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Stage Three: Galloping Glade! Faster than a Speeding Pegasi!

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Stage 3- The Galloping Glade

 

Clear weather reveals a beautiful, wide-open area that hasn't tasted the nasty storm that flooded the brook. This semi-permanent clearing is obstacle free and beautiful, with deer and other wildlife burrowing close by and yet far away from the trail. They will be witnesses to the racers finally having the space to strut their stuff. Will you choose to go ALL OUT?

OOC: You may choose to push yourself to the limit and earn bonus points in this stage. Doing so may or may not help or hinder you later. If you choose to go ALL OUT, note it somewhere before or after your main post.
 

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Following the challenge that she liked to call "Phase 1," Loose Cannon pushed on, attempting to rid herself of the mud she accrued on the short climb. The Kirin that was racing had stopped to check on her but she was alright. "Thanks for warning me, even if I still miscalculated the jump. Adrenaline can mess me up sometimes." She could feel the rain starting to slow down, the storm was not really present here at all. Maybe the stream was unintentional, this wasn't a complete death race, an exaggeration that she enjoyed considering that she felt like she was going to die then. She had room to speed up here, but she wasn't sure whether it was worth the strain. As far as she knew, they were perhaps a quarter of the way through the race, it was not a home stretch. She was not a distance runner, she would have to preserve her energy as much as she could. 

 

Surely nothing could go wrong here. There were deer and other wildlife happily living around with no care for danger. She could hear the birds chirping, the snake's hissing- okay, not that safe, but still. "This doesn't feel right to me. I know this was advertised as a simple race, but with what happened before, it felt more like a sabotage," She muttered out loud. She ran up beside Applejack. "Hey, so, this is my first race and all, but did any weird stuff happen any of the other times? Just asking y'know, in case, maybe, sabotage... or something." She paused for a moment to listen. "Like, I'm not sure what was up back there, I don't know anything about weather. Or, maybe I'm just paranoid, like, I'm not noticing something that should be noticed." It would be okay, she just needed to pay attention and keep a good pace. "Were you on the bridge? Was it okay? I mean, you made it so..."

 

 

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Alright. So the bridge idea was a bit of a washout. That's okay, at least the view was nice and the griffon learned that she could surf when push came to shove. It helped that a totally inconspicuous floating rock just happened to be floating by at the time to catch her and the new unicorn friend. Rocks float sometimes you know. Okay that totally made zero sense and she knew it, but you don't look a gift ho...You don't question a good thing!

 

Grabbing a chunk of floating debris as an oar, Hawke began to help paddle the SS Shale to shore. Ahh what she wouldn't give to speed this up. You really don't know how much you use your wings until you can. Hawke wiggled her feathery appendages beneath the binder. "Phew. Thanks for the ride handsome. I don't think I finished introducing myself properly before getting...You know, distracted." Hawke waved nonchalantly back at the debris of the bridge floating down river. It totally had nothing to do with good looking creatures surrounding the raceway, no sir. "Hawke Dreamcrest, my first time doing the running. How about you?" Hawke smiled as she looked at the pack of ponies ahead. Normally she'd be more concerned about winning a race than making small talk, but at the same time, this was meant to be a friendly race...


That didn't mean she wasn't ready to go All Out at a moment's notice though. Still, at the very least she'd wait to see what her new magical companion had to say about their watery escapades before leaving him in the dust to enjoy the view. "So hey, how about we see if we can pass that cute friend of yours ah? It'll be harder for him to pass if he's trying to pass two runners." the griffoness tapped her head and winked.

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0sLBSik.pngDidn't at all help the inconspicuous floating rock to keep them from getting washed away. Sometimes rocks just floated, haven't you ponies ever seen a floating rock? Honestly couldn't they just have delicious weather? he wouldn't mind being swept away in a chocolate monsoon. He was having a bit of bad luck with all this athleticism. A great and powerful spirit like him just didn't have time to run about aimlessly. He wasn't quite sure of the meaning of the whole event either, just that ponies ran, and it was some strange Ponyville tradition. Honestly they had a tradition for everything, even drinking cider! He sat on the rock looking a touched annoyed as Taira's form faded into obscurity. He snorted and stamped a hoof. 

 

"No more mister nice pony..." He muttered, his cold gaze drifting toward the griffoness who deemed to declare herself before him. "Oh, you're that cat bird who has a perchance for meddling in affairs not hers to?" well that explained things. "Charmed." he murred before hopping onto land as soon as they were close enough. "I am sure you're an interesting cat-bird..." He looked her up and down, "thing, but right now I've a race to win and prove to certain smoky mountains that they aren't as young as they think they are!" He kicked the mud from his hooves and flicked his tail. "Yes, yes his name is Taira and he's absolutely incorrigible!" The spirit declared before shaking out his body. 

 

For a moment he couldn't remember if ponies just sprouted wings for no reason, but that was against the basic rules wasn't it... Hmm... Discord looked to the cat bird and smirked. So she wanted to catch up to Taira, did she? Hooo... "Well I can do you one better." he moved to whisper in her ear. Going all out was easy enough but he needed an advantage and a pair of rolling skates. Brilliant! Oh he did enjoy outdoing himself!

 

Th plan was simple! He would hold onto her tail as she made a break after Taira and Disc-- Dark Strife would ricochet off her tail, kicking off the skates and taking to the air while still under the regards of the rules and -- if she played her part he would personally introduce her to Taira and his -- windy abilities. Ho ho ho! He'll have you yet Neighponese!

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Now this was an area Tai could get behind! The wide open skies, the rolling hills of green grass, it was just like home! except you didn't need to take a million steps to get there. In the middle of a race, one might feel as if they had though.  He gave Loose a smile, "Excitement can be as big an enemy as it is an ally to any athlete! Great work on the jump and see you at the finish line!" He could see that the mare was moving over to speak to Applejack so he left her to that... well after taking a moment to make sure that those who took the bridge were alright. Thank goodness the rain had finally cleared up, visibility was so much better.

 

Coming out to this clearing he took a moment to admire the scene once again, looking back to the passengers on his back. "Such a nice day, isn't it? I don't suppose this is the area where the great discord yanked you from, eh bandit?" The zoned out raccoon just stared into the middle distance along with the gator, Taira chuckled awkwardly and looked back to the road. "That is one peaceful gator..." he thought to himself.

 

His pace kept steady, Not willing to go all out just yet. If there was anything racing with his siblings back home taught him, it was that you only went that far in the final stretch.

 

 

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"Ah!" Pinkie pranced through the beginning of the beautiful Galloping Glade. It indeed had been the end of the storm she had spotted and as she continued to prance she watched the rainbow she had seen as it arched over her. Certainly a perfect scene!

 

She slowed and took a deep sniff of some flowers that were growing out into the path. "This is definitely more like it right Gummy?" She spoke to the gator who was absent at the moment. "Oh yeah! Silly me, he's hitching a ride with Tiara. Speaking of which..." She glanced about. "Where did that guy get to?"

 

She whipped out a pair of binoculars and scanned the area. "Ah ha!" She reeved up her hind legs, making ready to charge forward. She wasn't planning on totally going all out, she just wanted to catch up to the kirin and her Gummy friend!

 

ZOOM!

 

Off she sped until she had caught up to Taira. She slowed and began to bounce. Higher and higher until she was literally bouncing over the top of the kirin as he cantered down the path.

 

"Hi Taira! Hi Gummy! Hi Bandit!" She waved frantically as she completed one last bounce over the top!

 

"I thought I might have lost you guys!" Bandit and Gummy both stared off into space.

 

"Hmmmmm, after all that it seems a little too quiet and peaceful around here don'tcha think?" She questioned the kirin.

 

"Speaking of quiet...I wonder where Boulder has gotten to? I'm sure he'd take care of all the quiet really quickly!" She chuckled. She didn't know him that well but from what she had seen Boulder Dash was one pony that didn't keep the peace and quiet for long!

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As if on cue Boulder Dash ran up behind Pinkie Pie with a big grin on his large face.  He over heard Pinkie as he came up from behind and kept pace with her to conserve his energy for the final pull if the race. 

 

"Miss me already Pinkie?  I'm touched!  But don't worry your pretty head.  Plenty of fuel in this tank left" he said as he kept his pace.

 

He continued to move up and soon caught up with Taira moving up next to the big Kirin as he looked over to him.  So far he had done well in the race.  Keeping his pace, passing the Brook, and even helping Pinkie Pie earlier with Taira.  At this point it wasn't about winning anymore but enjoying himself with his friends and neighbors.  Just this peaceful movement was what it was about and it filled him with a sense of energy he hasn't had since his Navy days.

 

"This moment is what it's all about Taira.  I don't think I've felt this alive in a long time.  I guess I owe your competition in the event for that.  You have my thanks" he said.

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"Oh so someone actually has heard of me here! That's actually a surprise. Yeah I have this habit of showing up in the wrong place at the right time. Sometimes the other way around, y'know how destiny is and all that stuff. Griffon by the way." Hawke's smile broke out into a grin when it seemed like her new acquaintance knew of her exploits...Okay, the exploits of the potentially non-existent griffon heroine the name of whom she was borrowing, but still! That meant through a revolving door of logic that they had heard of her, and by George that's what counts. Regardless of her fame/infamy, it seemed like the unicorn had some sort of plan turning the gears in that head of his. When the stallion leaned in, Hawke listened and nodded her head. Ooooh, so that's how he'd go about it. Well the rules didn't seem to say anything about skates, yeah?


Hawke chuckled and nodded once again. "Alright, yeah. I think I can handle that. Just be sure to hold on. Oh, and try not to get too distracted back there." moving ahead, Hawke would find a pace just in front of the unicorn and waited for him to grab on. Once he was ready, the griffon would breakout into a full tilt burst of speed, blazing past several ponies on the way. The extra weight slowed her down a bit, but still she managed to catch up to the pack ahead. When she was in sight of Taira but still behind the kirin, she would turn in her swift stride to allow her tagalong the room to attempt to whip past him. Whether he managed that or not, Hawke would now stride up between Taira and...whoo, a pink bombshell that she just had to introduce herself to. "Hello again Taira, and helloooo miss. I don't think we've had the chance to meet. I'm Hawke Dreamcrest!" she said with a nod to the kirin and a wink to the mare.

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Taira smiled brightly over to Pinkie as they trotted forward together, "I'm keeping him nice and safe, Pinkie-san!" He called out in between his strides as she gained on him, if anything he had to admire how fast this pony could move!  As for the topic of this clearing he would chuckle nostalgically as he watched the trees by the roadside zip by, "I suppose you could view the peace with a hint of suspicion! Whatever caused that freak weather seems to be over so let's hope we can just enjoy the sights as much as these two enjoy the ride! ... and Boulder? I think I saw him just a little way be-"

 

...And Just like that with a big grin on his face came Boulder! One should never doubt the gumption of a stallion from this town it seemed, "Welcome back to the pack, Boulder-san!" As the stallion fell back to the group to speak up, Taira couldn't help but grin along with the burly pony. Seems he wasn't the only one enjoying the scenery either, once this was all over Tai would have to head down to try those sandwiches he mentioned earlier if only to experience more of this jovial pony's attitude. The last thing Tai might have expected was a thank you for his competition, but it was more than welcome.

 

"Aw... knock it off, you're gonna make me blush, friend! I hope we can meet up a bit after this race."

 

With all this conversation going on, Taira didn't notice the rapid approach of his competitor along with the friendly griffoness from before. He was about to give 'Dark Strife' a friendly greeting again, but before he knew it the spirit was sent soaring past him on... were those roller skates? What gives?! This was -RUNNING- of the leaves after all! Tai might have called out about it but on some level he expected something like this to happen. He wasn't hoping to hold it against Hawke for helping either...

 

Initially, he was going to ask her about it... but soon she would position herself between him and Pinkie Pie. For any other racer Tai wouldn't have batted an eye, but as a certain explorer could vouch for: Taira had some issues when it came to the back half of griffins. In most circumstances the bulky kirin might have sneezed and sent poor Hawke flying, but thanks to her being beside him and not ahead his issues mostly manifested in a wrinkle of his nose and scrunch of his muzzle. He could feel an itch spreading across his muzzle before he took a sharp breath and snorted it out. With a slightly awkward smile Taira would again bow his head towards the griffoness, "Welcome back, Hawke-san! I hope you didn't waste too much of your energy helping him out... because I'm about to give you a run for your money!"

 

A cocky smile spread over his muzzle before he bolted forward working to gain on the noodle... yet still not going all out.

 

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Coloratura was, for the first time, without her friend Applejack right then and there. It was all well and good. She wanted to see Applejack excel and the feeling of holding back the athletic mare was growing as time went on. Besides, the Galloping Glade sounded a lot less dangerous than the Bubbling Brook...not that the Bubbling Brook sounded dangerous itself, but a Glade was always peaceful. And it would be good to stretch her legs out and really experience the beauty of nature alongside the other racers. While this was a race it was also one of the few times so many ponies came together for so good a cause in the wilderness. Her mind constantly ran around that point, that all of this competition and drama was simply to help the seasons change. Remarkable in its own way, wasn't it?

She took a look at the trees as the forest thinned and opened up into a beautiful clearing, the glade that offered this stage its name. The leaves were falling in great numbers! The sun reflected off of the leaves in such beautiful ways that she found herself marveling at the variety. The wet leaves gave the quickest and most obvious glints off of their damp surfaces, but even dry leaves had their beauty. Shades of red and brown where once green ruled, falling and gliding to the earth upon the deadly winds as the furious pounding of hooves caused the earth to shake, the winds to howl, and the trees to push themselves nude.

It was a service and she was happy to provide. She was also very pleased to see that she wasn't in the rear! Everypony seemed to have a great showing so far. As they opened up into the Glade, Ra-Ra saw other ponies and creatures starting to push themselves to the limit and really get their legs pumping. This wasn't even the gentle gallop and good runs from earlier, this was as fast as some creatures could go. The straight away and the fact that the trees were further away- and thus needed more speed to reach, or at least some believed. Equestrian magic wasn't always so easy to understand or compute and she wasn't a scholar by any stretch of the imagination. All she knew was that was given a good cause and reason with which to go All Out, so she took it. Time to make some ground up, everypony!

So Coloratura stretched her legs out and started galloping as fast as she could. She had been given a good workout so far, but now it was time to get those limbs really flying. Just like a stage show the worst thing you could do was stretch and stretch without really allowing those muscles to be strained and pushed. And so she bolted swiftly, head down with a broad smile, legs churning the dirt beneath her as she ran hard, ran fast, and ran excitedly to see just how well they would do together in this year's Running of the Leaves!

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The glade was a beautiful scene that earned the respect of earth ponies like Applejack.  Ever since she was a young pony, she had made several trips out to this glade to learn about how trees are cultivated and what kinds of plants and animals exist away from the scheduled and routine lifestyle of the apple orchard.  More recently, she had taken a trip out to the glade with her sister Apple Bloom, Big Mac, and also neighbor and friend Carrot Fields and his little sister Purple Haze.  It was a great camping spot that had large plains of grass but also magnificent tree lines and clean ponds where several animals visit.  It was pretty serene.  This time of year, it was even more breath-taking seeing as how the leaves had turned all colors of orange and brown and yellow, and the dying grass reflected the bright hues and glinted at the setting sun's inviting landscape.

 

But there would be little time for pleasantries as it was Applejack's focus on competing in the race, and 'knockin' them leaves off them trees', as she often referred to it as.  To Applejack's amazement, ponies had been able to keep up with her, including the orange pony with the incredible sense of hearing.  She remarked on the bridge being sabotaged, in a very discreet way.  "Heh, nonsense.  It was just a case of bad luck.  Every year there is always something going wrong with the marked path for the running of the leaves.  And it makes sense too, when you realize these parts aren't used to havin' ponies and creatures cloppin' and clawing at the terrain in a short amount of time.  It would stand to reason why sometimes things don't go as planned.  Being apart of the running of the leaves isn't just about a race or de-leafing, its about continuing the relationship we have with the seasons and the nature around us.  And anypony that would want to sabotage that might just be the silliest pony I'd ever heard of.  We're all fine now, so don't you fret.  Just find a running partner and you'll be fine.  You can partner with me if you'd like.  That is, if you can keep up."  She winked.

 

Applejack started to increase her pace as she recognized this part of the race every year being the easiest and best chance to make quick of the clock.  But as she raised the speed of her canter, she continued to decant Loose Cannon's conspiracy theories.  "Look at the sky breakin' apart.  I think we just experienced the worst part of the running.  As long as those pegasus ponies don't accidentally give us a tornado, I think we'll be as dry as a priest.  Besides, it looks like everypony is following the rules, too.  As long as the runners are being fair, the path will be fair to us!"

 

Just then, Applejack saw Hawke whiz passed her at breakneck speed.  "Oh, it is on!"  Applejack smirked loving the idea of increasing the pace with somecreature else that decided to do the same.  However, as soon as Applejack got near Hawke, she could see the gray stallion catapulting in the air with roller skates on.  With all the commotion Applejack had seen so far of this familiar adversary, she almost had enough of the gimmicks.  "Hey!  You can't just wear roller skates and ramp off into the air!  The point of this race is to run.  So either kick those skates off and run like everyone else, or go be chaotic someplace else!"  Applejack demanded with stern competitive words.

 

(Applejack is going ALL OUT)

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"Hey Boulder!" She greeted the hefty stallion as he appeared on the scene. "I didn't think you'd run out of steam any time soon!" She smiled broadly as he let her know he was in this with all he had! The feeling was infectious. As of yet Pinkie hadn't even thought of challenging any of the other runners. In her mind this was a party and at a party everybeast was a winner! She did notice though that lots of ponies seemed to be having lots of fun cajoling with each other with a competitive spirit!

 

"hmmm," She wondered if perhaps she should challenge somepony...

 

While the thought went through her mind a griffin found her way in between Pinkie and Taira. Yay! Another creature she hadn't met yet!

 

As Hawke turned and winked at Pinkie and the mare's heart did a little double beat! When she offered her greeting Ponk replied in her typical party pony fashion.

 

"Hi! I'm Pinkie Pie!" She watched as Taira took off like a shot, catapulting himself after a unicorn stallion that had just shot past them. "I would introduce you to my gator Gummy buuuuut...he's on an adventure of his own right now!" She waved to Gummy who continued to perch, unscathed, on Taira's back with his raccoon friend.

 

"Sooooo," She smiled at the griffon. "How's your race going? Are you have a super fun time?"

 

She watched as the ponies she had been running with took the lead for the time being. "I don't know about you Hawke but I'm thinkin' charging past those big stallions at some point would be great!"

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This was more like it! Fire Walker let out an sigh of satisfaction as the pesky little storm-clouds and horrid rain gave way to what locals called the ‘The Galloping Glade’. The mare was pretty sure she spent time here during her days as a 'Filly Scout'. Was it called Camp Galloping Glade? Camp Chippamunka? More like Camp Firstbassawassa! During her last year of scout-hood, the teen-aged Pegasus pony spent more time sneaking into the boy's camp than cooking s'mores and earning badges.  After a few quick shakes, the mare felt a little dryer. Hopefully Celestia's sun would take care of the rest.
 
Feeling a little lonely, the officer slowed down just enough so the small grouping of creatures could catch up with her. "Ha!", she 'ha'ed' at Loose Cannon . "The Running Of The Leaves is not a simple race as we'll run through all kinds of unique locations. But I have a feeling once we're done with this, I'll have to see who was supposed to be in charge of clearing the sky over the brooks. The Pegasus ponies must have been asleep on their job...Or maybe it was someone else." Did pesky old Discord mess with the weather? Sweet Celestia that guy was an pain! He needed something to keep him occupied! Maybe they'll have to set him up on a date...Were there female draconequus?
 
The pretty griffon was named Hawke Dreamcrest? Almost sounded like one of Swift Squall's made up names. Something he'd call himself after throwing on a costume right before an 'adventure'. If only Fire Walker had the time for adventures. It was not that long ago when she would find herself lost in a dark cave with her friends Dunder and 'Muggo Ale.  Would they find the mystic relic before the rains started?
 
"And to answer your question from earlier.", the officer nodded at Applejack, "I've actually run more than a few of these races...Did rather well on the last few...", she added, "And being part of the guard, they do make us run...A lot..Usually in full uniform while carrying all of our equipment." Pinkie mentioned something about stallions. Where was Swift? Was he still ahead, or did he fall behind? Unicorns were normally not the best runners as they spent more time thinking than streaking!
 
While it was tempting to ramp up her speed to eleven, it was still too early in the race to start pushing herself. She would enjoy the (currently) dry sights and company until Whitetail Woods...She was pretty sure that was when things would start to get real.
 
 
Fire Walker will not push herself. At least not yet.
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Boulder Dash sucked in his air and watched as AppleJack shot forward.  Though he had come to enjoy himself, meeting his new friends and taking in the splendor of his home town; his pride couldn't let him just throw in the towel.

 

"It's been a gas friends but the final stretch is coming up.  Stuburness and pride are Traits of the Boulder Family so I will be seeing y'all at the finish line with some hot grub I promised.  I wish you all luck" he said as he shot forward past Taira, Firewalker, Ra Ra, and was soon closing the gap with Applejack running as fast as he could.

 

The Boulders and Apples had been friends since Ponyville's foundation and Boulder Dash intended to keep it that way.  He had always felt kinship with the Apples and always saw Applejack as the little sister he had always wanted.  BUT....that didn't mean he was gonna make a competition easy on her.  As such as he closed in, he was soon nec and neck with Applejack, smirking confidently.

 

"What's wrong beautiful? All Dem apples slowing ya down some?  To bad ya didn't load up on good ole vitamin laced tomaters dis morning.  But I wouldn't let somethin like skates show ya up" he said as he started to pass her.

 

Looking back he knew just the thing to get her riled to speed up some to catch up and make it more challenging for him and the other racers.  A story he recalled being told about her last running of the leaves that Twilight shared with him.

 

"Come on Apple...Smack!  Let's see that Apple family streak at it's finest!" he called out with a big grin on his face.

 

 

Boulder Dash is going all out in speed and trash talk.  😋

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0sLBSik.pngLeave it to Discord to come up with some kooy plan that was overly convoluted despite the simplicity of his venture. All he needed to do was run, but that was so antiquated! Who ran these days? This unicorn shaped spirit would clamp his had on the feathered maiden's tail and use his advantage to catch speed! 

 

He would still manage to speak a bit while holding on. "Oh please, if a pony hasn't heard of you it's due to the ignorance of their single faceted lifestyles." But he was the sort that kept up with tabloids and gossip. It was no good if you were an infetesimal cosmic being and didn't even delight in the obscure and unique knowledge of the world you resided in. 

 

Besides gossip was always great to share during tea.

 

Discord's raccoon friend seemed delighted in riding along with everyone. It was much different from his usual trips with the unusual spirit. He would chitter out knowledgeably about his time spent in Neighpon, though not many could understand critter speak...

 

Suddenly a grey blur rocketed passed Boulder and Pinkie. "Pardon me chaps!" He tipped a fedora stop his head with his magic as the rolling skates in question vanished inexplicably. 

 

But there seemed a slight miscalculation in his trajectory. In this form he was far less noodly so as his hooves slescaped the hold of gravity so did the rest of his half sized body. He blinked his ruby eyes as he launched passed Taira. With no hooves on the ground, and limited by the rules of the game, there was no way to right himself without sprouting wings or teleporting. 

 

"Oh well this is a fine kettle of pick--" but before the spirit could name the offending vegetable he would careen through the air and collide with a tree with enough force to not only embed himself, but create a distinct pony shape indention as he had shifted and landed spread eagle on the trunk. His eyes began to spin as he peeled off the trunk and fell backwards with a think, right on his back. 

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Hawke chuckled and shook her head. "Oh don't worry about me a bit, Taira. I've barely even got started." the griffon gave him a wink as he started to try to catch up with the rapidly skating unicorn that zipped past in a flash. The mischievous side of Hawke couldn't help but to giggle a bit as Applejack seemed a bit more than frustrated at the stallion's shenanigans. "Well Miss Applejack, I don't think they said anything about skates. Just no wings and no magic last I knew." she threw another wink at the country mare before turning her attention back towards Pinkie Pie. "I'm having a great time, Pinkie Pie. Didn't expect to run into so many good looking creatures all in one race. Present company included." she smiled towards the mare whose suggestion was like music to her ears. "Faster you say? Miss Pinkie Pie I dare say you and I are on the same wave length. Shall we g-" a loud THUNK cut off Hawke sentence, as just ahead of them, the poor unicorn she helped launched slammed into a tree!


"Oooh...that's gotta sting...Walk it off friendo!" Hawke shook her head as the group passed the pancaked stallion. Graaaanted, she entirely expected something like that to happen. Speed is easy, turning is hard, and when you're on wheels that's doubly so. Had she a hat she'd doff it in respect. Attention once more turned back to Pinkie she nodded. "That may be our queue to bolt for it, shall we?~"

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Taira had to admire Discord's ability and skill for bending the rules of... well, anything. He couldn't help but think his execution in this case left a lot to be desired. The kirin managed to push ahead in 'Strife's' wake until he saw the skating unicorn slam into a tree... and wow was that some crash. He'd never seen such a perfect imprint of a pony outside of those little cartoon shorts that would play in theaters. Still in no rush, Taira would slow down and jog in place as she looked at his competition. 

 

"Uhh... quite a spill you took there. Ya alright there? I think you might wanna lose the skates." The raccoon on his back would chitter and chatter at the currently woozy spirit in disguise, "Bandit! That's no way to talk to your friends... um I think." Taira might not be able to speak to normal animals but living among so many of them for years on the mountain top at least left him able to understand their body language and tone. Some things could be lost in translation rather easily however.Gummy the gator however just sat there and stared at the down stallion,  almost judgingly... well if you sort of squinted and tilted your head.

 

"If you're alright, Old fella I'll be heading to the finish line for that hat and sandwich!"

 

Like that Taira was back off, leaving the spirit in a cloud of dust that soon was blown away by the rest of the racers.

 

 

 



 

Edited by Pretzelparty

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Ra-Ra ran righteously through the Glade, her hooves stomping loud and proud as the distance between her and the leaders narrowed by the moment. In the heart of every singer, every songwriter, every entertainer, was a competitor. Truth was that you had to claw your way to the top fiercely in the entertainment industry, not passively rise. It was one of the unfortunate realities that nopony who was shy and demure made it. And in a race like this, you might get away with being passive and demure and trotting about for a while, but you needed to go fast at some point and this was as much an opportunity as could be hoped for. She took it and she took it well. She would make today her day, whether she won or lost, leaving it all with the leaves that fell defeated to the earth.

In little time she stampeded her way up closer to the front. Ponies were by and large not taking this chance which made her wonder why they hadn't. Did they know something she didn't know? Probably, but it was a little late for that, so she committed ever more to it. It wasn't long until she saw a bright, pink pony, a kirin, and a gaggle good- oh wait, that wasn't multiple ponies. It was a single Boulder Dash. And then he was gone, and gone in a flash, an orange blue that was likely Applejack not far away. The griffon and the stallion with roller skates- that seemed competitively unfair- only added to the fact that she had run herself back into competition. She wasn't a mare to be forgotten about!

With that she turned the speed up once more, pushing herself again. This time she wanted to see if she could catch up to the stallion on roller skates. The Running of the Leaves wasn't just a race or a tradition, it was an important part of the changing of the seasons. You couldn't disregard why that was. You needed good old-fashioned Equestrian hooves on the good old-fashioned Equestrian ground for the good old-fashioned Equestrian magic to take care of the good old-fashioned Equestrian season change. But that seemed at best very unlikely as the stallion shot out ahead. Well, even if she couldn't catch him, it was a good motivation to get the legs pumping.

And just then, he crashed. Ouch!

She sidled up to the kirin, who seemed to be having a good time of it. There were some truly unique competitors this year and she was excited to meet them all and see them in their element.

"Well, look at...this," Ra-Ra said, taking deep breaths as she slowed down once near Tai. She had been going all out and hopefully making good time, but that didn't mean she was beholden to the idea of galloping at max speed across the entire glade. It was massive! "Didn't think I'd see somepony on roller skates today..."

Tai smiled over at the pony as she come up close beside him. He was still keeping a steady pace but not going to spend so much energy so early in the race, "I never thought I'd see a pony on roller skates, least of all here! That's not allowed, right?"

"I don't think so, no," Ra-Ra said, shaking her head. Even if the truth of it being required by magic for hooves to be on the ground, it was at best poor sportsmanship. "If they're allowed to do that, I should be allowed to ride on backup dancers. It would only be fair."

The galloping stallion took a pause mid-stride and then let out a boisterous laugh, "Now that's something I would have loved to see! Maybe next year they'll make the rules laxer and allow for even stranger tactics." With a subdued chuckle he again looked to Rara, "Again it's good to meet you, Miss... Cuhluhrachoora?" He said, trying his best to get the pronunciation right.

Ra-Ra continued her gallop. Her gait was smaller, the gait of a precision dancer and not at all like the long and impactful strides of the large Kirin. "That sounds like...a good enough way of saying it, to my ears at least. You can just call me Ra-Ra, easier to roll off...the tongue," she said, jumping over a log. First obstacle she had seen so far. "What...brings a kirin to a small...event like this?"

"It's a strange story but a fun one!" he said as he kept up his pace, "Well you see I've a ... friend who has something of a proud streak in him. I wanted to see if I could take him down a couple notches by challenging him to a contest... I figured this one would be a great choice!"

Even while engulfed in his own excitement, Taira managed to leap the log alongside Rara. His landing producing a puff of dust beneath his hooves. "How about yourself? It have something to do with that mare with the nice hat? You seemed rather close to her."

"Oh? Who...would that be?" She asked, wondering who the lucky stallion was to know such a large and magnificent creature. It was rare to see a Kirin in the heart of Equestria, rarer to count them among your friends. She had only met a few inside of the borders herself, though she saw her fair share during her international tours!

"Her?" Ra-Ra smiled, looking at the orange blur in the distance. "That's Applejack! Equestria...heroine. And a friend from when I was a little filly. Heard...about this race back then. Need a...break from studio and touring, might as well start here!"

"That um... stallion who just crashed into the tree." He snickered a bit as he glanced back, "I hope he's alright. He's much tougher than he looks but that was still quite the spill."

Taira followed Ra-Ra's gaze until he found himself looking at that speedy orange blur along with his companion, "She's a driven mare! I'd put my bits -if i had any- on her winning ... well if she wasn't pushing herself so hard right now. There's still a lot of race to go..." He shook his head a moment before grinning back to Ra-Ra, "You mentioned back up dancers before... now a studio... You're a singer of somekind? I've lived most of my life on a mountain range in Rural Neighpon... I'm not terribly up to date on the latest artists!"

She winced. "Yeah, that crash looked like it hurts. Hopefully he'll be okay," she said, wondering how much of it was karma and how much of it came down to overconfidence in the Glade. It was open and seemingly clear, which likely meant someponies threw caution to the wind entirely. She was running fast but she was gonna still run smart.

"She'll be fine. She's...Applejack! Probably has won this thing...three, four times..." she said through deep breaths, "and if anypony can outrun...the sunset, it'd be her," Ra-Ra continued, overconfident in her friend by ten to twenty degrees. "Yes, I'm a singer. Ra-Ra, Countess...Coloratura...it is very rewarding but very hard. Needed...a break!"

"Oh-ho! A champion is she? I can't wait to see how she is in the final stretch." he said with an excited smile, ".. and she's a hero? I've heard about a group of mares who go around saving this town along with Equestria... she's one of them? Now wonder you're so smitten with her!"
"I love music ... I don't suppose you could let me hear some of your music? I have a pup who adores music. Don't suppose I could introduce you sometime?"

Ra-Ra nodded excitedly. Her friend was the definition of a heroine, wasn't she? Her exploits were known far and wide, wide enough at least even for the Kirin to know. “Yes, she's...one of them. Saved it...six...or seven...maybe eight...times now?” she asked, her wondering on the exact number cut short by the mention of being smitten.

What? No. Never! She wasn't smitten. No way! Of course, she blushed for an unrelated reason, and had to recompose herself to answer the music question. “That would be lovely! After the race I plan on relaxing...but then soon...I'd like to get some music out there...anyway, I-I gotta...gain some ground! It was a pleasure talking...to you!” She said, galloping as fast as she could away, trying to put distance between herself and any potential awkwardness.

 

OOC- Pressy provided Taira for this post.

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Applejealous, Orange Jack, Silly Pony, Liarjack, Sour Apples, Applewho, Backgroundjack, Actually-a-Yak, Apple Teeny, Applecrash, Crashjack, Stubby McStubbornjack.  Applejack had heard them all, ranging from insulting to making herself giggle.  She had taken so much heat from these kinds of jabs from her friends who knew she liked to play a little rough sometimes that it started to fuel her competitive spirit down the line.  When Boulder Dash ran passed her and called her Apple Smack, Applejack smirked.  Her ego lit up and she was ready to fight back with words and legs.  Before saying anything at all, she speed up next to Boulder and got just in front of him.  She lifted her tail and dusted Boulder's face with it.  "Might wanna be careful there, Stones.  Wouldn't want your noticin' my beauty to distract you from the race path."  She then burst forward, picking up dust along the path.

 

She maintained pace with Fire Walker for a moment.  She shouldn't have been so surprised to hear that the red guard pony had run races before.  Of course she knew they trained, but she didn't know to what extent and where.  But, fueled by the nickname from only a few meters ago, Applejack continued her counter jabs to others in the field.  "Oh so you do know how to run.  Well, did they train you to run faster than me?  Heh heh."  Applejack hit and ran with that remark and attempted to run ahead of the pegasus pony, who seemed to be running a noticeably slower.

Spoiler

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Within an earshot, Hawke didn't seem to think roller skates was against the rules.  Applejack had to use all the will power in her tail to keep from having to lecture the griffoness on the definition of integrity.  Maybe after the race, she would give Miss Dreamcrest a scholarship to a Winter semester in Honesty training at the Friendship Academy.  Clearly there were some racers that had different ideas of what was fair, what was technically against the rules, and what was ultimately the point of running the leaves down.  Every year it seemed there were new creatures to teach this valuable lesson.  But for now, Applejack was mostly content with teaching them the lesson of not being the fastest pony on the track.

 

Applejack winced as the gray pony behind her crashed head first into a tree.  Her immediate reaction was one of pain, but after realizing the character, situation, irony, and probably the reality of karma, Applejack shrugged it off instead of helping the pseudo-earth pony.  "Eh, he'll be fine."  Applejack did not break her gait as she felt herself being in front of mostly everycreature.  As she leapt over tree stumps and weaved through narrow passages between trees, she started to feel like this might be the year she finally wins the running of the leaves.  But the race was not even halfway over, and there was a lot of ground to cover and a lot of leaves to shake.

 

(Applejack is continuing to run like a mouse in a chicken pen)

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When Hawke mentioned the present company was included in the good looking crew Pinkie sure was glad her cheeks were already pink! Wow, that was all she needed! To get distracted by a pretty griffon when she was trying her hardest just to.... just to what again? Oh yeah! Just to enjoy the race! And running with Hawke would help her to enjoy the race. It didn't matter to Pinkie where she placed, as long as she was having fun and meeting friends!

 

WHAW!

 

A rather unfortunate occurrence between and grey unicorn and tree took place.

 

"Ouch! That doesn't look like any fun!" Before she could investigate further Hawke drew her attention.

 

"That may be our queue to bolt for it, shall we?~"

 

"Yep! Sounds like we're on the same wavelength for sure!"

 

Pinkie would be happy to keep the pretty griffon in her company for as long as she could! She glanced her way and felt her heart racing from something other than running. 

 

The pink mare hunkered down for a second and then popped up, her hind legs whirling in a blur of speed!

 

"Look out all you racers cause..." She nodded to Hawke ready to pick up her pace until she was able to to catch up with Taira and Boulder and then hopefully pass them! She was going to bolt but not for too long...

 

"...here we come!"

 

The pink one was off like a shot! She wasn't sure if it would be fast enough to actually catch up to some of the front runners, especially those that were going all out but she would try! All around leaves cascaded down as ponies and creatures ran through the glade. Pinkie glanced to her side, hoping the griffon would be beside her...

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“An’t luck that wins a race.”, the officer called out as the bulky boulder of a pony zoomed past the her small pack of cantering ponies. He was aiming to pass the farmer and a few others that had decided to push ahead. She would have to remind herself to alert a few volunteers to retrieve the worn out ponies once the race was over. Poor guys try too hard and end up snoozing in a bush or field of grass. And speaking of ‘trying too hard’, she caught sight of Discord as he made an lasting impression on the local flora. If that had been anyone but an immortal chaos spirit, she would have needed to stop for aid.
 
Fire Walker let out a chuckle, “You don’t have to be the fastest runner to win the race! You just need to run at a consistent pace, keep your mind clear, and when the time is right, wave your tail at the tired ponies when your zoom past ‘em all.”, she called out to the fleeing farmer. There was still a good deal of race to run and she was not going to make any rookie mistakes. She was nowhere near the front of the pack, but she was feeling fine. Her legs felt strong and her hooves were hitting all the right spots. Perfect pace. You could conduct an symphony with each hoof-fall. She would wait until the second to last course before putting on the ol’ turbo.  So for now, she would continue to build up her strength and knock as many leaves down as possible.
 
One thing continued to bother her. Where the heck was Swift Squall? Was he so far ahead? Or maybe he was behind her? He could not possibly be faster than Pinkie or that Cheetah-Girl. No way. No how.
 
 
 
 
Spoiler

OOC: Sweet Celestia! Fire Walker would have tried her best to kick Applejack’s hinder in this race, but according to that picture, she doesn’t even have one!

 

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The glade flew by Coloratura's blur of a body, all four limbs engaged at top speed as she pushed herself and her body to their limit in terms of pure, pure speed. Her breathing had entered into a steady and measured pace in accordance with her body, in and out without her ever really noticing it. She had danced and performed for tens of thousands of ponies and was no stranger to the burning feeling in her legs, the first sign that she was doing something right. Her mane which had been straightened to a degree by Applejack at the start and made wet and damp to an equal degree by the Brook, couldn't help but stay aloft and flowing behind her. The back of her neck which was easily and commonly shaded by her mane could only gleefully marvel at the rush of air that violently churned over the racing Earth Pony. It was in this moment that the old and familiar, almost bestial, nature of the ponies came out. Just run. Run fast and run free, no civilization or great thought to penetrate the barrier of pure, animalistic, daunting speed.

It was easy to lose yourself to this. It was a great pleasure and a simple one. Ponies were made to run, to move, to feel the winds in their mane and the ground flying by their hooves. Her younger days in Mustangia had given her that. She was proud to call herself a mustang. Proud to say that she, like others in that region, thought little of simply walking the roaming hills and eating what was there. It was an endlessly fertile region and a region of nomads, even to this day. That spirit never left her. Countess Coloratura had only ever contained it, hidden it, behind a glass container of old memories. It was easy to shatter once she was given the tools to do so and the wool that had made glass appear diamond pulled away from her bewitched eyes. It was an exciting moment of inspiration.

Coloratura, Ra-Ra, was a mustang and she was going to act like one. Her gait gradually lost the dancer's shortness and gained the aspect of the pure sprinter. She felt the hot-blooded ancestry of her family's old thoroughbred stock coursing through her as her hooves fell faster and faster, harder and greater. She breathed in faster and deeper as she went beyond the limits of her old self, the limits of what she thought possible, embracing the legacy of Mustangia, of her mustang roots. Her eyes focused as the world slowed down around her.

Pinkie Pie was a blur, but now could be seen, the swiftness of her energy understood in a way only a wild horse could understand it. Fire Walker's well-mannered concert was heard in the music of the gallop, the trot, the notes of physicality played gently yet with perfection by somepony with the control and capability. The bark and mistake decisions of the gray stallion came to form a halo of sorrow over his brow, with a certain excellence to the manner evident only with the kind of uncivilized eye now beholden to Coloratura. The giant of a stallion who went by Boulder Dash was seen as the walking, talking muscle that he was, handsome in the way the ponies in the old traditions were handsome. Taira, the equally large and gentle-hearted Kirin who saw and said much, moved with unnatural grace hidden behind girth and mirth. Hawke's movements equally concealed an agility unknown to most eyes. But not to Ra-Ra. She had lent her eye the mustang aspect, and she was always a detailed oriented mare.

The mustang moved with lightning quickness, a snap of sound and movement, dust and whistling concerts of wind. She was beyond elated with this brief surrender to the old Mustangia, but it was not yet complete. One element eluded her just yet. Not far ahead was an orange blur, a figure near and dear to the core of who Ra-Ra was. She was beyond fast for Ra-Ra to catch up to! Beyond her endurance, her stamina, her ability. Applejack was, in this race, beyond The Countess, Countess Coloratura, Ra-Ra.

But she was not beyond the Mustang of Mustangia.

She sped ahead heedless of all stimuli except the ground, her mane flying behind her, the tail that bobbed halfway violently, and the approaching orange blur of Applejack. She galloped and galloped without a mere fraction of a thought otherwise until she could call out to her old friend.

“Applejack!” She yelled, her voice carrying an inescapable sing-song quality but with a huskier, more forceful push behind it. Still friendly- not threatening- but clearly somepony was coming with intentions beyond simply tailing the athletic mare. A broad smile was thinned only in the sense that Ra-Ra's face was wild with energetic abandon. She pulled up alongside her friend. For the briefest of moments, it was like their hooves were in perfect synchronization. Eight limbs moving as one, maybe two, orange and gray alike. The breathing, the puffs of air that seemed to move so forcefully out, the bobbing of manes.

But in that span of moments one did pull ahead of the other. The Mustang of Mustangia, wild abandon streaking in her colorful heart, inched ahead and then pulled ahead. Ra-Ra couldn't help but have a pleased neigh escape her, the slight embarrassment she felt at such a noise overshadowed by the fact that for a brief moment in time, if only that, Ra-Ra was as fast as any Mustang could have ever been. "Come...on, Applejack! I thought you were some kind of athlete! Pump it, filly!"

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Hawke couldn't help but to smile as Pinkie Pie readied herself to break off from the pack with her. Races were already fun in and of themselves, but having a partner to keep you company through most of the track made things all the better. Especially when they're an interesting and attractive partner. The pink mare here was both, she clearly had the body of a pony who could probably run cross country with barely breaking a sweat, but she didn't seem to have the vibe of someone that really was a 'racer' so to speak. An interesting clash that Hawke would readily admit she'd want to learn more about. But that would have to wait until after the race. Maybe dinner?


When Pinkie gave a nod, Hawke returned it and locked her eyes forward. Paws and claws digging into the ground, Hawke stuck close to the pony as they zipped and dashed their way towards the front of the group, towards and likely past Taira and Boulder and the other creatures who were probably enjoying their casual leads "Hi boys, bye boys~" she said with chuckle as she and Pinkie nyoooom'd on by. Hawke smiled over at the earth pony, clearly impressed. "Cute and quick! Colour me impressed, Pinkie Pie. Say, what are your plans after the race, hm?"

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It was fun to ruffle the feathers of Equestrians... even the ones who didn't have any! Taira chuckled warmly as he watched Ra-ra gallop on ahead, "Ah, young ponies... Even after hundred of years, they remain the same."  He gave the rather shaken looking pony a smile as she moved on ahead. It would be wonderful to get Yama something from her... maybe he could get an autograph for the pup next time he sees him. 

 

Taira again picked up his pace, noticing the red pegasus galloping along not too far ahead! Back at the finish line she was growling and all tense looking, must have been psyching herself up as now she seemed to be more mellowed out in between her strides.  Thinking of all the ponies Taira had made friends with this entire race he figured he may as well try and make another! Fire also seemed to carry an air of maturity around her that set her apart from the rest of the racers... well at least the one's Tai could see right now.  She must have been someone with experience beyond her years at this point: A perfect conversation partner for him!

 

"Finally someone who gets it!" He called out as he soon came up beside her,  "Seems so many are just dying to burn themselves out here in the earliest stretches of the race! I'm Taira from the Neighponese Mountains. Good to meet you, Ma'am ... and to see you less growl-y than at the start!" Just after he started his attempt to converse with the red pony he stumbled for a moment as Hawke practically rocketed by!

 

"Hi boys, bye boys~"

 

Taira's muzzle scrunched as he felt Hawke pass on ahead, she was a cute griffin but having her rump ahead of him might cost him his spot in the running! the stallion's snout's sudden spike in itchiness almost made him trip over a branch on the road! Thankfully he managed to regain his balance and return to the pegasus' side! He carefully moved to keep himself from falling downwind of the griffin... even if he wasn't willing to go completely upwind of her just yet!

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Listen to this silly pony.  It's as if they think Applejack is unknowingly burning herself out in the glade.  Do they not know that years of apple bucking and general farm-working experience has given the mare such tenacity and endurance that this burst of speed was her version of keeping a consistent pace?  As Applejack ran away from Fire Walker, she yelled back, "Fast and steady beats slow and steady any day!  I ain't the tortoise or the hare, I'm the most runniest of earth ponies there ever was!"  After Applejack finished that somewhat incomplete retort, the peacefulness of being ahead started to settle in.  It was mind over matter now.  No one to pace with, no one to push or be pushed by.  It was the best fight one could ever pay to see.  Applejack's mind vs. Applejack's body.  A twelve round no decision had to be made.

 

She thought ahead about the coming stages of the race.  She strategized about what was next and how she might run them, speaking out loud as she pondered.  "Next is the Rearing Ravine, that can be where I tone it down since I'll be going downhill for part of that.  After that it's the hills, need to make sure I used my back strength to help me get through those inclines.  Then we'll have to start watching out for tree sap spills..."

 

Like a ghost haunting Applejack, a strange pony came up behind her, using an impressive bolt of energy.  Who in the hay was this?  The pony was going so fast, Applejack could not make out who it was until she sung her name.  "Ra-Ra!?"  Applejack nearly tripped.  When Coloratura started running aside her, Applejack did a double-take.  "What happened to you, how did you, I mean, that's impossible!"  Applejack could see the frizzy mane and beaded sweat from an earth pony who was most familiar seen in glamour and style.  "Are you alright?  You're gonna hurt yourself, you're not prepared for this kind of pace."  Applejack was concerned for her fillyfriend, but was also secretly worried that she might lose her lead.

 

"Come...on, Applejack! I thought you were some kind of athlete! Pump it, filly!"

 

And that was all it took.  Applejack smiled competitively as the pounding of the earth ponies' hooves clopped in unison.  She might actually have a running partner after all.  And although she was still doubtful that Coloratura could maintain the pace for long, Applejack was going to enjoy every ounce of it until she fainted.  "Yeehaw, you ain't seen nothing yet, Missy.  I got more athleticism in my left hind leg than you have in yer entire body.  Just do me a favor.  Keep yourself in one piece so that you can see my shinin' face on that podium at the end of the race.  What's the point of winning a race if my friends aren't their to see it."  She chuckled menacingly as she started galloping through the last section of the glade, not trying to beat Ra-Ra, but using her now feral friend's pace to motivate her.  The rhythm of the ponies' hooves echoed through the nearby forests, shaking leaves off with much more efficiency than a two pony tandem typically does.

 

(Applejack is running harder than a diamond in a pile of nails.)

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