Author's note – For greater immersion, copy and paste this chapter into MS Word and change the fonts to match the current writer.

Twilight Sparkle – Book Antiqua

Applejack – Batang

Fluttershy – Gabriola

Rainbow Dash – MV Boli

Rarity – Monotype Corsiva

Pinkie Pie – Comic Sans

Um… Hello. This is Fluttershy again. I think you might have read a journal I wrote earlier, but it's OK if you never did. I mean, I'm not much of a writer, so I don't think it was very interesting… But anyway… I feel like I should write this. Something bad happened today.

I woke in bed, feeling all rested. I looked to my side to see if my boyfriend was awake. He's almost never up before I am. But today, he was. His side of the sheets had nothing under them. But the strangest thing is that even though they were all wrinkled from use, they had not been pulled down. Almost as if he might have used a teleportation spell to get out of bed. But James doesn't know how to use magic… Right?

Oh, I guess I should explain. James is my boyfriend. He's a human, even though I never even knew what a human is. I have known him for exactly three weeks so far. And…well, we're lovers now. He's been very sweet to me and I love him so much. But still, where did he go?

I climbed out of bed and started to look around. Maybe he was already downstairs. I walked down the stairs and looked around in the living room. I called his name, but he never replied. I tried looking in the kitchen, but there was still no sign of him. The air didn't even smell like he had been cooking breakfast either. Maybe he had gone outside to play with all of the cute little animals who live around our home.

I looked outside and saw that everything was brightly lit by the sun… Um…am I doing a good job going into detail about things I saw? I've read some of James' journal entries and he always puts such amazing amounts of detail into them. Can I do just as well? Um… I guess the details of my house's surroundings aren't important right now.

I went outside and went around the side of my house to check on Angel, my pet bunny. He was already awake while sitting at the entrance of his little house. I could not help but smile. He always brightens up my day when he isn't being bossy. Which is pretty often.

"Good morning, Angel. Um… Have you seen James around today?" I asked while I trotted over to him. Angel gave me a look like he was surprised I was even asking him that. He raised his cute little paws and shrugged his shoulders. I guess James must not have come by this morning.

"Really? Oh… Well, that's OK. I'm sure he'll be here for breakfast soon." I said with a smile before turning away and going back inside. Even if James was not around for breakfast, that did not mean I couldn't feed everyone else their breakfast while I waited.

A few minutes later, I set out a bowl of worms for the robins to feast on while I went under the little bridge in front of my house to feed some fish to the ferrets that lived there. I made sure to give Angel his carrot of the morning. I watched from my cottage's roof while everyone else ate. They all seemed so happy, but I still couldn't see James anywhere. Where was he?

Now that everyone was fed for the morning, I went back inside my home. Maybe James was somewhere inside the whole time and was getting started on breakfast. But when I closed the front door, I still couldn't smell anything cooking. Or even hear anything cooking. When I looked into the kitchen, it looked like nopony had even been there.

I did not worry too much. Maybe he had just left for work early. I think he had to work at Sugarcube Corner today. "I guess I could just get some breakfast there instead." I spoke to myself while gathering up a few bits to pay for something there. What would I get? Those chocolate drops are always good. But so is the blueberry pound cake….. Oooh, so many choices!

Nothing interesting happened on my way into Ponyville. Well, at least I think nothing interesting happened. Does playing with a few raccoons on the way sound interesting? I heard that a writer needs to avoid writing about things that bore the reader. But I personally think playing with cute animals sounds interesting… Well, I guess I did stop to help a raccoon find a shiny discarded bottle he had misplaced in the field. Was that interesting?

Um… I think I will just continue. I did not say anything to anypony on my way. I'm shy like that… I only feel comfortable calling out to ponies I know well. That's why I live away from Ponyville near the Everfree Forest. But anyway, I made it to Sugarcube without any trouble and went inside. Mrs. Cake was minding the register and gave me a big smile. "Hello, Fluttershy! Can I get you anything, dear?"

She is always so sweet to her customers. I felt very relaxed around her almost like she is a loving aunt. "Um… I'm not sure yet, Mrs. Cake. I think I'll browse for a minute before deciding." I then looked at the counter that had a whole bunch of pastries on display. "This all looks so good, I can't decide quickly…"

"All right then. While you're deciding, I'll go check on the kitchen. I'll send Pinkie Pie out here to assist you in the meantime." Mrs. Cake replied before walking through the kitchen's twin swinging doors. Whenever I see those open, it reminds me of that one time we went to Appleloosa.

I saw so much on display. Chocolate drops, muffins, blueberry pound cakes, cupcakes, bundt cakes… Just thinking back to that moment is getting hungry right now… Oops... I spilled some cupcake crumbs on the paper. I'll brush those off before I continue… There, all clean. Now then, before I could decide, Pinkie Pie walked up behind the counter. At least I think she did. She called out to me before I could look up. "Howdy do, Fluttershy! Anything I can get you?"

I was a bit startled by that, but I managed to not show it. Pinkie Pie knows that I hate being scared by anything and really wouldn't be happy with herself if she knew she did something to make me even a little upset. "Oh! Um… Hi, Pinkie Pie. Ummm… I think I would like a muffin and chocolate drop today."

Pinkie Pie gave me her signature grin. "Oki doki loki! Just let me get them out for you!" She pulled out a green plastic tray and set it on the counter before ducking her head inside the glass display case. "Oh, and by the way… When you get home, could you please let James know he's running late?"

I felt my heart skip a beat. I was so sure James had come to work at Sugarcube Corner today… But…he was never there at all. I felt my eyes open wide as my nerves went numb for just a second. "He's not here…?"

Pinkie Pie lifted her head up with the muffin and chocolate drop on her muzzle before setting them on the tray. "Nope! But I'm sure he only slept…in? Hey, are you OK, Fluttershy?"

I think she noticed my expression. I guess I didn't do a very good job of hiding my worry. "Huh? Oh… Well… I guess I would be lying if I wasn't worried… I haven't seen him at all today." I replied, not really trying to hide my feelings at all.

As I expected, Pinkie Pie went a little…um…wild when I told her that. She jumped in the air and somehow stayed that way for about three seconds before coming back down to the floor. "Whaaaaaaat?! Not at all?! You think he was kidnapped?!"

"I don't think so. There wasn't any sign of a struggle in the bedroom. Although his side of the bed looked like he had never climbed out of it when he woke up." I explained, hoping that maybe Pinkie Pie could help.

"Really?! Phew… After what happened a couple of weeks ago, I thought Diamond Tiara had something to do with it. Guess not!" Pinkie Pie spoke with a really big relieved grin. "Don't worry about it, Fluttershy! Maybe he just had something important to do today and will be back later. I mean, you know he won't stay away from Ponyville for long. He LOVES it here!"

I couldn't help but giggle. Pinkie Pie is right. Even though James isn't someone who gets really vocal about anything, he really does love Ponyville with a silent passion I usually don't see very often. "I know… I shouldn't worry so easily. Maybe he had to go visit Zecora for something."

"There you go! Just give him a while! I'm sure you'll see him no later than this evening!" Pinkie Pie replied while giving me that massive grin she always has. I was feeling more confident already. James is surely just busy with something really important right now… But was it really important enough to miss work? "In any case, that'll be two bits please."

I remembered what I was even doing there in Sugarcube Corner and gave Pinkie Pie her bits. I probably shouldn't mention this, but she always gives me and our closest friends discounts. I didn't have anything else to do at the time, so I took a seat at the closest table and started eating. Um… I don't think eating is considered interesting since everyone does it around three times a day. I think I'll just skip ahead now.

I didn't eat for very long before I heard the door open again. Only this time, Rainbow Dash trotted in. "Hey, Fluttershy! Hey, Pinkie Pie! What's up?"

"Oh, I just decided to have breakfast away from home today since James wasn't around." I replied after pausing from my meal. She then walked over to the counter towards Pinkie Pie.

"He wasn't home this morning? Hey, wait… He's here right now, isn't he?" Rainbow Dash asked while looking at me before turning to look at Pinkie Pie.

Pinkie raised her hooves and shrugged her shoulders, "Never showed up for work! But I'm not worried! He's probably just got something really important to do."

Rainbow didn't seem too worried either. "Oh, yeah. If he had something that was gonna keep him away all day, he would've left a note like last time. Right, Fluttershy?"

That reminded me. When he had to leave Ponyville for a couple of days, James did leave behind a message explaining why. If he did not leave a message, he was surely going to be back before the day was over. And since he didn't leave a note this time, he would surely be back soon.

"Anyway, pass me one of those chocolate drops, Pinkie." Rainbow Dash spoke while looking up from the display case in the counter.

"Sure thing! Now you just have to toss me a bit!" Pinkie replied before ducking under the counter and flinging one over the counter while Rainbow Dash did the same thing with a bit at the exact same time. They literally 'tossed' what the other asked for. The chocolate drop was caught in Rainbow Dash's mouth while the bit landed and balanced on the tip of Pinkie's nose. "Woo! Nice catch, Rainbow!"

"Hey, you made a better catch than me! That thing didn't even fall off of you muzzle!" Rainbow replied before chomping down her treat in one gulp.

I think I will stop here for now so I can enjoy my breakfast. I know James knows where he lives and that I love him, but… I just have a bad feeling about this. I hope James is all right…

Heya, readers! This is Rainbow Dash. You know me. Fastest thing alive, Sonic Rainboom achiever, and local weather patrol captain. I mean come on; I know you peeps have seen me fly by at some point! But I'm getting off topic now.

I found out today that James never showed up for work at Sugarcube Corner. He's… Oh, wait. I already explained who he is! I mean it's pretty hard to miss the only human in town. Tall guy? No hair on his body? Wears clothes? All over his body? Yeah, that's him. Anyway, I tried hitting up Fluttershy for some conversation since I had some time to kill after stopping by Sugarcube Corner for a bite. She had picked up a chocolate drop and a muffin.

"So, what's been up, Fluttershy? You and your sweetheart getting along pretty well at your place?" I asked while pulling up a stool.

Fluttershy gave me that really cute smile of hers before speaking. "Oh, things have been going really well. And it's only been three weeks since we first met!"

I smirked while I leaned forward on one elbow. "Yeah, I know. He really knows how to make you squirm. I always knew you were bigger than me down there."

Oh man, that look on her face. Went from yellow to red in three seconds flat. "Ra…Ra…Rainbow! You… You were watching?!"

I smirked when I gave a reply. "Hey, those Playmare magazines are pretty good, but sometimes a girl needs some live entertainment… Uh… Fluttershy?" Next thing I know, she's out-cold on the floor.

"Uh… Maybe I should just leave her alone…" I muttered to myself. I knew she was going to flip out when I told her that, but I didn't expect her to be floored by it! I quickly thought up a fix for the situation and propped her back up on the stool before resting her head on the table. I then opened up a nearby magazine and put it in front of her face to hide her unconscious expression. I think it was a copy of Equestria's Finest. I then scooted out the door as fast as I could. Hopefully nopony saw that…

Anyway, I didn't get far before I wondered about what Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy told me. Had nopony really seen James at all today? That's not like the guy. Maybe he went to see Zecora and got hung up by sometime at her place. It's the only explanation I could think of as to why absolutely nopony had seen him today. "Well, I've got some time to kill. May as well go check the place out." With a flap of my wings, I took to the air and headed west towards the Everfree Forest.

I don't need to explain how fast I got there, right? Seriously! Ten seconds flat, baby! You know who I am! Anyway, I had to fly directly through the forest instead of above or else I wouldn't be able to find Zecora's place since it's built into a tree. And this time I made sure to stay away from that freaky Poison Joke along the way. I've been called Rainbow Crash enough times in flight school. I don't need it happening again as captain of the weather patrol!

It didn't take long to find Zecora's place. Really hard to miss a house built right into a gnarly looking tree with jumbo-sized weird masks set around them. I landed and knocked on the door. I wouldn't be surprised if Zecora was 'cooking' James in another cauldron bath.

A few seconds later, the door opened to show the zebra witchdoctor. Well, I like to call her that. I think she's more of an herbalist though. "Ah, Rainbow Dash! Do come in. Take a seat and rest your shins."

Heh, that rhyming. "Sure thing, Zecora. And sorry for coming out here on such short notice. We've kinda got a problem in Ponyville."

The way her eyes opened wide showed she seemed to be assuming the worst. She turned to face me and asked, "Oh dear… Did little Apple Bloom find herself hurt? Or did the little dragon have another growth spurt?"

I couldn't help but laugh at that. She's got a good memory. "Haha, nothing like that! Just a case of…missing in action. We haven't seen James all day. He didn't happen to come out here, did he?"

Zecora seemed kinda puzzled while she poured some herbs into the cauldron in the center of her house. "Hmmm… James, your human friend? How bizarre. I have not gotten a glimpse of him today so far."

I have to admit that was when I started to get worried. "Wait… Seriously? You haven't seen him at all today?"

"Why would I lie to you, Rainbow Dash? I have not seem him since into my cauldron he splashed." Zecora replied with an equally worried expression. Since her place is kind of out of the way, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that James hasn't visited Zecora since the day he came home from the Everfree Forest two weeks ago.

"Okay then… This is getting weird. Nopony in town has seen him today at all." I muttered, not really looking at anything in general.

"Have no fear, my friend. He shall return. He is unlikely to meet his end." Zecora spoke up before she placed a hoof on my shoulder. She really does look like she's wise beyond her years. Hay, she even one-upped Twilight on more than one occasion.

I nodded, knowing James must be pretty dang hearty if he survived two nights out in the Everfree Forest before. "Yeah… You're right. Don't where he is, but he's probably doing fine. He'll come home when the time is right. And I know he can't stay away from Ponyville for very long."

I shook Zecora's hoof before I started to make my way towards the door. "Well, I better get back to Ponyville and tell the girls you haven't seen him. Thanks for letting me drop by for a visit."

Zecora smiled and waved at me. "Anytime, Rainbow Dash. It was a pleasure. Do close the door behind you for good measure." Heh, she comes up with a rhyme for almost any occasion. Anyway, once I was outside, I took to the air and flew above the forest's canopy to find my way back to Ponyville.

I decided it would be best to let Fluttershy know first about James not ever going into the Everfree Forest. It'll at least give her some closure. And maybe even point us in the right direction if we have to go looking for him… Nah, who am I kidding? He'll be back! Right?

I nudged Sugarcube Corner's front door open, finding Fluttershy just starting to wake up. "Huh…? Uh…what happened? And…Photo Finish catches a photo flop? Why was I reading this?" She was looking right into the magazine I had left open in front of her.

"Oh yeah, that! Last I saw you, you were reading that. It must've been boring since it knocked you out like that." I replied, trying to not make her remember what we had talked about when she fainted. Especially since somepony might overhear.

"Huh? It did… Oh. This is all about those sports buffs… I'm not interested in this at all." Fluttershy replied while looking through the pages the magazine was opened to. She really seemed uninterested in whatever they were showing. But being the world-class athlete I am, I'm sure I would've been all over that article like Rarity over a bed made of diamonds.

"Yeah, I know you're not into that stuff… Anyway, I just went over to Zecora's place to check if James ever stopped by." I spoke up while stepping over to Fluttershy.

"You did?!" Her expression brightened up big time when I told her that. I was almost unable to tell her the truth. I wasn't sure of just how hard it would hit her if even Zecora hadn't gotten in touch with James.

"Yeah… I dropped by to check if he had stopped by. But she said she hasn't seen him today." I said honestly. I know Applejack wouldn't have hesitated to tell the truth, but I was seriously tempted to lie right there.

Fluttershy's expression instantly changed. She went from looking so happy and hopeful to looking just… Man, she was so disappointed by what I had just said. And that look of worry on her face was really eating at me. "Oh… I see… Well, I'm sure he'll be home by tonight."

I have to admit I was starting to feel kind of worried myself. It's not like James to up and disappear. Without leaving an explanation behind, that is. "Hey, I'm sure he's fine. Just give him a few hours and he'll be back before we know it."

That wimpy…I mean timid pegasus nodded with what looked like a tiny smile that looked like it wanted to frown. "I know. I'll be patient." She then looked down at the chocolate drop she hadn't finished yet. For some reason, she just looked at it for a while without saying anything. Maybe because James was the guy who gave the recipe to Sugarcube Corner in the first place. "I know he won't leave us. Or leave me."

Man, that was so sappy, it was cute. I couldn't help snickering. "That's the spirit. Anyway, I'm gonna look around town some more. Somepony's bound to have seen him at some point."

Fluttershy nodded with a bigger smile this time. "Thank you, Rainbow Dash. Please let me know if you find anything." I waved goodbye and headed out the door.

"OK, where to start?" I muttered. I guess I could check out Rarity's place first. Those two have been really tight since day one. Without a second thought, I bolted across Ponyville and made it to Carousel Boutique in record time. "Whoa. Five seconds flat."

I was kind of in a hurry, so I pushed the door open without knocking. "Hey, Rarity! You down here?!"

Turns out she wasn't even ten feet away from me when I walked in. She was putting that…ugh, not that thing again! It was that weird…dress thing I tried on once before a couple of years back. Pink and white with gold metal shoes and a…hat with wig curls along the… Oh, forget it. I can't describe it too well. It was that awful get-up she made me try on back when those Parasprites showed up! Anyway, she had just put it on a dress mannequin before turning to face me. "Oh, Rainbow Dash! What brings you out here today…oh, wait! You wanted to try this on again, didn't you?! I knew you couldn't stay away!"

Not on her life. I backed right out of the place until I was standing outside again. "Hay no! Keep that away!"

"Drat… I suppose it's back to the drawing board then." Rarity groaned while looking over her shoulder at that…that thing.

"Besides, I'm not here for a social call. I'm looking for somepony. Has James stopped by today?" I asked while coming a bit closer to the doorway. But if she tried to force that…abomination of a dress onto me, I was going to bolt.

Rarity looked at me with a confused expression. "James? Why, no. I have yet to see him today. But perhaps I'll stop by the café for lunch with him. I know he never misses that place on workdays."

I frowned as she spoke. It was really disappointing to hear that even she hadn't seen him today. If there is one pony I think is more likely to be caught in his company besides Fluttershy, it's Rarity. Those two bonded really fast when James first showed up. He even lived with her for the first few days. "Oh… OK then."

Rarity could definitely tell something wasn't right. And I guess I wasn't doing a good job of covering up my disappointment. "Rainbow, what's wrong? Did something happen to him?"

I let out a loud sigh. I knew she was definitely going to be pretty dang worried, knowing how she sometimes overreacts. "Well… Fluttershy said she hasn't seen him all day. I even went to Zecora's place to see if he had to go there first thing in the morning. But… Nopony's seen him today. I swear it almost feels like he just…disappeared into thin air."

Well, that prissy unicorn took that news better than I thought. "Really? Gone? That's preposterous. Unless… Did he leave a note behind like last time?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "Uh… Fluttershy never mentioned anything like that. You'd think he'd leave one behind, right?"

Rarity then gave me a smile. "Then he must surely be planning on coming home sometime today. He would never up and leave us like that." She then raised her hoof while looking down at it. Clasped onto it was that silver opal-studded bracelet he had gotten her a few days after showing up in town. "He holds us too dearly in his heart to leave us now."

Yeah… He would never leave. I know we haven't known him for that long, but we've all really gotten close to him in the last few weeks. He'll be home today sometime. I know he will. "You're right. No way he would leave now. He's way too happy here to run off now."

Rarity patted me on the shoulder. "Exactly. I wager ten bits that you and I will see him tomorrow."

"Hey, I'm placing a stack of bits on that too!" I replied, grinning with confidence. I never lose at anything unless I let myself lose.

"Very well then! Ten bits a bet! I'll bring my coin purse tomorrow." Rarity spoke with a prissy smile. Heh, I was sure to win… Wait, didn't we both bet on the same thing? Meh, I'll still win. I always do.

Rarity then stood near the mannequin that held that stupid outfit again. "But now then, is there anything I can get you? Perhaps you would like to try on…"

I knew what was coming. "Nope! That's all! Gotta go!" I turned and bolted before she could say anything. I guess I can stop here. Probably going to be boring to read how I go from pony to pony hearing the same thing. Besides, it's a workday for me. Gotta clear up the skyline. And I'm pretty sure breaking up clouds sounds boring. I guess I could describe how fast I can do it, but come on! If you live in Ponyville, you've seen me do it plenty of times! So I'm taking a break from this. I just hope James does come home today. And where did he even go?

Well, that was certainly abrupt. Rainbow Dash rushed out of here before I could mention the Wonderbolts themed cape I had woven for her. Oh well, perhaps I will bundle it up for her birthday instead. But aside from that, what is all this business of my dear friend James vanishing into thin air? Surely it's just an exaggeration. And I should know since I tend to exaggerate things from time to time.

Now that I was all alone again, I sauntered over to my work desk and looked over the latest masterpiece I had dreamt up. And I mean that quite literally. This design came to me in a dream. I had scribbled down the form of a classical princess's garb. Certainly not of any use in modern society, but Nightmare Night is coming up next month and I intend to make up for not being able to attend last year. Hmmmm, perhaps dear James could be my knight! Oh, but I have never been skilled in forging armor… I will have to rethink his outfit's design.

Still… I cannot wonder what my dear friend is up to. Nopony has seen him today? Not even Fluttershy? How in the world could she have missed him? They sleep in the same bed! Well, perhaps he snuck away to prepare something special for her without anypony knowing. He certainly caught me by surprise when I woke up to find this delightful bracelet around my hoof.

Well, it is getting close to noon and I am starting to feel a bit peckish. James does tend to frequent the local café for lunch. I suppose I shall meet him there. Just let me get my 'out to lunch' sign ready and I will be on my way.

My trip through town was fairly routine. By which I mean many fine stallions complimenting on my luscious mane and tail, gazing into my gorgeous azure eyes, and marveling at my flawless white coat. Well, all right. I suppose they do not ogle me quite THAT often. But I know I turned a few heads as I cantered through the town square.

Much to my delight, I found that hardly any tables were taken at the café when I arrived. "Hmmm… James always seems to prefer…this table." I muttered to myself. James seems to be a type of fellow who seems to really stick to a routine. When he finds something he likes, he stays with it. And I truly concur with that. But not when it comes to one's attire, oh no! One must have some variety in their day-to-day activities! Good thing I outfitted him with quite a few colorful shirts recently to broaden his wardrobe.

I took a seat at the nearest empty table and glanced around. James has never missed a lunch date with me. And he certainly never misses lunch. Although he was still nowhere to be seen. "It's not polite to keep a lady waiting." I muttered under my breath.

I looked through the menu while passing the time. The sandwiches always caught my eye and the pastas always sounded so savory. And the quiches sounded absolutely delightful. But just as I was becoming lost in the thoughts of such delightful cuisine, a voice spoke from my left. "Have you made your decision?"

That gentlemanly waiter had come over to my table and was gazing at me with that ever so refined expression. I was just about to voice my order when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that James was still nowhere to be seen. Where was he? "Um… If you don't mind, I would like to wait until a dear friend of mine arrives before I order." The waiter seemed to understand and departed to tend to another table. It may be rude to keep a lady waiting, but it is equally rude to carry on without your partner. And I was not about to throw the first stone.

I forget how much time passed before I looked up from my menu. There is only so many times I can read spaghetti and meatballs, grass pancakes, and soup du jour before I start seeing them dance across my vision whenever I close my eyes. And yet… There was still no sign of my friend. Where was he? The latest I have ever seen James arrive at the café for lunch is no later than 12:30.

"Howdy, Rarity. Waitin' fer somepony?" An instantly recognizable voice spoke from behind me. I immediately looked over my shoulder and found Applejack standing behind me. I doubt I need to explain who she is. She owns only the largest and most successful apple orchid on this side of Equestria. And I have forgotten how nightmarish it is to try to remember to include her accent when I write lines she has spoken.

"Ah, good afternoon, Applejack!" I retorted with my best smile. While I was certainly waiting for James, I could not turn away the company of another good friend.

"Whatcha doin'? Ya'll don't usually dine alone out here." The country bumpkin asked… Oh dear, I should not have written that! And I cannot erase it since I am writing in ink! I pray Applejack does not ever read this…

"Well, I was hoping to dine with James today. He always shows up here at around this time. Although I must admit he is later than he's ever been before." I explained, once again turning my head to survey my surroundings.

Applejack seemed to be rather puzzled as well. She glanced around for a moment, a most perplexed expression on her face. "Ya don't say? I was hopin' ta catch 'im here too."

"You were? Why?" I could not help asking. Applejack seeking out James is somewhat odd. They hardly have anything in common, now that I think about it.

"Why? Well, I always see 'im every mornin', but I never saw 'im today. I was hoping ta catch James here just ta say hi." She replied with a noticeably worried expression. And I cannot blame her. Rainbow Dash has not seen him, Fluttershy and I believe Pinkie Pie has not seen him, and now even Applejack has failed to see James today. The only friends of his left to ask were Twilight Sparkle and little Sweetie Belle and her friends. Surely one of them has seen him.

I looked down at my menu one more time. My lunch can wait. My mare's intuition is telling me something is not quite right here. "I'm not hungry anymore. If you want to have this table, you can help yourself." I stood up and stepped away.

"Huh? Why? Ya'll lose yer appetite, Rarity?" She asked, looking understandably puzzled.

"It's hard to feel hungry when you're worried. I'm going to go straight to Twilight and ask if she has seen James today. It is not like him to disappear like this." I retorted before starting to trot away. But before I got too far, I felt a hoof rest on my shoulder. When I turned my head to look, I found Applejack gazing at me with a most determined look.

"Ya'll ain't the only one who's feelin' a might bothered. I'm goin' with ya." Applejack spoke to me before giving me a reassuring smile.

I could not help smiling myself. While Applejack certainly is not the tidiest of ponies in Ponyville, she is certainly one of the most dependable friends I have. "Very well. Let us search for our friend's whereabouts together. Onward!"

The first place we stopped by was the library. Perhaps Twilight has seen James today. Or maybe Spike has seen him while out and about on his errands. I nudged the door open gently before calling out. "Oh, Twilight! Spike! Are you… Oh, you are home!" I did not need to call out at all. Twilight was looking through a bookcase right as I opened the door.

"Oh! Hello, Rarity! Hello, Applejack. What can I help you with?" Our brilliant unicorn friend asked while casually cantering over to us.

"Sorry fer showin' up on short notice, Twi. We've…uh…got kinda a predicament here. Have ya seen James today?" Applejack spoke first, holding out her hoof.

Much to my disappointment, Twilight seemed rather puzzled as she replied. "No, I haven't seen him today yet. Did something happen? Am I supposed to be expecting him?"

I let out a sigh. I was placing nearly all of my hope on Twilight having the answer to what I was seeking. She usually does. "Oh… I see."

Twilight was quick to notice my disappointment and asked with a look of true concern on her face. "Hey, what's wrong? I'm sure you'll find him today."

"It's not that I have not seen him today, Twilight…" I retorted, my gaze turning towards Applejack.

"The problem is that NOPONY has seen 'im taday. And we're gettin' a might worried." Applejack explained further.

To my surprise, Twilight let out a giggle, "Oh, girls… You know he's not someone who would just up and leave without an explanation! If he did have to go somewhere, he would've at least left a note at home, wouldn't he?"

Well, I suppose that is true. The last time he had to leave for some time, he left a message behind detailing where he was going and why he had to go. He would surely be back sometime today if he did not leave one behind. "Ah, yes. He most certainly would have… Although I cannot help but be concerned."

Twilight gave both of us a comforting smile. "I know. Tell you what. If he's not back by tomorrow, we'll go over to Fluttershy's place and turn the whole house upside down to find the note he left behind. If it hasn't been found yet, it probably got carried away by one of her little animal friends."

"Well, that certainly is a possibility." I muttered with a slight giggle. Animals can certainly be cheeky little things.

"I guess we'll just be spinnin' our wheels if we just keep lookin'. Whatcha say we just wait things out, Rarity?" Applejack asked while glancing at me out of the corner of her eye.

I took a moment to think things over. I was definitely worried about my dear friend, but they were right. All we could do was wait. It was too soon to raise the alarm. "Well… Okay then. He'll come back when he's good and ready. There's no way he would abandon Ponyville." I have to wonder… Did we repeat ourselves too often during this visit?

Twilight stepped forward with a smile. "That's right. You know he cares about us too much to leave. But while you're here, is there anything I can help you find?"

Applejack and I glanced at each other before I answered. "Well, in all honesty, we came here hoping you had seen James and nothing more. I have no need for any books right now."

My country bumpkin friend then… Oh dear, there I go again. Please forgive me if you ever read this, Applejack! Regardless, she nodded with a rather sheepish grin. "Uh… Same here, Twi. I wasn't lookin' fer anythin' in here… Actually, hang on. Ya got any manuals on wagons? Big Macintosh was lookin' ta make some adjustments on one."

Twilight smiled brightly before motioning for Applejack to approach a bookcase with her. "Oh, I know which one you want. A copy of 'Carpentry for Equestrian Handyponies' should suit Big Macintosh just fine."

I knew I was not going to be any help, so I turned to leave. However, Applejack called out to me a few seconds later. "Hold yer horses, Rarity! I'm comin'!" Applejack trotted right up to me with…. Wait, where was her book?

"Applejack, please tell me you did not make like Pinkie Pie and ate your book." I asked, while eyeing her stomach.

She gave me that smug smirk of hers. "Nah. Same place where I keep my bits!" She flung her head up, causing her hat to rise into the air along with a book that was concealed underneath. "Don't need bags when ya got a tiny bit of space under yer cap." The book then landed softly on her head before her hat landed down on her head.

Such an ingenious hiding spot. I'm certain even Apple Bloom has even taken advantage of that on occasions. "Well, there's no chance of that slipping out." I then turned to Twilight and asked, "Twilight? Now that I think about it, where is Spike?"

She rolled her eyes for whatever reason. "Oh, him? He's not here right now. He took Owlowiscious out on his errands today. Said something about 'needing a few extra quills on hand' or something like that." That brilliant unicorn mare then shrugged her shoulders. "I guess it can't be helped. We're down to our last quill and Quills and Sofas hasn't restocked their stock of quills yet. Still have plenty of sofas though."

We all could not help but laugh at that little remark. I am truly amazed that little shop has stayed in business when they seem to sell more quills than sofas. "Well, it was certainly fun meeting up with you, Twilight. But I really need to get back to work. I will have to grab a sandwich to go at the café… I can't believe I missed lunch over this mess!"

Twilight nodded with a comforting smile. "Don't worry too much about James, Rarity. Wouldn't want you to start getting gray hairs."

Gray… GRAY?! NO! Gray does not mix well with my gorgeous indigo coif! "Eek! Then don't tease me about that! You know how stressed I get when I imagine such beauty being ruined!"

Applejack draped her legs across my back and pulled me towards the door just as I was about to shriek again. "We'll talk ta ya later, Twi. And thanks fer the book."

I was dragged outside before Twilight could even utter a response. "Easy there, Rarity. Yer hair ain't gonna turn gray. Besides, even if it did, couldn't ya just dye it ta match the rest?"

Dye? That thought had never occurred to me. "Dye it indigo? I suppose that could work… But what is the point is hiding natural beauty behind false colors?! True beauty comes from within and is accentuated by one's outer appearance!"

For whatever reason, Applejack gave me a rather annoyed scowl. "This comin' from somepony who wears false la… Mmph?!"

I rushed to stuff my hoof into her mouth. It would be utter scandal if word got out about that… Oh dear… I just wrote it down for anypony to see! I must make certain nopony sees this journal. Nopony!

"Applejack, you know to not tell anypony about that." I whispered in as menacing a tone as I could muster.

My intimidation seemed to work. She nodded and took a step backward. "Uh… All righty, Rarity. I won't mention that again."

I grinned in triumph, knowing my secret was safe. And will remain safe as long as this journal remains unseen. "Thank you kindly, Applejack! But now I need to hurry home. Sapphire Shores herself has commissioned me for a glittering golden suit adorned with the purest sapphires and I aim to please!"

Applejack seemed to be waiting for some sort of signal while I looked at her. I suppose she was slightly apprehensive from how suddenly I had thrust my hoof into her mouth to stop her from speaking. "Um… You may speak now." I spoke after feeling she was waiting too long.

"Okay. Well, I'm gonna head back over to my apple stall at market. Big Macintosh is probably hankerin' fer a lunch break by now." Applejack finally replied, looking somewhat relieved in the process.

"Oh, that reminds me that I have not enjoyed lunch yet today. Well, I had best fix that, shouldn't I?" I asked, adjusting my gorgeous mane before turning my gaze in the general direction of the café. Hopefully they were not too busy to turn down an order for take-out at the time.

"Same here. I'm gonna get goin'. See ya 'round, Rarity." Applejack spoke with a wave of her hoof before beginning to walk away.

Just before I could do the same, a thought suddenly occurred to me. I rushed over to Applejack before she could get too far. "Applejack! One moment, please!"

My farm friend paused and turned to face me. "Huh? What's up, Rarity?"

I then asked, "When little Apple Bloom returns home from school… Or even better, if you see her with the other members of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, could you please ask them if they have seen James? Seeing as how he is a member as well, they more than likely have some idea of where he might be."

Applejack held her hoof to the underside of her chin, clearly deeply contemplating my request. "Well, it won't be proper if we barge right inta the schoolhouse ta ask when they're in the middle of class… But askin' 'em when they get outta school fer the day sounds like a mighty fine idea!" She then beamed at me with a very elated smile. "I'll grab whatever info I can from them and pass it yer way. Just don't worry too much just yet."

I nodded with great gratitude. Those three fillies are certainly on good terms with James, especially that rowdy Scootaloo. Although I wonder… I have never once met her parents. Why is that? Oh wait, completely off topic. That is a mystery for another day.

"Many thanks, Applejack. Now, no more delays. Time to get some tasty hors d'oeuvres." I spoke with a smile before rushing off. My stomach was demanding satisfaction as much as my fashion sense demands perfection and I was not about to deny it any longer.

Nothing of any importance occurred on my way back home. Unless you count standing outside a café while waiting for your order to be brought out to you a fun experience. Once I was back inside, I promptly unwrapped my FLT sandwich and took a bite. FLT stands for 'flower lettuce tomato', in case you were wondering. I was quite famished by then, so that first bite was simply heavenly.

I took the time to look over the designs while enjoying my lunch. Sapphire always preferred sleek flexible outfits without any dazzling frills. Always said it was to let the movement of her body draw the attention of her audience instead of the movements of her attire. And I certainly see the logic in that.

"Now then… Perhaps I should arrange a pattern with the gemstones?" I mused to myself as I slid my hoof over the design. However, my inspiration was interrupted when I laid eyes on the lovely bracelet around my ankle.

"Oh dear… I shouldn't let myself be distracted, yet…" I could not take my eyes off of it. The ….elegant silver shimmering with the translucent opals… James chose well. That man is willing to please his friends any way he can. And now I miss him all the more.

I believe I shall stop writing here. I need to focus on this current commission. James, please be well. And do come home soon. I'm hoping to enjoy a spot of tea with you sometime.

Howdy there, folks. This is Applejack speaking… I mean writing. I normally don't keep journals, but something weird's been happening today. One of my good pals has seemingly just up and disappeared into thin air. I always see James in the morning, or at least almost always. If you've been living in Ponyville for the last few weeks, you've probably seen a tall human guy walking around town sometimes. That's James.

I wasn't too worried when I never saw him this morning, but I started to get a might worried when I found out that none of my closest friends had seen him either. Or at least those I've seen so far today. I just got back home at Sweet Apple Acres after meeting up with Rarity and Twilight today. I guess it's too soon to start raising a ruckus over James not being seen today, but I reckon it wouldn't hurt to ask Apple Bloom and her friends if they've spotted him. You all probably know them as the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Well, James is a member too since he doesn't have a cutie mark. Or at least he didn't. Turns out the guy somehow got one a couple of weeks back while he was hiding out in the Everfree Forest. Long complicated story there and I don't want to bore you with the details, so moving on.

Anyway, I went right back to work as soon as I got home to Sweet Apple Acres. Still had plenty of apples to harvest, what with it being late summer by now, so I set out some bushels at the first apple tree I saw that still had specks of red mixed in with those leafy green branches and gave the tree a buck. Like clockwork, every last apple fell right into the bushels without one missing. For the record, that's a little trick passed down by the Apple family for generations. Just don't ask me how, because that little information will cost you a pretty bit.

I reckon it's not exactly interesting to read about how farm work is done, seeing how repetitive it can be. I'll just skip ahead a bit. After a few hours of hauling apples and taking a few breaks, I heard a little sound on the wind coming from the path coming into the farm. It's something you pick up when your little sister likes to have friends over. By which I mean it sounded like Apple Bloom was just about home and bringing Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo along for the ride.

I wanted to finish my current trip to the barn, so I hurried on in and dropped off the load of apples I had harvested. Sure enough, Apple Bloom came right up the path while chatting to Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle. I think they were discussing costumes for Nightmare Night coming up in several. But for whatever reason, they stopped talking when they noticed me come out of the barn. What kind of costumes were they thinking up?

"Oh! Uh… Howdy, Applejack! Whatcha doin'?" Apple Bloom asked while looking all nervous. I could tell right away she was up to something, but it couldn't be anything too bad, right?

I decided to not ask about what they had been discussing and just let the thought go. "Howdy, girls. I was just harvestin' a few more apples before things got too late in the day. Ya'll headin' on over to yer clubhouse?"

Sweetie Belle spoke up before Apple Bloom could. That unicorn cutie raised her hoof with a big smile. "Yeah! We were gonna do our homework today over there, and then work on coming up with new ideas on how to get our cutie marks."

Those girls… I couldn't help chuckling. Anypony who knows those three already know what they're really good at, but they're just plain oblivious to their own talents for some reason or another. Oh well, they'll figure it out someday. I mean, they've got to figure it out if their skills are as obvious as the pink bow on Apple Bloom's head. "Well, you girls have fun over there. And James is gonna show up ta help ya'll with that, right?"

I'll admit I was really getting my hopes up that at least one of them had bumped into James at some point today. But Scootaloo replied while shaking her head. "Nope, sorry. We haven't seen him today… Or did we?" She then looked at Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle. "Did any of you see him today? Because I didn't."

Apple Bloom shrugged her shoulders. "Uh uh, can't say I have. What about you, Sweetie Belle?"

I was holding my breath when Sweetie Belle started to talk. "Um… No, sorry. I haven't seen him at all today."

Well… I was a might disappointed by that. But I couldn't let myself show it. Wouldn't want to worry the kids. "All right then… Ya'll want me ta send 'im yer way next time I spot 'im today?"

Scootaloo grinned about as brightly as a pig with fresh slop. "Yes, please! Let my big brother know we'd like his help today."

Man… If James really has disappeared, it will really hit poor Scootaloo hard if she finds out. I did my best to not show that I was feeling worried by then and showed my best smile. "Will do. Now, you girls go and get yer assignments done. Don't wanna head inta class tomorrow without getting' 'em done, right?"

Apple Bloom glanced around at her friends, who all nodded with big smiles. "Yeah, we gotta get that stuff done first. Let's go, girls! Can't go crusadin' 'til we get our homework done."

As they trotted off, I heard Sweetie Belle speak up. "Hey, I was just thinking… Do you think there's a cutie mark for being really good at doing homework?"

Scootaloo replied with a pretty sarcastic sounding laugh. "Are you kidding?! If there was, we would've gotten them years ago!" I have to admit I got a good laugh out of that one.

Once the fillies were out of sight, I dropped my smile. "Well, shucks… Even Scoot hasn't seen 'im today?" I know it was a bit too early to really start letting myself get worried, but… Something just wasn't right. Somewhere in my gut, I knew something wasn't adding up. "Hit a dead end… Better report back ta Rarity like I promised."

I had done enough applebucking for the day, so I decided to head back into town to let Rarity know I hadn't found any leads. Nothing special happened on my way to Carousel Boo… I mean Bow…. Uh… Bou… I mean Rarity's place! Fancy pants ponies and their fancy words…

I gave the front door a knock when I got to… OK, I can do this… Carousel Bou… Boutique? Yeah, that's it! Carousel Boutique! I knocked on the door to let Rarity know I was coming in. Right as I opened the door, I heard that jingly bell ring above me. "Howdy, Rarity. Ya home?"

Rarity was standing in front of a crate just packed to the brim with sapphires. Every few seconds, one would float up and attach to one sleek looking suit being worn on one of Rarity's mannequins. From what I was seeing, she was dotting the whole thing with smaller sapphires while using the big ones to make lines that went over the legs that connected across the chest and back. Land sakes, if only there was a way to make that stuff glow when being worn!

"Hm? Oh, hello! Did you have any success in learning anything from our sisters, Applejack?" Rarity asked right away while taking a break from her work. Heh, that suit will really make Sapphire Shores live up to her name next concert.

I tried to smile, I really did. But I just couldn't bring myself to lie to her. "Rarity… I'm sorry. Even the fillies haven't seen 'im taday."

Rarity let out a sigh. "Drat… Well, I suppose all we can do is wait for him to come home tonight."

Yeah, she had a point there. "Huh… Yeah, I guess yer right. One day without 'im won't kill us. I'm just gonna just wait it out from this point."

"There, that's better! Let's give him a bit more time." Rarity replied with a grin before going right back to work with putting those sapphires on that suit in front of her. "I can just imagine it. He's going to slip in during the night, lie down next to Fluttershy in bed while she sleeps and wake her with a kiss. Such a romantic, that man…"

"Heheh… I can see 'im doin' that. Maybe he'll even propose ta 'er tonight." I couldn't help joking with Rarity right there.

"Oh, I doubt he's going to go that far so quickly. Granted, they have bonded quite fast over the last few weeks, but going from lovers to husband and wife in under a month is unheard of! Even Fluttershy would not be that hasty." Rarity replied while looking over her shoulder at me. She seemed kind of…um…well, her expression seemed kind of neutral. But she then grinned at me. "But if he did propose, I would be thrilled to weave their attire for the wedding."

Yep, that's just like Rarity. All about romance and good looks. She did design Princess Cadence's dress for her wedding. Doesn't surprise me that she would be itching to make another. "Well, that's all fine and dandy. Anyway, I better get goin'. I wanna check on Fluttershy before I head home, all right?"

Rarity nodded while glancing back and forth from her pile of sapphires… OK, I'm sorry, but that was just one snazzy suit. I'm not going to be able to get that white and blue out of my head for the rest of the day. "Very well. Do give my best to Fluttershy when you see her. Now, where does this one go…" She went right from focusing on me to going back to focusing on her suit in just a few seconds. I didn't say anything and slipped outside without her even noticing.

Well, I reckon now's a good time to stop. I don't have much else planned out and should probably check up on Fluttershy. Thanks for reading, everypony. I don't write journals often, so I hope I didn't bore you. See you all around.

Hello again. This is Fluttershy writing. Um… I know I already wrote a journal today, but I think I should add to it. If that's OK, I mean… You don't have to read if you don't want to.

I stayed around in Sugarcube Corner for a while after I finished breakfast. I just wanted somepony to be with at the time. I felt so lonely with worry without seeing my boyfriend this morning, so I had to beat it back any way I could. And Pinkie Pie was more than happy to keep me happy.

"So, my dog had spilled cherry all over himself. I mean, really! Cherry juice! Do you have any idea how bad that stuff stains?!" Pinkie Pie shouted from a makeshift stage she had set up in her loft above the storefront. She insisted on doing some standup for me. And it was working pretty well.

"What did you do to get the stains out?" I asked, wondering where this joke was going.

Pinkie Pie gave a big grin while she spoke her reply. "Oh, that's easy! I just used some spot remover. NOW I CAN'T FIND HIM!" That was a good joke. I really laughed at that… But wait! Whatever happened to poor Spot? Is there really an invisible dog running around Ponyville?

"Oh, right! Then there was that time with Fancy Pants in Canterlot! Such a cool guy, with really fancy clothes! But you know what was really weird about him?" Pinkie Pie went on.

I took a moment to think the punch line over. But before I could reply, a voice called out from the stairwell behind me. "Lemme guess. No pants!"

Pinkie Pie pointed and shouted, "YES!" Then suddenly I saw her beat out a rim roll on some drums and cymbals… But…how was she up on stage and over at the drums at the same time? I couldn't look in both directions at once, so I don't think I will ever know.

I turned to see who had spoken the punch line and saw Applejack walking towards us. "And the funny thing is it's true! Fancy Pants sure is a fancy fella, but he ain't much fer pants. Anyway, what're ya girls up too?"

Pinkie Pie spoke before I could. "Fluttershy was feeling sad and lonely, so I'm perking her up with some jokes! Like this one!" She then held her microphone to her mouth and asked, "Hey, do you know why Big Macintosh is called 'Big' Macintosh?"

Applejack didn't seem entirely comfortable with Pinkie Pie talking about her big brother. "Uh… Pinkie? What did ya'll hear about my brother?"

The comedian on stage replied, "Don't worry, this is a good one! And the answer isn't because he's a big pony. I mean he's not THAT much bigger than us. But I was lucky enough to find out from a mare he was dating!"

I looked at Applejack, who seemed a bit nervous. Did she know where the joke was going? "Anyway, everypony in town knows Big Macintosh is a bit on the quiet and shy side, so it was a big surprise to me to see him dating somepony! Well, the lucky mare came into Sugarcube Corner the day after I saw them together. I said hello and asked her how Big Macintosh was to her the previous night."

Since Pinkie Pie paused for a moment, I tried speaking up. "And…what did she say he was?"

Pinkie giggled before replying. "Well, her expression became like this…" Her face looked like she was completely love struck or smitten with somepony and she even started to sway a bit. "And all she said was… Biiiig."

I fell onto my side laughing. That was…wow. I did not see that coming. But Applejack seemed kind of bothered by the punch line. She looked really annoyed, but was also blushing. "Uh… Wow, Pinkie. I didn't know ya'll could do jokes like that. Just don't go 'round town tellin' that ta anypony. Big Macintosh is a might sensitive."

Pinkie Pie laughed loudly while I tried to calm down. "Oh, don't worry! That joke is safely locked away in my vault in a kryptonite case hidden on the dark side of Mars!"

Kryptonite… Mars…? "Uh…where?" I asked. Even though I know Pinkie Pie is extremely random sometimes, that was…really out there.

"Exactly!" She replied, almost as if she knew exactly what I was about to ask. "Anyway, what's up, Applejack? You need any apple turnovers?"

Applejack chuckled while she replied. "Nah, I reckon Granny Smith is already whippin' up a batch of 'em at home right now. Pretty sure I smelled 'em when I left. I'm just here ta check on Fluttershy."

I think I knew why she was checking on me. "I'm all right, Applejack. I mean…I'm still worried, but I'm sure he has a good reason to be away right now."

"Heheh, yeah. Rarity was goin' on 'bout how he just might sneak in tonight and surprise you in bed." Applejack was giving me a sly smirk when she said that. And…oh dear, my wings sprang open when I thought about it.

"She said that? Oh…my… That sounds so…romantic…." I felt so hot as I said those words. I must have been blushing.

"Ooh, whatcha thinking about, Fluttershy?! You planning something special for your sweetie pie?" I heard Pinkie Pie jeering from behind me.

"Ain't that the name of one of yer cousins?" Applejack asked before I could faint. I mean, I really was feeling lightheaded at that moment. And hot… Did I mention I was feeling really lightheaded?

"Oh, yeah! My second cousin! Silly me!" Pinkie giggled right into her microphone, broadcasting her giggling throughout the room.

Still… I could not stop thinking about my boyfriend. Sneaking in during the middle of the night and coming to me as I lie in bed… I'm just feeling giddy with excitement. It's definitely something he would do. "Um… I'm sorry, Pinkie. I really should be getting home now. I want to make sure I'm there when James comes home."

Applejack gave me her biggest smile. "Well, don't let us stop ya! Get goin', girl!"

Pinkie Pie then spoke up too. "You just bring your sweetheart back to Ponyville when he shows up! I'll have some cupcakes waiting!"

I nodded while smiling. I was feeling much more confident already. I said goodbye to my friends and hurried down the stairs and out the door. To save time, I decided to fly the rest of the way to my house. I normally prefer walking, but I was feeling so…um….pumped up that I just wanted to get home as fast as possible. And flying is faster than running.

I got home in record time. I saw a buch of cute little bunnies hopping around in the fields near my home and some songbirds singing in the trees. It always feels so good to come home to that. But there was still no sign of my boyfriend. But that was OK. I knew he would be coming home soon.

Um… I would like to write about all the rest of the things that happened while I was home, but I don't think anypony would be interested in reading about that. But at the end of the day, I watched from my roof as the sun went down. That lovely shade of pink and orange in the sky… I felt so at peace, but so very lonely too. James and I watched the sun go down a few times and it always felt so right watching that with somepony you love.

I have made up my mind. I will not go to sleep until James comes home tonight. It's almost 9 PM right now, so I'll go ahead and take a shower now.

All right, I just finished… 9:30 PM. Still no sign of him. I think I will brew some tea to help pass the time.

That was some good tea. I saved some in the pot for James. I know he loves honey in his. It is 10:30 PM now. He should be here anytime.

Midnight… Still no sign of him, but I won't sleep. Not until he's by my side again.

Goooooooood morning, Ponyville! This is Pinkie Pie writing to you today! Things have been getting a little weird today, so I'm keeping a journal until things go back to normal. Or at least normal for a place with me in it!

I started out my day just like any other. That is to say, me getting dressed in my workout clothes! Yeah, ponies wear clothes sometimes! But I had to take them off right after putting them on when I noticed I didn't have any babies to make laugh. I just can't start my day until I make somepony laugh, or at least smile. But that was when I had an idea!

"Ooh, I bet Fluttershy could use a smile! And James too! Since he probably got home last night, I bet he could use a 'welcome home smile' to start his day!" I spoke to myself. But then that little voice in my head that keeps trying to talk me out of eating salads instead of candy spoke up. "Duuuuh! Now go give them some giggles!"

I fixed up my mane and made sure to feed Gummy before I left. Sugarcube Corner hadn't opened yet, so I didn't have to worry about being late to work. I also know that James works at the spa today, so I had to hurry to catch him before he left. I trotted through town, saying hello to Derpy as I walked by. And Rose. And Zecora. And Cranky Doodle. And Matilda. And Deadpool! He's my most special friend! Oh, just don't ask me where he comes from. I only see him once in a very long time and it's never for very long. That, and nopony believes me when I talk about him.

Anyway, I had to rest my hoof after waving to so many friends before long. I trotted right across the meadow that leads to Fluttershy's place. Things were kinda quiet when I started to get close. The birds were hardly tweeting and things seemed kinda…sad. I don't know how that works! How does a place FEEL sad?

I saw Fluttershy with her back turned to me across the little bridge that crosses the stream in front of her cottage. She seemed a little unsteady with how she was swaying just a little. I trotted right up behind her and gave her my biggest grin. "Gooooood morning, Fluttershy!"

For some reason, Fluttershy didn't turn around. But she did quietly reply. "Oh… Good morning, Pinkie Pie."

She sounded pretty bad. I thought she was sick at first. "Hey, are you OK? You don't sound too good. And where's James?"

"James… I… I promised myself I wouldn't go to sleep until he was by my side again." She muttered softly.

"Uh huh… Then what's wrong?" I asked, becoming really concerned the longer she talked. Hey, I just wrote that in a more professional style! Cool!

Fluttershy started to turn to face me when I spoke. Those eyes… I jumped back. She looked…awful. Her eyes were puffy and bloodshot with bags under them. It was like she had not slept. "He never came home…"

Never came home… Oh no… "He never showed up…? At all? Oh no no no no no, this isn't good…"

"I don't know what to do… He should've been home yesterday… He never left a note saying why he would be gone for a day…" Fluttershy muttered with her head bowed. She looked so exhausted.

"Well… If he's been gone this long… Then he must've left a note around here explaining why!" I replied with a big smile. I had to do everything I could to keep Fluttershy's spirits up. And mine. I was worried too, but there must be a reason why he's still gone. "Let's go round up the girls! We'll have an easier time finding his message if we're all looking at the same time!"

"Uh huh… Let's go…" Fluttershy replied weakly. I could tell she was trying her best to smile, but she was really not in good shape.

"I'm pretty sure Granny Smith has a little pink-me-up that'll get you through the day. Let's go find Applejack first!" I spoke before pointing south. Granny Smith has all kinds of old recipes that are amazingly powerful. And without using caffeine!

Fluttershy kept wandering off to the sides with how tired she was, so I had to keep pushing her back and forth to keep her on the right path. It didn't take too long to reach Sweet Apple Acres. And lucky for us, Applejack was already outside the barn. "Morning, Applejack!"

Our stubborn farm friend turned to look in my direction before giving me a big grin. "Huh? Oh, howdy! What brings ya'll… Whoa, Fluttershy?! What's wrong with ya?" I guess it didn't take her long to notice Fluttershy's extremely sleepy face.

"Huh…? My face…? Oh, that…" Fluttershy spoke before letting out a really long yawn. "It was…zzzz…"

Uh…. Wow. That's the first time I ever saw somepony fall asleep while standing. Applejack spoke up while Fluttershy stood before us with her head bowed in sleep. "Uh… Ya think we oughta wake 'er up?"

Before I could reply, I felt my tail twitching like mad behind me. "Ooh, my Pinkie Sense is tingling! I think…somepony's about to do it for us!"

Right when I said that, a big splash of water crashed onto Fluttershy's head. She woke up with a shriek, looking around while shivering. "Huh?! What?! Did I…fall asleep?"

Applejack looked up and smiled while waving. "Much obliged, Derpy! She needed that!"

I looked up to see who Applejack was talking to and saw Derpy Hooves hovering above us with a bucket hanging from her mouth. "Don't mention it!" She replied before flying off in Ponyville's direction.

"All righty then, Fluttershy. We gotta get ya wide awake if yer gonna get through the day. And I've got just the thing. Right this way, pardner." Applejack motioned for us to follow her. Fluttershy seemed wide awake after that, but she was already starting to look really drowsy again.

"Uh… You think we should….ugh…tell her about why we're here?" Fluttershy asked while trying to walk straight.

I gave her my most reassuring smile. "Let's wait until you're really perked up."

Applejack took us into the kitchen of her house. The air was warm from the stove being on and…was that the smell of peppers in the air? There was already a pot on the stove and there was a really REALLY spicy odor coming from it. "Granny Smith was havin' a hard time gettin' herself goin' this mornin', so I whipped up her lil' homebrewed pick-me-up to really get 'er peepers workin'. We still got enough 'ere fer another servin', just let me warm it up first."

I watched as Applejack got the bellows on the floor working to get the fire in the stove hotter. I wonder what she put in that stuff… Oh well. We didn't have to wait long. Applejack soon took a ladle and poured some of the brew into a cup for Fluttershy. "All yers, Fluttershy. Don't just sip from it though. Chug it."

Fluttershy wobbled over to the counter and looked down at the cup. "Um… Are you sure this is safe to drink? It smells…awful."

I couldn't help giggling. "Yeah! I can smell it from here, and that smells like something only a dragon would drink!"

Applejack rolled her eyes with a pretty funny looking smile. "Well, it is my first time brewin' it. But it really got Granny Smith movin', so I'm guessin' I got it right. Go on and take it!"

Fluttershy looked down at the cup before gulping hard. "Well…here I go." She held the cup between her hooves and took a deep breath. She tilted her head back and gulped the whole thing down. I was about to ask how it tasted, but Fluttershy then showed the craziest expression I had ever seen on her face while her mane and tail stuck straight up and went all Mohawk-like!

"AAAAGH! IT BURNS!" Fluttershy shrieked while rolling around on the floor with her face as red as a tomato. I honestly did not want to laugh at her…but I couldn't help it! I was howling!

"Hmmm….. Was that two teaspoons of habanero pepper or two whole buckets of habanero peppers I was supposed ta use?" Applejack muttered out loud while holding a hoof to her chin.

Fluttershy then asked, "Habanero?! Who drinks… Wait… I feel…better?" The red in her face was gone and her hair was back to normal. And to top it off, her eyes looked normal too! "Wow… I feel really rested now! It actually worked!"

"Granny Smith wouldn't add anythin' to her old remedy book if it didn't work right. But in any case, what happened? Ya'll ain't somepony who's known fer havin' insomnia, Fluttershy. Somethin' on yer mind?" Applejack replied after placing the empty cup in the kitchen sink.

"Oh… That. Well… I promised myself that I wouldn't sleep until James came home last night…" Fluttershy muttered, instantly looking depressed.

Applejack turned and looked at Fluttershy with a look of really strong concern and even a bit of shock. "Last night? Don't tell me he…"

Fluttershy let out a loud sigh before she spoke. "No… He never came home…"

"He… Really? Never? Land sakes, this just don't bode well…" Applejack muttered while looking away.

I decided to speak up at that point. "No, it's kinda creepy! That's why we need to round up our friends to turn Fluttershy's house upside-down to find any evidence on what might've happened to him!" I then reached into my Pinkie Space and pulled out my trusty detective hat and bubble pipe! "It's time for another cold case investigation by Private Eye Pinkie Pie!"

I turned and started to make my way towards the door when I noticed Fluttershy and Applejack weren't following me. "Hey, come on! We've got a mystery to solve!"

"Um… Pinkie Pie…?" Fluttershy muttered with a look that looked like… Well… It kind of looked like this. u_u

"We ain't goin' anywhere 'til ya take off that hat." Applejack added with an identical expression.

"Huh?! Why?! This is the perfect look for an expert detective who's trying to solve a mystery!" I replied. I just don't get why they didn't want me wearing it!

"Pinkie… Do you remember the last time you put that on?" Fluttershy asked without changing that really funny look on her face.

"Why? The last time I wore this was when we were on the… Oooooh…" That's right. The last time was when we were taking the train to Canterlot for the National Dessert Competition. And… Wow, I really made myself look like a total loony. Don't want that to happen again! "I see what you mean. I'll just…uh…put these away now." I then stashed my hat and pipe back into my Pinkie Space. Oh… And before you ask what Pinkie Space is… Well, I'll just write it out for you. $! ^%%&^*&%**(^*% $#% That's Pinkie Space! Oh wait… I'm the only pony who can read that. Sorry! I guess I can't translate it enough for other ponies!

"That's better. Now, let's mosey. We should go get Twilight next." Applejack spoke up while we followed her out the door. "Big Macintosh! Mind the farm fer a lil' while! I've got a bit of an emergency on my hooves!"

I heard Big Macintosh call from upstairs somewhere. "Eyup!" He never talks much and I have no idea why!

Fluttershy asked while we left the farm, "Do you think there's a shortcut we can take?"

I replied while reaching to my left, "Of course there is, silly filly! Let's just jump to the next frame!" I then started pulling frame after frame looking for the right place. "OK, there's the town square… Sugarcube Corner… Whoa, an unfinished storyboard! Rarity's house… The library… Oh, wait! Go back! Library! There we go!" I made sure we were in the right place before letting go of the frame. "Here we are! Twilight's… Um… Are you OK?"

Applejack and Fluttershy looked really weirded out by something. "Pinkie, just how in the hay do ya do that?!" Applejack yelled while her eyes seemed to be rolling around in her head.

"Oh, that's easy! All you have to do is…" Um… I would explain more… But seeing as how Fluttershy and Applejack looked like they had just suffered seizures by the time I finished explaining, I think it would be a bad idea to force onto you readers too.

"Uuuugh… Pink….fluffy unicorns…" Fluttershy muttered while looking completely unresponsive. I honestly felt sorry for her, but I knew she would be OK in a minute.

"Dancin'…on…rainbows…" Applejack added with her head resting in her upside-down hat.

I heard the sound of hooves clopping coming up from behind me before a familiar voice spoke up. "Whoa, what happened to these two? Did you try to explain something weird to them again?"

I turned to face who was talking and found Rainbow Dash standing next to me. "Oh, I was just explaining how I jump between panels! All you do is…" Oops. I did it again. Rainbow Dash fell on the ground in a minute while foaming at the mouth.

"Stay…away from Fluttershy's….shed…" She muttered weirdly. And since when does Fluttershy have a shed? Rainbow Dash must get some really weird dreams sometimes. Maybe she needs to lay off the cider.

I went back to Sugarcube Corner while waiting for my friends to wake up and grabbed a cupcake. But when I came back, they STILL were sprawled out on the ground! So I went ahead and ordered a pizza. And I made sure to get one that's big enough for all of my friends!

"Uh huh. An extra large veggie pizza for carryout!" I spoke to the clerk at the counter after jumping to another panel that led to the local Pizza Pony Express. Then I hopped back over to my friends. Fortunately, they were starting to come to their senses by the time I got back. "Ooh, you're awake! Is everypony all right?"

Applejack spoke up first while adjusting the hat on her head. "Yeah, I'm good. Only now I'm gonna have that dang song stuck in my head fer the rest of the day."

Fluttershy stood up next and asked, "Um… Does it go something like…pink fluffmmph?!"

"I don't wanna hear it, Fluttershy! Just don't bring it up again!" Applejack interrupted her by stuffing her hoof into Fluttershy's mouth. Fluttershy didn't seem to mind though and just gave a nod.

Rainbow Dash let out a groan as she rubbed her head. "Ugh, you girls aren't the only ones with a song stuck in your head. And why does my skull hurt so much?!"

I giggled nervously, feeling pretty bad that trying to explain how I manipulate panels caused them to…well…experience whatever they were going through. "Sorry…! I guess that stuff is hard to explain… But hey! I think I can try dumbing it down for…"

"NO!" All three of my friends shouted at me with really annoyed looks. I just grinned sheepishly without a word, hoping they weren't too mad from what happened.

"Anyway, what's going on? You girls paying a visit to the library for something special?" Rainbow Dash asked while glancing back and forth at us.

Applejack spoke up first. "Well, we were all lookin' fer ya too, Rainbow. Good thing ya found us."

I then tried to explain things. "Yeah, but we need Twilight and Rarity too! We've got trouble, Rainbow! BIG trouble!"

I think Rainbow wasn't taking me very seriously since all she did at first was laugh. "What? Do you need to gather up some instruments to lure away a swarm of Parasprites again?"

Fluttershy replied with a really worried expression. "No… It's that… James never came home last night."

Rainbow Dash instantly lost that swagger of hers when she heard that. "Wait… You're serious? No sign of him today?"

Applejack spoke up instead of Fluttershy. "She stayed up all night waitin' fer 'im, Rainbow. From dusk 'til dawn. And he never showed up. Right, Fluttershy?" The poor pegasus only nodded. I really wanted to give Fluttershy a big hug to make her feel better, but I could tell now wasn't a good time.

"Well, it's a good thing you've got the fastest pegasus in the whole wide world with ya! I'll find him in no time! Uh… Once we have an idea where to look, that is." Rainbow replied with her usual enthusiasm. Although I think I could see a tiny bit of worry in her eyes.

Fluttershy then spoke up really softly. "Um… It would be better if we all looked for him. Should we get Twilight now?"

We all looked at each other and nodded before I decided to reply first. "Well, duh! Why leave out one friend?!"

Rainbow Dash held the library's door open for us. "Then what're we waiting for?" One by one, we all trotted inside. Hopefully Twilight was still home.

"Twilight! Ya'll here?!" Applejack called out while we went closer to the middle of the room. The place seemed pretty tidy. Maybe Twilight wasn't awake yet. Or so I thought until I heard hoofsteps coming from the stairs. Sure enough, Twilight came into view. Only the funny thing is she had some messy bed head.

"Oh, good morning, girls! I only just woke up. Kinda had a study craving last night… And Spike and Owlowiscious did a really good job of cleaning up!" She said while coming down the stairs and looking around at the place. Was it really that bad last night? "So, what's going on? And why are so many of you here?"

Rainbow Dash spoke up first. I would've said something, but… I really don't think the situation called for anything cheerful or jumpy at that time. I had to be careful to restrain myself. "Well… We've got a problem, Twilight. And we'll need your help for it."

"Oh dear… What happened? Did a shipment of books get lost on they're way to Ponyville?" Twilight asked as she walked towards us.

I couldn't help but reply to that one. "Oh, come on, Twilight! It's something IMPORTANT! And books aren't all that important!"

I get the feeling I shouldn't have said that. Twilight got right up in my face after that. "Not important?! Of course books are important!"

Applejack pushed us apart before looking at Twilight. "Maybe ta ponies like you, but not everypony. Besides, this is serious, Twi! Fluttershy?"

We all looked towards Fluttershy. She had her head bowed like there was something she did not want to say. And we all knew what it was. "Fluttershy? Is something wrong?" Twilight asked while approaching her.

Fluttershy only muttered one word. "James…"

Twilight let out a tiny little gasp before she reached out and placed a hoof on Fluttershy's shoulder. "Fluttershy… Don't tell me he…"

I saw a tear or two fall from Fluttershy's cheeks. "I waited as long as I could… From sunset until sunrise… He never came home…"

Applejack took a step closer to Twilight. "She looked pretty bad when she showed up at my place this mornin', Twi… I don't think she's stretchin' the truth."

"Gone… No… There has to be a reason…" Twilight muttered as she took her hoof off of Fluttershy's shoulder. After a moment of looking at the floor, she then looked at us with a pretty determined gaze. "I'll do all I can to help. We'll figure out we're he is today."

Whoa… I almost never see Twilight look that focused on anything that doesn't involve books. I could tell she was taking this whole thing personally. She and James have been very close for a while now. And… Just between you and me? If James and Fluttershy never got together, I'm pretty sure he and Twilight would've ended up becoming sweethearts! There's just something about those two together that makes me think 'two peas in a pod'. But I'm getting really off-track now.

Twilight led us all outside as she took charge. "Spike, please watch over the place while I'm gone! I've got something important to deal with!" She called out while stepping through the door.

I heard Spike reply from somewhere upstairs. "All right! See ya in a while!"

I think I'll stop here. Things should be OK now that Twilight's in on the mystery now. But we still need to go get Rarity. I just hope we figure out what's going on here. I swear I can almost feel my Pinkie Sense giving me the shudders…

Hello. This is Twilight Sparkle writing today. Today… Well, today has just gotten weird for me. I know really weird things have been happening to me and my friends on occasion ever since I came to Ponyville, but this is the first time I have had a friend disappear into thin air.

Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy came to me together today and asked me for help in locating James. He was never seen yesterday and I was sure he would come home by this morning. But… It seems he never returned. Fluttershy even stayed up all night to wait for him to no avail. Even so, I am certain he would not leave without explanation. He has disappeared from Ponyville once before, but was considerate enough to leave a note behind explaining why. There must be one somewhere in Fluttershy's house and we are going to find it!

Of course, it would be best if we had as many ponies as possible looking. With only Rarity missing from our group, we went straight to the Carousel Boutique to fetch her. After a while though, I stopped. It was possible James was in danger and we needed to do whatever we could to save time! "Girls, hang on. Why don't I just teleport us over to Rarity's house?"

Pinkie Pie spoke up first while I looked back at everypony. "Great idea! Should we stop by Sugarcube Corner and pick up some of her favorite snacks too?"

Applejack rolled her eyes before I could. "Pinkie, ya'll know we ain't makin' a house call. We gotta round up all our friends ta find our missin' friend!"

"Ooooh, right! I guess the yummy goodies can wait." Pinkie replied without showing much regret over her rather pointless suggestion.

"All right. Everypony stay close to me…" I spoke while I closed my eyes. Using teleportation to transport multiple ponies takes greater focus and more mental stamina than just teleporting one's self. I felt the magical energies in my horn radiating out and engulfing us before I felt that familiar rush of a spell being cast. Feeling just a little fatigue, I opened my eyes and found that we were standing just outside Rarity's front door. "We're here. Shall we?"

Rainbow Dash went first, pushing the door open to allow us in while the bell above the doorway jingled pleasantly. It turns out Rarity was right in the middle of the main room with a mannequin wearing an absolutely dazzling white suit adorned in deep blue sapphires. There was a chest on the floor next to her that seemed to be all but empty of the same kind of sapphires that were sparkling on that suit. "Heya, Rarity! We've got trouble!"

Rarity spun around, almost dropping one of the sapphires she was using. She looked rightfully annoyed too. "Rainbow Dash, at least just give me time to say hello before you announce that there is a problem!"

Applejack stepped forward first. "Sorry ta barge in unannounced like this, Rarity. But we got trouble."

"Trouble…?" Rarity asked with a perplexed gaze. But just before any of us could explain, she lost her magic grip on the sapphire floating next to her and let it fall into the chest nearby. "No… You don't mean…James?"

I let out a sigh. James and Rarity have been close since day one of his life in Equestria. It was probably going to hurt to admit this to her. Fluttershy bowed her head and spoke softly. "Yes… He never came home last night…"

Rarity seemed very distraught at first, but she almost immediately brightened up with a look of resolve. She reached out and lifted Fluttershy's chin until they were looking right at each other. "Say no more. I know why you're hear and I will gladly assist you in the search."

Pinkie Pie let out a giggle. "You read us like an entire encyclopedia! Unlike Twilight, who can only read an encyclopedia!"

I am ashamed to admit I actually took a moment to get that. Pinkie Pie just befuddles me to no end sometimes… Actually, I take that back. She bewilders me very very frequently. I could probably spend a lifetime studying her and I STILL would not know half of how she works! In any case, I could only roll my eyes at her. Even if I could come up with a vocal response, I was not certain how to word it at that time.

Rainbow Dash then hurried to the door and held it open. "Well, what're we waiting for?! We know what we're looking for, right?!"

Rarity nodded as she and the rest of us trotted to the door. "Indeed! James surely left a note behind somewhere in Fluttershy's cottage with a very detailed explanation of why he would be gone for such an extended period of time."

Once we were outside and heading on our way, Pinkie Pie started doing her signature springy hop while we trotted along. "This is so exciting! It's like we're solving a mystery!"

"Um… I guess it has gotten a bit more interesting now that all of us are helping with the search." Fluttershy spoke up while allowing a small smile to form on her lips. It did my heart good to know we were starting to cheer her up.

Rainbow Dash then joked, "Ya know, this reminds me of the time Applejack ran away from home after she lost that rodeo competition! Remember how we went all over to try to find out where she went?"

Applejack let out a loud groan while rolling her eyes. "Ugh, ya had ta bring that up! I told ya'll I was sorry!"

I decided to speak up at that point. "And we know you were, Applejack. And we're all proud of you for understanding the errors of your decision back then." Then, for the sake of being honest, I continued. "Although if James had been there, I am very certain he would've found your actions to have been extremely childish."

At those words, Applejack showed a very embarrassed expression while her eyes glanced back and forth at us. "Uh… Heh….heheheh… Ya know…? If he were ta say that… I'd say he was right. Ugh…"

Rarity nodded as she trotted up alongside her. "I must concur with that. But do not let it get to you, Applejack! That was months ago! And you have learned from the experience, haven't you?"

Our favorite farm pony friend let out a long sigh before showing a more sincere smile. "Yeah… I reckon I have. I ain't gonna be repeatin' that little stunt anytime soon."

"Anytime soon?!" Rainbow Dash spoke with a raised voice while giving Applejack a pretty irritated glare.

Clearly intimidated, Applejack nervously smiled. "Oh…uh…I mean I ain't EVER gonna repeat that mistake! Yup! Never again!"

"That's more like it." Rainbow Dash replied with a satisfied grin while the rest of us burst into hearty laughter. Hooo, I wish James was there with us to listen. He would have gotten a good chuckle out of it, I just know he would.

We got so caught up in conversation; I totally forgot to us the teleportation spell to whisk us away to Fluttershy's house to save time. Next thing I know, more than half an hour has passed before we found ourselves crossing the meadow that separated Fluttershy's home from Ponyville. "Whoa. Here already?"

"That means we can start searching! Tally hoooooo!" Pinkie Pie shouted before she charged ahead. But right after crossing the bridge, she froze in her tracks and turned around. "Oh, right! Where do we start?"

I stepped forward and quickly thought up a plan. "Well, we're all here, so let's divide up the areas to search. Fluttershy?"

Fluttershy raised her head to look directly at me. "Yes, Twilight?"

"You check with all the animals out here. Ask them if they have seen James at all over the course of the last 24 hours. Or if they are in possession of a note of any sort." I spoke before Fluttershy nodded readily.

"Rainbow Dash, you search the treetops and the roof of Fluttershy's house. It's possible the note may have gotten swept up by wind and dropped in one of them." I spoke towards Rainbow Dash who then bashed her hooves together in a clear show of agreement.

I then looked towards Applejack. "Now, Applejack… Uh… Wait, is Winona around here?"

Applejack shrugged her shoulders. "Nah, but I can call 'er. Ya'll want us ta sniff 'im out?"

"That's exactly what I was going to suggest." I replied, glad that she was on the same page as me. Applejack nodded before looking south and letting out a high-pitched whistle.

"She oughta be here in a bit. I'll get searchin' with 'er when she gets here." Applejack spoke with a smile.

I nodded to show my acknowledgement of her words and turned to Rarity. "Now then… Rarity. You and I will search indoors. Your skill with the levitation spell is greater than mine, so you'll lift and shake out the furniture to see if the note has fallen inside or under them."

"Gladly. I'll make certain every nook and cranny is thoroughly inspected." She replied with a very confident smirk.

"Lastly, Pinkie Pie… You…uh…" I paused for a minute. What area should Pinkie Pie search in?

"Yes? Yes? Yes?!" Pinkie Pie kept asking as she kept hopping up and down in front of me in giddy excitement.

It was while I was looking at her ridiculously happy face that I had an idea. "You know what? Go ahead and search anywhere you can. I won't ask how you did it or where you looked. Just look anywhere you can." Goodness knows how she does most things when I'm not looking, but she tends to get things done.

"Perfect! I'll make sure to look everywhere I can! Maybe the animators at the HUB are hiding it in their… Mmph?!" I covered her mouth the instant my brain started to hurt.

"No details! Just find the message! I don't care where you find it or how! Just find it and spare us the details!" I pleaded while everypony else nodded with very uneasy expressions. They clearly did not want their minds to break.

"Oki doki loki! So…what're we looking for again?" Pinkie asked when I took my hoof off her mouth.

"Well, if it's the same kind of note as last time, it's probably a rolled up scroll. Or maybe a folded sheet of paper. Keep an eye out for these things. Now, let's getting searching!" I explained before Rarity and I started to head up the slope towards Fluttershy's front door. Everypony else went off in different directions while Applejack stood at the bridge while watching for Winona. Although I swear I saw Pinkie Pie…open a hole in the ground before jumping inside and closing it behind her… Uh…best forget I ever saw that. It's just Pinkie Pie being Pinkie Pie. Nothing more…

The first place Rarity and I inspected was Fluttershy's living room. "All right, let's start here. Rarity?"

My fellow unicorn friend nodded with a smile. "Allow me." She then closed her eyes as her horn was engulfed by her signature light blue magic aura. Every last bit of furniture that was not nailed down in the room was engulfed in an identical magic aura and lifted off the floor and walls. It still amazes me how Rarity has no difficulty at lifting so many objects of various sizes at once. I have lifted more and larger objects, but it always required greater focus for me. I confess that there are times where I have felt envious of her mastery over the few spells she knows. Though it makes sense considering that her spell pool is smaller than mine and that she has had more time to focus on improving her skill with just… Oh wait, I am going way off topic here. Sorry!

"OK, hold those steady for a minute, Rarity." I spoke while going around the room to check the empty spaces of floor and shelves I could find. I even made certain to check the undersides of the various furniture in the room. If James had deliberately hidden his message to us in such a fashion, then he did an excellent job of setting up an ingenious scavenger hunt.

"Any luck so far, Twilight? Mmm… This tea… I must ask Fluttershy what it is." Rarity asked while apparently sipping some tea… Wait, what? Tea?

I turned to face her and saw that along with holding all the furniture in the room airborne, Rarity was also levitating a white porcelain teacup while occasionally taking sips from it. And she looked as if she was not even trying! I did my best to hide my jealousy and replied with only a slight frown. "No, not yet. Try turning them upside-down and shaking them out."

Rarity nodded before every single piece of furniture in the room flipped upside-down. She even removed the cushions from the sofa before they all started shaking and jumbling in the air. "OK… Let's see…" I muttered while paying close attention. Bit by bit, small objects started to fall out. "There's a few bits… a…um…copy of Playmare magazine… What's this chainsaw doing here?"

"Perhaps Fluttershy uses it to carve up firewood? Although how in the world would it get lost in a sofa?" Rarity asked in reply. She was clearly baffled, but her magic grip on the floating objects around us did not weaken.

"Let's leave it here for now. But keep shaking." I spoke, keeping a close eye on the sofa. The next thing to fall out was… Pinkie Pie?!

"Hi, girls! Found it yet?!" Pinkie Pie asked after she fell on her rump.

"How did… What were you even doing in there?!" Rarity asked while somehow not losing focus on her magic.

"Oh, I did a little searching here and there! I looked in Deadpool's boxer drawers, I checked Princess Celestia's favorite cake shop, and then I rode a narwhal until I ended up in the sofa! Oh, and I didn't see any bits of paper in there. But I did see…"

"No more! Just go! Just keep looking!" I yelled as I felt my vision starting to spin. Pinkie Pie just giggled and ran out of the room. Just…what? And who is Deadpool?! It sounds like a pony who…..ugh, I would rather not think about this anymore. I feel a migraine coming on just remembering it.

"Well… It seems we're not going to find that note here." Rarity spoke as she gently put everything back where it used to be. Although she did not release her teacup.

"Yeah, it looks like this room doesn't have it. Let's check the others." I replied before heading over to the side room.

Nothing of interest was found in there or in the kitchen or bathroom upstairs. The last room we checked was the bedroom. "Oh dear… Poor Fluttershy never went to sleep after all… And look at the sheets on that side. It really is like he just disappeared out from under the covers." Rarity spoke as she pointed to the side of the bed where James was likely sleeping two days ago.

I took a closer look at the bed. Fluttershy's side had been made, but it looked like she had left his side alone. It was somewhat wrinkled and uneven, but had not been pulled back to allow him to stand up out of bed. I had never seen anything like it. Truly something a detective would need to be called in for.

"Well, this is the only place left to search here. Rarity?" I spoke before glancing at my friend. She nodded silently before once again using her magic to lift everything into the air. We had to be more careful that time since there was less space to maneuver everything.

"See anything yet, Twilight?" Rarity asked while I checked the areas of the room that had been previously obscured.

"Nothing here… Nothing on top of the fireplace… And nothing on the underside of the bed. I guess we need to check inside everything now." I replied. I was honestly starting to get very worried by that point. The bedroom was the last place to check. If we did not find any evidence of why James seemingly disappeared, then I could only hope that our other friends had found something by the time we finished.

"All right then. Would you mind standing back, Twilight? I'm going to need a bit more room to move everything." Rarity requested as the books on the shelves started to float off and the mattress lifted off of the bed's frame. I backed down the stairs a bit and watched.

Rarity was really showing how in control she was. She did not seem stressed at all as she shook the books out and pulled the covers and sheets from the mattress. She even lifted the roofs from the birdhouses hanging from the ceiling. The entire room was filled with floating shaking objects. Rarity was really doing her best to make sure no stone was left unturned.

"Drat… Nothing there… And nothing here… Twilight, are you seeing anything falling to the floor?" Rarity called out while looking back and forth at her surroundings. I lowered my head close to the floor while standing on the stairs and watched closely for the next minute. I watched for anything to touch the floor. Any scraps of paper of any kind.

"Rarity… You can stop now." I finally called out. There was nothing coming out of the furniture. But Rarity did not seem to hear me. She kept looking back and forth at the furniture as they started to shake more vigorously.

"Come on… Where is it?" She kept muttering. I saw she was not going to listen to me. Rarity was starting to become desperate. I walked over to her, stepping around the floating objects and placed my hoof on her shoulder.

That got Rarity's attention. She suddenly looked directly at me as everything in the room became as still as stone. She did not say anything, but I could see it in her eyes. If she was not worried before, she certainly was at that moment. I spoke softly to try to comfort her. "It's not here, Rarity. There is no note."

Rarity let out a sigh of defeat as she lowered everything in the room back to where it used to be. She put all the books back in order and even remade the bed to the point where it looked as if nopony had been sleeping on it at all. It really amazes me just how attentive to detail Rarity can be. Regardless, she looked at me with a pleading gaze she almost never shows. "Twilight… I miss him."

I was starting to feel it too. Until now, I was certain that James would return to us soon. I really was not that worried at all. But after this… With no evidence on where he was or why he was gone… It was starting to feel as if we would never see him again. That type of silent dread that hits you when you begin to fear you have lost something important.

I gently held my friend in an embrace with one leg. "I do too, Rarity… Let's go outside. Maybe the others had better luck."

"I pray they have…" Rarity muttered as we slowly made our way down the stairs. I too was hoping that at least somepony had found a lead.

We went outside right away and waited. I could see Rainbow Dash practically crawling through the foliage that coated Fluttershy's roof. Applejack was following Winona everywhere while the little border collie kept her nose to the ground. Fluttershy seemed to be talking to a small flock of birds roosting in a tree. And Pinkie Pie… Oh right. She hopped out of the stream that flowed in front of Fluttershy's house. But…why was she soaked to the bone and wearing full scuba gear? That stream is nowhere near deep enough for her to be completely submerged in it.

One by one, our friends approached us. And their somber expressions showed what I feared. Rainbow Dash spoke first. "I got nothing… There was no paper in the trees or on the roof."

Rarity replied with a long sigh while bowing her head. "We found no leads… We checked every room and every cranny…"

"None of my little friends have seen him since two days ago… The last time any of them saw James was when he went inside for the night. They say he never came back out." Fluttershy explained, looking utterly depressed.

Applejack looked down at Winona, who in turned seemed to frown as she let out a faint whimper. "Winona led me all 'round the place, but James' scent is kinda faint by now. The strongest she found was the trail that led inta the house… He didn't go anywhere recently."

We then all looked at Pinkie Pie, whose face was being obscured by her goggles and the mouthpiece attached to her oxygen tanks. "Did you find anything, Pinkie?" I asked while she spit out her mouthpiece and lifted her goggles to show the rest of her face. Her mane and tail were weighed down with water too, reminding me of how she looked when we threw her first birthday party since we became friends. But that is a story for another time.

Pinkie Pie stood there smiling. I started to feel a bit hopeful at that face. Pinkie always smiles when something good has happened. But suddenly, she frowned and seemed to almost cry. "I can't lie to you girls! I didn't find anything either!"

Nothing… No sign or evidence at all… What could this possibly mean? I have never felt more worried for someone for as long as I can remember. What happened to our friend? Where was James?

"Gone… But…why?" Fluttershy asked faintly while looking around at us.

Rainbow Dash suddenly went airborne and pointed at the Everfree Forest nearby. "I'm gonna search the forest again! He's gotta be in there!"

I tried to calm her down before she could rush in there. "Rainbow, you're being reckless! We're all worried about him, but we have no way of knowing if he's even out there!"

Applejack then spoke up with all the proof we needed. "Did ya'll ferget what I just said?! If James had gone inta the Everfree Forest recently, Winona would've noticed! Wouldn't ya, girl?" Winona let out a bark of approval in response.

Rainbow Dash paused and looked back and forth at us and the forest behind her. She then let out a sigh and descended to the ground. "Darn it… This sucks! I wanna find him, but I have no idea where to start!"

"We all do, Rainbow… We all do." Rarity replied while reaching out and patting our brash pegasus friend on the shoulder.

Pinkie Pie then asked as she slid off all of her scuba gear and shook herself dry until her mane and tail returned to their usual poofy states. "Well… What do we do now?"

I looked at my friends and let out a sigh. I felt truly helpless at that moment. Like nothing I said or did would help the situation. "All we can do now…..is wait. If he truly cares about us…and values us as friends…he will come home eventually."

Applejack then muttered, "But there's no way of tellin' when that's gonna happen…"

"Well… Just standing here is not going to solve anything. I suppose…we should just do what we have to do until then…" Rarity spoke with a truly unhappy tone. "I need to return home and put the finishing touches on my current client's commission…"

"Yeah… And I gotta help get the clouds ready for a rainstorm this afternoon…" Rainbow muttered as she once again started to go airborne.

Pinkie Pie then stashed her scuba gear…somewhere behind her head. "And I need to get back to Sugarcube Corner. The Cakes are going to wonder why I'm so late today." Pinkie spoke with a very bland tone of voice. For her to not be showing her usual happy personality was very unusual. She was taking James' disappearance pretty hard.

"I guess we all have things to do. Just…try to keep yourselves occupied. It'll make the wait easier." I spoke while trying to smile. Although I will admit what I was suggesting was a lot easier said than done.

"Um… If it's OK with any of you…" Fluttershy began to mutter. "May I…stay with one of you for now?"

I saw what the problem was. Fluttershy wanted to be in the company of friends to help suppress her worry. But before I could volunteer, Rainbow Dash spoke up. "Sure! You can hang with me for a while! If you don't mind moving clouds, that is."

Fluttershy nodded with a very somber smile. "Thank you…"

Just before anypony else could say anything, Applejack spoke out. "Hang on, girls. What should we say ta the fillies? James is one of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, right? And I keep hearin' Scootaloo call 'im 'er big brother…"

Right… Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo are close friends with James too. But how would they handle the information if we told them he was missing with absolutely no leads? Rarity was the first to speak up. "Don't tell them anything… We don't want to worry the little dears. They already get themselves into enough trouble as is. No telling what they would do to find him."

Rainbow Dash let out a groan. "No kidding. I can definitely see Scoot doing something stupid if she caught on."

Pinkie Pie nodded with a bit of a worried expression while still speaking in her peppy cheery voice. "Yeah! Those three silly fillies are almost as much trouble as Pumpkin Cake and Pound Cake! Oh wait…no… Sweetie Belle can't use magic and Scootaloo can't fly… OK, so they're ALMOST as bad!"

I sighed, "Bottom line, don't tell them. If they ask, we say we haven't seen him today." I then looked back in the direction of Ponyville, knowing Spike was probably wondering what was keeping me. "I think I need to get back home though… I don't think I should leave Spike alone for too much longer."

Applejack nodded with a very slight smile. "Right. If anypony catches sight of James anywhere, ya'll let us know." We all started to head back to Ponyville, though Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy flew off together to the closest clouds.

I think I shall stop here. This… It has not been pleasant to recall this event to write it down. I have just sent a message to Princess Celestia asking if she could potentially help us in the search. I am certain she must know of some specific types of magic that can be used to help locate a missing person regardless of where they are. For now though, all I can do is wait and hope.

Well, today has gotten really weird. I find Applejack and Fluttershy just spazzing out on the ground in front of Pinkie Pie and then I find out my good buddy James is still missing without a trace! We even went right over to Fluttershy's house and turned the place upside-down to find any proof of what happened. But we all turned up empty-hooved.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried by now. All I could do was try to focus on my weather patrol duties to keep my mind off the bad. Fluttershy had asked to tag along with me, probably for the same reason. I guess being with friends helps keep you distracted from bad thoughts.

"So… You know what it's like doing weather patrol work, Fluttershy?" I asked while looking over my shoulder at Fluttershy. For whatever reason, she didn't seem to notice me. She was just flapping along with her head tilted down. Her eyes seemed kind of…well…empty. Almost like she was asleep but awake at the same time. "Um… Fluttershy?"

After a few more times of calling her name without getting a response, I stopped in place and grabbed her by the shoulders before giving Fluttershy a few good shakes. "Fluttershy, snap outta it! What's wrong?!"

We just hovered there in place with Fluttershy looking at me with those blank empty eyes. It was really creepy, now that I think about it. I almost thought she was dead at first! But finally, she suddenly broke down with her eyes closed and rested her head on my shoulder while holding onto me. "I can't help it…! I'm so scared for him!"

I really wasn't surprised. Fluttershy… I've known her since we were just fillies in flight school. She has never had a boyfriend in her life. And James… Well, I think he was one of the best things to happen to her since meeting me and our other friends. They seem like a perfect match. And whenever I saw them together, they were always happy.

Um… I don't know if I should write this… But I have occasionally watched them in Fluttershy's house at night. And sometimes I saw them doing…stuff. You know the kind of…steamy stuff couples do. And man… James really knows how to make a mare feel good, from what I've seen. I've never seen Fluttershy sound so joyous. The love they share… It's a really strong kind of love. So I can understand why she was so broken over him disappearing.

I did everything I could to calm Fluttershy down. If I didn't, I was going to start crying too. "Fluttershy… Hey… Fluttershy, listen to me!" I pulled her off of me and held her in front of me while we both hovered in place. She still had big wet crybaby tears flowing down her face and dripping right off. I hope nopony was below us at that moment…

"Look… I know it hurts, especially since now we know there's no way of knowing where he went and why he's gone. I'll be honest, I'm almost worried outta my mind too! But… I know he'll come back… I don't know when, but he'll be back." I tried to give Fluttershy the best pep talk I could. She's sensitive and fragile, so these things can go a long way with her.

She bowed her head at first. Her tears just would not stop falling, but I could see she was taking my words as much as she could. But a moment later, she asked me something that I really didn't see coming. "Rainbow… Do you think that…maybe…James was just a dream?"

That… Sweet Celestia, that hurt… I never even wanted to think that was possible. "Humans have never existed in Equestria before… They're just things out of myth…right? Does that mean that…he was just something that came to be from our own imagination?"

I am going to be honest here. I was really tempted to slap Fluttershy when she said that because of how much it hurt to hear that. And I almost did. I pulled my leg back to take a swing at her. Fluttershy knew it was coming and squinted her eyes shut and prepared for the blow. But…I instead gently placed my hoof on her cheek. "Fluttershy… Don't you ever say that again…"

Those words she said were the last push I needed to let my own tears out. I almost never cry, but… I had every reason to this time. There's no shame in getting emotional over the total disappearance of a friend. So if you read this and even consider calling out rough tough Rainbow Dash for crying over a good friend disappearing, shut up! You would be feeling the same way if one of the best friends you've ever had disappeared without a trace!

Fluttershy reached out to me and tried to wipe some of my tears away. "Rainbow… I'm sorry… I…I'm just so scared…"

I tried my best to smile through my tears. "He's not a dream. He never was. He's our friend. And he's your sweetheart. You think the love he gave you was a dream too?"

She didn't reply at first, so I went on. "He loves us, Fluttershy. And he loves you most of all. He would never leave you. And…I've been getting that kind of vibe from him. He values his friends and would never even consider leaving them…" But then…I had an absolutely horrible thought. "But… Man, I really don't want to even consider this, but… Do you think…wherever he is now… Do you think he might've thought we were all a dream to him too?"

Excuse me for a minute… This is just too depressing to remember…

All right… I'll try to write the rest now. Fluttershy looked at me with one of the most fearful looks in her eyes I had ever seen. "I… He… From what I heard… Where he came from… I think Equestria… This might be a world that…to him…is too good to be true. He might have thought…"

I stopped her before she could go on. I didn't want to hear anymore. With tears just flowing down my cheeks and with my voice starting to break, I covered her mouth. "Forget I asked! I'm sorry I even brought that up! Just… Let's not talk about this anymore, all right?! It… It just hurts too much…"

Fluttershy nodded without a word. I could tell she just didn't want to talk anymore. "OK… Well, we have a job to do now. Come on… We need to move all these clouds everywhere we can to cover up the sky above Ponyville. All you need to do is push…"

Forget it, I don't have the drive to write anymore. Remembering all of this has got me feeling so depressed… I'm going to try to sleep it off… James… Come home, please… We all miss you.

Today felt…so empty… We looked everywhere we could in and around my house… We never found any evidence of where my boyfriend went. James is…gone.

I did everything I could to try to keep myself happy today. My friends were always happy to have me along to keep my spirits up. I helped gather up and sort books with Twilight, I helped carry and harvest apples with Applejack, I helped bake some cupcakes with Pinkie Pie and even earned a few extra bits, I helped Rainbow Dash arrange some clouds above Ponyville to get ready for a rainstorm, and Rarity and I had some tea together. It did a good job of keeping my mind occupied, but…it couldn't last forever. Eventually evening came and I had to go home.

I felt so alone as I walked home. Because I had nopony waiting for me at home anymore. Is this what it feels like to break up with somepony? This feeling of emptiness and longing? Nothing was exciting me anymore…

The air was quiet. No sound was being carried along it. But I soon felt something perch on my head. I didn't mind at first. I was too depressed to really care. But whatever was up there caught my attention with an adorable little coo. "Wait… Angela?"

I held out my leg to let whoever was up there perch on something I could see. A cute little white dove flew down and perched on my hoof. She looked at me with those cute round eyes. "Angela… Do you miss James too?" Angela is James' pet dove. And as she looked at me, The more I could see my boyfriend's cutie mark. The beautiful twin white dove form…

I pulled my hoof closer to my face and gave her a gentle nuzzle. "I miss him too, Angela… I want to see him again." I whispered softly. I felt a tiny bit better having a little friend with me at the time. Angela let out a long chorus of gentle, but also very sad sounding cooing.

When I got home with Angela on my head, I found that my home's surroundings were very quiet. There was no activity. It was like me being sad and depressed was making all of my little friends sad and depressed too… I couldn't help it. I… I was so scared and worried… If we had found a note today in my house explaining where James was…or at least why he was gone, I would be able to rest more easily. But…we found nothing today. What if he is…gone forever? What if he was just a dream? What if he was never here to begin with…

No… I need to not think that… Rainbow Dash would be so mad at me if she heard me saying that or even writing it down… I'm just so depressed now…

I'm so tired… I just want my boyfriend to come home… James, I love you… Where have you gone? When will I see you again?

Man… I felt awful when I woke up today. I felt like I had been applebucking all night in my sleep. Well, I wasn't exactly sore. More like…just feeling like I had been run ragged. Hardly any energy.

I rolled right out of bed and onto my back. Yep, that's right. Rolled like a pig in mud. I think I might've gotten the attention of somepony with that thud since a minute later, Big Macintosh knocked at the door. "Ya'll all right in there, AJ?"

Ugh… I really wasn't in the mood to talk to anypony at the time. I just wanted to wallow like…a…well, like a pig wallowing in mud. "I'm fine, Big Mac. Just…woke up on the wrong side of the bed taday…"

"All righty then… I'll go get started on breakfast fer ya." I heard him reply before he started to trot away. What a way to start my day…

I looked at myself in the mirror. I can't remember the last time I saw anypony look that forlorn. My eyes looked heavy and my face was… I really needed to give my face a good scrubbing with a wet warm washcloth. And I knew why I looked so down too. "I hope I see 'im on my way ta market today…"

I started to reach for my hat that was hanging on the closest rack, but stopped. As I looked at it, I remembered how James once said he thought I looked better without it. I rubbed my hoof against my chin for a moment. Was he really right? I've had that hat for ages by now. I took another look at myself in the mirror from a few other angles. I got to admit I was showing more of my mane without it. But I always liked that good old country look my hat gave me. But still…

I looked at the hat again and thought back to my friend. He… He was still missing. I then looked away from my hat and back to myself in the mirror. I gave myself a slight smile. "Well, if he's comin' home today, I may as well give 'im a surprise." I then turned and trotted out of my room. If James likes how I look without my hat, I'll let him get a good look at me today. Assuming he showed up.

I went downstairs and took a seat at the dinner table. Big Mac was already getting stuff ready for breakfast. "Ya need a hand there, Big Mac?" I asked, trying to keep myself occupied and keeping my mind off my worries.

"Nnope. I've got everythin' almost done." He replied. A yummy smell was already coming from the oven. Looked like he had some apple tarts and an apple pie baking. "Was Granny Smith awake when ya came down?"

I shrugged my shoulders. Granny Smith can sure be a heavy sleeper some days. "Nope. I'm guessin' she won't be up fer another hour or so."

Just as Big Macintosh was setting out a big plate of fried eggs, Apple Bloom came into the kitchen. "Mornin', Applejack. Mornin', Big Macintosh. What do we have fer breakfast?"

I looked back at her and tried to keep a smile on my face. "Looks like we've got eggs, apple tarts, and a big ol' apple pie."

"Oh goodie! We always have the best apple pies!" Apple Bloom replied as she galloped in and hopped up onto her seat beside me. We both looked at each other and gave each other a little grin. I'm just glad she's not old enough to tell when a smile is fake yet.

The two of us watched as Big Macintosh set out the pie and tarts on the table, fresh out of the oven. He cut each of us a slice and placed them out on our plates. But as I looked down at my slice, I…I just didn't feel hungry. I was just too worried. I know I've been told I have the appetite of a full-grown stallion, but… I just couldn't feel any of it.

"Sorry, Big Mac… I'm just not hungry this morning." I finally admitted while pushing my plate towards him.

"Really…? But yer always hungry when ya wake up." My brother replied while his eyes were opened a lot more than they usually are.

Apple Bloom was giving me some funny looks too. And…well, lying has never been a strong point of mine. So I just tried to be honest without having to tell too much. "Yeah… Well, I'm not taday. Don't know what ta tell ya."

Big Macintosh let out a little chuckle. "Well, ya'll can make fer it at lunchtime, I guess." He then started munching on his eggs while waiting for the rest of the stuff to cool.

I felt it would be rude to just up and leave, so I stuck around for a bit longer. But I didn't wait long before Apple Bloom looked over at me. "Hey, sis? Have ya seen James lately? Since it's Saturday, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, and I were hopin' he could hang out with us and help us come up with some new ideas ta try and figure out our talents today."

I couldn't lie to her. I just couldn't. I let out a sigh and looked at her with the best smile I could make. "Sorry, Apple Bloom. I haven't seen 'im lately. But if I spot James this mornin' when I take the apples inta town, I'll let 'im know ta meet up with ya girls at the clubhouse."

She didn't give me the response I was hoping for. Instead of giving a grateful smile like she did the last two days, she instead gave me a really irritated look. But I think she was also looking kind of worried too. "But…that's whatcha said yesterday…and the day before that…"

I really couldn't find a retort for that one. All I could do was look away and down at my plate. I ended up forcing myself to eat the slice of pie on it to make it looked like I wasn't worried anymore. Mighty good pie too, even if I wasn't hungry enough to really appreciate it. I even managed to crack a smile and make some mmm sounds to show that I was feeling better, even if I really wasn't.

When I looked back at Apple Bloom though, she was just staring at her plate too. It had a slice of apple pie on it along with an apple tart and a scoop of fried eggs. She then spoke in a really unhappy tone. "Sorry… I'm not hungry either…" Right after that, she hopped out of her chair and ran out of the room and then right out of the house.

"Dagnabbit… Even the fillies are startin' ta catch on that somethin' ain't right…" I couldn't help muttering under my breath. Things were bound to get bad if Scootaloo figured out James is missing, being a 'big brother' to her and all. I only hope they don't figure out he disappeared without a trace just yet. And it's only been three days since he vanished…

"Somethin' eatin' ya, AJ?" Big Macintosh asked from across the table. I lifted my head and looked right at my brother. He looked a might concerned by then, a worried frown on his muzzle.

I can always count on my big brother to keep a secret, so I felt it was OK to tell him the truth. "Big Mac… I really don't want ya goin' 'round tellin' everypony this, all right?"

He gave me a nod. "I can tell somethin' hasn't been right with ya the last couple of days. What's been goin' on?"

I let out a long sigh as I propped my chin up on my hoof. "Ya'll know James, right? Well…he's gone. And I don't mean like just left on vacation or had somethin' ta do in Canterlot. I mean…gone gone… Like…disappeared inta thin air."

Big Macintosh gave me one of the weirdest looks I had ever seen on his face. As if he had just gotten a whiff of all the rotten eggs in the world. "Just…gone? And…no signs of kidnappin' or anythin' like that?"

I nodded while lifting my head to look at him. "Yeah… No signs of forced entry. No notes explain' where he went. No testimony from all the lil' critters living 'round Fluttershy's place. Just…..gone. Almost like I was dreamin' and…and…"

Where did that thought even come from… I… The tears just came flowing as I spoke those words. "Big Mac…" I looked right at my brother as my vision got all blurry. "What if he… Do ya think he even existed in the first place?"

He let out a long sigh and shook his head. He then got right up from his seat and walked over and draped a foreleg over my shoulder. "AJ… I know whatcha mean… Nopony wants a friend who doesn't really exist."

I couldn't make the tears stop. "I know, but… Humans only exist in those really old myths. Then James shows up in town one day… I swear it feels like it's all some kinda sick joke! Like maybe he was just a figment of my imagination…"

Big Macintosh gave me one of his really firm and gentle hugs. "AJ… I saw 'im too. I felt the guy whenever he touched me. I heard him whenever he talked ta me. I heard him laugh. I saw 'im in front of me. I know he was real." He then looked me in the eye and whispered. "I know he's still out there. We'll see 'im again."

I can always count on Big Macintosh's thoughtful approach to everything to keep my head on straight when it gets screwy. I swear the 'Big' in his name partially refers to his brain. I let out a sigh and wrapped my arm around his shoulders. "Thanks, Big Mac… I really needed that."

He gave me a light nuzzle and went back over to his side of the table. "Ya'll need any help harvestin' apples fer market today?"

I shook my head as I hopped out of my chair. "Nope. I can handle this. And thanks again fer breakfast, Big Mac." We waved goodbye and I ran outside. I had work to do.

"All right then… Which tree do I start with taday?" I muttered while carrying a couple of bushels on my sides. I looked around at the apples around me that had not yet been harvested. But that was when I saw one that had already picked clean. "Wait a minute… That one is…"

That tree… I remember. It was the first tree James tried to help me harvest a couple of days after he first showed up in Ponyville. That really killed my mood. I was hoping to keep my mind off of him at least long enough to get the harvesting done. Well, I at least tried to shake it off and went over to the first tree I saw that still had apples on it.

Well, that was embarrassing. In about twice as long it normally took for me to buck ten trees and harvest the apples on them, I only got five done. I just couldn't get myself fired up enough to kick hard enough or move fast enough. Depression does that to you. But just before I could reach the cart to load the apples up, I walked right into somepony. I had my head tilted down, so I didn't notice the guy until we had already collided.

"AJ… Ya sure ya don't need any help?" I heard him ask. It was Big Macintosh.

I looked up at my big brother. He already had his yoke on to get some work done himself. I looked away, feeling kind of ashamed that I couldn't get as much work done as usual with me feeling so gloomy. "Sorry 'bout that… I just… My mind's somewhere else right now…"

Big Macintosh let out a really long deep sigh. I think he was bowing his head. "Ya miss 'im that bad, do ya?"

I looked back up at him. No point in trying to hide anything. "Yeah… It's true what they say. Ya just don't know how much somethin' means ta ya until it's gone… Especially when ya have no idea if you'll ever see it again…"

My brother didn't have a reply at first. Buut he did eventually put his hoof on my shoulder. "Ya'll go ahead and take whatcha got inta town. I'll buck ya a few more bushels and bring them down ta market in a lil' while."

That really took a load off my shoulders. I reached out and gave Big Macintosh the biggest hug I could. But considering how I was at the time, it really wasn't much. "Much obliged, Big Mac. Just bring 'em on down when ya think ya'll have enough."

I slipped myself into the harness of the wagon that held all the apples I had rounded up. Although since it was only around half full, it wasn't feeling very heavy. At least I could get to market faster than usual. I said my goodbyes to my brother and moseyed on out of the farm and into Ponyville.

I kept a constant eye out. I almost always bump into James whenever I make it into Ponyville on time. That means he's usually my first customer of the day. I kept looking around, trying to keep watch of him. "C'mon, pardner… Where are ya?"

My usual spot to set up shop is right around Sugarcube Corner. Today is Saturday though, so James would be working at the spa. But he always ends up passing by Sugarcube Corner anyway. I think he probably does it just so he can see me every morning. I got to admit that James and I really don't have much in common. He prefers to avoid getting his hands dirty and probably doesn't care much for spending time on the farm. He does drop by pretty frequently to help out a little for some extra bits and probably just for a good workout though. Despite all that though, I really like the guy. The few times we do get together are always really swell.

I never saw James on my way to market, but I stayed hopeful. Maybe he was just running late. The fella is kind of a late sleeper sometimes. In the meantime, I went ahead and set up my stall and set the apples out. It really was kind of sad just how few there were this time, seeing as I reached half of my daily quota. Hopefully Big Macintosh would bring the rest before the morning rush hit.

"All right then… Don't look mopey. Keep a smile up…" I kept telling myself. Worried and depressed or not, I had a job to do. "Get yer nutritious delicious apples here! Fresh picked not even an hour ago!"

I didn't even wait five minutes before my first customer showed up. "Howdy, Lyra! What can I do ya fer?"

I was honestly hoping Lyra would know something about where James has been the last few days. The two of them have gotten mighty close thanks to her interest in humans. "Morning, Applejack! I'll have one red and one golden apple please." Lyra replied while pointing at the two bushels I had on display. I keep the apples separated depending on what type they are to make sorting easier.

"Sure thing, Lyra. That'll be four bits." I replied before she tossed a few at me. I caught them and dropped them in the pouch on the apron I was wearing.

I watched as Lyra made two apples float up and took a bite of one. But before she could walk away, she took another glance at me. "Oh, wait! You're not wearing your hat today?"

I swear I had all but forgotten that I wasn't wearing it at the time. "Huh? Oh, right. Well, I haven't seen a friend of mine fer a few days and he likes how I look when I'm not wearin' my hat. So I thought I'd surprise 'im next time we bump inta each other."

Lyra chuckled as I explained myself. "Do you have a boyfriend now, Applejack? It sounds like you're trying to impress him."

Boyfriend?! Where'd that come from? I got a might flustered there and retorted while losing my cool for a bit. "Huh?! No way! I just wanna make the fella happy fer once! Show that I appreciate his compliments, ya know?" I then rolled my eyes for a moment, thinking back to one moment not too long ago. "Although he was givin' me some funny looks when I got outta the hot tub at the spa that one time… But maybe that's because I let my mane down and it was all soaked."

"Ooh, lots of stallions like the long wet mane look. Has he asked you out yet?" Lyra asked with a sly smirk.

I couldn't help rolling my eyes at that one. "Uh… No, he hasn't. I don't think he'd appreciate havin' ta help out much on the farm anyway. Besides, he and Fluttershy are practically a couple now."

Lyra gave me a really surprised glance. "Him and Flutter… You mean James! How has he been lately? I haven't seen him for three days now."

Well…shoot. So even Lyra had no idea what happened to him. And judging by the time, if I had not seen James by then, I wasn't going to see him all day. Again. "Ya haven't, huh?"

I think I dropped my emotional guard at that moment since Lyra's expression changed to one showing concern right away. "Hey, what's wrong? Did something happen?"

There was no hiding it by then. I let out a sigh and looked her in the eye. "No point in hidin' it anymore… Lyra. James is missing."

"Missing… What do you mean by that? He has to come home at some point, right?" Lyra replied after tossing the core of one of her apples before starting on the next one.

"No, ya don't get it. I mean… He's gone. As in just up and disappeared inta thin air. We tried searchin', Lyra… We turned Fluttershy's house upside-down lookin' fer any leads… And we got nothin'." I lowered my head. I couldn't even look at her.

Lyra didn't say anything for a minute. But she did eventually break the silence. "Gone… And you found no evidence of what happened to him?" I could only shake my head. "Oh… Well… I can't imagine him wanting to stay away for long… I'm sure he'll be home soon. Maybe he'll even have some new stories to tell me."

"Yeah… Maybe… Huh?" It was only then that I noticed that quite a line had formed behind Lyra. "Whoa. Uh…ya'll wanna talk 'bout this later? I've got other customers ta tend to right now."

Lyra suddenly looked behind herself and grinned all nervous like. "Oops! Sorry! I'll get going now!" She then looked back at me and gave me a big reassuring smile. "Don't lose hope. You'll see him again. And please let me know when you do!"

I tried my best to smile too while I waved goodbye. "Thanks, Lyra. Ya'll come back now, ya hear?" Right as she trotted away, Pinkie Pie stepped forward. "Huh? Well, howdy, Pinkie! Yer my second customer."

That perky pink pony girl let out a quick giggle. "Well, duh! You'd better expect me to be one of your first when you set up shop right outside my front door!"

I looked to my right for a moment to double-check my location. I almost forgot that I was set up right outside Sugarcube Corner. "Oh, right! Almost fergot 'bout that. Anyway, what can I getcha?"

Pinkie Pie pointed to the bushel on my left. "I'd like an apple for my bapple so I don't feel so dapple!"

Uh… I have to admit right now that last bit was kind of…random. Even for Pinkie Pie. "Er… Come again, pardner?"

"Oh, right. I think the more common way to say it is… An apple a day keeps the dragons away!" Pinkie replied while showing me…the…creepiest smile I had ever seen on her. Well, the smile would've looked real if her eyes didn't look like that. I think…that smile was totally fake.

"Pinkie… Um… Are ya'll feelin' all right?" I finally had to ask. I was getting a really weird vibe from her. And not a funny weird vibe. More like creepy weird.

Pinkie Pie gave a really sudden twitch just before she replied. Almost looked painful. "Oh, I'm feeling just fine! Never better! I'd say I'm even feeling Pinkie keen!" She then let out a really long…and creepy giggle with… Those eyes…

If I had to look at those eyes for much longer, I might've ended up running away. "Ya know what? Go ahead and take it. It's on the house taday. No charge." I spoke quickly to try to get her to go away. I know that sounds mean, but you would've been creeped out too if you saw that face!

"Huh? Really? Thanks, AJ!" Pinkie Pie replied while her expression returned to normal for just a moment. She snatched up a golden delicious apple and chomped it down with one bite before trotting away and back into Sugarcube Corner.

I swear… Something just wasn't right with Pinkie Pie. There's no way that smile was real and that giggling was more creepy than happy. But I didn't have enough time to look into it. I had customers to tend to.

I might as well stop here. Nothing much else happened after that… Still… James, if you ever read this, I just want you to know I miss you more than ever right now. Come home soon, partner…

Hellooooo! This is Pinkie Pie! Everypony's happy! Everypony's having a good morning! I'm having a good morning… Well, OK, not really. But…I have to hide it. Keep smiling! Keep laughing! Better to smile than to frown!

I just grabbed an apple from Applejack and came back up into my loft in Sugarcube Corner. I have the day off today, so I'm just relaxing for now. I looked around and saw Gummy sleeping on my bed. The cute little gator is always so lazy in the morning.

Hmmm… What could I do to pass the time? I looked around the room. I had a lot of free time today, so I had to do something. The first thing I saw was a bucket full of turnips. "Oh, I almost forgot about those! I need to make a salad with them today."

The next thing I noticed was a bag of flour. "Oh, right. I guess the babies grew out of the 'white flour pony' gig. Maybe I should take that back down to the kitchen." I giggled, but then felt a strong twitch as my body just suddenly jerked in a really weird way. Did that ever happen before? Well, I didn't feel any pain, so I guess it wasn't a big deal.

I went over and grabbed the bag in my mouth and started to carry it towards the stairs. But right as I was about to pass the turnips, I stumbled into a box and spilled whatever was inside. And what was inside was my rock collection! Oh right, you might not know this. I used to live on a rock farm as a filly. These rocks were mementos from my younger days. "Oops! Better clean that up."

After putting the rocks in a neat little pile, I started to reach for the sack of flour again. But I then noticed that I was right next to my bed. "Huh? What that…" I took a closer look under it and saw one big fluffy dust bunny. "Ew, I better get tha…ah…ah…AHCHOO!"

I must've inhaled a bit of dust when I looked under there, because I let out a big sneeze that blew the dust bunny right out from under the bed. But then I felt a stinging in one eye. "Ow! Something's in my eye!" I yelped before running to a big mirror in the corner. I kept my eye cosed and rubbed it for a bit before letting it open. "Huh? Nothing?" I spoke to myself before giving a big smile. "I guess I got it out. Silly me!"

I looked at myself for a minute. Smiling. Grinning. Only…it wasn't really real. I know a fake smile when I see one. And I wasn't really smiling. That fake smile melted right off my face and into a frown. "Oooh… Who am I kidding? I'm just trying to keep myself busy so I don't think about my friend being gone… I miss him…"

It was James. He just disappeared a few days ago and I haven't found any trace of him since. I let out a long sigh as I saw my mane and tail in the reflection deflate and my colors get dark. It's weird, I know. But it happens every time I get depressed. "I wish I knew where you were right now… So I could bring you a whole stack of cupcakes."

Wait… Why be so sad? I know James cares about me! He must like me if he went out of his way to warn me about…dye a…dye a bee tease? What's it called again? Well, he told me about it and I'm glad he did. I might've eaten myself to death if he hadn't. I turned away from the mirror and took a nice long breath and felt my hair get its natural poofiness back. "There's no need to be sad. He'll be back! He's my friend!"

But just as I started to walk away, a voice spoke from behind me. "No, he won't."

I froze. I knew that voice. I slowly turned around to face the mirror since that's where it sounded like it came from. I saw myself looking back at me. Only…it wasn't the real me. It was the old me. How I used to be. My… Or rather, her mane and tail were hanging down straight like mine was a minute ago. Her coat was a darker pink and her face was showing a quiet scowl.

"Why… Where did you come from?" I asked. I felt scared. This wasn't normal. And why didn't her lips move when I talked?

She gave me a really mean smile. "Oh, I'm you. The real you. I mean, you should know. You've know me all your life."

I honestly found that to be soooo funny. The real me? Ha! I'm the real me! "Heehehee! You silly filly! I'm the real me! You're just a reflection!"

Right as I was about to turn away though, she spoke again. "I guess so. I'm just a reflection. That means I'm just as real as your friend."

That sounded…weird. "Huh? Real as my friend?"

"Uh huh." She replied while gesturing with her hoof and still smiling really wickedly. "You can't find or see your friend because you can't remember what he looks like."

I was starting to feel pretty annoyed with this…weird reflection of myself. "What's that supposed to mean?"

My reflection pointed to somewhere behind me. "It wouldn't be the first time you thought up fake friends."

I honestly had no idea what she was going on about, but I felt a really strong chill flow through me when I heard a voice that sounded like mine, but…different. "Yeah, Pinkie! Did you forget about us?"

I turned around really slowly. "R…R…Rocky?" There they were. All piled next to each other. Rocky, Mr. Turnip, Sir Lintsalot, and Madame le Flour. They… They were from a day not that long ago that I wish I had handled better. I felt so guilty looking at them. I should never have made them.

"You haven't even talked to us for over a year by now! What's wrong with you?!" Mr. Turnip yelled at me.

"Is it because you feel you're above us now that you have real friends? We're your friends too, in case you've forgotten." Sir Lintsalot spoke without moving an inch.

"We missed you, Pinkie. Come back to us. And bring your new friend too. I know he would love to meet us." Madame le Flour beckoned to me with her squeaky accent.

I felt such horrible dread looking at them. I was losing my mind… My depression was getting to me. I was so scared… I wanted to see him again so badly, I was starting to hallucinate. "No… I can't go back… You're not real…"

I heard myself giggle behind me. "They're no more real than James, you know. Sometimes, the best friends you can ever have are the ones in your head. They never betray you. They never hurt you. And most importantly…" I turned around quickly to face her only to see her smirking at me with the meanest smile I have ever seen in my life. "They never…ever…EVER…leave you."

I was sweating so much. I felt so hot like I was in a desert. But I did my best to smile. The best way to deal with your fears is to laugh at them, you know! "Heeheeheee! You're not fooling me!" I spoke with the biggest smile I could show. That made her stop talking, but she was starting to look kind of annoyed. "Fake friends are good for keeping you entertained when you have no one else in your life, but nothing can replace good real fri…"

Something grabbed me and pulled me forward. My reflection… She had reached out and grabbed me around the back of my neck and had stuck her head out of the mirror and was right up in my face. "Knock it off! He's not real! He was never real! Humans aren't real! They don't exist! Myths don't exist! Wake up! Face reality!"

She kept yelling at me. But I tried to laugh anyway. "Ha… Haha…"

"Go on! Just keep laughing! It won't change anything! Just accept it! It was all in your head! His touch. His voice. None of it really happened! He was just a…"

"SHUT UP!" I finally screamed. I punched her right in the face as hard as I could. I heard glass breaking as her body shattered into lots of shiny pieces. "SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UUUUP!" My head was pounding. I was so mad. So scared. So…lost. I can't even find a way to describe what I was feeling.

"She's right, you know! That guy was just like us! He's not real! He never was!" I heard Rocky yell from behind me.

I turned to face the four friends I wish I never made. What happened next… It felt like I wasn't in control anymore. Like I was just watching and hearing myself without any control over what I was doing. I was screaming, punching and knocking them around! The part I remember most was when only Madame le Flour was left. I grabbed her between my hooves, lifted her over my head, and started slamming her into the floor over and over…hard…screaming…

"HE IS REAL! HE IS REAL! MY FRIENDS ARE REAL! JAMES IS REAL!" I kept chanting. I wouldn't stop. I kept slamming that lifeless sack of flour into my floor over and over. I could feel tears being flung off my face with every sudden jerk of my body. I don't know how long it kept going, but eventually I felt something tackle me to the floor. I was on my back looking up at something purple.

"Pinkie, stop! What's wrong?!" The pony yelled while pinning me down. It… It was Twilight Sparkle. She was looking right down at me with a really worried expression.

I tried to talk. But I was crying so hard that the only thing I could make was pathetic whimpers and cries. I just couldn't make myself speak any real words. I must've sounded like an insane animal…

"Pinkie, enough! Calm down!" Twilight shouted at me while giving me a good shake. "Calm down. Take long deep breaths. Relax."

I tried so hard to do what she said. I gritted my teeth together and inhaled through them. I inhaled until I could fit no more air inside and then let it all out nice and slow. I did that a few more times until I felt myself not shaking as much anymore. "Good… Now, tell me what happened. Why is your room such a mess? And why is your mirror broken?"

I looked around at my surroundings. My mirror had been shattered. Only the back of it and its frame was still in one piece. There was a bag of flour in the middle of the room just behind Twilight. My pile of rocks had been scattered everywhere. That pile of dust had been spread out everywhere as if I had kicked it. And that bucket of turnips had been knocked over. It… It looked liked I had even crushed one.

I looked up at Twilight. My vision was still very blurred with tears. I… All I could do was cover my face with my hooves and cry. But I felt Twilight give me a very gentle hug. "It's gonna be OK, Pinkie… It'll be OK."

She didn't let me go until I stopped crying. I managed to at least sit up while Twilight took a look at the place. "Pinkie… Did you do all this?" I didn't say anything right away, but I did manage to nod. I still can't believe I lost control like that.

Twilight kept looking around for a while before she looked at me with a really worried looked. "It looks like you had a massive psychotic breakdown….. What happened? What caused you to snap?"

I couldn't talk. I felt so down… So low… No words would come. Twilight then raised her hoof suddenly with a smile. "Ah, right! Maybe a warm shower will help you relax. Studies have shown that bathing has very soothing psychological effects on ponies."

By then, I really just wanted to do anything to help myself feel better. I nodded and led Twilight into my bathroom. "OK. I'll get it ready for you." But while she got the water running, I saw myself in another mirror above the sink. My mane and tail… They looked the same way they did in my reflection earlier. I had to look away. I didn't want to remember that… Writing this made me remember it all over again… I need to take a break for a minute to get my mind straight…

OK, I'm feeling better now. A few minutes later, I was just sitting in the tub with the water up to my shoulders while Twilight was using a brush on a stick to scrub me. We didn't say anything at first. Eventually, Twilight did speak up. "Are you feeling any better, Pinkie?"

I still felt too down to really say anything, but I did look at her and nod. "Uh huh… Kinda."

After I looked away for a moment, I felt Twilight place her hoof on my shoulder. "Do you want to tell me what happened?"

I turned and looked at her without saying anything. She looked so worried. "I promise not to tell anypony if you want me to keep it secret." She then showed a bit of a funny smile. "And don't worry. I won't crack like I did back when Photo Finish was in town."

Good old Twilight. That actually got a giggle out of me. "OK, Twilight… I'll tell you…"

I tried to find the right words. As much as I just love a good joke, this wasn't something to joke about. I looked down at my reflection in the water. I couldn't see all of me because of the bubbles, but I could see some of my face. "Twilight… Do you think that some of your friends…even though they look real…might not be real at all?"

She looked really confused at what I said seeing as how she tilted her head to one side. "Huh? Wha… What do you mean by that?"

I let out a long sigh, placing on hoof on the water's surface while my reflection reached back. I'm just glad that it didn't talk back to me that time. "It's just… See how my reflection moves and looks? How real it is? It's like it's a real person. But…" I then looked right at Twilight. "Do you think some ponies…or people who aren't in mirrors might not be real either? Just…being things we think we're seeing and hearing and touching but we really aren't?"

Twilight looked at me with a really disturbed expression. And I don't mean a creeped out kind of disturbed. I mean a really sad kind of disturbed. She took a moment to reply. "Pinkie… I'm going to be honest. That is the most depressing thing I have ever heard you say. This is because James disappeared without a trace, isn't it?"

I nodded and looked back at myself in the reflection. "It's just… Humans have never really existed in Equestria before, right? I mean, there was that little problem a couple of weeks ago, but we've never found any proof that they were ever real. They were only talked about in myths, right?"

"Please don't say anymore, Pinkie. I know what you're getting at and I'm going to tell you this right now." Twilight replied before grabbing my shoulders between her hooves. "Stop thinking that. I… I don't care how likely it is that James was just an illusion cooked up by overactive imaginations. He is still our friend."

I could tell that Twilight was trying to keep my faith strong. And I really wanted to believe her. But I then asked, "Do you have any proof that…he was really real and not a dream?"

She opened her mouth as if she was going to talk, but she paused and lowered her head and sighed. "No….. I have no way to test that." But she then looked at me with a really hurt expression. "But please… Don't say things like that anymore. I don't want to believe such a thing. If you still care about him, don't let go of your faith in him. Believe that he'll come home and he just might."

I took a deep breath. She was right… I should always have faith in my friends. I could feel my mane start to return to normal. "…..When he comes home, I'm gonna throw a big party for him. A 'welcome home' party. And I'll be sure to invite all of his closest friends!"

"Now that's the Pinkie Pie I know." Twilight said with a smile while making a towel levitate over to me. I hopped out of the tub and grabbed it before drying myself off. I saw my wet tail quickly inflate back to its regular poofy look. "I still want to know how that works. Is your mane and tail just hair-covered balloons?"

"Nope! It's all natural!" I replied with a big grin. I was definitely feeling better by then. If you're reading this, thanks, Twilight!

Once I was all dried off, we went back out into the loft's main room. I felt myself wince as I saw my broken mirror and the mess I had made closer to my bed. "…I'll clean this up. Don't worry." Twilight spoke with a reassuring smile. I nodded with a smile too and just watched.

Twilight went over to my mirror and levitated all of the broken glass into my trash pail near my bed. She then used a little broom and dust pan to sweep up the bits of dust and squashed turnip and dumped that in too. She then levitated all of the dropped turnips and put them back in the pail before placing all of my rocks back into their box. "There we go. I'll take this bag of flour back downstairs on my way out. Oh, and I'll take your mirror to get fixed."

I nodded with a grateful smile. Hopefully getting my mirror fixed will stop that old '7 years bad luck' curse. "Thanks again, Twilight. I'm glad you showed up when you did. I really needed a friend today."

"Anytime, Pinkie. I'll see you later." Twilight replied while waving with me. But just before she could walk down the stairs, she suddenly gasped. "Oh, right! I forgot to tell you! Just before I left my house not even twenty minutes ago, I sent a message to Princess Celestia asking her for help on this. If anypony can help us locate James, she can. I'll be sure to let you know as soon as she sends her reply."

I felt a huge weight float off my shoulders. If there is one pony in Equestria we can always count on for help, it's Princess Celestia. "Phew… Yeah, she can help! And James is friends with Princess Luna! They'll help us get to the bottom of this! Thanks for asking them, Twilight."

"It was the least I could. I'm just as eager to see him again myself. In any case, I better get going. Take care, Pinkie." Twilight replied while giving me a friendly wave. That sack of flour on the floor floated over to her with my mirror's frame and she walked downstairs until I couldn't see any of them anymore.

I need to stop writing now. I've got a big party to plan out… Huh? That twitch again… It wasn't my Pinkie Sense, but… Oh no, not THAT kind of twitch again. Stay calm. It's going to be OK.

"He's real. I know he's real… He'll be home soon…" I keep telling myself. I know my friend will be home soon.

Well, today got off to a slow start for me. I just felt so lazy getting out of bed. So heavy… Almost as if I had gorged myself on ten dozen chocolate-covered roses. Thank the stars I know better than to do that. A lady must mind her figure!

I crawled out of bed and carefully removed the curlers from my gorgeous mane and tail. What, you think my perfectly kempt hair is all natural? As much as I wish it was, I am sorry to say some curls require a little help to maintain their shape. But enough about that. I made certain to touchup my eye shadow with my favorite baby blue hue. You would be surprised by how many stallions are drawn to eyes topped off with a light blue cover. I struck a delightful pose in the mirror, raising my right hoof slightly while batting my eyes, even though they still seemed as if I had gotten hardly any sleep.. "Mmm, yes. Perfect as always… Hm?"

My right hoof? What was that on it? Ah, yes. My bracelet. I have been wearing that for as long as I can recall… Oh, well… I suppose I have not been wearing it for all that long. Only three weeks or so, I suppose. Although I have not once removed it since the day I received it from….him.

"James… You're still not home, are you?" I muttered out loud. Of all the men I have met in my life, I have met few with the genuine sweetness he has. Certainly lacking the pristine qualities of most Canterlot gentlemen, but he more than makes up for it with tender charm. And…I felt a dull pain deep in my heart as I beheld the many opals adorning the silver bracelet on my ankle. "Darling… I pray I'll see you today."

I marched right downstairs and into my workroom. The suit I had woven for Sapphire Shores was standing proudly in the center. Only a few sapphires were missing before it could truly be called complete. "I suppose breakfast can wait a bit longer. This should only take a moment."

I carefully examined the patterns of sapphires I had placed on the suit. I had designed it in such a way that left bold crossing lines of gemstones that went all over the body and on the outer sections of the limbs. My goal was to make the suit shine as if a net of shimmering blue light was entangling the wearer. "Oooh, this suit is going to be simply spectacular once she's up on stage!" I spoke with pride as I applied the last few sapphires.

"There. Now all that's left is the hat! But first, a lady can't work on an empty stomach." I spoke to myself before trotting into the kitchen and looking through the refrigerator. But I did not look for long before I heard a quiet meow behind me. I turned to look over my shoulder and saw none of than dear little Opalescence standing at the entrance to my kitchen. "Oh, I could never forget you, Opal. Let mama get you some breakfast too."

With a little magic, I carried a can of Opal's favorite cat food out of the cabinet and set it on the counter before taking a can opener to it. "Oh, wait. That's not quite on the right angle." I muttered to myself when I noticed the hook was not penetrating the can's lid properly. But as I reached out with my hoof to adjust it, once again I caught a glimpse of the bracelet.

Why… Whenever I see those glittering opals, I am not reminded of my dear cat who shares their name, but of the precious friend who gave it to me. He told me it was partially to make me think of her, but it was doing quite the opposite. "This is such a distraction right now…" I grumbled as I focused my gaze onto it to use levitation magic. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not bring myself to slide it off.

"I… I can't…" I sighed with a heavy heart. With James missing, my memories of him are all I have left. That, and this bracelet. Removing it now would be disrespectful to his memories. "I'll just have to avert my eyes for now…"

While taking care to not look directly at my right hoof, I pried open the can and poured its contents into a small bowl before setting it on the floor. "There you go, Opal. Bon appétit." I spoke with a slight smile. She came over to the bowl and sniffed it for a moment before turning her nose up at it. Of course, that is just typical for her. She would eat it eventually.

I went about trying to find something to eat for myself, but the majority of my appetite had faded away. And I knew why. Even without looking at it, my bracelet was constantly reminding me of the dear friend who had vanished into thin air. In the end, I settled for a mere orange. The vitamin C would probably help perk me up a bit. I certainly needed it at the time.

I promptly peeled the orange and discarded its very bitter rind into the closest wastebasket and proceeded back out into the workroom. I looked over the sketch I had made for the suit's matching hat while eating the orange wedge by wedge. "Hmmm… Does not look like I need to make adjustments." I muttered while using magic to levitate over a white fedora hat and set it upon the mannequin's head. The suit and hat meshed together quite nicely. All that was needed was the ring of sapphires around it.

I pushed a chest of fresh sapphires closer to the mannequin and lifted the lid open. One by one, I lifted them from the chest and carefully set each in a row around the base of the crown. But…it felt so slow. My mind was wandering and I felt…somewhat weaker than I normally do. Before I even knew it, I had only placed two down over the course of five minutes. "What is wrong with me…" I muttered in barely a whisper.

Once more, my eyes turned towards the bracelet on my right hoof. The light shining through the nearest window caused the opals to shimmer in a multitude of colors with no two shines being alike. It… It is my most prized possession. But as I looked at it, I began to ponder. Did James really get it for me? I did just happen to wake up one day with it clipped around my ankle. Did… Did I even ever know a man named James? Is it possible that he was…merely a fabrication brought on by fillyhood fairytales of…

"No! No, how dare you, Rarity?!" I suddenly shrieked as I shook my head to remove such horrendous thoughts from my mind. "How dare you even consider that?! How dare you lose such faith in such a dear friend of yours?!" I felt such fury… I could not believe I allowed myself to even think that James had been nothing but a dream. Even if just for a moment…

I felt tears beginning to stream down my cheeks. Tears of utter shame. "Oh darling… I'm so sorry! I should never have even dared to think such a wretched possibility!" I sobbed so hard… I longed to feel him hold me in his arms once more… To feel his genuine care and love…

Of all times… As I wallowed in shame and longing, I heard the bell above my front door ring. "I should've placed an 'out to lunch' sign out there…" I grumbled to myself as I did my best to hide my emotions. I turned to face my customer and did my best to smile. "Welcome to Carousel Bou… Oh, Sapphire Shores!" I temporarily forgot about my sorrows for just a moment as I saw the splendidly dressed Pony of Pop herself standing in my doorway.

"Good mooorning, Miss Rarity! And…well, I came at just the right time, didn't I?!" Her face lit up the instant she cast her gaze towards the mannequin behind me while speaking in that characteristic flair of hers.

"You did...? Oh, yes! I just finished the sapphire patterns on your suit not even fifteen minutes ago!" I replied while doing my absolute best to keep a straight face. Hopefully she would not notice anything was wrong.

Sapphire Sores trotted right over to the mannequin that held her suit and began to closely examine it while steadily circling it. "Ooh, this really puts the 'sapphire' in Sapphire Shores! I'll be like a walking Hearths Warming tree dressed in blue baubles when the stage lights hit! Seeeeensational!"

It did my heart good to see Sapphire so pleased with the end result of my work. It had been some time since she last commissioned me, so I was a tad worried that I had lost my touch with sleek suits. She is the only client who has ever commissioned for that style of clothing. "I am so relieved that you find it to your liking. I confess I got a bit experimental when I was setting out the patterns."

My client stood up higher, rising onto just her hind legs while adjusting the tiny hat on her head. She held a hoof to her chin while seemingly examining the incomplete fedora on the mannequin's head. "Hmmm… I thought this was all supposed to be ready today. I'm liking where the hat's going though."

Oh drat! She was right. I was supposed to have her attire completed by this morning. But I have been so distracted lately by… I believe you are able to ascertain what it is by my earlier writing. Regardless, I tried to keep my cool and replied as calmly as I could muster. "Oh… My apologies, Miss Shores. I have been…um…somewhat distracted by some more…personal issues as of late."

The Pony of Pop dropped back down onto all fours and stepped out from behind the mannequin before me. "Oh please, call me Sapphire. And…hm?" She paused and approached me with a very focused gaze the likes of which I had never seen on her before.

"Oh, sorry. I just have a habit of being formal with anypony who happens to be a celebrity and…um… What are you doing?" I replied before I noticed that she was standing right in front of me while seeming to be scanning my face.

"Personal problems, you said? And are you all right? You look like your makeup's running…" Sapphire spoke in a surprisingly mellow tone of voice, as if she had completely dropped her usual flair.

"My makeup…? Oh dear…" Of course. My tears had streamed down my face and over the parts where makeup had been applied this morning. "Is it that obvious?"

Sapphire nodded while showing a look of genuine concern. "Anypony who wears makeup as often as I do is quick to notice when it's been messed up by something. Especially tears."

I let out a sigh of defeat. There was no denying the truth by then. "Well… Like I said, it is…quite personal. I doubt it would matter to you."

Much to my surprise, Sapphire reached out and patted me on the shoulder. "Honey, I've got plenty of time to hear out a friend on her troubles. By all means, tell me what's eating you."

I gazed at her, feeling just flabbergasted by her response. "Wha… Friends? Me?"

Sapphire grinned quite brightly, showing off the normal everyday mare underneath her glamorous and flamboyant exterior. "Of course! I prefer to stay personal with everypony I work with. So, what's the matter?"

I felt myself relax quite a bit at the sound of her words. "All right… Well, just a couple of days ago, a dear friend of mine… His name is James. He…"

During my brief paused while trying to find the right words, Sapphire spoke up. "James, huh? Odd name for pony, but go on."

I was hardly surprised that she did not suspect he was not a pony. "Actually, he is a human. You know, like in some of Equestria's lesser known legends and fairytales?"

"Oh, them. Well, I don't keep up with legends and the like. I'm more focused on the here and now, if you know what I mean. And…did something happen to him?" Sapphire retorted, showing casual indifference to what James is. Such a fine mare, not showing any criticism on his race or species at all.

"Well… I have known him for…exactly three weeks. But just a couple of days ago, he just…vanished. And I do not mean kidnapped or wandered off. I mean vanish entirely as if he just turned into smoke and faded away. It is…most frustrating." I recounted what had occurred over the last few days.

"Hmm… Disappeared? Are you sure you looked everywhere you could?" Sapphire asked with a worried expression.

I let out a long sigh while slowly shaking my head. "We practically turned the house he was living in upside-down searching for any evidence of what had become of him. A message explaining his absence. Anything at all. My friend Applejack even brought her dog along to try and sniff out a trail of where James had gone."

"And…you found nothing?" Sapphire spoke softly, her mouth curving downward into a frown.

"Nothing at all… The freshest trail led directly into the house. It was as if he…just…ceased to exist." I could feel new tears beginning to from at the edge of my increasingly blurred vision. "Literally just minutes before you came in, I was even beginning to question my memories. Did he even exist at all? Humans have only existed in myth, after all…"

Sapphire sighed and shook her head while casting her gaze towards the floor. "Miss Rarity… That is one of the most depressing concepts I have ever heard in my entire career… That would make for a terribly moving song…" She then looked directly at me once more. "All that emotion you're showing… Is he important to you?"

There was no denying just how precious that man is to me by that point. I looked down at my bracelet once more while I raised my hoof. "Very… James is…quite unlike every other stallion I have ever met. Granted, he is not a stallion, but he is a man. He is rather quiet and very reserved. He is modest… So much so that I feel he is unsure of how to approach me at time… But he can also be witty when the moment calls for it. He is…most precious to me. Truly one of my most important friends."

Sapphire eyed my bracelet while I looked at it. She seemed to show a comforting smile, as if she knew exactly what I was thinking. "Is he sweet on you?"

I nodded with a smile. "He is. Very sweet. I think he adores me more than most."

However, Sapphire then shook her hoof while holding it aloft. "Oh no, I don't mean like that. Is he…you know…courting you?"

I felt so unbearably warm at that moment. I must have been blushing. But with a frown, I shook my head. "Oh… No, he is not. His heart belongs to my best friend now. He lives with Fluttershy at the edge of Ponyville."

"Ooh… I see. Well… Judging by how emotional you're getting on this… Are you sweet on him?" Sapphire retorted a few seconds later.

With a heavy heart, I let out a sigh. "I will not lie… The thought has crossed my mind from time to time." I took a closer look at my bracelet. I could almost see countless copies of my face staring back at me from the many polished sides of the opals. "I have often wondered… What could have been? What if he had purchased a different piece of jewelry for me? What if it touched me on an even deeper level than this one did? Where would we be now?" I felt myself get lost in the fine clear gemstones before my eyes. I felt warm and comforted as I remembered those days from just a few weeks ago. "Would we be lovers by now…? Would we still be friends…? I just don't know…"

I am rather impressed by how patiently Sapphire waited for me to finish. By the time I had realized how much I was talking, I jumped and shook my head while placing my hoof back on the floor. "Oh, so sorry! I got lost in my memories…" I then straightened my thoughts and smiled faintly. "Of course, I know such thoughts are unhealthy. He has made up his mind and I must respect that… We do see each other daily, so we remain close. That is good enough for me…"

"But it still hurts when you don't see him for this long, doesn't it?" Sapphire asked as she reached out and placed a hoof on my shoulder.

I nodded, once again while frowning. "Indeed… And it tears at my mind wondering what has become of him…"

Sapphire Shores soon patted me on the shoulder once more before returning her hoof to the floor. "From what I can see, this James guy is very lucky to have a friend like you. I'd like to meet him someday."

I nodded with a faint smile. Sapphire was merely trying to cheer me up. "And… You know what? This has given me some inspiration to write a few songs!" Sapphire beamed before raising her hoof and slowly moving it sideways while looking upward at…something. "I'll title the first 'Want You Back' and the second 'Love from the Outside'. How's that?"

Amazing, really. To think she would name songs after my personal feelings and a personal crisis I was going through. "I am…quite honored, Sapphire. I will make certain James will acquire a copy of the album you release them on."

Regaining some of her usual flair, she gave me a winning smile. "I'll be certain to mail you a vinyl of it when it's released. Consider it a tip for this especially stunning work of wearable art right here." She tapped the mannequin her suit rested on. "Oh, and don't worry about rushing the hat. Take all the time you need. I know personal problems come first."

It was most considerate of her to give me extra time. I feared she would have been quite disappointed when she arrived to find her hat unfinished. "Why, thank you. However, I'm quite certain I can have this done within the hour."

"Well, all right then. In the meantime, I'll go grab a bite in town. Just don't be surprised if I come back with a mob trailing me." Sapphire waved as she headed out the door. I certainly was feeling in somewhat better spirits after getting that off my chest. If I really motored through things, I could probably have the hat done in under ten minutes.

The trick to setting out the gemstones properly was to make certain each was the same size as the rest. I had to make certain to not mix and match. And before long, it was done. A perfect ring of glittering sapphires set around the base of the fedora's crown. "Oh, she will most certainly look swanky in this attire!"

However, I did not even have time to look my latest creation over before I heard a light knocking at my door. "Cooooming!" I retorted, hoping my customer could hear me. But when I opened the door, I was greeted by a rather somber sight. "Hel… Oh, Fluttershy?"

Fluttershy stood before me looking absolutely dreadful. Her eyes seemed bloodshot and puffy and I could see stains under her eyes. Clearly from tears. "Hello…Rarity…" She weakly muttered. She looked…so fragile at that moment. Like a sickly dove on the verge of collapsing at any time.

"Darling, what in the world happened? I have seen you in rough shape before, but you look deathly sickly!" I could not help exclaiming as I beheld my best friend before me.

Fluttershy slowly staggered towards me as I took a few steps back to allow her inside. "I'm not sick… I'm just…so…" She bowed her head before she could even finish.

"Darling, did you even sleep last night?" I asked while holding her up. Her stance was shaky and uneven. I feared she would faint at any given time.

"I did… A little…" She replied before letting out a yawn. Even if she did get some sleep, she clearly did not sleep enough. "But…nightmares…"

Poor Fluttershy… I could already see what was plaguing her. I used magic to slide over my favorite red reclining sofa and helped her lie down on it. "Shhh… You can tell me everything, Fluttershy. We are the best of friends, are we not?"

She managed to force out a small smile while she looked at me. "We are…"

I then pulled up a stool so I could sit next to her. "If it would help, I could hear you out on what you dreamed about."

Fluttershy rolled over onto her back and let out a long sigh. "It was…the same dream each time… Well…not really. I always found myself in a different place each time. The first time…I was outside in the meadow at night. The next time, it was morning… Then I was in the garden in Canterlot's royal palace…"

Hmm… Rather puzzling. It did not sound terribly traumatic. "Well…it sounds like you were seeing quite a bit of the sights. How was that a bad thing?"

"Because…it always ended the same way." Fluttershy replied without even looking at me. "A few minutes after I started dreaming, I saw him…"

"You saw James… Was he happy to see you?" I asked, starting to become fearful of just what happened in Fluttershy's mind

She took a deep breath before continuing. "I called out to him… He was always turned away from me. He never responded…" I could see tears beginning to form at the edge of Fluttershy's eyes. I do not believe she was even aware that they were there at that moment.

"I ran over to him… I felt so happy… I had been hoping to see him again and he was right there in front of me." Fluttershy spoke with a very noticeable smile on her face. I can only imagine the relief she must have felt when she saw her beloved after searching so hard for him the previous days. However, her smile began to curve downwards into a frown. "But…when I reached out to hold him…I…" I saw her tears spill over as she spoke with her voice beginning to break. "My hooves…went right through him… As if…he was not there…"

I too could feel tears starting to build in my eyes as I found myself unwittingly imagining everything Fluttershy was speaking. "I reached out to him again and again…but I could never touch him… But…the worst part…" She then covered her face and began to sob. "He started sinking into the ground… I kept pleading with him to grab onto me… He did…finally reach out to me at the last second…but his hand… It went right through me… I dug at the ground so hard… Tried to dig him up when he disappeared into the ground…" Gasping for air, Fluttershy removed her hooves from her face and looked at me with tired swollen eyes. "That was when I woke up… Every single time…"

Such a horrid dream… It was no wonder Fluttershy seemed so haunted by what she had seen. Using magic, I levitated a dry tissue over to her and wiped her tears from her face. "It's going to be all right, Fluttershy… It was just a dream. And dreams aren't truly real."

"But it was the same dream every time! It… It must mean something!" Fluttershy continued to sob. I am all but certain the final stages of her dreams had been burned into her memory.

I reached out and placed my hoof on hers. "Fluttershy… Darling, look at me." I spoke softly, trying to get her to stop crying and listen to me. She finally did relax and looked my way. She sniffled and choked, but she was no longer crying. "He is precious to you, isn't he?"

Fluttershy nodded weakly without saying a word. I tried my best to smile. "That's good. Because I know you are precious to him as well."

"You… You can tell that easily?" She asked with a rather baffled expression.

I let out a light giggle. "Oh, yes. Take it from somepony who is looking to find a sweet husband someday herself. I can tell that James is someone who really commits to a relationship. He will not ever leave you. He will return to you. I swear it."

Fluttershy could only bow her head in silence. I could see that she was starting to do the same thing I had done just a short while ago. She was starting to doubt her memories. I reached out at her and firmly gripped her shoulders. "Fluttershy, no. Do not doubt what you remember. He was not a dream. You know he was as real as you and I."

My dear friend let out a long hard sigh. "I know… I shouldn't doubt if I love him, but… It's just so hard… I don't know if I will ever see him again…"

What I said next was merely a half-truth, as I was not entirely convinced myself. "You will see him again, Fluttershy. You will."

Fluttershy looked at me with a truly sorrowful yet somewhat hopeful expression. "You…you're sure about that?"

I gave her the best smile I could. "Would I ever lie to a friend?"

"No… No, you would never lie to me…" Fluttershy finally showed me the first true smile I had seen from her this morning and held onto me with a tender embrace.

"There there, darling… Is there anything I can do for you at all?" I asked in the hopes of finding something to keep Fluttershy out of depression.

"I… I don't know. I just want to be in the company of friends until he comes home…" Fluttershy replied with a rather sad smile.

"You're trying to drown your loneliness, hm? Well, you are more than welcome to spend the day with me. Come, let me prepare you a light snack. Crying tends to leave you rather famished." I spoke before helping her up and leading her to my kitchen.

I suppose I shall stop here. I have another commission to start working on as soon as Sapphire Shores returns to claim her attire. And I will certainly have my hoovess full tending to Fluttershy in her time of need. Although…

I pray that my promise does not turn into a lie… James, darling… Please come home soon. Fluttershy needs you…

Heya, ponies. This is Rainbow Dash writing again. I had to get to work right after breakfast setting up the clouds over Ponyville for a nice downpour. Yeah, that's right. Rain.

The only problem was I really didn't feel like doing it. I mean I don't mind my job, but… I just felt like I had no energy by the time I was above Ponyville. And that's saying something since I'm usually on top of the world.

I just found the closest cloud I could find and just let myself slump over it. I just felt…down. Like Diamond Dog down. I rolled over onto my back after a minute and just looked up at the sky. That big old blue sea above me. "It almost feels like you could just fall up there and disappear… All without a trace…"

Oh, who am I kidding? I was still feeling bummed over my friend disappearing. Still no sign of him. No word from him. Hay, nopony in town has seen him for the last few days. No matter how hard I tried to shake it off, I just couldn't stop worrying about him.

"I wonder if you're out there somewhere… Are you OK?" I heard myself whisper as I held my hoof up as if to touch the sky above me. "You're always so reserved… So quiet unless in the right mood… Like you could just slip away without anyone noticing…"

I must've let myself relax way too much. Next thing I know, I'm talking to myself. "Can you hear me, James? Do you even remember me?"

Before I could say anything else, a voice spoke up from right beside me. "I dunno, but I do! Hi, Rainbow Dash!"

"What the?!" I yelped before rolling right off the cloud I was on. I managed to catch myself before I could fall very far though. I then swooped right back up to my cloud and gave that goofball pegasus a piece of my mind. "What gives, Derpy?! You don't sneak up on ponies like that! You might get a hoof in the face!"

That derp gave me her best googly-eyed smile before she waved at me like nothing had happened. "Sorry! I just saw you up here and thought I'd just say hi." She then paused for a moment and reached into her mail satchel and pulled something out. "Muffin?"

I rolled my eyes. Just… Derpy's such a muffinhead sometimes. Oh, wait. I mean all the time! But I guess I could've used a snack at the time and took the muffin. "Thanks, I guess…" Looked like I had gotten a good old blueberry muffin that time.

"So, is something wrong?" Derpy asked while I started to munch on the muffin.

I let out a sigh. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to tell just anypony about what had happened to the only human in all of Equestria. "Well… Have you seen James lately?" I tried asking while doing my best to smile. Yeah, it was a fake smile, but what could I do? "I've been trying to find him today. I used to see him every day. Almost like he's part of my daily schedule… Any sign of him?"

Derpy surprised me with a really unhappy frown. "I haven't seen him in three days. I was kinda hoping you would know."

Well, I can't say I was surprised to hear that. It looks like nopony's seen him at all. But what Derpy said next threw me for a loop. "Maybe I just need to make some of my 'weird beard' muffins."

"Uh… OK, I've heard of some weird eats before, but… What the hay are those?" I couldn't help asking after staring at her with a half chewed bite of muffin hanging in my jaws.

Derpy looked at me with those goofy eyes and smiled. "Oh, that's what I call a special batch of muffins I made once. I started seeing all sorts of things that I never saw before. I saw a manticore with a bunny face and dolphin tail, a hydra that was as big as a cat… Oh wait, it really was a cat. With four heads! And then I swear I saw a human that day! Oh wait, that was James. And I swear I had a beard at that time! That's why I call them my 'weird beard' muffins."

I finally just had to speak up after hearing all that. Whatever she put in those muffins can't be good for you. "Are you saying you mixed in a bunch of stuff that makes you see things?!"

"I dunno! It felt pretty real. The kitten hydra licked me and purred a lot. And James looked pretty real too." Derpy replied with a silly smile. But she then suddenly gasped. "Oh, right! I gotta get back to work! Saturdays are such busy days for me! See you around, Rainbow Dash!" That total derp then dove right off the cloud and flew off.

I just sat there for a moment without saying anything. Derpy's words were still sinking in. "Great… Somepony else who probably thinks James was just one big hallucination…"

I'm going to be honest right now. The longer I went without seeing him, the more I started to think that James might not have ever existed in the first place. And I've got a hunch some of my best friends think the same way. That was what was bumming me out the most. I know Fluttershy and I already went over that discussion yesterday, but… I can't help but wonder if it's possible. I then just let myself go limp on the cloud with my head kind of hanging off the edge while looking down. "If this is what reality is like, then reality sucks."

I wanted to stop feeling depressed, so I tried counting how many ponies I could name by checking the colors in the distance as they walked around. "Two shades of pink or purple… That's Berry Punch. There's two shades of brown… That's the doc. Now we have a bit of… Red coat and orange mane and short tail… That's Big Macintosh…"

It was kind of like playing a bit of 'connect the dots', except it was more like 'match the colors'. I kept at it for a little while until I noticed one pony standing still while I think she was looking up at me. "Um… Three shades of purple or pink with a light lavender… Twilight?"

Turns out Twilight was looking right at me. I weakly waved at her, not having much motivation to do anything. Um… It was kind of hard to make out anything from that distance, but she seemed to be calling me down judging by that movement with one hoof. "Ugh… If it was any other time…"

With one swoop, I dove off of my cloud and landed right in front of that egghead unicorn. "Morning, Twilight. What's up?"

She looked kind of bothered by something as we stood there in the middle of the street. "Morning, Rainbow. Let's just say this morning hasn't been very easy for me… Or our friends."

Uh oh, that didn't sound good. "Our friends? What's been going on? They didn't come down with something, did they? Any symptoms I better watch out for?"

Twilight let out a sigh before looking right at me. I rarely see her looking that worried about anything. "Well, all I've seen this morning is Applejack and Pinkie Pie. AJ didn't have that many apples available at market, Pinkie Pie had a severe breakdown of some sort… This just hasn't been a good day for us."

Man… It sounded like I wasn't the only pony around going through the missing friend blues. "Dang… It's like each day just keeps getting worse…"

Right then, Twilight gave me a little smile. "Don't worry too much. I sent a message to Princess Celestia just before I left my house this morning. If anypony can help find our friend, she can. I wouldn't be surprised if Spike comes looking for me any minute now."

Sweet. We can almost always count on Princess Celestia if things get bad, so that took a load off my back. But as I wondered about that, a thought came to mind. "Hey, that's cool and all. But…uh…how long ago did you send the message?"

"Oh, I'd say it's been pretty close to half an hour. I should be getting a reply anytime now." Twilight replied with a smile. I wish I had her optimism today.

Something just didn't sound right with that response. "Huh…? Hang on. Half an hour? Doesn't she usually reply right away when you send her a message? I mean… What's the longest you've ever had to wait?"

Twilight gave me a pretty uneasy smile. "Oh, the longest… That was five minutes. I'm pretty sure she's just dealing with some very important matters right now and just can't be bothered to find a quill and scroll to use."

I gave Twilight a glare. She was starting to sound way too optimistic. "Uh huh. And how long did you wait before you left the house?"

"Ten minutes. Why do you ask?" Twilight replied while giving me a puzzled look.

I let out a long sigh. "If it's been that long… Twilight, something's not right here. You know your messages are top priority with Princess Celestia, so there's no way she would take this long to write a reply."

I think my words were starting to sink in. She was really starting to look bothered and even a bit scared. "I… I can't think of why she would wait so long to reply… It must be a good reason…"

"Or maybe…she thinks you're crazy for asking for help to find someone who might not even be real." I muttered to her. It hurt. I mean, seriously. It hurt to even consider that thought again. But that's the only response I could think of.

Twilight looked kind of offended by that line. She looked at me with a really sharp glare. "Rainbow, of course he exists! I remember every day of the last three weeks he was with us! I know for a fact that he couldn't have not been real!"

I took a few steps forward and stared her right in the eyes. "I dare you to say that again. To say that there was absolutely no chance of a human guy being something we just thought up in our heads. To say that there wasn't a single moment over the last few days that you considered he was just a dream."

"I…" Twilight started to talk with a really determined gaze. But she quickly started to show doubt with that scared frown on her face. "I… I…"

I sighed. So even that egghead wondered it too. "Thought so… A human just wandering into town saying he's not even from this world… That sounds like something out of a dream or some science fiction novel. Although I'm pretty sure one of those awesome Daring Do novels had a human or two in them at some point…"

Twilight bowed her head in silence for a minute before talking quietly. "Actually… I did do some research and…" She then looked at me with one of the saddest looks I had ever seen on her face as her ears drooped. "It is…quite possible that the James we know… May not have ever existed."

By that point, I wasn't even really aware of what else was going on around us. I was just focusing entirely on Twilight. I admit… I was scared. I didn't want to believe that it was possible our friend was just a mirage. But…I had to know what she found out. "Well… What did you find?"

Twilight sighed before she started to explain. "Well… There is the scenario where a child thinks up a nonexistant friend through sheer imagination. Often brought on by fascinating subjects, usually with exotic creatures or even fictional characters in books and other media. And to them… Their imaginations may make the entity seem very real to the point of being able to feel their touch… Hear their voice… Basically have them seem like real people."

I cocked my head to one side. Imaginary friends. Isn't that something only little kids do? "Uh… Yeah. Sure. You DO know we're not little fillies anymore, right?"

She nodded with a sigh. "I know that… The other possibility though… It was so dark, I was honestly scared by it." She then looked away for minute before speaking more softly than usual to the point where I almost couldn't hear her. "The more likely possibility in the case of adults…is schizophrenia."

That was one of the weirdest words I've ever heard. "Schizo… Huh?"

Twilight looked at me with a really worried expression. I could tell that whatever she read about… It really got to her. "It's a very severe mental illness that can effect the mind in various ways."

I jumped back. Mental illness?! "Are you saying we just might be sick in the head?!"

Twilight shook her hoof at me, as if trying to signal me to chill. "Relax, Rainbow. I'm not saying we're all mentally ill… Some individuals with schizophrenia actually behave and think normally. But…" She paused for a minute before continuing. "There have been a few cases where…"

I could see she was having a hard time going on with that explanation. I grabbed her by the shoulders and looked her in the eye. "Twilight. I need to know this. What did the book say?"

She gulped hard. I could see she was nervous. "Well… There have been several recorded cases of an effected individual who had been seeing people who were not truly there. Some even starting as early as childhood or their mid teens. Some of them were even so real to the effected pony, that the afflicted even developed close friendships with them, listened to their advice, even gave them gifts… Basically not being able to tell in the slightest that the person before them could only be seen, heard, and felt by them." I swear, I think I was starting to see tears building at the edge of Twilight's eyes. "And…they would never vanish. They at times would leave to take care of things outside the person's field of vision and return later, but they would never disappear. Some spent their entire lives interacting with these…nonexistent friends…while everyone else could never see or hear them…"

I… I felt such a chill slide down my spine when I heard that. "That… That sounds exactly like what's been happening… Do you…" Out of nowhere, I felt tears starting to ooze down my face. And for once in my life, I really didn't care. "Do you think that's what's been happening? And that we… Maybe the illness finally left us?"

Twilight bowed and shook her head. "I don't know, Rainbow… I honestly…don't…know. He was with us for too short a time to make certain…"

No… Just… I don't even want to consider that. Even with that kind of proof… "No… I'm not gonna believe that! No way!"

Just before I could do anything else, I felt Twilight place her hoof on my shoulder. "Me neither, Rainbow… I can't believe that he was… I WON'T believe it."

I couldn't even say anything for a minute. All I could do was look at Twilight. I felt so hot… Kind of sick too… Like I wanted to hurl or something. Finally, I managed to squeak out a sentence. "Twilight… I'm scared."

That egghead gave me a gentle comforting hug. It felt more like one Fluttershy would give me. "Me too, Rainbow… But this case is in good hooves now. Just leave it to Princess Celestia. You know she's never failed us before."

I took a long deep breath to try to relax myself and my stomach. Wait… Never failed us? "Hold on. What about that time when those Changelings showed up on your brother's wedding day? She got floored by their queen!"

That got Twilight to roll her eyes with a nervous grin on her face. It looked like I got her to forget about our problem for a moment. "That came out of nowhere! Nopony saw that coming!"

I couldn't help laughing at that. "Heheh… But yeah, I get you. Princess Celestia should know what to do." But I then grabbed her by the shoulders and looked her dead in the eyes. "But if you see him again, you come and find me right away. Got it?"

Twilight gave me a quick nod. "That's a promise. Now, could you please let go of me? I want to go check on Rarity. And I think Fluttershy might be with her too."

Fluttershy? Dang, she was probably getting the worst of things right then. I knew better than to keep Twilight waiting and hopped out of her way. "Oh, right. Better not keep you. And say hi to them for me."

"Will do. See you around, Rainbow." Twilight waved goodbye to me and trotted away. She seemed to be in better spirits than when she first talked to me. Even so…

Once I flew back up to my cloud to chill, The stuff Twilight had talked to me about came back into my mind. People who spent their entire lives talking and interacting with people who didn't even exist… That… I am going to be honest right now. That is one of the most nightmarish, most depressing things I have ever heard of in my life.

"Ugh, this stuff is just depressing to think about… I gotta do something to get my mind off of this!" I rolled around on the cloud, just doing all I could to not think about it. I then flopped over to the edge and looked down again at Ponyville. "There's gotta be a… Oh, hey! That's Scoot!"

I recognized that combo of purple mane and orange coat on a filly. That's Scootaloo. That little sparkplug is just nuts about me for some reason and she always has been for as long as I've known her. But maybe… Just maybe having a good chat with her could keep my mind off of things.

After making sure my game face was on, I swooped right down to that spunky filly and landed right in front of her. "Hey, Scoot! What's up?!"

I totally caught her by surprise judging by how she jumped back as soon as I landed in front of her. Before she could reply though, I noticed she wasn't riding that scooter of hers. "Huh? Hey, where's your scooter, squirt? Don't you usually ride that to get around?"

She sighed before bowing her head and talking in a really quiet voice. "Didn't feel like it today…"

"Didn't feel like it?! But I thought you love riding that scooter just as much as you like hanging out with me! And… Hey, are you OK? You don't look so good…" It was only then that I really noticed that Scootaloo was looking really under the weather. The last time I had seen her looked that bummed was after how ticked off I was when I found out she and Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle was Gabby Gums. Uh… Wait, maybe I should explain who that was… Nah. It'll take way too long. Actually, she looked even more bummed than that time!

"Sorry, Rainbow Dash… I… I just don't feel fired up enough for it… I've got too much on my mind." Scootaloo explained before she walked right by me with her head hanging low.

That was what bothered me most. She walked right past me. RIGHT PAST ME. She NEVER walks right past me! Something really wasn't right with her. I spread my wings and swooped over to her and started hovering by her as she walked. "Come on, Scoot. What's eating ya?"

She looked up at me with the saddest look on her face I had ever seen. Poor kid. "Have you seen my brother, Rainbow Dash?"

Her brother… Oh right. James. Those two have gotten really close lately. And… Well, this is just a guess, but…I think Scootaloo might be an orphan. I honestly hope not, but…

"Oh, James? Well…" I started to talk, but then looked down at her. I really didn't want to tell her I hadn't seen him in three days, but I knew that telling her I had seen him would be a bad idea. With a sigh, I shook my head. "Sorry, squirt. Haven't seen him today."

She… Well, she caught me by surprise that time. She just snapped at me. "You keep saying that every time I ask you! Where is he?! I know you're friends with him!"

She looked like she was about to start crying at any second. And that's saying a lot considering that she tries to always have a 'tough girl' image. Only then she had completely dropped her guard right in the middle of the street. I tried to calm her down by patting her on the head. "It's OK, Scoot… It's OK. He's fine. He…uh… I just got a note from him today. He said he'll be back soon."

I was really hoping that would keep her hopes up for a while longer. But judging by that look, she wasn't fooled. She replied really briefly. "How soon?"

She was seeing right through me, so I just tried to be vague about it. "Um… He didn't say. Just…soon. That's it."

"Oh… Thanks, Rainbow Dash… I need to get going. I'm supposed to meet Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom at the milkshake parlor…" Scootaloo spoke in the most deadpan depressed tone of voice I had ever heard from her. And then she just…walked away.

"That was the first time she DIDN'T go nuts when I said hi to her…" I muttered to myself. Jeez… I never knew James' disappearance would hit that filly this hard… Is he really that important to her? It's almost like he's the only family she's ever known or something.

I… I need to stop here. Twilight's hypothesis thing is really getting to me again. I need to do something to get my mind off it. I also have a thunderstorm to set up. See ya. And stay dry.

What a morning… Is it normal to have woken up feeling like you spent the entire night pacing back and forth for hours? I practically rolled out of bed and hit the wooden floor of my room with a thud.

"Are you feeling OK, Twilight?" Those were the first words I heard. I looked down over the floor's edge and saw Spike looking up at me with a concerned expression. He was carrying a tray lined with pancakes and a glass of milk. It seemed he also remembered to include a cup of maple syrup.

"Ugh… Kind of…" I grumbled while slowly getting myself up onto my feet. I slowly made my way down the stairs to the rest of my living room. I felt so weak. As if my legs could give out from under me at any time.

"Did you have a nightmare?" Spike asked while he set the tray on the closest table.

I sighed as I tried to recall what I had dreamed about. "I… I don't know… All I remember is…a strong sense of sorrow. Fear… I remember myself…" As I rubbed my hoof under my eye to try to get myself a bit more awake, I felt something on my coat. Like something had been encrusted over the many tiny hairs under my eyes. Like…sodium deposits…from tears. "Crying… So much crying…" No wonder my eyes felt so tired. Was I crying in my sleep for most of the night?

"You look like you had a rough night, all right… Do you need some eye drops?" Spike asked while giving me a very concerned gaze.

"Sure… I think that'll help." I replied softly. I really needed to do something to get myself a bit more energized.

"OK. Just a second." Spike spoke with a smile as he hurried over to a drawer built under a bookcase in the wall that served as a medicine cabinet. While he was scrounging through it, I went over to my breakfast. But as I looked down at the pancakes, which I will admit was giving off a delightful smell; I honestly did not feel hungry. It almost felt like the food was just calling for me to eat it, but I just had no desire to do so. I felt too worried…about him.

"Found it!" Spike called out suddenly before I turned around to find him running towards me with a tiny bottle of eye drops in hand.

"Thank you, Spike." I said while trying to smile. I really did appreciate his assistance. I doubt I would be as well off as I am now without him. I unscrewed the cap from the bottle with magic and then held the bottle aloft upside-down over me while keeping one eye open. With careful precision, I made the bottle compress just enough to discharge one drop of the fluid. I instantly blinked as I felt the liquid come in contact with my eye and instinctively rubbed it in irritation. Somepony really should come up with a type of eye drop substance that does not irritate the eye… Actually, I doubt that is possible. The eye is an extremely sensitive organ. I doubt anything at all coming in contact with it would ever feel good… Oh wait. I am overthinking things again. And I am going off topic.

I repeated the process with my other eye before placing the cap back on the bottle and giving it back to Spike. "Feeling better?" He asked while clutching it in both hands.

I rubbed my eyes a bit more to deal with the irritation in them and to spread out the fluid. I then blinked a few times before looking down at Spike again. "I guess they don't feel as tired now."

He nodded with a smile before walking back over to the medicine drawer and placing the bottle inside it. "Yeah, you don't look as bloodshot anymore."

"Thanks, Spike… Now…I guess I better eat." I then turned to face my meal again. I could feel some of the warmth coming from it. With a sigh, I poured the syrup all over it and cut myself a piece from one. Spike always makes me a stack that is three pancakes high every time he cooks some. But while that first bite was tasty, and that first gulp of milk was cool and refreshing, I just could not go any further than that. "Um… Hey, Spike? Would you like the rest of this?" I asked while looking over my shoulder. I tried to smile as brightly as I could so he would not get worried.

It turns out my smile did not help at all. He walked over to me with a baffled expression and held up his hands. "Huh? But that's YOUR breakfast! You always eat every last bite! Did you get a tapeworm or something?"

I guess there was no fooling someone who has known me since I was just a filly. "Sorry, Spike… It's just… It's hard to work up an appetite when you're worried about a good friend."

He just looked at me silently for a minute. Never moving. Never speaking. But he did eventually break the silence. "It's about him again, isn't it? You've been like this since last night."

I bowed my head and sighed. "Yeah… We found no trace of him… I… I just don't know what to do."

Spike just shook his head and looked up at me after letting out a long sigh. "Twilight, I know how it feels to be worried about somepony you love. I was freaking out the entire time Rarity was kidnapped by those Diamond Dogs a while back. Remember?"

Diamond Dogs… Oh, how could I forget that? I could not help but giggle a bit as I realized just how pathetic I must have seemed at that moment. "Oh right… Well, at least I'm not hyperventilating."

"Oh, come on! It's not like you actually saw your crush being hauled off by a bunch of jerks!" He replied while scowling at me. I was just trying to add a little humor with some teasing. Although I admit it was partially to cheer myself up. "But I know what you mean… I know what it's like to know that the one person you love more than anyone in the world might be in trouble somewhere…"

Something about that last line just did not sound right. "Um… Did you mean anything by that?"

Spike surprised me by letting out a groan while rolling his eyes as he crossed his arms. "Oh, come on, Twilight! I'm just a kid, and even I know what it's like to be in love! It's been all too obvious the last couple of weeks that you've got the hots for James, especially on that day you told me that you were planning a picnic the next day without asking if I'd like to come along."

Oh my… That Spike. He knew all along? I could not help but blush as I rubbed my left foreleg with my right hoof. "Hehehee… You knew about that?"

My little assistant snickered, "Well, duh. I saw how you went all weak in the knees when he went on and on with how he was wondering about how pegasi can interact with clouds a day or two after he first showed up. You always did have a thing for thinking men."

I felt most of my worry fade away for a moment as my body started to feel hot. I remember that day… I really cannot deny this. I do love James. I really do. Even though I know that he and Fluttershy are lovers now…I cannot completely let go of my feelings for him. Maybe I will in time, but I just cannot right now. "Yeah… I guess I do."

Spike then walked over to the tray of food he had prepared and took it into his hands. "I know you do. So yeah… I do know how you feel, Twilight. I'll go ahead and have this if you really don't mind."

I nodded with a grateful smile. Spike usually does not like it when I reject his cooking. Which is saying something because the little guy is actually really good at it. Most of the time I cook, it comes out looking like….. Well, as Spike put it once, something that looked like I had tried to 'splice water and mud to try and make a slime monster'. Maybe I should take lessons from him sometime. Although anything that does not require a stove is easy for me to make. "Thanks, Spike. I'll probably feel hungry again by lunchtime though."

"It's fine. If you need me for anything, just let me know." Spike spoke with a smile as he sat down on a stool with the tray resting on his lap.

Just as I was starting to turn to go downstairs, a thought popped into my head. James was certainly still missing and conventional methods to locate him were not going to work. We would need someone else… Someone with much greater insight. "Actually, there is something you can do, Spike!"

"Really? What?!" Spike replied just before he could take a bite of the pancakes.

"I need to write a quick note for Princess Celestia. Please wait a minute." I explained before using my magic to levitate over to me a blank scroll and a quill.

After making certain the quill was still full of ink, I began to write. "Dear Princess Celestia. I'm so sorry to ask this of you, but I am out of ponies I can turn to. My good friend, James, disappeared just three days ago. After waiting a full day for him to return, my friends and I searched through and around Fluttershy's house, which is where he was last seen. But unlike the last time he vanished, we found nothing explaining where he went and why. No messages. No trails. Even Applejack's dog was not able to find a fresh scent trail that could lead us to him. It is almost…"

I paused for a minute as I wrote. Having to vividly recall the events as I wrote about them, I was starting to feel the magnitude of the situation all over again. I missed James all the more as I recalled everything…

"Twilight…? Are you OK?" Spike asked from across the room. I knew he was watching me. He could probably even see that one tear trickling down my cheek.

Without turning to face him, I wiped the tears from my face. "I'm fine, Spike… I'm fine." I then went back to writing the message. "Almost…as if he vanished into thin air. Gone without a trace. I wish I was joking about this, but I swear I am not. Our friend is gone and we have no way of finding him. Please, your highness. We need your help. Surely you know of a means to locate him. If you, or even Princess Luna, know of a means to find someone who has disappeared so thoroughly, please help us. Please reply as soon as you can. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle."

I set the quill down and rolled up the scroll. "OK, Spike… It's ready."

Spike ran over to me and took the scroll in hand. "All right." He then blew a flicker of green fire onto the scroll, dissolving it into smoke, which then floated out of the nearest open window. "She'll be getting it any moment now."

I lowered my head and gave Spike a grateful nuzzle. "Thanks. We're sure to make some progress today." Spike grinned brightly as I showed him my gratitude. Really, I do not know what I would do without him sometimes.

"Aw, I'm just glad I can help. I know James and I aren't the closest of pals in Ponyville, but he's a good guy. I 'm a bit worried about him too." Spike replied before going back to his meal. "But right now, I wanna finish this before it gets cold. No one likes room-temperature pancakes. I'll get back to work once I'm done."

"Hehe, true. I'll be right downstairs if you need anything." I replied before making my way to the stairwell.

Once I was down in the library, I noticed a pile of books I had not fully sorted on the floor. I was going to sort them and place them back on the shelves, but I just could not find the drive yesterday evening. But now that we would soon have Princess Celestia's help with this problem, I was definitely in better spirits. "All right, what have we here…"

I made the books levitate so I could get a better look at them. "Let's see… Cooking for…Dummies? How ironic… That goes here. Lord of the Anklets, Volume 1… That goes over there… And… Huh?" The third book I checked really caught my eye. "Mysteries of the Mind… Hmmm…"

I know I have read that book before, but I felt compelled to look through it once more. It almost felt as if it was calling me. "Did I forget what I read in there?" As much as I love to read, I have a hard time remembering some things that are not relevant with my daily routine and primary studies. So I decided to take a look through it again while setting the other books down.

I opened the book and looked through the table of contents. "Brain functions… Dream states… Imaginary…projections?" I did not know why, but reading that filled me with a sense of dread. Still…I felt a need to look into it. So I flipped to the page where that section began.

I read on, and what I found…unnerved me, to say the least. I do not remember word for word what it said, but it basically documented how some children 'create' imaginary friends when inspired by fiction or stories in various forms of media. And how real they can seem to the point of sounding, and even feeling, real to the point where they may seem like real people.

This…was disturbingly similar to the events that coincided with James' arrival in Ponyville. Humans have never truly existed in Equestria. They have only been mentioned in myths and certain fairytales. And I had looked into some of the legends out of curiosity not even a full week before he showed up. Had he… Was James…just my heavily stimulated imagination's way of reacting to the new information I had found?

I wanted to cry… I did not want to believe such a thing was possible… But I read on anyway. At the end, I found a referral to another part of the book. "Refer to…Mental Illnesses; the Dark Side of the Mind…" I felt like I did not want to find out what was waiting for me. Especially when I saw it mention a section pointing to just one word. Schizophrenia.

Going against my better judgment, I flipped the book open to the section it pointed to. For anypony who does not know, Schizophrenia is an extremely severe mental illness that is tricky to treat. It has many symptoms that do not necessarily all occur in one case. But two symptoms caught my eye. Delusions and hallucinations.

"No… This can't be what I think it is…" I muttered to myself. I read on. And what I found…haunted me. Some ponies afflicted with schizophrenia have hallucinated for so long and to the point where their twisted minds had conjured up people that only they could see and hear. People they would know and interact with for years or even decades. People…who never really existed at all. Only in their demented minds…

I felt my heart race… What if… What if I was mentally ill? What if…if James was just a projection of my own imagination? But…my friends could see him too. He even became lovers with Fluttershy… Is it possible that…magic could project one's imagination into a real physical form that fades away in time? Did my magic respond to my thoughts? To my…unstable mind? I would be lying if I said my mind has always been stable… I know there have been times where I have utterly snapped… Do I have schizophrenia? Am I responsible for this whole mess?! Is James' entire existence and disappearance…MY doing?!

I…I just collapsed right where I was. I cried… All I could hear was my crying. I writhed on the floor. I could not think straight. But…I felt someone grab me. I heard a voice. "Twilight, snap outta it! What's wrong?! What did you read?!"

I opened my eyes and saw Spike looking down at me. His hand was resting on my hoof. "I've seen you get pretty weepy when you read some tragedy novels before, but you've never gotten this outta control! What happened?!"

I… I could not tell him what I had found. I did not want to force that kind of knowledge onto a child. "I… I don't know… But…I'm fine now. Really, I'll be OK, Spike."

Under most circumstances, Spike would have probably believed me. But not that time. He gave me a surprisingly stern glare. "Twilight… I've been with you since the day I hatched and I can tell something's not right with you. I have NEVER seen you cry this hard. What happened? I just wanna help you."

That boy can sure be mature when he wants to be. But no matter how much I wanted to tell him, this time… I just could not. "You're right, Spike… I… I'm not really OK at the moment…" I then tried to smile my best while giving him a gentle hug. "But I'll be all right. I just…need a bit of time to get my thoughts in order."

I felt Spike wrap his arms around me as well while nuzzling his face into my coat. "Well… All right. But if you need anything, I'm right here."

"Thanks, Spike… I think I just need to get some fresh air. I'll go check up on our friends and see just how well they're holding up today. I'm sure Fluttershy in particular needs some support." I spoke softly with a smile while drying my tears. I gently pushed Spike off of me and climbed to my feet. I looked at the books I had not yet put away, but Spike reached up and placed a hand on my shoulder when he noticed that.

"I'll put the rest of these away, Twilight. You just take it easy today." He said with a sympathetic smile.

"Thanks. I think I probably should just take it easy today." I replied with a grin. However, a thought then crossed my mind. "Hey, Spike… Just how long has it been since we sent that message to Princess Celestia?"

Spike seemed to show a look of mild shock. I think he probably forgot all about it. "Huh? Oh… Um… I think about ten minutes…" He then crossed his arms and frowned as he looked down at the floor. "Hmm… That's a new record. She's never taken this long to reply to a message that urgent."

Why… Of all times, why would Princess Celestia take that long to send a reply? Every single time I have sent a message to her over the last several years, the absolute longest she has ever taken to send a reply is only five minutes and fourteen seconds. I simply cannot imagine her being too busy to respond. "Well… I guess there's a first time for everything. Anyway, I should go check on our friends. When Princess Celestia sends her reply, please come find me right away. OK, Spike?"

The little dragon boy gave me a bright smile and a salute. "Yes, ma'am!" I gave my little assistant a grateful nuzzle before stepping out of the library. I decided it would be best to check on Pinkie Pie first. Out of all of my friends, she is probably the least stable and needs a friend's presence.

Well… I can safely say that my friends are not taking James' disappearance very well by this point. Applejack was not able to bring in as many apples as usual into market, Pinkie Pie had a total psychotic breakdown, I caught Rainbow Dash just sulking on a cloud, and it seems Fluttershy is spending time with Rarity since they are best friends. Although… I doubt Rarity has noticed that her mane and tail are a bit more frazzled than usual. I even saw Scootaloo and…she…even she seemed to know something is not quite right.

Fluttershy… She seemed so listless when I saw her. Her eyes seemed so empty. So…devoid of life. I swear, she did not even notice me speak her name the first few times. I wanted to reach out to her. To do anything to make her feel better. But it felt as if I could not reach her at all. At least she is in good hooves with Rarity around her.

As I neared my home, I noticed that Spike had not come to find me at all. And it had been at least thirty to forty minutes since I left… What was going on back in the library?

I pushed the front door to the library open and found Spike near the center of the room while sweeping the floor with a broom in his hands. He immediately looked my way and asked, "Oh, hey! Is everything OK with our friends, Twilight?"

I bowed my head and sighed as I stepped inside while pushing the door closed with my left hind leg. "I don't think 'OK' is the right word to use… They're all feeling the pain, some worse than others."

"Oh man… Who's got it the worst?" He asked while propping the broom against the central table.

"Well… You know how Pinkie Pie is when she gets worried about friends… Although this is the first time I ever saw her break a mirror in her frustration. But nopony is worse off than Fluttershy. I swear, she almost seems like a zombie today… And no, not the brain-eating variety!" I retorted while Spike showed various expressions to go with everything I said.

"Oh, that's good. Wouldn't want Fluttershy wandering in here tonight and gnawing on my skull." Spike said while nervously chuckling.

If he was trying to add humor to make the situation feel less grim, I have to admit it was not working well. "Spike… Are you trying to be funny?"

He stared at me for a moment; probably closely scanning the stern gaze I was giving him. "Sorry… Oh…and sorry, but Princess Celestia still hasn't sent a reply."

She… Still? It had been fairly close to an hour by that point! "Are you serious?! Why would…" I started to suspect that possibly… Just maybe the message had been lost in transit. I mean, while being transported, the message is always reduced to a plume of smoke. Perhaps it is possible that a very strong gust blew it off course. "Well… Let's just send another. Surely this one will get to her."

"Sounds good to me." Spike replied while the two of us headed upstairs to our private quarters. Or the loft, for a more common term. I immediately brought a quill and scroll over to myself and wrote down the same message as before. Although I also added a few extra words at the bottom to empathize how urgently I needed Princess Celestia to respond.

"OK, Spike. It's all yours." I spoke while he took the scroll in hand and ran up to the closest window before blowing a plume of fire at the scroll.

We both watched as the scroll became a puff of smoke and floated out the window. "OK, I'm sure we'll be getting a reply any minute now. It really doesn't take long for those messages to get to her." He spoke with a smile while walking back towards me.

"True. All we have to do is wait now. I'll bet she won't even take two minutes." I replied as I remembered how promptly our princess always replied to my messages.

For the next few minutes, I paced around the room. Spike stayed right with me the whole time while seated on the steps that led up to our beds, using a quill to… I think he was doing a crossword puzzle. Two minutes passed. Then five. I felt my trotting slowly reduce to a canter. Why was she taking so long?

"Hmmm… Twilight? Which 'celestial body' does Princess Celestia raise and lower every day?" Spike asked after ten minutes had passed.

I looked at him and glared while my ears drooped. "Ugh… Really, Spike? She raises and lowers the sun."

"Oh, sorry. It's just that until a couple of years ago, she did both the sun and the moon. I hardly knew anything about Princess Luna until that Nightmare Night when she first came back to Ponyville." He replied before jotting something down. "Hang on… How long has it been?"

I let out a long sigh and spoke softly. "Ten minutes… Are you sure you haven't gotten anything?"

"Um… Yeah, I'm sure. I swear I'm not congested or anything… I don't know why I haven't gotten anything today… Hurk!" Spike spoke before suddenly choking and belching out a plume of green fire. "Oh, wait! Never mind! I've got something!"

I felt a crazy amount of hope suddenly fill my heart as a huge smile spread across my face. Finally! Now we were sure to locate our friend! I was fearful he may not have even existed, but clearly Princess Celestia knew that he did! "Well?! What does it say?! Does she know how and where to find James?!"

Spike seemed just as excited as I was while he unfurled the scroll. "OK! Princess Celestia says….." His excited expression slowly dissolved into a look of both bewilderment and severe…disappointment. "Dear Twilight… I am contacting you ahead of time to inform you…that I will possibly be attending Nightmare Night this year…"

I… I just snapped at that point. I let out a yell before I snatched that scroll from Spike's hands and hurling it into my fireplace. I then cast an ignition spell at the small amount of leftover wood to cause it to flare up and ignite. The scroll was reduced to ashes in mere seconds as I just stood there. Watching. The flames quickly died out with there being so little wood since I normally do not use my fireplace in summer.

"Twilight… Are you all right?" Spike asked from behind me with a rather intimidated tone to his voice.

I was breathing hard. I felt so…hurt. So angry and frustrated. But when I looked at Spike and saw how scared he was, I felt so much guilt for snapping like I did. I tried to calm down, tears trickling down my face. "I'm sorry… I…"

"She…ignored us, Twilight… Why would she do that?" Spike asked, clearly as baffled as I was.

"I don't know… This… This isn't right… She would never hide anything from me…" I felt so helpless at that moment. The one pony in all of Equestria who could help us had turned a deaf ear to my requests… Why?

Spike reached out to me and gave me a tender hug. "What should we do?"

I replied as honestly as I could. "I don't know… I just…don't know…"

Not much later, I was just lying on my bed. Looking out the window. By then, rain had started to pour down. The sky was nothing but dark gray clouds as far as the eye could see. The weather perfectly reflected my mood.

I closed my eyes. I could almost hear him. Almost feel him. Was I losing my mind? Did I want to see him again so badly that my ears and eyes were starting to make me see and hear what I wanted to? I could almost see him… Feel him resting his hand on my side…

I opened my eyes the instant I felt pressure being applied to my ribs. It felt so real, yet… There was nopony around me at all. A flash of lightning streaked through the sky in the distance while the rumbling of thunder shook the library. I was alone.

This… I could not let this go on. I had to do something. If Princess Celestia would not help me and my friends bring James home, then… I would send something to James directly. Regardless of where he is!

I rushed downstairs to the basement where I keep most of my supplies and where I do a large amount of my research when it does not involve reading books. I went to a large coiled up roll of parchment and began to pull it out while keeping a pair of scissors ready to cut it once I felt I had pulled out enough. Once the length reached seven feet, I stopped and cut the unfurled parchment free. I then rushed back up the stairs and into the loft with it floating behind me. I was going to need much more than just a scroll for everything I needed to say.

Taking a quill, I began to write. Bit by bit I explained what had occurred in James' absence. How our friends have been taking it. How much…I wanted to see him again.

I could feel my feelings bubbling over as I wrote. I could just feel ounces of it spilling out with every stroke of the quill I made. At one point, I finally just burst into tears. I just want to have him back home. Real or not, James is a true friend to me. And…it hurts knowing I may not ever see him again. I looked down once I managed to stop crying. Some of my tears had fallen onto the parchment, spreading out some of the ink I had used to write. But I did not mind. In a way, it meant that a part of me would be sent with the message.

Once the massive message was finished, I rolled it up and levitated over to me a normal scroll. In it, I wrote. "Dear Princess Celestia. I have noticed that you have been ignoring my most recent messages. I understand there is something you do not want to tell me, but I will not pry into it. However, there is an important request I must ask of you. Along with this scroll is a message I have written for James. If you have any idea where he is, wherever he may be, please… I beg you, please send this message to him. And…if you can, please cast a 'return to sender' spell on it so that it will return to me in 24 hours. I know this is an unusual request, but please. Do send this to him. I cannot stress how grateful I would be. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle."

Right when I finished writing that, I heard a voice behind me. "Twilight? Why do you have such a huge scroll with you?"

I turned and found Spike looking at me. Just the person I wanted to see. "This? Well… This is for James. And I need you to send it to Princess Celestia with this scroll here."

"Huh? For him?! But every message I send only goes to Princess Celestia and no one else!" Spike exclaimed as he held his hands out to his sides.

I understood his confusion, so I explained my plan. "I know. But this scroll here has a message for her. To send THIS message to James if she knows where he is."

He was understandably doubtful of the whole thing. "Do you think she will? Especially after ignoring the last two?"

"It's worth a try… And if this doesn't work, then I'm out of ideas." I admitted with a frown. There was a lot riding on this try.

"Well… OK. I'll go ahead and send them." Spike spoke with a smile before taking both scrolls in hand and running up to the closest window again. Although it looked like he had some trouble getting his hand around the extremely thick scroll that was meant for James. Even so, he got to the window and pushed it open before blowing fire onto the scrolls and sending them away in a puff of smoke. "Good thing these things are weatherproof when being sent."

"Thank you, Spike… Now all we can do is wait." I spoke with a relieved sigh. I was still more worried than I had been in a long time. But at least now, I have hope. Along with the chronicling of everything that has happened over the last three days, I included a request that James attach a message of his own with it before it returns. Since I know he is a late riser and it is just barely past 9 am, he probably is not even awake yet. I am sure he will see it when he wakes up. Assuming Princess Celestia does honor my request. And…that he actually exists.

I am going to stop writing here. There is really nothing else worth mentioning. But…I think I will sleep a little easier tonight. I can only hope that this crisis is resolved soon.

I… Everything feels…so dark. Like…something is missing. I woke up today feeling no energy… All I could remember at that instant… The nightmares… The horrible nightmares….

I heard a cooing in my ear as I just lied there in bed. It was Angela. James' pet dove. She cooed and nuzzled me while I did not move. I felt so empty inside… So hollow. I wanted to smile. I wanted to return Angela's affection, but… I had no drive. Like there was a piece of me missing that would make me feel whole.

"Good morning, Angela… I'll feed you soon." I muttered softly. No matter how awful I felt, I still had a job to do. I did not want my little friends to starve. I tried to stand, but fell right out of bed. I did not mind though. Nothing really seemed to matter at that moment.

I hardly remembered what happened next. I felt like some unseen force was moving me while my mind was somewhere else. Like my body was moving on its own. By the time I actually took a good look around, I saw that all of my little animal friends were busy eating. I was watching from the little bridge that crossed the brook in front of my house. But even though they were all eating, they seemed so…sad. It was like they could feel my emptiness.

"Why doesn't this make me happy anymore…?" I asked myself. Little animals had always been my passion. Just being with them always made me happy. But now…I was hardly feeling anything around them. They had been overshadowed by a new passion. A passion…for the only man I have ever loved.

I… I still can't believe he's not with me anymore… I loved him so much… And he loved me. His touch. His kisses. His voice. I… I crave them. It hurts when I think about him knowing he's gone… I felt so alone at that moment. I could feel tears spilling down my face, but no sounds came from my mouth.

I felt a tapping on my leg. When I looked down, I saw Angel looking up at me with such a worried expression. I could always count on him to be there to support me when things got hard. I managed to smile, even if just a little. "Hello, Angel… Did you eat enough?"

My cute little bunny nodded, but then held up something. It looked like he had found a light blue gemstone. While he held it up with one paw, he pointed at it with the other. Was he trying to tell me something? "A bright blue gemstone… Light blue… It…kind of looks like… Rarity?"

That blue… It was the same color as the three diamonds that make up Rarity's cutie mark. I felt a slight smile creep across my face. Rarity has been my best friend for a long time now. I know she can't fill the emptiness in my heart that only my boyfriend can, but being with her… It should at least help me feel a little better. "Thank you, Angel… I'll be back in a while. Be a good boy, all right?"

Angel nodded with a relieved looking smile and gave my leg a hug. I gently petted him on the head and nuzzled him goodbye before turning and walking towards Ponyville. It was going to be a long day…

I honestly don't remember anything that happened between leaving my house and arriving at Rarity's home. It was like my body was just on autopilot while I just looked down at the ground. I knocked on the door and waited. Soon, the door opened and Rarity was standing on the other side.

I guess I could go into detail about what I told her and what was said, but I noticed Rarity occasionally writing something down. She was probably keeping a diary of what had been happening. I don't think I should repeat everything we talked about… That would be boring if somepony read her diary and then read mine and found that we both documented the exact same thing, right…?

Rarity had to tend to one of her clients for a while after I had a banana for a snack, so I went upstairs to not get in the way. There was nothing for me to do, so I went to Rarity's room. It looked clean and tidy, just like Rarity prefers everything. But as I looked around, I saw something familiar. A beautiful robe with gold threads woven into it.

It was… The robe Rarity had woven for James to wear when we attend the Grand Galloping Gala in April next year. It looked so majestic and beautiful. The gold threads shimmering like stars against the deep blue night sky. I could almost see him in it. Standing as regally as any noble in Canterlot.

I could not help myself. I pulled the robe down from its hanger and fell onto Rarity's bed with it. I held it in my arms, pressing my face against it. "You would look amazing in this…" It was one of the few things I had to remember him by… Rarity did a splendid job keeping it clean and preserved. Just like how James would've wanted.

I swear… I could almost feel the robe embracing me back. As if he was wearing it at that moment. "I can feel you, honey…" I spoke as I felt a smile coming on. I felt…happy at that moment when I closed my eyes. I could feel his arms wrapping around me…

"Fluttershy… Fluttershy? Darling, can you hear me?" I heard a voice speak. I opened my eyes, finding James' robe to be empty. I felt a hoof rubbing my back and found Rarity standing beside me. "Fluttershy… I spoke your name five times before you looked at me. Are you all right? And…what are you doing to that robe?"

I felt so depressed as I looked at the empty robe. There was no one inside it to hold me… To kiss me… To love me. "I… I don't know anymore…"

Rarity sighed while using her magic to place the robe back on the hanger I had taken it from. "I understand exactly how you feel, Fluttershy. But I'm here for you. Come. I just prepared some tea for us." A little warm tea sounded pretty good then. I slowly climbed off of her bed and followed my friend downstairs into her kitchen.

There was a pot of tea with two tiny cups set on Rarity's kitchen table with a vase of pansies in the middle. "Over here, darling. Pull up a stool." Rarity spoke while she took a seat at one end. I did the same and sat down at the other end.

"I know you like honey in your tea, so I made certain to add an exceptionally large amount this time." Rarity spoke with a smile as the teacups and the pot were covered by a light blue magic aura. I watched silently while the cups were filled. I could smell the honey in the steam. "There you go, darling. Drink up."

I was not trusting my hooves to properly hold the cup at the time, so I used my right wing to hold it between my feathers. I took a light sip. The taste of the honey was very rich. I could not help but smile. Even if it was a very tiny smile. "It does my heart good to see you smile, Fluttershy." I heard Rarity speak from across the table.

"Good warm tea is good for calming nerves, I guess…." I spoke softly in response. I looked at Rarity, who was looking back at me. "But…I don't know if I feel happy…or just distracted now…"

Rarity frowned with a very sad expression. "Darling… Is there anything you want to tell me?"

I had so many questions hopping around in my head. So many unpleasant thoughts brought on by my depression… But I guess there was one question on my mind I could ask. Before I did, I let out a long sigh and looked down at my cup of tea. I could see my face looking back at me on the surface. I looked so tired. Almost as if I was sick. "Rarity… Do you think… James and I… Do you think we're meant to be…?"

My friend sighed before looking right at me. "Darling… Of course you two were meant for each other. And it only became clear to me just how much you two were meant the day I saw his cutie mark."

"Huh? His…cutie mark? What made you so sure?" I asked while never looking away.

Rarity smiled reassuringly at me before she continued. "Fluttershy… You are a butterfly. And James is a dove. The two of you being gentle caring souls. Destined to soar together in harmony. A dove would never harm a butterfly. He would never leave you." I saw Rarity's horn become covered by her magic aura while she talked. What was she doing with it?

"Look." Rarity spoke while she looked towards the ceiling. When I looked up, I watched as she used her magic to cause two delicately folded pieces of paper to float through the air. I never knew Rarity practiced origami sometimes. A butterfly made out of pink paper fluttered through the air while a dove folded from white paper did the same. Both were covered by Rarity's magic aura. "See how they fly together? In perfect unison? Beautiful, is it not?"

I felt tears spilling from my eyes. Watching the dove and butterfly flying in circles above me… It filled me with such a powerful longing. I wanted to hold that gentle dove in my arms again… I want to be his butterfly forever…

After a moment, the two fliers landed on the kitchen counter and leaned against each other as the magic aura faded. "That… It was lovely, Rarity." I spoke softly while looking at my friend. A white napkin floated over to my face and gently wiped at my cheeks, drying my tears.

"It was the least I could do, darling. I crafted those with you two in mind. A lovely pair, wouldn't you say?" Rarity replied with a somber smile. I could tell she was being sincere, but I could still see the worry in her eyes.

"It is… I mean…we are." I managed to smile a little. James… He really is my perfect match. And I feel ashamed to have ever doubted that.

The two of us continued to drink our tea in silence. It was quiet. There was not much light shining in through the windows. It was a calm, but depressing atmosphere. But then… I noticed just how little light was coming in through the windows. "Wait… Why is it so dark out?"

"Hm?" Rarity muttered before leaning towards a window. "Oh my, seems we're in for some rain. Strangely fitting considering what has happened lately. And with how much of a cloud cover we have, it'll probably last well into the evening."

I felt it would probably be best to get home while I could. I didn't bring an umbrella with me. "Oh… I should probably be going soon. But thank you for the tea, Rarity." I spoke with a sigh before finishing off the last bit of tea in my cup.

"It was a pleasure, Fluttershy. And please… Don't lose hope. I know you'll be seeing him again soon." Rarity spoke to me as she gathered up the dishes. But as she walked towards the sink to clean them, I heard her mutter softly. "At least…I hope we will…" I don't think she wanted me to hear that, so I pretended I didn't hear anything.

I left soon after. I was not in much of a hurry though. I don't even remember much of what happened during the walk home. But when I got inside my cottage, I was soaked to the bone. I didn't care though. Hardly anything mattered to me by then..

I went upstairs to my bathroom and dried myself off with a towel as much as I could. I then collapsed onto my bed. I did not want to move. The sound of the rain falling was soothing to me. At least… I think it is supposed to be soothing.

While I lied there, my eyes noticed something on the nightstand next to the side of the bed James always preferred to sleep on. A pair of glasses.

"That's…" I crawled closer to the edge of the bed. Those glasses… They belong to him. They're all I have left of him.

I decided to leave them be. I would wait for James to come home before they are moved. He is the only person who needs them anyway.

I…. I don't want to write anymore… I just want to lie here… In the dark. Waiting… Good night.

I must have overslept today. Spike was shaking me to wake up. "Come on, Twilight. You almost never sleep this late. It's past 9 in the morning!"

"Huh? Oh… Thanks, Spike." I groaned while I sat up in bed. I let out a long yawn as I sat up in bed before hopping out of it. I must have been very mentally exhausted the day before.

"Are you sure you're feeling all right? You're not sick, are you?" Spike asked while he followed me down the steps.

I turned to look at him and sighed. "Unless being sick with worry counts, I don't think so."

"Oh… Well, do you want anything for…oomph! Hurk!" Spike suddenly gagged as his cheeks started to puff up.

"Whoa… Are you OK? Quick, get in the bathroom! In the toilet, not in the sink!" I honestly thought he was about to vomit and did not want it on my clean floor.

"No… It's not that… I've…got a big one coming… Urk!" Spike managed to croak out a reply before letting out a loud belch. The puff of flame that came out of his mouth quickly solidified into…a scroll? "Whoa… That's the biggest scrolled I've ever barfed out."

"Hang on…" I muttered while stepping forward to take a closer look at the scroll that was floating in the air. It was tightly coiled with the royal seal placed on a red ribbon that was keeping it from unfurling. "This is MY message from yesterday! Did Princess Celestia actually send it to…"

Spike coughed a bit to clear his throat. "Well… One way to find out, right?"

I nodded. I then slid the ribbon off and allowed the scroll to unfurl. But when it was halfway unfurled, something fell out. A folded piece of white paper. "What's this…?" I muttered while I dropped the scroll. I used my magic to pick up the paper and unfolded it.

"Where'd that come from?" Spike asked while he stepped forward as I held it in front of my face. "Who wrote it?"

As I read, I felt tears filling my eyes before spilling over in seconds. But not tears of sorrow. I felt my body starting to feel weak. I slowly dropped to my knees as I read. "Twilight? What's wrong? Why're you crying?" Spike asked as he placed his hand on my shoulder.

I could not contain myself any longer. I lost my grip on the note and held my hoof to my face as I sobbed hard. I was not devastated. I was happy. Joyous, even! That note. It had been written in James' handwriting! My message did reach him! Which meant…he is real!

"Spike… That note came from James…" I managed to mutter between sobs. I just could not speak. After three days of uncertainty, doubt, and fear, I finally had an answer to the question me and my friends had been wondering. James is alive. He is real. And he wants to come home to us.

"It is?!" Spike gasped before snatching up the note and looking it over himself. "This definitely isn't yours or Princess Celestia's writing…"

"Spike… You know what to do. They need to see this." I spoke with a tearful smile.

Spike turned and looked at me before smiling with a nod. "You got it." He ran up to the closest window and pushed it open. With a puff of green fire, the note was turned into smoke and floated away. "Princess Celestia's in for a big surprise when she reads that."

There is nothing else to write about now. James is surely about to be brought within the hour. Everything is going to be fine now. Everything is about to go back to normal.

And most importantly, we will soon have our friend back. Now we just need to wait.