Two weeks later, Starlight, Sunburst, and Hope were now settled in their new Ponyville home. It was a two-story house with lots of interior space and a large backyard.
Hope Glimmer was still sleeping in her new bedroom when Starlight walked in and opened up the window curtains, letting the morning light shine brightly. Hope groaned as she turned away from the window.
“Come on, Hope,” Starlight said. “It’s time for your first day of school.”
“Mom!” Hope groaned as she grasped the blanket tightly, “Just five more minutes, please?”
“Hope Glimmer, we don’t have time,” Starlight said as she telekinetically pulled the blanket off of Hope. “School starts at 8 o’clock, and it’s already 7:40! So you better hurry and get cleaned up, get your school supplies packed, and let’s be out in ten minutes!”
“Okay, okay…” Hope groggily said as she got out of bed. After taking a quick bath, brushing her teeth, combing her mane and tail, and putting her school supplies into her new brown saddlebag, Hope Glimmer rushed downstairs where her parents were waiting.
“Have a good day at school, Hope,” Sunburst said as he hugged his daughter goodbye, and then kissed her on the forehead. “Your mother and I will pick you up at 3:30 today, alright?”
“Okay. Bye, Daddy.”
“And remember, Hope: be sure to make new friends today, alright?”
“Y-yes, Daddy…” Hope said nervously, before saying determinedly, “I promise.”
Starlight kissed Sunburst goodbye before leading Hope out the front door. “Come on, Hope, we better hurry. We’ll pick up breakfast on the way.” Soon, the two unicorns galloped their way to the Ponyville Schoolhouse.
“Alright, class,” Ms. Cheerilee said, “Today, we have a new student joining us, Hope Glimmer.”
Hope Glimmer was at the front of the room beside the teacher’s desk, with everypony else looking at her. Already, she was nervous, but she took a deep breath to stay calm and not panic.
“Uh… hi. My name is Hope Glimmer… My parents and I just moved here from… the Crystal Empire… I’ve never actually been to school here, before… I’ve always been homeschooled.”
“That’s very… interesting, Hope,” Cheerilee said. “I’m sure you’ll have a fun time here at school.”
“Uh… thank you, Ms. Cheerilee.”
As Hope walked to her desk, which was in the third row, she couldn’t help but notice that a lot of the fillies and colts had blank flanks. Hope was now curious as to why they didn’t have their cutie marks yet.
“Nice cutie mark,” a colt who was sitting next to Hope said, catching her attention. Now Hope felt even more like an outcast. Were these fillies and colts jealous of her cutie mark?
Hope looked to her right to see a genuine smile from a cream-colored unicorn colt with sapphire eyes. He had a dark blue mane with yellow and red highlights. The next thing Hope noticed was the colt extending his left foreleg out to her.
“My name is Astral Flame,” the colt said kindly. “Welcome to Ponyville."
Hope stared at the extended hoof for a second, but then she decided to shake it with her own hoof. “I… I’m Hope…”
“Hope Glimmer,” Astral finished. “That’s a very nice name.”
“Th-thanks,” Hope replied, smiling sheepishly. “So is your name… Astral Flame.”
“Alright, class!” Ms. Cheerilee called out. “Let’s start off with a roll call.”
Cheerilee picked up a piece of paper with her hooves as she sat down at her desk, reading off a list of sixteen names, one for each student. As she did, Hope looked around and paid attention to whoever would respond to each name.
“Here!” called a pink unicorn filly with a purple mane and orange highlights. She also had freckles on her face and green eyes.
“Here!” called a dark red unicorn colt who sat next to Apple Cake. He had a raspy voice, as well as a purple mane and tail.
“Here,” Astral replied.
“Present, Ms. Cheerilee,” called a blue pegasus filly with green eyes, navy-blue mane and tail with yellow highlights, and she was wearing glasses.
“PRESE-E-E-E-E-NT!” sang a light blue earth filly with pink spots all over her fur. Her mane and tail resembled those of a familiar party pony, and so did her enthusiasm.
“Alright, Cotton,” Ms. Cheerilee chuckled, “settle down. Now, as I was saying… Golden Goodwill.”
“Here…” A dark yellow earth colt with a purple mane and tail sighed as was resting his head on one of his hooves. Hope could tell that he did not want to be here.
“Huh…? Oh, uh… here, Ms. Cheerilee!” Hope almost missed her name being called, and she sat up properly and looked straight ahead, like a soldier falling in line. By doing so, she missed the other ponies who responded to names like “Lakefront,” “Melody Pixel,” “Silver Lining,” and “Typhoon Blast.”
Hope soon looked at the clock. It was already 15 minutes after 8. Only a few more hours until recess. The purple filly figured that recess would be a perfect time to make some new friends. And she just who to start with.
Finally, after a few hours of learning math, reading, and history, the school bell rang for recess. All the fillies and colts ran out of the schoolhouse to play, whether on the playground, the swings, the basketball court, or in the sandbox.
Hope, however, stood on the porch and watched the other kids play. She knew her mission: make friends today, and she would not go home until she made at least one friend.
Okay, Hope. You can do this, she thought to herself. Just take a deep breath… and you’ll be fine.
“Hey, Hope.” Hope jumped at the sudden greeting. Hope looked behind her and saw that it was Astral.
“Oh… uh, hey, Astral,” Hope replied.
“Sorry if I scared you like that,” Astral chuckled.
“Oh, no! It’s fine. You just… startled me, that’s all,” Hope said as she and Astral walked out onto the grass.
“So, Hope… are you by any chance related to Starlight Glimmer?” Astral asked. Hope was surprised by the question. How in Celestia’s name did somepony she never met know about her own mother?
“Uh…. yeah? Sh-she’s my mom,” Hope stammered as she answered. “H-how do you know about her?”
“Because my mom is Sunset Shimmer, and she told me that she went on a few adventures with your mom before.”
“Wait! THE Sunset Shimmer?!” Hope’s eyes widened up. “As in the pony who traveled over to the human world?!”
“Yeah… I’m guessing your mom told you about the time she begged for my mom to go back to the human world?” Astral chuckled at how small their world was getting. “It was the time when my mom and her human friends got trapped in a magic mirror or something.”
“Yeah!” Hope’s smile turned from a sheepish shy grin to an ecstatic grin. “She told me that story not too long ago!”
After spending a few minutes of bonding together, Astral decided to introduce Hope to some of his friends. The two walked over to the basketball court where a dark blue pegasus colt with sea green mane and tail with yellow highlights, and light green-turquoise eyes. He seemed to be bragging with two pegasus fillies. One of them was the blue pegasus filly whom Hope identified as Blue Angel, due to her glasses. The other filly shared Blue’s green eyes, but her coat was a brighter shade of blue, one that almost matched the color of the sky. She also had freckles like Blue, but her mane and tail were white with yellow highlights.
“Ty, for the last time,” the light blue pegasus filly groaned. “You’re not the only pony here who’s parents are Wonderbolts!”
“Silver’s right, Ty,” Blue said in agreement. “If anything, our parents are higher up in rank than your parents.”
The blue pegasus colt rolled his eyes and gave an arrogant, egotistical smirk. “Yeah, but one of these days, my parents are gonna be better than yours. And one of these days,” the colt paused as he walked over to the three-point line and picked up a basketball. Standing on his back legs, the colt dribbled the ball from one hoof to the other, before jumping up and shooting the ball towards the basket. “I will be better than your big brother.”
The colt stood with pride as he looked back at the two pegasi fillies, not noticing that the ball actually bounced off the rim and came flying back down, and almost colliding with the right side of the colt’s head as if it were a dodgeball. However, it didn’t hit him.
The colt turned and saw that the basketball was covered in sapphire aura, floating in midair. Then he looked behind him and saw that Astral was trying hard to keep it from hitting him, as his horn was covered in the same aura.
“You okay, Ty?” Astral called out with concern as he walked over to the blue colt. As the magical aura around his horn disappeared, the same aura covering the basketball disappeared. The ball then fell straight to the ground, bounced a little, and then rolled away from the group.
“I… uh… I knew that ball was coming my way,” the colt responding, trying to keep that confident facade.
“Sure you did,” Astral replied, not believing him for a second. Then he turned over to Hope, who was still standing on the edge of the court. “Hey, Hope, come over here!”
The purple filly eagerly joined her new friend, knowing that she was about to make more friends.
“Guys, this is Hope,” Astral said as he motioned towards said filly. “Hope, this is my best friend, Typhoon Blast.” Astral motioned towards the blue colt. “But, we just call him ‘Ty’ for short.”
“Hey, new kid, huh?” Ty said as he looked at Hope with interest. “Well, Ty’s the name, Awesomeness is my game!” Ty stood up on his back legs and put his hooves on his waist, posing like a superhero.
The light blue pegasus filly scoffed. “More like bragging.” Then she turned to Hope. “My name is Silver Lining, and this is my sister, Blue Angel,” she said as she motioned toward the glasses-wearing pegasus filly, who smiled warmly and waved at Hope.
“Nice to meet you guys,” Hope happily said. “So… what were you three talking about?”
“They were arguing about their parents,” Astral answered. “You see, Silver and Blue’s parents are Rainbow Dash and Soarin, the co-captains of the Wonderbolts. And Ty’s parents are Sky Stinger and Vapor Trail, who are also Wonderbolts.”
“Not to mention, the best!” Ty said while smirking again, causing Silver to facehoof and for Blue to roll her eyes.
Hope, however, stood dumbfoundedly while giving two blinks. There were so many questions going on in her head, but she didn’t want to ask them because she was afraid of embarrassment.
“Wait… you have heard of my folks, haven’t you, newbie?” Ty asked as he cocked an eyebrow at Hope.
“Well… I’ve heard of Rainbow Dash… She’s one of the professors at the School of Friendship…?” Hope’s ears drooped down, giving a wide, sheepish grin. “Uh, my Mom was the guidance counselor there, once… but now she’s guidance counselor again!”
“Wait a minute…” Ty hoovered off the ground, as he narrowed his eyes at Hope, but then widened his eyes at the realization. “YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF THE WONDERBOLTS, HAVE YOU?!”
“Uh… y-yes I have. I know about the Wonderbolts…” Hope was intimidated, as she tried to keep that smile on her face. Beads of sweat began to run down her head, as she felt like she was backed into a corner.
“Oh, really?! Then tell me, what are the Wonderbolts, huh?” Ty crossed his front hooves as he hovered over Hope. Astral had a look of concern on his face, as did Silver. Blue, however, narrowed her eyes at Ty.
“Ummmm…. they’re… a…. circus act?” Hope guessed.
For Ty, that was probably the dumbest thing he had ever heard, as he gave a big facehoof.
“ARE YOU NUTS?!” Ty shouted at Hope, causing everypony else to look at them. Hope noticed this, and she could no longer hold that fake smile. “THE WONDERBOLTS ARE AN ELITE GROUP OF FLYERS!!!”
Before Ty could go on and on about the Wonderbolts, Astral came Hope’s rescue by using his magic to grab Ty’s tail and yank it down to the concrete, pulling Ty with it. With Ty sitting on his hind legs, completely thrown off by what had just happened, Astral smacked Ty on the back of his head.
“Ow! What was that for, Astral?!”
“That was way too far, Ty! Besides, so what if she doesn’t know about the Wonderbolts yet? It’s not that big a deal!”
Blue and Silver joined Astral in scowling at Ty, who now felt ashamed in what he had done.
Ty stood up on all four legs and looked at Hope with not a face of anger, but a face of remorse. “Hey, uh… Hope? I’m sorry about that. I shouldn’t have yelled at you for not knowing about the Wonderbolts.”
Hope smiled and nodded. “It’s okay.”
“If you want to learn more about the Wonderbolts, Hope,” Blue chimed in, “I can tell you everything you need to know! I can tell you about their history, their current members, all the kinds of tricks they do, how they were formed--”
Silver stopped Blue from rambling on by gently placing a hoof at her mouth. “Or… we could just introduce her to Mom and Dad and let them tell her about it.”
Hope chuckled a bit, making a mental note to remember that offer.
But before the five young ponies could talk anymore, the school bell rang. Ms. Cheerilee was on the front porch, calling everypony back into the schoolhouse. Hope was a little disappointed; she wanted to spend more time with her new friends, but she supposed that she could play with them more after school. The purple unicorn filly followed said friends back to class.
Soon, the clock struck 3, and all the young ponies in the classroom cheered as they knew that school was over for the day. Of course, the applause was silenced when Ms. Cheerilee assigned them homework. Most of the fillies and colts, except for at least Blue, Hope, and Astral, sighed in defeat. Ms. Cheerilee went by every desk, giving each pony a math worksheet. It was simple addition and subtraction with single-digit numbers, but a few of the fillies and colts were still unhappy that they had any homework at all.
After reminding the students to show their work, Ms. Cheerilee said goodbye and dismissed all the class. Of course, most of the students weren’t picked up by their parents right away. They would have to wait at least ten minutes for either one or both of their parents to pick them up. Some didn’t mind, of course.
Hope was happy to wait for her parents to pick her up, as that meant she got to spend more time with her new friends. Ty and Silver decided to play basketball, and it became a fillies vs colts game, with Astral on Ty’s team and Hope on Silver’s team. Blue Angel, meanwhile, decided to get started on her homework. And she also said that even if she’s not the most athletic filly, she would still unbalance the teams.
“You sure about that, Blue?” Silver asked her sister.
“I’m sure,” Blue replied.
“Heh, nerd,” Ty muttered as he smirked, causing for Astral to once again smack him on the back of his head. “Ow! Will you cut that out, already?!”
Hope couldn’t help but chuckle at Ty’s expense.
“Very funny,” Ty said sarcastically as he rubbed the back of his head where Astral had smacked him. “Anyways, first team to 21 points wins!”
The two colts went to the end of the court that would be considered the half-court line, while the two fillies each stood on opposite ends of the court, where the basket was.
Meanwhile, Blue Angel took out a pencil from her saddlebag with her mouth and started looking at her homework.
“Let’s see here… 4 plus 1? That’s an easy one. The answer is 5.” The blue pegasus filly wrote down her answer on the first math problem. As Blue continued to multitask, watching the four children play basketball and do her math homework, she couldn’t help but notice that there was a pair of colts in the distance.
Blue Angel adjusted her glasses to get a better look and saw that a teal-green earth pony with dark green and magenta hair, was lying on his back. Other features that were that the colt’s back had a red shell, one that almost resembled that of a ladybug, except the spots on the shell were white instead of black. He also had blue insect-like eyes, almost as if they belonged to a changeling. From the looks of it, the colt was trembling in fear.
Blue then noticed that there was another earth pony towering over the poor colt. This one had a dark yellow fur coat, with purple mane and tail, with white highlights, and he also had blue eyes. From what Blue could tell, the dark yellow colt was yelling at the green colt. Knowing that something was wrong, Blue put her homework and pencil in her saddlebag and walked closer to hear their conversation better.
“Did you not hear what I said?!” the dark yellow colt shouted. “You don’t belong here! You and your kind never did!”
“B-but…” the trembling green colt said as he tried to back away. “I...I thought…”
“Thought what?! Thought that just because you’re half pony, you get to come here?! Or did you think that your mommy and all her other changeling buddies were welcome to Equestria because Chrysalis was no longer their queen?!”
“That’s enough, Golden Goodwill!” The two colts looked and saw Blue Angel approaching them. “Leave Lakefront alone! He didn’t do anything to you, did he?”
“Stay out of this, Blue Angel!” the dark yellow colt said. “This is none of your business!”
“Yeah, well, I’m making it my business,” Blue Angel said as she walked over between Golden Goodwill and Lakefront. “You cannot treat him like that!”
“He doesn’t belong here, Blue. Now get out of my way!”
“You know, just because your Mayor Diamond Tiara’s son doesn’t mean you get to be a bully!”
“Bully?!” Golden snapped. “I’m not the bad guy here! He is!”
“For being half-changeling?” Blue Angel asked. “You know what, Golden, I don’t want you to say anything more to Lakefront unless it’s an apology!”
“Alright, alright,” Golden Goodwill sighed. “I’ll apologize.” Blue Angel snorted as she backed away, letting Golden look at Lakefront. “I’m sorry, Lakefront…”
The green colt had a surprised look on his face. Was he really apologizing for what he had said to him just a moment ago?
“...I’m sorry that you’re a changeling freak!” Golden Goodwill finished, as he shouted at Lakefront, causing him to tear up, almost like he was about to cry.
Blue Angel gasped in shock. But the surprised look on her face changed into an expression of rage. How could this colt be so heartless, especially when her mother is one of the nicest mares in all of Ponyville?
But before she could lunge out at the golden bully, a light blue hoof reached up and gently tightened its grip on Blue’s shoulder. Blue looked and saw that it was her sister. Then, she saw that reinforcements, in the form of Astral, Hope, and Ty, had arrived.
“I don’t think that’s what she meant,” Hope said as stepped forward, almost as if she were a superhero. Then she walked over towards Lakefront and used her levitation magic to pick Lakefront off the grass and set him down on all-fours behind her. “She meant, you sincerely apologize for being mean to him!”
Golden Goodwill growled as five young ponies were standing between him and his target. But, part of him was actually surprised. Were these five ponies really standing up for somepony who was half-changeling?
The little colt winced in fear, as he looked to see the source of the voice. It was a pink mare wearing a blue bow-tie and had a purple and white mane and tail. Her cutie mark was a silver tiara with diamonds on it.
“Get over here, right now, young stallion!” Diamond Tiara demanded. The five other kids watched as Golden Goodwill obeyed his mother. Then, Diamond Tiara pointed towards the schoolhouse front door, and the two of them walked inside.
Then, the kids turned to Lakefront. “Are you okay?” Astral asked.
“Y-yeah,” Lakefront muttered. “I-I’m fine. Thanks for saving me.”
“No problem,” Blue replied.
Hope decided to introduce herself. “Hi, my name is Hope. Hope Glimmer.” Hope offered a hoofshake to Lakefront, who hesitantly accepted it.
“L-Lakefront,” the green colt replied.
“So, why was that colt picking on you?” Hope asked, only for Lakefront to look away, drooping his ears.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Lakefront said, as he turned to his side and pointed at the shell on his back, and also motioned to his blue eyes. “It’s because I’m half-changeling.”
Hope’s eyes widened in surprise. She knew about reformed changelings, like her Uncle Thorax, and evil changelings like Chrysalis, but she had never heard of half-changelings before.
“Wait a second,” Ty said as he hovered between Hope and Lakefront. “If you’re part changeling, can’t you shapeshift?” Lakefront nodded slowly. “Well, then why didn’t you turn into a bear to scare Goldy away, or something else to defend yourself?”
“Because… I’m not very good at shapeshifting…” Lakefront sighed before bowing his head.
“What do you mean you’re not good at it?” Blue Angel asked, more puzzled. “Shapeshifting is natural for changelings, so you must be able to do some shapeshifting.”
“I never said I couldn’t shapeshift… but…” Before Lakefront could continue, blue magical flames enveloped around him. Then, after the flames quickly died down, in Lakefront’s place was a turtle. Then, blue flames enveloped around the turtle, replacing it with a white little rabbit. Then, a black Labrador retriever, and then a squirrel, until finally, Lakefront was back to his original form. “I can only shapeshift into small animals.”
“Yeah, I don’t think those would stand much of a chance against bullies,” Ty whispered to Astral.
“Besides,” Lakefront continued. “I don’t want to disappoint my parents… My Mom’s told me that violence is never the answer. And, my dad said that violence should only be a last resort.”
“Oh. I see,” Hope replied, understanding almost too well what it’s like to keep one’s parents proud. Thinking about how Starlight wanted her to make friends today gave Hope an idea; it seemed that Lakefront didn’t have any friends to turn to in his time of need. Maybe it was time to change that. “Lakefront, if you want us to, we can be your friends.”
The changeling-pony hybrid looked back up in surprise, as it almost felt too good to be true. “Y-you… You mean it?”
“Sure,” Astral added in. “It would be awesome to have a changeling in our new little group. Even if you’re only half-changeling.”
The three young pegasi agreed in unison. As Hope offered her hoof in friendship to Lakefront, she noticed a small smile form on Lakefront’s face. His eyes were watering, almost as if this was the happiest day of his life.
Instead of taking Hope’s hoof, Lakefront lunged at her and wrapped his hooves around her in a hug. Hope was taken a little bit by surprise by the gesture, but she returned the hug as well.
“Thank you,” Lakefront said.
Meanwhile, Starlight and Sunburst were walking towards the school, Starlight still being nervous for Hope.
“What if this was a mistake?” Starlight asked. “What if Hope doesn’t get along with anypony? Or worse, what if they actually do end up hating her?! Oh, Sunburst, this is all my fault!”
“Starlight!” Sunburst put his front hooves on his wife’s shoulders. “It’s alright. There’s no need to panic. Just calm down.”
Starlight nodded frantically but took deep breaths to calm herself. Feeling a little better, Starlight sighed. “Thank you, Sunburst.”
“Anything for you, Starly,” Sunburst said endearingly, before kissing her gently, yet passionately. “Thought that might calm you down as well.”
Starlight chuckled in response. “Thanks. Come on, let’s not keep Hope waiting.”
Soon enough, Starlight and Sunburst arrived at the Schoolhouse. To their surprise, Hope was not waiting for them. She was out on the basketball court with five other kids, two of which were fillies and three of which were colts. Hope was smiling and laughing as she and the other children played together. Hope turned around to notice Starlight and Sunburst.
“Mom, Dad!” Hope called out to her parents, “come over here!” Starlight and Sunburst walked over to the basketball court. The rest of the kids stopped playing their game to greet the two adult unicorns. “Mom and Dad, I’d like for you to meet my new friends.”
“I just don’t understand, Diamond Tiara. I really thought that your son would behave himself. But, just a few minutes ago…”
Golden Goodwill lowered his head in shame as he listened to Ms. Cheerilee tell his mother about his behavior towards Lakefront.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Cheerilee. I’ll make sure that this doesn’t happen again.” Diamond Tiara walked firmly out of the schoolhouse, Golden Goodwill timidly walking behind her. As the little colt opened the front door, he saw that his mother was apologizing to Lakefront and his parents, Sandbar, and Ocellus, for how Golden had treated him. He could tell that Lakefront was feeling much better, and part of him was happy for that. Golden actually couldn’t help but smile as Lakefront trotted happily with his new friends, with his parents slowly walking behind.
“I’m very disappointed in you, Golden.” Golden Goodwill looked up to see Diamond Tiara glaring firmly down at him.
“I… I’m sorry, Mom…”
“Golden, I thought I raised you better than that. When I said that you need to treat others the way you would want to be treated, I didn’t mean you should apply that to ponies exclusively. Lakefront’s just as much of a living being as you are, and I do not appreciate you treating him less than such!”
“I know… I’m… I’m really sorry, Mom… But… I was told that changelings, or even half-changelings… are evil.”
“Well, they were evil, Golden Goodwill,” Diamond Tiara responded. But they’ve been reformed for over twenty years now before you were born.”
“I… I know… But… I was told that only Ponies could be trusted… and that all other creatures… Were to… to…” Golden Goodwill looked away, tears in his eyes.
“Golden Goodwill,” Diamond Tiara said calmly and firmly, “who told you this?”
“I… I can’t tell you, Mom!”
Diamond Tiara was surprised at her son’s response. “What do you mean, ‘you can’t tell me’, Golden? Are you keeping secrets from me?"
The little colt kept his eyes away from her mother and squeezed them shut. "I... I just can't."
Diamond Tiara wrapped a hoof around her son. "Golden Goodwill, whoever told you this is wrong. Just look at Princess Twilight's School of Friendship. There are dozens upon dozens of non-ponies attending, and most of them are learning friendship very well. And please, don't keep secrets from me, alright?"
"Okay, Mom," Golden Goodwill replied. "I promise. No more secrets."
But it was a promise that Golden Goodwill was already breaking.