"Class?" Cheerilee said. "I think we'll change the lesson plan for the afternoon. Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, why don't you teach the class a little something about...whatever your friend here is?"
Pinkie, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash looked at one another, then at Sonata, then at the desperate Cheerilee and the eager, curious herd of foals. "Uhh..." Rainbow said.
"Well," Pinkie hedged, "we'd like to, but..." She glanced at Fluttershy.
"The truth is...we don't really know much about her ourselves," Fluttershy said. "She's the only one of her kind in Equestria right now, and the first one of her kind in over a thousand years." She glanced at Sonata. "Umm...maybe you could tell them about yourself...?"
Sonata giggled. "Show and tell? Sure! I love show and tell!" She frowned. "Except for that one time I brought this toy I found in Adagio's room, and then the teacher got all mad and sent me to the principal's office, and then they called a priest and he threw holy water on me and—"
"Ahem," Cheerilee said.
"Oh! Sorry." Sonata smiled sheepishly.
"Ah think we're gettin' an education," Apple Bloom said, tilting her head curiously.
"I'm not sure this is the education we want or need," Sweetie Belle said.
"Why don't you start by just telling us who you are and what you are?" Cheerilee suggested in a bright, sunny tone.
Sonata smiled brightly (terrifying some of the poor foals in the process) and did a flip in the air. "Hi, little ponies! My name is Sonata Dusk, and I'm a Siren!" She waggled her fins.
"Are you a theapony?" Twist asked.
"Hee! Not quite," Sonata said. "I used to know some seaponies, though! I love that little song they sing. Shoo be doo, shoo shoo be doo!"
"How are you flying?" Scootaloo asked. "I mean, you don't even have wings, just...like...fins and stuff."
Sonata blinked. "Huh," she said. "You know, I don't actually know? I never really thought about it. Me, Adagio, and Aria could just always fly when we're not in the sea. You'd think we wouldn't be able to leave the ocean with these fish-horsey bodies, but..." She shrugged. "I guess if you can fly with those tiny stubby wings, anything's possible, right?" she asked with a bright smile.
Scootaloo's ears folded down. "I, uhh..." She looked away dejectedly.
Rainbow flew up and cuffed Sonata across the head. "Way to go, jerkface!" she snapped. In a harsh whisper, she added, "Scoots can't fly!"
"Oh. Oopsie." Sonata drooped in the air, then glided down low to the ground. "Sorry, I didn't know," she said.
Scootaloo sighed. "It's okay..."
"What's that weird glowing thingie on your chest?" Sweetie Belle asked, determined to change the subject.
"Huh? Oh! That's my magic song gem," Sonata said. "It kinda got broken back when I was evil and helped try to take over the world, but when I came back to Equestria from that other world it started growing back."
This drew a gasp from the crowd. "You're evil?!" Pipsqueak shouted. "Oh my gosh! You guys, she's evil! She's going to eat us all whole!"
"What? No I'm not!" Sonata protested, eyes wide. "I'm not gonna eat anypony! And I'm not evil anymore! I don't think." She paused, tilting her head. "Well, I mean...I don't wanna be, you know?"
"Oh. So you're like Nightmare Moon then," Pipsqueak said, visibly calming down.
"Other world?" Apple Bloom asked, brow furrowing thoughtfully. Her eyes narrowed. "Wait a sec," she said, "are you from that crazy across-th'-mirror place Princess Twilight wandered off to a while back? Mah sis told me some'a whut Twilight told 'er about that place."
"Well, I'm from Equestria," Sonata said. "But a long long really long time ago, me and my sisters got tossed into a magic mirror by Starswirl the Bearded when we tried to conquer Equestria, and then we barely had any magic, and it was so hard to get by on what little energy we could drain from humans with no magic, but then there was a big blast of Equestrian magic that came from a high school, and Adagio decided we'd go there, take over, find the magic, take it for ourselves, and REALLY rule!" She paused for breath. "But then some girls with magic shot a giant rainbow laser disco alicorn at us and our song gems broke and now we just kinda sit around doing nothing."
Cheerilee's class blinked uncomprehendingly at her.
"Reformed vanquished baddie," Pinkie summed up.
"Oooooohhhhh," the class all said in understanding.
Diamond Tiara snorted. "Oh, puh-LEEZE," she harrumphed. "Like Discord isn't bad enough. Remember that time he tried to 'adopt' Featherweight?"
Featherweight shuddered. "The cockroaches...they talked in haiku..."
"Do we really need some other creepy dark magic monster that claims not to be evil anymore roaming around Ponyville?" Diamond Tiara tossed her mane. "Let's go, everypony! I'll show you something really educational at my mansion." She paused, glanced back at the Cutie Mask Crusaders with a haughty smirk, and added, "You three aren't invited."
Silver Spoon let out a sycophantic laugh, hoof-bumped Diamond Tiara, and marched off. A few of their classmates followed.
"GIRLS!" Cheerilee snapped. "I have NOT dismissed school! Get...back here..." She bowed her head. "Oh, what's the use? Class...dismissed..." She slunk off toward Ponyville, her tail dangling low.
Sonata drooped. "Did I do something wrong?"
"Nah, it ain't you," Apple Bloom said. "Diamond Tiara's an eighteen carrot horseapple."
"And Cheerilee's more of a doormat than I realized," Rainbow Dash said, frowning in the retreating teacher's direction. "This kind of thing happen often, squirt?"
"Not...too often," Scootaloo said, "but...yeah, sometimes Miss Cheerilee kinda loses control of the class..."
"Oh my," Fluttershy said. "That's not very good. Wait here, everypony." She took off after the departed group of foals.
"Pinkie, Sonata, watch the brats," Rainbow said. "I'm gonna go have a word with Cheerilee." She took off in a flash.
An awkward silence fell. "So, uhh..." Pinkie Pie hedged, "anypony wanna hear some silly songs?"
* * * * *
"Good job back there, Di!" Silver Spoon simpered.
"I know," Diamond Tiara said, buffing a hoof on her coat. "Can you imagine, Cheerilee wanting us to hang around with that?"
"'THAT' has FEELINGS, you know," a soft but steely voice said from above. The two rich fillies and their hangers-on stopped short as a yellow pegasus dropped into their path, spreading her wings wide and lowering her head to glare at them. She snorted steam as she planted her hooves in a broad stance.
Diamond Tiara snorted. "Pssh. Big deal. I don't care about feelings."
"Oh really?" Fluttershy asked. "And what if nopony cared about your feelings, hmm?" She arched her head up like a cobra preparing to strike. "What if everypony laughed if somepony said your mane looks like toothpaste?"
One of the fillies behind Diamond Tiara giggled.
"Or if somepony pointed out what a joke it is for you to walk around wearing a dime-store tiara like you're a pretend princess?" Fluttershy continued.
More snickering ensued. Diamond Tiara's ears folded down. "Stop it," she said.
"Why? Am I hurting your feelings?" Fluttershy asked in a snide tone. "I thought you didn't care about feelings!"
"STOP!" Silver Spoon cried, moving closer to Diamond Tiara. "I'm gonna tell my daddy on you! And so is she!"
"Really?" Fluttershy asked, tilting her head. "Maybe I should tell them about how you talked back to Miss Cheerilee and walked away from school without being dismissed. You girls are all cutting class right now. Would your mommies and daddies like to hear about that?"
Guilty shuffling of hooves ensued.
"But..." Diamond Tiara whined petulantly. "But that stupid thing back there..."
Fluttershy settled down, her wings folding back at her sides and her face returning to its usual soft, kind expression, with just a hint of disapproval. "Now really, girls," she said in a motherly tone, "Sonata is a very nice creature and she just wants to belong somewhere. She's been stranded in another world for a very long time and Equestria is her home, and all she wants is to fit in and make friends. What does it say about all of you when you treat her like some kind of monster just because she looks different from you?" She took a step closer to Diamond Tiara. "Now, we're all going to go back there, and you're all going to apologize to Sonata and to Miss Cheerilee."
"Yes, Fluttershy," the small group of fillies said in a collective whipped-puppy tone, hanging their heads as they trudged after Fluttershy, who trotted back to the waiting group with her head held high.
* * * * *
A rainbow blur landed in Cheerilee's path. "Whoa!" Rainbow Dash said. "You're just gonna walk off like that?"
"You saw what happened back there!" Cheerilee moaned.
"Yeah. I saw that brat Diamond Tiara throw a fit and walk away in the middle of class, and you just took it." She planted her hooves on her hips. "You gotta have more backbone than that!"
"I've tried!" Cheerilee cried, throwing up her hooves. "Nothing I ever do gets through to her! She's always like this! Even when I took away her post as editor of the Foal Free Press, it didn't stop this!"
"Yeah, well, Diamond Tiara's a spoiled brat, everypony knows it," Rainbow Dash said dismissively. "But you let her disrupt your lesson and act like a jerk, and then you just left all those kids back there! How do you expect to get any respect from anypony if you tuck tail and walk away when things get a little out of hoof?" She dropped to the ground, planted a hoof on Cheerilee's shoulder, and stared her square in the eyes. "You're gonna go back there, you're gonna get your class back in order, and you're gonna show 'em what a great teacher you are. And next time you see Diamond Tiara, you're gonna put her in her place."
Cheerilee sighed. "And if I say no, you're gonna drag me back by my tail, aren't you?"
Cheerilee snorted. "Okay, okay. Let's go. But I dismissed class, so—"
"Eh, they're all still there," Rainbow said. "I left 'em with Pinkie an' Sonata."
Cheerilee's eyes widened. "Oh my gosh! We'd better hurry!" She turned around and galloped off. Rainbow snickered and followed at a leisurely glide.
* * * * *
"—and that's why you should always have that nasty-tasting pink stuff in your medicine cabinet!" Sonata said to a group of wide-eyed, grossed-out foals. "Of course, maybe if I didn't try to eat two dozen tacos at once—"
"OKAY!" Pinkie Pie shouted in a strained, forced-cheerful tone. "That was...very educational, wasn't it class?" She clapped her hooves. "Why don't we—"
"I'm sorry I ran off on you kids!" Cheerilee cried in a breathless rush as she ran up, Rainbow Dash right behind her. "Pinkie, Sonata, thank you for taking care of...why is Pipsqueak throwing up behind a bush?"
"Umm...Sonata's biology lecture was a bit...graphic," Pinkie said sheepishly.
Cheerilee blinked, then looked up at Sonata, who shrugged with a happy-go-lucky smile. "Uh-huh," she said. She took a deep breath, then fixed an overly-bright smile on her face. "Well! I'm sure I'll be getting some very interesting letters from your parents, but in the meantime—"
"Excuse me, Miss Cheerilee?" Fluttershy said as she trotted up. "I believe Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon have something they'd like to say to you." She motioned with a wing, and the two fillies trotted up, heads down, and glanced up guiltily at Cheerilee.
"We're sorry," they both said contritely.
"And?" Fluttershy prompted.
Diamond Tiara looked up at Sonata. "Sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have been mean to you just because you're different."
Sonata waved a hoof dismissively. "I totally get it," she said. "I've done the whole school bully bit, I know you were only doing it to make yourself feel big and important because you know you're really all alone and—"
Pinkie jumped up and clamped Sonata's muzzle shut. "She accepts your apology!" she said hastily, nodding Sonata's head up and down with her hooves.
"Umm..." Cheerilee said. "Okay! In that case, ahem. Class? How about we go...play some hoofball! At Sweet Apple Acres! And maybe help Granny Smith, umm...bake a pie?" She glanced at Apple Bloom.
"Yeah, we can totally do that!" Apple Bloom agreed. The rest of the class gave a cheer (albeit somewhat half-hearted from Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara).
"Great!" Cheerilee turned to Fluttershy, Rainbow, and Pinkie. "Well! Thank you all so much for, umm...today. I'll certainly never forget it!" Under her breath, she muttered, "No matter how much of Berry Punch's special stash I drink tonight..."
"Don't sweat it, Cheerilee!" Rainbow said. "Well, we've done enough damage here. Guess we'd better get back to that tour of Ponyville!" Her stomach rumbled. "Or maybe just to Hayburger."
"Hayburger sounds good," Pinkie said.
"I could eat," Sonata agreed. "Don't guess there's a taco place here?"
"NO TACOS!" Pinkie shouted.