• Published 10th Jun 2014
  • 5,863 Views, 500 Comments

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Sweetie Belle - Distaff Pope



It's Sweetie Belle's first day at Equestria's newest academy, and she plans on making it the best year ever. However enemies old and new emerge, while Sweetie struggles with the fear that her old friends are pulling away from her.

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1. First Day

“Rarity, wake up!” I said, bouncing excitedly outside the bestest big sister in the whole wide world’s room. “I don’t want to be late for my first day of school.” There was a pause before the door opened, glowing with her soft-blue magic aura.

“Sweetie Belle,” she said, not bothering to get out of bed, “it’s 5:30 in the morning and…” She paused, her blue eyes drifting to the pile of luggage behind me. “Why did you pack so much for your first day of school? This seems excessive even for me.”

“It is not,” I said. “I want my dorm room to feel just like my home away from home, which I guess it will be.”

My sister drove her head into the pillow and groaned. “For the hundredth time, Sweetie, the dorms are for ponies who had to travel to attend the academy. Since you live in Ponyville, you won’t be moving into the dormitories. Is that clear?”

I stared at her for several seconds, taking in her words and occasionally looking at the wall of luggage behind me. “So… what you’re saying is, I shouldn’t have packed all this stuff?”

She gave another angry grunt that she would absolutely never use in public because “it wasn’t proper” before slamming the door shut, which she would also never do in public because “it wasn’t proper.” Rarity does a lot of things around me that she doesn’t do in public. I must be the luckiest little sister ever to have a big sis that’s so open and honest with me. I looked outside, and the sky was just beginning to get a little gray. Maybe it was just a bit too early.

***

Three Months Earlier…

“Gurs, did ew ear the ate noose?” I asked, running towards my two bestest friends in the world, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, while holding a sheet of paper in my mouth.

“Uh, what’d you say, Sweetie Belle?” Apple Bloom asked, turning from her spot in the park to look at me.

“I aid, did ew ear the ate noose?” I repeated, trying really hard not to start bouncing up and down.

“Okay,” Scootaloo said, sighing and smacking her forehoof against her face. “Spit out the paper, then tell us the news.

Right, that probably would make it easier for them to understand me. I spat the paper out and grabbed it with my magic before it could hit the ground. “I said, did you hear the great news?”

“Yeah,” Scootaloo said. “Rainbow Dash is totally about to do a stunt show in the park. It’s kind of why we’re all here.” She gestured a hoof at all the ponies sitting in the park, most of them staring up at the sky.

“No, not that,” I said, pointing a hoof at the flyer. “They’re going to open a school in Ponyville.”

“Uhh… Sweetie,” Scootaloo said, scrunching up her forehead, “Ponyville already has a school. The three of us go there.”

I might have growled in frustration at that. Luckily Rarity wasn’t around to tell me that a lady does not growl. “No! It’s a different school, it’s– Luna’s starting her own school, it’s going to be in Ponyville, and it’s going to be about ART and SCIENCE.” I pointed at the poster. “See, it says anypony in Ponyville can attend. This is our chance to finally get our cutie marks! I’m going to get mine in acting for sure.”

“That’s great, Sweetie Belle,” Apple Bloom said. “But I don’t want mah cutie mark in actin’, and I’m guessing neither does Scootaloo.” The orange pegasus nodded in agreement.

“I know,” I said. “But you can go for other things, like… “I bet they have potion-making classes, and Scootaloo, you could probably get into some mechanics program.”

“Gee, I don’t know,” Apple Bloom said. “This new school looks kind o’ fancy, and I don’t see any mention of potion making on here. Looks like it’s just another thing for them unicorn types.” She winced. “Uh, no offense intended of course.”

“No, see it says here that everypony’s welcome.” I pointed at the top of the flyer, which still had bits of my drool and teeth marks on it. “I bet they just call it something different, like…” I looked over the page for familiar words. “Chemistry. ‘Cause it’s like that one book that kept saying chemicals instead of ingredients.”

“What’s the big deal if we go to the school anyways?” Scootaloo asked. “It’s not like me studying or not studying…” She looked through the areas of study the flyer mentioned about. “...Mechanical Engineering is going to change how awesome I am at my scooter.”

“But...” My voice cracked and my eyes started to water. Don’t cry now, I thought. “If we don’t go to the same school, then we won’t spend as much time together.” I really didn’t want start crying in front of my friends; if Diamond Tiara or Silver Spoon saw it, they would make fun of me for being a cry baby. Again. “And if we stop spending time with each other, then you two will bond without me and then…” I cried. Not just cried, I felt like I was absolutely gushing tears. “You two won’t be friends with me anymore.”

My friends took shelter under one of the emergency umbrellas they always had on them… somewhere. “Sweetie Belle, that’s just silly,” Apple Bloom said. “We’ll always be your friends. Babs lives all the way out in Manehattan, but she’s still a Crusader, ain’t she?”

I kept crying, not responding to her prompt. “Look, if it means that much to ya, me and Scootaloo can go and join this school as well. Maybe we’ll get lucky and Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon will stay at the old school, right Scootaloo?”

She nodded. “Sure, if they let me play with engines, it can’t be any more boring than regular school.”

“Really?” I asked, smiling happily and wrapping my forehooves around my two best friends. “I promise, the three of us are going to have so much fun, it’s going to be like a great big adventure, and we’ll all get our cutie marks at the same time and we’ll stay as the best of friends forever and nothing will ever come between us.”

“Do you think she planned this?” Scootaloo asked, looking at Apple Bloom as I continued to give them the tightest and bestest hug in the whole wide world.

“I think it’s best if we just go with this,” Apple Bloom said.

***

The stupid sun was finally up, and I tried to rush Rarity as she spent several hours applying all of her makeup. I don’t really see what the big deal is since she looks great without it, but she says how it’s about standards and that a lady must always look her best. I don't get it, and I definitely don't think I'll ever spend an hour just putting on makeup and brushing my mane, especially since there are so many other fun things I could be doing instead of staring at the mirror. "Come on," I said, trotting impatiently in place. "We're going to miss the whole day.

“Sweetie Belle, I really don’t understand your sense of urgency, we still have several hours until school starts, I assure you you won’t be late to your first class,” she said, putting curlers in her mane.

“First?” I asked. “Won’t it just be like Cheerilee’s school, where there’s just one class?”

Rarity laughed. “The Academy was made to accommodate a very large number of ponies at all age ranges. You remember how many buildings they put up, don’t you?”

I nodded. Of course they had a lot of buildings, they had to keep the ponies from different towns with their friends.

“You see,” she continued while I danced nervously in place, “instead of staying in one room for all your subjects, you go to a different room for each subject, you’ll actually have five different...” She said some other stuff, but it was boring and not fun to hear, so I just stared at the clock and imagined all the fun with my friends I was missing out on. Right now, they were probably meeting our teacher and getting to know each other, and if I didn’t get there soon–

“Hurry up,” I said, “I don’t want to miss the first day of school with my friends. If you keep putting on makeup, we are going to be late.”

“But Sweetie,” she said, shaking her head as I ran down the stairs, “that’s what I’m trying to tell you. You can’t–”

I didn’t hear her as I ran out the boutique’s doors. Why did she have to spend so long styling her mane? I just ran a brush through it a few times, and I looked fine. Rarity said I was lucky to have such a naturally beautiful mane that could support me “neglecting” it, but when she didn’t style it, her mane was just as nice as it normally was.

I ran the entire way to the new school, with Rarity angrily chasing after me the entire time, hair curlers still in her mane, saying we still had an hour before we had to leave and that I should really go back to the boutique so she could finish styling her mane. Also, I really shouldn’t have been punished for running towards the school, if anything, I should be congratulated for wanting to learn so badly.

“Sweetie Belle, do you see anypony else in this courtyard?” Rarity asked as we both reached the school, giving me the glare that only came when I had pushed her to her wits’ end.

“Yep,” I said, as cheerily as I could, “I see you.” She might be the bestest sister in the world, but sometimes it was really fun to push her a bit, even if her exploding was kind of less fun.

She groaned again. “That’s not what I meant and-” Rarity paused, a tiny smile forming on her lips. “You know what Sweetie Belle, as you reminded me so many times over the summer, you’re a big pony now. If you want to wait out here for another hour by yourself, you are more than free to do so.” With that, she removed the curlers from her hair and stomped off as dramatically as possible.

“I will,” I said as she walked off. “And, I won’t get bored.”

I was scooting along the ground in five minutes. By ten minutes, I had started singing to myself.

***

Several Songs Later…

Well, we got trouble
Right here in River City.
With a capital ‘T’
And that rhymes with ‘P’
And that stands for …

“Wow, this song really sounds like Flim and Flam’s cider song. but…” I sat down to think for a minute. “They’re conponies, so why would they model the song they use when trying to scam townsponies after a musical number where a conmare tries to scam townsponies? It kind of seems obvious, doesn’t it?”

“Hey, Sweetie Belle, how long you been waitin’?” Apple Bloom asked as she, Scootaloo, and several other ponies entered the Junior Academy’s courtyard, the smaller of the school’s two academies.

“Not long,” I said, getting up to meet my friends. “I’m just so excited, I had to get here early. I don’t want to miss a single second of the new school experience.”

“Well, I’m pretty sure that as long as you’re here before school starts, ya won’t. Now where exactly do we go?” Apple Bloom asked, gesturing at a the big multi-story building that surrounded us. “It’s a mite bigger than our old school.”

Scootaloo shrugged. “I don’t know, but I’m guessing we should go through the big doors everypony else is going through.”

We followed the other students to a big table with several adult ponies at the other end handing out sheets of paper to the students. “Name?” A yellow mare with a flowing red mane asked after I reached the front of the line.

“Sweetie Belle!”

She looked through the stacks of paper before finally pulling one out. “Here is your class schedule, now please head to the main auditorium for orientation.” The mare paused and looked at the sheet in her hooves. “Oh, and I see you will be in my 4th period math class. I can’t wait to see you there.”

“Huh?” I tilted my head in confusion. “But I thought I would just have one class like at my old school. I didn’t know we’d have a bunch of different teachers.” Did Rarity say something about that earlier? No, if she had, I would’ve heard it.

“Really?” she asked. “That should have gone out with the rest of the orientation information.”

“Uhmm… The only thing I got was the little paper that told me when the first day of school was and it asked me to check what I wanted my focus to be,” I said, frowning. Had there been something else? Maybe there was a packet, but if there was, I would’ve remembered it. I definitely would’ve remembered somepony telling me I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with my friends as possible before they left me. I shook my head. This was the first day of school, and I was going to be as I could while I still had my friends with me.

“I see,” the mare sighed. “The basic orientation information should have been sent out several weeks ago. Of course, with how chaotic just getting the school set up on Luna and Headmistress Slavedriver’s timetable has been, I’m not too surprised that a few orientation mailers were lost.”

“But I thought Octavia was the school’s headmistress. I remember hearing about it during one of her and Rarity’s weekly dinners, which I definitely wasn’t eave-”

“You know Miss Octavia?” the teacher said, giving me a nervous little laugh. “That Headmistress Slavedriver remark was just a little joke of ours, there’s really no need to repeat it back to her.”

“Okay,” I said. “So how do the classes work again?”

She sighed. “That sheet of paper tells you when and where your classes are. You will probably have it memorized before the first week is over, but until then it will help you navigate your way around the school.”

“You mean,” I said, turning around desperately trying to find my friends, “I won’t have my classes with my friends?”

“Well, I suppose it is possible,” she said, tilting her head in thought while I noticed her cutie mark consisted of a squiggly line and two straight lines coming down from it. “But considering the school’s current size, assuming you and your friends are in roughly the same age group, and assuming that there’s more than one of them as indicated by your usage of the plural ‘friends’ as opposed to the singular ‘friend’ it is very likely that you will have at least one class with them.”

“But,” I sniffled, “I thought we would have all our classes together. They’re my only friends.”

She frowned. “That… You will be able to spend time with your friends during the lunch hour and after school, so consider this an opportunity to make new friends. Now you really need to get to the auditorium. If you need any more help acclimating to the school, I will speak with you after our class or once school lets out.”

I nodded. “Thank you, Miss…”

“Pi,” she said, smiling at me. “A pleasure to meet you, Sweetie Belle.”

“You too,” I said before walking off towards the auditorium. So, my friends and I weren’t going to have the same classes. If I had known that I– For a second, I was tempted to bang my head against a nearby locker. Ooh, were we going to have lockers? I looked at my sheet of paper and found a locker number and combination, and hummed happilyuntil I remembered just why I had wanted to bang my head against a locker in the first place. Right. If I had known we would have different classes, then I probably wouldn’t have made such a big deal about them joining the Academy in the first place.

Now we weren’t going to spend any time together and they were going to make new friends who liked the same stuff they liked and then they would forget all about Sweetie Belle, just like how Apple Bloom stopped talking to Twist after she got her cutie mark. What would happen to me once they found better friends?

I shuffled into the auditorium and tried to find a seat near Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, but they were already taken. It was already starting, I thought, trying to contain my sniffles. Soon they’ll both be like “Sweetie Who? We never heard of her.” They were already so much closer to getting their cutie marks than me. Scootaloo was amazing on her scooter, and Apple Bloom had mixed up a bunch of potions, but my last attempt at acting/directing/writing had met with... mixed reception. It would take me forever to get my cutie mark compared to them and it wasn’t fair. We were supposed to get our cutie marks at the same time, and instead… Ugh, it wasn’t fair at all.

At some point while I was thinking, the rest of the school had gotten into the auditorium and the doors closed with a heavy click, while two ponies I was familiar with took the main stage. One was a gray mare with a black mane who had a pink… I think it’s a treble clef for a cutie mark, that matched her eyes, bow tie, and the stripe in her mane that wasn’t there the first time I met her. The other pony was a midnight-blue alicorn with a mane of night sky that seemed like it was always being blown by the wind. I wanted to wave at them, but since nopony else was, I decided it was maybe a bad idea.

“Good morning everypony,” the gray mare said as she took the central podium. “I am Octavia Melody, and I will be the acting headmistress this semester because apparently our original headmistress thought it a better idea to flee to Mareami than do the job she was hired for.” Her voice was super harsh as she said the last few words, and I found myself wanting to hide as she looked around the room. “However, I can promise that the many setbacks this school has suffered in the last few months as we desperately scrambled to open on time will not impact the quality of education that you receive in the slightest, even if half the faculty fled or lost their minds after a few weeks in town.”

Luna glared at her, causing Octavia to shuffle the notes on the podium uncomfortably. “What I meant to say was that, despite all the hardship and adversity we suffered while trying to open this school on time, we still managed to persevere and create what will no doubt become one of the premier academies in Equestria. While I hope to get to know all of you by the time you leave here, I also hope that you give none of your teachers cause to send you to my office. Now, I would like to turn the podium over to our beloved princess and school founder, Princess Luna.”

The ponies in the room applauded as my favorite Princess headed towards the podium. “Thank you, my little ponies. It is truly a pleasure to stand before you today. When Headmistress Octavia and I first conceived of this school, we imagined a place where anypony, regardless of age, race, income, or stature could seek a higher education.” She smiled and glanced at Octavia. “At times, it was a trial, and there were moments where I doubted our chances of success, but the opening of the Senior Academy several months ago bolstered my hopes, and now seeing you all sitting and smiling in front of me today, I am proud to say that we have persevered and that the promise of the Academy has been fulfilled.”

There was a brief pause as she waited for the second round of applause to fade. “I have never been one for overly long and elaborate speeches. To my mind, a few honest lines are greater than several hours of blustering and posturing, and so, I would like to conclude by wishing you all a wonderful school year filled with learning and enrichment.”

Students applauded as Octavia took to the podium again. “Now, with those remarks, I would like to remind all students to report to their first class as soon as the assembly is over. Now, I am sure your teachers are all very eager to meet you, so please head to class with all due haste. Thank you all again for choosing to attend our academy. I’m sure most of you will go on to do great things in Equestria, and I hope you remember us when you do.”

After she finished speaking, most students started heading towards the door out of the auditorium, while I made a beeline for Scootaloo and Apple Bloom. “Hey girls,” I said, smiling, “what is your first class? I have…” I looked at my schedule. “Acting with Oscar Marelon. Huh, the first name sounds like a boy’s name, but the last name kind of sounds like a girl’s. I wonder which one it is.”

“Yeah, that is an odd one,” Apple Bloom said. “I have chemistry with Professor Moldeaux first and… Ooh! I have life sciences with him for my last class of the day.”

“Me too!” Scootaloo and I said in unison after looking through our schedules.

“This is great,” I said, wrapping my friends up in another giant hug. “I hoped we would have at least one class together. Miss Pi said it was likely that we would, and it’s true.”

“Huh,” Scootaloo said as we started walking out of the auditorium, “I wonder if it’s the same Miss Pie I have fourth period math with.”

“It is!” I said, beaming, “At least, I think it is. I mean, if not then there are two Miss Pies who teach math for fourth period, and oh my gosh, we’ll have math class together.”

“Yeah, super fun,” Scootaloo said. “Anyways, I’ve gotta break off here if I want to get to my metallurgy class with Iron Smith. Don’t know what it is, but it sounds super cool. See you girls at lunch.” She zipped off to the nearest stairwell, leaving Apple Bloom and me behind.

“Actually, Ah’ve gotta be headed out too. See you later Sweetie.”

“Have fun,” I said as she walked off to the other side of the school, leaving me to look at my schedule and find my class.

***

The acting class was mostly full by the time I got to it, and I had to stop myself from groaning when I saw Diamond Tiara was in the class. The pink earth pony had tormented us non-stop over the last few years, moving from making fun of our lack of cutie marks to mocking Scootaloo because she couldn’t fly. Of course, the second I walked into the room, she walked over towards me like a shark… but on land. Ooh! Are land sharks a real thing? I don’t think so, but maybe I should land-shark-proof my room just in case. Could land sharks get to the second floor of a house? “Hey, Sweetie Belle,” she said, pulling me out of my head. “I didn’t know they let blank flanks in here. I thought you had to have a talent to get here.”

“Nope!” I said, trying to keep my smile up under the combined pressure of Diamond Tiara and the fear of land sharks. “Everypony in Ponyville can come here for free. Otherwise, I don’t think either of us would be here.”

“What do you mean by that?” she asked, a mix of emotions running across her face. “My daddy could easily pay the enrollment fee. Your sister could too if she didn’t practically give all of her outfits away.”

“I wasn’t talking about price,” I said, my smile switching to a scowl at her attack on my sister. “I was talking about the fact that nopony knows exactly what your cutie mark is about. Most of our class just thought your special talent was wearing that stupid tiara on your head.”

“You take that back!” she snapped. “Yes, I got my cutie mark the same day I got my tiara, but it was for realizing that I only deserved the very best things in life. Something you wouldn’t know about.”

“So you have a cutie mark just for having nice things?” I laughed. “Wow, at least Rarity got her cutie mark for actually making stuff as opposed to just being spoiled by her dad.”

“That’s-!” Diamond Tiara’s face went super red as the bell rang and our teacher walked into the room, while we moved to sit as far away from each other as possible.

“Good morning, everypony,” a yellow stallion with a white mane and a golden statue for a cutie mark said as he walked into the room. “I am Oscar Marelon, professional actor, critic, and now teacher. It is my job to break all of you down through a sieve and build those of you I find worthy back up to the heights of greatness. Most of you will fail this class, so if you have any doubts about your acting ability, you should leave now and save yourself the pain.” Nopony in the class moved, although a few did look at the door.

Diamond Tiara’s hoof shot up. “Ooh, teacher, so would you say if somepony in this class didn’t have their cutie mark they should leave now?”

“I think that only one or two of you should be in this class. The rest of you will be weeded out so that you don’t hold the talented back. I very much look forward to that process.” He turned to regard Diamond Tiara. “Now, since you seem so interested in other ponies’ cutie marks, why don’t you start our conversation today by telling us your name, where you are from, and what your cutie mark has to do with acting.” He either smiled or sneered, I’m not sure which, as he finished speaking.

Diamond Tiara swallowed nervously. “Well, I’m Diamond Tiara, I’m from Ponyville, and my cutie mark is a tiara because it symbolizes-”

“Your name?” Mr. Marelon said, interrupting her. “Or perhaps it symbolizes that ridiculously gaudy thing you wear on your head. What it almost certainly does not symbolize, as you are from Ponyville and allowed to attend this school because of residency as opposed to merit, is a single iota of acting talent. Now then, who is next?”

Nopony in the room raised their hands. “Very well then,” he said, “let’s go in alphabetical order. Miss Bright Light?”

A powder-blue filly looked up from her desk. “Y-yes? My name is Bright Light, I am from Manehattan, and I earned my c-cutie mark when I filled in for a pony during a production of Filly on the Roof.” She gestured to her cutie mark, which looked like a bright light shining down on a stage.

“I assume this was a community theater production?” he said, pronouncing “community theater” as if it made him physically ill.

“N-no sir, my parents a-are are stage technicians for Bridleway productions. I spent most of my life back-backstage.”

His eyes twinkled for a second. “You. You might actually have potential, so why in Equestria are you acting like a terrified child? Do I scare you?”

She nodded. “Y-yes sir.”

“A healthy reaction to earning the attention of one of Equestria’s preeminent critics. Worry not though, I am positive that by the end of the semester, you will have earned the praise and adulation of the rest of the class. Those that remain, that is.” As he spoke, he surveyed the rest of the class, and when he looked at me, I really wanted to bolt out the door.

He went down the rest of the list, occasionally making positive remarks, but usually just insulting the ponies he spoke to. “Sweetie Belle?” he said at last, turning his attention towards me. “Ah, you must be the pony your schoolmate Diamond Tiara was speaking of. Tell me, Sweetie, are you as talentless as your lack of cutie mark would suggest?”

“Nope!” I said, “Last year, I wrote, starred, and directed in my own play.”

“Any Jane Doe can write or direct or even make a pathetic attempt at acting. The question is how it was received.” He narrowed his eyes. “Judging by your lack of cutie mark, I think I can surmise the answer.” The few students who weren’t crying laughed nervously at that. “Now, I’m not normally one for seating charts, but since you and Miss Tiara are both from Ponyville and, it seems, equally unskilled, you may sit both sit in the far back corner. I don’t wish what little talent we have to be held back by talentless lackwits who didn’t even have to go through this school’s already loose application process.” He gestured at two empty desks in a dark unlit corner of the room, and the two of us headed towards it with some reluctance.

He sneered and narrowed his eyes. “Is there anypony else in this room from Ponyville?” Nopony dared raise their hooves. “Good, then let’s continue. Our hour will be ending very soon and I want to get through everypony’s introductions before it concludes.”

I spent the rest of the class working not to cry and embarrass myself in front of both Diamond Tiara and Oscar Marelon. The class finished its introductions just before the bell rang. “Now, your first assignment, due at the end of the week, is to come up with your own original character and write a monologue spoken by them. You will be judged on not just dialog, but body language, showing versus telling, and your created character’s depth. I look forward to seeing what you come up with,” he said as the bell rang and I headed towards my next class. At least I had met the mare teaching it before, and I knew from experience that she wasn’t anywhere near as nasty as Mr. Marelon.

***

“Hey there,” the next teacher said after we had all entered her class. Several instruments hung from the wall, and a DJ booth thingy was next to her desk. I’d seen her with Octavia a few times and the two were pretty much inseparable after Octavia moved to town. Her electric-blue mane fell over her magenta goggles, and her cutie mark consisted of one of those black musical notes that kind of look like headphones on a white coat. “So, I’m Vinyl Scratch, and Tavi keeps saying I need to be formal and proper with you, but I figure there’s no harm in letting you call me Vinyl, and… oh.” Her horn went blue for a second and her goggles floated down around her neck.

“Right, so I am the music teacher, and you are all here because I guess whoever was creating the schedules thought you should be. So, show of hooves, who here likes modern music?” Almost all of the class raised their hooves. “Cool, got a lot of future headbangers and rockstars in here.” She grinned. “Maybe even a couple of DJs too. Now, who here likes classical stuff?” A green earth-pony filly with piano keys on her flank raised her hoof. “And we have a little Tavi here too. Awesome.” She frowned for a second. “Hey, Sweetie Belle, you didn’t raise up a hoof. What’s your poison, classical or modern?”

“Uhmm, well, I mostly listen to showtunes, but I don’t know if they’re classic or modern. Because they were written pretty recently, but I don’t think anypony thinks of them as modern music.”

Vinyl laughed. “I should have guessed. I remember Rarity told us she was super surprised that you didn’t pick…” She trailed off and shook her head. “Anyways, back on topic, does everypony here have a preferred instrument to play? We are going to be doing some practice when we aren’t discussing musical theory, and it would be cool if I knew what you were best at.” She went down the line, making notes next to her class list.

“Okay, Sweetie Belle,” she said, finally getting to me, “what instrument do you think you will be playing?”

“Uhmm, well I don’t really play an instrument, I mostly just want to be an actress.”

“Uh-huh,” she said rolling her eyes. Why did everypony do that when I said I wanted to be an actress? “Well would you be up for doing some vocal work then, since that would help if you ever do a musical?”

“Sure,” I said, happy to have a teacher who didn’t make me want to burst into tears. “That sounds terrific.”

“Great,” she said, making another note on her paper, before asking the next pony on her class list for his musical preference.

“Anyways,” she said after she had finished talking with everypony in class, “we are a bit ahead of schedule and since you don’t know each other yet, why don’t you all go and introduce yourselves to your classmates and find out something interesting about each of them.” As soon as she finished speaking, the class broke up into small clusters of ponies, talking excitedly with each other, while I found myself struggling to break into any of them. The only other pony who wasn’t in a group was the filly with the piano key cutie mark. Once I got closer to her, I was able to get a good look at her violet mane, and decided that I really liked it; Rarity would probably describe it as simple but ornate, creating a sense of elegant simplicity. I just found myself liking the way she did her bangs and styled her mane to drape over one shoulder. Did I mention I really liked it?

“So,” I said after I walked up to her. “I’m Sweetie Belle, what’s your name?”

I’m Melodious So-sonata.

“Huh,” I said. “I can’t hear you. You’ll have to speak up.”

I said, I’m Melodious Sonata.

“Sorry, I still can’t hear you. Unless you’re saying you want a frittata, and if that’s the case, I think we have lunch next.”

She took another step backward and cowered on the ground, covering her eyes with her forehooves. “[/size=0.25em]I said, I’m Melodious Sonata.”

“Oh come on, you know you’re being quieter each time, right?” I turned to face the teacher. “Miss Scratch, what is her name?”

Vinyl looked through her class list, “It’s Melodious Sonata.”

"Ooh!" I said, smiling at her. "I really like your name."

“R-really?” she asked, finally speaking where I could hear her.

I nodded.

She looked down at the ground for a few seconds before looking at me and getting up on her hooves. “I really like your name too.”

“Thanks! Hey, why aren’t you introducing yourself to the other ponies? I tried to, but I can’t get into any of the groups they broke into.”

“Oh, well, I really wouldn’t know what to do, I haven’t spent much time around ponies my age. I’m not sure that they would like me.”

“Really?” I asked. “Because I’ve only just met you, and I like you just fine.” I stopped and tilted my head in thought. “You know what, I just had the best idea. What if we became friends? That way you could spend more time around ponies your age.”

Melody blushed and turned her head at that. “You really want to be my friend? I’m sure you already have plenty of friends.”

“I do, actually,” I said, smiling. “Well, two other friends, but you can never have enough friends, and you seem nice, and I like you, so why not be friends? It’s not that complicated.”

She smiled. “If you’re sure, then okay. What, uhmm, what exactly do friends do around here?” The bell rang as she spoke, signalling that our class was over.

“Well, I wouldn’t mind having some lunch at the cafeteria,” I said, picking up the saddlebags I had placed under my desk. “Come on, I can introduce you to my other friends, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo. I’m sure you’ll love them.”

***

“Hey girls,” I said as I walked towards their table in the cafeteria, where they were in a very animated discussion with some ponies I had never seen before. One was a brown pegasus colt with a gear for his cutie mark, and the other a white unicorn with a science flask thingy on her flank. “How has your day been? Mine was great, I made a new friend in music class.” I decided not to tell them about acting class because I’d really preferred to just not think about it.

“Great,” the two said, waving at me. Scootaloo laughed. “This is Socket,” she said, gesturing towards the earth pony sitting next to her. “He’s in my metallurgy class– and you’ll never guess who else is in there.”

“Hmm,” I said, rubbing my muzzle and trying to ignore the biting sting in the back of my head that whispered Socket was the beginning of the end for my friendship with Scootaloo. “Is it Celestia? No, that’s dumb, what about Luna?”

“No, Sweetie Belle,” Scootaloo said, rolling her eyes, “it’s neither of them. It’s Silver Spoon, and she isn’t that terrible when she’s not around Diamond Tiara. She didn’t bother me or anything.”

“Yeah, I have acting class with Diamond Tiara, and she is just as bad there as she normally is.”

“Hey,” Apple Bloom said, her ears perking up at the mention of my acting class. “How is that class, anyways? You any closer to earning your acting cutie mark yet?” She smiled at me and I turned away to look at the ground.

“It’s fine,” I said. “We mostly just did normal first day of school stuff. You know, nothing big.”

“Hey, you alright Sweetie Belle?” Apple Bloom asked. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen your mood go bad so fast.”

“No, I’m fine, it’s fine. Hey, have you girls met Melodious Sonata yet?” I said, pointing a hoof at her. “She’s in my music class and doesn’t have any friends yet. I thought that maybe we could bring her into the group.”

“Well,” Apple Bloom said, “she has her cutie mark already, so I don’t think we can make her a full Cutie Mark Crusader, but I suppose we could make her an honorary member so she can use the clubhouse and stuff.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Melodious said. “I just moved in to the junior academy dormitories and- are you sure it’s okay with you three?”

“Sure,” Apple Bloom said. “It must be hard for ya to come all the way to Ponyville. I bet it’s super lonely.”

“It’s okay,” Melodious said. “I’m used to spending time alone, and it isn’t actually that bad, but… it would be nice to have a few friends.”

“Then it’s settled,” I said before Apple Bloom could respond. “You can be an honorary Cutie Mark Crusader and have full access to our clubhouse whenever you are feeling lonely. There’s usually at least one pony there most days, especially since we toned down all our crusading.”

“Yeah,” Apple Bloom said. “Hope to see you around, and… Ooh! Maybe we should make Socket and Life Bloom honorary Crusaders too. Speaking of,” she added, gesturing at the unicorn sitting next to her, “Sweetie Belle, I’d like you to meet Life Bloom. She’s in my chemistry class and super smart.” And that was it, they each had their new friend who totally got them in a way I couldn’t and… Why did they have to ruin what we had by bringing new ponies into the mix? Wasn’t I good enough for them?

I bit my tongue. If I told them how I felt, they’d just think I was being silly or over-dramatic, and then Apple Bloom would probably mention I made a new friend too, even though that’s a totally different thing. Yes, Melody might be a great new friend, but I don’t have any reason to stop hanging out with them and– A frozen claw gripped my heart. Why would they need me now that they have better friends?

“Not at all,” Life Bloom said, pulling me out of my head and forcing me to focus on one of the ponies who was going to take my friends away. “I just have an interest in biology and have read several volumes on the subject. I wish I had Apple Bloom’s skill at raw potion making though.” She was wearing a pair of glasses and her cinnamon mane was trimmed short. Rarity would probably describe it as a practical mane cut while working to keep the disdain out of her voice.

“Okay,” Scootaloo said, “you two both have ‘Bloom’ as part of your name, and calling you ‘Life’ just sounds kind of weird, so what should we call you?”

“I would go with Life Bloom,” she said firmly. “It’s my name and I’m rather fond of it. Perhaps you could go with ‘LB’ if you make a habit of calling Apple Bloom ‘AB,’ but I don’t think you do.”

“We can do that,” Scootaloo said. “And we definitely don’t go around calling Apple Bloom ‘AB.’ It just sounds super weird.”

“Agreed,” Apple Bloom and Life Bloom said in unison, before giving each other a look of surprise.

“Wow,” Scootaloo said, “You’re already talking together, how crazy is that?”

“Completely crazy,” I said, struggling to beat down my fears. If I was friendly enough, if I was fun enough, if I was good enough, they might not leave me. I smiled at my new friends and tried to drown my gloomy thoughts in warm fuzzies. Happy. Had to stay happy

“Oh, right,” Scootaloo said, turning to face her new friend. “This is Socket Wrench. He offered to help me fix up my scooter so I can go even faster.”

“Actually,” he said. “There are a variety of minor enhancements we can make that will lead to a 50% increase in speed and 20% increase in responsiveness based on what I’ve seen. For instance, we can replace the main shaft with a durable lightweight-” I kind of tuned him out as he started talking about mechanical stuff, but he and Scootaloo were soon talking all about what they could do with her scooter while the four of us just kind of stared at them.

They don’t need you anymore.

In response to the very unwelcome thought, I just made myself smile bigger. “So,” I said turning to my new friend, “Melodious Sonata is kind of a long name. Is it okay if we call you Melody for short?”

She nodded. “That sounds nice. Thank you all for being so nice to me.”

“It’s not like you made it hard for us,” I said. “You’ve been nothing but nice since I met you. A bit quiet and shy, but nice.”

Melody blushed. “Your friends seem nice too.” She shot a glance at Scootaloo and Socket who were talking excitedly over some blueprints. “Is she always this… enthusiastic?”

“Actually, we’re all pretty enthusiastic, although we’re getting a lot better, we barely ruined any parades this year,” I said, smiling at her and ignoring whatever plans Scootaloo and Socket were making that apparently didn’t involve me.

“That sounds a lot more chaotic than what I’m used to, you probably won’t want a wet blanket like me around.”

I laughed at that. “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll fit right in. I mean, Scootaloo and I are pretty different, but we’re best friends. Besides, we’re pretty calm most of the time.” Okay, so that last part was a lie, but it was a happy lie, and Melody needed a friend right now.

Our conversation halted as Scootaloo and Socket started breaking up her scooter on the cafeteria table. “Alright, do you have the parts?” Scootaloo asked, looking at Socket.

“What? No. Those are in the shop room. Did you think we would do it now?” he asked, scrunching up his forehead.

“Duh, did you not? If I can make my scooter more awesome, I want to do it right away. Do you think we can get into the shop room?” she asked as she shovelled her scooter parts into her bag.

“Yes, but the parts are probably locked up, and lunch is over in fifteen minutes.”

Scootaloo jumped away from the table and started sprinting out of the cafeteria. “Then we better hurry, last pony there is a rotten egg!” I frowned as she left the cafeteria. Her running off to do something impulsive wasn’t that unusual, but we usually ran with her. Of course, it made sense since Apple Bloom and I didn’t have any mechanical experience while Socket did, but I still didn’t like it.

Socket sighed before following after Scootaloo. “Is she- Is this normal for her?” he asked. Apple Bloom and I nodded.

“Pretty much,” I said. “Sometimes–” I stopped talking as Socket flew out of the room

“You were saying something about how your group is usually calm?” Melody asked, a small smile on her lips.

“Uhmm, yeah, well we can be calm, right Apple Bloom?” I asked, hoping for some support from the most level-headed pony in the CMC.

“I’m tellin’ you, there’s no way you can safely make the intelligence potion more potent by doublin’ the active reagent. If you just put more of it in the potion, you’ll be lucky to get a headache. What you have to do to increase the potion’s kick is condense it down,” Apple Bloom said, somehow having gotten into an argument about alchemy during the few seconds I was facing away from her.

“Are you sure?” Life Bloom asked, flipping through one of the books in her saddlebags. “All the texts I have read indicated that doubling the amount of Bran’s Fruit juice in the potion would be sufficient.”

“Well it ain’t. In fact, we can put that to the test as soon as school is over. We’ll both mix up our potions and see who gets to be the smartest.”

“Are you implying we would test it on ourselves? That hardly seems impartial.”

Apple Bloom tapped her chin. “I suppose we could use some test subjects. Hey Sweetie, do you want to try out a potion after school today?”

“I don’t know,” I said, my smile vanishing for a second. “What does it do?”

“It should make you a lot smarter temporarily. Don’t worry, you can use my potion, since it’ll actually work. Melody, do you wanna test Life Bloom’s potion?”

“That sounds really dangerous,” Melody said, looking at me worriedly. “You just said her potion wouldn’t work and I’d be lucky to get a headache.”

“Oh, nonsense,” Apple Bloom said. “The worst case scenario is a bad headache, and I suppose it is possible that Life Bloom’s potion could work. I mean, assuming that she... Nevermind, the point is that nothin’ bad’ll happen. Probably.”

“I… I suppose it couldn’t be too terrible and if it helps out a friend… Just promise the potion won’t have any really bad lasting effects.”

“I promise that I will do everything in my power to ensure your potion-testing experience is optimal,” Life Bloom said, finishing off her lunch. “I have crafted a variety of potions in my time, and most of them met with positive results. I highly doubt altering one so simple would end poorly.”

“Right, okay,” I said. “Just so long as nopony gets hurt. We’re all friends here and friends don’t let friends drink something that might be dangerous, right?”

Apple Bloom and Life Bloom nodded. “Of course,” Apple Bloom said. “I wouldn’t risk the health and safety of a fellow Cutie Mark Crusader. Especially not yours. Oh, no offense Melody.”

“It’s fine,” she said, taking a small bite out of her sandwich, “The two of you have known each other longer.” Soon, we’d moved on to other topics, and we spent the rest of lunch talking about our upcoming classes, and the fact that, apparently, Apple Bloom and I had our next class together.

***

“I don’t get why we have to take a class on the Equestrian language. Everypony here can talk good,”Apple Bloom said as the bell rang for our next class.

“That would be ‘everypony here can talk well,’ Miss Bloom,” Octavia said as she walked into our class. “Now, I assume you all remember our little talk this morning, and some of you might be wondering just why the school’s acting headmistress is teaching one of your classes on the Equestrian language. The answer is the same reason I am the school’s acting headmistress.” She sighed and shook her head as she set several books down on her bed. “It seems some ponies are less resilient when it comes to enduring the pit of madness that is Ponyville than I, something I had previously not thought possible.”

She smiled and regarded the class. “Now then, I will be serving as your Equestrian language teacher for the semester. Hopefully, by the time winter semester starts our school will be fully staffed, and I won’t have to-” She stopped talking and looked at us for several seconds before shaking her head again.

“Right, modern Equestrian. Now, I’m sure most of your teachers have been busy focusing on introductions. For some classes, I suppose such activities are useful; however, I don’t see them providing much benefit for us. Instead, you will each recite a challenging paragraph for me out in the hall, while the rest of you will be tasked with properly capitalizing and punctuating sentences. I will evaluate them later tonight so I can accurately judge your mastery of the language.” She passed papers out to the head of each row in the class. “Please take one sheet and pass it back. Now, Apple Bloom, I believe you are the first pony on the class list. Would you care to join me outside?”

Apple Bloom gulped and nodded as she followed Octavia outside. “Relax, Miss Apple Bloom, I promise this whole ordeal will be painless and over with before you know it.” With that, the door closed and the rest of the class looked at the papers that had been passed out. I started work on the first sentence on the paper: the old pony eats his hay and then he goes to bed after that he tries to sleep but the old pony finds he is unable.

Okay, I thought, looking down the paper, this is easy. Sentences start with capital letters, end with periods, and occasionally use commas for reasons, so the sentence should be: The old pony eats his hay and then he goes to bed. After that he tries to sleep but, the old pony finds he is unable. Perfect, it has everything, capitals. periods, even a comma, and they should all be in the right places. What’s next?

I went through the rest of the sentences pretty quickly after that, and the class kind of flew by until I heard Octavia call my name. “Alright,” she said as I walked outside the classroom, passing me a sheet of paper, “I want you to read the paragraph as quickly and accurately as you can.”

“Okay,” I said, looking at the paper, “Celestia sells seashells by the seashore, while the rain in Mane falls mainly on manes in the plains.” The paragraph went on like that for a while, and while I spoke, I noticed Octavia making the occasional note in front of her.

“Very good, Miss Belle,” she said as I finished my recital. “Overall, your pronunciation was excellent; however, there were several times where you spoke too quickly and caused your words to slur together ever so slightly. I would recommend practicing several of the tongue twisters in the paragraph to increase your ability to speak rapidly without losing your ability to be understood. You have the potential to be a wonderful... orator with just a touch of practice.”

“Thanks!” I said. “I want to be an actress, and I suppose that’s kind of close to orating, right?”

I could see her try not to roll her eyes as she nodded. “Indeed it is Miss Belle. Now, I must test the rest of the students, please take the sheet I gave you back to class and finish your other assignment.” Octavia followed me back into class and called for the next student while I sat next to Apple Bloom.

“How’d ya do?” She asked after Octavia had left the room with her next student.

“Alright,” I said. “She said my pronunciation was great, but that I talk too quickly at times. You?”

“Uhh, not so great. Apparently she ain’t real big on speakin’- what did she call it? Co-llo-qui-ally? Somethin’ like that. Anyways, she gave me a few papers to practice working on until I can talk without an accent or usin’ any contractions. I don’t see what the big deal is, but I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to know how to talk properly in case I ever have to go to Canterlot or meet a princess or something.”

“But we meet with Twilight every week,” I whispered, trying to make sure nopony over heard me.

“Yeah, but ya know, we knew her before she was a princess. I guess she’s just plain old Twilight to me, even if she does have a big castle now.”

“Okay, if you want I will listen to your speech exercises. According to Rarity, I have an ear for accents.”

She nodded at me. “That’ll be- I mean, that will be great, Sweetie Belle. Maybe we can do it after our potion-making contest.”

“It sounds like a plan,” I said as Octavia reentered the room and called out for another student.

The two of us focused on our class work after that, and pretty soon Octavia was in back in the classroom discussing our assignments for the day. “Now, I’ve given most of you assignments to better improve your pronunciation and diction. I will also be tasking you with keeping a journal during the semester. The contents of this journal are up to you, but I do ask that you update it as frequently as possible. I will look through it at the end of each week to see how your writing is improving.” As she spoke, she passed out journals to everypony in class.

“Now then,” she said as the bell rang and the class started heading towards the door, “I hope you all continue to have a wonderful first day of classes and I will see you tomorrow.”

“What class do you have next?” I asked Apple Bloom as we entered the hallway.

“I have… let’s see,” she said, looking at her schedule, “it looks like I have introduction alchemy with Zecora next. You have math, right?”

I nodded. “Yep! I’ll see you in- what’s the class we all have together?”

“Life sciences,” she said as the swirling mass of students pushed us apart. “I’ll see you then.”

As I walked to my next class, I ran into Scootaloo. “Hey,” I said, “how was your scooter work? You and Socket ran off in a hurry.”

“It was great,” she said. “My scooter is so much more awesome now. Thanks to Socket, it can probably go twice as fast.”

“Ooh, it sounds like you like him,” I said, my mind filling with images of the two of them going out on dates, getting married, and – I just barely stopped myself from making an audible squeak – kissing. They would be the cutest couple ever, I bet.

“Well, he is pretty cool.” Scootaloo said. “I mean, anyone who can make me go faster is totally awesome in my book.”

“Did you two kiss yet? It would be so romantic, the two of you in the shop class, working on your scooter; the last scooter thingy slips into place, and in a wave of excite-”

She cut me off. “Sweetie, you’ve been reading too many of your sister’s books again. He’s cool, he’s a friend, but that’s it. I don’t even- He’s just a friend.”

“But, the two of you would be so cu-”

“Just. A. Friend.” She stopped walking to class to stare me down. “You got it?”

I nodded at her slowly. “Fiiiiine, but the two of you would just be so cute together.”

Scootaloo rolled her eyes. “Do you remember what happened the last time you tried to set two ponies up on a date?”

“First of all,” I said, “we all worked together on that-”

“But you came up with the idea first.”

“Alright, fine. WE almost wound up destroying the entire town the last time I thought playing matchmaker would be a good idea.”

“So you won’t try to set me and Socket up on a date?”

“No,” I said, shaking my head, “but if you two start dating anyways, I’m totally going to remind you about this.”

She sighed and shook her head as we entered the math class. “Of course you will. And we won’t start dating. Dating is gross.”

“You say that now,” I said, smiling, “but soon it will be all ‘Scootaloo and Socket sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-’”

“Oh look, we are at our class, you can stop talking now,” she said, sprinting into the classroom. I just smiled and followed after her, thinking of how cute their foals would be. They would totally get together and it would be adorable. I just had to give them a little nudge.

I walked into the class and the teacher was the same mare who gave me my schedule, her strawberry-red mane and tan coat was way too nice a combination for me to forget easily. Also, I guess her cutie mark was kind of distinctive too. “Hi, Miss Pi,” I said, giving her a friendly wave of the hoof. “It’s nice to see you again.”

She nodded at me. “Thank you,” she checked her class list, “Sweetie Belle. I apologize for forgetting your name. I’ve met so many students today, I fear some of their names have escaped me.”

“It’s fine,” I said as I took my seat. “I’ve met a lot of ponies today too, and I bet you’ve met way more since you had to meet classes full of ponies.”

Miss Pi laughed as the bell rang. “Thank you for being so understanding.” She stopped and addressed the rest of the class. “Now then, everypony, I am Miss Pi, and I will be your math teacher for the semester.”

As she spoke, a colt in the back of the class raised his hand. “If this is about why my first name is listed as ‘Strawberry’ on the syllabus, I can assure you there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for it. My parents believed that my fate would be that of a baker when I was born, and my name reflects that. However, instead of baking pies, I found I had a much greater interest in calculating the number pi and my cutie mark reflects that.

“Now that the issue of my name is cleared up, do you all have any other questions?” There was a pause as the classroom was silent. “Wonderful, then we can begin our work for the day. I would like each of you to give me your name and your intended profession, and in return I will give you a math problem that applies to your job.” The class groaned and she started going down the list of students until she reached Scootaloo.

“Scootaloo, am I pronouncing it right?” Miss Pi asked, smiling at my friend.

“Yes, Miss Pie.”

Our teacher’s left eye twitched. “Excuse me, but I go through the trouble of working to pronounce your name correctly, I would ask you return the favor.”

“But I did, I called you Miss Pie. That’s right isn’t it? That’s what everypony else in class has been calling you.”

“No,” she said, her ear twitching in time with her eye. “They’ve been calling me Miss Pi. You called me Miss Pie. Do you hear the difference?”

Scootaloo shook her head. “They both sound exactly the same.”

“There’s a difference,” she yelled before running a hoof through her mane and taking a few deep calming breaths. “You said it with an ‘e.’”

“But they sound exactly the same. How can you tell?” Scootaloo asked, scrunching up her forehead.

“I just can. Now, please Scootaloo, tell me a bit about yourself.”

“Uhmm, okay. So, I really like riding my scooter, and I’m good at it. I can catch at least ten seconds of airtime with it,” she said.

“Alright,” she said, nodding her head, “let’s say you are working to travel from Ponyville to the Crystal Empire, an eight-hundred mile journey. You want to go there on your scooter and can travel an average of fifteen miles an hour. You can travel fifteen miles an hour for ten hours a day. Each night you must stop and rest at an inn. A room at an inn costs five-hundred bits. How many bits would you have to bring with you to make the journey?”

“Zero,” she said, “because I totally made that trip in one day.”

The teacher’s mouth fell open. “That… You would have to be travelling eighty miles an hour to make that journey.”

Scootaloo shrugged. “Not really, the roads aren’t that direct. Going in a straight line shaves a lot of time off.”

“Okay. Well, to solve this problem please use the values given. I will expect your answer tomorrow.” She turned to look at me. “Now then, Sweetie Belle. What are you attending this school for?”

“Ooh! I want to be an actress and star on Bridleway,” I said, happy to talk about my dreams.

“Wonderful, you perform seven shows a week. Each show has three thousand ponies in attendance and pay an average of eight hundred bits per pony. Eight million bits per week are spent to maintain the theater. You take two percent of the remainder as your pay. How many bits do you make a week?” she asked as I wrote down the word problem so I could work on it later. “Do you have all the information?”

I nodded at her.

“Good,” Miss Pi said, looking at her paper. “Now then, who’s next on my list?”

The teacher turned to talk to the next student as I started working on her word problem. I mostly managed to turn all of the words into numbers by the time the bell rang and I headed towards my next class with Scootaloo walking next to me. “Any luck on your math problem?” I asked.

“Haven’t even started it yet,” she said, shrugging. “Although, I am curious about how fast I was going to get from Ponyville to the Crystal Empire in less than one day. We did go in a pretty straight line but… We must have been going super fast. I think I’m going to go look at a couple of maps after school.”

“Hey girls,” Apple Bloom said as she walked up next to us. “How was your math class?”

“Good,” I said. “We all got different homework questions. I have to figure out how much money I’d make if I was a Bridleway actress.”

“And I have to figure out how many bits I’d need to bring with me if I was scootering to the Crystal Empire and way worse at scootering. Also, I want to figure out just how fast I was going during our trip to the Crystal Empire.”

“Sounds… fun?” Apple Bloom said as we entered our next class. “I got my biology textbook, and we did the basic getting to know each other stuff. I thought it was bad doing it once, now we are gonna be doing it five times a semester til we graduate. I’m all for meeting ponies, but do we really have to do this four times in one day? It’s gettin’ a bit tedious.” She paused for a second. “I mean, it does get to be rather tedious.” Apple Bloom rolled her eyes. “Stupid homework. I can’t believe Octavia is forcing me to learn proper Equestrian. I can speak it just fine, thank you very much.”

We took our seats as our next teacher adjusted a few papers on his desk. He definitely looked like a stallion, but his glasses, hat, and coat made it hard to tell. All I could figure out that he was a mossy shade of green. “Greetings, students,” he (definitely a he now that he spoke) said. “I am Mister Moldeaux. I would request that you call me by that title for the duration of this class. You all are here to learn about the natural sciences, and I am something of an expert in that category.” He chuckled to himself.

“Excuse me,” an unknown filly asked, “but if you’re teaching us about science and stuff, then what’s your cutie mark?”

There was a long pause as he seemed to stare at the wall opposite him. “That is a good question. One we- I can… When I was younger, we went through a series of tribulations that left us physically broken and burnt. While we were able to pull oursel- myself back together, my cutie mark is nothing more than a mass of unrecognizable tissue. It is unfortunate. However, before the accident, my cutie mark was an image of mold in a petri dish. Does that satisfactorily answer your question?”

She nodded at him. “Good,” he said. “Now we can get back to the proper work of the class, I have met some of you earlier in the day, while others are new to our eyes, so I believe it is appropriate that we go around and introduce ourselves in these situations. When I call upon you, I would like you to tell me a bit about yourself. Now then…” He looked down at the list and smiled. “It is good to see you again Apple Bloom.”

My friend made a super-quiet sigh before returning Moldeaux’s smile.

***

“This is so dumb,” Apple Bloom said at the clubhouse, several hours later, flipping through one of the books Octavia gave her while waiting for her potion to finish condensing. “Why do I have to do all these speech exercises? I ain’t gonna be some big fancy speaker like Sweetie Belle.”

“Perhaps you will gain some benefit from them,” Life Bloom said while mixing her own potion. “If you ever have to present a scientific paper, it would benefit you greatly if you could temporarily lose your accent. Not that I mind it, but others might judge you.”

As they had gone about mixing their potions, Melody moved to cower in the corner. “Hey girls, shouldn’t we initiate the new CMC members before we do all the potion testing stuff?” I asked, gesturing at Life Bloom and Socket.

“Huh? Oh yeah,” Scootaloo said, looking up from her math assignment. “Apple Bloom, can you leave your potion stuff alone for a few minutes without bad stuff happening?”

“Yeah,” she said, nodding. “It’s just condensing right now, so it should be fine. Worst case scenario is it gets even stronger. You good LB?”

Life Bloom sighed as she mixed another ingredient into her potion. “I suppose I am. I have a few minutes until the potion finishes percolating.”

“I’m good,” Socket said. “I have some plans on how we can make the clubhouse totally awesome though, and I can’t wait to get to work on them, so can we move things along?”

“If it means more time before I have to test the potion, I am fine with it. In fact, a longer ceremony would be better,” Melody said, taking a careful step outside of the corner she had been sitting/hiding in since we arrived.

“Don’t worry,” Apple Bloom said, as the three of us moved to our proper positions. “Ever since we revised our pledge, it takes practically no time at all. Sweetie, you want the honors this time?” She pointed at the big podium and I nodded my head before bouncing over to it.

“Okay,” I said, pulling the scroll I was supposed to read from out of the podium and unfurling it. “Do you three swear to aid your sisters in their quest for your cutie marks, as you too shall be… Guess that last part’s not really relevant to you three. Right, do you swear to uphold the bonds of sorority and equality that the Cutie Mark Crusaders stand for? Do you believe that Rainbow Dash is- Scootaloo, how did this get in here?” The pegasus just grinned at me before looking away. “If you promise to fulfill this pledge and remember the bond that unites you with your sisters… and brother until your dying days, then say ‘I do.’”

“I do,” three ponies said in unison with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

“Then I now pronounce you Cutie Mark Crusaders. Please don your cloaks which… we need to make.”

“So that’s it?” Life Bloom asked. “We’re friends now?”

“‘Course we are,” Apple Bloom said, going back to her potion making. “We were friends before, but now we’re crusaders, and that’s better than friendship.”

“Oh, okay,” Melody said before going back to her corner. “If you need anything then, just let me know. I’m happy to help.”

“That’s the crusadin’ spirit- I mean, that is the crusading spirit,” she said, stifling a groan. “Ooh, it looks like both batches of my potion condensed properly while I was away, now to just mix them and…” She carefully poured the contents of one flask into the other. “I think I’m done. How are you doing Life Bloom?”

“I need just a few more minutes until I am ready.”

“Hey Apple Bloom,” I said, “I’ve been stuck on this math problem forever. Can I please try the potion now?”

“Uh, not yet,” she said, using a pair of tongs to lower the flask onto our windowsill. “It still needs to cool off a bit unless ya want to burn your throat.”

“Fine,” I said, going back to pecking at my math problem. “It’s just really hard.”

“Do you want my help?” Scootaloo asked. “My problem was pretty easy. Now, I’m just trying to figure out how far and how fast I went to get to the Crystal Empire, because I’m pretty sure I didn’t go eight hundred miles in one day. I’m not that good yet.”

“It’s fine,” I said. “I can wait until the potion cools. “Actually, I’m pretty excited. I always wanted to know what it feels like to be a smart pony.

“Oh Sweetie,” Apple Bloom said, waving a hoof dismissively at me, “you’re plenty smart.”

“I’m not,” I said. “You’re probably going to end up being some super scientist, Scootaloo knows a bunch of mechanical stuff, but what am I good at? I’m not even that great an actress yet.”

“You… uhmm, have a nice voice,” Melody said. “I could listen to you talk all day.”

“Thanks,” I said. “But anypony can talk. You two do things I can’t do while the best you can say about me is that I have a nice voice.”

“Sweetie Belle,” Apple Bloom said, taking a step towards me, “you’re the heart of the group. Ain’t nopony I know that’s sweeter or kinder ‘an you except maybe Miss Fluttershy, and you’re always here to cheer us up when we need you. None of us can do that nearly as well as you, so don’t go gettin’ down on yourself ‘cause ya don’t know as much as we do. Shoot, you’re way better at writin’ than we are, right Scootaloo?”

Scootaloo nodded.

“You really mean that?” I asked, my ears perking up slightly.

“Of course,” Scootaloo said. “Cutie Mark Crusaders don’t lie to each other, it’s against the rules.”

“Yay!” I squealed, sprinting forward to wrap the two other founding CMC members in a hug. “You girls are the best and…” I looked at the other three ponies in the room. “You three get in here too, Cutie Mark Crusader group hug!”

Scootaloo groaned as the other three joined the group hug. “I should have known this would end in mushy stuff.”

“Ooh! Speaking of mushy stuff,” I said, “have you told Socket about your-”

“Still not going to happen Sweetie Belle.”

“Fiiine,” I sighed. “Can we keep the hug going a few seconds longer?”

“As long as you keep your crazy theories to yourself, sure,” Scootaloo said as four other ponies nodded.

“Thanks girls, you’re the best,” I said as the outer members of the group hug began to drift away, “And you too Socket, I bet your plans for the new clubhouse will be great.”

“They will,” he said, going back to the drafting board he had set up in our clubhouse. “Now how comfortable are you all with a mana engine at the base of the clubhouse?”

“Aren’t those kind of dangerous to build?” Scootaloo asked. “They last for a while, but getting the raw magic to power them is-”

“Incredibly easy when you have a princess living in Ponyville?” Socket said.

“I suppose if we got Twilight to help the project it wouldn’t be too bad,” Apple Bloom said, checking the temperature of her potion. “But what do we need it for, anyways? Our clubhouse doesn’t really use any power.”

“Not yet it doesn’t,” he said, laughing, “but give me a few weeks and we will have a lot more power needs. Ooh, we should probably get some enchanting stones too, for the portal matrix.”

Apple Bloom and I looked at each other as she carried the potion over towards me. “Ya think we should stop this? I mean, I’m all for a bigger and better clubhouse to grow in, but portal matrixes seem a little advanced.”

“It’ll be fine,” I said as I took the potion from Apple Bloom’s hooves. “If we’re asking Twilight for help, she can probably check over the designs and make sure they’re okay. Now, is this ready to drink?

“I suppose,” Apple Bloom said, responding to my first comment. “And yeah, it is. Life Bloom, is your potion ready?”

“It’s cooling now,” she said. “You can go ahead and start tests on Sweetie Belle though, simultaneous dosage is not a requirement for accurate testing.”

“Uh, alright,” Apple Bloom said, “I guess you can-”

Before she could finish, I had downed the potion. It tasted a lot like medicine, which makes sense since it’s kind of medicine. “Couldn’t you have made it taste better?” I asked, trying to get the taste out of my mouth.

“Not without upsetting the chemical balance in the potion and having some possibly nasty side effects. How do you feel?”

“Besides the taste in my mouth, I feel-” I was going to say fine, but there was a blinding white flash of light, and when it finally subsided, I found myself sitting in the middle of my room at my parent’s house with a throbbing headache, and judging by the fact that the sun was down, at least a few hours had passed. “I don’t feel any smarter,” I said, before noting that there were now several journals sitting on my desk.

I went over to investigate them, and found that each one had the name of one of my friends on it with a drawing that seemed related to them beneath the name. Apple Bloom’s had an apple slice shaped like one of those flask thingies she used on top of a pink heart, Scootaloo’s had one of her scooter wheels with a yellow lightning bolt shooting out from behind it on top of the same pink heart, and my journal just had the pink heart on it. The new Cutie Mark Crusaders also had journals with their names written on them, and each one of their journals was emblazoned with their cutie mark on it.

All the journals had a time lock on them as well, counting down to some point in the future that was still several months away. “Okay,” I said, looking at Apple Bloom and Scootaloo’s journals, “it seems logical that these journals are supposed to represent their future cutie marks, so… why is mine still blank? Is my cutie mark just going to be a heart? How does that relate to acting or…?” I yawned. There was something... Something important I'd meant to do today, I had to do today, but it could probably wait until tomorrow. It would have to. Drinking mysterious potions can really knock a filly out.

Author's Note:

A brand new story and a brand new chapter! It's light, it's soft, it's rated "E for Everyone," and obviously it's not that super dark fic I alluded to in yesterday's blog post. This is the alternative, for people who don't like reading about terrible things happening to characters they know and love. I personally don't get it, but you know, to each their own.

These words are lies written by an idiot author who didn't quite visualize where Sweetie's arc would take them. This story is not lighter and softer than RPO. It might be darker. I don't know, but it's definitely not for everyone anymore.

Also, feel free to leave unfounded speculation for me to read. I would certainly never steal the cooler ideas and put them into my story. :scootangel: This story's arc is finished. You can still speculate about what's going to happen if you really want to, though.

I feel like there's other stuff I wanted to say like how fun this chapter was to write and how challenging it was to be in somepony else's head. Hopefully you find that Sweetie thinks differently than Tavi, and hopefully any future stories written from Tavi's perspective don't channel Sweetie too much (Like the story slated to come out mid-week). Oh, this is so exciting!

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