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Stage Five: Roundbottom Hills! Over the Hills and FAR AWAY!?

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Stage 5- Roundbottom Hills
 

The Running of the Leaves takes in a new route this year, as the leaves on the trees in the hills and in the underground forest in the Roundbottom Range have lacked care for years. This hilly terrain is far from as dangerous as the Ravine, but steep inclines and declines at times going over the hills can tire you out, while the distraction of seeing Baltimare and Canterlot as you turn your head is a real threat! 


Or maybe you decide to head into the hills themselves, where large underground forests languish in darkness, with only faint rays of light and the few magical lamps set up by race coordinators for coverage of the giant caverns the forest impossibly thrives in. This route is much shorter, but can you navigate the confines and the darkness without issue or will you get lost, slam into trees, or even eaten by a strange creature that you didn't even know was there?!

 

Likely not, but the dark is always terrifying...
 

OOC:  Say which path you are taking, over the hills or through them. If you are heading over the hills, one of your posts must involve the steep inclines and declines. Each pony who takes the top route must declare in bold their 'strategy' for dealing with the hilly nature, and the best gains bonus points. If you go through the hills you must contend with the dark and terrifying nature of the location. The pony with the best 'solution' will gain bonus points. As before, state what the strategy is in bold before, during, or after the main body of the post. Whether you gain bonus points or not will depend on how you handle these problems.

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The pack of racers speed out of the ravine, gasping for fresh air out from under the ravine's dank atmosphere.  Applejack was apart of it and she was glad to know that the race was passed halfway over.  It had simultaneously felt like they started the race several days ago, but also in memory only a few minutes ago.  When the legs are pumping, the mind is lodged between the time it took to get where they are and the documentation of all the things that have happened between the start line and the deepest point of the race.  From this point forward though, they would be working their way back towards Ponyville, pounding the ground around the trees that have yet to be visited.

 

Ahead, Applejack could see the rolling foothills of Roundbottom.  How annoying those hills had been to runners' fatigue at this point in the race in previous engagements.  Applejack could always handle a little incline, but attempting the climb after the extra stress from the ravine always seemed like it was poor race planning.  However, Applejack was just reminded of the pre-race runners meeting in which the event coordinators had said that the Roundbottom subterranean areas would be racer's option when they reached the hills.  Apparently, there had been years of neglect to the flora underneath the hills, and Ponyville city council was being pressured by the Equestrian parliament to advocate cleaning the caves of the hills, and maintaining the forest there the same as any other forest in the province.  So here it was.  Applejack had never been inside these parts and was quite curious about their appearance and their condition, but she had forgotten about the decision to take the cavernous route once the race started.  She was going to take the trail that led into the hills, but she wasn't necessarily certain what kind of condition the path is, or if the trees there even have leaves that need running.  They wouldn't send us down there if it wasn't necessary, right?

 

Applejack approached the trail's diversion and took the path that might be less traveled.  Although she knew that running over the hills would be a lot of effort and grind, she would not be dishonest with anypony about the risk she was about to take.  "Ra-Ra, I'm gonna be taking the alternate route underground.  Race officials said there would be a path through there, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't curious about it.  You're going up the hills right?  Now don't be confusin' what I had said before.  The hills are going to be a challenge, but there ain't nothing easy about running through what might amount to a crawl space with dead ferns.  The path up and over is well established and is well mapped.  A road in the hoof is worth two in the hills, er something like that, I don't know how that one goes."  As Applejack was chatting, she wondered what others were going to do at the fork, and how many brave beings would dare to taste the course of unmarked dark territory.

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After making it over the bridge, Loose Cannon continued on. Considering the number of participants who jumped that ravine, maybe she should have done that too. She didn't really communicate with any others after that point, as she contemplated her chances of success. Ah well, she couldn't change her mind now. What's done is done, unless some force of magic could change that, magic which is of course against the rules. The race felt like it started a while ago, but in reality, it wasn't really. Perhaps it was the distance that made it feel as such since this was a race and they were going at full optimal speeds. 

 

The Roundbottom hills were what the next area was called from what she remembered. She had never been here before, but from what ponies had recalled, the hills were tiring to navigate. Why go over the hills when you can just go through them? They were scary. Supposedly. Why were they scary? Darkness, the unknown, creatures that would be hiding. What is darkness? Something that is completely outside her realm and has no meaning to her. Really, it was just a regular dense forest to her. However, for some reason, they were not forced to go over the hills. Another choice within this race of choices. Who knew a race could have so many choices? Normally the only choice is the one of participation. 

 

"Okay right, so go over the hills and mess up my energy, or go through them and face off against the darkness," She said out loud when she arrived at the fork. "Is this supposed to be a choice?" No, it really wasn't a choice at all.  She noticed Applejack and ran up to her. "Alright, let's get this over and done with." 

 

She was going to go into the forest of darkness, whatever that is.

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Finally passing through teh ravine portion of the course, Taira trundled forward with a smile. Gummy and the bandit were still secure on his back, bouncing ever so slightly as he galloped, "We're makin' good time, Guys! If I've got anything to say about it I'll be introducing you to some family when we finish... I think Pinkie'll like meeting Yama." Was he really talking to a raccoon and a gator? Well this wasn't unprecedented, Taira had been alone on a mountain for ages with no one to talk to after all those ponies left for the city. Spending time with animals was his best way to cope with the bouts of loneliness. 

 

Around the next turn, Taira would lean off on the speed. He allowed himself to fall back into the rest of the group of racers, careful not to let his own personal wake of leaves bother them too much as he listened to their thoughts on how to proceed. Looking ahead, there was a series of inclines and declines as the forked path turned to hills that could potentially damage his stamina unless he figured out a clever way to get past them. Down below there was a dark overgrowth of forest trees and foliage, he could trace the scent of lamp oil burning on the wind so the ponies must have set up something to let the racers see down there. 

 

Seems Applejack and company were likely going to take the dark route from what he could make out. Glancing back to his passengers he couldn't help but think about his promise to that pony shaped ball of energy: Keep her gator safe.  If he was going to be mostly shrouded in darkness he could hardly keep an eye on her pet! He had enough stamina to make it past these mountains anyway... probably. A mountain w--kirin was bound by his word and so he used that to move towards the hills!

 

He turne to the country stallion, "Think youve got the willpower to follow me through the hills? Best way is to use a bit of your strength climbing and let gravity carry you on the way down, friend!"

 

 

 

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Boulder Dash followed closely with his new Kirin running buddy and followed him towards the hills feeling that he had an advantage in running up the hills due to his large bulk and build.  "Don't worry friend, I never turn down a good challenge.  I'll tackle those hills with ya all the way" he said to Taira following him towards the hills.

 

As he did, he noticed AJ and a few other ponies were running towards the caves.  He could understand the need for an advantage in time but the risk of running into darkness with all sorts of nasty critters about didn't appeal to him.  As such he prayed they would be okay as they made their way through.

 

"Hope those taking the caves will be okay.  Hate fer anything to happen to them" he said as he started to trudge up the hill at a good pace.  He moved carefully to strengthen his legs and prevent himself from being hurt.  He grunted and strained to keep his spot in place and did feel a little sweat start to form around his brow.

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"So long as the ponies who made that mistake on the weather earlier weren't in charge of laying out the lamps down below... I'm sure they'll be fine!" Taira slowed his pace ever so slightly and used a bit of his strength to ascend the steep incline, "... Besides they've got a hero with them, don't they?" He gave a nod in the direction of a certain orange farm-mare. Strong hooves carried him up all the way to the top,  until he slid his way down the smooth slope. A small cloud of dust trailed behind him as he rode his momentum to the bottom, some of it cause both gummy and The Bandit to sneeze.

 

He had to admit that the prospect of spending so much energy on doing this on all the hills ahead didn't sit well with him. The kirin's stride didn't break, but he did find himself trying to ponder a useful strategy that might carry him Further along and with less work... preferably something impressive. He turned to his running companion, "Don't suppose you're strong enough to bust through boulders -and- hills, are you? They barely slowed you down before!"

 

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They ran past and through the ravine, a number of them making liquid fast times. Ra-Ra was far from the fastest there but she was among the top echelon nonetheless. Indeed, if somepony had told her before the race that in the last half she would have an honest to goodness shot at the whole shebang she would have thought them delusional. Wonderfully delusional, pleasantly delusional, but delusional nonetheless. Sometimes those with the most exciting delusions were exactly who you needed to listen to because all the way in the Roundborttom Hills Ra-Ra was fighting desperately for first, and it felt so good. Maybe she wouldn't win on the scoreboard but considering the heroines and physical specimens she found herself running alongside she had to fathom that nopony would be less than impressed at her showing.

Her body was bone tired and tapping out but she ignored it. Maybe Applejack was right and she was just learning to overcome this wall of hers that existed in the mind. Or maybe her boosted self-confidence was leading her to ruination. Either way, she found herself still running neck and neck with Applejack in spirit, and looking to continue challenging herself. She hadn't been found wanting so far, why start now? Both options had their faults and their advantages. The Roundbottom Hills were notorious for their inclines and declines making them at times harrowing to gallop on, but otherwise unremarkable. She was confident in her ability to conquer them.

But heading into the Underground Forest? She had never seen such a thing. It was a brand new experience to go along with a whole host of brand new experiences. That, more than anything, won the day. “Applejack, there is a dark and mysterious underground forest that I've never seen before. I've seen hills- I'll take the more interesting path, and today that is,” she continued running, not stopping as she chose the path under the hills, “this one. Should be really interesting, right?” She said as she started to gallop headlong into it.

The forest was dark, but not entirely so. Some trees glowed with an eerie blue light if only in a dulled manner, while magical lamps hung along the path provided some faded light themselves. Neither would be enough to map or navigate on their own, and there was always the chance that some lamps had wandered off, been snatched up, or got caught on something. Ra-Ra quickly realized she'd need to think of something quickly if she were to make good time in this most interesting of forests...

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The herd was splitting in two. One half trekking up the range, the other spelunking into uncharted territory.  Applejack assumed that this would separate the field by character, the beginners staying in view of the sky and the experienced power athletes diving through chasms. To her surprise, the first ponies to turn the corner towards bat city were Loose Cannon and Coloratura.  A pony with vision impairment going into a dark subterranean area? Well, actually that made more sense on second thought. A pony with echolocation as a default wouldn't find it all that much different, except for maybe the vibrations bouncing off the cave ceilings. But Ra-Ra, who was running right next to her, explained very confidently her reasons why she would take the underground road. And quite frankly Applejack was taken aback. Applejack didn't say anything immediately, instead she pondered on the true character of Ra-Ra. Certainly it had been almost a whole generation of time since she had her as a fillyfriend at Camp Friendship, they were both grown up ponies now with completely different personality traits that were aged by their maturity. And even though the true nature of the ponies was still the same, Applejack could tell she was learning more about Ra-Ra every minute.

 

Applejack kept in hoof with Coloratura, their gallop in synchrony. It was amazing Coloratura was able to keep up with the best ponies in this run, even though for the moment, Applejack was not going full tilt. It was impressive. Applejack could see the body language in her eyes though, one of poise and inspiration, disposed of needless distraction and focused on the path ahead. The pony was radiating with confidence.  This was a competition though, at the end of the day. And seeing as the ponies had made it passed halfway, Applejack felt the need to keep that reality alive as she bantered. "Hey Ra-Ra, you're doing really well, but uh, before you go thinkin' you're about to finish well, know that I'm not even going that fast. I'm just keeping pace with one of the slower ponies before the tunnels so that I can gain some of my energy back." Applejack smirked, her eyelids falling relaxed with sass. "We might need each other in the dark passages, but don't be gettin' used to seeing these orange hooves next to you. Once we're out of this cave, it'l be time for me to kick it into overdrive."

 

(Applejack is heading under the hills)

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Pinkie looked back over her shoulder as she galloped on, the ravine was shrinking away in the distance. That had been a whirlwind of an experience for the party pony! The best part of course being the electric vibe that ran down her spine when she thought of the kiss she had shared with the griffoness! Still, the area was full of dangers and she had hardly gotten through the experience unscathed. If it hadn't been for Hawke she would probably be rather "scathed"  from her subsequent plummets. The griffoness was beautiful and also heroic! Wowee wow! What a combo! Ponk considered herself extra lucky as her mind went over the past leg of the race!

 

"Soooo," She glanced over at Hawke. "I don't know about you but the dark's not like...ummmm, my favorite place in the whole world," She cocked her head and she ran onward. "Not that I'm scared!" Her eyes bugged out as she looked at the gaping maw that lead into the underground forest. "Nope! Not scared at all...it's just that,"

 

Light bulb!

 

"Those hills look super duper funzie! I'm sure we could bounce right over them without any problem and probably get a leg up in the race!" Yep that was it! She certainly was not scared of the caves at all. Not one little bit! It actually would be really fun to bounce over the hills with Hawke! If coupled with the patented Pinkie Pie Try-n-Stop-Me roll after every bounce they would surely pass some of the other runners!

 

She made for the hills and as she prepared her first bounce she glanced at Hawke. "Ummmmm, you do know how to bounce nice and high right?"

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0sLBSik.png"Oh he doesn't mind," He regarded about their worry of the raccoon. "After all he gets to see the world from the best perch." he was talking about himself, of course. 

 

He seems to have made it in time across the bridge before anything happened. The ponies behind him? Well at least they now had a net below of pink, fluffy clouds. He wasn't heartless, just a bit queer. Yes that is it. Queer! This whole thing was strange, Ponies, left and right, were chatting and having all manner of conversations as they raced ahead and competed for what seemed little more than someone to chat with. It was like a day for tea, except outside. Absolutely barbaric! But also frightfully lonely. He supposed these sorts of competitions were not for him. He was never much of an athlete. Too much work, not enough fun. And the rules, hah! They had rules for their rules, making them verily unbendable. His ears folded back as he was neither in the back, nor the front of the herd, just the lonely middle.

 

And now they were at Roundbottom Range. What a peculiar name for a place. He supposed it was fitting the whole place seemed a circle where you could easily become lost! The spirit in question slowed to a halt, ears raising up from their positions. Reaching his hoof up he would rub at his chin and trot toward the darker path

 

"Ho ho ho, perhaps I can find something that will surface a bit of fun in this race. There's no rule saying I have to race alone!" And the forest and dark caverns of Equestria were full of delightful distractions of beasts and other loathsome creatures who simply needed a hug!

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Roundbottom Hills huh? She'd seen a few in her time. A few hills too. She mentally snickered to herself as she plodded along down the path next to Pinkie and their unicorn acquaitence. The area felt a good deal more scenic than the ravine they had left behind. A lot more safer too. Though the greatest challenge of this was the inclines and declines of the hills. Hitting a lot of those would leave a racer pretty worn out and winded. It seemed though that there were two paths to choose from! The upper path that wound through this hills and dales, and a second darker path of an underground forest. Only a few scant beams of light and the glisten of a few lamps could be spotted along that path, giving it a decidedly eerie vibe to it.


As they drew closer onward, Pinkie explained how totally not scared she was of the dark. Which meant she totally was scared of the dark. It wasn't like Hawke could blame her though, it looked pretty creepy down there. She could handle it if she needed to, but did she really want to? Nah dude. But the hills seemed pretty exhausting if you're not careful about it. Pinkie's idea for bouncing over the hills though sounded...well silly, but probably kinda fun! "Heh, probably not as good as if I could use my wings, but I'm down for learning if you've got the time to teach." she replied to the mare's questioning, turning her own head to the stallion with them to ask if he could bounce with the best of them, but he was already veering off to the other path. "Good luck down there guy, watch out for bats and we'll see you on the other side!" as Hawke and Pinkie hurried off towards the hills she couldn't help but to sing "♪You take the high road and I'll take the low road, and I'll get to Fet Loch a'fore ye!~♫...You know that would have worked a lot better if we were taking the other path huh?"

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A couple sniffs could be heard from Taira as he began his ascent up the next hill. He'd know that super sweet, bouncy (Don't ask how he could describe a scent as bouncy), candy tinged smell anywhere and so did the gator on his back! Gummy would look back over to Pinkie, probably communicating some strange garbled message only he and his owner could understand. Taira in the meantime would build up some speed and hop over the top of the next hill and make use of his airtime to wave over to the pink racer then would speak up in that booming voice of his as he slid down the slope, "I see you took the high road, Pinkie-san!"

 

The bandit climbed up Taira's neck and would wrap his paws around his horns as if riding one of those... contraptions Taira saw some neighponese ponies riding across polohama, what were they called? He recalled once he saw a rather intense game of cards being played on them. He didn't let his mind wander though as the raccoon pointed forward. He only looked up at the creature and let out a snort and a smirk, "Seems this one would have liked that I took the low road to maintain the speed rush! With any luck though, We'll reach the finish line before all o' the competition! Like that song from Fet-loch! Gummy's safe by the way!" 

 

On his back, The bandit seemed to be planning something. He'd not gotten to go this fast on the old head he rested on! He had a burning need for speed and thrills and he must act on it. These hills were in the way of that desire. Idly he would play with the stallion's mane, one tug made his head reflexively tile down, Taira's quick response bringing the bandit back up and saving him from a tumble on the road. A devious grin spread over the raccoon's face and he pulled himself further along the Kirin's neck. Taira's brow arching as he felt the raccoon shift on top of his head, "Don't tell me you're missing being a hat already, Little gu--" Taira's word's caught in his throat as The Bandit began to wave and flick his long, ringed tail back and forth across Taira's nose. 

He'd Just started galloping at full force to get up this next incline but... now as his body's reaction took over, "Heh! Ih-GEH... HEH!" The stallion gasped desperately and just as his passenger's nasal assault ended he would yank that spot on his mane, making the kirin's head bob down sharply as he let out another thunderous sneeze beneath him. In a massive plume of misty magic, Taira was left soaring through the air in an arc over the incline of the next hill! Tai rubbed at his snout in freefall than glared at the racoon on his head and let out a mirthful chitter, "What was that fo---" As he saw the distance he made in that sneeze he would grin at the racoon, "Oh-ho! I get it... The bandit, you're a genius. Keep up the good work... and cut out the mane yankin'. Hangonwhere'sgummy?" A soft thump on his rear-end made him sigh in relief, "Oh there you are! Hang on tight, Gummy!"

 

(Tai's crazy plan: Sneeze his way across the hills! Two at a time!)

Edited by Pretzelparty

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OOC: Post between Rainbowfoxxy (Pinkie Pie) and Dubstep (Hawke)

 

Pinkie waved as the unicorn made his way towards the darker path. "See ya on the other side!" She shuddered as she observed the cave entrance again. "I hope we see ya on the other

side..." She gulped and then put her sights on the hills ahead.

 

"Oh I've got time to teach you for sure Hawke! Especially since the teaching is the doing!" She bounced forward with a mighty leap! It covered a ton of ground and didn't seem to tire her out that much. "Just follow my lead!" Her heart swelled at the chance to show of to the griffoness. She'd seen some of the cool maneuvers Hawke could manage and now the griffoness could see some of her's! "Check out my sweet moves!"

 

Checking out Pinkie Pie was something Hawke could totally get behind. But for now checking out how the mare handled her hops and jumps would have to suffice. She smiled to herself and watched as Pinkie's muscles tensed, it was the easiest way for Hawke to get an idea of the best way to go about it...SPROING! Up the pink maned cutie went, then right back down just as quick. So it pretty much was like a take off, a but more force and little less wing lift. "Yeah, I think I can handle that." she said with a nod, the general idea seemed pretty simple enough.

 

Pinkie bunched up her legs like springs underneath her and shifted most of her weight to her hind end. "Three, two, one!"

 

SPRING!

 

She went straight up and then straight back down! "So that's the general idea!" She bunched up her hind muscles again. "Just like a spring!"

 

"The real trick is you gotta be moving forward when you do it or you'll just go up and then back down!" She galloped forward, shifted to her hind end and sprang up to the top of the first hill! It definitely wasn't the coolest thing anypony had ever seen but it was a ton of fun!

 

"Give it a try!"

 

Next seeing the leap in action was...Well okay yeah it was just a hop from one spot to the other, but still! Pinkie was having fun and wasn't that what this race was about? Partialy about anyway. The easiest way for Hawke to go about it was to channel a bit of her predator instinct. With a running start, she let her muscles tense before giving a mighty leap, bounding and pouncing up up and forward before landing next to Pinkie Pie. "Hehe, that's a pretty good way to get up, yeah."

 

"Now for going down the other side!" She cantered forward and did a quick roll before hopping to the bottom of the hill. "It's the Try-N-Stop-Me roll! I mean really I use it to try to stop! AAAaaaand, it makes going down the hill super quick!"

 

But now it was time to get down the other side. The Try-n-Stop-Me roll was...literally a roll down the hill. She was reminded of times when she and her brother would play as kids and roll down hills to see who could get their faster. This pretty much was the same principal...Maybe if she put this and Pinkie's hopping idea together...Leaning forward, Hawke let gravity do its thing. Curling up like a ball and tensing in preparation as she rolled down the hill. As she reached the valley next to Pinkie though she uncurled and sproing up and onto the top of the next hill! "Something like that?" she hollered down to the mare with a playful smile.

 

Pinkie's jaw hit the ground! "Whoa! You reached level ten in hill bouncing in like ten seconds flat!" 

 

She bounced up the next hill and landed right next to Hawke, except Pinkie was now dressed like a ninja. She bowed respectfully. "The student has become...the master." When she rose up from the bow she had a flirtatious smile on her muzzle. She winked and then her eyes widened as she looked back over the hill they had just surmounted.

 

Plumes of greenish blue mist swirled about, accompanied by a monstrous sneeze and a certain kirin catapulting backwards through the air!

 

"Yikes!" She made ready to bounce and roll away. "We better get moving Hawke! The Sneezemaster of Nieghpon is gonna sweep us up again!"

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Fire Walker had been rather surprised at what the farmer said. ‘Tricking’ was a nice way of saying that the officer was lying to the earth pony’s friend. Trying to get her to do something she should not do, which would give the red mare the upper hoof in the race. This was not the case at all. “Miss Applejack, the race is important and all, but not so much that I would get another pony to hurt themselves so I would get ahead.”, she huffed. “I was just trying to help her out...Sometimes you need to slow down just a little bit, refocus your breathing, and when you strength returns, you can return to your previous speed.”
 
She noticed a quick change in scenery. Hills and plenty of them! They were now running through ‘Roundbottom Hills', and this path was going to be murder to her knees if she did not watch out. There were two paths laid out before them. She could run up and down the hills and hope she doesn't murder her legs in the process or run through what looks like a dimly lit tunnel of sorts under the hills. While she was not afraid of any 'spooks', she had a few recent rather painful encounters with a few of Wind Walker's little plastic building blocks (LPBB's) late one night at the house. She had woke up to use the restroom, only to step right on a small trail of those nasty things after staggering though their dark hallway! Got her in the softest part of her right back hoof! OUCH! She was not going to be running in any dark rooms! There was probably too many things one could stumble over.
 
She was moving up the hills. Pegasus ponies were used to going up and down. This was about the same. Maybe.
 
Knowing she was not made out of bubble gum like Pinkie Pie. Gal was already starting to bounce about the hills like an rabbit with too much caffeine. Fire needed to do this right. She needed to maintain the same speed she had been running before with a slight increase. Just a slight. A she ran towards the hill, she looked forward, not down as she galloped up and kept up her balance. While rolling down the hill might be quicker, she probably wouldn't be going up any other hills after that. When it was time to run down the hill, she leaned just slightly, while maintaining her speed. Until she became comfortable running up and down the hills she maintained her stride. She would be quicker once she was finished with the hills.
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About three sneeze over several mountains Taira would cough for a few seconds and shake his head when The Bandit moved to begin another tail whipping, "Oi! I think I've earned a break. Do too much of that and I'll be too out of breath to make it to the finish line!" With a chitter of Confirmation and a bit of a huff, The bandit stopped.  Taira sniffled and let out a chuckle, "Trust me, Little guy. You and gummy will be in for the ride of your lives come the end of this. I guarantee it." Coming up to another hill, Taira glanced back to see the impressive bouncing of miss Pie and Hawke, "Nice form, you too! Don't suppose you could teach a big fella like me how to hop like that?" He honestly didn't expect that his competition would be so eager to share their secrets so soon, but it never hurt to ask for a more efficient method. 

 

Another burst of strength up the incline carried him up to the top where he charged on forward and again slid his way down. This was just phenomenal, it'd been years since this old 'kirin' had so much fun in a race. Maybe he could organize something like this back home, goodness knows the mountain could stand to be livened up a bit. He could see it in his mind now, maybe he could plow some of the old paths, pull some weeds up off the way. He'd need more than just his family to race though, all thoughts for later.

 

"And please don't call me "The Sneezemaster"! I've got plenty of other titles and believe it or not, that is probably the least inspiring!" He called again over to Hawke and Pinkie.

 

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Boulder Dash grunted and heaved as he made his way up the hill top behind Taira.  "Don't worry about me pardner.  I'm show all y'all why the name Boulder is in the family" he said just as he reached the top and looked down on the horizon.  He admired the view a moment and watched as Taira literally sneezed himself across the hill tops causing him to smirk as he did so.

 

"Cute trick friend, but I prefer a little Roli Poli action.  Yeeeeahowww!" he cried as he jumped forward and bent his bulky body into a ball shape that started to roll down the hill side.  At first slow, Boulder Dash began to pick up pace and roll faster and faster and FASTER.  Soon the sight of a dark brown and blonde streaked Boulder was rolling down the hills at the speed of a rock slide

 

Up and down, up and down Boulder Dash rolled.  Any debris or rock's were knocked aside or smashed to bits clearing a path for any ponies behind him.  The speed he picked on down would carry him over the top and repeat the next hill top.  Ironically he came to a stop by launching up the the top if a hill top that Taira had stopped on landing in a thud right next to the Kirin.

 

Laughing a moment as he laid sprawled out he pointed a hoof at the big Kirin and shouted, "I'm ok!  I landed on my head!"  Dusting himself off he looked back at the dirt streak he had left behind the mountain sides and nodded proudly at his work.

 

"Celestia knows I love doing that!  But I hope you brought a hanky fir that sneezing of yourn" he said to Taira.

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"Nice form, you too! Don't suppose you could teach a big fella like me how to hop like that?"

 

They didn't get too far before Taira had caught up with them via the allergy express! She grinned and waved to the big guy and to Gummy and Bandit.

 

"Hi Taira! Hi Gummy! Hi Bandit! Come to join our bouncing party huh?" She eyed Hawke. They wouldn't be giving up their secret to bouncing secrets that easily! "Well..."

 

She grimaced as Boulder landed right next to Taira...on his head! "Ouch! That doesn't look fun..." He seemed to be unhurt so Pinkie carried on!

 

She put on an extra burst of speed and started throwing in some new moves!

 

At the next precipice Pinkie launched upwards and ended up in a laid back pose, complete with sunglasses, hovering in mid air. Then she took off doing a quick roll and launching upwards again.

 

"That's level eleven!"

 

Next she turned three somersaults midair at the hilltop and continued on.

 

"Level twelve!"

 

"And please don't call me "The Sneezemaster"! I've got plenty of other titles and believe it or not, that is probably the least inspiring!" 

 

At the top of the next hill she hovered in midair to respond to Taira's request.

 

"Aw! I thought the Sneezemaster title was totally inspiring!" She shrugged. "Okie dokie lokie! I'll stick to your other titles then!" Pinkie tapped her muzzle, still hovering in midair. "What are your other titles again?"

 

She rolled and launched down the next hill before eyeing Hawke. "Let's see what you've got Hawke! A pretty girffoness like you probably has some pretty sweet moves!"

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They weren't the only ones who were deciding to go into the dark forest, of course. Loose Cannon chose this path and was uniquely qualified to handle the environmental challenges that came along with it. She had confidence in his ability to beat this course, of course. The other stallion was more of a surprise. He had a less than excellent time so far between bridge collapses and running into trees, but he was still here, chugging along and ready to make a go of it. It was too dark to see if any less than pleasant thoughts were making his face, so as she sidled up close to him it was with pleasant intentions. “You've had...quite the race so far. I hear others calling you...Discord? Pleasure..to meet you. I'm Coloratura, but you can call...me Ra-Ra,” she said as the pack of ponies grew denser in the fierce undergrowth and darkness.

Applejack spoke truth to power, letting Ra-Ra know in no uncertain terms that the athlete was going to get more than a little athletic once they broke free of the cave. Ra-Ra couldn't rely on the dependable quad of orange hooves that had saved her from herself and had helped her mightily emotionally during this race. Earlier this news may have been met with some degree of alarm but now it was met with a smile. She had conquered the jump and was trying to conquer this wall. Conquering a lack of Applejack was perhaps the hardest challenge any pony had to face, but she felt no need to fear it. “Well then, I guess I better make use of you while I can. Certainly, you've been in more dark caves than I have. You've got to have some strategy, right?” She asked in between breaths, trying to make heads or tails of the terrain. By now it had become too hard to make out anything that wasn't directly lighted, so her speed had trailed off. She was wracking her brain trying to come up with a solution herself but she had to admit that she had made this decision...hastily, not intelligently.

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Hawke chuckled softly at Taira's request as she and Pinkie started catching up to the kirin. As humorous as it was to imagine the bulky stallion attempting to leap as sprightly as Pinkie and herself, she couldn't imagine it ending well. "I hate to say it, Taira, but I think your antlers would probably get stuck in the hill mid-roll." Hawke answered teasingly as she lept and rolled and leapt to the next hill. Mid-leap she watched as Boulder Dash rolled past and THUNK, right on his noggin. The griffon allowed herself a laugh once she knew the rolling rock of a pony was alright.


When Pinkie suggested that she show off some sweet moves, Hawke ran a claw through the feathers atop her head and laughed. "I think most of my sweet moves will have to wait until after the race." the griffon wiggled her wings beneath her binder and nodded her head towards them "Most of my moves require having these babies free, but I wouldn't mind giving you a show after we're all done." with a wink and another rolling leap, Hawke hopped up to the next hill. "We better hurry though! Let's not get caught in Hurricane Taira again!"

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Taira snickered in Boulder's direction, "Don't give me the credit, The bandit's to blame for this one!" A proud chitter of affirmation came from the the critter on Taira's head. As Boulder tucked in an rolled all the way down the hill! Now that was inventive! If Taira wasn't carrying his passengers he would have given it a try. For now he was content to watch with a delighted smile as Boulder's strategy came to fruition... up until the point when he landed right beside him on his noggin.  Ouch, that must have hu--

 

"I'm ok!  I landed on my head!"

 

Of course, Boulder was fine. Taira was ashamed he'd ever questioned that this pony's skull could be beaten by something so feeble as a hilltop. Taira broke his stride a moment to help Boulder back up, "You''ll have to teach me that sometime! I know a trick sort of like that although it's not so much meant to plow through earth as gently." He pulled the muscular stallion back up with a slight groan of exertion. Once he got Boulder up he would sniffle and wiggle his nose at the added dust his friend introduced to the air. Thankfully the kirin's hoof managed to spare the country stallion from a sudden flight over the hills, "I'll find one at the finish line, Nothing the occasional sniffle won't fix. Besides, by the end I bet we'll both be goin' so fast none will see."

 

As Pinkie and Hawke bounced on by, Taira resumed the run without missing a beat. He shot a smile up at the bouncing pony, "It's 'The Bandit'... right, Little guy?" Another chitter in the affirmative came from the former hat. Eyes scanned Pinkie's movement's along with Hawke's, perhaps lingering a tiny bit too long on the flanks of both before he began to try and imitate it! 

 

As Taira floated in the air for a few moment he would ponder Pinkie's question, "Hmmm It's been a while actually since anyone called me them! Long while back people would call me 'The General' , before that there was... scruffy, layabout, fox chaser... Y'know what? Sneezemaster is fine." He chuckled softly as he began to come down, ears perking at Hawke's remark. "What if I don't roll at all?" He asked as he again slid his way down the other side of the mountain and transitioning into a gallop in the hopes of keeping himself ahead of the playful griffoness, "And if you don't want to be caught in the next wind, should have stayed behind me!" 

 

 

 

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0sLBSik.pngThe unicorn trotted along at an easy gallop and focused his magic around a branch on the ground. It was long and had a pointy end. What was he going to do with it? Why stir the honeypot. If they were going to make it out of here and ahead of those long-winded athletes he needed to come up with a sticky plan which involved a bee's hive, bugbear and a deluge of golden gooey treat! He poked around the bushes, the magic wrapped around the stick in hopes he would fish out a bugbear eventually. His ear swiveled to the side as he heard somepony call his name. Hoo were he that Stiltrumpkinskin fellow, or was it Myxlplyx...? Well whomever it was he was referencing the stallion of disharmony was not going to suddenly vanish into the void upon his name being hailed. He looked to the mare who fell to his side to introduce herself. His thin brow arched, the maniacal magician sans his usual fluffy face caterpillars. 

 

"Charmed." he offered with a grin, jabbing a particular bush more roughly. "Hmm...?" He turned a dualcolored eye to her and smirked. "But of course Ra-Ra darling. I myself am the lord of chaos and the spirit of spontaneous surprises!!" Not that he knew just quite how his plan would work to aide them, but it would, somehow.

 

With another jab of the sharp ended stick a distinct 'doink' was heard, the dilapidated branch catching between the bushes. Using his magic he tugged and tugged only for loud buzzing to be heard and the search for his elusive bugbear over. His magic slowly released the stick as the honey craving fiend growled at the provocation. A raincoat appeared over the gray unicorn and the stylish mare, with matching boots, of course. The bugbear erupted from its hiding spot, honey and hive wax splattering all over the place. Dis-- Dark Strife summoned an umbrella, catching the splattering wax and looked to fashionista. 

 

"Run." Was all he stated before trotting ahead, the buzzing bug bear after them! It wouldn't be able to enter the cave, out of principle, of far nastier critters likely inhabiting its confines, but also in no way would its wings work. As the spirit hustled the end of his umbrella caught the edge of the cave and lit up into a sizeable torch which he carried beside him with his magic. "Hmm not quite what I was expecting, but it'll do." What was he expecting poking a sleeping bugbear?! "Ho ho! Delightful, now we should have an advantage with this honey!" The raincoat he wore seemed soaked in it, but what use was that? "You see dear obstacles are only as sweet as the deal."

 

Outside the hills cloned specters of the unicorn appeared wearing rather unconvincing disguises and sat behind stalls selling honey suckers for passing racers in hopes of further distracting them on their runs! The signs on the stalls read "Honey Treats, Sweeter than Celestia!" quite a declaration!

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Fire Walker seemed a little offended that Applejack would insinuate malice from the red pegasus. Applejack just shrugged. "Hey, I'm not saying you're lying, I'm just saying that someone who doesn't run often isn't going to really know what being tired is. Some ponies stop running as soon as they break a sweat." Applejack just then had her daily reminder of her friend Rarity and how pedantic she can be.  Although, she ran well at the running of the leaves before. "Rest is for the foals and the frail." Applejack reared and sped up slightly. "Yeehaw!" Her tail whipped behind her as it floated in the air and dust behind her. The bouncing of the hair tie matched the rate of the mare's reckless abandon, but she had control over it for now.

 

"Strategy? Pfft." Applejack did not have a strategy. "It's just trees in the dark. It's not like the the trees come to life and yank us up from out hooves." Applejack recalled memories of her foalhood, when she would be afraid to go into the cellar without a lamp, because the fear of what wasn't there was about the creepiest thing Applejack could think of as a filly. "When you blow your candles out at night, your doors, furniture, your piles of sheet music lying on the floor. They are all still there, even if you can't see them. As long as you have an idea of where they are, you can walk around them blindly." There was the issue of knowing where things were to begin with, however.

 

It just so happened a sightless pony with ability to see by hearing was running right next to them, and Applejack was curious as to what her strategy was, and if there was any way Applejack and Coloratura, and sure maybe 'Dark Strife' could benefit from her unique abilities. "Hey, Hun.  What was yer name again? How do you plan on running through here? Ah'm wondering if you're able to just hear your way through without hitting trees head on. Is that something you think is possible?" Applejack was a little ignorant as to what capabilities a blind pony could have in this situation, even though she know ponies with disabilities had greater skills in other areas, typically. As she asked these questions, the small pony herd became shrouded in darkness as they left the daylight of the sun behind them, small glints of light reflecting off of moisture in the cave being the only source of light ahead of them.  It took Applejack several seconds for her eyes to adjust to the murk.

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Ra-Ra had accumulated a dramatic stockpile of confidence as the race had gone on. Not for her was the weak-kneed and weak-willed belief in defeat, but an honest to goodness belief that she stood a chance and had proven herself better than anypony had any real cause to give credence to. Even if she did fall back in the last bit and found herself floundering she had come further and come harder than anypony would have believed. She was a very confident mare at this point in the race.

Which was just a fancy way of saying that the bugbear's emergence at the vexing behest of the stallion who was living up to the title of lord of chaos did a number on her reserves. She had never seen such a creature, and one played and toyed with so casually! To Ra-Ra's eyes it seemed to get bigger and bigger beyond all reason. It was the single most terrifying thing she had ever encountered, even more so than the pushy judge of talent at the Manehattan Performing Arts center who had nearly tossed her into a lifetime of being a pure background dancer because she spurned his advances.

Unlike then, she didn't have a helpful stagehoof who blew the whistle on the attempted blackmail. All she had was the stallion responsible for the mess telling her to run. She didn't need him to tell her that! “Ahhhhhh!” She screamed, reared up, turned around, and ran like her life depended on it. It probably did. The bugbear didn't look pleased with this turn of events and she wasn't too happy either. She ran and ran, the stallion next to her seemingly excited. Umbrellas and raincoats came and went and this stallion was out of his mind. Chaos indeed!

Eventually, they got to the point where the Bugbear couldn't chase them. Wild-eyed, she continued to run. He spoke about advantages and honey and she was pretty sure it was cheating but was too busy being terrified. That thing was so big! So strong! Who says rocks and walls could hold it?! “Yeah! Yeah, honey is an advantage hahaha. I'll, uhh, I'll catch up with you later!” She said as she galloped, clearly happy to leave the stallion to his own devices. She was just needing, wanting, requiring, desiring some space.

In what was wither five seconds, five minutes, or five hours, she heard Applejack's familiar voice. Comforting if only because she'd know how to fight the bugbear if Ra-Ra's fears came true.

The forest was getting dark and dreary. The further the ponies ran into it, the darker it seemed to get. While the trees seemed familiar in size and smell, the shape of them seemed very skewed, or at least what Applejack could make out in such low light circumstances. The types of trees that grow in an unlit ecosystem would be very unique indeed. She looked at Loose Cannon and got close. "Hey, Hun. What was yer name again? How do you plan on running through here? Ah'm wondering if you're able to just hear your way through without hitting trees head on. Is that something you think is possible?"

"Loose Cannon, Ma'am. I'm just going to be running the same way I have been previously, only with more obstacles," She explained. She actually had better navigation inside the tunnel than outside. There were more surfaces to echo off making it more efficient. "I will be hearing my way through everything by using echolocation, just like bats, or dolphins. My ability is increased in less open spaces."

Ra-Ra's hooves were still given over to some element of the panicked flight from the Bugbear, whose terrible sounds, smells, and sights were still fresh in her mind. Her breathing was one again haggard but she was trying to regain her composure. Helping her in this task was the pair that she caught back up to. Applejack was focused on a plan and it involved a pony who had no problem with the environmental obstacles that were befuddling others. She caught up to them, her hooves uneven and nearly causing a stumble as she took one last concerned look behind her. Nothing to be afraid of, these things that go bump in the night.
"Well," she said, her voice having removed itself of the fear from a minute ago but still noticeably more tense than earlier, "the sooner the better. That crazy stallion caused a bugbear to wake up! Thank you for your help, Loose Cannon. It means a lot."

"Oh well that's just dandy. Hey you don't mind if we tag along in hoof with you do you? Your gift might just be the ticket we need through this thing!" Just then, Applejack felt a rumble above her. "W-what was that? Did the forest just get hungry?" Just then, small rocks began to fall from seemingly no where. "What in tarnation!?" On top of the hills, Boulder Dash rolled himself down and up each valley of the range, like some kind of perpetual pony machine. The vibrations from the rocky earth pony were significant enough that the loose rocks from the cave ceiling started to fall off, landing randomly on whatever or whoever was beneath it.

"A Bugbear? Never met one, is it the size of a bug, or a bear?" Loose mused to herself, "Wait, hold on you sounded a bit sc-"


"Good gravy, we got falling rocks here!" Applejack wasn't sure if Loose Cannon was so hearing sensitive that she could hear the exact location of a rock moving at terminal velocity. Most of the rocks were pebbles and were mostly just annoying, but should the rocks be large, even apple-sized, the pony that would be graced upon would be none too pleased. "Ra-Ra, could you stop yellin', you're causing a cave-in!" Applejack followed the orange filly who was leading the way.

She felt the rumbling tremor. Oh right, there were some ponies up top. "Wait, falling rocks?" This was going to be trouble. She could kind of sense the rocks, but it really depended on the size of them. The small rocks were harder, but they were also less dangerous. "Alright we have two options. Run faster, get out of here quicker, and pray that we can avoid obstacles. Or get out of here slower, but we have a higher chance of navigation. Or really we could pick somewhere in between," She informed them. "Tree root Ten metres."

Ra-Ra could feel the rumble not only all around her but inside of her. It was truly a rather mighty sound, signifying that something most unusual was going up on top of the hills. But she couldn't shake the fear that maybe one bugbear had woken up ten others and this was the result. The more reasonable mare did what she could to calm the other half down, but as rocks fell all she could really do was hold onto what she had. "I don't think I'm the cause, Applejack," she replied somewhat tersely, "and even if I was, if somepony had been there to...nevermind, sorry," she said, looking down in time to jump over a tree root as provided by Loose Cannon. "Faster. Let's go-" she said as she saw a rock fall. It wasn't that large but there had been a cluster, and it was headed straight for Loose Cannon. A jagged looking edge...not pleasant! "-Look out!" She said, instinctively pulling Loose closer. The rock fell. It pierced the floor a little bit and then shattered as Ra-Ra let Loose Cannon go, more confident in her answer.

"Ah think I'd prefer the method that involves us getting out this forest in one piece." Applejack stated as rocks fell around them. She jumped over the tree root her guide warned about. "Maybe we should run closer to the trees, or next to the larger stronger trees. The larger branches might keep the large rocks from hitting directly where we are running. Or would that make the branches falling more dangerous?" It took a lot for Applejack to find herself in a pickle.

"Faster. Yes, faster!"
In the midst of Applejack's inability to decide timely, Coloratura, the mare who continues to befuddle the expectations of this humble apple pony took charge and decided to run faster. And Applejack didn't even waste time to question it.


"Alright, let's go, LC. Kick it into override, this forest can't be that big." In the distance, Applejack would see a fainted glint of light coming from a possible tunnel, but she was not sure if it was the way out.
Kick it into override? Most definitely.
"This is why I saved my energy."

She jumped over the tree root before faintly noticing a distortion that took her too long to process. She was pulled to the side, but she luckily kept her pace. "I don't think I could have looked out," She replied pedantically. "That distortion almost got me, thanks. Faster it is." She started to speed up. "I don't know much about trees as you, but I'd say that the fact that they exist here makes them strong enough. Of course, magic can do weird things.-" She noticed a rock protrusion ahead on the left side and repositioned herself closer to the right. "Rock left side." Why was the cave only collapsing now? "If ponies run here every year, then I'd would have thought it collapse ages ago."

Ra-Ra ran as hard as her body would allow. Between the thought of a bugbear eating her and getting crushed by rocks, not to mention getting sassed at by a pony because of a poor remark, it was hard to imagine she could run any faster. It was hard enough at this speed to keep up with the astute directions being given by Loose Cannon but Ra-Ra made it harder on herself by trying to remember what the coordinator had said to start the race. "Hmm...if I remember correctly, this was an extension? So maybe they normally-" she said as she slammed into a rock protrusion. Such was her speed that she continued to run, the rock breaking off in an explosion of sound. Ra-Ra's head was turning about in place, woozy as could be, little birds flying above her head. "Anypony get the number on that...rock?" She said, following the group and doing so more on instinct as Ra-Ra, the dignified superstar songstress, decided to have a comedically embarrassing moment in a dark cave. Luckily nopony would see!

Somewhere, somehow, somepony took the picture.
She shook her head, regaining her composure. "Applejack, do you think we're almost out?"


Applejack heard a commotion behind her, Ra-Ra must have been doing something, but Applejack couldn't see. Ra-Ra had fallen back but quickly caught back up. Applejack at that moment was continually amazed at the pop star pony's ability to maintain tenacity, even though her very survival depended on it. Instead of saying another snarking competitive jab, she just simply told her what she thought.
 

"You rock, Ra-Ra."


Applejack weaved and bobbed the rocks ahead, the tricky ones Loose Cannon was able to discern before they ran into them. Things were going well. Too well. Applejack hadn't expected to have any trouble running into trees, but she also did not expect this much opposition to get through it. "Well, this place had been neglected before. I think the forest under the hills might need a little more love and attention besides a simple run through."

Applejack could see the light at the other ends getting bigger and brighter. It wouldn't be too much longer before they were able to surface out of the underground forest. "Almost there, gals." In looking around her for the proximity of the others, Applejack lost sight in front of her for just a moment, and her face smashed directly into a tree. The mare bounced back, sat down momentarily, and then stood back up gaining her composure back. And then an apple fell and landed on her head. "Ow." She picked up the apple and held it in her hoof. "Well, I'll be a fish in a treehouse. Apple trees grow down here!" She showed Ra-Ra briefly before speeding back up and following Loose Cannon's trail. "Ain't that somethin'."

"Just a little further, I think that opening ahead is where we need to go."

"Maybe I should come back here, rub some care into this place," she mused. She dodged a couple more rocks before hearing a large crack. "Number for what? Did you just run straight through that?" How is she still going? it must be natural instinct for them now. She was really surprised at the capabilities of the pop star, but then again, they were all Earth ponies. "Rock? Is that supposed to be a pun AppleJack?" We're getting there, I feel like it's real close," she announced, before noticing another tree. She managed to dodge that too, but she didn't have time to warn Applejack. "Almost there, don't fall now," she encouraged. She felt like it was perhaps her turn to smash into something. No, she wouldn't let that happen. She heard AppleJack mention apple trees. What Apples? She didn't sense any at all. "Uh, that's not an apple. I don't think that smash did real good."


"...Yes, I ran into...a rock. The one you avoided, no less. I think I was thinking about what the race coordinator said at the start. My face is numb. Applejack, how do I look? Is anything broken?" She asked, slowing down as Applejack ran into a tree and then announced that yes, indeed, they were apples. That was very strange. Didn't apples require a lot of work? That was why the Apples were so well known. It'd be rather tragic if it turned out the Apples are just a bunch of random charlatans who just looked busy all the time, what with their self-regulating and self-growing apple trees. Now that would be an identity crisis that'd put hers to shame.

"What type of apple is it?" She asked the expert on such matters. No doubt it would have to be an exotic type that Applejack would be excited to find. Or not. Not everything in Equestria was amazing, just most of it, like how amazing Loose Cannon was so far. "Thank you again, Loose. Without you, who knows how many more random rock protrusions and misplaced apple trees we would have run into!"

"A what?" Applejack did not intend the pun. She hadn't even heard Ra-Ra's smash, as her hearing was not as good as Loose's. The silly filly doubted Applejack's ability to discern what an apple was. This was almost insulting. Almost. "Nope, it's right here." Applejack took the apple with her, and she was currently balancing it on her tail to show Loose. "You have a really good sense of hearing, but uh, your nose might need a check-up." Applejack sniffed the apple as Coloratura and remarked on it. "Oh yeah that's a interesting flavor profile. It's like a cross between a red delicious and a plum. I don't know that I've ever seen, or smelt, or tasted an apple like this. I'll have to do some investigatin' after the race is done." Applejack put the apple under her hat to secure it for the rest of the race.

The light from the other end was approaching, and the tremors coming from above seemed to have calmed, almost on que with the presence of the ponies, almost like they weren't welcome. "Hey Loose, we really couldn't have done this without you. I would have never thought that a blind pony could lead me through something like that. You should be very proud of yourself!" Applejack ran next to Loose Canon as the path towards the underground forest exit widened.

"Huh, so it is," She said taking another sense at the apple. "I was in rock mode so I think I just substituted it," she admitted. She did not know what was up with that so that was kind of the best answer she had. "Apples growing down here? Do you think they're specifically adapted to grow down here? I don't know if that's how it works with apples."

"They might be. I've seen trees cultivate underground before, but never apple trees."

Ah yes, she could feel some light now. They were getting there, and they were still alive, herself more than the others. "Hey, maybe I should explore dark caves more often, since I'm naturally adapted to them. Maybe I'll run this race next time, although with the hills in this condition, it would probably not be the same," she answered smiling. "I am proud, even though I didn't pull you through in perfect shape." She wondered if they were ahead of the others. She didn't really now the distances, but she would assume they were, unless the ones above found some ultimate strategies.

"You did all you could. We have to share some of that responsibility in our own crashes," Ra-Ra laughed, though she was certain something was wrong with her face. Did she still have some rock somewhere? Well, somepony would tell her later. Now that they were in the light- nearly blinding due to how dark it was before- it was as if the terror and fear that the bugbear had caused was being lifted away. The embarrassment of the rock crash too, like dust in the wind flittered away into nothingness. "Without you, I think we'd still be far, far behind where we are now. When I win-" she said with a smile, winking at Applejack. Oh, she hadn't forgotten Applejack telling her that she had been going easy. Not at all. She was ready to challenge her on that. Had to, didn't she? "-I'll be sure to give you a lot of credit!" She laughed greatly, finally feeling some of her face. Ouch. Ouch! That crash had hurt.

But she had made it through, and even kinda-sorta helped find an unknown apple variety. All in all, she was very, very happy she had decided to run through the underground. Proved...adventurous. Almost too much so, but thanks to good friends she had come through stronger. That was worth the fright.
That was worth the fight.

OOC- River provided Applejack, Szalhi provided Loose Cannon.

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Boulder Dash accepted Taira's hoof and shook his head like a wet dog to get the dirt and grim off his head.  "Nuthing better then a stroll through the hills with friends.  But we ain't going to gradma's house I tell you what" he said as he watched Pinkie Pie and her griffioness friend go by.  Not wanting to be out done and watching Taira take off again, Boulder Dash tucked and rolled again.

 

Rolling down the rest of the hill tops like a run away Boulder, he finished strong and landed on the base of the hill outside the cave entrance.  Getting up and dusting himself off again he was about to take off when he heard a rumbling noise in the cave signaling a cave in approaching.  The sound of voices approaching told him ponies were still inside.

 

A choice beckoned him now......did he take off to secure a strong lead or did he risk defeat to help a few ponies, some he didn't even know.  A cold clamp went across his heart as he knew victory be damned if he violated the family honor.  A colored sparkle flashed through his eyes as he made his choice.  Boulder Dash ran into the cave exit and as large stalagmites started to fall among the exit, he would lash out with his thick skull and start obliterating them before they hit the ground.

 

"Any pony still in here, MOVE THOSE HOOFS!  This place is coming down faster then a grain silo and as much as I love busting things with my head I can't do this forever" he shouted as he smashed another falling rock with his abnormally thick skull.

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Pinkie nodded as the griffoness wiggled her wings. "Oh yeah! Silly me! Yep I'm sure you can pull off some amazing moves when your wings aren't all tied up!" She bounded over another hill. "I think we'll have to add you showing off onto the list of things to do on our date night!" The Pink couldn't wait for the end of the race now! It didn't matter what place she came in, she had won herself a date with the prettiest creature in the race!

 

"Oh!" She gave an apologetic glance to the raccoon that still sat absently next to Gummy. "Sorry sir! The Bandit of course!" 

 

"The General." She put on her most stern face at the rise of the next hill, crossing her hooves over her chest. "That's an official sounding name!" At the mention of layabout and fox chaser she giggled. "I think chasing foxes seems like it could be really fun! Did ya ever catch any?"

 

"We better hurry though! Let's not get caught in Hurricane Taira again!"

 

She glanced at the big kirin. "What do you think about Hurricane Taira? I think it's gotta better ring to it than Sneezemaster!" Was his nose starting to twitch again? "Either way, we better keep these griffon feathers and fur away from you!"

 

Ponk was going to gallop onward when there was a rumble in the distance and as if on instinct Boulder took off towards the sound! 

 

"Oh no!" Pinkie pulled out a pair of binoculars. "It looks like to exit to the underground caves is collapsing!"

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