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Defense Against Dark Hearts: Lessons in Empathy (Open: School of Friendship)


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Sunset Shimmer could hardly believe when her friend, Twilight Sparkle, asked her to come on board as a guest teacher at the Ponyville School of Friendship. Sunset... a TEACHER? How absurd!!! The Equestrian girl hadn’t even graduated from high school yet! How was she supposed to juggle her studies and friendships in the Mirror World with mentoring responsibilities back in Equestria? Was Sunset actually worthy enough to be entrusted with nurturing the next generation of friendships?


Yet Twilight had a plan. She always had a plan. All Miss Shimmer would have to do was convince the necessary authorities to let her leave school early each Tuesday and Thursday to do student tutoring at the (newly EEA-accredited) School of Friendship, alongside the winner of the last Fall Formal. Twi would then take care of everything else!


Although Sunset Shimmer still had doubts, as far as the Princess of Friendship was concerned, the fiery unicorn had proven her worth as a friend and mentor many times over in the Mirror World. In particular, the lavender alicorn believed that Sunset’s unusual background as a villainess-turned-heroine gave her a unique perspective on Friendship matters that most of the other professors lacked. Nopony else had the qualifications to provide lessons in empathy and understanding the nature of lost souls like Miss Shimmer.


Needless to say, Twi won Sunset over to her idea using the alicorn's powers of logical and emotional persuasion. And thus, come the new school year, the students of the School of Friendship found a new twice-per-week afternoon course added to the curriculum; “Defense Against Dark Hearts”, taught by Guest Professor Sunset Shimmer. The other teachers also discovered that a familiar magical mirror — once stored in the Friendship Castle — had been relocated to the Teachers’ Lounge. All so that one guest instructor can more easily reach her classroom on schedule.

 

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The hour is coming soon when the Students of Friendship will meet their new Defense Against Dark Hearts professor. Defense Against Dark Hearts classes is take place in the classroom once used by Counselor Glimmer for her lectures. Not much has changed about this lecture hall, although youths with keen memories will note the room’s walls have now taken a reddish hue instead of blue as prior. Two new posters have also been mounted on each side of the chalkboard; one depicts a phoenix burning bright in the sky, the other shows a sparkly “Embrace the Magic!” slogan superimposed onto an idyllic wilderness.


One minute until class is scheduled to begin! The professor has not appeared yet, allowing time for punctual students to briefly gossip amongst themselves... or for the more tardy youths to get to the classroom on time.....

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"Yak not late to class!" The halls of Friendship shuddered under the hooves of a very enthusiastic yak. 

 

Yona continued her stampede, racing towards what had once been the lecture hall of Starlight Glimmer. Papers swirled to the ground and stray pencils scattered as students jumped to the sides of the hallway so as not to get caught in the mad rush. 

 

"Yona here!" She shouted breathlessly while slamming back the door on its hinges. Yona trotted into the lecture hall, her head turned this way and that, a stray note paper impaled on her curving horn. "Hmmmm, guess I'm early." There were a few other creatures in the room, but it was in no way packed.

 

She'd been in the room before and after a moment began to notice the subtle changes to decor. New color to the walls, a couple interesting new posters up front. There were lots of seats to choose from so she sat herself down in the front row and started to rummage around in her school bag. Eventually she was able to produce a folded and crumpled sheet of parchment that had her schedule inscribed on it. She held the parchment close to her face and squinted her eyes.

 

"Professor Shimmer?" An eyebrow raised inquisitively. She didn't think she'd met this professor before.

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Gallus was vaguely interested in just about everything going on this year at school. Vaguely. Not tremendously interested. He didn't think that the School of Friendship's classes were anything near important compared to the day to day interaction with his friends, which really seemed to be where all the real education was happening. This wasn't to say of course that the classes lacked in elements that piqued him, however. Honesty classes could really bring out stuff from deep inside yourself and others that brought you closer together, even if Professor Applejack's earnestness could kind of make it seem saccharine. Loyalty classes were often fun and dangerous and he got to show off so that was cool, but Professor Dash had a braggadocios streak about her that seemed off-putting at times.

Professor Fluttershy was perfect and he got top marks in her class, as did everycreature else. Generosity classes were tough for him- he was trying his best, but giving didn't come easy to a griffon. Laughter was fun as was Professor Pinkie, but he didn't need a class to teach him that having a good time with friends was....well, a good idea to have. He valued his time in the classes and paid attention as much as he deigned (and far more than he would care to admit to anycreature), but the school year was about his friends far more than it was about graded tests on friendship qualities and harmonic values. He did his best to appear aloof and he thought he succeeded rather well, but that didn't stop his crest feathers from standing on edge as he wandered into his newest class.

'Defense Against Dark Hearts' was a pretty cool name. He wasn't sure what the idea behind the class was mostly because he only briefly looked at the syllabus, but he hoped it would involve karate and claw-to-claw combat. He would be pretty hard to beat in that, he thought. He also hadn't heard much about this new Professor. Rumors swirled that she had something called hands. He didn't know what else had hands. Claws, hooves, fins, wings, but hands? Did Tirek have hands? Whatever. Rumors were rumors and he didn't really care what the Professor had attached to her. She was a her, right? Sunset Shimmer could be a male pony name but it was probably female. So close to Starlight Glimmer and Twilight Sparkle. What the heck was up with pony naming conventions?

He didn't need to be worried about being alone, of course. He had heard Yona minutes before he had approached and he was sure in some realities the school was still rocking to her movements. He took flight and landed on the row above Yona, to her right. “Hey, Yona,” he said with a flat expression. “Stealthy entrance you made. So, what about this Professor? Have you seen her..him...her yet?”

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Kireina was... kind of bored, actually. She had shown up early, but having no friends among the students, she had had nobody to talk to. Luckily, part of being prepared for school was paper and something to write with. Which meant she had the perfect opportunity to work on some poetry. 

 

She was nearly finished writing a poem in Neighponese when she heard the yak, Yona she supposed, arrive noisily. The longma sighed to herself, resting her head on a hoof. She had been interested in what this class was about to some extent, but the addition of the loud yak made her question her decisions. And even better, one of Yona’s friends showed up and sat nearby her. Hopefully that would serve to quiet her down and not get her talking more...

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Smolder strolled into class with a big grin on her scaly face. Beating up evil wizards! This was the class for her!
 
Originally she assumed this was just a course for nerdy unicorns to take. Those single-horned ponies would throw on their pantaloons and a scarf and try to figure out what spell they could defend themselves against with another. Could Imperio defeat Locomotor Mortis? Wedges verses swirlies? Great taste verses less filling? Boring geekery!
 
Then she heard even non-unicorns at the Royal Equestria Army took this class. They needed to learn how to defeat evil-doers who used magic without actually using magic. And while dragons were the best at almost everything, they knew even a mighty dragon could be felled by a sneaky spell. And eventually she would encounter an fowl wizard or evil necromancer whose face needed a good kicking! This class would help!
 
Then it dawned on her.

This wasn't a class against the 'dark arts', but 'dark hearts'. What the heck was a dark heart?
 
The orange dragoness sighed to herself. This was one of those moments that a little extra, further bit of reading would have helped. But she already had made up her mind and her backside was already resting comfortably in her seat. So she would stay. And since her very best birdie buddy Gallus was here, she could always amuse herself by throwing 'magic missiles' (Aka crumbled up little paper balls) at him.
 
After two seconds of sitting, Smolder glanced down at her book and quickly removed the plastic covering....This was about empathy? And what was empathy? The ability to understand and share the feelings of another........Oh-Oh.
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“Okay Sunset, remember what Twi said; relax, and just be yourself.”


Be yourself. That was the one significant piece of advice Twilight had given Sunset Shimmer when she accepted this position. The unicorn had been prepared to dismiss the saying as generic, only for Twi to go “well, actually” all over her. And Twilight was right; this school would have failed had the Ponyville gang decided to keep doing things by the book. If those girls could transition into professors just fine, so could Sunset!


On cue with the ringing bell, the classroom door magically opened as a fiery unicorn mare sauntered in; “What’s up, everyone?” The new professor’s mane seemingly blew on its own accord as she levitated her cutie marked-saddlebags on the teacher’s desk, exuding a charismatic calm all the while.


“My name is Sunset Shimmer,” the smirking unicorn turned to face her pupils directly, smoothing back her tousled hair with a single elegant flip; “And I’ll be your Defense Against Dark Hearts teacher this year. Like this school’s founder, I too was a personal apprentice of Princess Celestia’s. But as I understand it, I’m the School of Friendship’s first professor to not be widely known first before accepting the job. So if you have any questions about me, feel free to raise your hand and ask about anything!”

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Yona glanced at Gallus and then back to the front. He didn't know who this Professor Shimmer was either. Oh well, she'd find out soon enough. The yak glanced towards the griffon as Gallus greeted.

 

"Hey Gallus." She showed about as much enthusiasm as he did, trying to mimic his 'coolness'.  "Yona wonder what this class is about..."

 

Yona was beginning to feel a bit apprehensive about this. After a few minutes more students began to show up. Some she knew, others she didn't. That was a good thing! If she didn't know then and they were in her class she's soon be able to be friends with them! Yona was all about making friends!

 

She watched as Smolder took the book for the class and opened it up. Yona grabbed her bag and riffled through it. "Oh no! Yona no have the right book!"

 

She was about to ask Smolder if she could share hers when Professor Shimmer entered the room. She was a unicorn. A very yellow and red unicorn. Yona watched with interest as Sunset set down her things and introduced herself. When asked if there were any questions Yona stuck up her hoof and waved it about. Without waiting to be called on she shouted out.

 

"Are you friends with Headmare Twi-," She corrected herself. "ex-headmare Twilight?"

 

 

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He wondered what this class was about as well. As much as he would like to believe everything he had told himself in his head regarding claw to hoof combat he doubted it would be anything like that. Probably something to do with Empathy or some other pesonal virtue that wasn't somehow covered by the others. Sometimes he felt like the Elements tended to overlap with one another but he guessed that was kind of the point? All of the Professors embodied all of the Elements to some degree, they just exemplified one more than the others. But that didn't mean somepony couldn't come by and make a big deal about some specific part of something that showcased a thing or whatever. He didn't know what it was or what it was going to be, but he was sure it'd be fine in the end. It always was with the ponies, and it was kind of infuriating. 
 

"I don't know, but hopefully the defense part means...I dunno, fighting? I kind of want to see what ponies think fighting looks like. The ones who aren't Guards, anyway. But probably not. One bit says it'll be about emotional defense though. You on?" He challenged Yona to a bet, leaning in with hungry eyes. Nothing better than betting a Yak. They won, it was fine. Lost? Liable to make a friend for life or see them smash. It was great either way. Same with Smolder. He liked her. She was fun to be around. Whether they were teasing one another or being a bit mre serious, he sometimes felt like Smolder was the only one who operated on a similar wavelength. A little aggression, a little rough around the edges, but both were pretty cool cats/dragons when it came down to it. Not that he'd ever admit it. Dragons hoarded more than gold and Smolder's ego didn't need the additional massaging. He nodded. That was enough.
 

Finally their professor walked in. Fiery looking unicorn with a broad smile and a killer mane. Where did they get all these color combinations from? It was like an entire species made up of crayon and creativity. She had a certain flint to her voice too- she sounded older than the other Professors. Not terribly so, but...mature. Gallus dug it. She revealed her name was Sunset Shimmer and that she had also been a pupil of the soon to be former Princess Celestia. Huh. They were multiplying. She also seemed aware of her relative obscurity. Well, at least she was self-aware and not another Professor Dash. Gallus raised his claw. "Hey, Professor. First off, I'm Gallus. Good to meet you. You should know that they don't give us homework usually. My question is: Who are you?"

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Well, things certainly wouldn’t be boring in here, she supposed. Though boring might be preferable from what she had seen so far. Oh well, she supposed she would just need to bear it, there was likely nothing she could ethically or legally do, and those things would be more trouble than they were worth. 

 

Kireina straightened up as a good-looking mare came in and introduced herself as the professor. Well, the longma knew nothing about her, but at least she looked good. Kireina listened as the other students posed their questions before posing her own. 

 

“What are we expected to learn from this course? What are the learning goals?” She asked, watching Sunset. At least her question was on topic. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
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The dragon managed stifle an grunt or ‘hmmmph’ as her new professor rode a shiny train to Assumption-Town. Choo-Choo!
 
Before she was dragged, kicking and screaming to Pony-Land by Dragon Lord Ember, Smolder didn’t know a single thing about any ponies. Toilet Sporkle? Smackyjack? Rainbow Brite? Never heard of 'em!  She had assumed ponies spent the better of their days gamboling about their happy land having tea parties and crying over not having enough time for even more tea parties. She even bet most of her friends didn't even know who the other professors were. Maybe Gallus. He probably had an autographed poster of Rainbow Dash at his house. So maybe she meant others in -general- did not know who she was.
 
Still, she learned to like ponies during her time in Ponyville. Dragons and many other creatures out there could learn a thing or twenty from their new little equine buddies. Aka Tea Parties are cool.
 
Hearing that her friend 'no have right book', she placed the decent sized publication near the forgetful yak. They could both go through the book as class went on. "I'd never leave you hanging.", she whispered with a wink.
 
The class still sounded interesting when their professor spoke it. DEFENSE. Dark HEARTS. She could see it now. A horde of dark cloaked beasties who were out to cause trouble. But nope! This dragon has claws! A quick swipe later and she was now holding the still beating, dark heart of the shadow monster's leader. 
 
While this was fun to imagine, Smolder seriously doubted this unicorn was going to teach them the 'Dreaded Yin Technique' found in the 'R' rated movie she and a few others had snuck into during the weekend. This was going to be nice. Emotions will be discussed. Tears will fall. Hugs will happen. For the moment, she did not have any questions. Her griffon pal asked a question that their professor had already asked. And the longma had a question the dragon originally was going to ask. For now, she would listen. There was still a chance this class could be cool.
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"Are you friends with Headmare Twi- ex-headmare Twilight?"

 

“Yes I am,” Professor Shimmer answered the Yak, who had been the first to call out a question; “In fact, Twilight Sparkle is my BBF! Ironically enough, we first started out as bitter enemies... or at least, that’s what I viewed Twilight as. You’ll eventually be hearing a lecture on the full story, so be prepared to take good notes… Yona, was it?”

 

"Hey, Professor. First off, I'm Gallus. Good to meet you. You should know that they don't give us homework usually. My question is: Who are you?"

 

“Teh heh heh heh,” Sunset Shimmer had to admire the griffon’s cheeky spirit; “You got spunk, kid! I’m going to have to keep a very close eye on you. But back to your question Gallus; I do most of my work outside Equestria these days. Aside from dabbling in a little Anthropology here and there, my main responsibility is studying the spread of magic from Equestria to elsewhere, and to take any rogue Equestrian magic out of the hands of people who, well... are not exactly in the best state of mind to wield it. As a couple friends of mine like to put it, it’s almost like being a superhero!”


.....Nailed it! Of course Sunset wasn’t naive enough to assume she wouldn’t have to explain her activities in the Mirror World.

 

“What are we expected to learn from this course? What are the learning goals?”

 

“And you must be Kireina,” the Professor addressed the Longma; “All of that can be found in the class syllabus, which I’ll pass out a copy to everyone right now.” Demonstrating her magic aptitude, Sunset Shimmer used her magic to levitate a stack of syllabus copies to each student all at once. “But to put it simply, up until now, the courses taught by your instructors have placed an emphasis on what we in friendship studies like to call,” the unicorn magically lifted a piece of chalk to write a three word term; ‘Slice-of-Life’ situations.”


“However, if you think the only use for Friendship is helping you get through day-to-day interactions, well then heh heh..... you must be new here. Chances are good that at one point or another, you’re going to encounter someone or something with a darkened heart. When a being’s heart turns dark, they become overwhelmed with fulfilling selfish desires without thought or consideration for anybody else. And if they have access to a magical power or ability on top of that, you can certainly bet that nothing good will come of that."


“From what Twilight has told me, many of you have already had a run in with one of these people whose heart turned dark. One of your former schoolmates, in fact...” Sunset paused to give her students the chance to speak up if they so wished.....

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  • 2 weeks later...

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Yona beamed when Professor Sunset said she was BFF's with Twilight! That was really cool! 

 

"Wow!" The yak leaned forward. "You are BFF's with Twilight Sparkle! Yona like Twilight a lot so she probably like Professor Sunnyset too!"

 

The yak listened as other questions were answered by the new professor. She seemed to have things all under control. Yona felt herself already wanting to be more like this brightly colored pony. She had it all together and knew how to answer questions even when they were a bit tricky! 

 

Then Sunset moved to the topic of students whose hearts had turned dark. She knew of course who was being spoken of. She'd had lots of run in's with the curly maned little pegasus before she seemed to vanish from the school.

 

"Ooooooh," This certainly was interesting. Yona knew she'd like this class. "You talking about little pegasus..." She tried to remember and then her eye lit up! "You talking about ummmm, Cozy Glow!"

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Kireina nodded at Sunset's words as she took the paper that floated to her, starting to read it over while still listening to the explanation. This seemed like it would be an interesting course, at least. Preparation for emergency situations was always good, better than running into them and not knowing what to do about it. She didn't know who was being talked about, but Yona supplied the name at least. Assuming that was correct, but she didn't know either, so she would have to take it at face value for now she supposed.

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What the hanging nail was anthropology?
That niggling concern aside, Gallus was satisfied and satiated by what his newest professor said. He didn't really understand why they needed this class. They'd already proven to be basically super perfect at this whole friendship thing. Just look at Smolder moving quick to rectify Yona's worry. Of course it was nice of SMolder to go through it with Yona, seeing as it meant she wasn't reducing that book to cinders too. No, Gallus wasn't bitter or anything. He just had a long memory, and was waiting for his time to get reve- to pull a prank of his own. Ya know, because friends pulled pranks on one another. 
 

With their school supplies. 
During the school year. 

 

What it came down to for this class was that it was basically friendship emergency therapy. See somecreature about to turn dark, try to light them up. Or if they have turned dark, how to stop them. Could be fun. Could also be lame. He always imagined what an evil Gallus would be like and then he realized such thoughts could go really dark really fast. He was a meateater after all with sharp talons and claws and teeth. A bad Smolder? Easy enough, lots of fire and hoarding. The longma, Kireina? Gallus didn't know that one well enough to really say. Probably something with poetry. Evil poetry? From his vantage, most poetry was evil. Was there a difference? Yona would probably smash and yell, but aggressively and angrily. So not too big a difference, except angry.

 

The topic of Cozy Glow came up. Yeah, had she turned dark or was she always that way? "Yeah, Cozy Glow. That's a name I won't forget. I wonder if she was always that way or if she turned dark at some point?" He tapped his talons to his beak, then glanced over at the Professor. "So this class teaches us how to, uhh, engage those with dark hearts or...darkening?...hearts, but what do we do about creatures that are already dark as night itself inside?" He asked, sincerely wondering just how three-sixty this class would be. And later he'd need to learn what anthropology meant. And get some cool stories about wild magic and villains from this Professor, who just might be cool enough to hang with them.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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Sunset Shimmer nodded at the mention of Cozy Glow, the former student of Friendship currently serving a life sentence in Tartarus. Like Gallus, Sunset also wondered about the story behind the demented filly Twilight had spoken of before; who Cozy’s folks were, and if she really was evil at heart. What lies or taunts led her on the long march from harmony’s light, or she would not rather have stayed there... in the company of true friends?


The youthful griffon meanwhile brought up a pertinent issue. It was something Professor Shimmer planned on tackling in detail later in the semester, but she wasn’t the type of lady to string people along, either. “Good question, Gallus! You’re in fact touching upon one of the great dilemmas of Friendship; whether anybody who completely gives in to Darkness can be redeemed or atone for their mistakes, no matter the severity of their crimes. Truthfully, it’s a hard question to answer because oftentimes, we don’t actually understand what they truly feel in their hearts.”


Sunset got out a folder and one-by-one, began to levitate and stick onto the chalkboard portraits of various personalities of infamy she painted by hand. “For a thousand years, ponies wrote off Nightmare Moon as a monster who gobbled up foals one night a year. You’ve got Discord, who had been demonized for far longer. And let’s not forget the Pony of Shadows, a literal creature of darkness who only became that way due to a simple misunderstanding.”


Another duo of portraits got stuck onto the chalkboard; “But then, you get cases like Queen Chrysalis and King Sombra, creatures who time-and-time again choose to do despicable things. As Professor Fluttershy will tell you, there is immense value in learning the perspective of your foe. However, I acknowledge that isn’t always possible in the most extreme situations. Not unless you happen to master a spell giving you empathetic insights, anyway...


The professor manifested seven crude globs of glowing magic in front of the students; six of them colorful and arranged in formation ala the Elements of Harmony, the other a swirl of pure darkness. “When you’ve got your friends, family, and homes on the line..." The six colorful globs of light shined together and shot a beam at the darkness, poofing it into nothingness; “Sometimes, you have to do what needs to be done.....”

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Yona became more and more agitated as various creatures were pinned to the board.One after another Professor Shimmer talked them over. It was true, not all "bad" creatures were actually bad at heart. The pictures of Crysalis and Sombra unnerved her somewhat. They were clearly evil and she wasn't sure she would have what it took to stand up to them. She liked to think she would though! She was yak and yak were strong! They weren't afraid of anything! She shook her head to clear it so she could focus.

 

The yak's eyes grew large as Sunset manufactured the glowing orbs.  The levitated before her and she listened intently as the Professor explained what they were. The Elements! The dark orb was 'poofed' away in their power! Her heart jumped in excitement! 

 

"Wow!" She clapped her hooves together in anticipation! "Yak thought this class be boring but this class not boring!" Her eyes sparkled with admiration for her new teacher! Professor Sunset would teach her how to fight evil! She'd learn to use her power for good! This was very exciting for a yak trying to decide what she would do in this world.  "How do yak do that?"

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Sweet baby Celestia! Maybe someone should call the school janitor! He’ll need to take a whole day to clean up all these names the others keep dropping!
 
And this new professor was once bitter enemies with the ‘Purple One’? How many enemies did she have? Dragons never have any enemies. They either had creatures they tolerate or a pile of bones. Pick which one you want to be!
 
“I always knew that weird kid was up to no good.”, the dragon sighed. “Found it rather odd she was so young and was always wandering the halls of this school.” Little ponies could not be evil.But Smolder was pretty sure ‘Cozy’ was something else. “I betcha she’s some sort of evil shape-shifting demon..Or monster of some kind. As she acted like someone who has never seen a kid before would think a kid would act like...Some creature that only saw kids when watching one of those creepy Shirley Trample movies.” Why in the world did she see one of those nightmare inducing films? Creepy pony with great pig eyelashes and an very curly mane. Tap dancing away and talking like a zombie. ‘You've got to S-M-I-L-E To be H-A-Double-P-Y’. The young dragon shuddered.
 
"So...", guess it was her turn to ask a question. "What happens if someone who doesn't believe they're evil does evil believing it to be good? They might think it will help their friends and or family?"
 
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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes, redemption was possible sometimes, but sometimes not. That made sense, she supposed, everyone was different after all. Kireina watched the globular display, her eyes widening a bit at the implications of what happened at the end. She knew in the end it was better than the alternative, but still...

 

She sat in silence, listening to the others speak. The dragon brought up a good question though, making her look over at Smolder for a few seconds and giving a nod before focusing on Sunset again. 

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Gallus understood what the professor was saying. He guessed there was a difference between those who were misled, bitter, and angry and did evil because of that and those who did it because it was simply their nature to do so. Discord was an odd case because it didn't seem like he had been changed at all, not really. It just felt like he had more skin in the game so to speak and was willing to play ball. But the others? Yeah. Well, maybe. If he tried to think too hard about it he could say that Luna was always the victim of the Tantabus and didn't really apply to this discussion, but he figured that it was kind of a moot point since the fact she was trying to get across was that there needs to be room for forgiveness but also a time and a place for drastic, harmony-saving action to take place.

 

Which fit Gallus just fine, he liked hamony-saving action that ended in explosions, like what happened to that dark element that Sunset summoned. Less of an explosion and more of a dispersal of the darkness but the point was well received either way. Sometimes you needed to pow-boom the evil, even if it looked like a little filly. Or especially if it looked like an little filly, or just was a little filly. "Would it be worse if Cozy was a filly and was that evil for no good reason or if she was an evil shapeshifter who just took the form of a too-sweet filly?" Gallus thought about it. "Probably if Cozy is just a filly because that would mean if you blasted her into Sombra chunks you'd be blasting a little filly. But eh, evil is evil I guess," Gallus shrugged, leaning towards Yona. "Plus, making bad guys go boom is kinda like smashing, right?"

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"Wow! Yak thought this class be boring but this class not boring! How do yak do that?"

 

Professor Shimmer blushed in response to Yona’s enthusiasm. At least this was a good sign that Sunset was earning her students’ respect. “All in good time, heh heh,” the unicorn chuckled good-heartedly; “Honestly, hardly anybody at all knows how Friendship Magic works because it’s never been studied in a controlled environment until now. But I hope to change that! In fact, I’ve arranged several lab sessions this year so we can delve into that field of Magic. It’ll be great!!!”


And maybe things will turn out better than the last time Sunset tried analyzing the Science of Magic in a lab.


Sunset looked mildly uncomfortable as some of the students murmured about Cozy Glow’s creepiness. While it was her instinct to gently admonish them, the professor bit her tongue for now. In the adolescents’ defense, Cozy’s actions and motivations made it very hard for the hatchet to be buried anytime soon.

 

"What happens if someone who doesn't believe they're evil does evil believing it to be good? They might think it will help their friends and or family?"

 

“You were right! I didn't understand magic before, but I do now!”

 

The young dragon’s question triggered memories of a different world; of Sunset Shimmer’s encounters with the corrupted visages of Midnight Sparkle and Gaea Everfree. “You raise another interesting issue, Smolder. Out in the real world, you’ll hardly encounter consummate evildoers only out for themselves. Rather, you’ll mainly find beings who are capable of caring for others and showing empathy... buuuut they also just happen to have goals which don’t have everyone’s best interests in mind. 


We’ll be going in-depth into conflict resolution techniques later in the course, but just as a fair warning... in many of the most extreme situations I’ve personally been involved in, the uhhh... resolution often boils down to blasting a magic rainbow of friendship at the wrongdoer.” Sunset chortled; come to think of it, many of Twilight Sparkle & Friends’ greatest accomplishments came down to that, too. No wonder the EEA eyed Friendship School as essential to national defense.....

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  • 3 weeks later...

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Yona's eyes bugged at the mention of blasting rainbow colored magic at wrongdoers.

 

"Oooooh!"  She couldn't help but stomp her hooves on the floor in excitement. "This class not at all what yak think it be!" 

 

"Conflict resolution?" The yak pondered the words. She'd hard them before. Probably in one of professor Fluttershy's classes on kindness. Though she'd learned quite a lot in those classes she still didn't totally understand how it was useful to just talk it out with bad guys.

 

When Gallus spoke of smashing yak grinned. "Yona want to learn to smash the bad guys!" More stomping ensued. This class was going to be just heaps of fun... if she didn't knock the building into a heap with her stomping first!

 

(sorry for the delay and sorry is short post...)

 

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  • 1 month later...

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This was all well and good, but Gallus couldn't help but think they were missing something. It was likely because ponies didn't know anything about violence and Yona was probably too sweet to consider it, but they couldn't always count on giant friendship blasts beating their enemies. Nah, both he and Smolder likely had a bit more input on the real issue this class would need to act on. When was violence, in the name of harmony and friendship and against cruelty, okay? The answer would define what they were supposed to learn in this class, and what Sunset Shimmer expected them take away from this ethically. It was always one thing to talk about magic friendship lasers and the quality of a good group hug, but anycreature who had taken a shard sniff of this world knew that they were bound to deal with something darker.

 

It was a question that was phrased differently for him his entire life. He had to fight and fight hard at times to get so much as a scrap to eat. He had gone hungry when he was weak and was rewarded when he lied, cheated, and stole. He was beat down into the ground when he tried to stand up for other kittens but won his fights when he fought dirty. He gained by being a bully and lost by being the good Griffon. Luckily his time in Equestria had shown him that his inner good nature could, should, and would be rewarded when he was given a time and place to let it shine. But when he thought of violence, it wasn't holding claws and hooves and letting his emotions doing the talking. Not always. Not when he was alone and not when he was dealing with run of the mill evil rather than a villain that the great harmonic forces of Equestria would care about. 

 

"Professor, I think you're skipping something. Friendship rainbows and good feelings leading to all sorts of good nonsense is all good and cool and all, but we all know there's a lot of normal, everyday evildoers that qualify and they aren't gonna get friendship rainbow'd. When is fighting somecreature the best, not worst, option?"

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A smirk appeared on Sunset Shimmer’s lips as Gallus asked his next question; “Well... that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Conveniently enough, it’s also the subject I planned to lecture about today in our first meeting! So let’s get to it, shall we?”


Sunset leaned on her desk, waiting for a few seconds for her students to grab their notebooks and pencils; “First, let’s ask ourselves: is fighting an inherently evil act? Does pacifism equate to moral cowardice? Can fighting be justified in certain situations? Do Good and Evil truly exist as quantifiable variables in our Multiverse, or are they merely crude abstractions that fail to reflect the shades of grey that can be found in any creature?


The gist of the matter is that for as long has civilization has existed, philosophers have been grappling with these very questions. Indeed, entire cultures in this very world have come up with widely divergent answers. Let’s make one thing clear; I’m not here to tell you whether abstinence from violence or violence for a good cause is the more morally justified option. What I CAN do though is to teach you how to come to your own conclusions... and to give you the tools that’ll ensure that no matter the path you choose, that neither your hearts or those you cherish will succumb to Darkness.”


The unicorn proceeded to methodically weave her way up and down through the rows of sitting students. “This is now a good time to remind you that we are all very much pioneers in the study of Defense Against Dark Hearts. Much of the required reading you’ll find in your syllabus is cribbed from other fields, as barely anything directly pertaining to this subject has EVER been published. Not even Princess Twilight has had the opportunity to synthesize the known knowledge and to conduct experiments!


Don’t worry guys, heh heh; I’m not going to make you each write an entire book about Defense Against Dark Hearts. But be warned that the research I’ll be assigning will be extra significant, because the projects and lab sessions you’ll be doing this school year... will help form the building blocks for teaching future students how to defend against darkened hearts.”

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

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The the professor spoke ti became clear to Yona that this was indeed a class about fighting! She stomped her hooves a little when it was talked about, rattling the students nearest to her and causing some irritated stares in her direction. 

 

"Yona want to learn defense! Yona want to learn to fight like yak warriors from homeland!" 

 

Then Sunset began to talk about research and...book writing! "Oh no!" Yona whispered in yak whisper which was no whisper at all. "How can yak fight when yak in library covered with books?" She sighed, giving up a bit of hope. She wasn't sure she had the smarts it would take to be in this class. 

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  • 1 month later...

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Okay, the Professor needed to stop what she was saying. Gallus kept up with her for a short while but then she started talking about the metaphysical nature of good and evil and a buch of philosophical stuff that he didn't really grasp. While Gallus wasn't an idiot by any stretch he didn't flap his wings wildly at the thought of some metaphysical commentary on the conditions inherent in life. It was all a bunch of spit anyway. Good and evil may be confusing concepts if you were born in a world where the line blurred but in the real world, it was pretty stark. It wasn't that the grey didn't exist but rather few creatures lived there very long. Most everything jumped at the chance to be good or jumped at the chance to be bad. And those that lived in the grey were generally there because they had the power to be on either of the greatest extent of the extremes. Discord chose to live there because he had the luxury. Nocreature else could. Power afforded moral flexibility, not intent. Of course Gallus didn't know how to phrase this in his mind so it died on whatever potent branch it had been birthed on.

 

He let that tic slide. This class was very important. They were pioneers and they needed an open mind. They would conduct the sorts of activities that would help lay the foundation of this study in the future. They were all lost in the dark when it came to what was and was not best for this type of study and that manner of confusion only ever helped embolden a certain adventurous spirit in Gallus. He liked exploring, he liked a bit of a fight, and he really liked being the hero. Who better to set future generations up for success than for the most famous Griffon in all of Equestria? Prove him wrong! "Hey teach, could you give us an example of a lab or projects we'll be doing? Gotta know if I need to buy extra thick gym padding in case this one-" he thumbed a claw towards Yona, "body-slams me into the wall in the name of Harmony. Or Yaks. Or the Harmony of Yaks."
 

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