"I want you to show me how to be pretty and sophisticated like you are," Dash repeated, this time a little more slowly.
Rarity continued to stand there dumbfounded for several moments, wondering if this wasn't some sort of sick prank on Dash's part. No, she could see the sincerity in her eyes, and in the frown that was slowly forming. "Well, I must say, Rainbow Dash...this is quite a surprise," she said. "A pleasant surprise, though! It's never too soon to learn proper grooming, after all, and I'd be more than happy to help you clean up your act! I have to ask, though...what in Equestria brought this on?"
"Well, you know that the Gala is coming up soon, and..." she said, looking away in embarrassment as her voice trails off. "...well, um...I don't want to go alone this year. So I wanted to...you know...find a date. Impress somepony." By now Dash's cheeks were bright red, and she dug nervously at the floor with a hoof.
"Why, Rainbow Dash...do you have a crush on somepony?" Rarity asked, eyes practically aglow with amazement and curiosity. This would make such wonderful gossip - she'd be the envy of everyone at the spa! "You simply must tell me who the lucky pony is!"
"Yeah, kind of," the Pegasus replied, looking back up to Rarity. "It's going to be a surprise, though. So..."
"Oh well, never mind that, Rainbow. The mystery of it all...how dramatic! You'll have everypony guessing for weeks!" Rarity gushed, mock-fainting onto her back.
"Yeah. Dramatic," Dash replied, squinting at Rarity in frustration. Maybe she should have asked Twilight for help instead - at least the egghead wouldn't wind up feeding the rumor mill. "So, uh...where do we start?"
"Well, dear - and please don't take offense to this - but I think the first place we need to start is your, erm...hygiene," Rarity says, studying Dash's mane. "It's not that you're dirty, you're just...a little...unkempt. Not to worry, though!"
"Unkempt? What the hay is that supposed to mean?" Dash asked, irritation growing in her voice.
Rarity paused for several moments as she considered how best to explain it to Dash. It didn't take her long to concoct a brilliant plan, though. "It just means that you're in need of a makeover, dearie! Come back to my shop at about six tonight, and I promise you'll be at least twenty percent sexier when you leave!" she said, gently nudging Dash towards the door.
"All right, but I'm gonna hold you to that!" Dash protested as she was at last shoved out of Rarity's boutique. As for Rarity, she would be closing up shop a little earlier than usual tonight. After all, gossip this hot simply couldn't wait - she'd have to let the other girls know right away...
Once again, Twilight found herself cursing her luck and wishing that her library was as isolated from Ponyville as Dash's cloud castle. Apparently Rarity had stumbled upon some juicy tidbit of information that everypony needed to hear, insisted that everypony hear about it at Twilight's place, and no, it couldn't wait until after her studies were finished for the day. The other ponies were all gathered around Twilight's table making small talk - all of them except Rainbow Dash, who was suspiciously absent from the discussion.
After taking a deep breath and mentally counting to ten, Twilight finally joined them all at the table. "Where's Rainbow Dash?" she asked, looking from pony to pony.
"Well, you see...this is actually about Rainbow Dash," Rarity replied, glancing back towards the doorway. The last thing she wanted was to have the Pegasus catch her telling everyone.
"So yer just gonna talk about Dash behind her back?" Applejack asked, shooting Rarity a look that could've frozen a campfire solid. The outburst caused Fluttershy to squeak and shrink away from the table, quietly looking towards Twilight to calm the coming storm.
"Applejack, let's at least hear what Rarity has to say before anypony gets bent out of shape," Twilight suggested. While she doubted that Rarity had anything particularly important to report, she'd learned to expect the unexpected when it came to these ponies.
"Thank you, Twilight," Rarity said, exaggerating a nod of thanks towards the Unicorn. "As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted..."
"Get on with it!" Applejack fussed.
"...as I was saying, our dear Rainbow Dash has developed a crush on somepony," Rarity finished, supreme satisfaction hanging on each and every word. "She told me so herself earlier this afternoon."
The room was suddenly stricken with a terrible silence, as the gathered ponies found themselves unable to properly form a response to this revelation. Twilight stood at the head of the table with her jaw agape, and Applejack's face was one of nervous terror. Even Pinkie Pie's ever-present grin had been replaced by a blank stare of disbelief and concern. Unfortunately, Pinkie Pie's silence was not long-lived.
"So who is it, Rarity? Is it anypony we know, huh huh huh?" she suddenly blurted, leaning over to put her muzzle directly in Rarity's face.
"I haven't a clue!" Rarity answered as she backed away from Pinkie Pie. "I tried every single one of my many charms on Rainbow Dash, but all she would reveal is that she has plans to ask somepony to the Gala this year! She showed up at my boutique asking if I'd instruct her in the finer points of being a sophisticated young filly..."
"Dash? Sophisticated? The day I see that filly actin' all prim and proper is the day ah eat mah hat," Applejack said, rolling her eyes.
"Well, nobody thought she could pull off the Sonic Rainboom, either," Twilight quipped. "You'd better be careful betting against Dash, otherwise you might just find out what that hat tastes like with ketchup."
"Ketchup-covered hats? That's silly, Twilight! Now maybe ketchup-covered muffins, shaped like hats? Or better yet, cakes! Hat-shaped cakes, with ketchup-flavored icing! Or maybe..." Pinkie Pie began, quickly launching off into a stream of Pinkiebabble that was promptly ignored by everyone else present.
Princess Celestia had many things on her mind that day, but chief among them was concern for her younger sister. Though Luna had always been aloof and mysterious as part of her nature, Celestia couldn't help but wonder about her sister's downward spiral into bitterness and envy. It was true that the ponies of Equestria slept through her beautiful night, and had traditionally held the Sun Goddess in higher esteem than the Moon Goddess.
Perhaps it was time to change that. She lifted her head, intending to have her chamberlain summon Princess Luna to her throne room, but was surprised to see that her younger sister was already in attendance.
"You wished to see me, Celestia?" Luna asked quietly, not at all comfortable in the bright, cheerful surroundings she found herself in.
"Why, yes...I did indeed wish to speak to you," the elder goddess spoke, mildly shocked at Luna's rather sudden appearance. Luna had always worked in mysterious ways, though, and was even able to catch Celestia off-guard with relative ease. "I've been meaning to speak with you about the upcoming Gala."
"Ah, the Grand Galloping Gala. What of it, dear sister?" Luna replied evenly, wondering what game her sister was playing with her this time.
"I have been pondering the matter of your role in ruling over Equestria, and I think it would be beneficial to both of us if you were to take on a more visible role in our world's affairs," Celestia explained, drawing a look of surprise from Luna. Ah, she hadn't been expecting that, now had she? "Neither of us benefits from you being ignored or forgotten, and I believe that the upcoming Gala presents us with an opportunity for you to reconnect with our children."
Luna was very surprised, and more than a little skeptical concerning her sister's motivations. "Do tell," she implored.
"Lovers and their trysts have long been your domain, Luna. Therefore, I think it would be fitting for you to preside over this year's Starlight Ball..."
It wasn't often that Luna smiled, but at that moment she couldn't help but grin from ear to ear. "Why, I would be delighted to do so, Celestia," she stated. Oh, the pleasure would be all hers indeed. "Seeing all those happy couples...it truly is one of life's greatest miracles. By your leave, sister, I will begin my preparations for the ball at once."
There wasn't anything to indicate that Luna harbored any darker ambitions behind her smile, and yet the expression on the Moon Goddess's face caused a faceless fear to stir deep within Celestia's heart. "Of course, Luna. Luna?" The Sun Goddess looked about her throne room for her sister, yet she was nowhere to be found...