I awoke with a start, looking around with confusion as it took me a second to realize that I was safe. A nightmare had woken me up before the roosters usually did, and even though I tried to remember, the contents of said dream were rapidly fading. For some reason, the image of a well-dressed man trying to take away my clothes remained in my head, though.
Annoyed, I shook my head in an attempt to get rid of my remaining sleepiness, before taking another calmer look around. I was still safe and sound in what had become my bed, and while I wasn’t wearing any clothes, it wasn’t due to some suited maniac taking them away from me. My hoodie still rested on the chair beside my bed, just where I left it.
The fact that it was steadily getting brighter inside the room tipped me off that it was just about dawn, and sure enough, just a little while later, the rooster outside crowed to greet the morning. Seeing as I was wide awake already anyway, I got up from the bed and started patting down my hair and fur where it was out of place. It would be easier and faster to use a brush for this, but since I couldn’t magically levitate things, and my hoof skills were rather bad still, I was better off just doing it like this.
I spread out my wings a bit and gave them some experimental flaps, which had become something of my morning ritual. I still didn’t have much skill in moving them, but after at least trying every now and then, I was beginning to gain some semblance of control. One of my feathers seemed to have gotten loose and fell to the ground, a sight I had gotten used to as well.
Every now and again, a feather or two would just naturally fall off. I would then take great care to collect, hide, and then discreetly dispose of them when nopony, and no animal, was watching. After the close call at Rarity’s boutique, I made sure that I always treated my wings with care. Today as well, I tried lightly pawing at my wings to see if any more would fall out. Thankfully, none of them seemed to want to vacate their positions, so I went on with my morning and put on my trusty hoodie.
“Good morning, Fluttershy,” I said after going down and into the kitchen, where my host was already preparing breakfast.
“Good morning to you too, Beat.” Fluttershy smiled at me, seemingly excited about something. “Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, I did. Thanks for letting me sleep in a bit.” I sat down on my chair, which was remarkably bunny-free today.
“We wouldn’t want you to be sleepy on your first day of school now, wouldn’t we?” She let out a happy chuckle, setting down a pitcher of freshly pressed orange juice in front of me.
“I’m sure I still won’t be able to retain everything I’ll learn today.” I poured myself a glass with only slight difficulties. “There’s going to be lots of new things.”
“Yes, isn’t it exciting?”
“It most certainly is,” I replied to a beaming Fluttershy. She seemed almost more excited about this whole school thing than I was, although I couldn’t quite figure out why. “My body is ready to get more knowledge.”
“And just think of all the friends you’ll be able to make.” Fluttershy set down the finished breakfast on the table, which turned out to be quite a spread, most likely to celebrate my entry into school-life.
“Oh yeah… that.” Fluttershy didn’t seem to notice my rather unenthused answer, absorbed in her own little world. Obviously, our intentions differed greatly from each other which caused the conversation to derail slightly. Thankfully, it was held together by Fluttershy’s rather unusual enthusiasm.
“Are you sure you want to walk to school alone?” Fluttershy asked, suddenly turning rather serious.
“Yes, definitely.” I nodded. “I wouldn’t want you to neglect all the friendly animals that live around here just because of me. Besides, I know the way and I can take care of myself. I’ll be fine.
“I’m sure they wouldn’t mind waiting a little bit before I tend to them…” Fluttershy pouted a little, which almost caused me to cave by sheer force of cute.
“Probably not,” I agreed, “but I could really use some alone time before going to school, you know? To mentally prepare myself and stuff.”
“Alright then, I wouldn’t want to impose…” And just like that, regular Fluttershy was back. She had been quite adamant about accompanying me to school, almost giddy even, before I dropped the bombshell on her that I wanted to walk there by myself.
Ever since then, it had been a mixture of her asking me if I was sure, and her assuring me that she was respecting my wishes. I felt a bit bad denying her this simple wish that would have definitely made her happy, but I really needed some time alone. Ever since I emerged from the Everfree Forest, I was always in close proximity to another pony. Always having to hide the real me was already starting to take a toll on me, and I just needed a bit of time to myself so I could relax, and just be me.
“Thanks Fluttershy, I really appreciate it.” I flashed her a genuine smile, which seemed to relax her somewhat, before digging into the hearty breakfast.
It wasn’t long before it was time for me to leave, and Fluttershy insisted to at least see me off. She accompanied me up to the small creek in front of her cottage, giving me a hug, and then waving after me until I was out of sight.
Once I was sure she couldn’t see me anymore, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, feeling as if a giant weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I took a few deep breaths and took a look around me, taking in the admittedly beautiful and undisturbed scenery. I took a moment to just sit at the side of the path leading into Ponyville and rest my mind, before taking up the walk again. If I took my sweet time getting to school, I could probably get about twenty minutes of time for myself, which was just fine with me.
As I walked, I actually got pretty excited about going to school myself. Ever since I got here, I’d had to dodge dicey questions, hide my identity, not just as a plane-walking anomaly, but as an alicorn as well. And now that I had settled the most crucial parts of my arrival, I was starting to appreciate the opportunity that presented itself before me, which was to explore a completely different world than the one I came from. There were people back on Earth that would kill for a chance like this, and here I was, living the dream.
I happily strolled along the path, and felt a little song bubble up inside me. Hearing it always made me feel happy for some reason, and although I wasn’t a good singer by a long shot, I felt this urgent need to just… sing. I bobbed my head a bit as I could practically hear the jaunty little tune that was the opening of the song, before jumping on my cue to start.
“I’m sitting here in a boring room; it’s just another rainy Sunday afternoon. I’m wasting my time; I got… nothing… to do?”
My happy little rendition of Fool’s Garden’s Lemon Tree came to a sputtering stop, as did my body. I furrowed my brows, as there were several things wrong with what had just happened.
First off, my voice sounded amazing. This might come off as a little egocentric, but I could definitely confirm that I had never before sung so on-key as I did just now. While I could chalk this one up to me inhabiting a completely different body, with a matching set of vocal chords, the other thing was a bit harder to explain.
I was one-hundred percent sure I was able to actually hear the music that accompanied the song. Not just in my head, but in actual real life. It was enough to cause me to question reality, and check my surroundings for some sort of hidden orchestra or band that was hiding behind a bush that just so happened to accompany my musical stunt.
My confusion persisted as I proceeded to not find anything of the sort, before slowly picking back up my pace. I was beginning to chalk the weird phenomenon up to magic, the true explanation to everything, before realising that I could just try to verify through experimentation.
I picked up where I left off and continued singing with my newly discovered amazing voice. Much to my happiness, the great voice persisted, which meant that I could now sing my favourite songs without feeling bad for the artists who made them. The same thing couldn’t be said about the ethereal music, as it vehemently refused to show up again.
It was not for a lack of trying, since I continued to belch out various songs all the way to Ponyville, before stopping due to not wanting to get a weird reputation as “that one singing colt”. I made a mental note about asking either Cheerilee about it, or maybe Fluttershy later, and continued walking through Ponyville while keeping a low profile.
It didn’t take long for me to arrive at the path leading up to the rustic school building, and I could already hear the commotion that came with lots of children being gathered in the same place. Before long, the school, as well as all of its attendants, came into view, as I got my first look at what would be my classmates for the foreseeable future.
Just as their adult counterparts, these fillies and colts were just as colourful in their appearance. A veritable rainbow unfolded before me, as seemed to be the norm whenever one set foot outside their house in Equestria. After a quick glance, I counted twelve young ponies waiting outside the building, divided into little groups, as was par for the course for any school, really. Even alien ones, apparently.
While it wasn’t as easy to categorize them compared to humans, mostly due to the lack of clothing, I was fairly certain I could see two of the snooty rich kids being relatively close to the door. The tiara and haughty atmosphere gave it away, and I made a mental note to not engage with them, since I had more pressing matters to tend to aside from being looked down on by a bunch of children.
As I let my eyes wander, an oddly familiar white filly seemed to spot me, her face brightening up immediately. She got the attention of her two friends to shift to me as well, before making her way over.
“Hey, you’re Steady Beat, right?” the white filly asked.
“Uhh… yeah, that’s me.” I furrowed my brows a bit. “I’m sorry, do I know you?”
“Oh!” An adorable squeak escaped her. “I’m sorry! I’m Sweetie Belle, Rarity’s sister.”
“Oh yeah, I think I remember seeing you now…” I thought back on the time at Rarity’s boutique, making the connection. “Pleased to meet you again.”
“Likewise! These are my friends. This is Apple Bloom.” She pointed at the yellow filly, whose red hair was adorned with a pink bowtie.
“Howdy, partner!” Apple Bloom jovially greeted me.
“And that’s Scootaloo.” Sweetie Belle pointed to the orange filly with a messy purple mane.
“Hey, what’s up?” Scootaloo seemed to be attempting to pull off an aloof expression, but the effect failed due to her being a tiny orange horse.
“Pleased to meet you,” I replied, decidedly not as motivated as they were. “As already mentioned, I’m Steady Beat, and I suppose I’m your new classmate starting today.”
“And we’re happy to have you!” Apple Bloom seemed a bit too excited, causing me to suspect that there was more going on here than just meeting someone new.
“Yeah, you’re just like us!” Scootaloo fluttered her wings a bit, barely taking off the ground.
“I somehow seriously doubt that…” I replied with a raised eyebrow. Considering what an anomaly I was in this world, I knew I was right with this assumption.
“No, really!” Apple Bloom pointed at her butt for some reason. “You don’t have your cutie mark yet! Just like us!”
Her two friends joined her in showing off their decidedly empty behinds, with a lot more gusto than you’d think. They were obviously very excited about this, although I couldn’t quite understand why. What I did understand was that I was supposed to be excited about this as well.
“That seems to be the case.” I took a look at my own flank, reconfirming that it was indeed blank. “I’m sorry, but why is this exciting news?”
“We actually are in a club called the Cutie Mark Crusaders!” Sweetie Belle gushed. “We spend our time together looking for, and helping each other find what our cutie marks might be!”
“And we’d like to invite you to join us!” Apple Bloom chimed in.
“Yeah!” Scootaloo added with a grin.
I could already tell that they were very enthusiastic about their little get-together. The exact importance of having a cutie mark still escaped me, but judging by how most of the tiny ponies around us already had theirs, the three of them might just be late bloomers. Which would obviously include me.
As I let my eyes wander across the gathered fillies and colts, I noticed that none of them really paid us any mind, apparently accustomed to my three new “friends” being a bit louder than usual. All except for two. The snobby ponies by the door seemed to shoot some nasty glances in our general direction, causing me to immediately figure out the relationship these ponies had.
“I’ll, uhhh… I’ll think about it?” I replied while glancing at the duo shooting us stink-eyes. There was already enough on my plate, and I didn’t feel like adding “getting bullied by children” to it. “Why don’t you tell me more about it later? It seems classes are about to start.”
Sure enough, the door just opened, revealing an enthusiastic Cheerilee waving in everypony with a cheery, “Good morning, everypony!”
The three fillies agreed to postpone our conversation as we joined the others slowly filing into the classroom. Cheerilee made it a point to greet every kid personally, until it was my turn at last.
“Good morning, Steady Beat.” Cheerilee smiled at me, this time making the rest of the class aware of my presence. “Welcome to our class! Please sit down wherever you’d like.”
“Good morning to you as well.” I scanned the room, realizing that everypony was already seated, presumably in their usual spots. There were quite a few desks left empty, causing me to assume that class sizes were varied, and this was the only classroom in Ponyville. “I will, thank you.”
I decided on a desk in the front row, much to the chagrin of not only my three new companions, who were all seated in the third row, but apparently also the two rich fillies, who also occupied the first row. Great, they really seemed to already have it out for me. Deciding to ignore them, I settled down, ready to learn what was in store for me in this weird new world.
Time passed by rather quickly, as I attentively listened to the history lesson that was part of today’s curriculum. Enthusiasm not everypony in the room shared with me, as true to their nature, the other children seemed rather bored by it. Nevertheless, it was soon time for recess, a prospect the other kids were a lot more excited about than the history of their world.
The classroom emptied itself before I really registered that it was time to get up from my desk, the excited youngsters aiming for the best playground equipment behind the school. I slowly got up, making my way to the door everyone else left through. On the way, I made it a point to establish eye contact with Cheerilee to see if she wanted to tell me something, but she seemed perfectly content to leave her remarks for our one-on-one session later.
As I exited the building, I let my gaze wander over the playground, weighing my options. Well, I say playground, but it was a rather poor sight, all things considered. Aside from a few swings, a slide which had seen better days, and something which looked like a tetherball with two balls, there was nothing worth mentioning.
Nonetheless, the kids were having fun playing with each other and the rickety equipment. Not feeling like joining in with anypony in particular, I made my way over to a rather large tree and sat down in its shade, intending to internalize the things I had learned. Probably not something a child my age would do, but I might as well go for the “weird new kid” vibe.
“Hey, Steady Beat!” And immediately my plans got violently wrenched away by a trio of ponies coming my way to socialize. “What are you up to all alone?”
“Hey guys.” I nodded towards Apple Bloom, who was the one that addressed me. “I was actually thinking about going over the things I heard about in class, lest I forget.”
“Oh no, he’s an egghead…” Scootaloo stuck out her tongue, obviously not approving of my studious nature.
“Leave him alone, there’s nothing bad about studying,” Sweetie Belle shot back defensively.
This somehow started a whole discussion about eggheads being cool or not. For some reason, Rainbow Dash was mentioned multiple times, as if she somehow held sway over what was cool and what wasn’t. Whatever the case may be, the discussion was cut short by snootiness incarnate.
“I see the blank flanks are already gravitating towards each other,” the tiara-wearing pink filly said while trotting up to us. “What? Can’t make friends with cutie marks?”
“Haha, yeah!” The silver-coated pony behind her chimed in.
While I was still reeling about the cartoonishly bad villains that presented themselves before me, the trio of friends abandoned their current argument, and switched it out for an argument with the two newcomers.
“Can it, Diamond Tiara, are you really going to try and bully him on his first day?” Apple Bloom retorted. “You don’t even know anything about him yet.”
“Oh, but I already know everything I need to know.” Diamond Tiara stuck her nose up in the air. “He doesn’t have his cutie mark yet, which automatically makes him a failure. Am I right, Silver Spoon?”
“Yes, totally, Diamond Tiara!” The silver one chuckled.
It wasn’t hard to figure out the dynamic of the two would-be school ground bullies. Diamond Tiara was obviously the one whose dad had more money, and Silver Spoon was stuck trailing behind in their relationship. After all, if rich people here were anything like back on earth, money was everything.
“Hey, leave him alone!” Scootaloo got way up in Diamond Tiara’s face, which didn’t seem to really faze her in the slightest.
“Or what?” she challenged back before looking towards me. “Don’t you have anything to say at all? Can’t even defend yourself…” she scrunched up her face. “What was your name again?”
“Steady Beat,” I replied calmly. “I see you can’t even pay attention to anything your teacher tells you, since I was introduced to the whole class less than three hours ago. I sure do hope you are doing well on your tests, or your parents are going to be very disappointed to have raised such a dumb filly.”
Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon visibly recoiled at that. Apparently I was already pushing buttons concerning parental approval.
“I’ll have you know that I’m doing perfectly fine in school. In fact, I’m the best in class!” Diamond Tiara recovered pretty quickly, I had to admit.
“Listen, I don’t really have time to argue with some two-bit villain in my free time. In fact, since I’m not “as good as you”, I’d rather take this time to revise what I learned.” I made sure to be as extra as possible, since that was what was the current theme. “Neither do I have time to help you figure out which of your two daddies has more money in the bank. You’ll have to figure that out yourself. So if you ain’t here to help, I suggest you make like the wind and blow.”
I shooed them away with my hoof, taking pleasure in their dropped jaws. To further accentuate my point, closed my eyes and leaned back against the tree trunk. It took a few moments, but I could soon hear the sad clops of two ponies retreating, apparently not able to retort out of shock.
“That… was… awesome!” Scootaloo eventually disturbed the silence with a rather loud shout. “Did you see their faces? I’ve never seen them run off like that.”
“It was pretty amazing,” I heard Apple Bloom add with a chuckle.
“Diamond Tiara losing a battle of words… that’s a first,” Sweetie Belle squeaked.
I opened my eyes again, finding the three fillies excitedly talking to each other and looking at me like I was the messiah. “I was rather serious about the whole trying to go over what I learned by the way…”
“We can help you!” Sweetie Belle immediately offered.
“For sure!” Apple Bloom nodded her head enthusiastically. “We’d be happy to help you out wherever you have trouble.”
While I had the inkling that I had just made some friends for life, even if unintentionally, I did appreciate the help since I had a lot of new things to learn.
“I’d appreciate it.”
“Well, uh…” Scootaloo scratched the back of her head. “I’ll try to help too, I guess…”
With that, I had recruited some very eager helpers to help me with my academic problems. They settled down around me as I started to ask the questions I had.
The morning went by rather quickly, and after a short lunch with Fluttershy, I made my back to school, ready for my first afternoon of supplementary classes with Cheerilee. I found the school’s door wide open and let myself in. Cheerilee was sitting at her large teacher’s desk, a second chair next to her, obviously intended for me to sit in.
“Good afternoon, Miss Cheerilee,” I greeted her.
“And a good afternoon to you, Steady Beat.” She gestured towards the chair next to her. “Why don’t you take a seat?”
Not one to be told twice, I settled in next to my new teacher, taking a glance at the papers on her desk. Contrary to my belief, they weren’t meant for our supplementary lessons, but tests that she was grading before I came.
“Now, I know that these lessons of ours are meant to catch you up with the rest of the class.” Cheerilee moved the tests away from me, to a corner of the desk where they wouldn’t be in the way. “But why don’t we talk about your first day a bit instead? I’d like to make sure that you don’t have any problems before we really get into it.”
“Okay, sure…” I got a bit confused. Maybe she thought that I wouldn’t retain much of her teaching material if we went over too much too soon, and wanted to take things slow. “What should we talk about?”
“For example… Have you made any friends?” Cheerilee asked cheerily. “I did see the CMC hanging around you during recess.”
“Oh, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, you know? Haven’t they told you about their little club?” Cheerilee seemed surprised. “I mean Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo of course.”
“Yes, of course.” I finally made the connection. “We did talk about that briefly, but they didn’t go into too much detail since we were interrupted mid-conversation.”
“Interrupted?” Cheerilee seemed intrigued.
“By a rather shoddy attempt at bullying, yes;” I nodded. “One that failed spectacularly, might I add.”
“Let me guess, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon?”
“Exactly. I think there might be a bit of history here that I’m not aware of…” I started playing with one of the desks drawer handles. “But I made sure to tell them I wanted no part of their little game.”
“That’s good then.” Cheerilee sighed slightly. “Those two are rather uncontrollable, and it doesn’t help that Diamond Tiara’s father donates quite a bit of money to the school every year… Moving on then, what did you think of your first day at school? Is there anything you would like to say, or anything that you’d like to talk about?”
“I thought it was very interesting,” I responded honestly. “There were a lot of new things I learned today, and I hope to learn many more in the coming days and weeks. I don’t think there are any things I’d like to discuss specifically about today’s material.”
“If only everypony had a mind for learning like you do, it would make my job a little easier… Tell you what! You already had a lot of new experiences today, and I wouldn’t want to load on too much by spending even more time loading up your brain with information. Why don’t we cut today’s meeting short, so you can enjoy the afternoon and process all of your new knowledge?”
“I think I’d like that,” I honestly answered.
“Very well then. But I’d still like to give you some very small homework, if you don’t mind.” Cheerilee pulled the pile of tests towards her again. “I’d like you to think about what exactly it is you would like to gain from our extra lessons together, and to think about which things are most important for you to learn.”
“I will make sure to think about it then.” Feeling the conversation come to an end, I hopped down from my chair and made my way to the door while we exchanged pleasant words of parting.
The homework I got wasn’t much, as I already mentally decided that number one on my list of things I needed to learn was to properly read and write. Seeing as my skills there were shoddy at best, without these two things I’d have a hard time in school and life in general. Yet seeing as I suddenly found myself with some extra free time on my hands, I decided to swing by the local library. I still needed to introduce myself to Twilight Sparkle, my would-be magic teacher, after all.
Cheerilee watched Steady Beat leave while opening a drawer of her desk, pulling out a green folder labelled with the leaving colt’s name. In order to make sure that she could provide him with the care he needed, she had created said folder to be able to more closely record his progress and behaviour. She deftly flipped the pages until she arrived at a sheet of paper titled “Personality and Behaviour”.
Young ponies who went through traumatic experiences could display some rather rapid changes in their behaviour, and in order to stay on top of things, she planned on keeping a detailed record to notice even small changes.
The page was already filled quite a bit, and Cheerilee picked up her quill in her mouth to add a few more lines. Thinking about the exact words to use, she started to write.
“Steady Beat displays a severe lack of general knowledge, as well as the inability to read and write. However, he talks and behaves almost like an adult would, not like a child. The use of advanced words and his usually very calm and collected behaviour would not make you believe that he spent years in a forest without education at all. I should keep an eye on these things to see if he knows more than he lets on about his time in the Everfree.”