• Published 15th Mar 2013
  • 35,768 Views, 545 Comments

The Numbers Don't Lie - shortskirtsandexplosions

An ancient magical artifact causes floating lie meters to appear above everypony's heads. This causes Twilight to reflect on honesty and friendship. Based on an idea by theworstwriter.

  • ...

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"I once flew twelve loops around a raging hydra!" Rainbow Dash leaned forward across the table, grinning wide. "Three orbits for each fanged head!"

When no chime sounded, Pinkie Pie frowned. "Hmmph!" She took a sip from a mug of cider, slapped it down, and pointed. "Oh yeah?! Well I ate six marble cakes one weekend and didn't go to the fillies' room for four whole days!"

Again, there was silence.

"Argh!" Frustrated, Rainbow Dash took a sip of cider, belched, and pointed. "Yeah, well, I once did the Buccaneer Blitz in a rainstorm with two seriously angry phoenixes chasing my tail!"

When there was no sound, Pinkie Pie gasped. "No way! That's gotta be a lie! How can phoenixes fly in the rain?! They're made out of fire n'stuff!"

"They evaporated the raindrops with their awesome flames." Rainbow Dash folded her forelimbs and grinned. Sure enough, there was no chime, and her grin widened even more. "That's two sips, girl!"

"Ugh! Fine!" Pinkie Pie chugged her mug twice. She hiccuped, spitting out a sudsy cider bubble that floated towards the ceiling as she teetered in her chair. "Yeah... well... I... erm... I-I once bathed a cockroach in cake matter! And I ate him whole!" Just then, a chime lit the room, and the number over her fluffy mane increased by one. "Shoot!" she slapped the edge of the table. "Okay, so it was a cute little pill bug, but I was just a toddler, darn it!"

"Yes!" Rainbow Dash pumped both of her forelimbs. "I win again! Hah!" She pointed with a devilish smirk. "Drink the rest of your mug, girl! You're gonna be soooo wasted!"

"Ugh! HIC!" Pinkie frowned. It was the morning after the spell struck the town, and she and Rainbow Dash were squaring off from one another at a table in the center of Sugarcube Corner. Business was thin compared to normal, so the two had dragged a barrel of apple cider over, a barrel from which Pinkie Pie was regrettably pouring herself another mug. "I'm not letting you—HIC!—win that easily!" Another chime. "Oh fiddlepoops!"

"Hahahaha!" Rainbow Dash leaned back in her chair. "Wow, this is too good." A different kind of bell rang, and Rainbow Dash glanced upside down to see a lavender shape trot in through the door. "Heya, Twilight! Nice to see somepony who's willing to show her face out in public!"

"Mmmm..." Twilight's bleary eyes barely twitched as she strolled limply through the bakery.

"Wowsers, Twilight!" Pinkie Pie slurred. "You—HIC—look like you haven't gotten—HIC—a single wink of sleep!"

"That's because I haven't," Twilight muttered. "And that's no lie. I really, really need some coffee."

"Heh..." Rainbow Dash gazed with legitimate shock at the "0" above Twilight's head. "We believe you, girl! Seriously, though, how'd you accomplish that? Did you lock yourself up in the refrigerator over the past twelve hours?"

"How'd I accomplish what—?" Twilight glanced over at the table. She froze and gave a wide-eyed double-take. "Oh my goodness! Girls! What... What...?"

"What's the matter?" Rainbow Dash shrugged. She and Pinkie Pie were sporting a "57" and an "62" respectively. "You look like you've seen a ghost!"

"I almost wish I had!" Twilight bore a blanching expression. "How could... c-could your numbers be so ridiculously high?"

"Hah! You call these big?" Rainbow Dash smirked. "I did a fly-by over town and I swear I saw numbers three times as large! But not for long!" She cracked her neck joints and flapped her wings in an athletic manner. "Once I drink Pinkie Pie here under the table, I'm gonna outshoot everypony else in Ponyville!"

"But.. b-but... why?!" Twilight frowned. "This is a serious, malevolent spell of arcane origin! How could you possibly make a game out of it?"

"Pfft!" Rainbow rolled her ruby eyes. "Well, you told all of Ponyville that Celestia's going to fix it eventually, right?"

"Yes, but... but..." Twilight sighed. "How can anypony be so casual about lying?"

"Oh come—HIC—on, Twilight!" Pinkie Pie raised her mug and teetered drunkenly. "It's not like you've never told a white fibblio with that lavender tonguelio of yours...-lio!"

"Pinkie Pie, I for one am not a fan of deceiving other ponies," Twilight said with a hardened expression. "I certainly haven't been perfect in my young life, but I value honesty among friendship more than anything!"

"Heehee... Oh Twilight, you really do need to lighten up!" Pinkie Pie grinned with rolling eyes. "All three of you!" She took a mighty, mighty sip of her mug.

"Uhhh... Pinkie?" Rainbow Dash winced and pointed. "We haven't even started the game again yet—"

"Hmmm-Weeeeeeee!" Pinkie Pie fell back in the chair. Her legs shot up like a dead insect as the inebriated mare snored into her empty mug, out like a light.

"Meh. Whatever." Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes and smirked. "I was gonna win anyways." She held a hoof up, then grinned as there was no resulting chime. "See? Hah! Totally true!"

"I don't think it works like that," Twilight muttered.

"Yeesh! You really are glum today, Twi!"

"I just can't get over how this spell has changed so many ponies," Twilight remarked with a sad breath. "I just trotted all the way from the library, and it was a veritable ghost town! Why is everypony so... different now that they have to force themselves to be honest?"

"Hey, beats me!" Rainbow Dash shrugged, then hovered over by Twilight's side. "I've been known to tell one or two tall tails in my life." With a ringing sound, her "57" turned into a "58." She winced openly.

Twilight glared at her. "'One or two?'"

"Okay, so a lot." Rainbow Dash groaned, then smirked. "But that doesn't really change things, does it? I mean..." She leaned in and nudged Twilight's shoulder. "You know that I'll always be there for you, right?"

After a few seconds, Twilight smiled. "You certainly are the most loyal friend I've ever had, Rainbow Dash..."

"Yup!" Rainbow's voice cracked as she shut her eyes with a proud smile. "That's me!"

"But..." Twilight's face turned sad. "When stuff like this happens, and I know for a fact that you're not always honest, well..." She stirred and murmured in a vulnerable voice, "I feel like I can't always trust you."

Rainbow opened her eyes, blinking. She glanced above Twilight's head, and upon seeing the "0" remain a "0," she winced. "Ouch..."

Twilight's ears drooped. "I-I'm sorry. Rainbow, I—"

"No. Heheh..." Rainbow grinned awkwardly from where she floated, rubbing the back of her head through her mane. "It's alright, Twilight. I guess... well..." She put on a brave face as she shrugged. "Sometimes, the truth hurts." A chime lit the air.

Twilight's brow furrowed curiously.

Deadpan, Rainbow uttered, "Okay. A lot of times the truth hurts."

Twilight Sparkle gazed down towards the floor. "Yeah..."

"Mmmmff!" Pinkie Pie shot up with a gasp, spitting the mug off her cider-doused face as she shrieked, wide-eyed. "I'm sorry, Mommy! I don't know where I hid the sugar-coated rocks!" With a chime, her number jumped. She knocked her own skull several times with a pink hoof. "Shoot! Shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot!"

"But Lyra, I'm telling you, I only hid the truth because I didn't want you to be mad at me!" Bon Bon's voice wavered across the marketplace, though it was drowned out by the chiming of her own rising counter.

"Bon Bon—please—just quit while you're ahead!" Lyra snapped, glaring at her from where the two mares chatted. "Don't you see, you're only burying yourself more!"

"I'm just trying to explain why I lied about buying sweets at Sugarcube Corner—" Again, Bon Bon was encumbered by magical ringing.

"No, you're only trying to placate me! And you need to stop! You just need to stop talking!"

Bon Bon frowned. "Now you're not being fair—"

"Look, this is not a good time! Not for us—not for anypony!" Lyra grumbled as she trotted towards the apartments beyond in the golden sunset of the dying day. "Bon Bon, I love you to death, but right now I can't deal with this! Just give it a rest!"

"But Lyra...!"

Twilight felt her heart pounding as she watched the bickering couple trot away. She glanced across the marketplace, seeing many of the shops abandoned and covered in canvas tarps. Most of the ponies were locked up in their homes. Most of them...

"Please! Please!" Rarity hissed, her mane in disarray as she practically tugged on the hooves of several richly-garbed mares trotting angrily from the location of the Carousel Boutique. She levitated several lengths of shimmering lace and ribbon beside herself. "I'll give you all discounts! I'll make the next commission half off! I'll even craft each and every one of you diamond-studded tiaras! Diamond studded!" she hoarsely roared.

"No deal, Miss Rarity!" one of the eloquent mares grunted, adjusting her headdress in the sunset's glow. "When we heard the news about this... magical affliction here in Ponyville, we came all the way from Trottingham in hopes that we might salvage our dresses before an economic crisis ran you out of house and home! Little did we expect to find that you've been nothing but a common charlatan all along!"

"I am most certainly not a common charlatan!" Rarity said, but instantly winced, as if expecting a house to fall on her. When several seconds of silence passed by, she gave a raspy laugh and pointed above her head with a wide-eyed expression. "Ah ha! Did you see?! Feast your eyes upon my unabashed honesty!" She squeed.

The one mare paused in her tracks, turned, and glared lethargically at the glaring "173" hovering over Rarity's horn. "Darling, you do so terribly hurt your own case. If I were you, I'd bury myself and make way for a pony who doesn't cut corners in the fabrication of Canterlotlian ballroom gowns!"

"But th-they were matching your specifications!" Rarity's voice squeaked as her moist eyes sparkled. "To the 'T!' The ever glittering, fabulous 'T!'"

"Indeed, until you committed the irredeemable crime of opening your mouth, child!" With an upturn of her nose, the mare trotted away. "Good day, madame!"

Rarity gawked at her. Her nostrils flared and soon she was fuming hotly enough to melt a hole in the earth's surface. "Irredeemable?! Irredeemable?! You asked for perfection in your dresses!" She slapped her ribbons onto the grass and stamped her hoof down. "I'm a busy mare! I never promised that such perfection would be perfect!" Just then, there was another chime, and her coat turned twice as pale. She glanced every which way to see a plethora of equine faces aimed towards her. "Don't... look... at meeeee!" she uttered in a vampiric hiss before galloping/sobbing her way back towards the Boutique beyond the nearby street corner.

As the commotion died down, Twilight took a deep breath. She looked at a polished, brass dish hanging from one of the few open vendors. The number "0" still hung brightly above her head. She sighed, and her ears twitched as she once again became privy to the conversation of two mares standing beside her.

"...so I sent all the foals home early yesterday afternoon," Cheerilee was explaining to Fluttershy. The two stood at a seamstress' vendor, waiting for the teacher's saddlebag to be patched up. "When they asked why, I told them that it was because the town had an emergency and that they would be safer at home with their families. And... well..." With a bashful smile, Cheerilee pointed at the "4" over her fuchsia mane.

"But... But that doesn't make much sense!" Fluttershy remarked. "Well, maybe a little bit of sense. Though it could j-just as well be... uhm... my mistake..."

"The way I see it," Cheerilee said, "Even though I said that it was an 'emergency,' I believed in my heart that it really wasn't. I mean, I had been told about the spell and how it relates to lying. I guess, to me at least, an entire town being exposed to quantifiable dishonesty didn't really count as an 'emergency.' If anything, it's an ironic form of justice. Don't you agree?"

"Oh, yes. I do agree..." Fluttershy said, but in that same breath she winced and uttered, "Well, maybe just a little bit. I'm not really an expert on... erm... moralistic philosophy and things of that nature..."

Twilight blinked. She glanced above Fluttershy's head, seeing a very whimsical "7.15" morph into a "7.25." She couldn't help but bear a tiny smile.

"What do you think, Twilight?"

"Hmmm?" Twilight snapped out of it and looked aside.

Cheerilee was staring at her. "Could the spell be related to absolute truth, or relative truth?"

Twilight ran a hoof through her violet bangs as they glittered in the bright red glow of the sunset. "The Trudian 'Wand of Walling,' from what I've studied, works from the standpoint of a pony's conviction. We are more than just living, breathing beings. We are ponies, and we are all innately imbued with spiritual energy that... makes us relate to one another in some fundamental way. In sorcery, this connection is studied through the ethereal geometry of 'leylines,' though, you being a school teacher, I suspect you’d already know this, so I apologize if I sound redundant."

Cheerilee giggled. "It's quite alright, Twilight. I love hearing you explain it. Sometimes I think the personal apprentice to Princess Celestia would make an adequate substitute at the schoolhouse if ever I am sick." With a chime, her "4" turned into a "5."

Fluttershy and Twilight both did double-takes.

Cheerilee chuckled breathily and gave a rosy smile. "Alright... a fantastic substitute!"

This time, there was no sound. Fluttershy and Twilight giggled—breathily at first, then with a grand release of nerves and pent-up breaths.

Fluttershy gulped and said, "Whatever the case, I just wish this would end soon. I... I-I feel so exposed with these scary numbers above my head." She bit her lip and hid behind a pink lock of hair. "I only left the cottage because Angel wanted something to eat and Carrot Top wasn't letting me borrow any of her carrots—or, well, yes she would, but she kept g-giving me this dirty glare and I was too afraid to approach her front door... though I did try once..." Her counter limped from "7.25" to "7.40" and finally settled on "7.70." The weak pegasus sensed it, and she whimpered with remorse.

"Fluttershy, don't fret," Twilight said with a reassuring smile. "I know that you're trying to tell the truth."

"Ohhhhh... if only I knew your secret, Twilight!" Fluttershy said with a long face. "I've been all around town, and so far you're the only pony with an absolute 'zero' above her head!"

"She's right!" Cheerilee remarked with a sincere nod. "That's quite the accomplishment!"

"I ran into June Bug over by the mill, and even her number was higher than yours!" Fluttershy said, then winced again. "Oh my... the counter doesn't measure gossip as well, does it?"

"Not that I know of," Twilight said. "Still, it's just as bad." She looked earnestly at the two mares. "We've had parasprites and Ursa Minors and Diamond Dogs wreaking havoc in this town. I really can't say I've seen the ponies this miserable during any of those situations! Why now?"

"I suppose this hits us all right at home," Cheerilee said, pointing to her chest. "Right in our hearts."

"Exactly." Twilight gulped. "The ancient Trudian Empire valued peace and coexistence above everything else, which is why they made this spell to begin with: to expose everypony to each other's potential deception." She sighed and hung her head. "I've spent over two years in Ponyville, studying on the magic of friendship, and it seems like in one fell swoop it has all become a very tenuous thing!"

"I wouldn't say that, Twilight." It was Fluttershy's turn to smile reassuringly. "We're all still talking to one another, aren't we?"

Twilight looked up, only to glare. "Have you spoken to Rarity lately?"

Fluttershy blushed and squirmed. "Yes... well... erm..."

"I wouldn't know about friendship..." Cheerilee smirked mischievously. "But this whole thing seems to be doing a number on every couple in the village. Did you hear that the Cakes are keeping silent around each other?"

Twilight blinked. "I was at Sugarcube Corner this morning! I didn't even see them! Are they okay?"

Cheerilee shrugged. "Nopony knows. Whatever may be the issue, at least they're being quiet adults about it, not like Thunderlane and Blossomforth."

"Ugh!" Twilight tossed her head. "Don't get me started! Though, if you think about it, this comes as no surprise; Thunderlane's chauvinistic adventures behind Blossomforth's flank could be seen coming from a mile away!"

"Thunderlane's been seeing other mares?!" Fluttershy gasped. "I had no earthly idea!"

The chime that rang through the air was deafening. Fluttershy's pupils shrunk as the number above her head jumped solidly up to "9.0."

Cheerilee and Twilight glanced at the number, then at her.

With a sheepish blush, Fluttershy slowly, slowly backtrotted away from the scene.

After a few seconds, Twilight cleared her throat and looked at Cheerilee. "So... uhm, if you don't mind my asking..."


"How did you manage to get your students to believe you?" She winced slightly and clarified, "I-I mean, when you told them that they had to go home to their families simply because of an emergency—"

"They would have seen and heard the 'lie counter,' right." Cheerilee nodded and smiled. "The fact is, it didn't really matter."

Twilight squinted curiously. "It... didn't?"

The schoolteacher shook her head. "I think, Twilight, that when you trust somepony—like really closely—then you believe them no matter what."

"But..." Twilight's eyes narrowed. "Don't you think that could backfire?"

Cheerilee stared at her solidly. "I would never do something to compromise the trust of my students. Ever."

"Well, of course not!" Twilight remarked. "And I believe you, Cheerilee. It's just..." She sighed and kicked at the ground. "I've never looked at things that way: that life could run on lies as well as truths, even if the lies were ‘tiny.’ After all, Princess Celestia has always taught me the value of honesty over everything else. She's never lied to me..."

A nervous fidget overwhelmed Cheerilee's features.

Twilight saw it. Her brow furrowed as she blurted, "What?"

"Oh, it's... it's nothing, trust me," Cheerilee said. Right then, a chime sounded; the schoolteacher shut her eyes and breathed heavily as her "5" turned to a "6."

Twilight gawked at the number. Slowly, like a melting candle, she bore a deep frown.

"Look..." Cheerilee gulped dryly and turned to her with soft eyes. "Twilight, please, allow me to explain—"

"I've been exhausted all day," Twilight muttered, already turning around. "I think..." She grumbled. "I think I just need to go home."

Cheerilee shuddered as she watched her friend leave. She turned and leaned against the market vendor's table with a heavy sigh.

When Twilight arrived home at the treehouse library, it was in a limping state. She dragged her hooves through the door, shutting the place off to the dying sunlight outside. She looked left, immediately gracing her reflection in a picture frame. For a second—gazing at the floating ellipse over her crown—she pondered on murmuring a big fish tale to the wooden walls of the place, if only she could then blend in with everypony else.

Spike's voice called out from across the front room, snapping her from such a thought.

"Hey! Awesome sauce! You're finally home!"

"Nothing awesome about today, Spike," Twilight muttered as she made her way up the winding, wooden steps to her bedroom. "More than anything, I just want to hit the hay."

He waddled up, grinning as he held a book in his clawed grasp. "Funny you should say that! I've spent all afternoon studying and I think I found—"

"Spike," she groaned, not looking at him. "Just tell me: did Princess Celestia send us another letter since her last correspondence?"

"Uhhhh, no, Twilight. I'm guessing she's gonna be showing up in Ponyville in another day or two like she last said."

"I'm not sure there will be a Ponyville left in a day or two."


"Never mind." Twilight reached the door to her bedroom up above. "Did you clean up the reading room like I asked you to?"

Spike froze, hesitated, but ultimately blurted, "Absolutely! Dusted and mopped everything up! Now if you'd just look at this book—"

The room echoed with a chiming noise.

Twilight froze. Blinking, she glanced icily down at the baby dragon.

Spike's mouth hung open. He gulped and eventually uttered, "Uhm..."

Squinting quizzically, Twilight galloped down the steps. Her lavender hooves stomping, she made a bee-line for the door to the reading room across the library.

"Wait! Twilight!" Spike clung to her tail, his clawed feet dragging. "Please! Don't look—"

She flung the door open with purple telekinesis. Her face nearly blanched from what she saw. Not only was the floor riddled with loose papers and layers of dust, but over in the corner by the patio door rested two buckets full of gemstones, along with a grimy shovel and a layer of caked mud splotched across the floor.

"Unnnngh—Yeahhhhh..." Spike grimaced, rocking back and forth on his feet. "About this..."

"Spike, this... that... I..." Twilight sighed heavily, running a hoof over her exhausted face. "I thought I told you to do two simple things over the past two days: 'Clean the reading room' and 'Don't track mud inside from your gem-digging.'"

"I forgot about it, Twilight! I'm sorry! You see, I had this bright idea about—" He tried gesturing at the book in his claws.

"Spike, it has nothing to do with what you forgot or didn't forget!" She turned and frowned at him. "You just lied to me! You purposefully and willfully tried to cover up the fact that you left this place a mess and—" She stopped in mid-speech, her eyes twitching.

Spike's number wasn't a "1" like Twilight had suspected. As a matter of fact, it was a glaring "12." He clung to the book behind his tail, wincing as he felt her gaze swimming all over the floating meter.

She blinked several times, ultimately frowning as she growled, "Just how many lies have you been telling lately?! Huh?" She leaned forward. "Better yet, how many more lies were you going to try and use to convince me that you hadn't done what I had asked you to do time and time again?"

"But Twilight—!" He stammered, waving the book around and finally blurting, "I knew how exhausted you were lately, and I was thinking about it when I came home from gem-digging today. And suddenly I remembered this book on 'Old Mares' Herbal Remedies,' and I figured if I read through it, I'd find a potion we could make to help you sleep better!"

"Spike, that was very, very nice of you... and I can understand now why it possibly distracted you from cleaning up after yourself..." She pointed at the numbers above his head. "But did you really have to lie about it?! Things would have been so much simpler if you just explained it to me without trying to cover up for what's otherwise a forgiveable mistake!"

"Otherwise?! Come on, Twilight!" Spike shrugged. "Aren't you making kind of a big deal out of this?"

"Excuse me?!" Twilight leered in his face, frowning. "Spike, all relationships are built on trust and commitment! When Princess Celestia entrusted me with raising you, she gave me the responsibility for bringing you up with a firm, moral center! But when you purposefully lie like this, it makes me wonder if anything I've ever taught you got into that thick, scaly skull of yours! You may be a baby dragon now, Spike, but you're growing! And the responsibilities you're going to have as you get older will only get bigger and bigger. I need to know that I've instilled within you honesty and integrity!"

"Sheesh! For real, Twilight! What's with the third degree?" Spike planted his hands on his hips and glared. "It's not like you've never lied in the past yourself! Even Celestia has forgiven you!"

Twilight opened her mouth, but only shook with anger. Stepping back, she closed her eyes, sighed, and trotted furiously back up the steps. "I know what Celestia has taught me, Spike. However, from the looks of things, I'm the only pony who seems to care about it as of late."

"Twilight..." Spike hugged the book to his chest as his lips quivered around a cold breath. "I'm sorry for lying about the mess. Honest!"

"If you were honest, Spike, I think you'd try harder not to deceive me."

Sniffling, he nevertheless managed a frown. "And yet, did you hear a chime just now?"

Twilight paused, staring ahead of her. After a breath of silence, she marched coldly into her room and closed the door loudly behind.

Spike sat at the bottom of the stairs, muttering to himself as he stared with misty eyes into the far corners of the room.