Twilight Sparkle vs Social Inequality

by GaPJaxie

Chapter 1: Princess of Friendship

Once upon a time in the magical land of Equestria, there was a pony named Twilight Sparkle. She was the Princess of Friendship, and after she discovered that being a Princess let her create new royal offices and titles, she was also the Earl of Books, the Duchess of Tree Libraries, Bishop of the Dewey Decimal System and Grand High Marque of Throwing Away All of Little Dragons’ Comic Books if They Don’t Go to Bed Right Now.

Twilight Sparkle lived in a giant crystal tree castle in a town called Ponyville. She lived there with her assistant Spike, who was a baby dragon. Her friends didn’t live in the castle, but they visited her often, and helped her with her important princess duties. Sometimes those duties were big things, like saving all of Equestria from an army of giant spiders. But sometimes those duties were little things, like painting over all the sparkly bits of the castle that kept reflecting down into Ponyville and blinding ponies.

Sometimes, those duties involved ponies in Ponyville.

“I’m sorry, Sugar Bomb,” Twilight said from her perch on her crystal throne. Spike sat by her right hoof, while her other friends occupied their own chairs circling the room. In the center of the room sat Sugar Bomb, the little orange and red pegasus confectioner Twilight sometimes saw flittering around Ponyville. “But that’s the second time your experiments with high-energy candy have caused a serious accident. Ponies are still picking pieces of your lab off their roofs. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if you’d tested... uh...”

“Nuclear pop-rocks,” Sugar Bomb replied.

“Nuclear pop-rocks, by eating them instead of just by dropping one in a glass of water.” Twilight shook her head. “I’ve talked it over with everypony, and I’m afraid I have to revoke your confectioners’ license.”

A silence filled the room as Sugar Bomb stared at Twilight in disbelief. “What?” she finally asked. Her jaw worked silently as she searched for the next word. “What?” she repeated, rising to her hooves. A sudden anger overtook her, and her coat bristled as she stepped forward, “But that’s my livelihood!”

“I understand that,” Twilight said, “but given the damage to Ponyville—”

“How am I going to keep a roof over my head!?” Sugar Bomb shouted, her wings flaring out.

“Now now, dear,” Rarity interjected, lifting a delicate hoof, “there’s no need for shouting. I understand this must be very upsetting, but you can always go back to your old job at the Unhealthy Cereal factory.”

“Or you could come work down at the farm,” Applejack offered. “We could use a pegasus part-timer these days. Make sure all the plants get evenly watered and such.”

“Oh! Or you could come be my assistant at Sugarcube Corner!” Pinkie waved.

“I studied for eight years to get to open my own candy store! I have degrees in Confectionery Design, Particle Physics, and Demolitions! And you want me to...” The words caught in her throat, and she turned an angry glare on Pinkie Pie and Applejack. “You want me to be an assistant’s assistant or a part time weathermare?”

“Hey!” Rainbow Dash snapped, lifting out of her own chair with a flap of her wings and hovering above the floor. “What’s wrong with that? I started out as a part time weathermare.”

“Yeah, when you were like six.” Sugar Bomb shook her head. “Why are you even handling this anyway?” she demanded, turning back to Twilight. “Isn’t this the mayor’s business?”

“I’m handling it because the mayor asked me too,” Twilight responded evenly. After a moment, she sighed and shook her head. “Sugar Bomb, I understand why this is so upsetting, and I’m sorry. But you blew up a building and—”

“You blow up buildings all the time. Like, all the time.” Sugar Bomb snorted, and took a single sharp step forward. “Like the parasprites. Remember them? I didn’t see Fluttershy lose her animal friends over that! Or the Want-it-Need-It incident. Or that time you told all of Ponyville the world was coming to an end next Tuesday morning. Or the time you switched all your friends cutie marks and half the town fell into ruin!”

“That was different,” Twilight said. “That was part of my studies of friendship—”

“You mean that was part of you and your other Princess friends doing whatever you want and then changing the rules to say it’s okay!” Sugar Bomb yelled, stomping her hoof on the ground. “I bet I’d be an alicorn too if I was buddy-buddy with Princess Celestia. The only reason you get this shiny castle is because of nepotism!

Gasps circled around the room. Twilight sat back in her chair, while the other ponies’ expressions ranged from anger to disbelief. “Hey! You can’t say that about Twilight!” Spike shouted, jumping from his little chair.

“Yeah, where do you get off!?” Rainbow Dash demanded, zipping across the room and glaring at Sugar Bomb head on. Fluttershy only squeaked and sunk deeper into her chair.

“I call it like I see it,” Sugar Bomb growled back.

“Sugar Bomb, that is a baseless accusation,” Rarity insisted. Her words were sharp, but she didn’t shout like the others, and it was with a delicate step that she descended from her chair. “Are you okay, Twilight?”

“Oh... fine,” Twilight said, shaking her head and recovering her normal sitting position. “That’s not true though, Sugar Bomb.”

“Indeed it is not,” Rarity nodded firmly, turning back to Sugar Bomb. “I have met Twilight’s parents and they are wonderful ponies. I assure you that she and Princess Celestia are not related in any way.”

“...wait, what?” Twilight asked.

“Fine!” Sugar Bomb snapped. “Have your way! Enjoy your stupid non-combustible candy. I hope you choke!” With a sharp flick of her tail, she turned and stormed out of the castle, kicking the heavy door shut behind her.

“Man, talk about being a grumpypants!” Pinkie Pie said, descending to the floor as the sound of Sugar Bomb’s hoofsteps faded.

“Yeah, what a jerk!” Rainbow Dash agreed.

“Well, um... she had been through a big shock,” Fluttershy whispered. “But she could have handled it better.”

“Yeah,” Twilight agreed. “Thanks for helping me today, girls. I don’t know how I’d have dealt with that on my own.”

“Oh, it’s quite alright, Twilight. We understand.” Rarity turned to smile at Twilight, giving a reassuring little nod.

“I’m glad,” Twilight said. She paused afterwards through, and her mouth drew into a line. Her body language was uncertain as well, frozen in a half step, her feathers rustling slightly. “But um... Rarity? What was that bit about Princess Celestia and I being related?”

“Oh,” Rarity waved the comment away. “She accused you of getting your position through nepotism. You know, unfairly favoring one’s relatives? But you aren’t a relative of Princess Celestia.”

“...right,” Twilight said slowly. “But I think she meant it in the more general sense. Like, unfairly favoring ponies you like? Or favoring me because I’m her student?”

“That’s different,” Rarity explained. “Nepotism refers specifically to family members. Unfairly advantaging ponies you like would be favoritism. Unfairly advantaging your student or other former subordinates would be cronyism.”

Rainbow Dash snorted and rolled her eyes. “What are you, a dictionary?”

“But that’s just splitting hairs,” Twilight said slowly. “You don’t actually think the only reason I’m a Princess is because...” Silence took hold of the room, as Twilight’s gaze slowly swept across her friends. Some of them grimaced. Others took a sudden interest in the ceiling or floor.

“Oh my gosh,” Twilight’s hoof flew to her muzzle. “You do!”

“Not like, in the bad way,” Rainbow Dash insisted, spreading her forehooves out as she hovered. “Just like, you know. My dad was an awesome flyer and he taught me all the time. I probably wouldn’t be half as good a flyer without him.”

“Oh.” Twilight’s shoulders relaxed. “You just mean I had really good training.”

“Exactly!” Pinkie Pie nodded. “You’re just like Rainbow Dash! Only, if her dad was the greatest flyer to ever live. And Captain of the Wonderbolts. And instead of starting at the bottom at Wonderbolt Academy, she got an officer’s commission right out of school.”

Twilight's shoulders unrelaxed.

“What Pinkie’s trying to say,” Applejack said, quickly stepping up to Twilight’s side, “is that you had a few advantages most ponies don’t. That’s all. Ain’t any different from... you know. Most ponies having their advantages. Whatever they got.”

“But...” Twilight hesitated a moment, then quickly raised her head. “But it all worked out in the end, right? I mean, Princess Celestia helped me learn about the magic of friendship, but I was still the one who untangled Starswirl’s spell and earned my wings. With all your help!”

“Right!” Rainbow Dash agreed, nodding firmly. The other ponies all chimed in as well, with a chorus of yes’s and affirmative noises and a good deal of nodding all around.

“Yeah!” Spike agreed as well, but after a moment, he raised a claw to his chin. “But uh... wait. Didn’t Princess Celestia send you Starswirl’s spell in the first place?”

“Because you were ready!” Applejack cut in before Twilight could reply. “She gave you Starswirl’s spell because you were ready. I’m sure she’d have given it to any other pony who understood friendship well enough to be... you know. Ready for that.” After a moment, she cleared her throat. “Ah-hem.”

Taking a sudden interest in the ceiling fixtures, Applejack adjusted her hat.

“I don’t...” Twilight stammered for the words, looking around wide-eyed at all her friends. “I don’t believe you! How long have you all felt this way!?”

“Well, um...” Fluttershy coughed. “I mean, we did first meet you when you were flown into town by your own personal royal guards. And then you got to live in our library.”

“And you never told me?” Twilight asked quietly. Her ears folded back, and she lowered her gaze.

“Twilight, dear.” Rarity stepped up to Twilight. She caught Twilight’s eyes with her own, and with a gentle smile and a nudge of her head, pulled Twilight’s head back up. “We never told you because it doesn’t matter in the slightest. We’re your friends! Honestly, what would we even have said? That we think Princess Celestia taught you better than most ponies could have? I think you already know that.” Rarity’s smile turned to a small laugh, and Twilight started to smile as well.

“So you’re... okay with...?” Twilight asked, carefully peering at Rarity.

“With the fact that you have some advantages?” Rarity gave only the most ladylike roll of her head, along with a gentle sigh. “Twilight, you can be so silly sometimes. Of course we’re okay with it! You’re still the pony we know and love.” Twilight nodded, and smiled a bit more, and started to relax.

“Plus, our cut of the action is pretty sweet,” Pinkie Pie added.

“Darnit, Pinkie!” Applejack stomped her hoof. “She was totally buying it!”

“Eh-heh.” Rarity’s smile grew more rigid. “Now, Twilight, dear—”

“Wait, what?” Twilight sharply frowned, shoving Rarity away. Her expression grew angry, her wings parting from her sides as her eyes narrowed. Ignoring the others, she turned and focused on Pinkie Pie. “What do you mean your cut of the action?”

“You know!” Pinkie Pie said, cheerfully. “The Elements of Harmony, rainbow powers, getting to hang out in a tree-palace, trips to the Crystal Empire, tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala, those medals we got for defeating Discord, box seats at the Equestria Games. Oh, and taking the confectionary license away from a pony who thinks she can steal my ideas. I mean, sugar bombs? Party cannon cheap knockoff more like!”

“Oh my gosh.” Twilight stepped away from her friends, looking wildly around the room. “And I helped you get the Flim Flam brothers cider machine sent out of town.” She pointed a wild, accusative hoof at Applejack. “I got you a legal monopoly on cider!”

“Twilight—” Rarity started, trying to step forward, but Twilight scrambled away.

“And I got you a room at the palace!” Twilight snapped. “And Rainbow Dash time with the Wonderbolts! And Fluttershy’s obviously not entirely platonic friendship with Discord!”

“Um... hold on,” Fluttershy said, but her quiet words went unnoticed.

“Oh my gosh!” Twilight turned, starting to pace circles around the room. “I’m part of a corrupt system!”

“Oh, come on now, Sugarcube,” Applejack said, leaning Twilight’s way. “Don’t get all worked up. It’s not so bad.”

“It’s not so bad?” Twilight snapped. “It goes against everything Equestria stands for! Any pony can come to understand the magic of friendship. And with friendship, there’s nothing we can’t do. Remember the song? All those songs we sang?”

“Oh please, Twilight. You cannot be that naive.” Rarity rolled her eyes. “I’m sorry, but be realistic. Do you know a single important pony who doesn’t just so happen to be good friends with somepony who wears a crown?”

“Of course I do!” Twilight snorted. “There’s my brother! He was Captain of the Royal Guard long before he married Cadence.”

“But long after they started dating,” Rarity replied. “And even if that wasn’t true, he’s the brother of Celestia’s personal student. That counts.”

“Fine...” Twilight took a breath. “What about Hoity Toity? He’s a big deal, isn’t he?”

“He’s also Celestia’s personal fashion consultant,” Rarity answered. “You didn’t think that elegant white-and-gold motif just happened on its own, did you?”

“What about the Wonderbolts?” Twilight demanded.

“Well...” Rainbow Dash cleared her throat. “You ever noticed how Spitfire and Sunset Shimmer look a lot alike?”

“Yeah, but... wait, when did you meet Sunset Shimmer?” Twilight turned up to face her friend.

“Oh...” With gentle flaps of her wings, Rainbow Dash slowly backed away from Twilight’s gaze. “Well, you know, you left the portal in the library and... well. Let’s just add ‘making out with yourself in an alternate universe’ to the list of perks.”

“Ewww!” Twilight scrunched up her muzzle. “I can’t believe you! And... and I don’t believe you! Equestria is full of ponies who earned their place.”

“No, Twilight, it isn't.” Rarity shook her head. “Look, we all know the magic of friendship helps ponies. It’s helped us, it helps others. It’s a good thing in a day-to-day sort of sense. But in the bigger picture? Ponies like Sugar Bomb start in the background and... well. They pretty much stay there. Sure, you’ll have occasional breakouts like Derpy or Lyra or Trixie, but they’re more lucky than anything. The only reliable way to get ahead in Equestria is to make friends with somepony who wears a crown and sings an average of 0.7 musical numbers per day.”

“Well that’s wrong!” Twilight stomped a hoof. “And I won’t be a part of this system anymore!”

“Now, Twilight,” Applejack reached out to put a hoof on her shoulder. “Don’t do anything you’re going to regret...”

“The only thing I regret is not realizing how messed up this all was sooner!” Twilight snorted. “Spike! Take care of the castle for me. I’m going to go tell Princess Celestia just what I think of her system!”

“Fine! Cut off my stipend! It’s wrong of me to take that money anyway. You get it from oppressed ponies and I want no part of it. I’ll make my own way in the world!”

“What do you mean I need a license to be a librarian?”

“Okay, granted, I don’t have a degree in library science per-se, but I did graduate Celestia’s Academy for Gifted Unicorns. Or, well, mostly graduated. She sent me off to Ponyville see...”

“I know it’s an hourly rate, but I’m actually a really gifted spellcaster. So, if I can use my magic to bus all of the tables at once, could I get a bonus or... ?”

“Well the stupid form should have a box for ‘Alicorn.’ Look, I’ve got wings, and I’ve got a horn, and I’ve got hooves too, so just say I’m whatever race gets me my stamps!”

“What? No! There can’t be a fee for singing in public! I’m singing about friendship and hope! I’m teaching the staff that they aren’t just peons in a soulless bureaucracy. Get your hooves off me!”

“T. Sparkle!” called the guard’s rough voice. She heard the lock on her cell door clatter, and looked up just in time to see it slide open. The guardspony waited on the other side, peering at her through his aviator sunglasses. “Your friends just posted bail.”

Twilight emerged from her cell and walked down the hall, but her manner was closer to a condemned prisoner than one being set free. Her head hung low, her wings drooped, and her hooves moved in a slow shuffle. The guard lead her out to the front of the station, where her five friends waited, and Spike as well, each of them wearing a concerned expression.

“How you doing, Sweetheart?” Applejack asked, but Twilight didn’t answer. She just shuffled out of the station, and gradually, the others followed her, forming a little herd moving down the street.

“Um...” Fluttershy broke the silence. “I think Princess Celestia will still take you back. If you say you were sorry for all that stuff you said. That you don’t know what came over you.”

“How do I deal with it, Fluttershy?” Twilight asked. “How do I deal with being useless? All I can do is sing about friendship and read and study and be a princess. I don’t know how to survive on my own!”

“You should get a hobby!” Pinkie Pie suggested. “Like candymaking! Or running an unprofitable farm! Or making bedroom eyes at Discord and pretending nopony notices!”

“I told you I was just sleepy...” Fluttershy murmured.

“I can’t just distract myself from... from the fact that I don’t do anything!” Twilight exclaimed.

“Sure you can!” Rarity said, cheerfully. “Come now, Twilight. All this anger isn’t helping anypony, and it’s obviously making you terribly unhappy. What if we all wrote a letter to Princess Celestia, mmm? Just like old times? You could tell her about everything you learned. And then, we could sing a song about it, and the whole town will join in.”

“I can’t sing, remember?” Twilight jerked her head back at the prison. “It’s disturbing the peace.”

“Uh, duh!” Pinkie Pie bounced forward. “You mean that little old Twilight-the-unicorn-only-wings-too can’t sing! Princess Twilight Sparkle can do whatever she wants!”

“Look, Sugarcube, it’s a simple choice.” Applejack nodded to Twilight. “Y’all can spend your entire life crusading for social justice, struggling to keep afloat, probably getting nowhere, and even if you do manage your reward at the end is not being special anymore. Or. Or. And I’m just throwing this out there. We use the Elements of Harmony to banish the cops who arrested you to the moon, sing a song about how awesome you are, and then write a letter to Princess Celestia about what you learned.”

Twilight thought about that for a moment. “But... what about existential fulfillment?” she asked.

“We’ll also go out for hayburgers after.” Rainbow Dash added. “Those are pretty filling.”

“I said existential fulfillment,” Twilight snorted. “It means, what gives me joy and satisfaction in life.”

Rainbow Dash shook her head. “I’ve seen the way you eat hayburgers, Twilight.”

“So that’s it then?” Twilight asked, folding back her ears. “I just do the best I can to drown my guilt with entertainment and material pleasures? Keep going and ignore the fact that I’m surrounded by ponies who just pretend to be my friends for status and perks?”

“Now stop right there!” Applejack demanded, stepping around in front of Twilight and blocking her path. “We are not pretending to be your friends. Just because we’re aware that status exists doesn’t mean we like you any less. And we’re not trying to smother you. We just want to help you.”

“Thanks, girls. But...” Twilight looked away. “I can’t enjoy life knowing I’ve hurt ponies as part of some pointless system. Remember how this all started. I took away a mare’s livelihood! How can I feel good about myself knowing that?”

“Well, if that’s the problem,” Rarity said, sliding up to Twilight’s side, “I may have just the solution you require.”

Dear Sugar Bomb,

I am writing to inform you that your grant application has been accepted. As the newly appointed director of the Equestrian Science Foundation, I was very impressed with your recent paper on pop-rocket orbital mechanics, and feel you are an excellent candidate for grant work. Starting immediately, you will receive a generous living and research stipend, valid for one year three years however long it takes to reapply for a confectioner’s license.

Spike the Dragon
Director of the Equestrian Science Foundation
BS (Honorary), MD (Honorary), PHD (Honorary), Duke of Neighgasaki

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