by GaPJaxie

Chapter 1: The Best Chapter (Also The Worst)

“Ponyville,” Twilight said, “has the lowest rate of monster attacks per ancient occult site of any town in Equestria. So basically it's perfectly safe, and certain pink and purple malcontents should stop complaining.”

“Fine,” snapped Starlight.

“Good,” Twilight snapped right back.

Then an ogre smashed in one of the castle walls, so they both had to go deal with that.

“You know,” Twilight said, “I have the highest local approval rating of any alicorn princess.”

“How are you defining ‘local’ in that metric?” Starlight asked.

“It’s defined the same way for every princess.” Twilight huffed. “A survey of all ponies who live in the area that princess rules.”

“You only rule this castle.”

“Yeah, and you said you liked me on the form!” Twilight stamped a hoof and flared out her wings. “So between you and Spike, that’s a 100% approval rating and I’m the best Princess in all Equestria.”

Then an angry mob of earth ponies broke down the first floor door, screaming about land reform and that Twilight bought all the good ice cream at Ponyville’s only cold grocer. So they both had to go deal with that.

“You know,” Twilight said, “according to a survey of impacted stallions, I’m the sexiest mare alive.”

“Aaaaah.” Starlight let her face sink into her hooves. “Why? Why, Twilight?”

“I’m not sure. It’s probably my mane. Or my physique.” She trotted up next to Starlight’s desk, striking a pose with one hoof up. “You’re gay, right? I should be more sensitive. This is probably pretty difficult for you. You know, if you ever need to express attraction to me, it’s okay.”

Starlight reached into her desk, pulled out a bottle of cheap vodka, and poured it into her tea.

This is a story about the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

It should be emphasized at this point that every statistical claim in this story is strictly accurate. Ponyville really did have the lowest rate of monster attack per ancient occult site of any city in Equestria (most cities have no occult sites). It was also true that Twilight was the most popular princess among creatures she ruled (all two of them), and that according to all stallions impacted by her appearance (Thunderlane) she had it going on.

Thunderlane had a princess fetish, but wasn’t into tall mares.

This is also, at the more superficial level, a story about Twilight and a certain magical amulet. Despite being a powerful wizard, Twilight had never been much of an enchanter. She crafted no wards, forged no rings, and carried no staff. And so when she sought to further diversify her understanding of the magical arts, the creation of magical items struck her as a natural area of interest, and an amulet she made.

The Amulet of Twilight. Because if Starswirl, Mage Meadowbrook, and the others could name their items after themselves, Twilight could too. It was a little thing, black with a purple finish and a clouded blue stone in the center. It’s power was simple.

“Ultimate knowledge,” she said, as she put the amulet around her neck. “The caster need merely think a question, and they shall in an instant know the answer to the slightest detail.”

“Wow,” Starlight said, noticing a slight glow that settled from the amulet into Twilight’s eyes. “That’s quite the enchantment. How do you know it works?”

The amulet flashed, and Twilight’s eyes flashed in turn. “Well,” she said, “not to toot my own horn, but it is the single most powerful magical item made in all of Equestria in more than fifty years.”

“Um. Sure.” Starlight tilted her head. “But power probably isn’t the best measure of effectiveness for an unproven magical item. I mean, there are cursed items that are very powerful. And magical items are made incredibly rarely. How many were made in the last fifty years for comparison?”

“Jeeze, Starlight,” Twilight said, “why are you so determined to be negative about this?”

“I’m not negative, I’m just—”

“You’re negative all the time.” Twilight’s eyes flashed. “In fact, did you know that one-hundred percent of your magic-item related dialogue was evaluated as ‘unfriendly’ by an impartial committee of ponies?”

“My only ‘magical item related’ dialogue is this and talking about the Staff of Sameness, which…” She froze. “Wait, what impartial committee are you talking about?”

“See,” Twilight sighed. “Now you’re nitpicking.”

“Right, Twilight, I’m just going to take that amulet off you for a second, and we’ll see—”

“Did you know,” Twilight’s eyes flashed, and her tone took a turn for the upbeat, “that one-hundred percent of your recent amulet-removal related interactions involved you being kicked through a solid wall?”

At least, Starlight reflected, Twilight picked an internal wall. Those hurt considerably less.

After she got out of the hospital, Starlight mostly confined herself to her study, reading through books on enchanting in the search for a spell that would allow her to remove the amulet from Twilight’s neck—without being kicked through a nearby solid object. She had hoped to enlist the help of the rest of Twilight’s friends, but found her efforts in that regard stymied.

“Starlight,” Rarity called. “Wonderful to see you darling. Did you know I run the most successful tailoring establishment in the entire Ponyville area? Oh, I’m just beside myself with glee. And my business grew faster than any other this year, as measured by geographic coverage.”

“Does ‘geographic coverage’ count everything between Ponyville and Manehatten as part of your ‘covered area’?” Starlight asked. So Rarity called her a negative nelly.

“Staaaarrrlight.” Pinkie Pie bounced up to her desk. “Did you know I know I’m the best candy taster in all of Equestria?”

“Is that measured by the amount of candy you’ve tasted?” Starlight asked. “Because if so, that’s not measuring how capable a candy taster you are, I think you just have Type II diabeties from bad diet.” And so Pinkie Pie called her an armchair doctor.

“Gosh, Starlight,” Fluttershy said, “I had no idea I ran the most diverse animal shelter in all of Equestria.”

“You’re next to the Everfree forest.”

“Howdy,” Applejack called. “Great news about the farm. Twilight says our revenue this month is our highest on record, and if things keep going this way, we’ll be millionaires by the end of winter.”

“It’s harvest season. Your revenue will be zero in winter.”

“This is great!” Spike buffed his claws on his scales. “Twilight says that if I keep growing at my current rate, in a hundred years, I’ll be the biggest and strongest dragon who ever lived.”

“You’re going through puberty.”

“Hey Starlight,” Rainbow called, “did you know I have the best speed/weight ratio of any flyer?”

“Yeah, Rainbow,” Starlight said. “That’s because the fastest flyer in all Equestria actually has some curves, and you’re an anorexic whose ass looks like two boxcutters.”

Rainbow was less gentle than Twilight. She kicked Starlight through an external wall.

And then she found her spell.

It took her some time to work up the nerve to use it. She took a drink, rubbed her temples, and spent a long time staring into the mirror. Finally, she let out a breath, and marched upstairs to Twilight’s library.

“Hey, Starlight,” Twilight called, her eyes already illuminated. “Did you know that since I became princess, Ponyville’s unemployment rate has dropped by over 30%?”

“Is ‘over 30%’ exactly a third? And is it a third because Ponyville used to have three unemployed ponies, and then Dead Beat got a job in that all-necromancer unicorn acapella band?”

Twilight didn’t look up from her book, but softly tsked. “Why can’t you just be happy for the good news? You’re always so difficult?”

“Yeah.” Starlight let out a soft sigh. “So, I did the research, and it turns out there’s exactly two ways to free you from a cursed amulet of knowledge. The first way is for you to develop the self-awareness, wisdom, and restraint to understand the difference between facts and genuine understanding, so you can shake off the curse’s effects.”

“I’m already very wise, but thank you.”

“The second way is…” Starlight took a deep breath, and laughed. “The second way.” She laughed again, staring down between her hooves. “I’m sorry, Twilight. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me, but I couldn’t find a better way.”

“If you try to take it off me, I’m going to have to kick your flank again.”

“No. No. I’m not going to fight you.” Starlight lifted her head. “Hey, Twilight. Since you’re all-knowing, could you tell me exactly how many ponies in Equestria think you’re a little pudgy? Not a percentage, the absolute number.”

“Two-point-seven million.” Twilight froze. The light behind her eyes flickered. “Wait. That can’t be right. That’s more than the entire population of Manehatten.”

Starlight swallowed. “And maybe you could tell me, how many times per day does one of your best friends think about you during sex?”

“0.013,” Twilight said. Her mouth fell open, and the light flickered again. “Oh. Oh, no. Wait, that’s once in a hundred days? But which one is it? It’s Rainbow, right? It can’t be. But it has to be. Unless it’s Fluttershy. Would she—”

“Is it true that since you became headmaster, the friendship school has had the worst rate of monster attacks of any school in Equestria, and that a majority of parents would consider that ‘very concerning’?"

The light behind Twilight’s eyes eyes flashed, then just as quickly went out. The clasp of the amulet around her neck loosened, and she whirled to face Starlight. “Stop it!” she shouted. “Numbers aren’t everything. I’m a great headmaster. And I’m not fat!”

“I’m sorry, Twilight.” Starlight swallowed one more time, her voice cracking as she spoke. “I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t you—”

“Exactly how many times has Celestia written a friendship letter to you while pooping?”

The light behind Twilight’s eyes flashed one last time. Then she clutched her face with her hooves and screamed.

The amulet fell from her neck.

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