• Published 15th Jun 2021
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Back to School - Coyote de La Mancha



Along with being Princess Twilight's apprentice, Sunrise Shimmer hopes to become Ms. Cheerilee's teaching assistant. The first day is often the most challenging.

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Chapter Three: In The Woods.

Damn, damn, double-damn, triple-damn, damn! Sunrise swore to herself as she ran.

She should have been more assertive. She should have positioned herself differently. She shouldn’t have taken her eyes off of them, even for an instant. She should have seen where their argument was going! There was obviously some kind of history between these foals, she should have expected something like this!

Then again, growing up, she’d never attended a school long enough to make long-term friends or enemies herself. Why she’d ever thought she’d be qualified to teach…

She’d had one job, she seethed. Cheerilee had trusted her. And here she was, chasing a quartet of young teens through the underbrush…

If any of these kids get hurt out here, you did it, she raged at herself.

She looked around herself frantically. No sign of them.

Stupid, poisonous, toxic bitch, of course they’re going to get hurt!

She spun and sped in a new direction, desperately trying to imagine where the fillies might have run to. Then, careening around a tree, Why the fuck anypony trusts you with anything…

A hoof came down too hard on a rock she didn’t see, and she heard the crack! as a numbing pain shot up her leg. She gritted her teeth and kept running. Time for that later. She was coming towards a clearing, and mercifully, she could hear the voices of her students, talking.


“…not saying it should be easy,” Diamond Tiara was sniffing. “I know what I was like! I’m not asking for a pat on the withers every time I’m not a bully. It’s just, why does everypony have to make it harder?”

“We don’t,” Scootaloo said softly. “At least, I hope we don’t.”

“And you know we’re here for ya, anytime,” Apple Bloom joined in.

Giving a grateful smile through her tears, Diamond Tiara reached out, and there was a pause as the discussion gave way to a four-way hug.

Then, Diamond sighed, “Thank you. All of you. I know I’m doing the right thing, but sometimes it just… it drags me down so much, I wonder why I’m even bothering.”

“Maybe because you’re growing up,” Sunrise said.

The foals started, staring at her where she leaned on a maple tree for support as though she had just appeared through magic.

“Sorry,” she said, wincing slightly. “I know it’s an intrusion. But I can’t leave the four of you by yourselves right now, and I’m not going to just listen in without letting you know I’m here.”

“Well, I guess that’s reasonable,” Sweetie Belle allowed. “But you’re right, it is a bit of an intrusion, Sunny. No offense.”

Diamond raised an eyebrow. “‘Sunny?’”

Sunrise gave her a nod. “We know each other outside of school. And, yeah, I think we can safely drop the formalities for a minute.

“And no,” she added, addressing Sweetie Belle once again, “no offense taken. We’re all in a kind of awkward situation here. But that being said, I do have something to add to the discussion, if Diamond doesn’t mind.”

The Crusaders looked at Diamond Tiara, who simply shrugged at the inevitable.

“I suppose,” she said.

“Thanks,” Sunrise nodded.

Carefully taking a sitting position, she said, “I just want you to know that, well, I get it.”

Diamond Tiara rolled her eyes. “Uh-huh.”

“Actually, I do,” the older mare said quietly, looking down. “Where I come from, I… did some bad things. And they were a lot worse than bullying ponies in a schoolyard.

“At first, I did them just to survive. Sure, I had rules I’d set for myself. But sometimes, I made exceptions. And then, with enough exceptions, the exception became the rule. Like a habit. After a while, I didn’t even think about it anymore. When times got worse, so did I.

“And I hurt people. Speaking folk, I mean. And sure, maybe some of them had it coming, but not all of them.”

She swallowed, adding, “The last thing I did before leaving, it was the single greatest betrayal of my life. I never felt so horrible…”

Her voice trailed off, and she looked away. Diamond Tiara took a step forward, emboldened by the tone in the older mare’s voice.

“Then… why did you do it?” she asked.

“I thought I was right,” Sunrise said quietly. “I was messed up, and half-crazy. But you can justify anything when you think you’re right.”

Diamond Tiara looked down.

“That’s true,” she sighed. “It’s easy, too.”

“Yeah.”

The CMC looked at one another, suddenly uncomfortable in the silence.

“So… you stopped, though,” Diamond Tiara said at last. “What did you do when you stopped?”

Sunrise still did not look at the foals as she spoke.

“I left. I left where I was, and I came here.”

“Oh,” Diamond Tiara sighed, still looking down. Then, sighing again, she added, “Maybe Mother was right when she moved us away. Maybe I should just finish school in Canterlot.”

But Sunrise shook her head.

“I didn’t leave because it was the smart thing to do, kid. I left because I had nowhere else to go.”

She took in a breath, released it.

“And maybe because… now that I think of it, maybe I left because I wasn’t strong enough to stay. I don’t know.”

She looked back at her four charges, who were all staring at the adult who had just admitted such a thing to them.

“I didn’t just run away, don’t get me wrong. I came to Equestria because this is where I’d always wanted to be, my whole life. And for the first time, I finally had the chance.

“But you’re right: what you’re doing, right now, is hard. You’re not just changing how you treat others, you’re also dealing with other ponies – ponies you care about – who still remember the old hurts. So they’re still judging you for who you used to be, and not yet crediting you for who you’re becoming.”

Then, meeting Diamond Tiara’s eyes with her own, she said, “And for what it’s worth, you’ve got my deepest respect for that. I don’t know that I could be that strong, especially at your age. I’ll probably never know.”

Sighing again, she added, “But I’m also going to be really unfair to you, because I’m asking you to keep being that strong. Both because it is the right thing to do, and because you deserve to be who you want to be, not who you’ve been or who other ponies tell you you are.”

Diamond blinked, studying her uncertainly. “That’s a… weird thing to ask somepony.”

Sunrise shrugged, smiling slightly. “What can I say, I’m a weird mare. But for what it’s worth, you’ve got three awesome friends here to help out.”

And as Diamond’s friends surrounded her once more, Sunrise added, “And I’ll help too, whenever I can.”

“Promise?”

Sunrise’s smile grew. “Promise.”


It was only a minute or so later that Sunrise discovered the latest complication in her life. Specifically, when she turned to leave the little clearing, and put weight on her injured hoof.

“Oh, shhhhhhhhhhhhh….” She started, face crimson and eyes screwed shut, finishing with, “...shhhhhhugar-honey-iced-tea!”

The four fillies immediately rushed over to where she stood, struggling, her left front hoof upraised.

“Oh, jeez,” Scootaloo said, “That looks bad.”

“Did it splay out?” Apple Bloom asked. “Is it cracked?”

“Hooves van crack?” Sunrise asked through gritted teeth. “Of course hooves can crack. Why wouldn’t hooves crack? Great news, Twilight, I learned something today: hooves can crack.”

“Yep, they sure can,” Apple Bloom said. “Hard ta tell when ya got it up, though.”

“Well, I’m sure as hell in no hurry to put it down again,” Sunrise assured her.

Diamond Tiara and Apple Bloom each stepped to her left side.

“Here, lean on us,” Diamond said. “Scoots and Sweetie can run ahead, let Miss Cheerilee know what happened.”

“Heck,” Sunrise muttered as she leaned on the two earth mares. “I’m sure as heck in no hurry.”

As the other two fillies zipped back to the schoolhouse, Diamond Tiara glanced at Sunrise.

“You know, you can go ahead and swear,” she said. “We know you’re in pain. And it isn’t like we’ve never heard it before.”

“Especially up at Sweet Apple Acres,” Apple Bloom agreed. “It ain’t too often, mind. But she gets in a mood, my sister kin cuss like a Griffon sailor.”

Hobbling forward with the help of her two students, Sunrise sighed.

“Yeah, I know. Just… humor me, okay?”

Diamond gave her a fond look as the three of them continued their trek out of the woods.

“Yeah, okay,” she said.