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Running of the Leaves: Stage Seven- Ponyville Home Stretch (Closed: See OOC Topic)


SteelEagle
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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 somepony as everypony has some to root for. Buoyed by this adulation, the racers prepare themselves for a mad scramble for the finish line.

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This was it… the final stretch. This was usually the point when pony racers would finally spend their energy reserves and make a dash for the finish line. Sugar Apple did not have the luxury to sprint ahead though; with her body all bruised up and one of her wings mangled, the mare had no plans on taking further risks. Additionally, that numbing spell casted on the pegasus earlier was already wearing off, as she once again felt her hooves ache from constant trotting.

Yet Sugar Apple took solace in the good news that Applejack was still very much in this race. Sugar felt her Ponyville cousin deserved to get in first place, or at least come up ahead against the griffoness. The purple pegasus knew no other pony, in her family or otherwise, who worked as hard and steadfastedly as cousin AJ, so Sugar knew who to root for.

However, that didn’t mean that Sugar Apple’s new companion, Earth Writer, shouldn’t be able to try making a scramble towards the finish line. The injured mare was glad that the reporter unicorn accompanied her and cousin Greenshot up until now, but she’d also feel guilty if they held Mr. Writer back from participating in the final gallop.[colour=#800080] “Eff’n ya’ wanna hon,”[/colour] Sugar encouraged the unicorn reporter; [colour=#800080]“Ya’ kin race ahead with th' rest of th' racers. Greenshot an’ ah kin look af’er each other.”[/colour]

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[colour=#008000]Greenshot Apple[/colour] had been looking towards the direction of the pale pink mare when she shouted to them all. [colour=#0000FF]"Come on everypony! We're just about there, ain't we?"[/colour] His brow raised after noticing her mane flip and the blink that was clearly towards him and gave a smile back and continued on the race just as he could spot Canterlot’s elegance in the distance just as he left the beautiful maple trail that had created a monster called Earth Bush.

This was the last leg, the finish line was the last spot from here on out and his body was getting rejuvenated just from the thought that he was actually going to make it to the finish line in one piece. Trotting past the others to be alongside Sugar even though he purposely did his own version of a mane flip that Risi could probably notice as he cantered past her. “Ya’ kin race ahead with th' rest of th' racers. Greenshot an’ ah kin look af’er each other.” Greenshot heard with his ears pointing up and had a response of his own to what she had said “[colour=#008000]That’s right, there is no need to worry about us no longer. We will make it with each other to the finish line…even though I’m going to beat Sugar…[/colour]” a grin forming on his face while looking at his cousin.

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Earth Writer heard the finish line before he saw it; all of the spectators who had rather wisely kept out of the rain and wild gathered at the end of the race to cheer the participants. The reporter briefly wondered if his parents were there, of if they were cooking something up to celebrate their son's completion of this event.

And for him, simply completing the event had been an accomplishment in itself. Unicorns were hardly renowned for their athleticism, and Earth wasn't one to buck the trend by any means. Even with the relatively steady and measured pace he'd taken throughout the race, with breaks in between, the fatigue was beginning to catch up with him. It hadn't gotten beyond the point of light-headedness added to the ever-present burn in his legs, but the stallion knew that he'd feel it in the morning, all right.

That wasn't at the front of his mind, though. Neither was the sudden, beautiful view of the city he now called home, showing through the break in the trees. It was the pack of ponies around him, who he'd run alongside, joked with, rescued, and befriended. He hadn't expected to meet so many friends in an ostensible competition, but that was life for you. He grinned as Risi shouted encouragement to them all, a few stubborn leaves still sticking to his face. There was about as much chance of dislodging the reporter as the leaves, as it turned out.

"[colour=#8b4513]Don't denigrate yourselves,[/colour]" He said jovially to Sugar Apple and Greenshot. "[colour=#8b4513]I wouldn't have made this far if I hadn't had you all to encourage me. I'd have choked half a mile back! Besides,[/colour]" he continued, half jokingly, "[colour=#8b4513]I'm pretty sure it violates journalistic ethics to write a story on an event you won.[/colour]" His humorous mood very much resonated with the banter between the two cousins, and when Greenshot issued his challenge, Earth Writer turned right to Sugar Apple, eyebrows raised. "[colour=#8b4513]Ah, a challenger approaches! Are you going to let him get away with that?[/colour]" He asked the mare playfully.

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As the leaves fell around them in swirling drifts, Hoss suddenly noticed clouds with spectators perched on them in the distance.

He suddenly did an excited jump to peek ahead, seeing banners. [colour=#0000ff]"We're in the home stretch!"[/colour]

The stallion looked to the ponies around him as Greenshot and Sugar Apple told Earth Writer to go on ahead.

Earth Writer did not surprise him by saying he would stay close and instead exhorted them to keep up with him.

Hoss nickered at them, finding the fatigue sneaking back into his legs as well. "[colour=#0000ff]It's just a little further! Apples! Your cousin, Applejack will be here any moment! Lets show her what you got!" [/colour]

He then nodded to the clouds ahead [colour=#0000ff]"Meanwhile, I got parents and a sister to impress..."[/colour]

He broke into a gallop, slowly pulling ahead.

Near the finish line, Shanna was eagerly waving a pennant flag with their shared cutie mark from a cloud overhead.

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Sugar Apple giggled when she heard Earth Writer’s excuse to not scramble to the front of the pack.[colour=#800080] “Just wonderin’ hon,”[/colour] the mare wickedly asked the tan unicorn as she leaned her muzzle close to his ear;[colour=#800080] “W’d it violate journalistic ethics t’write on a sto’y a friend of yer’s won?”[/colour] Sugar didn’t wait for a reply before pulling her head back and laughing again. Earth Writer sure was a good friend to have around, the Apple family pegasus reminisced.

Leave it to cousin Greenshot though to challenge Sugar Apple to a race. [colour=#800080]“HEY!”[/colour] she responded in mock anger; [colour=#800080]“No way ya’ kin beat me Greenshot; no siree!”[/colour] The pegasus understood that trying to make a final dash was probably not what a doctor would recommend, but she also couldn’t let Greenshot’s challenge go unanswered… especially when he also suffered injuries from the race. Admittedly, Greenshot wasn’t as severely hurt as Sugar was, but common sense like that wouldn’t be enough to dose the mare’s reignited competitive streak.

If Greenshot’s bragging wasn’t enough to provoke Sugar Apple, then Earth Writer’s jesting would. [colour=#800080]“Of course he ain’t gonna’ git away wif it,”[/colour] the pegasus proudly asserted; [colour=#800080]“And ya' kin quote me on thet!”[/colour] With a final wink to the reporter (for now anyway), Sugar fled the scene with a gallop she hoped was light enough to avoid another accident. Fortunately, the mare’s newfound motivation had the side-effect of dulling whatever aching she started feeling a few minutes ago. Whatever Sugar’s decision to accept Greenshot’s contest proved to be a costly one remained to be determined.....

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[colour=#000000]Applejack smiled at Gilda after she said her tart words that were designed to intimidate and belittle the orange pony. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Heh, that's the spirit!"[/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack was having fun, even with this griffon firing insults. The competitive bragging was entertaining, and gave her a high that she hasn't experienced since she raced against Rainbow Dash two years ago.

Applejack saw that this was the last leg of the race. It was time to get going. Stomping her hooves on the ground, and making leaves fall, she pulled ahead slightly of Gilda, at first just to make a point, but then for real. This was her chance to pull ahead. And Applejack's decision to pace with Gilda was in good sense, as she had caught up to some of the other competitors--her cousins.

She had listened to their challenges against one another. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]Oh! There it is again![/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack was becoming super-sensitive to the thrill of athleticism, and numb to pretty everything else, including the fatigue in her legs. She had heard them snap witty comments at each other about who was going to win. Applejack shouted from behind, [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Neither one o' y'all are gonna win!"[/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack sped between the ponies and race ahead of them. She looked back,[/colour][colour=#ff0000] "Cuz this here is race is mahn!"[/colour][colour=#000000] The dust from Applejack's hooves picked up more and more as her stride became longer and more violent.[/colour]

Applejack.pngMadden.pngGranola_Gracie.pngArrow_Plain.pngMiracle.pngRemington.pngSugar_Rush-1.pngCoconut_Lime.png

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Greenshot was still grinning at Sugar as she spoke at him “No way ya’ kin beat me Greenshot; no siree!”Greenshot's grin quickly turned to a smile. A brow raised with interest to what she had in mind.

[colour=#282828]"[/colour][colour=#8B4513]Ah, a challenger approaches! Are you going to let him get away with that?[/colour][colour=#282828]"[/colour]

[colour=#282828]Greenshot Apple heard from Earth Writer looking over towards his direction and shortly looked back at Sugar who had said [/colour]“Of course he ain’t gonna’ git away wif it,” "[colour=#008000]Oh Really. I think I've got the.."[/colour]

Greenshot Apple had looked back after hearing then seeing another Apple cousin, Applejack from the bridge, saying to him and Sugar that they weren't going to win then trots past them saying that she was going to win. In his and Sugar's condition, that was obvious, but Applejack didn't know what they had been through. Shouting out at Applejack as she was beginning to drift away from them. [colour=#008000]"If it weren't for what happened to us, we would've beaten you long ago Cousin!" [/colour]Beginning to trot faster to get up to Sugar and slightly ahead of her, he was determined to at least get Sugar even though he could begin to feel the aches from his right hoof now that he was going faster then he should be going, but this was a challenge he would not deny. Looking over at Hoss to make sure that he was close by in case anything came up, but the sounds of cheering in the distance was sure to bring that extra umph to all the ponies racing. No matter what though, he was determined to get ahead of Sugar even if it was painful.

((might as well post this time at night as well before I knock out and wake up midday and miss something))

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Earth Writer laughed along with Sugar Apple when she asked if it would violate journalistic ethics to report on a friend winning. "[colour=#8b4513]Of course not, Sugar, otherwise we'd never be able to cover politics![/colour]" For all her laughter, you'd hardly believe that the pegasus was the most injured of the bunch. The stallion didn't want to flatter himself, but if he could play any part in keeping her spirits up, he'd call it a good day's work.

And it seemed that both Sugar and Greenshot's injuries had completely failed to dampen their athletic spirit. The reporter couldn't help but feel pleased at that, something of a moral victory over circumstances. Of course, there was always the possibility that this might aggravate the injuries of the Apple Cousins; that was another, unspoken reason why Earth Writer hadn't simply galloped off. Somepony ought to be on hoof in case anything went wrong.

With her acceptance of Greenshot's challenge, Sugar Apple plunged ahead, her unicorn cousin trotting close behind. And then Applejack blazed through, galloping after the first prize. Earth Writer couldn't blame her; after all, she was the hometown favorite. Meanwhile, the other two Apples held his attention. He kept pace with Sugar in the lead, winking at her as he pitched his voice like a race announcer. "[colour=#8b4513]And here it is folks, the two pack leaders are coming down the homestretch, and what an amazing race it's been! Sugar Apple is in the lead, but Greenshot's approaching from the outside, with less than a quarter mile to go![/colour]"

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The majestic royal city was still in Star's sight. An unique, artificial forest of dazzling white towers. It knocked the wind out of her, metaphorically speaking. But at once it truly inspired her, such a wonderful sight couldn't be simply ignored. The final call of this struggle, which the race turned out to be, was presenting itself in front of Risi. Far away in the distance she could see an end of this ultimate test of one's physical condition. Yet, it was still of enormous surprise for her to discover that she actually found herself at the very front lines of the race. She could feel the satisfaction filling her soul as she remembered all the trainings she undertook in order to finish the race. Even though hooves were denying to grant her full strengths, she still managed to keep up to the pace.

Star caught a glimpse of Greenshot galloping past her. As she noticed his mane flip and the idea finally reached her mind, she tripped, losing her balance for a second and burst out in vibrant, honest laughter. [colour=#0000ff]"Did he really just...?"[/colour] - the situation was at least amusing. Star followed him with sight, spotting that he threw a single sentence towards Sugar. After that he launched himself forward. [colour=#0000ff]"Where did he hide all of this remaining strength...?"[/colour] - it was truly unsettling to see Sugar engaging in competition with him. Star couldn't believe her eyes, it looked like the injuries didn't affect her at all. Was it possible that Unicorn medics did really such a great job?

Of course, it seemed that not only these two were hoping for a last, glorious run for everything. Hoss didn't want to give the field and sped up too. The fact he mentioned his family made her smile. She probably would have done the same in front of her sister, but Star wasn't even sure if she mentioned that she was willing to participate in this event to her family at all. Even when an orange mare passed her and taunted Sugar and Greenshot, pink one remained indifferent to the race. It looked like they were into competition, pride and valor much deeper than in the actual goal of this race... Risi herself cared more about the tradition. The race, even though there were some obstacles, seemed to be a success to her. She'd just continue calmly, without stretching herself needlessly...

And then an echo reached her from above...

An echo of something familiar...

A voice she would recognize everywhere...

[colour=#0000ff]"Imperio!"[/colour] - his sight was an unexpected injection of pure energy. Unicorn observed the silhouette circling somewhere above her. Another sqeak reached her ears. Risi looked back at the group, slowly gaining their distance from her. She frowned, shaking her head and smirking. [colour=#0000ff]"Oh no, no... If I'm so far already, I won't let you get rid of me THAT easily..."[/colour] - it seemed as the presence of her beloved pet made her believe she's compelled to fight to the very end - [colour=#0000ff]"Hey!"[/colour] - she exclaimed behind the group, speeding up - [colour=#0000ff]"Haven't you forgotten somepony? It's not nice to leave companions behind!"[/colour] - her claim wasn't hollow, as she managed to catch up to the group again, but used a lot of strengths to do so. [colour=#0000ff]"And I don't know who you are to come out of nowhere suddenly..."[/colour] - she shouted after Applejack, making a few intervals to catch her breath - [colour=#0000ff]"...but don't think you can just ignore us like that!"[/colour] All that Star knew about this pony was that her name was Applejack. She could have sworn she didn't have a chance to spot that earth mare until the very bridge. And now she claimed to be the granted winner? [colour=#0000ff]"In. Her. Dreams!"[/colour] - it was a brief sum up of what Risi thought about it. [colour=#0000ff]"You can do it, your Cutie Mark is all the proof you need, so is your name!"[/colour] - Star encouraged herself focusing not to mistake her hooves order. [colour=#0000ff]"Now, just not to exhaust yourself too early..."[/colour]

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Hearing an all-too familiar shout from behind her, Sugar Apple looked on as cousin Applejack finally revealed her figurative hand of cards and galloped on past. [colour=#800080]“Ha!”[/colour] the pegasus cried out with a combination of amusement and false indignation; [colour=#800080]“Don’t ya’ git tripped up on yer own ego now, AJ!”[/colour] There was little more Sugar could do however other than eat AJ’s dust… not that the purple pegasus minded too much, obviously. Cousin Applejack was still the pony that Sugar rooted for to win the Running of the Leaves.

Of course, there was still cousin Greenshot left to confront. As Sugar Apple saw him slowly advance closer, she tried to slowly increase her own pace. Unfortunately, that caused her legs to momentarily twinge due to stress they couldn’t take. Sugar’s attempted burst backfired as a result, slowing her down and letting Greenshot get to within an inch of her position.

Adding to the flavor of a neck-to-neck contest, Earth Writer began an impromptu commentary, his electrified voice imitating that of a race announcer. Remembering an earlier, seemingly-disregarded promise of giving the reporter the headline he wanted, the smiling Sugar Apple found additional resolve to beat her worthy opponent, Greenshot Apple. Mentally disconnecting herself from the pain in her legs, Sugar slowly but surely started inching away from her green unicorn cousin.....

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[colour=#a52a2a] "And here it is folks, the two pack leaders are coming down the homestretch, and what an amazing race it's been! Sugar Apple is in the lead, but Greenshot's approaching from the outside, with less than a quarter mile to go!" [/colour]

With a brow lifted once more just as he looked over at Earth Writer, Greenshot Apple realized something. “[colour=#008000]That was what was missing from this Running of the Leaves! I had been trying to think of what this race had been missing, an Announcer to announce the big high points of this race. Especially, when I beat both my cousins even on an injured right hoof! Good thinking to boost my esteem Writer. Remind to treat you to a free dessert from my mother’s shop in Canterlot.”[/colour]

While talking towards Writer, Greenshot glimpsed back behind him to notice that Star had fallen behind. He wondered if she had noticed his mane flip impression, but as soon as he focused back on Sugar Apple. She had been distancing herself up more past him. Greenshot pounded his front hooves, which was a bad idea, to get some sort of stride forward. Instead, he stayed at the pace he was at just behind Sugar and with his right hoof getting that pain again from when he first got injured back on the rope swing. He was trying his best to hide the pain from his face. The hair on his head had loosened and slightly covered his eyes, ignoring the pain by keeping his thoughts on anything possible. The idea of Earth Bush, being home in Canterlot, going out to practice his new found interest in using a slingshot, still practicing his archery, pain from his right hoof...Continuing to hear the loud cheers just ahead of them and the sight of the finish line marker just visible through the remaining trees. Thinking to himself “[colour=#008000]Sure can’t wait to get this number 27 off my flank and put it on a wall to remember how hard this Running of the Leaves was this year.” [/colour]

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Lyra rushed to catch up as best she could. The race had been extraordinarily uneventful for her compared to last year and so she had simply run at a steady pace for much of the course. Now it was time to put on a burst of speed to try and move up a few ranks. She had already passed a couple of first-timers who had ran themselves ragged far too early, but it unlikely that'd she'd get first place again.[colour=#00cc99] "Oh well,"[/colour] she thought. [colour=#00cc99]"I knew it wouldn't be easy. I should have practiced more. But I can probably stay in the top 20. That's not too shabby, I'd say."[/colour]

As she ran her thoughts drifted towards food, specifically the huge fudge sundae she intended to eat as a reward to herself for doing all this exercise. She and Bon Bon would go into a nice quiet café somwhere and chat for a while, order tasty desserts, and generally enjoy themselves for an hour or two. It sounded like heaven to the unicorn, and it spurred her on just a little more.

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Earth Writer was really getting into character now, even modulating his voice a little so it had the slightly tinny sound of a megaphone heard over a distance. "[colour=#8b4513]Greenshot's approaching, it looks like he's pulling up- but wait! Sugar Apple's found just that final bit of speed, and now the finish line is just yards ahead. What a race folks; even with all the injuries sustained, these two just won't give up![/colour]" For all his acting, there was genuine admiration in the Stallion's voice. A wise pony once said that victory belonged to the most persevering, and if that wasn't so in this race, it wasn't the fault of the two Apple Cousins.

Caught up in the excitement, the tan unicorn had gotten a few steps ahead, and then turned around, trotting backwards just to get a better view. "[colour=#8b4513]Almost at the finish, Sugar's maintaining a lead with Greenshot just a few steps behind- but who's this pony coming up from the pack? Why, none other than rising Star! It seems this new challenger's not to be let out on the fun, folks! She's keeping the pace, and now approaching the lead! This one's gonna be a photo finish![/colour]"

They were now close enough not only for them to hear the crowd, but for the crowd to hear them; that is, right in front of some of them, as the cheering would have drowned out Earth Writer otherwise. He didn't see it, but the bemused faces of some of the audience members betrayed the fact that they had absolutely no clue what was going on with the strange, leafy stallion. They probably took him for a showboater, mocking the tired and injured racers. The reporter didn't notice until one of the more chivalric, if over-enthusiastic, watchers threw an empty popcorn box at him.

It wasn't a big impact, but it put him completely off his stride, causing him to rather ignominiously trip over his own hooves, no doubt to the delight of the audience member, convinced he'd given an athletic bully his due. By the time Earth Writer got to his feet again, his momentum was completely shot, and he found himself struggling to take those last few steps alongside his friends.

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[colour=#000000]Applejack heard her own hoofsteps get louder and louder. Were they really getting louder? Or had every other pony's hoofsteps gotten softer? She glanced back. She didn't see Gilda, but there was a pony who snickered that Applejack should not forget that she hasn't won it just yet and they everypony else still had a chance. Applejack responded back very quickly, [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Hey, no need to get all saddle-sore about it, you just need to run faster!"[/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack smiled competitively and increased her pace even more.

Ahead, she looked at the path, which started to fall out of the forest, and onto the homestretch. This was it! This was the end of the race! All of Applejack's energy began to burn like the coal from the Ponyville Express rushing the Princess to an urgent diplomatic matter. She glanced up, and saw that all the trees had leaves on them, until she ran passed them, of course. The leaves rained behind her like the wake behind a speed boat on water. Was she really the lead pony in all of this? Was this really her chance to finally win the race of her life? She had always wanted to win this race, and it seemed like this was finally her moment to shine![/colour]

[colour=#ff0000]"Wait 'til Rainbow Dash gets a load of this!"[/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack said to herself. She couldn't wait to gloat. But only to the ponies, and griffon, who deserved it. She still would take as much humility as it takes to make her friends realize that it indeed isstill just a race. But it was so majestic. It would be so iconic! She could see it now with Granny, Apple Bloom, and Big Macintosh all cheering her to victory. And then back at the farm, they would throw her a surprise gold medal party, and Applejack would act surprised, of course. It all made sense. The wind in the now-naked trees whispered the songs as if today was the day. For the next year, Applejack could address herself in the market as the defending champion of the annual running of the leaves. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]So many apples sales![/colour]

[colour=#000000]Applejack ran. The path leveled out onto the homestretch. The 'Finish' banner hung modestly over the pathway ahead. [/colour][colour=#ff0000] This was it![/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack closed her eyes briefly as she approached. She was so excited, she couldn't bear to watch. All she had to do was take a few more strides...[/colour]

((This will be my last post in this section. All suspended thoughts and story developements are designed to be reacted to in the next section, which will be solely based on the final score. Good luck everypony!))

Applejack.pngMadden.pngGranola_Gracie.pngArrow_Plain.pngMiracle.pngRemington.pngSugar_Rush-1.pngCoconut_Lime.png

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The surprise on Star's face was clearly visible as she was replied back by an orange Earth Pony. [colour=#0000ff]"Did she just... like... taunt me?"[/colour] - Star wasn't allowing herself to slow down. [colour=#0000ff]"Who is she, appearing out of nowhere, blitzing through the group and then making mockery out if it! Run faster? Very well..."[/colour] - the situation suddenly transformed into a real cut and thrust. The rush of excitement blinded Star's judging capabilities, as she obviously forgot that each pony had to beat the same race track. She even failed to notice that a lot of earlier 'lost' participants suddenly found themselves in the group as well. Risi pulled another 15% out of herself, but it was her upper limit. Her fierce expression on face could scare away a royal guard as she galloped at full speed towards the finish line. In barely a few last seconds she managed to come up with dozens of reasons for why she'd like to win the race...

Her never ending strive of improvement until the very perfection...

The trainings she held in order to prepare herself...

Her family... they certainly would appreciate their daughter coming back with such an achievement...

A newcomer showing everyone nothing is impossible...

And finally...

A sudden sqeak to her right made her investigate the source. Her mane flew on the wind as she stared at her precious companion.

...[colour=#0000ff]"Imperio..."[/colour] - the whisper was too silent for anypony to hear. That bird learned to support her throughout all those years they've spent together. It was her shield from daily routine and a loyal, true friend in every situation. The Caracara flew aside her, raising her spirit and will to fight. She was so thankful... even though there were a lot of different participants, Star couldn't forget about her 'little' partner. Who would have guessed what was happening in that pet's head...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Imperio circled high above the finish line, observing the horizon. He flapped his majestic wings a few times, purely out of vanity. Those ponies below should know how does a true, royal bird looks like! Even though he was always able to remain stoic and calm, he wasn't used to be left alone for an extended periods of time. The Caracara managed to grow anxious few times before it spotted racers in the distance. It took a few more minutes to fish out and recognize his mistress though. He didn't know what was she doing nor what did she expect of him. But after such a long time of growing impatient, Imperio was happy to see her again. Bird expressed his happiness loudly, high in the skies, before he dived towards the group. After a brief moment, he was already at Star's side, keeping her company as he always did. They knew each other for years. Even though her intentions sometimes remained a mystery for him, Imperio learned how to read Star's behavior. And right now he was sure that his mistress was more than content of seeing him. She was so silly sometimes... as if he was going to ever leave her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

With all her hopes and motivators in front of her eyes, Star did her best. She ignored the flaming pain in her legs and forced her body to submit to her will for just a few moments. The suitable commentary, including her in calculations, only boosted the atmosphere of excitement. Yet, she realized that there was no commentary earlier, and finally managed to match the voice to one certain pony... When she found Earth Writer (also known as "Walking Scrub/Bush" in her mind since the events of Whitetail woods) with eyes, he tripped and struggled to regain his speed. It was yet another value she had to take into consideration... [colour=#0000ff]"I'll do it, I'll do it for all those who were with me here and made this traditional run such a wonderful event."[/colour]

She didn't know if her strengths would allow her to best that last obstacle, which was the last straight. But nothing stopped her from trying. Star pushed herself to the limit. The moment of truth was upon her. And she realized it all too well...

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Quickly the pegasus stallion whinnied and forced himself to sprint faster, his wings trembling as he kept them closed.

He kept looking back at Greenshot every few seconds s he listened to Earth Writer's running commentary, untill a flash of red and white announced a flying popcorn box knocking the unicorn off his stride.

He faltered a bit in surprise but pressed on when he saw Earth Writer recover.

Applejack suddenly breezed on by him, making him really drive himself. If she was here, Gilda was surely close behind and he wanted to be ahead of her [colour=#0000ff]"Dont' care if you win Applejack... as long as I beat Gilda!...[/colour]

A sudden flash of colour diving into the race made him wonder if another pegasus was trying to pull something, but a glance revealed a very regal bird flying alongside Star! Was that a Caracara?!

He shook his head to concentrate on the last furlongs of the race, his hooves sending turf flying...

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So this was it, huh? The final stretch... She was fast approaching the end to her second Running of the Leaves race. The first run had been rife with desperate acts and working outside the lines of the rule book. This year, she had been just a little rough at times, but mostly played it fair. Never once had she taken to wing or resorted to anything as aggressive as last year's rock slinging. It had been a different sort of race. Gilda hadn't drawn it up that way. She hadn't considered anything in her approach other than succeeding where she had once failed. She had came in seventh last year. This year she intended to win.

For that, if anything she was more desperate. She was hungrier. She wanted to snatch up the victory she so rightly deserved and put the ponies all around her in their place. Why then was she playing fair here? She wasn't sure. Perhaps Iron Pony had just proven to her she could come out on top by her own merits? Perhaps instead Pathfinder and that prison had done something to her head? Either on its own seemed enough to drive the best griffon right out of her mind. Whatever it was, Gilda didn't mind it. If she could do it, if she could claim her rightful victory, it would just make it all the more sweeter to know she had come about it honestly.

And if she didn't win...? Well let's just say she wouldn't want to be in these losers' lame little hooves next year. Though really the same went for any time and place. Also, losing wasn't even a viable possibility in her mind. She was winning this. There was nothing else--especially not with that Apple pony having laid down her challenge. She had pulled that pony up from the bridge because she had something to prove. Falling short of her would be a blow. It was one thing she was not about to let happen. She was the best and more importantly she was right. She was just about to prove it.


[colour=#0000FF]"Dont' care if you win Applejack... as long as I beat Gilda!"[/colour]

Gilda heard a pony, the Skybright pegasus from much earlier in the race shout out these words as she passed. She laughed and threw her head back. [colour=#663399]"I wouldn't count on that, pal! I'm winning this whole thing!"[/colour] Gilda shouted, confidence strong.

She pushed herself harder until she was once more in stride with the orange mare from before. She gave a laugh and then started, [colour=#663399]"Thought you lost me? As if! I mean it when I said I was gonna win and now I'm gonna prove it to you here and now!"[/colour]

As the finish line came into sight, Gilda dashed ahead at a breakneck pace. The race had been long and it had certainly tested the griffoness' stamina, but with the end in sight, her energy might as well have been limitless. There was no stopping her. She weaved past some ponies and found her way to the front of the pack. She couldn't get a clean lead no matter how she pushed, but she found herself right there at the front amongst a small group of others. It would be a split second decision. Who would come out ahead? There was no way to know, but GIlda was confident of the answer.

She was the best, after all.
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This was it, the final leg of the race, what she had been (mostly) saving her energy for, the pink mare took a quick sip of her water before she began her sprint to the finish. She began with a slower run gradually picking up her pace, she didn't want to run too quickly for the first little bit; that was when the terrain was still a bit uneven and she didn't want to risk hurting herself on a mole hill or a bush, especially this close to the finish line. Soon enough she started to see a few buildings appear in the distance indicating that she was nearing the town.

As soon as she reached Ponyville Motion Paradox broke into her full run, the buildings and Ponies lining the path were a colourful blur in her periferal vision as she pushed herself as hard as possible. She thought back to her experience at the ravine in hopes of replicating the effect as she galloped through the streets, her legs were beginning to sting from her efforts. Finally she neared the finish line, she could see the everypony waiting at the end and perked up forcing herself to run faster. As she came within a few meters of the finish line she leapt into the air and hoped that she would make it over the line; namely because she wasn't sure if she could manage to pick herself back up if she didn't.

Fortunately, she did manage to clear her target and landed with a loud squeak as half of the air was forced out of her lungs. She did it, she had not opened her eyes to see where she had placed and she was infinitely glad that she could teleport back to where she was staying since she doubted she would be able to walk under her own powers, but she had finished the race, somehow she had finished it. And after this was over she would have a nice bath, dinner and possibly go to sleep much earlier than she normally ever would.

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The final stretch was here and already a close pack was bunching up to try and be the very first across the line.

Above the race on a cloud, Shanna and their parents were jumping up and down as Shanna waved her flag. "Go Hoss go!"

He did a stunned double-take as Gilda breezed by like he was standing still...

[colour=#663399]"I wouldn't count on that, pal! I'm winning this whole thing!"[/colour] Gilda shouted, confidence strong.

Oh, it was ON now!

The bay pegasus stallion leaned forward and put everything he had into the last sprint, focused on that swishing tufted tail ahead of him.

It grew closer and closer until he lost track of it when another racer got bumped sideways into his path.

He closed his eyes and jumped over the pony to land somewhere among the front runners but was it enough?

The finish line ribbon was a blur a couple heartbeats away.

A swirl of dust hid the moment for him when anypony crossed the line. Would he be in the top 10 even?

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Sorry guys, looks like Tapatalk's moderation functions derped. I'm closing this topic now, but please go with Steel for the proper deadlines.

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