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Stage Seven: Ponyville, The Home Stretch! One Last Push, Everycreature!

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Stage 7- Ponyville, The Home Stretch
 

After quite the journey and race, the racers can nearly taste the finish line. Friends, family, and fans line the home stretch, cheering for somecreature as everycreature has something to root for. Buoyed by this adulation, the racers prepare themselves for a mad scramble for the finish line.

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The land was peaceful. Blades of grass caressing in the wind, seemingly as tall as trees. Trees the size of worlds. A lonesome ant worked hard moving grains of sand, building up a humble hill of dirt around the scattered remains of what was left. The storm had finally subsided, the rains washed away. But it left Antonio devastated. His colony gone. His family missing. Dreams shattered. It took every micro-ounce of will to build up the courage to continue building where they left off, a way to remember them by. Certainly it would not be as grand, but the hill would serve as a reminder of the bravery of small Antonio. Piece by piece, he came closer and closer to his goal, until he finally put the last pebble in place. The hill was small, but still a feat for a single insect to fabricate by himself. Would he be remembered as a hero? He thought.

 

Little Antonio stood back to look at his masterpiece, a hill made by his own six legs and mandibles. Never would he ever listen to doubters that his efforts would be for naught. How little often they understand the tenacity of a small countryside antoid. The doubters would flee, their arguments invalid. Antonio wasn't just vindicated, he was proud of his accomplishment, his willingness to strive to be the best, even when his friends and family tragically wash away from his life, possibly forever. When he gazed upon the hill, the sun radiantly reflecting off the granular diamonds of the sand crystals, he realized his life would never be the same and that from this moment forth, he would always remember the day that he overcame all obstacles to be the best ant he could possibly be.

 

Moments of peace and serenity owned the space for several seconds.  But then, a faint rumble could be heard. Antonio wasn't sure what it could be. Surely the thunderstorm had subsided; it was long gone, the heavens clear from dark and uninviting clouds. But as the rumble started to grow, the ground began to shake. The vibrations around him permeated turbulent jostles, grains of sand trickling down large towers of his creation, though in seldom. "No." He exclamated. As the vibrations rose with the static but increasing noise, he began to panic. Blades of grass that had been still since the storm began to shake as well, a soft breeze causing them to waft left and right, casting shadows of uncertainty over his now-frantic antennae. As he attempted to discern the situation, his face fell grim, removing the hope remaining in his exoskeleton. He climbed a blade of grass, holding on to it carefully as it swung in the wind. And when he reached the top, he saw a cloud of dust growing in his direction.  A stampede of ungulates and birdlike cats unaware of their groundings, running full sprint towards his newly created hill. All of his hard work, all of his pain, all of his purpose, about to be snatched from the clutches of large mammalian tyrants. Right in line with the path of ponies, the hastily hatched home about to be leveled. The rumbling of the ground had reached its peak. Antonio closed his eyes with grief, and then he belted out, "NO!"
 

((This was meant to be silly not to be responded to.))

 

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This was it. The homestretch. Applejack had waited all race for this moment, the moment she could test herself and finally get a result. Not only was she in a good position to compete for fastest pony of this years' running of the leaves, but she had made closer relationships with those around her running in the process. At this point, it had only been a few ponies left that were within reach of the final prize. As she looked around, she attempted to size up how exhausted her adversaries were.

 

Pinkie Pie had done very well to this point, and although Pinkie had a strange sense of being in two places at once, it was still impressive to see Pinkie running well yet again. Those pink hooves could move! Ra-Ra was also impressive. How easy it is to see in a pony like her how enough focus and will power can be more important that sheer physical ability. This truly was a race in the mind more than the body, and Ra-Ra had succeeded in that more than anypony. Hawke Dreamcrest was pounding the ground like the best of them, proving talon and claw could match a quick hoof on most days. And Boulder Dash, while suicidal in his attempts at charisma, showed little signs of slowing down.  Applejack ran through the field of competitors, chanting whimsical babble as she passed them. "It's time to get dusted, boys and girls. I appreciate you makin' me look good!"

 

But among all of the top runners, no one seemed like a more primary target to Applejack that Taira the kirin. That canine-pony guy could really bolt. And while Applejack had already had a few interesting run-ins with him, most of the perspective Applejack had was looking from behind at his large magical tail emitting that green-misted aura. It was important for Applejack to get along side of him, or even ahead of him, so that she can confidently outrun him down the line, but also so she could see where in Ponyville she was going.

 

Applejack did manage to run along side of Taira, her dialogue at him huffing and puffing with her strained breathing. "Ah gotta admit, you know how to run like the best of them. You got somewhere to be? What are you running from? Did I scare ya?" Applejack raised a playful eyebrow, the tensions of several minutes ago no longer being a crutch on her ability to emote.

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"You don't need any help making yourself look good, Applejack, good luck!" Hawke answered with a smirk as Applejack rushed past her and the rest of the crowd. This was it! The last stretch of the race! Ponyville wasn't very far ahead now. Truth be told she didn't expect to catch up with either Taira or Applejack at this point. Not without her wings to give that extra boost. And as tempting as that was, she'd never forgive herself for that. It was one thing using them to save a friend, another entirely just to save face. It wasn't like Hawke hadn't ever came in second before, on the contrary, it's happened many times. Third even. Sometimes last. Fate was fickle like that. But even gunning for a tied second, Hawke was feeling like she had came in first several times over. That was the good thing about races like this. You make friends along the way, you bump heads in friendly competitive spirit, you help each other out. Speaking of friends and helping one another out "How you holding up? We're almost there! You can do it! Just a little longer now!" Hawke glanced over her shoulder at the grey stallion she'd been trying to cheer on. He didn't show it on his face, but something told her that all the guy really needed was someone to genuinely believe in him and encourage him. Or maybe she was just guessing. Who can say really?


Next to her, Pinkie was still keeping pace like a champion as well. She was the biggest reason so far she felt like a winner. And maybe she was partialy why she wasn't just booking it ahead to the finish line as fast as she could. She as a distraction, in a really really good way. Swishing the honey pop in her mouth from one side to the other, she smiled over at the pink mare"And how're you holding up cutie? I don't want to neglect my cheering for you either! You've been doing fantastic. Given any thought about what we should do after the race. Or after the after party? I bet there's a killer after party." the griffoness gave her head a shake, letting some beads of sweat flick away from her feathers. She loved being in her element. Moving forward, no looking back. Forward momentum was the speed of freedom and it felt great. It was always nice to move faster than memories.

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This was a feeling Taira hadn't felt in so very long. Sure he'd had races with Niju, and the pups and his pack back home in the past but this... this was something spectacular. This rush of adrenaline lighting a fire in his belly, the rough pounding of his hooves against the dirt, the feeling of an unfettered advance. There was no way he was going to willingly relinquish his spot at the front! Not without a fight.  Boulder, Pinkie, Hawke, Ra-ra, 'dark strife', Fire Walker: all were going to be faces he'd never dare to forget for this wondrous run!

 

Taira was still hoping to see Discord's resurgence behind him, possibly some made dash by a fuming stallion whose body length might have tripled... Instead it was Applejack! Throughout his surging charge a grin was plastered over the kirin's muzzle, it only grew as the orange farmer pulled up alongside him.  "Well, Well, Well!" He said with an excited grin and puffing breaths, "Welcome to the final stretch! Gotta say I'm finally feeling the burn from all this!" The raccoon on top of Taira's head looked back to see the massive wake the two racers were producing. Great clouds of leaves, dust and debris trailing behind them. Together these two competitor's wake seemed to produce what looked like a gigantic plume of dust, as if the pair's trail  was working to embody this clash of competitive wills!

 

"It'll take more than a tough as nails Farmer to rattle my steps! ... If anything I should be more scared of the 'stallion' I taunted just a moment ago! I'll need to watch my back after this!" Taira had to be careful as he spoke now, with how he was pushing himself he could feel his disguise starting to strain. At the very least he managed to keep his eyes normal... his maw on the other hand was slowly slipping out of his control. He was thankful Applejack's focus was primarily on the road ahead (or so he would assume). If her sharp eyes wandered they may have noticed that the Kirin seemed to have an impressive pair of fangs... was that normal for a kirin? They were part dragon after all!  Taira ultimately decided to just keep moving on ahead, if he focused too much on his glamour he'd likely fall behind and this little farmer made him realize just how good it could feel to compete again! 

 

He couldn't help but shoot the mare a smirk, "I hope you remember our wager! Once I leave you with a pretty silver necklace, you're buying me a hat!" With that remark he would again attempt to overtake the mare only for his ears to perk at the sound of music coming from the stalls, it had a  practically electrically energetic sound and seemingly, he recognized it. He hadn't heard this beat before but it was clearly one meant to get one's blood pumping. Something about it made him grin brightly, "Well sorry, Ma'am! Seems I've got Family watchin' I can't afford to lose now!"

 

Spoiler

 

 

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Leaving the forest behind Heart Shield Galloped along at full pace nearing the end. He was nearing the group, but it seemed he just didn't have the speed to catch up. He was just thankful the tree sap was left behind. It was all open trail now, fields all around open beautiful sky. No more things to look out for. Ponyville was his hometown, He figured he would stick around awhile after the race was over and spend some time around Ponyville. He wasn't much of a competitive pony be he didn't want to end up dead last. Running along fast as he could he tried to find any way possible to make himself faster. Gaining little ground on the group, it seemed he had topped himself out on speed. His mane flowing in the air behind him, Heart shield pressed on. He was determined that next year he should try starting the race from the beginning. He wouldn't come close to winning this year, but he was having fun. 

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Ra-Ra was given a brief burst of energy from her passionate argument with Applejack. Luckily it seemed nopony had decided to comment on it, even notice it, but that didn't mean it was something she let go easily. It filled her with the commitment to continue pushing. To show Applejack she was a mare that could do this the right way, as she had always wanted, that she wasn't just pomp and circumstance. For the rest of the woods she ran with conviction, trying to keep pace with the athletic orange mare. Just trying to keep close. And for a while she felt like she had done a good job.

But there were limits to her capabilities and she had reached them...stages ago. She was motivated so strongly by trying to show Applejack what she was capable of that she had gone further than what those limits were/. Motivated so deeply by the need to prove herself that she had proven that sometimes she should be more conservative with belief. As the race entered the final stage she found herself trying her hardest but falling one hoof after another short of her hard-charging friend. She summoned every ember of her strength to try and continue the pace, even quicken it. She tried to call upon the mustang as she entered the final stretch at Ponyville.

Tried and failed.
It hadn't been nurtured over the years, not truly anyway. It had given itself over to her for that short while and it was spent. And so was she, clear as could be. Her breaths came deep, her chest heaving with the effort. Her head bobbed up and down, her eyes sometimes flittering away into the ether, as she just tried to keep her legs moving as fast as possible. She was silent. Her sweat dripped in small rivulets, coating her in the cooling waters of exertion. She had a smile and a bit of regality to her expression if only for appearances, as clear as it was that it was a masque she wore to keep a simple truth under wraps:

Coloratura was completely spent, and seemingly had not a prayer of winning.
 

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This was it.....the final stretch if the race.  Boulder Dash had been holding strong through put keeping himself paced for most of the race.  Even though he had ysed some reserves in the third part of the race he still had plenty in his tank for this last strecth of the run.  He had admittingly been lucky at certain parts of the race.  Moving in fast to get a good placing at the right time, making the the successful leap at the ravine, getting through the whitetail woods without getting sapped.  It had been a mix of skill and good luck that up til now had held.

 

But now this was the last pull off the race and as Pa had taught him you don't count yer chickens til the hatched and ya sure don't run the cows til they were quartered.  Boulder Dash knew he still had a ways to go before ye could honestly say he had won and wasn't holding up yet.  He still remembered that famous year as a colt when his Pa ran and won the race, and the pride he felt that day.  Now it was his turn and he'd be damned if he gave up now.

 

Running in close pace with the leaders Applejack and Taira he focused intently on what was in front of him trying to teach down and fire off all he had left inside of him for the last strecth. Though he had fun making a new friend and running with an old one it had come now to prove who was first and who was second.  

 

"Not fer nuthin Taira, it's been a gas and my offer is on the table fer chow.  But I gots family in the stands and a legacy to live up to.  I see ya'll at the finish line" he said pushing deep and pulling ahead of the big Kirin.

 

Sure enough as he made his last shoot into Ponyville amongst the cheering crowds he saw them.  He and his younger brother Rocky had arrived the day before to build the food stand for their Ma to make and serve the family's famous friend green tomato sandwiches and hot bowls of tomato soup.  Standing in the stand serving customers he saw his Ma waving her bandana at him and his younger brother in the stands nearby waving a bag of....what da hay..... sweets?

 

Chuckling as he kept his focus Rocky mentioned to the stands as he came on Applejack and said, "I bet ya'll my bottom bit he's intending to try and share those with that little sister of yearn.  Don't worry he's a gentlecolt like his big bro, but it will be funny if in he can even muster the pebbles to talk to her without turning red."

 

He then shot forward and began putting it all he had in the last run for the home stretch.  This was it no more holding back and no more taking it easy.  All or nothing now with no regrets regardless of the outcome.

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0sLBSik.png What a woeful turn of events. Who would have thought running took so much energy?! It was nothing like ponies make it seem! His ears folded back k at Hawke's offering. It could have been a trap, but he doesn't remember trapping his own treats. Taking the honey pop it settled it, with hisagic, in his jaws before rolling it to the corner of his cheek. He rolled his eyes at being cheered on.

 

"Oh please.  I'm am quite experienced in the competitive arts. I'll find a way to out do all of you creatures." His eyes shot to Taira. So. He thought he was funny?

 

Puffing his chest out the spirit in question stamped his hoof on the gepind. Pulling a walkie talkie from his fur he would contact his partner in pranks. Bandit, while having a blast riding Strifecord's opponent, would flail his arms and pull a headset from his fur and place it atop his head. Taking a moment to adjust the microphone he chittered into it.

 

"Plan W!" Dark Strife tossed the walkie talkie to the side and smeared black paint under his eyes.

 

He bolted along, snacking on his sweet treat. Bandit nodded, holding onto the wolf before he held put a pepper shakers to try and flake it on the wolf's body. The plan? The shake and scratch him out of his Kirin form! It was hardly a harmful prank but it was due to spook other racers so he could get a good laugh at the mouthy wolf!

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That wolfish grin only grew wide on the kirin's face. This was starting to get more and more interesting. Seems that Boulder Dash was stowing away a bit of energy to burn towards the end of the finish line. "Good luck, Boulder-san!" He called out to the flying brick of a race,  "... But sadly I'm going to have to dissapoint your kin!" Taira's slipstreaming method seemed to at least carry him this far and gain him rapid ground, and so he would  gain rapidly on Boulder with his little orange rival right at his side! 

 

The bandit on Taira's head was loving the ride so far! He loved seeing the world and being discord's roguish coonskin cap, but travels through chaosville, while interesting greatly lacked in speed and raw excitement! With the wind whipping his face and his ringed tail flowing in the wind, The bandit could say he felt as if his body was composed of one hundred percent, pure adrenaline! It was a bit of a chore to answer the walkie talkie but he would nod and fulfill his part of the deal. 

 

Truly, it was a betrayal for the ages to speak of! Having carried him so far on his back,  yet today was the day that the Bandit turned his wiles on his so loyal ride! With the intense rush of speed and wind whipping around him, The Bandit's pepper shaker strategy proved a bit harder to control.  He managed to coat the kirin in the spicy black grains, but the scent and particles didn't all cling to the stallion's round rear end... instead they would fall back into his wake and spread into Applejack's as well! Their trailing clouds of leaves,dust and debris now carried a ridiculously spicy scent that burned and tickled the nose of anyone caught too far behind the pair!

 

An itch was starting to form around the Kirin's nostril, his muzzle wrinkling and soon his lips parting as he huffed and puffed in a built to a sneeze. His pace slowed until he fell behind his Orange competitor but a bit of quick thinking save him his spot! As they came to another turn in the way, a rather sharp one, Taira turn his head to face the corner and with another deafening explosion of a sneeze sent himself soaring back towards Applejack and Boulder! He sniffled and wiggled his nose, the old general feeling his real nose threaten to peak through his disguise...  He gave a snort and looked up, "After all we've been through, Bandit? I'm hurt! You're no longer 'The Bandit' now! If you're dead set on being on my head... well,  lets see how hard you can hang on!" 

 

With that, Taira galloped with a great intensity back into the race. This time his speed left the raccoon hanging on for dear life off his horns!

 

 

 

 

Edited by Pretzelparty
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Home home stretch! All the cheering fans! The applause from the sidelines! It was so super duper exciting!

 

"And how're you holding up cutie? I don't want to neglect my cheering for you either! You've been doing fantastic. Given any thought about what we should do after the race. Or after the after party? I bet there's a killer after party."

 

And of course, there was Hawke! Pinkie counted herself super lucky to have made as many friends as she had during the race, but she was double no, triple lucky to have met Hawke! As she glanced over the griffoness shook her head as her valiant efforts made her work up a sweat! The pink pony's heart fluttered as she matched her stride with Hawke. Yep! Didn't matter what place she came in, she was going to get to spend time with Hawke after the race!

 

At the mention of an after party Pinkie launched herself high into the air! "After party?" Huge grin. "Of course there's gonna be a killer after party! Not sure what they have planned but with me there... you can bet your pretty tail feathers there will be an epic party!"

 

Up ahead a sneeze party seemed to be in full swing! "Oh no!" Pinkie turned to Hawke. "Looks like Taira's got some trouble with Bandit!" The Ponk put on an extra burst of speed and launched herself closer to the fray.

 

"Hey there big guy!" She called out to the kirin who was still some lengths ahead of her. "You need some help with your ring tailed rider? Gummy here can would be happy to assist!" She looked over her shoulder where the gator sat firm on her back. "You can take care of the Bandit right?" Gummy blinked one eye at a time. "Let's see if Taira wants your help!"

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This was it! The road to victory!
 
Fire Walker tried her very best to keep up with the small pack that had pulled ahead. But felt this might not be her race to win. Still, she could have a little bit of fun and maybe even help the kirin take the gold! “Ah come on there!”, she laughed, “Silver isn’t so bad. Miss Applejack has a whole room full of silver medals from the previous races.” This was probably not true, but she had heard the farmer had an habit in finishing second in these races. There was a good chance she might have melted them all down to make something useful.
 
"You just need to swallow your pride and admit the better pony will win this." The officer tried to push herself a little further but she could feel her body start to strain! How utterly mortifying! Maybe she spent too much time this year at a desk. She had things that needed to be planned! Training schedules! Twilight's Guard! The wedding! She spent less time on adventurers actually training herself...Or at least compared to her usual year. Excuses! Her father would not approve of such nonsense! But it was true! There might be a pony that would beat the stallion, but it sure wasn't going to be her!
 
"But at least you'll look good...er.." What the heck was happening to him? That pesky Discord WAS up to something and using his raccoon to do so! She should have made an hat out of that beastie when he showed up at Swift's home! While she avoided the better part of the spice, a few managed to get into the fur on her face, but the kirin was getting the full bulk of it. And since she did not live in a world where a hard sneeze just ended up with the sneezer getting crap allover their snout, but instead worked just like Cheaty Pie's rocket. Weird.
 
Oh-my, he was now pretty mad and going even faster. She might be snatching up any medals, but the officer would at least get to see how this ends!
 
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Heart shield Moved as fast as he could to at least be able to pass somepony along the final stretch, But his legs just couldn't carry him fast enough. He was gaining on the group of ponies, but by mere inches at a time. It wasn't fast enough for him tho "Push, Faster!" He said to himself trying to strain himself to go as fast as he could. The air flowed in swift breezes past him, Blowing his mane everywhere. This was no time to stop and smell the roses, Heart Shield lowered his head and kept his focus on the pack of ponies ahead pushing on. At this point he was no longer galloping along. He was leaping and bounding ahead, His legs working in unison to push him along in long strides, as almost like a wild cat after its prey. He couldn't give up now! It was to close to the end. The scenery whizzed by him as he pushed himself near his breaking limit. One miss step could send him tumbling into an unfortunate ending. He couldn't let that happen, not now! The group of ponies where nearing now, he was almost there. He just needed to push a little faster!

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Ooc: this post brought to you by rainbowfoxxy and pretzelpony :)

 

"Taira!" Pinkie sucked in a breath and shouted while galloping. "TAIRA!" She narrowed her eyes and put an an extra burst of speed, her legs literally a blur. "Hang on there big guy!"

 

The sound of a familiar voice calling his name caught the kirin's ear! Pinkie Pie? For someone who clearly loved her sweets, Taira had to admire the pony's physicality. Throughout the race, Taira had noticed how genuine this pony was when it came to helping her competition out. Thanks to the pepper cloud forming behind him and his new coating of spice, the kirin was having trouble keeping focused on preventing his nose from blowing once again AND holding his disguise together. He could feel the natural mist of his tail slip out behind and adding to the wake of leaves behind him.

"If you've got an idea to stop this torture... I'll gladly have in on it, Pinkie-san!"

 

 

"Ok Gummy!" She turned her head only slightly so she wouldn't trip while she galloped on towards the Bandit. "You know the drill! One launched gator..." Gummy shifted the honey pop in his mouth. "One extra honey pop," She somehow managed to hoof over another pop while running at full tilt!  "One kirin free from the ring tailed menace!" Gummy narrowed his eyes. "Well, not a menace really just...and annoyance?" Gummy's eyes didn't change. "Ok ok, I get it, you're friends! One raccoon rider!"

 

"Here we go!" She flipped in the air and Gummy attached it her tail. With a move that would make a top level ninja jealous she flung the gator off her tail towards the kirin ahead of her!

 

Taira let himself glance back to see Pinkie pull off her trick, now that was impressive! The adrenaline pumping through him let his mind put together her idea fairly quickly... and with a nimble leap upwards Taira made himself and easier target for the flying gator!

 

"Go get 'im Gummy!" Pinkie galloped on, trying to keep pace with the charging kirin. 

 

Gummy landed lightly on Taira's rump. Bandit clung on as tightly as ever to the kirin's horns. Her sauntered forward, belying the fact that he was on one wild ride! Over the back, up the crest, until he was right behind Bandit. With a spring not unlike Pinkie's her launched in front of bandit and stood smushed up right in front of the Bandit. He shifted the honey pop in his mouth and Bandit's eyes followed the treat.

 

With a scrunch of his muzzle, Taira flinched as Gummy landed on his rear. Then With that spring he found the gator resting on top of his snout. Just in time too, he was sure he felt another sneeze coming on and the actions of this scaly little pet kept this big bad wolf from blowing himself to the back of the race! He could live without the sudden obscuring of his sight, but his other senses were sharp enough he could keep himself on course. 

 

Another honey pop appeared, curled into the tip of Gummy's tail. He waved the treat back and forth.

 

The upcoming tree branch that was fixing to make his aquaitance wasn't something he predicted, but thankfully it was high enough that only his his horns wound up brushing across it, leaving the two animals to their fate!

 

The Bandit reached forward to take the honey pop. In that same instant that his fingers wrapped around the treat Gummy snapped upwards and gripped the branch above him. Taira galloped on, leaving the gator and coon spinning on the branch! As Pinkie galloped underneath the pair she waved upwards. 

 

The gator and coon waved back as they sat comfortably together, munching away on their delicious treats!

 

"How you feeling now Taira? Gummy felt just awful about latching onto you earlier. He wanted to do something nice for you!"

 

A panicked look crossed the kirin's face before he glanced back and felt a rush of relief. Feeling that weight leave his head so suddenly made him worry for the safety of the two creatures. "Thank the ancestors..." He breathed a sigh, "They're alright." 

 

When Pinkie managed to catch up to himself and Applejack he would grin over to her, "When this is all over and done I'll treat Gummy to an abundance of his favorite treats, Pinkie-san!" Her question's intial answer was a wiggle and sniff from the stallion at her side, "... and I feel like I'll surely need a tissue by the end of this. Still so itchy... I feel bad for those behind us, that Cloud of peppery leaves will only share my trial earlier." He sniffled again and smiled, "Thank you, Again! Don't think this doesn't mean I'm gonna go easy on you from here on out though!" 
 

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"No doubt from me dude. But with you puffing harder than a locomotive, it seems you're not as experienced in racing. That's okay though, no one starts out experienced in something." Hawke said with a nod to the unicorn. Oh yeah she could easily tell that he had experience with competition. That drive for victory at nearly any cost was readily apparent in his eyes...or maybe that was jaundice, were yellow eye-whites a normal thing for ponies? Proooobably not. But then again who knows? It certainly didn't seem normal for a pony to be able to pull out a cannon out of...wherever Pinkie pulled it out from, but she did anyway! Maybe just not question it, it'd make her brain hurt too much to think about it for too long.

 

Mention of a party to Pinkie sat off a proverbial fire in the mare, hopping up excitedly at the mere mention. It made total sense too, with a cutie mark like hers, of course she loved to party! Cutie marks were interesting, though it sometimes made ponies predictable. Balloons? Parties. Wand? Magic. Their interests and talents often made clear their personalities, but sometimes the mark didn't always line up with that, but it was easier than dealing with other griffons. You can't always tell with a griffon which one's going to be the talkative one or the one more likely to bite your face than give you a time of day. Before the talk of parties could continue though, Pinkie rushed off again to help out Taira, seems his raccoon buddy was being a bit more of a pest than a pal. Speaking of helping out, the sound of some heavy laboured breathing had caught the griff's attention. Seems like Coloratura was reaching her breaking point.

 

Taking a moment, Hawke would move and match pace with the mare and give a friendly smile. "Hey Ra-Ra! You're doing great, you're almost there! Just a little while longer now, you can do it. You heard what I told him right?" she motioned over towards the grey unicorn who STILL had yet to give her a name..."There's no losers in this race. You had fun right? Made some new friends? Bonded with an old one it looked like? That sounds like a winner in my book. And when you cross that finish line you'll feel it too. Just hang in there girl, you've got this!"

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Moving faster now Heart Shield had managed to close in just behind the pack of ponies who where racing along. At no better of a time to, Opening his mouth to greet the fellow runners Heart Shield got a mouth full of pepper that sprayed from somewhere among the group. Coughing he tried to regain his composure, The pepper burned the inside of his throat, making his eyes water a little which in turn made it a little hard to see. Finally managing to regain himself he tried to make sense of the chaos which was going on. "A nice day for a run isn't it?" He called out approaching the group his voice a little scratchy from the pepper still. He could see a whole bunch of ponies in the group. He could see Applejack, as well as the bright red mare he recognized from the guard, and a bright pink pony which seemed to stick out from the bunch. One such pony he saw among the group, A gray unicorn with yellow and red, and black eyes. A feature which seemed awfully striking to him. It was discord in his pony form! He remembered hearing of Discord in the guard, but had never seen him before until now. "Discord its you isn't it!?" The guard pony said shocked, clearing his throat. Heart shield had a sneaking suspicion that he might have something to do with all of this pepper, but he decided to keep his mouth closed for now seeing as it still burned from inhaling a bunch of it.  

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Boulder Dash felt more alive now then in a long time.  With the finish line coming up he felt nothing could stop him now.  However that turned to surprise and shock when he heard another one of Taira's sneezes only this time it didn't sound planned.  "What in Tarnation?" he asked as he turned back and saw the old Kirin fly backwards.  Coming to a complete stop Boulder Dash looked stunned and angry at rlthe thought if some pony trying to cheat or Celestia firbid hurt his new friend.  He wanted to win but not like this.

 

As such he waited until Taira was back in step with him before running again.  It wasn't about winning anymore but finishing strong with his new friend by his side.  "You alright pardner?  I find out something wicked is about and I'm a personally tan some one's hide and make glue our of it" he said in anger running with Taira with in step.

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Boulder Dash was the first runner to truly challenge Taira and Applejack who had yet to sort out their own battle. For now, the two seemed content on keeping pace with each other. Might as well deal with those behind before trying to really take a powerful lead towards the homestretch, right? When Boulder ran up, he seemed to do so with ease, not much fatiguing him. You'd think with all that mass, a pony like him would find it hard to run long distances. With Applejack being slightly ahead of Taira, Boulder addressed Taira and made it sound like there was a wager involved with those two, as well. Was Taira the kind of kirin that could be constantly dealing with the dangerous habit of gambling? Taira only wished Boulder good luck as Boulder effortlessly passed him and approached Applejack. He also made a wager of sorts, he thought his little brother would be flirting with Apple Bloom at the finish line. "I can't even imagine that." Applejack rolled her eyes.

 

Apple Bloom was, of course, around the finish line. She and the family would be waiting for Applejack to take gold, or take whatever place medal. In fact, several Apple family members had attended the day's events to see it for themselves, some of them traveling longer distances than just up the road to Sweet Apple Acres. And this was evident by the music they were playing and dancing, preparing to celebrate for the most apple-tastic of race finishes. Her family would never relent the opportunity to support her in competition. As for Boulder Dash, it seemed the desire to flirt with fillies ran in the family. If his little brother was anything like the stocky stallion, it was likely Apple Bloom got the same treatment she has with this resilient colt. Taira had mentioned his family was watching, so it seemed as though everypony had family stakes involved in the finish. No one wanted to let their kin down.

 

Spoiler

 

 

 

As Applejack and Taira were chasing Boulder Dash, they started to run over the last few easy hills and music was being played by Apple ponies could be heard in the distance. "Looks like I got family too, Hun, and I can't let them down either!" As Taira overtook Applejack to run towards Boulder Dash, Applejack attempted to follow the clean air behind the dragon pony.  As she looked at Taira, she noticed him showing the first signs of fatigue.  Seems everyone had their own limit. "What's the matter, pal, feeling a little burned out?  Well, you're about to be burned!"  Applejack increased pace to overtake Taira, and as she passed him, she looked back to see the grimace on his face.

 

While looking back at him, Applejack noticed in the distance behind them were the rest of the racing ponies, including Ra-Ra. Ra-Ra looked stalled. Coloratura seemed to be  out of gas and it wasn't looking like she would be able to finish. Luckily, Hawke Dreamcrest, who Applejack thought had just been one of the sweetest griffons Applejack has ever met in a competition, was there to cheer her on. Applejack had learned a valuable lesson from Ra-Ra this day, and she wasn't going to forget it. The drive to run clean and honest was only up to her, and she was going to make sure that the encouragement Ra-Ra gave her would not go to waste. Applejack felt empowered by the interactions they had, and could honestly admit Ra-Ra's support being a major factor in her ability to succeed so far in the race. "This one's for you, Ra-Ra." Applejack focused forward.

 

Taira had a burst of energy though, and passed Applejack again. Although, she was able to keep up behind him and his magical tail. At this moment, the raccoon atop the kirin acquired a pepper shaker and became sprinkling pepper all around Taira. Taira's magical aura and his turbulent tail would cause the pepper to spread into a cloud that surrounded Applejack, and she was unable to avoid the trap. Applejack started sneezing involuntarily shortly after Taira's run-in with the cloud of pepper. "Aaaachooo!" Because the raccoon traveled on the kirin, the cloud was moving with them. She considered dropping back away from him, but she could not sacrifice the space, this was do or try! She passed him, but with the power of sneeze, Taira was able to retract to his advantage. Applejack wasn't even worried about being ahead or behind anypony, she just didn't want to sneeze, or crash. Even more worrying, the kirin seemed to be in between states, the shape of Taira's muzzle and his tail trembling with the rapids of his sneezing. Applejack wasn't sure what was going on, but then she realized how easy it was for kirin to transform into nirik when angered. Taira had done a good job up until now keeping his cool, she figured, but the animal on his back finally vexed him enough for him to grow flustered. And Applejack couldn't blame him.

 

"Pft, pachhuuuuuuu," Applejack attempted to hold back her nasal tendencies, but the pepper was strong. "Get that raccoon awaaachuuu, away from us!" Only a few moments later, Pinkie would find a way to save the day by throwing Gummy to Taira's head and dealing with the matter. Eventually, the two creatures would end up being hung on a tree branch, Taira and Applejack escaping the presence of the raccoon, and free from the clutches of pepper inhalation. Pinkie scooted herself up to them. "Thanks a lot, Pinkie.  I really owe you one or two."

 

As the kirin and the orange earth pony trailed on having escaped the annoying episode of the pepper cloud, Applejack wanted to finally remind Taira of what he spoke earlier. "Yeah yeah, so the hat. I am totally willing to part with a hat if you beat me." Applejack smiled, feeling extremely profitable. "But what if I win.  What do I get if I keep you from wearing that shiny yellow medal?"

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Taira galloped along , his pace still carrying him steadily ahead along with Applejack. He could practically hear the music in his head as the trees whizzed by him and his company.  Having boulder worrying about him as he ran on ahead, starting to huff and pant took him back to his past for a moment. Back when the pack would race on he mountain tops Ranu would often pull aside in hunts to check up on him. The sentimentality was starting to make the old kirin a tad misty eyed... or maybe that was just a side effect from the burning sensation in his nose. Either way, he was proud to be run with Boulder at his side.  "Nothing but a bit of foul play from a clearly nervous rival whose a bit scared he won't be the talk of the town for a few days!"

 

A glance back would bring those vibrant green eyes of his to lock with Discord's red, "Seems some old mountains are exactly as young as they think!" He would yell back to the dark stallion. With Discord's minion and his dangerous pepper shaker disposed off, Taira could only hope he'd see that wily noodle in pony form climb whatever wall he was hitting. To add insult to Injury he would list off to the side, ensuring that at least strife would get caught in his competition's peppery wake. Even chaos was not above reproach... although you'd think some old spirits would learn that by now!

 

Someone down at the stands had hopped up and was still playing to hype up the racers and possibly the spectators as well. If Applejack strained her eyes she would see a pastel colored kirin in the distance strumming vigorously at what would look to the untrained eye like some sort of long necked banjo! That must have been the kirin's 'pup' as he called him earlier, the little fella clearly had a song in his heart and was eagerly twirling and dancing on the seats where he could get away with it! A snicker escaped the bleary eyed stallion and with a shake of his head to clear his vision he found himself with further resolve. Taira also couldn't help but notice a small brown mare in the distance seeming staring daggers at him while she hoped and jumped around flailing pom-poms about. Seemed everyone had some family in the stands today! 

 

Even equestrian heroes had their limits it seemed, poor applejack wound up having to deal with the raccoon's peppery tactics not long after Taira had. Given how much of a toll this race had taken on his nose he still would have told the mare that she got the olfactory easy route through. He was still feeling polite enough to smirk sidelong at her, "Gesundhoof! That's what you say here, right?" A loud snap could be heard as the burly kirin snapped a branch beneath his weight and speed, "Let's hope both of us don't end up needing to share a tissue box at the end of this!" At this point he and Applejack were neck and neck, swapping spots at the lead as if each was taking turns lassoing the other behind the other.  Taira may have started to feel the effects of his age,but as far as he was concerned... this was just him hitting his own wall and already he could start to feel the effects of his runner's high. 

 

"Hmm... Only waiting until now to name your terms, you're sneakier than I thought!" He snickered deviously as he moved to pull ahead, "You're a farmer right? Well how about if I lose I work on you farm for two weeks. No pay, no guestroom!" And for a moment Taira felt a sort of tension in the air... oh hayseeds: He may have just made a pact if she agreed or altered the terms and then agreed.

 

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Ra-Ra's legs continued to push her as much as she could be allowed to. The pace had slackened and slowed considerably. In the distance, she could see Applejack and Taira starting to pull away completely from her. From time to time it looked like others were able to pull alongside and make a case for themselves but Ra-Ra was not among this group. It was clear she had nothing left. Her determination did not waver. She was not going to give up. She was going to finish and she was going to finish as well as this body of hers would allow. Luckily she wasn't alone in wanting to see just how far she could push herself, and Hawke was there with a quick pick me up.

Ra-Ra turned her head to face the griffoness, a grin plastered on her sweaty face. "Nice of you to say, Hawke. Sure seems like...you, uhh, bonded...with Pinkie Pie as well," she smirked, allowing herself some levity as she continued to pump her legs as much as she could. She had no intention of stopping, even if victory was out of her grasp.

A blush stained Hawke's cheeks, the griffon rubbed the back of her head awkwardly with a little smile. "Ehehe, yeah it seems so. She's pretty great so far." she said looking ahead towards the pink mare as her and her pet's 'battle' with the raccoon came to a humorous end.

"Once...the blood gets going, the heart pumping, it can be...easy, can't it?" She asked, half to Hawke, half to herself as she looked at the pale orange dot that was Applejack. She chuckled. "This race has been...crazy. Didn't think any of this would have happened."

"Absolutely. When you hit a certain speed, you move faster than your worries, your fears, sometimes your inhibitions. It's a way to feel free when things around you feel so stifling." it's why she ran from home to begin with after all. "And the adrenaline...it can bring out the best and worst in creatures."

"Can't...oh, can't it," she said, remembering vividly the fight she and Applejack had not that long ago. It wasn't just water under the bridge, it was water on the moon, distant and forgettable. "In all honesty...Hawke...think...there's a chance?"

Hawke looked over at Ra-Ra, then up ahead towards Applejack. "Truthfully? Probably! I mean I can't say I know everything when it comes to love. I'm just a griffon that likes to flirt and meet pretty creatures like Pinkie. But what I do think is you should try." Hawke turned her head back to the mare and smiled. "Most regrets come from paths not traveled. So you've got to ask yourself as you come to the fork in the road. Will you regret the path you choose not to take?"

Wait what?! "I meant...the race, Hawke. Yeah, the race. Do you think...?" She asked desperately, lying profusely.

The griffon grinned. Oh she knew better. She was like an open book, but the poor mare was too worn out to tease for right now. "Ooooh, the raaaace. Suuuure suuuure." she said, playing along with a little laugh. "There's always a chance, Ra-Ra! Ever heard the sports term 'Upset'? It's when the one everyone expects to win looses, and an underdog manages where they fail. It doesn't happen all the time. But there's always a chance. Just, listen though. Don't push yourself harder than you need. Don't hurt yourself trying to win, your health's way more important than any medal okay?"


Ra-Ra smiled, though it was a sheepish one at that. "Oh, I think it is too late for that, Hawke. I pushed myself too much earlier. I think I'm running out of pure instinct now. Everything hurts or I can't feel it..." a pregnant pause, then she laughed loudly, "though I guess that is the best way to know you're still ticking. Can't say I've felt this way before about...any of it. So many new...experiences. Think we're getting...enough leaves...down?"

Looking over her shoulder at the leaves falling in the woods behind them, Hawke chuckled. "Enough for kids to hop in piles for weeks to come I'd say." the griffon gave Ra-Ra a pat on the shoulder. "That's what a journey is about ain't it? New experiences. I've been all over this world, and I'm always finding something new out. Either about the world or myself. Oh, and don't worry, that numb will ache and the ache will numb before it's all over. Aaaand you may feel like you got ran over with a train for a few hours. But when you recover, you'll feel better than ever!"


Ra-Ra hoped so. Oh Celestia, did she hope so!

OOC- Dubstep provided Hawke.

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Poor Fire Walker. With the Kirin out of the picture....Did they she even bother to properly introduce herself? She was running alone again, naturally. One other surprise came up. Pinkie Pie did not actually plan the after race party? This might be for the better, as you never want to gorge on sweets after a long run. Hopefully they'll have little sandwiches. Maybe egg salad? Or would the mayonnaise be too much? This will probably end far better than the Las Pegasus 'Run 'N' Wine' Race she and Zelda ran last year. Ponies there did far more wine'ing and less running there. Good times!
 
"You're doing well, Guard Heart Shield!", the mare finally got to throw a few words towards the young stallion. "And yes, that's Discord. It's usually for the best that you don't look him in the eyes." He was like a lost, mangy puppy. Give him attention and he'll just move right into your house. The pesky spirit already spent a day bouncing about her beloved fiancé's house. Oddly enough, the unicorn seemed to enjoy it. "I'm sure just about anything silly that did not involve a certain pink pony was caused by him. Just concentrate on the race and you'll do well...We're almost at the finish line."
 
She could see her family at the finish line, along with almost all of the princesses. Her little sister, Wind Walker stood on her father's back, while shouting out a rather odd cheer. It almost sounded like she was just shouting, 'CHEERING FOR FIRE WALKER!'.  A little yak-girl, most likely from Yakyakistan, was doing the same. Fire also spotted an old friend, Bevel Gear standing nearby. She was getting a bit more sociable than the last time they met. For some reason, she did not approve of the music a cute little kirin was playing. Oh-oh, her father had that 'look'. He could see that his daughter was not leading the pack. Not even close. She was going to hear about this for the rest of her stay!
 
It seemed most of the lead pack was already starting to prepare their speeches and figure out where they would hang their medals, and even a few were making last second bets. Maybe with all this distractions, Fire Walker could quickly pull ahead! That's probably not going to happen, but she would at least make the attempt, by giving it all...She could do it!
 
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Finally managing to catch up with the group, Heart shield galloped as fast as he could. The burning of the pepper in his throat was starting to subside but there was still that little itch. At this point He focused on just keeping pace with the pack, he wasn't going to win but at least he might place well. He could the finish line ahead. all kind of ponies stood cheering. He wondered if his parents where there. The crowd was still a bit indistinguishable yet, He did kind of join the race on a whim tho so he didn't expect them to know. Heart Shield decided it was best to keep his focus on the path ahead. 

1 hour ago, tacobob said:

"You're doing well, Guard Heart Shield!",

Among the pack was the red mare he had recognized as a guard he had seen in his early days of joining. "Thanks!" Heart shield responded realizing he didn't know her name. It seemed this guard knew him tho "Forgive me for not catching your name, It seems we may have met before" Heart shield said as galloped along, trying to keep pace as best as he could. He was a little uneasy knowing he was in the proximity of Discord tho. He has heard about him before.

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"Thank you. But I think that's what they say in Germaney." Applejack answered to the kirin's acknowledgement of the sneeze fest they both had had. Small remarks about needing tissues nearly distracted Applejack from her current state of mind. She had achieved the runner's high, not being overly concerned with things that do not immediately effect the running of the leaves. The only thing that would stop Applejack from her gallop would be a broken bone or the finish line. Still, it did not keep Applejack from sharing her post-race plans. "After we're done, I'm gonna eat a huge dinner and go to the spa, if I don't fall asleep on the way there, that is."

 

Taira offered to work pro bono on the farm if Applejack was able to beat him. "Heh. That'll work! Big Mac could use a vacation. But I'll let you bunk in the barn, there's plenty of room in our hayloft." Applejack, now with a new reward tacked on to the already elusive prize, could taste the sweetness of victory, the wafting of the scent of it drifting in front of her, manipulating her to take charge. And she would do so steadily, edging just ahead of Taira. Though Boulder was in front of both of them, she was certain that this race was ultimately between Taira and Applejack, as Taira had been towards the front of the pack all race.

 

Taira's high was rapidly taking his mind... The look on his face though wasn't one of frustration or desperation. It was the type of audacious grin one might see on one who was assured that he was to come out on top! Even though some of his features seemed to be leaking through his magical guise, Taira couldn’t bring himself to dwell on this spell. He could only hope he’d maintain his form long enough that he could cross the finish line. All he could think about was this intensity, this burning desire that flared up from the fire in his belly… this urge to triumph! Even through this heated sprint he and Applejack found themselves and he had enough presence of mind to remark on his new rival’s post-race plans. “If you can’t make it there yourself I’ll be sure to carry you there! I’ll need a relaxing day once all this is done! ...And you’ll need a deluxe package just to wipe all the egg off your face!” Now he had even more drive to win. This deal was binding between them now, if he lost this to her, he’d have to work on her farm… and he’d have to stay in the hayloft! He knew his nose would never forgive that, especially after this day.

 

Taira did not wait to rise to the next level of speed, as the kirin's tail was now in Applejack's face, once again. A harsh snort came from the Kirin, plumes of misty smoke flowing from his nostrils as he slipped just behind Boulder’s wake and then used the reduced drag to swiftly retake the spot from Applejack.

 

"I'll take the egg, just get yer aura magical essence thing outta my way." Applejack turned to the other side of the kirin, making a dash to pass him before a turn in the path. After the turn, she also passed Boulder. "Ladies first!" She smirked.

 

That grin only seemed to grow as Applejack slipped past him when the next turn came up! This was by far the most cunning farmer Taira had ever encountered. It was oh-so-tempting to just drop his glamour now and let his natural stride make up for the distance… but he wanted to show up this mare on her own terms! The next turn was a bit too far away for Taira’s liking and knowing this pony she surely would expect he’d try that trick. No, he needed something a bit slicker. Side to side, Taira drifted on the road in an erratic pattern, baiting and feinting as to when he would seize his place ahead of her. As soon as Applejack listed to try and keep him behind her he would surge on ahead until he was right at her side once more! In this mad rush of delight, he would shout out something in his native tongue as he pulled sharply ahead of her for what time he could manage before she made her next move. “無駄骨(Mudabone)!”

 

Applejack was momentarily puzzled when the kirin ran to the other side of her, when she had expected him to be behind her as they followed the next bend. He was a kirin well-versed in pacing and she was impressed. But the mare had tricks up her fetlocks, too.  Applejack let the kirin pace ahead of her, and as she eyed a sturdy rock that sat in the middle of the path about knee-high, she timed her  gait so that her hooves landed on the rock. With strength, she pushed off the rock and jumped into the air, gaining just enough air to pass Taira ahead of her, not on either side, but over him!  "Yeehaw!" She yelled as she landed. All those years of hurdles at the rodeo were paying off.

 

That jump would have earned Applejack an impressed whistle if Taira wasn't so focused on the road ahead.  Applejack's aerial tactic made him miss that wily old raccoon.  He might have brought back the sneeze strategy if  he wasn't so sure he would blow his disguise away along with the competition.  Steams of mist trailed behind the kirin before they were added to the  great cloud of leaves and debris behind him. Coming up to the next turn her moved in once again to try and get neck and neck with Applejack, "Careful there, Ma'am! wouldn't want a 'lady' like yourself to throw a horseshoe now would we?" 

 

He hoped he might bait her into talking so he could again overtake her, he was still huffing and puffing , but at a regular and steady pace so he wouldn't wear himself out and run out of breath. This Kirin wouldn't let up! Applejack could hear the whimper from the kirin's breathing, it sounding a lot like Big Mac after a long days work. He must have been getting tired. "If I did would you be a gentlecolt and fetch it for me?" She asked with swagger.

 

Taira only gained a small bit of ground coming around the next turn, this time again beside the orange mare. He carefully kept himself between her and any other rocks she might see fit to spring board off of, "I think maybe I should leave that to Boulder back there! If I wasn't so sure your friend back there was stuck on you, I'd say you two would produce a good family of farm ponies!" This time he hoped to distract her a moment with such thoughts! The second she spoke again he would surge forward a bit until he was ahead.

 

Adhering to the expected befuddlement, the mare had grown exhausted at the notion of Boulder Dash's advances and could not resist the urge to cut the comment down with a scolding. "Now I don't know why you would think--" As Taira sped by Applejack, his tail whipping softly but annoyingly in her face. "Hay!"

 

Feeling a bit cheeky he let his misty tail flap and sway across the mare's muzzle with a smirk, "Sorry I couldn't keep this out of your face! I swear my tail's got a mind of it's own!"

Once she realized getting her thinking and retorting about needless relationships, Applejack dropped the thought in order to keep up with the crafty kirin. Instead of using the course to her advantage, she decided to turn on the afterburners and give herself a short burst of speed, just enough to be running abreast with Taira once again. She had energy left in the tank, and now was a good time to use it.

 

"Really though, you should talk to her once your done here! I got a feeling she's got somethin' on her chest!" As he ran neck and neck with his competition he would wink her way, "Trust me!" Applejack wasn't immediately understanding what the bold kirin was saying, but once his tone fell less cocky, it was obvious he was mentioning the connection she had with Ra-Ra, during practically the whole race. In acknowledgement, she nodded, knowing there would be plenty of time for pleasantries after the race. Taira still hadn't quite let himself go all out just yet, he had a feeling he'd know just when the time was right. Somehow he knew it would be coming up very soon though, the finer points of his guise were wearing thin. Teeth looked sharp and conical, his green eyes seemed to starting to glow faintly, and oddly enough there seemed to be some sort of sparks jumping off his forehead between his horns! "Let's see who comes out on top in the end, friend! No flirts, no games, no raccoons... Just our last mad dash to the finish." His grin was practically manic now, "Whaddya say, Applejack?"

 

"You know what, Taira. You're on! Let's finish fair and square, and leave nothing but the leaves." The two trampled the path abreast of each other, neither deciding to bolt out ahead yet, but constantly thinking about how soon to make that last final move. The move that would, barring a major upset from racers behind, give the pony who made the right choice the honors of wearing gold and being crowned the champion of this year's running of the leaves.

 

((Pretzelparty provided Taira via chat RP.  Thank you, Pressy!))

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Boulder Dash was pleased to see both Taira and Applejack back where they belonged.  Upfront with him as he ran neck and neck with them on AJ's  left.  The three of them where together now neck and neck listening as they bantered back and forth.  He had hated the idea of winning g the race through some form of trickery.  His honor never would have allowed him to live it down which was why he had it waited for them to catch back up after the pepper incident.  Sure he had prevented winning out right but the little stop made him feel better as well as give him a rest.  He smiled as he saw them go back and forth and added his own two bits in, "I thought it was my job to tease the purdey Mares here?"

 

Running side by side with his friends was a fulfilling task for Boulder Dash but soon he saw finish line coming into view.  He listened as AJ and Taira agreed no more games and no trickery as he began to to pent up and release all he had for one final mad dash.  "No matter how this ends it has been an honor running with y'all this year.  No I have no regrets and that it's been a blast.  Let's give one final burst of speed fer town and fer ourselves" he said.

 

Boulder Dash then let loose all he had and shot forward toward the finish pushing ahead of AJ and Taira letting loose a mad howl of a cheer.  Now or never, this was the final shot to victory.  No matter what happened he knew he had done well and made the town proud.  However as he ran forward he saw something in front of him.  That was odd, no pony was in front of him and Taira and AJ.  What the hay was going on?

 

Suddenly he realized no pony else could see the mysterious runner, not the ponies racing with him nor the ones banging their hoofs and cheering in the stands.  "What?..Who?" Boulder Dash asked as the figure turned and smiled at him with a wink.  As he did Boulder Dash realized who he was seeing and felt tears well up in his eyes as he did so.  "Pa?  Thanks" he said as the pony vanished and he let the tears fall.  Running with all he had he shouted loudly as the finish line came closer and closer with the ponies around cheering him and the other racers on.

 

"Raaaaaaaaggggggghhhhhhhhh!" he shouted as he bolted forward with every last stride he had.

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This was fantastic! Everyone out here was giving it their all even after the struggles the race has thrown at them so far. It was just one of the many things the griffon enjoyed about the thrill of racing. Every creature in this refused to give up, win or lose! It was more than just helping the leaves fall, it was more than just aiming for victory. It was a chance to prove yourself to yourself. To show your friends and family your dedication. Everyone here had a different reason for running this race but that goal was the same. The finish line wasn't just and end to the race, it represented the culmination of everything that brought them here today. Maybe some where just in it for helping the leaves fall, maybe some were like Hawke and loved the thrill of speed. Whatever their reasons may be, they were united in the same purpose. To finish. Hawke turned her head again to Ra-Ra and nodded. "You've got this girl. I'll see you at the finish line. And don't forget what we talked about." she gave the mare a wink and sprinted off ahead back to the pack before she could get a chance to deny the twitterpated feelings that were surely in there somewhere.

 

Hawke glanced off towards the finish line, it wouldn't be long now. She glanced around at her fellow racers, and at the stands filled with their friends and loved ones cheering them on, ready to congratulate them at the end. A pang of sadness passed through the griffon. Normally, it didn't bother her. She'd been away from home for a while now, no one even knew where she was. She wouldn't want her parents here even if they did. So she was used to not having a cheering section, but today. Today it stung a little as the realization sat in. She shook her head swiftly and sped up. She slowed down too much. Move faster, run harder, the feelings can't catch you if you keep moving.

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As Boulder managed to pull up nearby Taira and Applejack, the kirin would smirk back at his words. "I'll have you know..." He called back as his dash snapped branches and scatters a wake of dust behind him, "I'm an equal opportunity tease, Boulder-san!" Taira certainly hoped that he phrasing couldn't possibly be used differently in a separate context and made into something embarrassing.

 

He jumped over one of his friend's namesakes and called back, "Watch your hooves, friend! You too, Applejack!" Boulder's words only emboldened the panting kirin's spirit, "You say that like this is the absolute end! Remember,  you're gonna have a couple hungry ponies at your house... especially when I say..." The kirin took in a deep breath, filling his lungs with air and then letting it out in a booming voice that echoed across the track, hopefully reaching a certain pink pony's ear.

 


"PARTY AT BOULDER'S PLACE AFTER THE RACE!"

 

 

A devious grin was shot the stallion's way before Taira again tried to pull forward, only slowing when he realized that his friend said nothing! A glance backwards resulted in an arch of the kirin's brow. Boulder seemed to be staring at a vacant spot beside him and then tearing up, "You okay, Boulder-san? Look like you might have seen a ghost... well a ghost you must have liked!" Whatever got into Boulder's head clearing lit a fire in him as he worked to come ahead. That smile on Taira's face only got bigger as he watched his friend giving it all he had: It was simply inspiring!

Edited by Pretzelparty
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