All her life, teaching children and helping them to grow was Cheerilee's dream and ambition. She never had any student who had failed, disappointed, or even made her feel ill (except for a certain pair of fillies), nor did she blame any of them for her having to go through such a boring time. However, every time Cheerilee saw the students play at recess, or watched them interact with their parents, it reminded her of the joys of her own youth. The days of just being a tiny, adorable, Earth Pony Filly with no care or responsibility in the world. She was still quite young for a school teacher, but even the smallest hardships that came from being a young adult Mare were relentless.
Sometimes Cheerilee would remember specific times from her childhood, when she would play all sorts of games with her own classmates. One game she remembered would sound rather embarrassing if she told somepony else about it. The reason being was that it was rather crude, but also a game that was common for foals of that age. Doing it had gotten her in trouble, actually, because her family didn't consider it "lady-like". It was still just innocent fun, though, whether the rest of Cheerilee's family agreed or not, and thinking about it made her giggle.
Unfortunately, times of fun seemed all but over. The poor teacher only had her students and their silly antics now. Today, though, she would find something unexpected coming from the class she loved.
Colts and Fillies were now scattered around the playground behind the schoolhouse, taking advantage of every plaything it had to offer. Snips and Snails played tag with a few other Foals, Pipsqueak put on his pirate act like he did for Nightmare Night, Diamond Tiara was showing off a new necklace she got from Silver Spoon, and Featherweight performed a routine where he jumped off a swing and landed safely by hovering. Seconds later, a voice shouted out "You're attention, everypony!" Gone was the laughter and unintelligible conversations of foals that once filled the playground, and in came the eerie whispers. The class gathered into a crowd after seeing who the announcement was made by: the infamous Cutie-Mark Crusaders.
"Can we have everypony's attention?!" Apple Bloom asked the crowd.
The crowd responded by locking their eyes onto the trio. Some, however, had their eyes on the cardboard box next to them.
"Good. What we have here in this box is a closet load of cola! We're gonna use this cola for a burpin' contest!"
Most of the kids' eyes widened in a mixture of surprise and excitement. A couple of others looked at each other, as if confused.
Apple Bloom continued, "The rules are simple: each competitor will take a swig of cola and let out your best belch. The three of us will keep score on how powerful or how long the belch is. The one with the best belch wins. Which o' ya'll wanna play?"
Several hooves raised up, accompanied by "Me! Me! Me!" Surprisingly, the Foals who raised their hooves were ones that the Crusaders knew well. Snips, Snails, Pipsqueak, Twist, Diamond Tiara, Silver Spoon, all raised their hooves.
"Diamond Tiara," Scootaloo blurted. "Why do you wanna participate in this?"
Diamond gave her usual snooty smile and returned an answer. "I think it's obvious that you're only holding this competition to earn a belching Cutie-Mark. You're gonna let all the competitors have at it and then try to beat the biggest one."
The Crusaders were silent. Diamond Tiara pretty much nailed their whole scheme on the head. The classmates started whispering to each other, no doubt feeling as if they were almost taken advantage of.
"Even if that's true, does that make it any less fun?" Sweetie Belle asked. "It's still an honorable challenge, and we won't cheat!"
The whispers ceased, replaced with nodding heads and Pony's looking at each other.
"That being said, the reason I'm entering is just to see up close how slim your chances of succeeding are," Diamond sneered.
"Me too," added Silver Spoon.
The trio shot their usual looks of annoyance at the brats, then returned to business.
"Okay, contestants line up side by side!" Apple Bloom announced.
The contestants did as she said. Scootaloo then brought the box containing the soda near them and opened it, taking out a bottle and allowing the players to observe it. Needful to say, they were shocked. The brand they would be drinking was "Bubbly Brian's Cola", which had probably the greatest kick a carbonated drink has ever had, so some have claimed.
"Now remember, each of you can only drink one sip, and one sip only." Apple Bloom stated.
Sweetie Belle interrupted, "Hey, since Twist is the one who supplied us with this stuff, why don't we let her go first?"
Everypony glanced at Twist, who blushed so hard that the red went all the way up to her glasses. She had gotten the cola from a cousin of hers that worked at the factory that produced the Bubbly Brian brand, and decided to give it to her friends just in case they wanted them. The little nerd wasn't expecting her present to be used for a game, so it seemed only fair that she participated.
"Aw, thuckth," Twist said with her lisp, "I don't know...okay."
Twist stepped forward and grabbed the first bottle from her dark orange Pegasus friend. She uncapped the top and placed it in her lips. The bubbling liquid inside gradually decreased in size the more she sipped, until about a third of it was gone. Soon enough, Twist's lips released the bottle, she set it down, and began to suck in her stomach, forcing the air out of her stomach and eventually her mouth.
Twist's burp was worthy of hoof-stomping from the crowd, which it got. Such a sound made the curly-maned filly blush more.
"Not bad, Twist!" Scootaloo complimented. "The other belchers will have to try hard to beat that! Who wants to go next?"
"Oh-Oh! Can me and Snails have a turn?" called the obnoxious voice of the smaller-than-a-pillow Unicorn, Snips.
The other contestants and the Crusaders looked at both him and his abnormally tall fellow Unicorn partner, Snails. None of them expected two players to take a turn simultaneously.
"Ya mean you and Snails together?" queried Apple Bloom.
"Yeah," answered Snails, "We have a trick that we've been practicing!"
"Hmm...Okay, but it'll only count as one burp for each of you."
Snips and Snails both smiled, signaling their understanding of that condition. The duo trotted to the box and each pulled out a bottle with their magic, and then held it up like you would a drink at a fancy dinner party.
"Ready Snips?" Snails said.
"Ready Snails." Snips said.
"Cheers!" They both said, clinking the tips of the bottles together.
Snips opened his bottle and drank from it. This confused many of the watchers because he said that he and Snails were sharing their turn. His bottle also lost a third of cola the moment he was done. He placed it down, and then stood still and became silent, remaining that way for a few seconds.
The suspense grew as nopony knew why Snips was acting this way. The buck-toothed foal just stood there with his eyes closed and smiling. Finally, something happened: a burp was released, but not by Snips, but rather by his friend Snails.
Everypony felt the urge to fall over on their backs that moment. Ignoring the fact that the burp was beyond impressive for someone his age, it hadn't even come out of the colt who was supposed to make it. Just as everypony started to snap out of their shock, Snails took a sip of his drink, set it down, and stood silently. The burp that followed again came out of the wrong Pony's mouth, this time being Snips'.
It was at least twice as long as the previous one, and the audience was just as shocked. Snips now had the highest scoring belch now, and one that caused Scootaloo to take back her statement about Twist's belch being hard to beat. Not only that, but now Snips had the current highest score in the contest, toppling the Crusaders' chance of being the winners. As the rest of the crowd of foals (minus the Crusaders) cheered, a particular filly, Sunny Daze, asked the boys how they did what they did.
"It was magic!" Snips answered.
"Yeah, we practiced that all night." Snails added. "We even brought some cola with us to use here."
Every filly and colt's cheers were then replaced with gasps, accompanied by frowns and agape mouths. Snips had a similar look on his face, and covered Snails' mouth as if he had just revealed a secret he was supposed to keep.
"Wait a minute," Diamond Tiara spoke up. "You're saying that you two already had cola, saved up your burps, and then you drank the ones they gave you to make your burps even bigger?"
Neither Snips nor Snails answered. They just smiled and laughed meekly, but their reaction was enough to tell the others that Diamond's assumption was correct.
"That's cheating!" Sweetie Belle shouted. "You guys are disqualified!"
The disappointment of the crowd now came full circle and they all threw "boo's" and "get outta here's" at the duo. Snips and Snails' ears drooped and they both trotted away in shame. As they did, the Crusaders looked at Diamond Tiara, who hadn't noticed they were looking at her. For the first time, they gave credit to their personal bully, because she finally spoke up about something that wasn't right. Unfortunately, it would most likely be the last time because she was still their opponent, and a brat.
"I want to go next!" yelled another male voice, this time Pipsqueak.
"Okay, Pip, come on and get you're drink!" Scootaloo said.
Pip did just that. Then he held his bottle up to the sky as if proposing a toast.
"In order to be a pirate, I have to act like one," he said. "Which means I have to be as crude as possible."
His little speech finished, he opened the bottle and gulped a good portion of it down in merely seconds. He had drunk a bigger amount than the last competitors did, and the results clearly showed as he finally burped. It started out small, but turned out strong.
Pip startled everybody around him. The burp was hard to hear at first because it was so soft-sounding, but then it worked it's way up to lion volume. It was more formidable than any of the burps in the contest so far, and once again put a dent in the Crusaders' plans. Before anypony could act any further, the next pair of contestants stepped up.
"Finally, it's our turn!" Silver Spoon exclaimed with her obnoxious valley girl accent.
Apple Bloom asked the question that had been on her mind ever since her and Diamond Tiara entered. "Have you two ever actually been in a burpin' contest before?"
"Well...not really," Diamond answered, "but like Sweetie Belle said, that doesn't make it any less fun, right?"
"Huh, you have a point, but remember, if you're going together, it'll only count once for each of you."
Smirking, both brats grabbed a cola bottle from Scootaloo in a rather hasty manner and not even looked at her while doing it. Scootaloo shrugged it off, her eagerness to see her enemies belch stronger than her annoyance with them. That eagerness soon turned to fear as the girls began to shake their bottles, pulled the caps, and released the soda into their mouths, swallowing fast as it did.
A breath had to be caught by both fillies as they finished their sip. They then put on their evil smiles once again and shot them at their classmates. To the surprise of everypony, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon did their infamous handshake involving their hooves, elbows, and flanks, only this time, they were burping the words instead of chanting them. Presumably through the influence of shaking the bottle, the burps sounded monster-like and were at the pitch of a rock concert.
"BU-UMP, BLUMP, ZUGAR LUM, RUMP!"
Though each group member was given credit individually, they both outdid the all the previous competitors combined. What's worse, Diamond and Silver were the very last competitors, and that meant it was the Crusader's turn. There was absolutely no chance they could beat even one of those fillies, and the looks that all three members gave each other told them that they all knew that.
"Well, it's your turn now," Diamond sneered, "Good Luck."
She and her cohort giggled in arrogance and stood by to watch what their rivals could do, as did the other school foals. The trio could do nothing but force a smile towards all of them, being stuck in a predicament.
"Group huddle!" Apple Bloom commanded, and the other Crusaders formed a thinking circle where all they could see was their own faces.
"How are we gonna beat THAT KIND OF BURP?!" Sweetie Belle blurted.
"I didn't think they would be that good!" Scootaloo admitted.
"Well we'll jus' have t' try," Apple Bloom said, and then began pondering for a plan.
Sweetie Belle then thought one up. "Hey Apple Bloom, you said you do burp-offs with your brother and sister, right?"
"Yeah, what about it?"
"I was just thinking that maybe since you have more experience then the rest of us, you could be the one to win?"
"I think you're on to something," Scootaloo complimented. "The only thing I've been able to accomplish relating to this stuff is burping the alphabet, and even that took a long time."
Apple Bloom considered Sweetie's plan for a moment, and then expressed her decision with a smile.
"That sounds like a plan. Di'n think Ah'd be the Ace in the Hole on this one, though. Ah'll do it!"
"Hold on just one moment, everypony!" commanded a voice from behind the crowd of children.
The Crusaders broke from their thinking circle and saw, much to their surprise, Ms. Cheerilee trotting through the mass of fillies and colts. She had a stern expression on her face and eyes that switched back and forth between the competitors, even the ones who were disqualified. Her gaze made everypony uncomfortable, but even more uncomfortable were the three 7 year-olds in the middle of it all once Cheerilee's gaze turned to them.
"I was watching what you kids were doing these past couple of minutes, and I have to say, I'm very disappointed in all of you!"
Every previous belcher either flopped their ears downwards, turned one of their front knees up in a backing position, or both. Snips, in a moment of panic, pointed to the ringleaders.
"It was their idea!" he said.
"Wait!" Twist shouted, standing in front of her friends. "I'm the one who brought the drinkth here, tho I'm the one who thould be punithed!"
Cheerilee's expression suddenly softened, but still had some degree of annoyance. To everyone's surprise, Cheerilee walked to the cola box and reached into it.
"That's not what I'm angry about!" she said. "I'm angry that you used this brand of soda!" The teacher held up a fresh bottle for all to see. "Don't you know how powerful Bubbly Brian makes this?"
The Crusaders were baffled. She was more bothered by the fact that they used a powerful soda rather than having a soda at all? Also using it to play a game that would get just about any other student in any other school detention? For a moment, it sounded like Cheerilee didn't even mean to be stern.
"However," Cheerilee continued, "Now that we have them here, I suppose it's only fair that we finish the game. Whose turn is it, again?"
Apple Bloom knew the answer to that along with everypony else, but was still dumbfounded enough to stay silent. After an elbow bump given by Scootaloo on her side, she snapped out of it.
"Oh, that's me, Miss Cheerilee!"
"Alright, Apple Bloom," Cheerilee responded. "Go ahead."
Almost out of spite, Apple Bloom took a bottle from the box and drank every bit of soda without a moment's hesitation. She couldn't tell if this was enough to at least be on par with Diamond Tiara's burp, but she could definitely feel a mighty one brewing in her stomach. It made it's way out her mouth in literally seconds.
It was about as loud as Apple Bloom's opponents', but unfortunately wasn't long enough to beat it. Nevertheless, it still left most of the crowd impressed. The little farm filly then headed back to her friends, feeling some shred of shame.
"Guess our 'trump card' wasn't enough, huh?"
"Don't worry, there's still two of us, isn't there?" Sweetie reminded her. "I'm up next."
Scootaloo and AB stood aside as they watched the small Unicorn levitate a bottle with her new-found magic, which she also used to shake it up and down, point it at her mouth, and uncap it. The soda poured in, and once again, in literally seconds, she felt a huge belch forming in her little gut. She imagined this is what Apple Bloom's burp felt like.
That one was definitely closer, but it still wasn't enough. Even Diamond Tiara was starting to get worried up to this point. Now there was only one player left: Scootaloo.
"I didn't know you had that in you, Sweetie!" Scootaloo exclaimed.
"I didn't either, to be honest," Sweetie replied. "Anyway, what are we gonna do now?"
Both friends were silent, but Scootaloo was particularly silent. She had no idea how she was going to top her friends' tries. After a few seconds, Scootaloo decided on one last shot.
"I have an idea," she said, smiling. "If the alphabet is all I'm good at, then that's what I'll do."
Everypony saw the rambunctious Pegasus dive her head into the box and pull out a bottle with her teeth. She shook her head back and forth so fast that even a dog with a plush in it's mouth would be dizzy. After that, she grabbed the bottle with her hoof and uncapped it, allowing the cola to travel into her mouth. What came as a shock next was that Scoot started making strange noises with her throat as if she were swallowing something.
With 10 seconds of swallowing air without a break, Scoot felt ready to explode. She had to stop herself from releasing it all at once, for she was about to do the most difficult trick in the burping contest book: burping the alphabet in one try. With the enhancement of the cola, the burp was as loud as the others.
Even Cheerilee was almost blown away by that. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon certainly were. Everypony else was at a loss for words. No equine, especially at that age, has ever been known to have done that on what was most likely their first attempt. All they could really do was cheer for the victor.
They swept Scootaloo up and held her up in a back-float, shouting her name several times in sync with one another.
"I-I can't believe it!" Diamond Tiara exclaimed.
"I know!" Silver Spoon added. "How did she do that?!"
The crowd finally sat Scootaloo down after they were done cheering, when she met her friends again.
"That was amazing, Scoot!" Sweetie Belle shouted with a squeak in her voice, holding her cheeks.
"And Ah thought Big Mac belched loud!" Apple Bloom said.
Scootaloo's grin was as wide as a pencil by now. On this date, she may have just set a world record.
"Wait, maybe this means you got a Cutie Mark!" Apple Bloom continued.
Sweetie Belle gasped and Scootaloo glanced at her flank, but to her utter disappointment, it was still barren of any kind of mark.
"Darn it!" Scootaloo screamed, "So this was just a waste of time after all?"
The Crusaders hung their heads low and drooped their ears, much like they did every time they failed to find their Cutie Marks. Their ears and heads perked back up when they heard a familiar voice.
"Don't say that, girls!" Cheerilee said. "You didn't get what you wanted, but didn't you at least have fun?"
If they could be perfectly honest, the Crusaders hadn't been feeling anything outside of fear and anxiety of losing. Those two things drowned out any kind of fun they could've had. They were so afraid of losing that the only thing they felt was the desire to win.
"Ah guess we didn't." Apple Bloom answered.
Cheerilee looked saddened by her answer, but regained her smile as she trotted to the soda box. She grabbed a soda and opened it, but said a few words before drinking it.
"Well, can't we have fun now?"
With that, she drank a little bit, looked at the crowd, and let out her own burp.
The whole class burst out into laughter. The fact that their teacher just openly belched in front of the class without saying "excuse me" was enough to make their funny bones wiggle. Even the filly trio joined in the laughter, as did the losers. When it was said and done, Cheerilee spoke up again.
"Okay, settle down, my little ponies! Now listen, there should be enough cola left in there for the rest of the class if anyone wants some, or if you haven't finished your own bottle already. This'll probably be the last time I let you do this, because I don't want your parents banging on the doorstep and getting onto me for letting my class do something 'rude' or 'gross'. Therefore, please don't tell your parents about this, okay?"
The entire class nodded. The Crusaders assisted Cheerilee in handing out fresh bottles to each kid, except the ones who already had bottles. Even the ones who drank before ended up getting seconds. In a matter of minutes, the sound of little foals cheering, gasping, whispering, booing, and laughing, had all vanished, and had been replaced with the sound of little foals burping the afternoon away.