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End of the Line! Final Standings and Aftermath


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                                                                             mayor_mare_sig_by_dignifiedjustice-d49ik


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 to die off.

 

"Congratulations everypony who participated in this year's Running of the Leaves! Thanks to your efforts, we estimate that more than eighty-two 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 contestant it was!

 

The Mayor gave the first 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 Whitetail Medal. Made of the purest wood from the Whitetail Woods itself, it reflects the beauty and strength of these woods and the ponies who ran through it. 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."

 

The next one was harder if only because Tiger Blood had done one heck of a job getting this far and the Mayor was well convinced that Tiger could continue running for some time. "I award you the Copper Medal, Tiger Blood. 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, and for spending your time and effort."

 

The next medal went to Berry Punch. A shocker that she had done so well, but this race was as much about drive and willingness as it was athleticism and skill. "To Berry Punch, I award the Bronze Medal. May you wear this with pride: Evidence of your hard work and dedication to Ponyvile and Equestria, dictated in sweat and proclaimed in every action you took."

 

She was excited to give the next medal away. He was a candidate to replace her- indeed, this was her last public event before the election- and he had made one heck of a case that he was no stranger to hard work today. "To Strong Copper," the Mayor began as she went to go give the Silver Medal to the very deserving competitor. He was well-sized, so the Mayor had to wait for the head to be bowed a bit before continuing, "...I award the Silver Medal! Your creativity, spirit, energy, and impactful running could be felt across the land. You are a credit to this town and a true friend to Equestria," she said with a smile, backing up so she could take full scope of her potential replacement. An impressive stallion, 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 Tongue Twister, the competitor who ran like a mare possessed! The Mayor pulled the Gold Medal over Tongue Twister's head and allowed it to rest heavily on the mare, "I award Tongue Twister the Gold Medal as winner of this year's Running of the Leaves. You ran well and hard, with skill and stamina to match. Your victory today is not just a victory for yourself but also for Ponyville and Equestria, for anypony who saw you could not hope but to be inspired by such a wonderful effort. We are all humbled by what you have accomplished."

 

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 Tongue Twister, 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:
 

Spoiler

Tongue Twister- 71 (6, 9, 9, 12, 12, 12, 11)
Strong Copper- 67 (9, 11, 9, 10, 11, 7,  10)
Berry Punch- 65 (11, 9, 10, 9, 8, 10, 8 )
Tiger Blood- 61 (7, 8, 8, 9, 8, 13, 8 )
Pinkie Pie- 57 (0, 11, 9, 12, 12, 6, 7)
Midnight Oil- 55 (7, 9, 8, 8, 10, 8, 5 )
Jade Breaker- 53 (8, 7, 9, 9, 11, 0, 9)
Tempest Shadow- 51 (9, 10, 10, 8, 10, 0, 4) 
Apple Bloom- 43 (7,  8, 8, 7, 8, 6, 0  )
Zap Apple- 16 (4, 8, 4, 0, 0, 0, 0 )

 

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Strong Copper

 

Strong Copper had needed to respectfully bow his head slightly to allow the pony who's job he was in the running to fill after she retired to slip a silver medal over his head. He had to admit, a small part of him was disappointed that he had come so close to claiming the gold and still fell short, but considering this was a first time thing and he hadn't honestly expected to do as well as he did in it, silver wasn't half bad. Even as he felt physically spent and was looking forward to having a shower or bath before laying down and having a nap, there was a small degree of pride in his stance as he kept his chin held high.

 

Looking over at his fellow prize winners, at first he offered Pinkie a small smile and a very tired wave. He hadn't gone into this race expecting to really make friends, but she seemed nice enough... if somewhat energetic. It did help that she was kind of cute, but right now his mind was focused on other things. He offered the winner Tongue Twister a polite bow of his head and a friendly "You definitely earned it." before his gaze turned closer to where his mind was focusing. Berry Punch wasn't a bad looking mare by any means, but it was quite clear that over the course of the race that she had already earned herself quite the herd of admirers who would likely be spending some further time with her after the ceremony was over... and it was one of those admirers that was soon the focus of Strong Copper's gaze.

 

Jade Breaker and her new 'pet' wyvern. It was kind of hard to miss the pair in the crowd at this stage. However, as he pondered what to do about that situation in the future, he politely turned to Mayor Mare and asked "Pardon me but... do you know whatever happened to that young colt that was running in the race? I believe his name was Zap. I kind of lost sight of him early on."

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Berry Punch

Third place.  Third Place.  Were Berry Punch the more competitive, athletic sort, bronze may have been a disappointing color of medal to take home.  As she was not really either of those things, to hear that she had earned that position was a shock, only mildly buffered by the flood of adrenaline and endorphins not yet drained from her system.  It was even more incredible when she looked at the competition she was up against.  Not only had she outpaced both of the guardspony stallions that had been a part of her 'pack' since the beginning, but even the formidable Tempest Shadow was not on the proverbial podium stand with her.  Nor even the now-infamous wyvern tamer, Jade Beaker.

 

"Thank you, Mayor.  And pass on my congratulations to the winner."  She would do so herself, but there were other ponies she wanted to talk to.  Not that Tongue Twister didn't look like a nice pony, but she had outpaced the earth pony mare for well over half the race now, not leaving much time to get acquainted.  Midnight and Tiger were more the focus of her attention now, and at least one of them was next to her.  "Congratulations to you too!  If you told me I would finish ahead of you, I wouldn't have believed it!  Maybe I should take up running more regularly."

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Tiger was actually pretty happy with this outcome. Having not really tried to win at all, it was nice to make it onto the podium at least. It was also interesting that it was a podium that included up to fifth place, but he wasn't about to complain about that. He nodded as the mayor gave him his medal, giving a confident smirk at her words to him. Once she moved on, he winked over at Berry, watching as she received her own award. 

 

"Great job, Berry. Really pulled away there at the end, but I was a little distracted by preparing to fight Jade's new pet. Y'know, just in case it was necessary. Still, congrats, you definitely earned that." He smiled at her, pulling her into a one-legged hug before kissing her on the cheek. "You and Midnight made this race a great one, so thanks for that."

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"I - actually WON ?!" TT marveled as she looked at the gold medal around her neck.


Before coughing as she had to clear out some confetti she'd accidentally inhaled.


She nodded back to Strong Copper to acknowledge his comments.


"Seems like a stand up stallion." she noted to herself, "Back at that bridge, he was concerned about keeping everypony safe.  And now he's asking about that colt that sort of got lost in the shuffle.  Concern for others and willingness to help are admirable qualities.


I'd vote for him  - but I'm not a resident of Ponyville, so my vote wouldn't be legal."


"Asking about that colt's safety is pointless, for that colt is the spawn of two of Harmony's Chosen !" the Abominated noted, "As such, the universe will bend over backwards to protect him !  So there is no reason to be concerned !"


"Hmph !  Well, it's the thought that counts."


She smiled and waved in response to Berry's congratulations.


"We may have won the race, but it seems you are taking home most of the prizes Berry !" TT stated to her as she waved her foreleg to indicate Midnight Oil, Tiger Blood and Jade.


For some reason, an image of a temple and the sound of a funeral gong passed through her head almost too fast to notice ...


TT shook off the chills quickly before recalling something.


"Where's that candy vendor ?  I wanted to buy dad something for his birthday."
 

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Midnight Oil

The sticky bat pony wasn't too far behind Berry and Tiger as he crossed the finish line...and Jade and her pet where right on his tail. He would walk up to Berry and give her a small kiss on the cheek, and give Tiger a hug. "Good job...you two..." as his adrenaline began to wear off. "Now then, about that drink," he said with a faged smile. "And I didn't forget you-" he stopped before going to give Jade a kiss as well as he saw her new pet up close for the first time. "I'll wait till you put him to bed," he nervously laughed. "I'm sure you'll need to feed him as well...what dose a wyvern eat?"

 

Midnight's ear twitched as he heard the two foals that had entered the race where missing and not crossed the finish line yet. He would walk over to Cooper and the Mayor. "I may have used up my running energy, but I still got plenty left to head out on a search party if needed. I just need a quick shower to get this cursed sap off my wings...and I assume that the parents are here somewhere, right?"

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Apple Bloom finished the Running at little more than a healthy trot, breathing heavily as she sweated profusely. She had lost steam somewhere near the start of the final leg and just focused on finishing, along with avoiding that wyvern that decided to poke its head around. She never got close enough to it to see just who it was following but the lack of Princess intervention and Sonic Rainbooms and whatnot told her that it was a little less than dangerous to her. So she contented herself a distance away, running as hard as she could but with full knowledge it was little more than an excited trot towards the finish. It was hard enough to keep everything in her vision let alone try to more than what she was doing now. She had thrown up on the way towards the final stage and had taken a break because it was hard to make sense of things, but that's just the way it was.

 

She trotted across the line and immediately continued to where the vast majority of the participants placed themselves. They all received a nice red ribbon for their participation and a good pickmeup from the mayor's aides as they stomped their approval for the ponies and likewise that got the bigger rewards for actually managing to place. She wobbled a little in place but still managed to stomp her hooves in approval and excitement for the other competitors. It was real good to see everypony and likewise giving their all and she was plum tickled to see a new winner this year. It was good to see the spirit of the Running of the Leaves remained as strong as ever!

 

She stamped her hooves for the winner a few seconds longer than the rest, realizing she was the last one a few moments too ate to not make it awkward. With a wide, dumb grin masking no small amount of pain and a deep-seated desire to find a place to seat, Apple Bloom started trotting to the seats. And by trotting to she meat through, losing her depth perception and nearly falling into them before steadying herself and sitting down.

 

It had sure been a fun race for her!

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Berry Punch

It was a mark of how the race had gone for her that Berry didn't consider Tiger's embrace and kiss to be too "fresh", but instead a gesture she'd reciprocate in a heartbeat.  "Aww, thanks; y'all made it good for me too.  Best Leaves I've ever run, for sure!"  She laughed, giving a wave back to the first place pegasus.  "Hey, if you want a drink after all this, my bar's still open!  After we get cleaned up and all, of course!"  Even those among the coursers who hadn't been sapped, trail dust and sweat clung to their bodies, and was starting to feel rather gritty and uncomfortable.

 

Speaking of sapped, Midnight was coming up then, giving more affection, again reciprocated.  The threstral sweetie was even going to lead a search party!... Which soon turned out to be mostly extraneous, as one of the objects of their search finally crawled in.  Boy, little bloom looked like she'd been run through the wringer!  "Er, I think you ought to find a doctor first, Middy.  Poor little Bloom looks like she got a concussion."

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“Of course I’m down for that! I wouldn’t leave ya hanging now!” Tiger chuckled in response, releasing Berry from the hug and returning the one Midnight gave him. What a trio the three of them made, but hey, he wasn’t going to turn down two new friends, or anything more they might become later. Jade was still a bit of an outlier, honestly, he still wasn’t sure about her. The conversation turning to Apple Bloom’s condition kinda jostled him out of his thoughts, and he frowned a bit as he looked over her. Hopping down from the podium, he headed towards her. 
 

“Yo! Can I get a medic over here?” He called out loudly, hopefully getting the attention of one, or at least somepony that could find one. After that though, he stopped in front of Apple Bloom and sat down, trying to get an idea of what the problem was. 

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As Tongue Twister headed into the crowds, she thought Berry's suggestions were good ones - a drink after all this exercise would be great !


As would a bath - that faceplant back on Roundbottom Hills left her coat full of dirt.


Plus her legs were still partly coated with the (now dried) mud she used as a non-stick coating when running through Whitetail Woods.


She sighed deeply.  She hadn't intended to stay in Ponyville long.  She had originally planned on just going to the post office to set up a post office box for her consulting business, then catch the train back out to Las Pegasus to pack up the rest of her things before moving out of her old (and rather expensive) apartment.


Participating in the Running of the Leaves was just an impulse.  That was oddly successful.


She'd missed the train going her way.  And the next one didn't leave until tomorrow morning.


"Hopefully there's a room for rent at the hotel near the train station." she mused to herself as she trotted along.


She'd noted that the filly from earlier - Apple Bloom, if she recalled - seemed a bit dazed.


"That's one of the symptoms of a concussion.  NOT something to take lightly.
But Berry, Midnight and Tiger Blood were there to help.  

 

"Given it looks like almost everyone in Ponyville is here, there should be someone with medical skill available." she noted to herself as she looked around, "The most a medic could do here is a few simple tests, then take her to the hospital for a more thorough exam and observation. 


Hmmm.  Where could that young colt that was with her earlier have gotten to ?


The last time I saw him was at that bridge.  I'd guess he's probably curled up taking a nap somewhere.  Hopefully.  He might have more energy than grown ups, but little legs would make the course relatively longer for him !"


She felt it might be best to hold off going to the hotel for a bit longer.
 

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vn2c7wp.png

 

The trees were mostly naked in front of Zap as he continued on his little trot. He had hopelessly fell behind everypony. He wasn't even sure he was going in the right direction, but there were enough hoofprints in the dirt that aided him in continuing on the path the race was designated. He made one final turn out of the winter-ready forest and down a small slope towards the finish line, where hundreds of ponies were celebrating the ending of the running. A few pegasus ponies were even cheering him on as the backmarker to the race, allowing at least some semblance that no effort would go unnoticed.

 

But would he be noticed? He spent the day running alone in the forest instead of doing the small cleaning chores his mother had asked him to help with as it pertained to the catering of the event. Maybe it would be best if he hadn't been noticed, maybe enough recognition of the colt's whereabouts would plant him firmly in the corner staring at the wall before supper.

However, he was famished, and he would not be able to resist an ice cold apple juice or a fresh juicy pear or even a lukewarm cup of water. Water! He hated plain old water! Zap could not believe how exhausted he was. He had never been this strained. After all the times he was said to have too much energy, these ponies that all ran ahead of him seemed to have more in the tank than the young colt. Maybe not now, but soon, maybe even next year, he would look forward to the day he finally runs with everypony else, and take his true aim as the first pony across the finish line. Just like his mother.

 

He spotted a drink table and fluttered over to it. Though his legs were rubbery, his wings were relaxed and ready to do the rest of the work for his mode of travel. He grabbed a cup and started drinking from it.

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                                                                                                       REvxA6F.png


Apple Bloom looked up at her would be hero, the Tiger Blood who had done so well. There were multiple of him and they were woozy and giving her a funny look, but as she took a deep gulp the many became the one and the reason for his visit became clear in her mind. She rolled her eyes- oww- and guffawed a little too loud as she stood up. "Ah already returned tha books! Now stop telling me to..." she trailed off defiantly as she trotted away from the one who was certainly not the librarian. As she trotted however she saw Zap Apple, and her mind centered on that as she saw him zipping off towards the drinks. Well not zip more like an exhausted hover but he was a Pegasus and they could be confusing sometimes. Just ask her sister in law about all that stuff, she was just happy to be a ____ who did a _____ and the lights were bright no that was the sun.

 

Squinting to stop the glare she rounded up on her nephew. "Howdy!" She began.
Then she began again. "Howdy!"
And that wasn't as good as the third time. "Howdy!"
Then she remembered he could fly. "Wow, look'tchayou, flyin' all about. Yer wings are getting mighty strong. Been doing those wing exercise that Drainbow Bash showed you?" She said with a quick nuzzle. Whether it was her nephew or the air she didn't know. "Ah'm so proud of you for finishing!" She said, eyes closed.

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"Mmmmmm...." Jade purred, to nopony in particular. Today turned out food. Very, very good - far better then she expected. She didn't really achieved anything she aimed for at when she walked to staring line but....being flexible was a reason why she was still in the game, unlike some other nincompoops.....

 

Of course Oil was here to put her away from unpleasant thoughts.

"Oh, who could forget me?" she asked before stretching in the very same way she did at the start of the race. ..."And it's not Flappy I plan to put into bed Hoofesome." she quickly added with a half-lidded gaze.

When Midnight made his question, he probably didn't expected a very detailed answer. Well, too bad for him, Hou was fully willing to commit to 'Doctor Jade' persona at the moment.

"Well...the answer is - depends on species." 'Jade' started, while pushing up her glasses "Most wyverns are not fond of eating equines, contrary to popular belief. Mind you, they WILL eat it when pressured, but the same can be said about any desperate or crippled predator which can't go after their preferred prey. Ponies have too high levels of retinol in their bodies to be a preferred food, we simply don't taste good. They also have great requirements for vitamin A so....wild birds of large enough size, especially the livers, fish, boars and pumpkins. Unlike most creatures wyverns can switch to be homeothermic or poikilothermic at will, so how much nutrition they take depends only food availability. Also since they ARE related to dragons, many species consume gemstones like them, but unlike dragons they tend to specialize. Usually a whole genus will eat the same one like, sapphire, topaz etc. while not touching any other mineral." she explained before switching her gaze to her pet. "Flappy here is Forest Stripped-Stingertail. And since his species was considered extinct for over five hundred years, the literature about him is bound to be sparse. For now he certainly will be content with cart of fish and chickens. Maybe some eggs too. Wyverns like a yolk as well." she mused.

 

"Well that being said, we still have something to do. Those two kids haven't turned out yet so....!" aaaand as soon as Shuren said this, the children in question roiled onto a scene. This made her blink. Before blinking again....and again.

"Well that was quick. Who's for karaoke?" she asked. "After I tend the filly that is." "Beaker' said before walking towards babbling Apple Bloom and raising one of her hooves like a spear. Before anypony could do anything, unicorn's limb turned into a blurr and then, it was over. It was hard to tell WHAT just happened, beside the fact Apple Bloom was still there  and apparently unharmed.

"There we go. That should help with swelling and dizziness for the time being. You still need to see a medic child. That was some extremely irresponsible thing you did. Is your pride so much precious to make your family worry about you, hmmm?" she scolded the Bloom before turning away on her heel.

 

"I need a drink. Berry do you have some nice Chanti at your place? I crave to taste some with fried fava beans. I bet Tiger here knows some eastern recipes other the Wingaporean ones..."

further words died in her throat upon seeing stares of everypony involved.

"What? Wingapore! Kung fu! Pressure points!" sorceress explained laconically while waving her hoof at earth filly.

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TT was wondering if they'd have to form a search party to find him, but before long she heard some pegasi cheering someone along.  Most likely, the last racer.


"Ah, THERE he is !" she noted, actually impressed one so young was able to finish the race.


"Yes, yes.  The gang's all here." the Abomination grumbled in her head, "Now, will you go find a room with a shower ?  Or even just a shower ?   That mud you insisted on coating your legs with is getting itchy !"


As she headed off, she watched Jade poke Apple Bloom so quickly the strike was a blur, then heard Jade's explanation.


"Hmm.  Pressure point manipulation.  Neat !  A classic healing technique in some Eastern cultures.  Something like those monks in Neighpal used while I was there years ago when trying to put my mind back together." she noted to herself (and to the sundry other Things skulking about in her mindscape).


She was walking along towards the hotel when she was struck by an odd thought.


"Pressure points are an advanced technique.  The control and precision needed for the physical touch, and the understanding of the chi pathways and patterns needed for proper use usually need decades of study and dedicated practice to master. 


Jade doesn't look that old.


But, then again, that can be hard to tell sometimes.  Especially if someone puts some effort into physical maintenance.  Or into learning a skill they might be a prodigy at." she continued before she decided it wasn't worth pondering at the moment.

 

Spoiler

I hope Jade/Hou didn't get the hankering for fava beans and chianti from Dr Hannibal Lecter.:eflowey:

 

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Strong Copper's statement died away as both Zap and Apple Bloom made their presence known. "Oh good, they're alright then." At least, until Apple Bloom started talking anyway. A degree of concern did appear on Copper's face as he took a step towards the young mare with the intent of carrying her to a proper doctor, but then Doctor Jade stepped forward and... did something to her. Granted by her own admission reveled that Apple Bloom should still go see a medical professional for better long term care, Strong Copper still couldn't help but look at Jade with a degree of suspicion... despite what she claimed to have done. Even if it was true, that kind of skill and the ability to use it at speed like she had suggested a great deal of practice... which only furthered his doubts about her considering her magical control of (and knowledge of a supposedly extinct sub-species of) wyvern. That mare was hiding a lot behind her flirtatious smile and he didn't like what it was shaping up to one bit. 

 

That said, he didn't call her out then and there. Instead he calmly walked up to Apple Bloom and politely offered "Would you care to join me for a walk to the hospital? I appear to be a bit more breathless then I intended to be." He lied. In fact, to give the mare at least a mock show that he wasn't just offering to escort her to the hospital and preserve her pride, he reached up to cough into his hoof for her benefit.

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Berry Punch

With a sigh of maternal relief, Berry was able to see both of the little ones back in safe hooves, and taken care of.  "Boy, I don't envy Applejack, bringing another foal into her house with the rambunctious ones she already has taking all these risks.  Here's hoping little Ambrosia proves a contrast to them, for all their sakes!"  She laughed and shook her head.  "Anyway, I need to take that bath, and open up the shop.  I'll have the drinks ready for us all in an hour, tops!"

 

~Moving to Another Thread~

Spoiler

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

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"Auntie AB? Are you okay?" Zap took immediate notice at how tired she was, and he thought he was exhausted. But the attention was brought back to him as she noted how proud of him she was. Nothing interrupts a medical need for a pony more than giving Zap relentless amounts of praise and acknowledgement. It's too bad he didn't exactly feel the same. He felt a little defeated. "Well, I basically got last place. I might as well have not even tried." Then the colt remembered that his suggestion would be wise in a coltish sense. "Actually, yeah, I wasn't even in the race. What are you talking about, Auntie? I was on my way to do chores on the farm after I watched the end of the race." He hoped his cover story kept, and that Apple Bloom remained impaired enough to not remember him racing. If news got out that he had tried to run, he might have to wash dirty apples for a whole week...    again.

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