School Day Follies
"Why is there a royal guard here?"
"Is the Princess in town?"
"Hey, I don't think he's got a cutie mark."
"Do you think he's a reject?"
"Well duh. Who would want a blank-flank as a guard?"
This is demeaning. Ash tried to slouch down and disappear beneath his tiny desk. Twilight, how did you trick me into this?
"Ash, please sit up straight," the purplish pony called from upfront. Cheerilee, if he remembered correctly.
Ash struggled back up. He tried to ignore the giggles coming from behind him. And from the sides. And in front. Why was the only conveniently open seat in the center of the classroom?
Some hours ago...
"...and so we were wondering if you could help us."
Twilight and the grey stallion sat in Cheerilee's cozy living room. Ash, if the teacher recalled correctly from his welcoming party. She hid her smile at the memory of the living piñata as she took a sip of tea.
Cheerilee looked up from her cup. The stallion quickly lowered his eyes. Too late, Cheerilee had noticed the intensity in his glare. It was a chilling look, one that made her a little uncomfortable. Though normally content as an Earth pony, there was little Cheerilee would not have given to know a spell for reading minds.
Twilight quickly jabbed her grey companion in the side. "Quit staring," she whispered.
Ash quickly lowered his eyes. How is she holding that tea cup without fingers? he wondered. How do hooves work?
Cheerilee sighed. Even if he was a little unusual, a student was a student. "I'd be more than happy to help Ash...I'm sorry, I don't think I ever got your full name."
"Oh, well it's..." Twilight began to look frantically for inspiration.
"Huh?" Cheerilee and Twilight turned to the grey pony whom had spoken.
"I'm Ash Door. I come from a family of...door makers. They make doors."
"Door makers? If you don't mind me asking, where did your first name come from?" inquired Cheerilee.
"I'm named after the tree. Ash trees. Ash wood is very good wood. For making doors. Because we're door makers."
"Hmm, that's interesting." Cheerilee offered her guests more tea before refilling her own cup. "Where are you from?"
Twilight stared at the sweating Unicorn, fighting the urge crawl beneath the table and disappear. Cheerilee, thankfully, failed to notice the extremely exasperated look on the purple Unicorn's face.
"Shitenburg? I've never heard of there before."
"It's outside of Equestria," Ash responded. "It's why I can't read or write. Because it's not of Equestria. Where Equestrian is used."
Cheerilee's eyes widened in surprise and interest. "I really don't know too much about what's outside Equestria. I'm sure the both of us can learn a bit from each of us."
"I sure hope so. Being illiterate has been a big pain in the..." Ash racked his brain for an appropriate replacement. "...flank."
"Knowledge is very important," Cheerilee said sagely. Twilight nodded in agreement. "And I'd love to help you but I'd have to check my schedule." The purple Earth pony sighed. "I'm sorry but my work is very demanding."
"Don't worry," Twilight stated. "We'll enroll him into your class. That why we won't interfere with your schedule at all."
Cheerilee gave the grey Unicorn a quick look over before saying doubtfully, "Are you sure about that?"
"Absolutely," interjected Twilight as Ash opened his mouth to respond. "I'm sure he'll be just fine."
"Well," the teach began with a wide smile, "I hope to see you in class tomorrow. Do you need directions to the schoolhouse?"
"Don't worry," Twilight said. "I can show him the way. And I'll be sure he'll be there bright and early."
The two Unicorns finished their tea and said their good byes. When they were safely outside, Ash turned to Twilight..
"What just happened?"
Twilight shrugged. "Don't worry. You'll just be in Cheerilee's class. You won't have her full attention but you'll be just fine. She's a very good teacher."
"If you say so," Ash said. "Wish you at least asked me though."
Twilight took note of the grey stallion's melancholy tone. "Is something wrong."
He shook his head. "I haven't had the best memories of school." Ash looked to the distance, his features clouded.
"Do want to talk about it?"
"Eh, nothing big. A few bullies, horrid instructors. Nothing I want to talk about."
Twilight took the hint. "That was some pretty quick thinking though, Ash 'Door'."
Ash shrugged. "Meh, I panicked and said the first thing that came to mind."
"And you thought of a door?" the purple Unicorn asked quizzically.
"Actually I first noticed that the windows were closed and wouldn't make a good escape." Brushing his white mane from his eyes, Ash smiled sheepishly. "Besides, it kind of matches my 'dour' personality."
"And your...place of origin?"
"Panicked and said the first thing that came to mind." The corners of the stallion's mouth fell back down. "Are you sure this a good idea? Joining the class and everything?"
"Positive. And don't worry about bullies. I'm sure you'll be able to connected and relate with all your classmates with ease."
As Ash ignored the gossip around him, he began to wonder if Twilight had been lying to create a more convincing situation, or had a horrible sense of judgement or was making a very clever insult. I'm wasn't that childish, the grown stallion protest mentally. Right?
With a sigh, he turned to the chalkboard at the front of the classroom. The entire schoolhouse consisted of a single room that was already a bit crowd without the addition of the overgrown new student.
At least it only took a little effort to peek over his peers heads to see the lesson. A small smile lit his face at the memory of looking directly into the back of someone's head while the teacher would drone on about chemistry and how everyone had better memorize the diagram on the board should they wish to pass the upcoming exam. On the board Ash couldn't see.
A tap on the shoulder brought him back to present day. Ash turned around to face the small, bespectacled filly with freckles.
"Escuse me mister," she said quietly, "but I can't see the board."
"Right, sorry." Ash shifted himself and leaned to the side. It was uncomfortable and his neck was beginning to strain as he stretched his head out to the right but at least he and the red-headed filly could both see.
"Now I can't see!" complained a chubby grey colt.
"Argh." With a groan, Ash shifted to the other side only to receive a similar grievance. In defeat, the stallion laid his head on the tiny desk, giving everypony behind him an adequate view of the chalkboard. He meanwhile treated himself to the back of Applebloom's red-maned head. Her pink bow made it even harder to see the board but from what Ash was hearing, he wasn't missing anything important. He had aced the concept of addition years ago.
He did however discover that despite their lack of size, the desks made great pillows.
"...and that's how Equestria was made, at least, as far as we can tell."
Ash opened his eyes and wiped the drool from his lips. All around him fillies and colts were getting out of their seats and were heading to the door.
"Where's everyone going?" he asked a passing pinkish pony. In hindsight, the ridiculous tiara she wore should have been a warning sign.
"Are you serious? Don't you know what recess is?" Sticking her nose in the air, the filly left the classroom with dark grey pony who carried herself in a similar manner. After muttering something about 'blank-flanks', the duo snickered out the door, leaving the room deserted, save for himself and Miss Cheerilee.
Cheerilee looked up from her papers and noticed that Ash's seat was still occupied. "Aren't you going to go outside?"
"Am I allowed to?" he asked warily.
The teacher smiled warmly "Of course. Recess is, well it's a break. It helps the helps the students go through the day and gives them a chance to interact with each other. School isn't just about work, you know."
"It's not?" Ash's own experiences said otherwise.
"Of course not." Cheerilee gestured to the open door. "Why don't step outside for a bit? It's a beautiful day today. Get some fresh air and refocus your mind so you won't fall asleep in the next lesson."
Ash turned a bright red his dark grey coat could not hide as he made his escape. He did not hear Cheerilee's chuckle over the shuffle of papers.
Miss Cheerilee was right; it was a wonderful day. The sun was shining brightly and only a few clouds hung overhead. A cooling breeze whipped his mane back. The scent of grass was in the air as was the sound of joyous laughter. Ash took a deep breath and sighed. Now what?
Young ponies over every color ran past him, chasing each other in play. The swing set was occupied, the two little fillies rising higher and higher in the air. The creak of teeter-totter and the laughter of all the fillies and colts filled the air.
The fun he saw reminded him of how old he was. It wasn't the greatest reminder. Never had he felt so ancient, not even after Princess Celestia had told him how many years his slumber had been. The thought made him feel even older.
The giggling of a blond, pinkish-grey Unicorn caught his attention. How far had he fallen, envying a child as she reached to the clouds in her little seat connected to the earth only by a pair of chains. To feel such childish delight once more...
"You ask him," somepony hissed behind him.
"Don't be a chicken, ask him."
Ash turned around and three little fillies froze underneath the tall stallion's glaze. He recognized Applebloom but not the other two. One was a Unicorn the color of alabaster with a mix of purple and pink in her curly mane while the other was an orange Pegasus with a messy magenta mane that reminded him a little of Rainbow Dash, sisters perhaps?
"Ask me what?"
The white Unicorn and the orange Pegasus shoved Applebloom forward. She gave the two the darkest glare she could muster and received sweet innocent looks from her friends and an uncontrollable mental /d'aww/ from Ash. With a frustrated groan, Applebloom turned to face the giant stallion before him.
"S'cuse me, mister, but how old are you?"
"Applebloom!" the Unicorn exclaimed. "Rarity says you should never ask a pony for their age."
"Thought that only meant for ladies," the Pegasus said. "'Sides, I thought we were gonna ask him about his Cutie Mark. Or, at least his lack of one."
"Yeah, how come you all grown and don't have one?" Applebloom asked.
"Yeah," the Unicorn added. "What's your special talent?"
"Do you even have one?"
Ash frown at the winged filly. "Of course I've got a talent," he replied irritatedly.
"Then where's your Cutie Mark?" the young Pegasus shot back.
"I...okay, what's a Cutie Mark?" Ash immediately regretted the question as he watched three jaws fall to the floor with a hard clunk. Perhaps it would have been wiser to have asked Twilight after the day was over.
"You don't know what a Cutie Mark is?" the white Unicorn cried out in amazement. Ash closed his eyes as the entire yard turned their attention to him and the trio. How could one little pony emit so much sound?
"A Cutie Mark appears on a pony's flank when he or she finds that certain somethin' that makes 'em differant every other pony," Applebloom answered.
"You mean that's what those silly symbols are?"
"They're not silly!" shouted the orange Pegasus, her wings rustling in annoyance. "They're important!"
"Yeah," the Unicorn agreed. "How else are we suppose to know what our special gift is?"
Ash thought for a few moments before struggling. "I don't know. It's a good a system as any, I suppose."
"So how come you're so old but don't have your Cutie Mark? Applejack's always tellin' me that Ah'll get mine soon."
"Maybe..." The Unicorn filly gasped. "Maybe we can help you find yours."
"Sweetie Belle, we can't even find our own," the little Pegasus said with a groan. "Why are we helping this guy now?"
"'Cause we are the Cutie Mark Crusaders. And if we had a fourth crusader..."
"Then we'd be able tah cover more ground, so tah speak," Applebloom concluded. "We'd be able tah find our Cutie Marks even faster!"
"Okay, I guess that makes some sense," the Pegasus conceded. "But why this guy? He's so...old. He's like, fifty and he still doesn't have his own Cutie Mark. Why do you think he can help us? He's, like, old."
"I'm right here. And I'm not that old. I'm only..." Let's see, left on the quest when I was eighteen, journey last for about two years, was stuck on a tree for a couple thousand...
"Scootaloo, stop talkin' an' think. Think of all the things all the adults won't let us do without them supervisin'. If we've got an adult with us..."
"We'll be able to do all those things our parents won't let us do," the Unicorn, 'Sweetie Belle' Applebloom had called her, finished.
"I don't think--"
"I like how you think," Scootaloo exclaimed. "We'll be able to go bungie jumping."
"Yer thinkin' too small. What if our special talent has tah do with them salt bars Applejack an' cousin Braeburn talk about."
Scootaloo flared her wings in excitement. "Or what about watching those movies they won't let you watch without a parent?"
"Or, or those nightclubs sis always mentions after her trips to Canterlot," Sweetie Belle added. The three of them gasped and grinned wildly.
"CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS CLUBBERS,YAY!"
"Oh God, my ears!" Ash held his hooves to his head to slow the bleeding.
Cheerilee meanwhile nodded her head as the windows continued to shudder and vibrate. She was beginning to wonder when the Crusaders would pierce the skies and auditory systems with their chant today. Frankly, she was a little worried when she had released her students without sore ears.
The ringing finally stopped. The world stopped shaking. Ash opened his eyes.
"So whadaya say?" the orange one asked at a more tolerable volume level with the same amount of enthusiasm. "How about being our fourth member?"
"What, you mean join your little group, what did you call it?"
"THE CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS!"
"Oh, right. Of course." You'd think he would have remembered the first time and spared himself from another drum bursting scream.
"We're on a crusade," said Applebloom.
"Yeah, a crusade for our Cutie Marks," Scootaloo expanded.
"Yeah, and, and, yeah, what they said."
"Please get off my head."
Sweetie Belle obediently crawled off Ash's back. He winced as she took a few strands of white hair with her. With a leap, the Unicorn filly went to her friends. The three faced the stallion with expectant eyes.
"So will yah? Will yah help us?"
"Please?" they pleaded in unison.
Over the course of his quest, Ash had heard the song a siren, was subjected to the hypnotic spell of a vampire, and even faced the seductive wiles of a succubus disguised in the form a certain nun.
If he couldn't resist those, how could he have fought off those wide shining eyes, pleading and begging?
What have gotten myself into?