Rainbow Dash cracked one eye open slowly, using a hoof to shield her face against the dazzling morning sun. A sour look wormed its way onto her features and stuck there, making her appear somewhat like an upset tortoise; the window in her own room in Cloudsdale was far enough from her bed that the light didn't fall across her. Here, in Rarity's room, the window-
Dash's eyes flew completely open suddenly, and she whipped her head around, cricking her neck painfully in the process. Sure enough, Rarity was curled up beside her, still asleep, her thick, slightly mussed up mane shielding her eyes from the golden light of morning. An odd look of confused happiness mixed with a weird sort of dislike replaced the pegasus's shocked expression as she gazed at the other mare; it took several seconds for the memory of the night before to come back to her. Rarity had been crying…the letter! They had to go look for it today, and find out who had done this, if anyone.
"Rainbow Dash?" Rarity's quiet, somewhat groggy voice floated up to where Dash was now sitting bolt upright in the center of the bed, breaking the pegasus's concentration on the task before them. Rarity's eyes were also squinted against the sun, and she pulled herself across the bed to close the curtains before looking at Rainbow Dash again. "Did we sleep all through yesterday evening?"
This hadn't occurred to Rainbow Dash; she slept a lot, but it had barely been noon when she and Rarity had fallen asleep.
"I…I guess we d-d-" A huge yawn interrupted Dash's sentence, which she didn't bother to finish, instead taking that moment to stretch her hooves up to the ceiling in an immensely over-exaggerated stretch. "Well, you were pretty broken up yesterday, so I'm not surprised." A good night's sleep had returned Rainbow Dash to her usual nonchalant attitude.
"I beg your pardon! Rarity is never 'broken up'." Rarity jumped gracefully off the bed and flicked her mane back out of her eyes, casting a withering glance back at Dash as she did so. "Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to take a shower. I look simply hideous…" The unicorn trotted her way to the bathroom, muttering to herself about the state of her usually immaculately styled mane and tail and leaving Rainbow Dash sitting on the bed completely clueless as to what to do next.
Once in the privacy of her bathroom, Rarity collapsed on the floor, swooning silently over the condition of her lovely hair as she turned the silver shower knobs with magic. Steam began to rise from behind the curtain as she regained control of herself and stood up again, taking a moment to glance at her reflection before checking the water with one hoof. It was suitably hot by that point, so the unicorn wasted no time in stringing a towel through the ring beside shower and pulling the curtain aside, then stepped delicately into the blistering cascade. A sigh of contentment passed her lips as the water slicked down her hair and tail and soaked into her aching muscles.
"Nothing like a hot shower to calm one's nerves…" Rarity's voice was little more than a whisper as she closed her eyes against the stream of water. Though she usually liked to reflect on her day or simply think about little things while she was showering, today the unicorn let her mind go blank as the water beat out a throbbing rhythm against her glistening coat. All the horrible memories from the previous day and her trepidation about what might have happened to the mysterious invitation seeped slowly out of her thoughts, following the water's path, trickling over her neck and shoulders and finally down the drain.
After washing herself thoroughly, Rarity once again pulled away the curtain and stepped out of the shower, turning back to stop the water with a hoof while her magic was busy wrapping her hair up in a spare towel. She wrapped the largest towel, the one she had hung beside the shower, around herself and took several minutes to dry off, paying close attention to her tail as she did so. A fluffy purple bathrobe awaited her as she made her way through the bathroom door and out into the kitchen.
Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash, who had caught a few minutes of extra sleep under the covers and felt much more awake, was making, or attempting to make, breakfast in Rarity's small kitchen. Several horribly burnt eggs were already stinking in the trash, and the first batch of apple pancakes were beginning to burn as well. One flew over Rarity's head, the product of Dash's over-zealousness with a spatula, and splattered on the opposite wall, just barely missing the window. Rarity gasped as she saw the mess spread all over the counter, but retained some sense of dignity as she addressed her pegasus friend.
"Rainbow Dash! Away from the stove this instant!" Rarity galloped to the stove and turned it off quickly, using magic to remove the smoking applecakes from the scorching hot pan. She dropped the cakes in the trash and moved several containers of ingredients back to their respective places, scolding the unfortunate Dash all the while.
"You couldn't have waited until I was finished with my shower? Goodness, this is going to take forever to clean up… Rainbow Dash, grab that dish towel and begin to wipe up that mess you made on the wall please…" At this point, Rarity took a moment to look up at her friend. Dash was scrambling to do as she was told, and a pink flush was creeping into her cheeks. A smile spread over Rarity's face, which soon blossomed into a full-fledged fit of giggles. "Oh…Rainbow Dash… Thank you for trying!" The unicorn's towel became dislodged as she laughed, but she ignored it and shook her hair into place; it fell perfectly into its usual tight curl, as if by magic. "I really appreciate you wanting to have breakfast ready, but next time let me do the cooking, alright?" Her laughs died down to a few amused chuckles as she draped her bathrobe and towel over a peg beside the bathroom door. Rainbow Dash stuck her head out of the kitchen door to see where she was going.
"Uh…yeah, right." Though not entirely sure when she would have another chance to make breakfast for Rarity, Dash left the kitchen and stood by the front door, her cleaning forgotten. "Hey Rarity, let's see about that letter now, huh?" She shifted her weight from one side to the other and rustled her wings as she waited, hoping that there really was someone trying to distance the six friends, or just Rarity, from each other. That , at least, would be exciting.
Rarity, on the other hand, was not looking forward to finding out the letter's fate. In the event that the invitation had in fact been stolen, there was the troubling matter of finding out who exactly did it, a mystery Rarity was sure Rainbow Dash wouldn't pass up. Rarity didn't want to have anything to do with any such mystery; of course, she would have to go along with Rainbow Dash, considering all this fuss was about her. Though she felt fairly certain the letter was probably just lying somewhere on the ground around her mailbox, there was always the chance that someone really had taken the letter in spite, although she had no idea why another pony would do something so hateful. After taking a deep breath or two, she turned back to Dash.
"Alright then… Let us go, if you really are so worked up about this stupid situation, I mean it's really not-" Rarity stopped talking at this point and sighed instead. Rainbow Dash had shot out the door at the word 'go' and was already searching around the mailbox before Rarity was even out the door. Deciding to let her eager friend finish the hunt for the letter, Rarity sat just inside the door, letting the refreshing spring breeze wash over her. She had closed her eyes and was quite relaxed when Dash shouted.
"Rarity! Come here, now!" Rarity jumped to her feet and galloped to where the other mare was hovering over the mailbox.
"What is it? What did you find?" The unicorn's heart was in her throat as Dash held out a slightly damp piece of thick parchment. "What…what is this?" The writing was barely legible; it was a miracle it had made it through the previous day's rainstorm. Rarity squinted as she tried to make out the words. "It just says…'Missing something?' What's that supposed to mean?" A look of contempt crossed her face. "The nerve of some ponies…" She made to toss the parchment aside, but Rainbow Dash swooped low over her and snatched it away.
"C'mon Rarity! We're going to see Twilight! She has all sorts of this paper stuff, she might be able to help us!" The pegasus zoomed off towards Twilight's home in the library, her rainbow trail disappearing almost lazily behind her. Rarity growled to herself and galloped after Rainbow Dash, thankful that the library wasn't very far away from her own home.
When Rarity finally arrived, slightly winded, at the large, hollow tree that served as a library, she found Twilight and Rainbow Dash already sitting, their heads together, bent over the parchment. "Yeah, that's all it says- Rarity! Took you long enough!" Dash sped to the door and shoved Rarity inside; the unicorn scowled, but allowed her to do it. "I've already told Twilight everything and she says-" The purple unicorn cut Dash off, preferring to tell her findings to Rarity herself.
"Unfortunately, I have nothing to tell you…sorry girls, but I have no idea what this could mean. I've never seen the writing before…maybe there was more, and the storm washed it away." Twilight stared, seemingly confounded, at the scrap of parchment on the floor in front of her. Dash refused to take this as an answer, and began flying agitatedly around the library, ignoring Twilight's shouts to be careful.
"Well…can't you…use a spell to see what could have been on it or something? I mean, you are, like, the most powerful unicorn in Equestria, right?" The apparently restless pegasus landed in front of Twilight, who was pondering this idea.
"I guess I could try…" She looked doubtfully at the paper for a moment before hardening her gaze and attempting the magic needed. Her horn began to glow along with the parchment, staying alight for several seconds before fading with a few purple sparks. The three ponies crowded around the scrap, anxious to see what, if anything, had decided to show itself.
"There's…nothing else there." Rarity spoke what was in everyone's mind, then backed away, somewhat relieved that the paper had revealed none of its secrets. "Well, that's just too bad! I was so curious, but I guess it's time to get back home. I've got lots of-"
"Wait! There's something…" Rarity stopped in her tracks at Twilight's words. She bit her lip lightly, then turned slowly to look at the parchment now hanging in midair, suspended by the other unicorn's magic. It seemed to Rarity, as Twilight read the new words out loud, that the air was gradually being sucked from the large, book-filled room.
"'Missing something? Come to the edge of the Everfree forest when you're ready to find out…and come alone.' That…doesn't sound good…" Twilight glanced up at Rarity, who was frozen on the spot, with concern in her lavender eyes. Rainbow Dash, who had completely missed how this message could have been scary for Rarity, butted in.
"Well, what do you suppose that means? Guess there's only one way to find out, huh? Ready to go out to the forest, Rarity?"
Twilight threw a book at Dash using magic, then walked to Rarity's side. "You don't have to go, you know. Everything was worked out, with the invitation and everything, so they didn't ruin our friendship… I mean, that's the only thing they could be going for, right?" Rarity shrugged.
"It did say 'to find out'… It's obvious that the invitation was missing, but what if they took something else? I'm not aware of missing anything… Maybe I should go…" Rarity bit her lip once again and looked up to her friends for support.
"Don't worry! We'll be right there next to you! Err…hiding. It did say to go alone. But I'll definitely go, and Twilight'll come too, right?" Rainbow Dash grinned and flew to the door, throwing it open before looking back at the other two. Twilight nodded and flashed an encouraging smile at Rarity.
"Of course we will! Don't worry Rarity, it's probably just some silly filly or colt playing a prank. It'll be fine!" Rarity smiled back, allowing the other unicorn's words to placate her own fears as she trotted for the door.
"Oh, you're probably right. Well, I suppose there's no time like the present…"