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Much has been said about Principal Abacus Cinch. She has been called heartless, cruel, narcissistic. And in many ways, all of that is true. But there is more to Principal Cinch than all of that. Crystal Prep Academy has been her life's work, and she knows it. She knows its walls, its corridors, its history. And she knows her students. Every single one of them. And she remembers exactly what she did to make them all the high performers that they are today.

Above all else, Principal Cinch is known for applying pressure to her students. And to a lot of people, that may seem like a bad thing. But pressure makes diamonds.

Chapters (1)
Comments ( 28 )

Well holy shit, you actually did it. I haven't even read it yet, just came to work, checked fimfic and saw this in notifications. I'm gonna read it as quickly as work permits!

7819621 Haha, yup! Got an idea for it last week and wrote it...well, a lot faster than I expected :rainbowlaugh: I'm afraid it might have gotten a little bit too long, but I feel like it sort of had to get that long to get to the point I was trying to make...anyways, I hope you enjoy it! :pinkiehappy:

Whoa... Cinch's way of thinking is reminiscent of every stereotypical Asian parent (No offense to Asians as I am one myself)... Still, both educators did have a point. Cinch points out that the world outside need driven student who must execute every given problem with perfection, but, as Cheerilee points out, that school is not a pressure cooker. It is (supposedly) a place where children and teenagers are developed academically and socially; where they are treated as people, not as machines that operate 24/7

... I just got back from a group chat where everyone in my class just wanted to troll me to (apparently) give me a F*ing heart attack for shits and F*ing giggles... so ranting here gives me a bit of relief...

Apart from that MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

7819744 Haha, well, to be honest part of what inspired me to write this story in the first place was that I'm reading a book now about education, and it talks about a few countries that perform very high on international tests, and Cinch's philosophy here was sort of unofficially supposed to be highly inspired by the Korean education system.

Having both Cinch and Cheerilee have valid points was the intention, so I'm glad that came across, at least to you :twilightsmile: I think it would have been too easy just to make Cinch seem "wrong" somehow, and wouldn't really work with the intention of making her non-antagonistic.

Sorry to hear your class trolled you! Merry Christmas to you too!

Okay! The work hadn't permitted me to read this so here I am at home, having just finished it. :eeyup:

Cinch is such a rarity in fanfiction that it's very cool to just read something with her, but your story went the extra mile and included all these amazing flashbacks about how the shadowbolts became what they are. Quite an unexpected surprise! I really liked those bits. :raritystarry:

Particularly I really liked that Cinch was never unfair to the students (I'm sure some people would expect her to blow up at Sour Sweet for that shout and expel her on the spot, but you and I both realize she's not that petty!) and the students weren't hateful towards or afraid of her. It was one of my favorite things about her in the movie: until the last scenes, she seemed well-respected by her students. I also liked how smart and creative her approaches to the Shadowbolts were. At times she felt like Batman, what with making an origami rose out of nowhere, having (and obviously throwing apparently skillfully) a baseball, having a test with the exact questions about today's material in one of the classes in her desk somehow :rainbowlaugh:

Also, in general I thought it was way better written than any of my Cinch stories. I plan to publish a little bonus chapter for my second one, and I'll totally mention your story in the author's note, like I had done previously with another Cinch story I had enjoyed (though that was in a blogpost and not author's notes). Cinch appreciation needs to be spread. :ajsmug:

One thing though I disagree with you on concerning her character. :twistnerd: I really didn't get the impression that she was narcissistic from the movie. Ever since I watched it the first time, I believed that she didn't really have an ego to speak of (beyond reasonable pride in her work). I thought (and still do) that reputation for her is just a tool to ensure Crystal Prep can stay at the top. And when she calls it "her reputation", I think she just doesn't bother acting overly humble about her critical role in the school's continued excellence. Now I'm way too used to my interpretation so yours just seems wrong to me, but in all likeness it's probably an equally possible one, I just can't be objective enough about the matter. And it's not like it even matters for most of the story, since the bits I don't agree with are pretty much just like a sentence near the beginning and one near the end, give or take. It really doesn't change the rest of the story and the rest of her characterization (the passionate educator thing, that pretty much is what I had made of her, though in my version it's less purely academic/athletic excellence and more of a discipline lesson and preparing the students for the harsh and unforgiving realities of adult life (that may be exaggerated in Cinch's head)).

Anyway, that paragraph is disproportionate to how little this one thing mattered in my overall enjoyment of the story which, I can definitely say, did not disappoint! It was kinda funny how I needed not a second of thought to side with Cinch in her little difference of opinions with Cheerilee, but again that's probably because I'm so used to thinking like her from when I wrote my two stories. I wouldn't want to be a student of Crystal Prep, but I really would've wanted to be someone who did want to be a student of Crystal Prep. If that makes any sense :twilightsheepish:

7820488 Haha, I'm glad you enjoyed it! :pinkiehappy: Cinch's little "Batman" moments were intentional, though when I was writing them I was thinking more about Asano from Assassination Classroom. I wanted her to come across as some Übermensch educator, able to pick up just about any lesson that a student needed at basically a moment's notice. And, frankly, it didn't make a ton of sense for me for her to have such high expectations of her students if she couldn't meet them herself. So, in my mind at least, she has a wide variety of skills to help her teach her students, and is incredibly well prepared (being able to fold an origami flower to make a visual impression, being able to throw a baseball, being able to give actually sound public speaking advice, and actually reading Sugarcoat's transcript, rather that just the words, 'Problem Student'). It's not mentioned in the story at all, but the trick with having the test she needed in her drawer wasn't just a matter of her randomly having exactly the right test. Basically, she has an equivalent test for every single lecture that's happening in her school at any given time, with some leeway, I imagine about a week surrounding any given day. I tried to put in a little hint, as well, that the source of all of this is that, when she was younger, she was actually a lot more like Twilight (while she's examining the hat she talks about a hunger for knowledge and wishes that she could study it herself), and she IS built as a kind of shadow archetype to Celestia, so I think it makes sense :twilightsmile:

I do disagree with you on the matter of her narcissism, though. I really think that she's built up in the movie to be narcissistic. She does talk about "her" reputation a lot, seems more focused on winning The Friendship Games than she really needs to be just to secure her student's education, and she does top off "Unleash the Magic" by making it clear that her goal is to make her legacy endure. I just...don't see narcissism as an inherently bad thing. People achieve a lot of great things because of narcissism. But hey, rational minds can disagree :twilightsmile:

I also agreed more with Cinch's philosophy than Cheerilee's...honestly, I mostly put Cheerilee in there to act as a counterweight and give what I consider to be the other side of the education debate a fair voice. I hope she came across as reasonable. But, Cinch's educational philosophy is, in many ways, in line with my own here (I hope not to the detriment of the story): high expectations and hard work lead to positive results.

Anyways, I'm glad you liked it! :twilightsmile: Thanks for reading, and for your kind comments!

7820819 With the test in her desk I kind of expected that to be the case, still, that's an unusual level of preparation. How often would she need them?

Also, with Cinch having been like Twilight in her youth, yeah now that I think about it I did pick it up, just kinda forgot about it immediately. I kinda considered the same idea for my stories but in the end I decided against it.

And about her narcissism, well, I guess I just don't see it. I don't actually remember her talking about her own reputation more than once (after that one time after equating it with her school's reputation). And I think the win is important not to stroke her ego but to maintain the school's perfect record of wins with zero losses or ties. I assumed CPA's spotless history of winning at everything probably achieves a lot and losing to CHS would've ruined that. Everything she does in the movie is about making the school win, and I don't think there's any indication that she's doing that for herself. In fact, her beginning speech goes against that completely. She says it doesn't matter whether they win or lose, the only thing that matters is that they're expected to win. Ergo, if the expectation didn't exist and demand to be met, Cinch wouldn't give two craps about winning in competitions. At least that's the only way I can interpret it. Seemed to be the only purpose of that entire part of her speech, to establish that she doesn't personally care. The "my legacy" line I also didn't take as especially narcissistic, if we roll with the idea that she doesn't deny her possibly pivotal role in the school's current state. Besides, wanting her legacy to go on seems to be more about the legacy than the fact that it's hers, but hey, that's just what I would've meant if I said something like that. I think that she devoted most of her life to bringing CPA to greatness and while she recognizes her own success, she is somewhat obsessed with it because maybe in her younger years it was an actual passion and it stuck with her, or it's the only thing in her life that interests her at all. In fact in my stories I combined those two reasons. I realize this is pure speculation at this point, but to me it seems more likely than her being narcissistic. Not that I see that as bad either, mind you. Just... rubs me the wrong way a bit. Maybe it's what shippers feel when someone's promoting a conflicting ship :rainbowlaugh:

To top off this comment, I thought Cheerilee came off as a bit naive, but that is completely to be expected of her. In my stuff I go into matters like this, with Cinch always condemning a coddling approach which she feels CHS is all about. I had her make a metaphor to Fluttershy once about zoo animals being released into the wild and their subsequent survival rate. I imagined her as believing that you gotta sacrifice a carefree youth to ensure a comfortable life afterwards.

7820889 Hehe, the short answer as to how often she'd need those tests is, "Not often". She does, however, at least in my mind, have a daily need to know exactly what is being taught, and to whom, in her school at any given time, so I imagine she's remarkably well informed about the syllabus for every class. I imagine she actually has a few uses for the tests, though the biggest one is what we see here, as a "put up or shut up" challenge to students who are causing problems. Usually, it's a lesson in humility, ("You're not as smart as you think you are if you can't pass this test"), but she's happy enough when a student, like Lemon Zest, is actually able to pass it. I imagine she also uses them for cases when a student is being accused of cheating, ("If you really understand the material that well, you should be able to take this test as well"...in fact, my original plan for Lemon Zest's section was for her to be accused to cheating, and for Cinch to sort it out with this test, but I liked this approach better), auditing her teachers, ("If you're teaching as effectively as you say, your students should be able to take THIS test without a problem"), that sort of thing. Yeah, it's not something she needs that often, but it's one of a long tail of skills and preparations that she doesn't individually need that often, but in the aggregate make her...yeah, education Batman :rainbowlaugh:

7820928 Aw, you replied to literally only the tiniest part of my comment :derpytongue2:

7820954 Hehe, sorry :twilightsheepish: that was the part I could talk most authoritatively on, I was afraid past that point that I'd be repeating myself. I get that there's a case to be made for Cinch caring more about her students than her reputation. I just...didn't see it, to be honest. I liked her a lot, and I'm still kinda holding on to hope that we'll see her again (though it's looking unlikely...), it just seemed to me that she was preoccupied with her reputation throughout the movie, more so than I would expect from someone who was just taking professional pride or something.

Though, now that I think about it, both her and her students seemed to have some distinct animosity for CHS that's never really fully explained...Cinch makes it a point that she does not want them to develop a "reputation" when she's talking to Twilight, and doesn't say anything to the effect of, "because it would be a threat to my/our own", or something similar. And in "Unleash the Magic", The Shadowbolts say that their only interest in the games is, "seeing Canterlot High School fall." Kinda makes me wonder if there's more to the history there...maybe Cinch was a student there when she was younger and, for whatever reason, was less than impressed with the education? Idk, just thinking out loud. Er...in type :rainbowlaugh:

Another thing I've been thinking about, and I have zero idea if this has potential or not, is a series that takes place four years BEFORE The Friendship Games, and shows Shining Armor when he competed there (probably with Cadence)...not sure if there's potential there, but my undying love for Shining Armor kinda makes me like the idea. Again, just thinking as I type here :pinkiehappy:

7820986 I have a slight hope that the shadowbolts at least might return in one of the EqG "specials". Maybe we'll get a glimpse of Cinch, though that is pretty unlikely, unfortunately. :fluttershysad:

I explained the animosity for myself mainly because Cinch doesn't need competition from a public school, I feel like she elicits some of the competitiveness from her students. Like her little speech at the party and how it divided everyone. I think that might've been intentionally done by her to agitate the students and ruin any chance of peaceful relationships between the two teams. Maybe she and the Shadowbolts see CHS as this upstart who's trying to be hot shit but everyone knows he ain't nothin', so to speak. And they're like "sit dooown!". :trollestia:

That idea sounds intriguing. I personally don't really care much for Shining Armor (though I like Cadance a lot). But I don't doubt you could make it interesting with a good idea for the plot. Especially if there's more Cinch! :rainbowlaugh:

Honestly, I enjoyed this. I'll admit when I first saw it I was under the assumption it would be a chilled or more redemptive Principal Cinch.


Instead, I see a Principal who truly loves her work and while self-absorbed and strict does try to find the best ways to bring out her students' full potential even if only academically and for her reputation.

Though to a part of me does wonder: How does she feel after the whole Friendship Games debacle? I mean sure her school won but what are her personal thoughts?

Wow! That was pretty fantastic. I loved how you wrote Cinch, and I totally read all those lines in her voice. Really well done! :pinkiehappy:

7822455 Thank you! :twilightsmile: I'm glad that you enjoyed it! Yeah, writing Cinch to my satisfaction was...difficult, to be honest, which is why I've avoided writing her up until this point. I feel like there's a needle to thread here, I didn't want her to come off as antagonistic, or to downplay her actions/characterization in Friendship Games. So, I'm glad that she didn't come across as either completely redeemed or completely evil :twilightsmile: To answer your question, this is the headcanon I'm going with for Cinch regarding the Friendship Games: she's frustrated with the outcome (tying with CHS rather than outright winning), but is well aware of the Sunk Cost Fallacy, and realizes that focusing on it any more at this point would probably cost her more than it's really worth. That's why she's treating Twilight decently here and continuing to support her efforts, Twilight's a very valuable student, and it's just not worth it for her to try to actually enact any form of retribution. So, she's moving on, and trying to secure her reputation and legacy in other ways. Thanks for reading, and thanks for the fave! :pinkiehappy:

7823015 Why thank you so much :twilightsmile: I'm glad you enjoyed it! Cinch's characterization is tough, at least for me, so I'm glad she came across well! Thanks for reading!

Another good piece of work, enjoyed it, still waiting to see some dust and zap sibling rivalry/bonding :)

7823234

Wicked, so since you came across a characterization you are more confortable with, does that mean Cinch will show up in future stories? Honestly I'd love to read more of her.

7823532 I'm glad you liked it! :pinkiehappy: Thanks for reading, the fave, and for watching! Yeah, I honestly just haven't had a good idea for Indigo Zap and Lightning Dust yet as a standalone story, but I would like to use them more :twilightsmile:

7824007 She very well may :twilightsmile: I still don't intend to use her too much, because she clashes with my typical style. I prefer to write comedy and some romance, and Cinch's presence in a story takes away a lot of the opportunities for comedy. She's a serious character, so it's difficult for the story to be funny with her around. Having said that, I do like this characterization, so I may use her again. I was throwing around an idea with Superbowl about Shining Armor's experience in The Friendship games, and if I ever wrote that, she'd be an important character in it.

Ooh! There's a dearth of good fics about Abacus Cinch, and I really like how you present her here: stern, driven, demanding... but also tremendously capable, perceptive, adaptive, and almost ruthlessly dedicated to getting the best out of her students. She's not very sympathetic, but she's admirable.

On the Cheerilee-Cinch discussion, I think the freedom and the pressure both work, but neither works for all students, at all times; Cinch's high-pressure approach, pushing the talented students into realizing their potential, seems like it will produce lots of diamonds, but also quite a few unhappy waffles. (Just as Cheerilee's kinder and more free-form approach would likely never have brought out the best in the Shadowbolts.)

7837924 Why thank you so much :twilightsmile: I like that description, actually: "She's not very sympathetic, but she's admirable." That's a good way to word it, I think. It was kind of a tough line to stand on, because on the one hand I wanted her to not be a "bad guy" in this story, but I also didn't want to soften her up. So, I'm glad it seems to have come across that way.

And yeah, I think you got exactly the intended takeaway from the Cinch/Cheerilee discussion. I'll be honest, I'm generally more on Cinch's side of things than Cheerilee's in this case, but I wanted to give both sides of the debate a fair hearing, so the takeaway was sort of meant to be, "Nothing works for everyone." So, I'm glad that came across, too :twilightsmile:

Thank you for reading, and thanks for the fave! :pinkiehappy:

What no one seems to remember about diamonds is that they're almost impossible to scratch... but fairly simple to crush. They, like all crystals, are brittle. Inflexible. Ultimately fragile. And that is where Abacus Cinch fails. Her perspective is internally consistent and entirely valid within its intended framework, but beyond that framework, it breaks apart like a dropped Fabregé egg.

That being said, fantastic depiction of her. Respectful, but without recasting her in a light so sympathetic that she might as well be a different character. (cf. Sonata Dusk.) I especially love the portrayal of Cinch's thought process. My only complaint is that the scene at the end feels temporally confused, since Twilight transfered after the Friendship Games. And let's face it, forcing her to be in the school that drove her to demonhood can't be good for her.

Aside from that, an excellent look at an underutilized character. Thank you for it.

7838825 Fair points, all around! The morality and effectiveness of the education system that's described here is intentionally ambiguous, so it's fascinating to see how people have reacted to it. I'm glad that you enjoyed it :twilightsmile: I'm glad Cinch still comes across as, well...Cinch. It's so easy to lose track of their actual characterization, and I really, really didn't want to do that, which is generally why I've avoided writing about her so much...need to really thread the needle between, "Villain of 'The Friendship Games'" and "Not entirely antagonistic character." So, I'm glad that appears to have gotten across :pinkiehappy:

As for the ending, the discrepancy is intentional. This probably isn't clear in this story alone, and I apologize for that, but this and almost all of my other stories are meant to take place in an alternate universe based off of the alternate ending to 'Friendship Games' where Twilight actually does stay at Crystal Prep, rather than transferring to CHS (I should probably find a way to make that more clear in new stories). Honestly...I like that ending better. Don't get me wrong, I get why they had to change it. If they want Human Twilight to appear in later movies, it's much easier to explain if she's going to school with all of them. It'd be really difficult to explain her going on a CHS school trip to Camp Everfree if she's not going to CHS, after all, and including her in the future movies makes it so they don't have to keep pulling in Princess Twilight from Equestria for 'Twilight' to have a presence in these movies. But having said that...I still like the original ending better. It feels more...real to me. Twilight seems like the sort of person who'd stay around and try to fix what's going wrong at Crystal Prep, and try to bring out the best qualities of The Shadowbolts. And going with this alternate ending gives me more organic opportunities to explore The Shadowbolts. Twilight's sort of a passport to them, being an already familiar character and all.

Well, that was a wall full o' crazy in one post :rainbowlaugh: Anyways, thanks for reading, your kind comment, and for faving! :pinkiehappy: I'm glad you enjoyed it!

“Would you say that is it beautiful?”

They switched places.

It was not about maintaining Crystal Prep’s reputation for academic excellent

excellence.

Principal Cinch had wanted Crystal Prep’s reputation to be excellence

excellent

You will either find headphones that will not intrude on your classmate,

plural, unless there is only her and one other at these lectures.

It was not something the Cinch felt often.

that

There was a system of epicycles build into them,

built

You are the best in terms of elementary school education, at least in the area.

that

The fractal structure of information she had build in her neat and ordered mind,

built

Miss Sparkle,” Principal Cinch said, looking Twilight’s shoulder to where

'over Twilight's shoulder'.

“This was recovered near in the forests near Camp Everfree,”

kill this near

The light disappeared from Twilight’s eyes as the realization hit her that would never get to

I think there needs to be a 'she' in there

Now this, this was an amazing look at Principal Cinch. Omg this was, I dont know. You actually made her understandable and human.
I love how she shaped each of the girls. Making them better then they thought they could be. Yet still flawed all the same.
Twilight is so clueless, and its amazing how much Cinch did for her. For all of them.
I think this is one of your best stories yet.

7882068 D'oh :twilightsheepish: That was more typos than I thought got through here...thanks, I fixed them. Two of those are written as intended, though.

Principal Cinch had wanted Crystal Prep’s reputation to be excellence

That's in reference to Crystal Prep already having a reputation for "academic excellence". Cinch is saying that she wants to remove the qualifier of, "academic" to that, and have Crystal Prep's reputation just be "excellence".

You are the best in terms of elementary school education, at least in the area.

The intention here was basically shorthand to say, "in the area near Crystal Prep". She means that Cheerilee is the best elementary school teacher who's physically close enough to work at Crystal Prep.

I'm glad you enjoyed it so much :twilightsmile: I'd really been avoiding writing Principal Cinch for the longest time, because I didn't want to mess with her characterization, but I also didn't want to make the plot too dark. I'm glad that you enjoyed this approach to it. Thanks for reading! :twilightsmile:

I’m surprised how much I enjoyed this, considering that I found Cinch so detestable. This interpretation makes her character, perhaps not good, but so much richer overall. Very well done.

9467262
Well thank you so much! What you described was exactly the intent! Not to make her nice or good, but understandable. Thank you so much for reading, and for the fave! :pinkiehappy:

“Precisely,” she said. “Beautiful things that are delicate do not remain beautiful for long, Miss Flare. If they cannot stand up to the pressures of the outside world, they become broken. And there is nothing ‘ladylike’ about that at all, I assure you. And there is nothing shameful about standing up for your ideas. Truly beautiful things can last. They push back against the world when it puts pressure on them. Pressure makes diamonds, Miss Flare. And there is nothing more beautiful than a diamond. Remember that.” Cinch turned around, then added, “I hope you will keep this little talk of ours in mind during your next group project.”

As much as I despise her she she makes a good point

This was not, Principal Cinch had realized, a simple case of stage fright. Nor was it a case of a shy student suddenly being thrust into the spotlight. Cinch had dealt with shy students before. This was something more. Sour Sweet was not afraid of speaking in public, she was afraid of speaking at all. Somewhere in her life, someone had told her to shut up. Keep quiet. No one wants to hear what you have to say. Someone had told her that whatever thoughts were buzzing around in her head, she had better keep them to herself. So, as a natural act of self-defence, she had built up walls. She had enclosed her mind in a fortress of isolation that kept out the world that had hurt her so badly. Normally, Principal Cinch would not disapprove, but those same walls were now getting in Sour Sweet’s way.

Andddddd now I'm starting to hate you again cinch

Sour Sweet looked down to the ground. Her arms were trembling, and her pink hair fell forward, completely covering her face. “I...I…”

Oh god this is starting to remind me of a tragic combo of starlight and Fluttershy

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