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SteelEagle

The End: Final Standings and Aftermath!

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Mayor Mare watched the end of the race with razor sharp eyes, or as sharp as they could be behind her glasses. It had been a close finish, a blizzard of dust and sound almost causing her to miss out who had won. She hadn't though. Neither had the race coordinator or the aides, who all saw enough despite the cloud of dust. They all had a pause shared between one another and nodded, with the Mayor approaching the podium after some time, allowing the initial jubilations

"Congratulations everypony who participated in this year's Running of the Leaves! Thanks to your efforts, we estimate that more than eighty percent of the leaves along the route came down this time. This is a new record for the Running of the Leaves and it isn't something we could have done without all of the hard work you put in. Ponyville, and indeed all of Equestria, thanks you!"

Ponies stomped their approval to and fro.

"It is now time to give out the ribbons and medals for this year's Running of the Leaves," she said as her aides started to work on giving out all the participation awards. Everypony had helped complete today's event. While a small number of racers had indeed done a great deal of work, the vast majority came from the dozens and dozens of competitors who had not even sniffed the front of the pack. They were all important. But the top five would get something special. In previous years they would have ribbons and medals and the medals were of similar types. This year, each medal was different.

The five winners were placed on an ascending podium for the Mayor to reach. She started at fifth, and what a conestant it was!

"Hawke the Griffoness, I award you the Whitetail Medal. Made of the purest wood from the Whitetail Woods itself, it reflects the beauty and strength of these woods and the ponies- or in your case, Griffon- who ran this year. Wear it with pride!" She said to the stomping congratulations of many onlookers. Just a few short years ago and nopony would have believed the sight of a Griffon competing in the race, let alone imagining such a positive response.

The next one was harder if only because Boulder Dash was so broad that she worried for a second that the medal might not fit around his neck. The worry was misplaced, and it was done and over within a flash. "I award you the Copper Medal, Boulder Dash. Your physicality was exquisite to behold. Why, you look like you could run this whole thing again right now. Thank you for all your hard work today, we're happy to have you live in our fair town."

The Mayor found a way to give the next medal to Pinkie Pie, whenever she could find the time and moment to get it on the energetic mare. Such a delightful presence, even if she made the Mayor feel old! "To Ponyville's Party Pony Pinkie Pie, I award the Bronze Medal! Your energy and excitement truly inspired many to greater feats and you constantly brought a smile to everypony you ran across. I couldn't imagine this going to anypony nicer."

"To our valued kirin visitor Taira," the Mayor began as she went to go give the Silver Medal to the very deserving competitor. He was very large, so the Mayor had to wait for the head to be bowed a bit before continuing, "...I award you the Silver Medal! Your creativity, spirit, energy, and impactful running could be felt across the land. You are a credit to your kind and a true friend to Equestria," she said with a smile, backing up so she could take full scope of the size of the kirin. An impressive specimen, no doubt! "I hope you take this Silver Medal and wear it wherever you may go with pride and satisfaction in a job well done."

"And finally," she said as she approached the winner of the race. It was Applejack, the mare who had come in second place multiple times and had finally pulled through. The Mayor pulled the Gold Medal over Applejack's head and allowed it to rest heavily on the mare, "I award Applejack of Sweet Apple Acres the Gold Medal, as the winner of this year's Running of the Leaves. Your great speed, endurance, and strength are known to all and were put on full display. But what many bore witness to today was something that those who have lived here have long known: Your greatest strength is your character, your most remarkable trait is your will. You earned today's victory, Applejack, and I hope you will remember it fondly."

A large cheer went up for the winner, and confetti seemingly out of nowhere dropped in celebration. If there was an orchestral score, it would swell to congratulate Applejack, winner of the Annual Running of the Leaves!

"Thank you all for participating in this year's event. Let us make next year's even better!"

Final Standings:

 


1- Applejack: 83 (12, 9, 13, 11, 12, 12, 14):smug:
2- Taira: 82 (10, 11, 11, 14, 11, 12, 13):greenwolf:
3- Pinkie Pie: 75 (10, 8, 14, 10, 12, 10, 11) :D
4- Boulder Dash: 74 (8, 10, 11, 11, 14, 10) :Celest:
5- Hawke: 72 (9, 6, 14, 15. 10, 10) :carp: *Tiebreaker winner*
6- Coloratura: 72 (9, 9, 12, 14, 11, 9, 8 ) :pathfinder:
7- Fire Walker: 67 (10, 8, 9, 12,10, 8, 10) :artax:
8- Discord: 54 (7, 8, 8, 8, 10, 8, 5) :kyubey:
9- Loose Cannon: 51 (8, 7, 8, 8, 12, 5, 3) ;)
10- Heart Shield: 39 (1, 3, 2, 5, 4, 13, 11)  :)
11- Swift Squall: 30 (9, 9, 2, 4, 1, 2, 3):wail:
12- Ice Storm: 28 (7, 5, 3, 2, 6, 2, 3) :Luna:

 

 

 

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So it had finally ended. Once Taira felt the tape brushing limp past him he knew he had lost. He did feel the barest hint of regret that he wasn't able to come out on top, but he was an older creature. Strong and able as he was he knew that he couldn't expect to wind every competition he got into. In those last moments crossing the finish line he would gradually come to a halt as he skidded against the path. All the mist he had produced seemed to shift in the wind and then all roll back to the panting kirin, the magical vapors swirling and churning around him to obscure him from view. Behind the small curtain of mist the hidden kirin would gather his focus to allow his magical disguise to repair itself. From Taira's perspective he could see the silhouette's of the other racers crossing and a smile came to his lips, "Can't win 'em all, I s'pose." He mused to himself as he stepped right back out, now looking more like his serene self at the start of the race. 

The stallion still seemed to be puffing and huffing in his exhaustion. He could feel his foreleg aching not long after he waved over to the pastel colored kirin in the stands with the pink horns.  A look of panic came to his face as the wall of wind, leaves, dust and trace amounts of pepper blasted over him and the rest of the racers and some of the crowd. Quick reflexes brought his leg up to shield his still sensitive nose from the sudden rush of irritants. Once the wall of wind finally passed he let out relieved sigh, "That was close."

 

Watching the last runners cross the finish line, Taira smiles at all the faces... even certain darker visages. He'd heard Discord was a sore loser... he could only hope he wouldn't be so sore as to avoid him later in town. However the slippery spirit decided to meet Taira later, this old dog felt he deserved at least a short victory dance.

 

Spoiler

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

Once the aides and the Mayor of the town made their way to the Podium by the finish line, Taira stiffened up with an embarrassed grin: Stopping his dance as soon as he felt eyes beyond his racing competitors upon him. If he recalled correctly this was a time for him to be a bit more stationary and respectful. He tried his best to keep his composure but even the least sharp eyed spectator could see the kirin's tail wagging behind him like an excitable puppy. He couldn't hide his goofy grin either, this had been so much fun and as much as he wanted to respect this land's traditions he also wanted to howl with delight.

 

He did have enough discipline to hold any yips and barking for the party at Boulder's place. He was not going to let that country-pony forget that! Now that the topic of the other racers popped back into his head, his ears perked up as the Mayor began to hoof out the medals. With each name called his smile perked again, Hawke had placed, Boulder had placed (as if there was any doubt), Even Pinkie had earned a medal! Those in the audience would see the kirin still fidgeting with excitement, only pausing when he noticed a strange scent right beside him. He had to scrunch up his muzzle to try and deal with the sudden itch that spread across it. Where was it coming from? Suddenly the call of his own name made him perk up. 

 

Mayor mare must have been wearing some type of potent perfume today, The kirin wiggled his nose a moment but stiffened up and lowered his head to recieve his prize. He could be very happy with silver: it worked well with colors after all! When he bowed down though that put his snout right in front of the mayor's chest and directly in front of the source of the ticklish scent. As the medal was draped over his  neck he was only able to dip his head in thanks as the intense tickle in his muzzle seemed to flare up like wildfire. He did manage to let out a breathy congratulations to Applejack but seconds after he was back to scrunching and wiggling his snout. His resolve crumbled rapidly as a certain kirin in the stand waved his hooves as if pleading the kirin to stop whatever was about to happen. 

 

"Hehh....ehhh..."

 

If any of the other racer's took notice of those familiar facial scrunches they knew was about to happen... or least suspect part of what was to come.


"Thank you all for participating in this year's event. Let us make next year's even better!"

 

Not two seconds after Mayor Mare spoke the last part of her speech came a deep breathy gasp from behind. A deafening roar of a sneeze blasted out of the foreigner, "HRUUUUUUUh-HYEAAAAAAAKSHUUUHHH!" It sent a powerful gale across the crowds and produced a gigantic explosion of Mist. The sheer force of it sent the kirin tumbling back the other way on the finish line. The shock to his system tore away at his disguise and left the figure that produced the sneeze sprawled out and dizzy on the road. The creature that sat where the kirin should have been wobbled for a moment as it got to its feet. It was much taller than it was before, with its head up  he stood about as tall as Celestia herself.

 

 

 

 

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Taira felt as if he'd just been hit by a runaway carriage. Was that perfume Lilac based? That stuff always seemed to make him act like a conduit for the least pleasant of windstorms. A sense of dizziness was imparing his sense, both physical and common. Another itch shooting down the length of his nose made him clap what he thought would be a hoof to it. He practically froze in place as he noticed something was wrong. The hoof he'd expected was back to the paws he was born with. The moist feeling that met his pads was also not the the kind of moisture one dreaded to touch after a particularly rough sneeze, his old nose was back! 

 

Any hopes that maybe he had reverted to his less... intimidating form dissolved as he noticed his natural shroud of mountain mist flowing down his back and the faint green glow traveling up his forelegs. The silver medal still hung off his neck so it was still definitely the same one who had raced all the way here, but Taira was admittedly worried that he may cause a panic in this form if he lingered. He attempted to willing the mist into  a shroud  that he could try and flee in, but another fit of sneezing broke his casting and he was left sniffling and huffing on the other side of the finish line. Luckily the fits didn't produce more than stiff breezes that rustled the mane as opposed to the explosive bout of windstorms he'd produced just a second ago. Perhaps the lack of dramatic gasps was the reason.

Back in the stands, a certain yellow kirin was cupping his face in his hooves and muttering something in neighponese... 

Edited by Pretzelparty
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Fifth place! Okay. Hawke could live with that. Third would have been fantastic, she'd have felt a lot more pride in her accomplishment then fifth, but at least she placed. Not to mention the fact she was the only griffon that placed! That actually did mean a lot. Well to her anyway, she wasn't sure how any ponies here felt about it. Though a lot of hometown griffons would probably just scoff at the idea of being in a race against ponies, let alone getting fifth place in a competition. Most races, not even third place got anything. Hawke bowed her head down as the Mayor placed the gorgeous wooden medal around her neck before raising back up with a smile. "Thank you ma'am, I'm honoured." Hawke was hardly surprised at the other medalists who placed ahead of her. While Boulder Dash could have certainly pushed ahead into the lead, Pinkie Pie managed to beat him out with her last burst of speed. And Taira and Applejack? Well as she expected, it had came down to those two, but it seems this time the farm pony had came out on top!

 

Hawke was thankful she pushed herself as hard as she could in the last few moments. It had given her enough time to bury those negative thoughts and memories away for another time. Today was a time to celebrate! The race was done, she placed, the cute mare she was going on a date with later placed, there was going to be a party or two! What wasn't to like? Consideration on that was cut short however by the sound of a colossal sneeze rocking the area. A large wave of mist exploding out around from Taira...Poor guy would have to get his allergies in check, surely there was some kind of medicine that...would...What? Where the kirin once stood was a huge, like HUGE wolf. Same colours, same medal, yeah that was Taira but what was Taira?! Hawke's jaw dropped in shock and confusion as she watched the wolf huff and sniffle and sneeze..."So...everyone sees this right? It's not exhaustion from the race making me hallucinate, is it?..."

Edited by Dubstep
Misunderstood Pressy's post, Taira's not fleeing, the sneezies are just scooting him back a bit x3
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Fourth place was still even and in the top five.  For Boulder who always prided himself on helping his friends and neighbors it was honor enough knowing all his hard work had paid off, dropping what leaves he could.  But to actually standing with a medal around his neck made him even prouder.  His Ma and little brother Rocky had already praised him and he knew his Pa was smiling down on him as well.  At the same time word of the after party had reached his Ma's ear and the idea of working with Pinkie Pie to hold a celebration at the farm had brought joy to her eyes he hadn't seen in a Dog's age.

 

Was about to lean over and whisper congratulations to AJ, Taira, and Pinkie Pie when a loud racket suddenly broke his train of thought.  Turning he saw a burst of mist and started to fan around him so he could see.  When he could get stared in shock at Taira's new appearance and walked over to him.  "Taira....that you pardner?  Ya'll alright?" he asked?

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Crossing the finish line Heart shield finally was able to take a breather. 10th place was far behind, but he thought it was pretty good for joining in the race way late. The main thing was he had fun, and that was all that mattered to him. He did manage to miss the sap in the whitetail woods, and recovered from a spill near the end of the race. Heart Shield convinced himself he could do better next year. He thought about what he was going to do now that the race was over. As he looked around there where celebrations everywhere, ponies where cheering in the stands. Watching as the top racers where put on a podium and handed out rewards, When out of nowhere there was a loud boom and sudden burst of mist and air! Panicking Heart Shield looked to see that the source was from a kirin which had been standing on one of the podiums. It was hard to see because of the mist surrounding the kirin, but he seemed to be a bit taller than he was before. Finally managing to catch a glimpse there was a large wolf standing in his place! Heart Shields mind raced 100 miles a minute trying to figure out what was happening. As a Royal guard it was his duty to resolve all problems that may arise. Heart shield started to trot cautiously towards the wolf that stood among the mist, but froze before going more that a few steps. What was he going to do!?  So many things raced through his mind that he could not comprehend it all. Knowing this wolf was one the ponies that took part in the race, he didn't want to have a confrontation with him. "Ar... Are you okay there buddy?" Heart shield asked keeping himself ready for anything, what ever that may be. Standing frozen like a statue Heart Shield was conflicted on what to do. Should he try to help him, should he stay right where he was? His mind overwhelmed him, standing there with a confused and worried look on his face. He knew he wanted to help this kirin, and didn't want anything bad to fall upon him. "What should i do!?" Heart Shield asked in a bit of a panic looking around at the ponies who stood around him 

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Pinkie bounced about as the mayor placed the bronze medal around her neck! She was really proud of herself! Turning her gaze behind her a bit, she patted Gummy on his head. "Wow Gummy! We sure did a great job!"

 

She beamed as the other competitors received medals for their accomplishments. Pinkie waved at Hawke and gave her a playful wink. She couldn't wait to spend time with the pretty griffoness at the after party!

 

Then a huge sneeze occurred and Taira stood before them in his wolfy form! Pinkie bounced over near him and smiled. "I knew there was something going on with you!" She gasped at his cool mist cape and his huge huge huge wolf paws! "Wowee! I didn't know kirin could shift their forms and I really didn't know you were a big bad wolf!" She grinned again, trying to help him feel comfortable with all the other creatures gasping and staring at him. "I bet you can really get your groove on in this form huh?"

 

She kept positive. Taira wouldn't hurt her because they were friends...right? She looked up at him hopefully. 

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                     mayor_mare_sig_by_dignifiedjustice-d49ikzh0HVKH.jpgAppleBloomATTEMPT3final.png

The Mayor watched the transformation- felt it more like- at first with a hint of fear. When it was over, however, calm returned. She had worked in many departments in the government, and that included a trip to Neighpon. Her memory was still sharp; she knew what an Okami was. She adjusted her glasses. “Oh, well then, excuse me. Thank you to our Okami visitor,” she said with a smile and matter of factly as if it were no big deal. After all, if she were calm, perhaps others would be.

Apple Bloom had spent much of the race having her view obscured, either by the active members of the Apple family or the crowd which included a very loud Yona, somepony cheerleading for Discord of all critters, and the various odds and ends that called the stands home. But when it came to the final stretch she got to see everything. The determination and the drive, the strain and the pressure, the leaves and hooves that brought them down. Most importantly she saw her sister and saw that she was once again in the thick of it. Once again liable to win or to suffer through another noble second-place finish. Nobility and effort, it seemed, could only get you so far.

But something strange happened on the way another consolation prize.
As the final few meters became visible to Apple Bloom she saw both Applejack and the strange looking Kirin charging like they were possessed. She could feel the focused energy radiating off of both of them. But she could see Applejack clear as day. She could see that the world had faded around her. Apple Bloom cheered but she doubted Applejack could hear her. Applejack had entered the zone, the world was right, and the finish line was close. Taira was impressive all on his own but it was clear to Apple Bloom before it would be to anypony else.

Applejack was the winner even before she crossed.

Apple Bloom was already off the stands and running to the end of the line before she had crossed. Moments after Applejack crossed the line and before anypony else could congratulate her Apple Bloom was there, jumping into a hug around Applejack's neck. “Ya won! Applejack, ya won tha race!”

As for Coloratura, she finished the race though she didn't finish it with a strong gallop. A nice firm trot, enough to make it appear like all of her muscles weren't failing across the whole body. Any moment she might have to recover was stolen even as she tried to take deep breaths. Stolen immediately, in fact. A gaggle of fans ran up to her started demanding autographs. She wanted desperately to say no but the first fan she failed to make an effort for would be the first. She switched between Ra-Ra and the Countess, doing her best to please them all as she tried to make short work of the process. She had to find a place to rest her screaming legs. Before that though, she had ponies and otherwise to congratulate, and one mare in particular who had been promised dinner. She had to make sure that one came to pass.

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Applejack crossed the finish line and the tape snapped. She felt the tape, but didn't immediately think of what it meant. Everypony was cheering but her intense focus had muted everything but her heartbeat. And she would have seen them if her eyes hadn't been closed for the last fifteen seconds. She started to slow, but was unaware of the impact of the finish, still enveloped in her adrenaline, her psyche attempting to dig herself out of her hypnotic state. When she stopped running, she attempted to gain awareness of her situation, but instead collapsed to the ground because of fatigue. Only until a heartwarming voice squeed over her, would she come to.

 

“Ya won! Applejack, ya won tha race!”

 

It was Apple Bloom. Applejack opened her eyes, the first thing she saw was the blurred skewed image of her little sister smiling wide, her face darkened by shadow in front of a blue sky above. "Apple Bloom!" She gasped, still breathing very heavily. Applejack bounced her eyes around to gain her surroundings and her direction of thought. She slowly came to the realization that her streak was over. "Ah... won?" Applejack picked herself up slowly, dusting off her hooves, though in vain of the extremely filth she had all over her. Her emotion continued to elevate. "I won!" When Applejack looked around, she could see everypony who came to see the finish excited to see all the racers cross the line and took notice of a large group of ponies who were all holding flags with her face on it. It seems as though the Apple family rented out an entire section of the stands. She fell back and took a seat on the ground, an ungraceful thump as she spared her strained legs. She cupped her hooves over her face in disbelief, pulled them away and then exhaled contently. "I won." Apple Bloom gave her a hug where she sat, Applejack giving back a loving embrace postured in such a way to prevent extra aches and pains. She pulled Apple Bloom out of her wrap and looked into her eyes. "There ain't nothin' more satisfying in this world, Apple Bloom, than seeing your hard work pay off. And no one can give you that feeling. But we can help create it." Applejack's breathing was still heavy but was starting to catch up to her body's dramatic finish. She picked herself up again. And started walking towards the event podium.

 

While she slowly walked, other racers were dashing through the finishing gate, all of them desperate for water, air, and the little fillies room. Not too much longer, Coloratura trotted through, her expression one of complete exhaustion. Before Ra-Ra could catch her breath, fans surrounded her asking for autographs, and the musical mare was unable to refuse. Applejack then decided to come to her rescue. She gave a side hug to an unsuspecting Ra-Ra, and pulled her away. "Thanks ya'll, the Countess needs a breather." Applejack would not take no for an answer, attempting to block the view of any camera pointed in her direction. She thought it was pretty humorous that even in victory, avid fans would still rather gain the attention of a celebrity pony. "Ra-Ra, you finished!" Applejack didn't think Ra-Ra would be able to finish with as good of time as she did. She knew that other ponies with no athletic experience had finished the run with reasonable effort. But considering the time Ra-Ra made was impressive, she finished among some pretty fast racers! "I'm so proud of you. I know right now you're wanting to forget the pain and suffering, but after you sleep tonight, you'll never forget the time you ran the leaves!" Applejack walked her towards the podium, Ra-Ra limping slightly, but so was she. Neither of them would run for a week.

 

Applejack stood up on the podium, taking the steps to get to the top center. When she reached the maximum height, she felt so accomplished. She had seen first place perspective at rodeos and cider festivals, but she had never seen it here in Ponyville's town center. Being able to be hoisted in this setting made her orange pelt glow golden, her smile radiant with satisfaction, no regret in her expression. As the mayor presented the medals, she reflected on all the friends that helped her get her to this point, in the race, and in life. She was also thankful for the new friends she had made, including this new interesting kirin character Taira, who seemed very on edge. Not everycreature could come to a rest as easy as Applejack. When Mayor came to Applejack, she lowered her head, and hung the medal on her neck, the shimmer of the golden medallion reflecting all of the animated cheering going on in front of her. A tear prepared for deployment.

 

But before she could have another sentimental moment, Taira had a raging fit of sneezing, one that involved a magical spray of nasal excrete. When the mist fell away and the kirin was seen again, he wasn't seen at all. Instead in his place was a much larger creature, something like that of a wolf but with a mane like a princess. A wolf prince? "What kinna kirin are you!?" Applejack yelled, everypony around her also remarking on the creature's reveal. It looked like he had tried to escape, but his constant sneezing would not allow him to control his motion. Pinkie seemed to think she knew all along. Would have been nice for her to share this pinkie sense with her before. "Pinkie, you knew? What else do you know?" She wondered if she didn't actually win the race but was instead hallucinating everything, the best griffon racer speaking Applejack's thoughts into existence. It certainly wouldn't have been the first time she blacked out.

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The first to approach Taira in the tail end of his fit was Boulder. Honestly, he would be slightly saddened if that wasn't the case based on the stallion's goo will exhibited in the race. Windy sneezes changed to breezy coughs and then to a gentle snuffle when he felt he'd finally gotten most of that perfume out of his system. Now standing noticeably taller compared to the bulky country-colt he offered him a subdued smile, trying not to show off any teeth. "It's me alright..." Another soft cough came from the large yokai, "So... still up for that drinking contest? I think I might have a bit of an edge on you now that I look like this." A paw was offered in friendship to Boulder, large as it was it could still shake a hoof as the stallion soon learned. 

 

Ears perked at Heart Shield's question, "I could do with a tissue perhaps! Otherwise I'm perfectly fine." His response was punctuated by a soft sniffle. The arrival of the bouncing party pony made the big creatures tail start to wag about in delight, wisps of mist slipping and dissipating off the end of his tail as it waved about behind him. Once she got close enough he got down on his front paws and swiftly slipped beneath her as she came down on her last bounce: letting her land perfectly on his back. With his pink companion safely seated on his back he would eagerly walk back to the crowd with her and boulder, "To be honest I haven't gotten to attend a proper dance party in ... Hm... I think the last one was a millennia ago. Think you can teach this old dog some new dance tricks, Pinkie-san?"

 

Taira was honestly surprised by how composed the mayor was, but he was most certainly not going to complain. Any official who could keep a stunned crowd calm after such an odd circumstance as this deserved his respect. Once he returned to the finishing line with two of the ponies he'd come to admire in this race he would nod appreciatively to the Mayor, mouthing a thank you her way once he was close enough. 
 

One pony he was sure was going to expect some answers. Applejack was having such a heartfelt moment with her kin and basking in her pride when Taira had to spoil it all by making a scene. "Well, I can't say for sure I know how much this clever one knows..." He glanced back to Pinkie for a moment then back to Applejack, "... But I think I can elaborate. Sorry for the scare back there and the bit of deception." He offered his paw to her , "The answer to that first question you asked is..."

From the stands the descending yellow kirin rolled his eyes and rapidly stomped his hooves on the wood, producing a short drumroll that he ended the second the wolf spoke. 

 

"None at all! Like your mayor said, I'm an O-kami. I can be a kirin when I want to be... and perhaps earth pony or pegasus too, but my shape-shifting isn't quite as good as it should be. I stayed in that form as long as I could during the race as part of a bet with a certain mischievous spirit native to hear. Perhaps you've met?" He asked with a genuine sincerity, as he had not quite looked into all the details regarding recent events in this land just yet. The large would took a deep breath and then bowed his head towards Applejack, "And because I happened to lose the wager we made before the race's end... You have yourself a worker here for a month. I'll be sleeping in your barn as per our arrangement."

 

 

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Heart Shield eased up a little, a smile returned to his face. It seemed every pony had kept calm, and this version of the kirin wasn't harmful but rather his true form. He had never seen a Okami or heard of one before, and was rather intrigued by it. He couldn't wrap his head around it, This pony he had raced with was actually a wolf, and he mentioned something about the last dance party he was to was a millennia ago. Heart Shield had a hard time making sense of it, Admittedly he did look rather cool looking in his wolf form, "wish i could do that" Heart Shield thought to him self.

 

The large wolf responded to his earlier question "Oh um, tissues, uhh i don't think i have any on hoof, but I'm glad your alright." Heart Shield had said with a little bit of a nervous smile. He knew Taira wouldn't do anything to him, but he was rather intimidating looking tho. The large wolf overshadowed the now seemingly small guard pony. Turning His thoughts to other things now, He wondered now that the race was over, what other festivities would take place? How would he spend the rest of his time in ponyville? 

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Boulder Dash blinked a bit but nodded in understanding as Taira held his paw out to him.  Without even thinking he reached out with his hoof and grasped the Kirin's paw shaking it as he nodded approvingly.  "We're I to decline a challenge from a creature of honor like ya'll would be a disgrace the family name wouldn't live down.  If ya drink like ya run then I a looking forward to the challenge" he said with a smile.

 

Boulder Dash then went turned when he saw his little brother scoot with a bag of sweets in his hoof.  "Rocky...was wondering were ya were" he said as Rocky hoof bumped him.

 

"We're proud of ya big bro.  Mama is packing up the stand and is heading over.  Guess she's excited about the shin dig ya'll plotted on the course" he said.

 

Boulder Dash nodded as he motioned for Rocky to follow him.  The two Boulder brothers trotted over to the Apple sisters and Boulder Dash nodded to Applejack happily.  In truth he was very proud of her, having always felt a kinship with AJ similar to a little sister growing up on the farms and watching her come of age.

 

"Congrats AJ.  I'm proud of ya, yer still tough as nails, but speedier then a wild cat with hot sauce.  I hope yer up to the same next year" Boulder Dash said as he reached and hugged AJ despite his big size and bulk.

 

Meanwhile Rocky was standing next to Applebloom, a slight blush creeping into his aquamarine colored coat.  Clearing his throat he nodded to Applebloom and spoke with a slight stammer in his country twang.  "Congrats Applebloom.  Yer sister did great.  Um....I eh bought these here sweets but way too many fer me to eat.  Would ya.....would ya like to have some?" Rocky asked as he held the bag out to Applebloom his blush getting deeper.

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Hawke arched a feathered brow, so the hunky kirin wasn't a kirin at all but an...Okami? The griffon wracked her brain for a few moments as she tried to recall where exactly she had heard that term before. Wait, duh. Ravencrest's books! Okami were a type of yokai, but yokai weren't usually so forthcoming with their yokai-ness, were they? Maybe Taira here was an outlier? Whatever the case may be, it didn't change who the stal...er...wolf was. Hawke smiled and wandered over to Pinkie's side to get a better look at her acquaintance now that his disguise had fallen. "Can pack a lot of wolf in that kirin disguise of yours huh? Man oh man, creatures must get cricks in their necks staring up to talk at you." she playfully teased. She expected the race to be full of surprises, but more so in the way of who would win and lose or leads being exchanged, etctera. Not one of the competitors turning out to be an almost mythological creature. Still, it was nice to see she wasn't the only one hiding who they were. Even if it was for entirely different reasons.


Chuckling she gently poked Pinkie in the side with an elbow. "Congratulations by the way Pinkie. You really pulled it off back there! We'll definitely have to race together again sometime. Of course, that'd have to wait until after our date." she gave Pinkie a wink before turning her attention back to Taira. "And congratz to you too! Had a debate going in my head who was going to win between you and Applejack for that last stretch back there."

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When Taira revealed everything about his true form, who he was and who he was not, Applejack's mouth fell ajar. She knew that the lead competitor was a bit odd, but she had never expected the kind of finish her primary race adversary would come out as. Was she being pranked? "Wait. You mean to tell me that I not only won the race, but that I beat an immortal spirit-canine who uses magic and is capable of shape-shiftin' to whatever he desires?" Applejack's overabundance of humility was currently being buried by her own realization that she was the fastest pony by a lot, but her extreme effort pushed her to beat a being that won a bet with Discord. With Discord! Who wins a bet to Discord!? Applejack nearly fainted at the idea and was pretty sure she was dreaming, until she saw all the other ponies react in unison to the reveal of the okami and the rush of the finishing results. She shook her head to gain sense. "Well, Taira. You did lose our wager." Applejack chuckled. "But you ain't sleeping in my barn for a month, you're working in our orchard and doing chores that would otherwise be done by Apple Bloom and Big Macintosh. And then maybe if you finish them every day, then you're get to sleep in the barn." Applejack winked, but was she joking? No other expression on her face as she spoke this gave any credence that she was being sarcastic, honesty was always the mare's scariest feature.

 

Boulder congratulated Applejack as did others, and asked about a rematch next year. Applejack had already thought about this. She knew that winning the race was a very important goal in her life, but now that she had done it, she felt like she could focus on other things involving this event. "Actually, I don't think I will run next year. If I do, I'll probably just be on stampede control, maybe we can get even more than 80% of the leaves down. I ran faster than anypony else today. I think next year I'll give that opportunity to somecreature else. Maybe it'll be you." Applejack winked at Boulder Dash, taking a second to think, and then reminding herself of a very important agenda piece. "Hey, when's that hoedown at the Boulder 'Mater Ranch startin'?" She asked loud enough so that everyone could also be reminded of the post-race festivities.

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What a total and utter disaster this race was. Fire Walker had done poorly in the 'Running Of The Leaves' before, but never as bad as seventh place! Still, she had no problem with the winner! Applejack was one of the bravest, cleverest and hardiest ponies she had ever known. There was not a single bit of shame to losing to such a mare. And the officer could at least say that she came very close to out-racing an actual cheetah....Although were griffin cheetahs as fast as one without the bird-bits tossed in? Probably not. And should Pinkie have been given a medal? She did use  at cannon at one point. But where did she get it from? A wiser pony once told her not to think too hard about the pink pony's abilities.
 
She quickly scanned the crowd to see if she could find her fiancé, and even the odd, armor covered mare who had also seemed to have vanished. Where the heck were they? Were they still trying to catch up? She was distracted by the commotion caused by the Kirin's sudden transformation into a horned wolf of sorts. This probably was not even the third or forth odd thing that happened today. Thankfully, he did not look like he was going to attack....But what sort of creature as he? She knew very little about the Kirin and their abilities. And as long as he did not make any threatening moves against the princesses, she would leave him alone. She would later hear him refer to himself as an 'O-kami.' Guess that sounded O-Kay.
 
With that little bit of drama, a possibly even larger one started to unfold...Her parents and Wind Walker had managed to spot her in the crowd. Ho-Boy, she was going to hear it from her father. Maybe even a little bit from her mother, who after breaking her clavicle, was a little saltier than usual. She was never going to hear the end of it. Thankfully her little sister, Wind Walker was the first to run into her.
 
"Wow, what a race!", the filly bounced about. "You got to race all kinds of creatures! Big ol' horned dog! Cheetah Griffon! Hey...Isn't that Countess Coloratura?", she took a good look at the musician before turning back to her sister, "What do you think you'll be racing next year? Dragons? Centaurs? Dragon centaurs?"
 
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Taira let out a warm chuckle towards the Guard pony, "You're concern is well appreciated, Sir Shield." Perhaps in an attempt to ease the stallion, Taira dipped  his head towards him with a subdued smile. As the Old wolf allowed himself to get more comfy around this crowd he would try to distract the pony from any intimidation with another question, "Will I be seeing you at Boulder's party tonight?"

 

Speaking of Boulder, Taira couldn't help but smile at the sight of his new friend's family. It made him feel a hint of regret he wasn't back in the mountains, at least until he remembered that he had family here already. When the okami let his eyes wander back over to the stands he couldn't help but heave a small sigh, seeing that Yamakara had seemingly fled. He could smell his pup hadn't gotten far. Had this old wolf already fallen into that stage when he'd wind up embarrassing his litter already? Time sure can fly can't it... 

 

That pang of sadness made his ears lower slightly, here he'd hoped to introduce that silly pup to everyone. Seemed that that may have to wait for another day for now.

 

Hawke's approach brought a grin to the old wolf's muzzle. While she might have seen him as competition not too long ago, Taira was more than happy to congratulate the flirtatious griffin. "You ran wonderfully, Hawke-san." He bowed his head towards the griffin, "It was an honor to compete with you. As for  cricks in the neck... I'll admit that was a bit of a common occurrence back in the day. I wasn't above laying down to talk to someone though." The big wolf would rub harshly at his nose, trying not to let the scent of cat so close lead him to ruining a potential moment between the griffin and Pinkie.

 

Applejack's stunned question would earn another chuckle form the large yokai, "Well, Long lived most likely... and I'm not nearly as skilled a shapeshifter as you're thinking. That kirin shape is the first out of two shapes I can take." With a playful little smile he would wink at Applejack, "If you want to try and have a rematch when I look this I'd be happy to show you how fast I can be... hopefully the next time we won't have to deal with pepper slinging raccoons next time." He let out a soft snort as the very thought of that torture made his nose twitch. That description of his duties on the farm made him smile brightly, "I wouldn't have it any other way, Applejack... okay maybe I would prefer to sleep outdoors, but our pact means I have to stay in the barn. A yokai's word is binding. Very Binding." 

 

One that mysterious note he would turn towards Fire Walker and grinned"Walker-san! Congratulations on the finish!" The towering wolf would bow his head towards the red pegasus, "Perhaps we'll have  a chance to speak more now that it's over." When little wind walked over, Taira went wide eyed and beamed. "Hello there!" He again dipped his head towards the Blue filly, "Are you Walker-san's little sister? It's a pleasure to meet you."

 

 

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34 minutes ago, Pretzelparty said:

Taira let out a warm chuckle towards the Guard pony, "You're concern is well appreciated, Sir Shield." Perhaps in an attempt to ease the stallion, Taira dipped  his head towards him with a subdued smile. As the Old wolf allowed himself to get more comfy around this crowd he would try to distract the pony from any intimidation with another question, "Will I be seeing you at Boulder's party tonight?"

Heart Shield smiled upon Taira's response. The large wolf lowered his head to his level, He still seemed like such a huge wolf. Heart Shield had never encountered a Okami before. Heart Shield never imagined he would be talking to one this very moment, He couldn't say that now tho. He was actually rather interested in learning more about his kind now. "this is something I'm going to have to tell my parents about" He thought to himself "They probably won't believe me anyway" Heart shield chuckled to himself. 

 

In the middle of his thought Taira had voiced a question to the pony. "Ohh, ummm, A party? I didn't think i would be invited." Heart Shield replied shyly. He realized he didn't really know anyone here real well. "I mean i will go if you want me to, I just wasn't sure..." He stopped his sentence kind of awkwardly. He was getting a little more comfortable around him now, But it just seemed a little awkward going to a party with people he didn't know. Maybe he could get to know this Okami named Taira more. After all it might be a chance to make new friends Heart Shield convinced himself. 

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"Under the stars, huh? You know, I'm thinkin' this might work out a lot better than either of us had hoped.  Minus you winnin' of course." Applejack snickered, happy to know that the big bad wolf seemed more interested in being friendly with competitors and had appeared to enjoy his experience spending time with those around him. It surely made whatever deal he had with Discord only the icing on the cake.

 

When Applejack overheard Heart Shield timidly respond to not being invited to Boulder's after-race party, she was quick to grab his attention. "Nonsense, you're a runner just like all of us. You are more than welcome to come hang out with us. Since we just met, you should tell me all about your guard duties in Canterlot. I bet you got some amazing stories." She slapped him on the back. "But not now, let's do it over some cider and tomato sandwiches."

 

She yelled out to everycreature within an earshot. "Alright ya'll, let's all head on over to Boulder Dash's farm. Last one there's made of molasses!" Applejack took a few accelerating trots, but as soon as the pain set in her stiff joints, she slowed to a normal stroll. "Uh, on second thought, let's all just walk there." Applejack would continue talking with others and laughing at jokes and remembering the crazy moments during today's race. She would always remember the day she finally won the running of the leaves, and she would revel with her friends about it until the sun set through the now naked trees.

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