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He got off the train in Ponyville, carrying only his saddlebag. Many ponies continued giving him a few strange looks. Some were rude, but most were just curious. He had gotten used to it by now. Before he left, they had told him he might not be accepted at first, but given the chance, most ponies in Equestria are inviting and friendly. It was a good thing he was considered an expert at making friends by everyone he knew well. Were zebras really that rare? Zareb thought.

 

He made his way towards Ponyville proper and out of the humble landscape, could see the star of the castle spearing into the sky. It towered over everything, including the town hall. Zareb looked at his paper instructions and made steps to what he presumed was Twilight's Castle. Would he see the Princess today? He hoped so, but he also knew that Equestria had changed in a good way, and many of the Princess' tasks forced her to Canterlot where Equestria was ruled from. Maybe one day he would visit there, too.

 

He approached the castle from it's grassy front yard and looked up at it. "Ngome kubwa," he muttered to himself, basking in the glory that was the crystalline fortress. He saw what looked like the school in the corner of his eye, adorning it's famous waterfall collection. He wondered why he was asked to come here first. Outside the castle, there were no guards. So he walked up the steps at opened the big front door himself. He peeked inside. "Hello?"

 

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The School of Friendship always had an international character of an informal type, even going back to the core of six students that Princess Twilight had gathered together.  As far as Prince Blueblood was concerned, however, informal was simply insufficient!  In fact, he'd deliberately connected his new position as Archancellor to his already-existing IMAGINE project.  After all, world peace and harmony was the eventual goal of both institutions, though the latter had been bogged down in the still-ongoing war in Whitescar.  Attempting to forge a post-war society before the war ended was obviously a difficult task...

 

Having an alternate angle of approach, therefore, seemed very much in order.  And the school was just perfect for that.  A place where the young and talented from all over the world could be gathered together, taught the values of Equestrian friendship and harmony, and become friends before going back to achieve high position in their home countries?  Absolutely brilliant!  Twilight Sparkle might have taken a little heat from so-called educational experts who nitpicked and nagged about "practical curricula," but as far as the Prince was concerned, the School of Friendship was teaching things far more important than algebra and cell biology.  *What does it profit a pony to solve for X, but lose the ability to care for others, and have others care for them?*

 

To this end, he took some interest in ensuring full representation of all sapient creatures and countries of origin among the student body.  Surprisingly, there wasn't a zebra among the student body yet.  Unyasi was pretty distant, sure, but not really all that much further than Yakyakistan or Neighpon, surely?  Well, no matter.  Blueblood had sent word though his ambassadorial contacts that a spot for a zebra student was reserved, and they had returned with a promising candidate.  A zebra with a talent for making friends?  Zareb sounded just like the sort that would benefit from refinement in the school, and all the contacts he would make.  Yes, great things would surely come from this!

 

To this end, unusually for the Royal Unicorn, he was actually there in person to answer the door for Zareb, though he held off on greeting him until the newcomer could properly take in the magnificence of the Entrance Hall.  Clashes with the local architecture aside, it really was spectacular in its own right.  Once sufficient time was allowed, he stepped out into full view, dressed resplendently in velvet.  "Karibu, rafiki!"  He spoke, with flawless accent.  Long nights spent practicing did not go amiss.  "I hope your long journey here was pleasant."

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When he had peaked through the double doors at the castle's entrance, no one was there to greet him. It seemed odd at first that the door was unlocked in the first place. His imagination of a place like Canterlot was full of descriptions of heavy guarded towers, security details around the clock, and constant surveillance during nighttime activity. It was midday, and Ponyville, but he at least expected a guard pony to check his paperwork. Where Zareb was from, the threat of constant invasion of aggressive animals species and misunderstood tribes was never an afterthought. As primitive as some of the smaller villages were, even those that didn't have the means of massive structural resources, a wooden gate with a zebra holding a spear was the least you would come across. But this was Ponyville, and his expectations continued to evolve.

 

He walked into the castle slowly, checking around him to make sure he wasn't violating any rules of engagement. Instead of looking diligently for a poster that would share such rules, he found himself amazed at the structural design of the walls. Everything was crystalline in natural, almost as if the several millennia of time had sculpted the castle into existence itself. Nothing was straight, but it didn't need to be, it found a way to symmetrical even when the jagged gem-like pillars randomly jutted out of the shiny floors. This was Ponyville right? Not the Crystal Empire? Zareb began considering the possibility he had gotten off the wrong stop, but suddenly, a white unicorn stallion wearing a crimson red suit softly stepped in front of him and greeted him, first in Zareb's native language, and then again in the common tongue.

 

Impressed by the unicorn's ability to speak as if he was familiar with Unyasian culture, he responded quickly with a typical parable. "Kichaka kina miiba, lakini mimi ni mchanga." He smiled. "I've never traveled so far in my life, but I'm still willing to go further." Zareb looked around, gesturing with his curiosity of the place he was in. "Is this the right place? I have arrived to be apart of Princess Twilight Sparkle's school of friendship."

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Polite affectations of his diplomatic trade aside, Prince Blueblood wasn't all that deeply studied in Unyasi culture.  He'd never been posted there, and to be honest. before he made significant effort on his part to actually be useful in his position, it would have been a drastic mistake to do so.  And once he had... other lands occupied his attention.  Thus, while he could translate the words of Zareb's proverb, the meaning of it seemed to elude him.  "I... see?  Well, you are a long way from home."  He stood back, giving a gesture to invite the young zebra deeper inside, where through a side doorway he would be able to see a small sitting room, set out for a guest's immediate use.

 

"This isn't the school itself, but I prefer to welcome new students here, personally."  The Prince answered, directing a servant to take care of Zareb's luggage.  "When Princess Twilight assumed her duties in Canterlot, she left her school to me as the Archancellor.  I try to maintain a personal touch with the students, as she did, but its hard to pick up on connections that somepony else already made.  For newcomers, though, the slate is fresh, and I wish to lose no time."

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Zareb saw an assistant who was motioned in by the Prince to grab the zebra's sacks. He had on him a saddle bag, and then also a large bag full of his stuff. The large bag was taken off his back to his physical relief, but he worried what would happen with his personal belongings. He decided to trust the help since he was probably among friends. Listening to the unicorn's explanation, Zareb knew that Twilight had become the ruler over Equestria and leader of the free and harmonious lands expanding beyond it, but he hadn't considered that the princess would have to forfeit her influence over the school itself. He was a little let down. This unicorn prince was probably in charge for good reason, having earned the respect of his peers and appointed by more valuable councilmares who entrust him to do the work that Twilight Sparkle began. But, he really was hoping to meet Twilight Sparkle today, or maybe even one of the other five mares of harmony. He was sure he would meet them eventually.

 

"I didn't realize so much had changed. I knew about the great battle for Equestria, but I hadn't expected it to affect the school." He looked around the castle again, admiring the insides of the ceilings and decorative gemstone-plated walls. "You treat all new students like this? Well, I guess now you get to share it with one that is not a pony." He smiled, assuming all of the students thus far had been ponies. He was well aware of the atypical nature of having a zebra attend a school in Ponyville would be, but hadn't been given the enlightenment that the small Equestrian village had come a long way from only trafficking ponies in its inns and markets.

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"Large, potentially world-breaking events tend to have more ramifications than one first expects, especially considering how small they start.  Very often, whether or not a friend is made can effect the entire course of history, or at least a Pony's lifetime."  The Prince smiled in reminiscence, thinking of a few old friends that had definitely affected his life for the better.  "That's one of the reasons I do try the personal touch, especially now that we've got our first zebra.  Don't worry though, you won't be our first outsider!  We've got... practically everything except a caribou, and I'm hoping one of those will arrive soon!"

 

From the window in view of the Zebra, Zareb would be able to see the school from where he sat.  A particularly keen-eyed observer might even catch a glimpse of the wagon carting his luggage to the dorm.  "I'm sure your room-mates would like to plan their own welcome, so I'd like to give then a little time.  So, tell me, would you like some tea?  I have rooibos, if you miss a taste of home, though there are many others, if there's ever anything new you want to try as well."

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