Part I - The Elements of Harmony
Chapter 1 - Honesty
"And that's how ponies are made!" Pinkie Pie concluded her presentation with a beaming smile.
Twilight stared at her magenta-maned companion for a long moment before finally speaking. "Um, Pinkie?" she asked, a twinge of nervousness rising in her voice. "We were supposed to talk about how to make cupcakes."
"Oh! Were we?" Pinkie took in a sharp gasp and blinked her eyes a few quick, successive times.
Finally regaining the wherewithal to speak, Cheerilee gave a slightly unnerved little chuckle. "W-well, th-thank you for that… enlightening... presentation, Ms. Pie!"
The entirety of Apple Bloom's class stared up at Pinkie wide-eyed, slowly absorbing the wealth of information unexpectedly extolled by the town's resident party planner.
"So, are there any questions!" Pinkie asked the class with a hop into the air, her legs quivering with excitement before she landed on the ground, Twilight's nervous laughter almost entirely drowned out by Cheerilee's near faint.
"Actually, I think we should let Cheerilee get back to her classes, Pinkie." Twilight interjected as, with a shimmer of her horn, she levitated the bubbly pink pony into the air and began floating her from the room. "Thank you for letting us come speak, though, Ms. Cheerile," Twilight gave a frantic smile back to the teacher as she pushed Pinkie out from the room, the door shimmering likewise as it slammed shut behind her.
"Pinkie..." Twilight muttered from beneath a mound of pillows.
"And it turned out that Rarity had been locked up in jail the entire time! All for the crime of 'spontaneous makeovers' or something craaaaazy like that I mean I knew that Manehatten had some weird laws but I would've never imagined that sprucing up the uniforms of a few security guards would potentially carry prison time!" Pinkie rattled on and on as she bounced about the library that Twilight called home.
"Pinkie..." Twilight raised her voice just a little, still not wanting to see or hear another pony unless absolutely necessary.
"- had a whole bunch of weapons on her back for some strange reason - I mean, yeah, she considers herself fashion forward but I personally would think that medieval weaponry would technically be considered 'fashion backwards'! Unless time is cyclical, in which case it's really really really fashion forward, like prior to a whole new generation of time looping forward!" Pinkie continued nonsensically, having climbed halfway up one of Twilight's bookshelves in the process.
"Pinkie!..." Twilight yelled from beneath her blush-covering fort of pillows.
"- that next morning, at least I think it was the next morning I don't really remember because alcohol tends to make for weird distortions of time and space, there was waffles and syrup eeeeeeeverywhere! It was just like my eighth birthday party all over again, only it was waffles instead of bear traps and syrup instead of-" Pinkie's strange story continued on and on, the pink party pony not seeming to hear or heed Twilight's increasingly loud protestations as she dug through a pile of books to Twilight's left.
"PINKIIIEEEEE!" Twilight finally yelled at the top of her lungs, the pillow-fort around her disassembling with a burst of feather, pillows, and shimmering purple outlines of magic.
Pinkie suddenly stopped talking in response, staring back at Twilight with a surprised look on her face.
"..." Twilight stared back at Pinkie before finally giving a resigned sigh and dropping back to the ground. "...Nevermind." Her horn glowed and shimmering pillows began piling themselves back atop her.
"Okey dokey Loki!" the balloon-flanked pony said with another bounce as she rolled into recounting another story spawned from somewhere deep within the recesses of her candy-filled mind.
Shutting out her friend's voice for the moment, Twilight began to think about just how she'd go about the damage-control for Pinkie's latest act. She hadn't taken the time to read up on how to deal with utterly disastrous presentations. Another presentation? A deeply apologetic letter to Cheerilee? Deeply apologetic letters to every family member of the ponies in the- Twilight suddenly gasped at that realization. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle are both in that class! Is she ever going to hear it from Applejack and Rarity...
Twilight began rolling over in her mind the different lectures she was likely to receive from her closest friends. 'Poor Apple Bloom just hasn't been able to look at Big Mac the same since yer lil' presentation!' 'Twilight, darling, is there a reason why Sweetie Belle is looking for extremely elastic materials?' Her thoughts were interrupted, however, by the sudden sound of a belch, followed by the sound of something rather heavy for its size tumbling down the stairs.
"Letter fro- whoa- augh!- whoop- wahuyaaa~!" her number one assistant's voice resounded through the treebrary as he gracefully belly-flopped his way down her stairs.
Twilight flung the pillows from around her and ran over to the base of the stairs, just barely missing the baby dragon, who fell belly down on the floor right nearby. She could swear she saw little Rarity-heads floating around his head... "Spike? Are you alright?"
"Do we really have to go out tonight, Rarity? It'd be so much nicer if we could just stay in and snu-" Spike muttered in a daze before suddenly snapping his eyes open and his cheeks turning almost the same color as Pinkie's mane. "Uh... ye-yeah. I'll be fine..." Spike said with a wide, bashful smile.
"Whoa, Spike! That was -awesome-!" Pinkie suddenly appeared at his side with a loud giggle. "I mean, you were all like wahuyaaa- whoop - augh!- whoa!" the pink pony pantomimed as she proceeded to fall up the stairs in an almost perfectly mirror imitation of the path the young dragon just took.
Twilight and Spike both stared blankly for a long moment at the pony thespian's antics before Spike suddenly remembered why he fell down the stairs. "Oh! Twilight! Letter from the Princess," Spike said as he held out the scroll he somehow managed to hold onto.
"From the Princess? Really? I wasn't expecting anything from her today..." Twilight mused to herself as the scroll levitated out of Spike's hand and unfurled in front of her, which she proceeded to read aloud.
My Dearest and Most Faithful Student Twilight Sparkle,
I hope that this letter finds you well, and that you have been having a wonderful and educational time with your friends. Having reviewed the numerous letters you have sent me recounting your experiences in Ponyville, I believe that it is now time for you to conclude the field work portion of your studies. Please prepare a final report on the Elements your friends represent and the magic of friendship that binds you together. When this is done, we can arrange a time to meet and discuss your final thesis, to be written in the next several years. Don't worry! You will be able to write it at the location of your choosing, so there's no need to say goodbye to any of your friends. I think that your 'Number One Assistant' will be more than capable of being an adequate liaison during the dissertation-writing process. I will look forward to receiving your final report.
Twilight stared at the scroll, rereading the contents several times over. Slowly, her expression turned from one of shock to one of pure glee and anxiety rolled together. "Wow! I mean... I can't believe that she wants me to finish up my studies," Twilight says to no one in particular.
Spike tilted his head to the side in a bit of confusion. "Why? Isn't this what you've been waiting for? I mean, you have been here in Ponyville for almost two years, now."
"I guess you're right, Spike," Twilight says with a blink of her eyes. "It's just that time just passes by so fast! I haven't done nearly the number of experiments and research studies I've wanted to do! How am I ever going to write a thesis?" Twilight slumped back onto her hindquarters. "I mean, it's really great that Princess Celestia is going to be my research mentor, but that just makes it all the more important that I do something really impressive! I just can't let her down!" Twilight began to get a few wrinkles of worry.
"Oh, thesis-writing is easy!" Pinkie said, suddenly reappearing from the kitchen with a tray of cupcakes balanced on her head. "I mean, I did mine in no time at all back when I was in Canterlot! Now, making the perfect cupcake - that's hard!
"Hold on a second," Twilight held up a hoof as she stared incredulously at the magenta-maned baker. "You wrote a thesis?"
"Twelve!" Pinkie tossed the tray up into the air, it landing nearly on a nearby table. She immediately rushed over and plucked one out, chewing vociferously. "So I guess, technically, I'm Dr. Pie! Or Dr. Pinkie. I like Doctor Pie better, though, because everything's better with pie! And sugar."
"How-?" Twilight managed to stammer before Pinkie picked up again.
"I told you, it was easy! Of course, I was accidentally locked in a supply closet in Canterlot University tower by some guards who claimed it was 'in the best interest for everyone involved' or something. Lucky for me, the closet was filled with something called 'coffee', paper, quills, ink and enough candy to feed an army of Scootaloos!" Pinkie Pie recounted with a thoughtful hoof to her muzzle. "Wait!" Pinkie suddenly shouted with a look of terror on her face. "What time is it?"
Twilight and Spike both shook off their mixed feelings of shock, amazement, and raw terror to simultaneously glance up at a nearby clock. "It's five-thirty. Why-?" Twilight began to ask when Pinkie Pie suddenly rushed to the door.
"I promised I'd help out Mr. and Mrs. Cake a half hour ago! Gotta go! Thanks for the cupcakes!" Pinkie Pie shouted with a smile as she fled, the door closing forcefully behind her.
Spike stared off after the pink pony. "But... you made the cupcakes..."
"It's just Pinkie being Pinkie," Twilight gave a little giggle as she trotted over to take a bite out of one of the aforementioned cupcakes. "Don't think too much about it."
Spike leaped up onto the table and grabbed a cupcake of his own, surveying it carefully. "I suppose it'd be too much to ask for these to be ruby filled," the baby dragon said with a disappointed sigh as he set it back in its tin. "I still think you've got nothing to worry about, though, Twilight. If anyone can do a great job impressing the Princess, it'd be you! You just need to know where to start."
Twilight finished consuming the cupcake floating before her and humming thoughtfully. "You know, Spike, you're right. I just need to know where to start. The question is, who should I start wi-" the libraricorn was interrupted by a sudden knocking at the door.
"Twilight? You there?" Twilight heard a familiar voice on the other side.
"Well, I guess that answers that question," Twilight muttered beneath her breath with a somewhat bemused grin as she trotted over to the door, opening it with a magical purple shimmer. "Hi there, Applejack," Twilight greets as the farmer pony walks right on in past her.
"Twilight Sparkle, I absolutely cannot believe what Apple Bloom has been doin' and sayin' ever since she got home from school," AJ shook her head from side to side. "And she says she got all 'er ideas from you an' Pinkie Pie."
"Oh! That. Yeaah..." Twilight said with an awkward smile as she kicked closed the library door. "Spike, how about you go upstairs and... uhm, organize the telescopes?"
"But Twilight, you've only got like-" Spike began to protest before with a purple shimmer a zipper suddenly appeared on his mouth and zipped closed. He slumped his head down in a little pout before making his way back up the stairs, mumbling something to himself.
Applejack raised an eyebrow skeptically at the little air, but otherwise dismissed it as she glanced over at the cupcakes on the table. "Pinkie Pie ain't here, is she?" the earth pony asked with a glance around.
"No, she had to run back to Sugarcube corner, AJ," Twilight said as she made her way over. "Something about needing to help out Mr. and Mrs. Cake. But, you were saying? About... Apple Bloom?" the purple unicorn took a nervous gulp as she prepared to be chewed out by her friend.
"Oh, right, 'bout Apple Bloom. I just cannot understand that girl fer the life of me! She comes home sayin' her friends and her found out the best way to get their cutie marks; next thing ah know, she and 'er friends have got poor Big Mac trussed in some sorta crazy makeshift contraption the likes o' which I've never imagined," Applejack rubbed her chin with a hoof. "Well, except for that one store back in Manehatten ah stopped in with Rainbow Dash, back last year," the earth pony's voice grew pensive. "I swear, that pegasus was like a filly in a candy store," Applejack muttered beneath her breath. "But, I think ah've put a stop to it. As ah see it, no harm, no foul."
Twilight stared for a moment. "Wait. So, you're not mad?" the pony asked with a blank-faced stare.
"Mad? Shucks, sugarcube, it ain't your fault Pinkie's more random than polka dotted leaves on an apple tree," Applejack smiled to her bookish friends. "Jus' gotta keep an eye on the little'uns, so they don't get into too much trouble. But, that ain't the reason I came by," Applejack continued with a little frown. "Y'see... well, ah've got a lil' problem."
Twilight breathed a deep internal sigh of relief. She can only hope her conversation with Rarity goes this well... "Yes, Applejack? How can I be of service?"
"Well... y'see... it kinda has to do with the whole 'Element of Honesty' thing," Applejack said as she sat down scratching the back of her head with a hoof.
"Really?" Twilight asked, her eyes getting a little bigger. "Well, that's just perfect! I'd been wanting to talk to you about just that..." Twilight caught herself with a nervous little giggle. "But please, Applejack, go on."
Applejack gave a halfhearted chuckle before continuing on. "Well, Twilight. Y'see, ah've never been all that good with mah feelings. It's just, well... there's this pony ah think ah've got feelin's for, but ah don' know how to express it. It's just... well, it's tough, Twilight. And when I see... this pony... I can't keep it in, 'cause of the whole honesty thing. As such, ah've been ignoring 'em like crazy, and ah worry that it's makin' them upset."
Twilight listened silently, sitting down as well right next to her normally stoic friend. "Well, Applejack..." Twilight thought for a long moment. "Let me start by asking you this: what is honesty?"
Applejack turned to her with slightly squinted eyes. "What is this, some kinda quiz show?"
"Just bear with me, Applejack. I promise it'll help," Twilight said with a tender smile, patting the earth pony gently on the back with a hoof.
"Alright, then. I guess... I guess honesty is about always bein' genuine. Truly bein' yourself, and puttin' it all out there. It's about not bein' selfish with what you say, and keepin' other ponies' feelings in mind. It's about not lyin' or deceivin', not trickin' or pullin' cons. It's about bein' yourself, always."
Twilight nodded her head along with the earth pony's words, letting her finish before finally speaking. "So, Applejack, what's the problem?"
"Well," Applejack began before stopping herself and blinking her eyes. "Well, I guess there ain't one after all."
"Exactly," Twilight said with a nuzzle to her close friend. "I think you know what you have to do, then."
"Why yes, yes ah do," Applejack said with a renewed vigor. "A pony's gotta do what she's gotta do." And with that, the applicious pony stood up and gave a determined stomp of her hoof on the ground. About to run off, she took the moment to turn back to Twilight and gave her a grateful smile. "Thank you, Twilight. Really."
"Well, you'll have to let me know how it goes!" Twilight winked back to her friend before making 'shoo'ing gestures with her hooves. As Applejack went running out the door (just barely slowing to actually open up the door, rather then barrel right through it), Twilight called up to Spike. "Spike! I need you to take down some notes for me."
"Mrrrfle-mflewrfle," was the response, the little purple dragon coming to the edge of the stairs and crossing his arms.
"Oh, Spike..." the unicorn said with a chuckle and flash of her horn's magic. The dragon's mouth-zipper disappeared, and he quickly made his way down, quill and scroll in hand. "Are you ready, my Number One Assistant?"
"Yes, sir! Er, ma'am. You know what I mean."
"Alright. Here goes:
Honesty is, by its very nature, an extreme. Honesty is the absolute and unwavering dedication to making one's words and actions truly reflect what actually is. It is not holding back information for a selfish reason, nor using information to harm others. It is, to use more technical language, a dedication to eliminating any information asymmetries that exist, thereby allowing the world to a more equal and fair society by enabling markets and communities to reach Walrasian equilibrium and, thereby, allocative and productive efficiency.
Twilight paused as she noticed Spike struggling to keep up. "You okay there, Spike?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm getting there. Do you really have to use such big words all the time?" the baby dragon grumbled as he flipped through a massive dictionary set nearby.
Twilight giggled and let the dragon get caught up before continuing.
Ultimately, honesty is purity of information. To use a musical analogy, it is the clear, sharp overtones such as a chime or triangle, striking through to provide acknowledgement of a melody.
"There we go, Spike. All done, for now. I just really wanted to get those notes down before they slipped my mind," Twilight said with a soft sigh. "Well, at least we've got one down," the unicorn said with a smile. "But first, I think these cupcakes are really just asking to be eaten..."
End of Chapter 1