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PrinceBlueblood

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Everything posted by PrinceBlueblood

  1. Almost there, almost there! Feng was close, close enough to call out to his friend as the chase ran inside the town. "Yanhua, wait, we just- HEY!" By all things the ancestors held holy, what was Tempest Shadow doing!? "Don't make this any longer than it has to be!" He yelled up to his fellow-pursuant on the roof. "This is no hunt! We're trying to help a friend here!" Be that as it may, calling up to Temmy had caused Feng to lose a few steps on his pace. Snorting, he clamped down his jaw to prevent any further talking from taking away energy, and put on another burst of speed. The trail was zooming past Sunset, who would have felt the breeze from the pursuing longma's wake. The streets were still empty, with pretty much all of the town's inhabitants still out in the Stands for the Iron Pony. This meant that Yanhua would feel free to run through the town; Feng could only hope that they caught up to her before she lost them by ducking into another alley...
  2. It was a usually, if unexpectedly, disturbing sensation to receive a pony's full attention. Not that Blueblood could exactly muster that to focus upon Anu; he doubted anyone could in the presence of a Sphinx. Nonetheless, he tried his best, blue eyes fixed intently upon the exiled prince, lidded as if defending themselves from blandishment, the rest of the face carefully neutral. It was a bit of a surprising shift from his earlier geniality, but this was not merely a personal conversation. The Prince was seriously evaluating intervention on the dog's behalf, though he had to say that Anu's story so far had a distinctly... bare bones and one-sided nature about it. He'd need to know the exact circumstances behind the objection. Perhaps it really was a bad decision to ally with that other clan. "Mmm, I have to wonder, if you had an ally in that other clan, Anu, why were they of no help to you in your time of need?" It seemed an obvious question to the experienced politician. A bit less noble and heroic than Hogo-sha might think admirable, but he couldn't help that. Not everypony, or every dog, could be the picture of perfect bushido. It was only then that Blue noticed that Niilavin had gotten up. Diverting his attention, he looked up just in time to see the big cat attempting to engage a passer-by in a riddle game. And given what legends said about ponies who lost a sphinx's challenge- "Oi! Bad kitty, no trying to eat my subjects!" He stopped short, realizing that he had said that in plain Equestrian, loud enough for everyone around to hear and understand. "Ah, yes, I do believe I ought to see about feeding you, though." He looked apologetically at his companions. "Sorry, but we're going to have to get up again, and take a quick detour to the fish market."
  3. I am home!

    1. Bellosh

      Bellosh

      *provides a hero's welcome!*

    2. dragonofruin

      dragonofruin

      Welcome home!

  4. Will be away for the weekend at my cousin's wedding.  See all you beautiful people on Monday!

  5. Amateur pursuers focused on where their quarry was. Intermediate-level pursuers focused on where their quarry would be. Professional pursuers could track their quarry's trajectory alongside that of their partners, coordinating to pen in their prey. Feng was a professional, as all in the Watchers were; pursuit of miscreants was an essential part of the job. Not that the longma felt the same way towards Yanhua as he did towards all the ne'er-do-wells that would dare harm the Empress, but he was no less keen to catch up with her. So, he naturally and unconsciously fell into the role of foxhound to the kitsune in front of him, aiming to direct her towards were Tempest was coming in from the town side. No easy task on an open field, but thankfully Sunset was able to change the geography of the chase through teleportation! She was headed towards one of the back-alleys that opened into a field, no doubt hoping that a couple of twists could leave her pursuers in a puzzle. But, as long as Tempest was quick on the draw, they could lock down both ends, bringing the chase to a halt behind Sugar Cube Corner!
  6. So... the crowd's reaction seemed to range from indifferent to enthusiastic. Bluebelle could live with that spread; any absence of hostility was welcome, and positive acceptance was a good sign of future things to come. One of the first student reactions, of course, reminded the mare that these were, of course, students. That is to say, young and fundamentally immature. But that could be worked with, in time. "Well, mister..." Bluebelle made a show of glancing down at her notes. Twilight had sent some notes ahead on some of the new students to keep an eye on in particular, and this was one of them, "Grubber, was it? I am pleased to say that diligent students are often in the kitchen's good graces, when it comes to dessert." Never pass up an opportunity to encourage effort. Let's see, besides him... there were a couple members of Twilight's initial class that she picked out, an enthusiastic Yak with a sleepy-looking dragon across her back. And there... a longma? Or ryuma, as they were called in Neighpon. So the school was extending its reach, excellent. "If you have any more questions, I will be able to take a few. Other than that, welcome to Twilight Sparkle's School of Friendship for another year!"
  7. Transformation magic? That was a possibility, perhaps; though now that Feng thought about it, he couldn't name any qilin who were able to do that with their breath magic. "You think so? I've never seen her do anything like that. Unless there's stuff going on in the kitchen I don't know about." Obviously, there had to be; transforming raw ingredients into delicious food was surely magical! But turning oneself into a fox was a whole order of magnitude different from transforming dough, shrimp, and veggies into delicious dumplings. In light of this context, Sunset's theory, as wild as it was, held some merit by process of elimination. "If she's not a qilin, though, what would she be?" His brow furrowed in thought as the eyes beneath scanned the horizon. Oddly enough, a picture was coming into his mind, a strangely clear memory of younger days, playing alone in the woods by his mountain village. Or not quite alone, but rather with- "Excuse me, what!?" Feng was jolted from his reverie, first by the glimpse of orange fluff in the corner of his eye, but mostly from the rather insensitive remark on the part of Tempest Shadow. The shock robbed him of eloquence, but thankfully the other unicorn present was able to reply for him. Saving time, no doubt. "Thank you, Sunset. I'm not wanting to involve my friend in what we find exciting Tempest, and there!" While scanning the grass where he'd last seen the telltale orange of a fluffy tail, a fairly obvious trail of broken grass could be seen, leading into the thicket. Without hesitation, he sprinted off into a full gallop, content to leave speculation as to the situation to the brains of the group. He was a stallion of action, first and foremost, and there was a foxy friend in trouble!
  8. The first day of a new year is always a time of transition and new beginnings, whether the year be a calendar or a school year. There stretches a length of time in front of pony, filled with new delights, challenges, and opportunities for growth. Some face these with confidence, others with trepidation, but none without some dose of morning caffeine. Or so Princess Bluebelle told herself, sipping a second cup of tea over the breakfast table. As she drank, she re-read for the umpteenth time the letter Twilight Sparkle had sent her, first outlining the purple princess’ request to take her place as Headmare of the Academy of Friendship. It wasn’t wholly unexpected for the alicorn to pass on the title and duties, now that she was officially ascending to head of state. But for her to have selected Bluebelle for the task? That had been rather more of a surprise. Blue had admittedly hesitated before accepting the offer; unlike Twilight, the alabaster unicorn had not been an enthusiastic scholar, and while proud of most things, was not inclined to have too high an opinion on her steadfast devotion to the harmonious values of friendship. Twilight had, however, insisted and assured Blue of her faith in them, and at the end of the day, Bluebelle simply could not stand the thought of disappointing her fellow Princess. The tea in the cup didn’t last long, draining at last all of her excuses for procrastination. Sighing, she got down from the table, took a little time to re-fix her golden mane for the last time, and set out from the guest quarters of Twilight’s castle towards the school. She arrived in time to hear Twilight give her farewell address. From the wings, Blue tried her best to judge the reactions of the audience…. Silence. Seems that almost none of them were expecting this, either. Knowing the movement of the moods of a crowd the way she did, Bluebelle wasn’t about to let the silence turn into murmuring. As Twilight left the stage, she arrived upon it. Nopony, at least, could accuse her of not dressing for the occasion. She was dressed in a dark blazer of the school colors, distinguished from a student uniform by purple trims around the collar and lapels, with a gold braid and tassels around the withers. It set off her natural colors very well, striking not a few of the audience still at the very sight of her beauty. At least, so she told herself to tamp down on her nerves as she gave her own speech. “Good morning! I take it most of you weren’t expecting to see me today.” Already she was doubting her chosen opening, but from the low ripple of laughter, more like the release of tension than a reaction to a joke, she could tell it was the right approach. They were ready to listen. “Some of you, who have never heard of me, might be surprised that I have been chosen for this position. Others of you who have heard of me may be even more surprised, depending on what you have heard. I have to admit, I was a little nervous to accept this position myself when Twilight offered it; I did not think myself worthy.” “Growing up as Prince Blueblood, I had come to undervalue friendship, and the elements that upheld our fair nation. It was not until I witnessed the attack on the Crystal Spire that it was brought home to me both what comes of a land where friendship is thought merely waste of time and a weakness… and yet, even in those harsh lands, there came close upon the attacking wave a fleet of helping hooves, reaching out to us in solidarity.” “That was what inspired me to found IMAGINE; I felt then, as I hold ever stronger as a conviction now, that there is much evil in the world, but the best way to fight against it is not with steel and blood, but with a clear head, helpful hoof, and open heart. It remains my vision to spread these values beyond the borders of Equestria, so that wherever a traveler may go, he may be assured of finding a friend at every inn.” “I have long admired Princess Twilight’s commitment to this school, as I felt it served to compliment my own efforts in aim, and even supercede them in effect. Looking over all those gathered here today, I feel the future is in good hooves. And claws, wings, or whatever limbs you may use to embrace a new friend. I only hope, for the time that I wlll be the steward of that future, that I shall do right by you, this school, and the values to which it is dedicated. Thank you.” She concluded her speech, and then could only await the reaction...
  9. It was a good thing that Tempest seemed more comfortable now that the search party was on the outskirts of town; it had taken a quick intervention by Feng to prevent a rather... disharmonious scene from occurring. Hopefully the need would not arise again. The longma took a deep breath, trying to relax himself. Being tensed up only helped in combat, not in search missions. He needed a clear head, one that could see the most likely probabilities. "Yanhua always did seem comfortable in nature, at least more so than most of the palace-dwellers." He mused, looking towards the forest. "And from what I have heard, the ponies here distrust the Everfree because they do not control the weather over it. Which... is pretty much every forest in my homeland." Granted, there was little truly dangerous in the forests of Long Guo, by the standards of the inner Everfree, but he did ultimately share Tempest's not-so-frightened attitude towards it. "Still, I'm not really sure that's where she'd run to. She might have ended up closer to the train station, or perhaps to a local kitchen." While Tempest was concerned with where Yanhua was, Sunset seemed more focused on what was going on with her. "Hum, not really. We didn't meet up with any alchemists, and I saw no potions when I helped her pack. We never stepped hoof in the Everfree, and I don't know of any relics, either." His brow furrowed, understanding the implications of a negative answer, but not quite believing them.
  10. Well, this was turning out to be a most interesting visit overseas for Fēng Yīnhǎitāo. The sort of interesting that was probably implied in the proverbial curse from his far eastern homeland. Not that this visit had been at all unenjoyable, far from it! He'd come here to represent Long Guo at the Annual Iron Pony Event and win glory for his Empress, and that he had certainly done, if being crowned the Iron Pony was anything to go by! That level of concentrated athletic exertion had taken its toll on him, though, leaving a deep sense of exhaustion in his muscles that extended rest would need to cure. On top of that, his free time was pretty much all taken up with turning strangers into friends, which was almost equally taxing and rewarding to his primary mission. Ponies like Tempest Shadow and Sunset Shimmer might not have been the easiest mares to get along with, but he sensed them to be the sort of friends that one ought to cherish. And he ought to know! He'd come over with a friend like that, Yanhua the head Imperial Chef and fellow Long-Guo Representative. The qilin, in addition to putting in a respectable performance herself, had regularly cheered on Feng in his events. Honestly, he'd felt a little bad about ignoring her during this trip, and thus had sat out the last event to cheer her on from the sidelines. He had to admit, she put in a performance on the rock wall he didn't think he could have matched. But he was distracted from her prowess by something else, what looked like some kind of magical transformation from a qilin into something decidedly more... vulpine. The fact that Yanhua immediately fled the scene, not even coming back to receive her medal, was what tipped him over the edge from concern to outright worry. He needed to track her down, and being a stranger in a strange land, he wanted to get some local help. It was a bit of a pity, then, that the two ponies he knew best here weren't exactly Ponyville locals either... "Thanks for helping out here, Tempest." He remarked to his fellow-searcher, trying to betray neither his creeping dread nor exhaustion.
  11. Hearing about ESP's reminded Feng of stories he'd heard about some of the legendary followers of the Harmonious Path. Supposedly pursuing ascetic discipline could grant preternatural powers of perception. The longma himself was fairly skeptical of these stories, however; never having met such monks himself. Plus, there was the tale of his great uncle who had literally starved himself in pursuit of said powers, without any kind of result. "That may as well be." He shrugged. "Sharp eyes and educated guesses do a good portion of that for a long sun, or a pony, in my experience." The newcomer mare and Tempest seemed to be getting along fairly well, which was good. Not that the longma could empathize much with their desires to stay away from Ponyville, he was having a great time here! Though, if their experiences here were anything like what he felt at the thought of visiting his home village... yeah, he could understand that. At the mention of the late Emperor, Feng's ears perked up again, and he replied. "Oh, the old Emperor died shortly after I began my training; I don't know all that much about him. His daughter, though...." His eyes grew clouded with a dreamlike gaze, and he sighed. "...is marvelous." The poor boy was clearly lovestruck, which lent credence to the fact that he'd been sent overseas to save face in the court of the Dragon Throne. Romantic musings were cut short by Tempest's offhand mentioning of a scuppered intention to invade; the burgundy mare was something of a buzzkill when it came to romance. Still, probably for the best that Feng sobered up ASAP. "Oh, well, we certainly do pride ourselves on our forces, and I think justly. There is also the matter that such an act of aggression would have incurred the wrath of the heavenly dragons upon your heads as well. The king of the long is a personal friend to the Empress, as well as a longstanding ally." Taking a quick check around, he noticed the pavilion seemed to be emptying. "I think the next round of events are starting up soon. I plan to compete in several more, and cheer on my friend Yanhua when she competes as well. She's been a fantastic supporter so far. Would you like to come along, grab one last drink before the round?"
  12. Whether or not the final truce had been signed, Fēng was at least sufficiently at peace with himself not to mind sudden assumptions on the part of foreigners. All the less so, since his eye, which don't forget was that of a trained Watcher, had caught the fact that Sunset felt his remark to be extremely apropos to her. Small wonder, then, that she thought of it as 'mystical.' "Oh, I'm more of a warrior than a mystic, if you must know." He replied with a shrug and a grin. "Though the Empress says I can be unexpectedly wise. Mostly comes from the fact that there's not much to do when laid on your back in the infirmary other than read and think!" He laughed, though the commonplace way he took that occurrence spoke to either the danger of his profession, or his recklessness in pursuing it. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, as they liked to say around here.
  13. **Submitted for Judging** Feng had sat, for some time, off to the side of the event. Not because he planned not to participate; oh no. The Empress had bid him to make a showing in all events, or at least to ensure Long Sun representation in all of them, and neither he nor Yanhua had swam in this river yet. Nor, really, in any river. Growing up in his home village, all the swimming holes were large, mostly placid pools that mountain waterfalls emptied into, and of course the palace had its own artificial pool. But striking through the raging current? Not part of his upbringing or training. This could well prove the most difficult of the events he was to take on, hence his pause to study the previous competitors and their methods. *So, we can expect river beasts, rocks, and masses of plant matter. The Current is strong, too; both the strange long and Finnie had to spend some time and effort to swim against it, three times across as well.* He didn't think of himself as a better swimmer than either, so his body couldn't be used to push any kind of advantage. The only edge he could muster would be his tactical mind, searching the grounds and stated rules for any technicalities that might be pushed to his favor... *Aha.* Inspiration struck, and with a grin, he scampered down to the starting line, presenting himself for the challenge. "And now, fillies and gentlecolts, it's the Eastern Wonder, Fēng Yīnhǎitāo!" Eastern Wonder? Well, that was new! Feng couldn't say he minded, though. And the announcer even got the inflections right on his name! If that wasn't good luck, the longma didn't know what was. Taking a deep breath, the newly christened 'wonder' dove into the river at the farthest upstream point marked out for the starting line, striking course for the far shore. Not a straight course though; the essence of his plan was to allow the current to carry him, at least a little bit, so as not to spend too much energy fighting it. He had to minimize distraction, though, for this gambit to work, as if he slacked off too much , he risked getting swept away! Fortunately, holding back to watch the previous two competitors had at least let him know where the rocks were, allowing him to kick off the formations to give himself a little extra boost as he passed. The first leg of the lap was done quite quickly, though it put him at the furthest point downstream still in legal bounds of the event. Without pausing, he hauled himself onto the far bank, ran along the edge to the farthest upstream point, and dove back in. This causes a small amount of shock and discussion among the judges, but they eventually had to conclude that they hadn't forbidden it in the event rules, and it wasn't as if he was cheating in the spirit of the event, either. He would still swim all three legs, but his time on shore would count towards his total. Feng was banking on the saved time and effort from his diagonal swims being more than what he lost on the runs. Time would tell! The second leg was a little trickier than before, as he hadn't studied how it would be to face the same obstacles in the opposite direction. He nearly missed getting caught on the tangle of branches, and the less said about the poor striped bass he kicked in the gills, the better! Nonetheless, his tactic served him well enough on the way back, and he once again hauled himself up, this time pausing to breathe before scampering back upstream to dive. The third leg was the worst. Oh, sure, he knew the obstacles backwards and forwards by now, but his limbs and lungs were beginning to ache. It was a tough swim, on top of the fact that he'd participated in literally every other event before now! Each push off the rocks, each pull of his leaden hooves, strained Feng's body more and more, to the point where the rescue pegasi were literally hovering over him as he struck the downstream shore, struggled up, and lay on the banks panting. "That might... not have been... a well calculated... tactic." He muttered to himself between great shuddering breaths. The thought of pushing himself into one more event just seemed impossible to him now; he'd probably just end up cheering his friend Yanhua through it. Empress knew he probably owed her some support after all that she'd shown him over the course of the Iron pony...
  14. *Submitted for Judging* For the second time during this event, Feng Yinhaitao was facing the challenge of competitive food delivery. Unlike the obstacle course, however, this event was focused more on endurance than finesse. As for the foodstuffs themselves... *What even are these?* The longma poked at the canvas sack of potatoes, frowning at the rustling of the tubers. The plant was not native to the eastern continent, and did not feature in its cuisine. Growing up as a mountain villager, Feng had of course been raised on a plain vegetable and wheat-noodle heavy diet, but his current life in the Imperial Palace had an undeniable sophisticating effect on his palate. Being friends with the chief cook didn't hurt either in that respect. The loud whump of the previous competitor hitting the turf woke the longma from his reverie. It was time for him to ready himself. He hoped his body was up for it, after having given his all in six previous events already. But what sort of Imperial Watcher would he be if he couldn't push himself to the very limit for Empress and Empire? Glory wasn't going to be won by sitting around! Huffing out a misty breath to cool himself, Feng shouldered his burden, and trotted to the start line. Bit a tricky job to balance the load, but it didn't seem too onerous a burden... "Next up, Feng Yinhaitao! Ready, set, go!" And he was off! Not at top gallop, obviously, but at a respectable speed, nonetheless. For the first fifty yards, in fact, Feng felt that he had to actively hold himself back to keep from tuckering out prematurely. *Pacing, remember, pacing. Don't blow away your energy all at once, now...* This self-discipline was almost as heavy a burden as the potatoes, which past the one-quarter mark of the dash, began to feel heavier and heavier with every step. Each time Feng's hooves hit the ground, it was as if one more small redskin potato was added to his sack. Eventually, as he began to approach the flag marking the halfway-point, these all began to add up. *Think of the Empress, Feng, think of the Empress. She wouldn't have you quit halfway. You can do this, she believed in you, remember?* It was this self-same refrain which he'd summoned when things had gotten tough before, and as he rounded the flagpole, he felt his mind returning to it again, as the soreness crept up his hooves, and the burden weighed ever-heavier down upon his back. Neither process held up during the second leg; the pain and the load seemed to increase at a steady pace, wearing down further and further upon the longma. Sweat condensed like morning dew upon his brow, dripping into his eyes and stinging. He blinked, repeatedly, trying to hold on to a mental picture of Yu Yue to counter-act all the nerves in his body screaming at him to stop this madness. By the time he was half way back to the starting line, the mental exercise was becoming too taxing for him to keep up. It was all he could do to have his brain keep telling his hooves to take one more step, let alone keep a competitive pace! Saltwater-stung eyes desperately searched for an energizing sight, and found... Yanhua. His friend, who had accompanied him across the sea and never failed to cheer him on. That was enough for a few more steps. The Imperial cook, who could no doubt turn these dubious tubers into a dish worthy of royalty. That was enough for a few more steps. A mare who he should probably carve out a bit of time out to thank properly for her support. Another few steps. Tasty potato dishes. Good friend. The thoughts alternated, each pushing his left and right hooves in tandem until he finally made it back to the finish line. He didn't collapse immediately; he had in fact almost forgotten it was an athletic event at all. His thoughts had been so narrow focused that Feng practically convinced himself that this was a potato delivery to the Imperial Kitchen, hence why he allowed his momentum to carry him almost to the bleachers before he face-planted in front of the one containing the Qilin. "Thefe fur oo, Yawah." He muttered from the dirt.
  15. Feng took a seat in front of Tempest, indicating he was ready to listen and speak as long as she needed him to. "You're welcome!" He replied to her unpracticed gratitude, in a tone that indicated frequent and easy use of the expression. Besides that, though, he was quiet enough to let her speak, and what was perhaps more important, struggle through the choking silences. Getting up only to fetch two cups of water, he gave one to the mare and sipped on his own before speaking. "I see you view your past like I view my ancestors." He said at last. "I left my home village very far behind, hoping to escape from their legacy of failure. But wherever I was, there was always one longma who knew who they were and how likely I was to end up like them." His muzzle curled into a somewhat ironic smile. "I could hardly leave myself behind, you see. And thus I could not escape my past, there was no option but to wrestle with it. And maybe, perhaps, come to a peace with it at last. I cannot say that I have, though, yet." It was about here that Feng noticed another unicorn mare approaching, one which unbeknownst to the pair of them, could probably speak quite eloquently to the subject at hoof as well. In any case, sighing a bit internally at the loss of privacy, the Watcher greeted the oncoming Sunset with as much politeness as he could. "And I suppose you could sympathize as well? It is a hard thing to have one's past as an enemy, yes?"
  16. Submitted for Judging Ranged weaponry. Feng pursed his lips as he surveyed the target range; this was not his specialty as far as combat training went. Not that he gave his initial academy sling training anything less than his all, but he might have let himself get the slightest bit rusty since then. Hey, a Watcher couldn't be good at everything, and he'd chosen to specialize in close combat. It's a pity that the Iron Pony didn't have any martial arts events. *Perhaps I should have a word with the organizers about next year...* Well, they weren't likely to take him seriously if he didn't take them seriously, and that had to include this event. The longma deferred the offered sling and ammo, choosing to use his Imperial-issued gear. He tested the suppleness of the leather, grateful at least that the material hadn't stiffened from disuse. There was a little bronze seal of the Jade Throne on the outside of the pouch, which he polished against the hide on his withers before trotting up to the line, loading one of the polished bits of stone into the pouch. He warmed up with a couple of practice shots towards the cardboard cutouts, instinctively choosing to avoid crudely-drawn depictions of the barbaric Western Dragons. A boorish contrast with the graceful long of his homeland though they may be, there was a bit of residual reverence there. Plus, deep down, Feng felt a twinge of empathy towards their culturally rowdy attitude. Perhaps the dragon side of him was from across the ocean after all... The next seven shots were all taken towards the fruit; pears and peaches each exploding in little bits of fruit as he got into his rhythm. Not too many risks, but no need to go for too easy a target. He had training, but wasn't an expert, and chose his targets accordingly. Except for the last one. That Golden Cupcake... no way he could leave the range without taking at least one shot towards it, right? Numbers: 1, 33, 34, 42, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 77
  17. Love this emerald cutie
  18. Frighteningly regal
  19. I see a sea cutie!
  20. Submitted for Judging Not for the first time, Fēng Yīnhǎitāo was grateful that showers had been provided for the athletes at the Iron pony. Of course, 'showers' often meant a bucket brigade and a laundry tub, but that just reminded him of his foalhood. Ponyville might be growing into a bustling hub, but it was still a small country town at heart. Still, Feng had acquired enough big-city sophistication to not want any mud to linger on his scales after being pulled into the tug-of-war pit. That all taken care of, he arrived at the barrel weave's starting line with no small amount of confidence, perhaps a bit of a cockiness too, in his strut. All his years of martial arts training as a longma Imperial Watcher had given him a level of bodily control on top of his natural agility that had served him well through many events, and this was going to be a perfect fit for his talents. *Just gotta remember to keep my wings folded. Don't want to accidentally brush a barrel, or get hit with a DQ.* It would just be the sort of thing his hometown would expect, wouldn't it, for someone of his family; all that preparation for a spectacular failure- *NO! NONE OF THAT.* He grit his teeth, his earlier, easy confidence draining away as he tried to shout down his own doubts within his head. Closing his eyes, he took a deep, meditative breath. *Don't think about them. Think of the Empress. Remember her charge to you to bring glory and honor to her country's name. Keep her confidence in you in the front of your mind. Remember her smile, and know you shall summon it forth again* He wondered if Yu Yue knew how often she had saved him from being swallowed by his own sense of self-doubt and anxiety; it was one of the reasons he was so obsessively devoted to her. She had done her job once again, it seemed, as by the time the start of his run was flagged, he was able to regain his easy, confident gait as he sprinted forward, banking into each turn as if he were going on an easy flight. The key was balance, as the difficulty of the event came from having to shift one's weight back and forth so many times. It was a deceptively hard task for a quadruped, but Feng was making it look easy... for the first six barrels. The seventh turn he made was a bit too outside, and he knew it halfway through. His momentum was too high to easily run back without either losing time or knocking into a barrel. But Feng wasn't one to accept a bad dichotomy, not when he could show off by picking the third, crazy option. At the outer edge of his turn, he sharply banked back to the left and drifted, planting all four hooves flat and casting a cloud of dust in his wake as he made the turn on momentum alone, before kicking off around the eighth barrel, the balance in his run restored. It was the sort of move only a supremely confident, and none too heavy, pony could take, and fortunately Feng was both. The cloud hadn't dissipated fully by the time he reached the finish line, which caused him to cough as he stopped to catch his breath. Clearing his throat, after a second, he called out to the cheering crowd, "That one's for you, Yue!" The mere words would have merely seemed to most like an idle dedication of an athlete in the spotlight, taking on the mantle of 'humility.' But for the longma stallion, he really meant it; if it were not for her and the chance she (or her Watchers) had given him, he could not have hoped for anything like success or glory. Whatever he won at the Iron Pony was to be laid, gratefully, at her hooves.
  21. It was starting to get a little crowded around the pavilion, with many ponies splitting into their own conversations without really opening up the space. Feng didn't mind so much; he'd long since gotten used to the crowds in Huangjing, though that had been a bit of an adjustment the young colt from the mountains had to make back when he first joined the Watcher's Academy. Mostly, he dealt with this by focusing his attention on one thing at a time, which did end up looking a little rude from the outside, perhaps, but he'd begun to suspect that Tempest Shadow was a mare in need of sustained positive attention. And if her reaction to asking about her autograph was any indication, Feng was right. "Oh yes. You really were impressive out there, and I think I learned something from your performance. Why wouldn't I want an autograph?" He kept up his smile as she began to write her name... but then it all seemed to come apart. He supposed he couldn't blame Yanhua for coming in; he had been paying her unconscionably little attention since they arrived in the pavilion, and even he didn't suspect Tempest's name would be that much of an issue for the mare. Cheese, though... Poor Cheese sandwhich was the brick that broke the camel's back. Cheerfulness was great when one is cheerful, but to a hurting heart, it's a bit like pouring apple cider into an open wound. Feng weathered the outburst, immediately shifting back into 'guard mode.' This was a situation that needed to be contained, and he was a stallion trained to deal with these situations. Turning to Cheese, he put a polite but firm hoof upon the other stallion's shoulder. "I really think you should move along, sir. Until things have calmed down a little bit." His voice was like thick oil poured over troubled waters, but one that would brook no inflammatory response, lest the incautious pony wanted an explosion to the face. To Yanhua, though, he could only give an apologetic look. Tempest was a mare that needed help, and Feng was just the sort of guy that did so without needing to think about it. In many ways, he remained the same young colt that had been a friend to her when she was lonely and needing it most; and he hoped she would understand right now. Addressing the rest of the crowd, he cleared his throat and said, "I'm just going to escort Miss Shadow off to the side; I would kindly ask that none of you disturb her for the next few minutes." And with a pat to the maroon unicorn's shoulders, he spoke softly, "Come along. Just off to the corner here; get a little bit of cold water. We all need to cool our heads, that's all." Deep breath, situation contained. Hopefully this wouldn't put too much of a damper on everypony else's good time.
  22. Given that his biggest contribution so far was showing up a clue by it literally hitting the nose on his face, Blueblood was steadily beginning to dread the continuation of this search. But darn it, he couldn't be having this sort of thing happen in his Aunties' house! If the best he could do was to bring together experts and act as bait for dark magic... *Princess and country, my boy; Princess and country.* Once the surge of magic was detected, he followed Sombra's lead, if only to give what or whoever was behind all this a piece of his mind. Holding the cloth to his nose, he nodded to Hogo-sha as they trotted along. "Apprethiate it, friend." He blew his nose, gently, in an attempt to clear it. A little blood came out with the scabs, but his nasal passages were clear enough to talk normally. "Eh, you're right there, Raven. There's not a lot of bad history here; Auntie doesn't have pirate ancestors raiding cursed tombs, either."
  23. Submitted for Judging Front and center among the prospective contestants was the winged visitor from the east, Fēng Yīnhǎitāo. He'd taken a quick break to rest and work off the after-effects of competing in the cupcake-eating contest, though the short break wasn't quite enough to undo the full effects of 17 rich baked treats. But, who's to say? Perhaps the extra weight would come in handy! The lithe longma was certainly going to need every ounce of inertia that he could muster for this event! "I'm up after you!" He called out to the pegasus who just came out from the pit, as he trotted up to where he was to take up the rope. He tuned out the announcement of his name, not caring whether or not the pronunciation was butchered. After all, the one event so far he'd placed first in was the one where the announcer had been the most wrong, and that patina of superstition that all sports everywhere accrued was having its effect upon him. Feng wasn't a pony to rely on luck, but neither was he one to ignore it. He'd seen from his life, and from the lives of others, how it could raise up or throw down a pony's fortunes... But now was not the time for pontification. Now was the time for taking the hemp between one's teeth and firmly grasping it! The three ponies on the other side of the pit, a couple of strapping stallions joined by a well-muscled mare, were already in place, drawing the rope tight. With that, the announcer's voice rang out: "Starting the war in three! Two! One! Tug away!" Almost immediately Feng had to brace his legs against the ground to avoid being pulled off his hooves entirely! The Watcher had honed his body to the peak of its strength, but there wasn't a whole heck of a lot of weight that he could throw around, and the cupcakes didn't seem to be making much difference. This wasn't even necessarily an event where agility could make up for a lack of pulling power... but maybe cleverness could. There was a bit of a stereotype about how long sun and ponies from the eastern continents fought, utilizing not sudden pulls, but sudden surrenders. Not an unjustified one, as Feng's martial arts training had included this technique among its arsenal. And it was one that he suspected the trio on the other side would not expect. Using one precious foot of ground, he kept a steady pull on his end has he was dragged towards the pit, using the time to read the pattern of their tugs. Once he felt he had the rhythm down, he leaned into one of their sharp tugs; the unexpected move cost him another foot of ground, but it also caused the lead stallion to fall over into the mare behind him, leaving them all in a pile. That gave Feng all the time he needed, scrambling backwards while their grip on the rope was loose, recovering ground and extending his time. But the trio rallied, regaining their grip and tugging again. This time, Feng tried the same feint, being dragged all the way to the edge before slipping back as an unexpected tumble caused the rope to slip again, letting the longma scramble back once again. Now, however, there was a look in the lead stallion's eye that told him the trick would not work a third time. Instead of gripping it in his mouth, the earth pony was up on his hind hooves, gripping it in his forelegs. Once the rope was taught again, he called back to his compatriots. "This time, steady pulls, on my count! One!" Heave. "Two!" Heave. "One!" Heave. "Two!" Heave. The predictability of their pulls was no longer something Feng could exploit; whether he held firm, or gave way, each pull was done by ponies who were prepared, and determined not to be unhooved by clever tricks. The more philosophical side of the Watcher felt this was an illustration of some ancient parable he'd read, once, about the futility of pitching intelligence against fate, how all one's clever schemes could not thwart the will of the heavens. Perhaps luck was merely one component of that, he thought, shortly before being pitched into the mud. At least his brain had thoughts to chew on while he cleaned off this time... "And that's game! Next?"
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