely. "Oh, and there's a hermit crab and he's found the most beautiful new home and--"
"Just bowl the bucking ball already!"
"Buck yeah!" Sweetie Belle cheered, prancing back to the bench. She stopped momentarily when passing their rival team and said faux sweetly to them, "Don't worry if any of you missed that. They'll be plenty more to come. Ta."
Allie Way, a unicorn and veteran bowler, growled and got up from the bench, but her teammates held her back.
"Way to go, Sweetie Belle!"
Apple Bloom looked up annoyed from the score chart and her cup of cider at Scootaloo, who was walking out from the crowd of ponies in the packed alley and descending the steps to join them. She was carrying with her her bowling ball bag and a twelve pack.
"Where the hay were you?" Apple Bloom chided her. "You're twenty minutes late. We had to start without you."
"I had to stop by the Laundromat and pick up our team shirts. Check it out," Scootaloo replied proudly, dropping the bag, unzipping it and taking out a white bowling shirt that read in black 'THE BOWLING DOLLS'.
Allie and her team threw their heads back and laughed.
"Wow, you must've really sprung for those, Scootaloo," she remarked sarcastically.
Scootaloo hoofed out the shirts to her team. "Oh, this coming from the mares who've been wearing the same shirts for the last ten years straight?" This made the rival team examine their black and pink shirts in confusion before returning evil glares at her. "Look, enough trash, let's get bowling."
"Fine by us," Allie scoffed and then said to her own team, "C'mon girls, let's take these foals to school!"
As the game got underway, Apple Bloom's attention quickly drifted away. She slouched in her chair in silence and kept staring glumly at her cider until whenever she was called up to bowl. She was not as excited by the tournament as she thought she would. The fiasco over the chickens and Applejack constantly being on her back over it was depriving her both of sleep and her ability to focus on her game, just like Scootaloo said.
Apple Bloom, now a young mare, conceded to a life working on the family farm and bowling. School days were long gone and upon at last obtaining their cutie marks, the Cutie Mark Crusaders dissolved, beginning what Sweetie Belle once referred to as 'the post-crusade'. Apple Bloom's life was, by most pony's standards, pretty good. There were certainly no major complaints, other than it was boring. She had no 'special somepony' in her life, nothing to look forward to when she got up every morning. Applebucking was definitely something you had to have a passion for, that's how Applejack and Big Macintosh could keep doing it after all these years. Too bad it was not the same for her.
Honestly, bowling was the only big thing going on in her life at the moment. It was also the only real thing her and the ex-Crusaders did together, other than the occasional film night or night out on the town. But now, she was unable to enjoy that.
Sweetie Belle bolted from the bench and climbed the steps to greet and hug a familiar opal Unicorn stallion who was walking by their lane. He looked quite surprised to see her, not necessarily in a happy sense. Scootaloo rolled her eyes in disgust and proceeded with her roll, but Apple Bloom watched on.
"You came to watch me bowl!"
"Uhhh, sure, I came to watch you bowl, that's it." Snips tucked down the slips and bit bills that were sticking out of the pockets of the black trench coat he was wearing. "Who wouldn't wanna see his girl kick some flank?"
"Oh, Snips, you're such a charmer. And the other night..."
Neither Apple Bloom nor Scootaloo were sure if Sweetie Belle truly understood just what kind of scumbag she had hooked up with. They tried more than once to convince her he was "garbage" and she should dump his worthless flank, but Sweetie Belle would always go on about how "they don't see the gentle side of him like she did".
As much a complete load that was, Apple Bloom had to give her props for at least having somepony, unlike herself. Seriously, she hoped something exciting happened soon, she did not care what it was.
"Hey! Over the line!"
Scootaloo's sudden outburst brought Apple Bloom out of her daze. The gamboge Pegasus was confronting Allie Way, who had just picked up a spare.
"Excuse me?" Allie asked angrily, sounding offended by Scootaloo even suggesting such a thing.
"Over the line, Allie! I'm sorry, but that's what we bowlers call a foul."
"I was not! You saw it, didn't you, girls?" Allie looked to her team, who nodded in support. "Thought so." Allie marched over to the Bowling Dolls' lane and pointed at Apple Bloom. "Mark it a spare, Apple Bloom."
"Excuse me!" Scootaloo walked up next to her friend and nudged her shoulder. "It's a zero. Next frame."
Now Allie just felt outright insulted. Who did this little punk she was? "I'm the professional bowler here!" She barked lividly and glared daggers at Apple Bloom. "You better mark that a spare!"
"Don't you dare. Allie, this is ten-pin bowling. We have rules."
Apple Bloom found herself caught between a rock and a hard place. Neither pony was backing down. Being a mature pony who preferred non-confrontation when possible, she tried her to reason with Scootaloo, saying, "Come on, Scoots, it's just—it's not a big deal. So maybe Allie slipped a little, maybe not, it's just a game."
Both Scootaloo and Allie looked at her as if she were sprouting a fifth leg out her forehead.
"This isn't some namby pamby friendly game, this is the tournament! This is a matter of integrity."
Allie had had enough. "That's it..." She shoved past Scootaloo and used her horn magic to take the marker Apple Bloom. "Gimme that. You won't mark my spear, I will."
Narrowing her eyes to slits, Scootaloo returned to the bench but instead of just sitting bitterly and letting the matter slide, she rummaged through her bag.
"Allie, mi compadre..." she began. She found what she was looking for, wrapped loosely in a cloth, and took it out. "...you're entering a world of pain."
A mare shrieked and heads turned at the spectacle unfolding in the lane. Allie went wide-eyed. Scootaloo had pulled out a switchblade.
"Go ahead. You mark that spare, but you're entering a world of pain."
She brandished the blade, the overhead light reflecting the stainless surface. "World-of-pain, Allie."
"Apple Bloom, will you control your crazy friend or--"
"Has the whole world gone CRAZY?!" Scootaloo screamed, leaping from her seat and making everypony in the alley jump in fright. "AM I THE ONLY PONY HERE WHO GIVES A DAMN ABOUT THE BUCKING RULES?! MARK IT ZERO!!"
The same mare who shrieked ran outside the alley, either out of fear of her own safety or going to get the police, because the security ponies were just as scared as everypony else. Sweetie Belle and Snips ducked behind the barrier outside the lanes and looked over the top with increasingly fearful expressions.
"Scoots, c'mon, put yer butter knife down..." Apple Bloom mumbled, facehoofing in embarrassment. She knew Scootaloo did not have the guts to go through with it, but nopony else knew that.
"MARK IT ZERO!"
"Are you bucking insane?!" Allie cried fearfully, and shrieked when Scootaloo grabbed her by the collar, pulling the blade back like she was about to ram it into her.
"I'M NOT BUCKING AROUND HERE, ALLIE, MARK IT ZERO!!
Allie's horn glowed and the marker flew up and quickly marked down a zero on the frame of the score chart. Scootaloo gave Allie one last death glare and released her hold on her shirt and shoved her back.
"All right, there it is! It's bucking zero! Are you happy, you lunatic?!"
"Rules are for everypony, Allie," Scootaloo muttered bitterly, folding the blade and returning to her seat to pack it away.
"Okay, everypony, show's over. Return to yer lives," Apple Bloom instructed the still horrified crowd, who gradually returned to their business. It was not before bowling balls rolled down the lanes and the sounds of clattering pins and cheers and general normality returned to the alley.
'Well,' Apple Bloom thought, drinking her cider. 'That was exciting.'
In the confusion, nopony noticed the brown parcel set next to Apple Bloom's bowling bag on the bench.
Drizzilla and Jellybean were given detention during lunchtime for their behaviour, Drizzilla for eating during class and Jellybean for instigating the teasing. They were to write lines one-hundred times each on the chalkboard, then sit quietly at their desks for the remainder.
"This is all your fault," Jellybean complained as the two stood on their hind legs upon stools before the board. Her lines were 'I will not make fun of other fillies'. She grasped her rumbling belly. "They're serving pizza today and now I'm gonna miss it."
Under normal circumstances, Drizzilla would have replied with a comment about Jellybean being so fat, she did not need any more pizza, but she was still bitter from history class earlier. She had never been so humiliated in class before. Cheerilee was kind enough to let her go wash her face in the restroom when she was scolding them in the hall.
"I can't believe you were eating a fish. You're such a weirdo."
Drizzilla remained silent and added the full stop to her fifteenth 'I will not eat in class'.
Jellybean was getting irritated. "Stop ignoring me!"
"I'm sorry, Jelly, did you say something?" Drizzilla smiled at her, feigning ignorance. The glare Jellybean returned was enough to alleviate her sour mood, if just by a bit. She set down her piece of chalk, hopped off the stool and walked towards her desk.
"What're you doing?"
"We can't leave, remember?"
"Who said anything about leaving?" The pale blue Pegasus filly opened her desk and took out, surprise surprise, a small, dead, raw fish.
Jellybean recoiled in disgust, nearly falling off her stool. "Ugh! Wait until I tell Cheerilee you--"
"Tell her what?" She scoffed, dangling the fish by the tail and without a hint of hesitation, tossed it in the air, caught it in her mouth and swallowed it whole.
Her face literally turned green and she held her mouth, letting out a loud gagging sound. "And you wonder why ponies call you a fre--" She shut up right away when Drizzilla stomped up to the stool, a fresh smoulder in her eyes.
"Careful, Jellybelly," she said, ascending her stool and picking up her chalk. "You wanna second bruise to match the one on your chest?"
Jellybean awkwardly reached up to touch the faint bruise visible on her chest, having lost anything else to say. They stared each other down for a moment, before returning to their neglected chalkboard punishment.
What seemed like forever later, the two fillies were reaching the end of their lines. Jellybean was halfway done with her ninety-first when the ache in her foreleg became unbearable.
"Ohhhh, I can't take this, anymore. My leg's gonna fall off." She rubbed her foreleg and kissed her hoof soothingly. "How am I supposed to pose, tomorrow?"
"Pose for what?"
"My dress for the beauty pageant. My mom and I got an appointment and..." She stopped when she remembered whom she was talking to. She sighed heavily, forcing her hoof to the board, "Okay, Drizzilla, go ahead. Make your jokes."
Surprisingly, Drizzilla did not churn out any insults over Jellybean's participation in the upcoming pageant. Instead, she said, "Oh no, Jelly, go on. I'd like to hear more."
Jellybean blinked. "What?"
"Tell me more. What kind of dress you gonna get?"
"Uh...something green, maybe?"
She blinked again, and then shook her head and eyed her suspiciously. "W-wait a minute, since when did you care about my pageant?"
"Oh, didn't I tell you?" Drizzilla put on a grin and waved her hoof like it was no big deal. "I'm thinking of entering that silly pageant, myself."
Screeeeeeeee! Jellybean's chalk snapped in half against the board.
"WHAT?!!" The yellow Pegasus filly shrieked, getting up in her face, eyes flaring and spit flying out the mouth. "All you've done is make of my pageant and me, and now you wanna compete?!"
Drizzilla flicked some spit from her face and struck a pose, smirking confidently. "Well, you did say it was about beauty and talent, so in that case, it shouldn't be a problem for me to win."
Words were momentarily at a loss for Jellybean. She stared at her rival with a blank face. She then started giggling and it grew louder and louder until she finally arched her back and gave a laugh wicked enough to compare to a young Queen Chrysalis.
"Oh! Oh, okay! Fine!" She grabbed her sides to stop them from bursting like a dam. "You wanna humiliate yourself in front of the whole town, be my guest. It'll make this champion's victory even sweeter."
"Bring it on, champ. I'll kick your flank so hard, you're gonna need a transplant!"
"It is on!"
"You bet it's on!"
"I don't hear any chalk on board in there!" Cheerilee's voice came from beyond the closed classroom door.
By now, the filly's snout and foreheads were pressed hard against each other. They yelped and got right back to work.
Brrriiiiiiiiiiiing, went the final bell. The school day was over, and the parents and guardians waited outside the school gates for their children to come out so they could take them home.
The groups of parents were split into two groups. The first, on the right, was the larger group, made up exclusively on ponies, whilst the second, on the left, was significantly smaller and consisted of essentially non-ponies. Both groups seemed entirely indifferent to each other, not interacting or physically acknowledging the other even existed. But throw in a few picket signs, banners and megaphones you may have thought, on first sight, it was a standoff.
Rainbow Dash arrived just as the bell rang and stood with four of her friends, nearly completing the Mane Six. She scanned the scenery and gave a nod to a Changeling female in the opposite group, a shop owner she knew for a while now and probably the only non-pony in town she talked to on a regular basis. She then stretched her neck to see if she could spot Drizzilla coming out, though at the moment, not even the doors had opened.
Rainbow really wanted to talk with that filly about the pageant. The idea had grown on her over the day and she had already gone over in her head dozens of times how to ask her if she wanted to take part. She knew her kid was sensitive on the issue of her looks, so she would have to walk on eggshells when they talked about it.
As the school doors opened and children started trickling out the building, Rainbow Dash and Rarity wound up in a one-sided conversation with another mare, one whose name they did not really know but according to their kids, she was Bigmouth's mother.
"I mean, it's not like my baby doesn't study hard. I tutor him myself," she boasted, putting a hoof on her chest. "He deserves far better grades than Cheerilee is giving him."
Rarity tried to conceal her distaste for the snooty mare with an insincere smile. "Undoubtedly."
"If you ask me, this school's standards are seriously going downhill," she said, tilting her head suspiciously towards the group of non-pony parents. "And from what I've been hearing, it's only going to get worse."
"Uh-huh," Rainbow Dash murmured, eyes rolling at Rarity, who shared the same dry, unimpressed expression.
"I'm seriously considering taking my son to another scho--"
"'scuse me," she held her hoof up to cut the mare off and yelled over at a trio of Changelings coming out the school. "Hey, Deetle! Deetle!"
Deetle and Gorgol were chasing after Buzz when they heard the mare. Deetle slowed down, but continued walking and answered, "Yeah, Mrs Dash?"
"You know where Drizzy is? She's usually out by now."
"Cheerilee's having a go at her and Jellybean. They got in trouble, today. Detention at lunch."
The rainbow mare slapped her forehead and groaned, "Oh for the love of...thanks, Deetle."
"No proble--hey, get back here, Buzz, so I can mess you up!" Deetle returned to chasing after Buzz, who was getting a good distance ahead, though Gorgol was catching up. The brothers usually played this game on their way to magical tram that took them back to Reinchapel; chase Buzz (and other days, Gorgol) and give him his beating before they reached the tram stop.
"Nice kids," she said to Rarity, who nodded. The other mare looked offended and appalled by the two. Rainbow noticed this and smirked, cocking an eyebrow. "Problem?"
The mare looked like she was about to say something when at that moment, Bigmouth came strolling innocently towards them. She took his hoof immediately and walked off, glaring and harrumphing at the other mares, sticking her snout up proudly.
"Bitch," Rarity said plainly and the group then laughed, save for Fluttershy, who was more concerned about the trouble her daughter had got in.
At last, the fillies and colts came out the school and the group dissolved once more, the last two being Drizzilla and Jellybean. Rainbow Dash picked hers up, said her goodbye to Fluttershy and took off in the air with Drizzilla climbing tightly onto her back.
This left Fluttershy and her daughter two of the last creatures outside the gate. The only other parent and child pair was Twistbeak and his tall, bald-headed, and sharply dressed father, who loudly berated his son for what he viewed as his untidy feathers.
Fluttershy took her daughter home. Along the way, she apprehensively asked her about the detention she received that day. Jellybean had planned for this and hid the note she and Drizzilla were given to give to their parents out of sight as best she could. She put on the waterworks and made up some bull story about how she tried to stand up for Drizzilla in class but Cheerilee wrongfully thought she was the perpetrator.
It worked, of course. It always did. Her mother took her for ice-cream.
Meanwhile, in the skies, Rainbow Dash double-barrel rolled through the more densely populated skies of Pegasi, griffins and Changelings. Clear, open sky to fly in was harder to find at school pickup time.
"Mom! Mane!" Drizzilla squawked, keeping her vice-like hold around her mother's neck.
"Oh, alright." Rainbow Dash, against her will, slowed down and flew less like a wonder bolt. Yet without focusing all her attention on her styled flying, she remembered the pageant. Now was better than never. "Say, uh, kiddo...?"
"I was just wondering...do you have any plans for the next couple of weeks?"
This prompted Drizzilla to remember the pageant herself, and how she had neglected to give her parents any of her intentions to enter. Not to forget, the deadline to sign up was tomorrow.
"Well, Mom," she snuggled her head against her mother's neck. "Now that you mention it..."