Standard disclaimer: This is a not for profit fan work. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is copyright Hasbro, Inc. I make no claim to any copyrighted material mentioned herein.
Chapter 6: The Running of the Leaves
Blue Seas sat at a corner table in Sugarcube Corner. His plate had been empty for a while, but he pushed the crumbs around with his fork. He fidgeted with his hooves as he did.
“Let me take that for you,” Pumpkin Cake offered. She levitated the plate and fork away from him. “Nervous?”
“Yeah,” Blue Seas admitted. “I’m afraid that my father might not show up. And if he does come, my two fathers are going to be meeting each other.”
“I thought you said they knew each other way back when.”
“They did, but that was so long ago.”
Pumpkin Cake walked back to his table and embraced him. “Don’t worry so much. I think your family reunion is going to be wonderful.”
The bell above the door rang, and the town’s most prominent resident entered. “Welcome, Twilight Sparkle!” Pumpkin Cake said. “Looking for a late snack?”
“Actually, I’m looking for Blue Seas,” she replied. She turned to him. “Your parents thought I would find you here. I wanted to let you know that Prince Blueblood is arriving via carriage at 4:00 this afternoon. There’s an official reception immediately after, but I’ve let him know that he’ll be enjoying dinner as a guest of your family.”
“Okay. Thanks for letting me know, Princess.”
“It’s just Twilight Sparkle, Blue Seas,” she chided. “Why don’t you come by the palace and watch your father’s arrival? In fact, I think you both should come.”
“Really?” Pumpkin Cake asked.
“Yes. Princess’s orders. Now, I must be off.” Twilight Sparkle departed.
“This is really happening,” Blue Seas said.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be there to support you,” Pumpkin Cake said encouragingly.
A small crowd gathered in two groups outside the Castle of Friendship. The Dusk Guard stood at attention, flanking the waiting princess. Nopony was really sure what was happening, but seeing the guard gathered had the immediate effect of drawing ponies’ attention.
Blue Seas and Pumpkin Cake stood in the front of one of the two groups. He was the first to notice the speck in the sky. “There he is!” he said, pointing.
The carriage soon came into view. An ornate affair, even gaudier than Princess Twilight Sparkle’s own carriage, it was pulled by four pegasus guards while another guard, in more ornate armor and carrying a spear, flew ahead.
The carriage came in for a perfect landing, right in front of the castle. The lead pegasus bowed; the pegasi attached to the carriage followed as best they could. All rose, and the crowd fell silent.
Blue Seas looked to the carriage; he could not see his father, as the curtains were drawn. He glanced over to Pumpkin Cake. She was looking at one of the four pegasi. And he was looking at her.
The Dusk Guard herald blew a horn. “Announcing the arrival of Blueblood, Prince of the Unicorns, Duke of House Platinum.” Another guard opened the door to the carriage.
Prince Blueblood strode out of the carriage. Rather than the formal attire Blue Seas had expected to see, the prince was wearing sportswear. It resembled the clothes many of the athletes in the dormitories had worn, but on first glance, they were both less worn and more expensive. Blueblood surveyed the crowd. He locked eyes briefly with Blue Seas, and smiled.
Blueblood bowed before Princess Twilight Sparkle, and then rose. “Princess, it is an honor to be invited to an athletic event as old as Ponyville itself. Physical fitness is an important component of everypony’s health, and I am glad to see everypony from the Princess to young foals encouraged to run. Come tomorrow, I shall see you all on the starting line!”
The crowd responded with polite applause. Princess Twilight Sparkle headed inside the castle, followed by her guards. Blueblood waved to the crowd, and then followed.
The lead guard of Blueblood’s escort addressed his company. “All right, stallions. Park the carriage, and then you are dismissed until 1400 hours tomorrow.” The other four guards saluted and flew the carriage behind the castle.
Pumpkin Cake was watching for the guardsponies to return. When she did, she again had her eye on one of them. Blue Seas was about to say something, when that pegasus pulled off his helmet. The illusion faded, revealing a young stallion with a beige coat and brown mane.
Pumpkin Cake smiled and bounded forward. “Pound!”
“Pumpkin!” he replied. They met with a big hug.
“Ugh. This armor does not make for comfortable hugs,” Pumpkin Cake protested.
“Hey there, Blue Seas,” Pound Cake said with a smirk.
“Hi. Um, welcome back. I guess you two want to catch up?”
“And you’ve got a dinner to get ready for,” Pumpkin Cake replied.
“Are you going to run tomorrow?” Blue Seas asked.
“No way,” Pumpkin Cake replied. “Are you, Pound?”
“The lieutenant is encouraging it. That means yes,” he said.
“I’ll cheer both of you on,” she said.
His meeting concluded, Prince Blueblood thanked the mayor, who departed. He then turned to Twilight Sparkle. “And I hope I’ll see you on the racecourse tomorrow.”
“I’ll be there,” she said. “Like every year, I run with a big group of foals. I want to teach them to appreciate the beauty of the woods as well as the value of exercise.”
“Oh?” Blueblood replied, raising an eyebrow. “I was hoping to face off against you. I may be older, but I’m in the best shape of my life.”
“That’s okay. I’m happy with what I do, even if it means stopping while some fillies jump into a pile of leaves.”
“Very well, Princess,” Blueblood said. “If you’re afraid of losing, I won’t press the matter.”
Twilight Sparkle frowned. “Are you really still upset that I beat you that one time I ran against you?” she asked crossly
Blueblood stepped back. “I, uh, remember doing worse than I wanted.”
“Look. The reason I run with the foals is because if I competed in the main race, I would win,” Twilight Sparkle stated. “And that’s not fair to everypony else.”
“I’m not sure why you’re so certain...” Blueblood started.
“Maybe it would be best just to show you. Race you to the Goldens’ farm?”
Blueblood and Twilight Sparkle stretched and got in position outside the door to her castle.
“Okay, it’s pretty simple,” Twilight Sparkle said. “We’re going to race down this road, turn right at the marketplace, and follow the road until it becomes a dirt trail through the apple orchard. Our destination is the house with the giant carrot.”
“Got it.” Blueblood ignored the smirks of the two Dusk Guards. He was fit and ready to run.
“On your mark, get set, go!” one guard said.
Twilight Sparkle took off while Blueblood was still processing the guard’s words. He quickly collected himself and sprinted after her. He caught up to the princess and paced her. Twilight Sparkle smiled and continued to run.
Blueblood was sure Twilight Sparkle was slowly increasing her speed as she ran. Either that, or he wasn’t in as good of shape as he thought. Already he was winded, and his muscles ached.
They turned at the marketplace, and the road soon passed through a gate, becoming dirt afterward. “This is the road, okay?” Twilight Sparkle said.
Blueblood only nodded. He was breathing too hard to speak.
At that moment, Twilight Sparkle galloped away, running at a sprinter’s pace. Even as he told his body to ignore the pain, Blueblood found himself falling more and more behind Twilight Sparkle.
Blueblood knew he was defeated, but his pride didn’t allow him to just give up. He was determined to finish the race in the best time he could, without risking hurting himself. The great orange carrot came into view. He ran up to the farmhouse, where Twilight Sparkle was waiting.
Once there, Blueblood started pacing slowly. It took all his will to simply not collapse right there.
“Are you okay?” Twilight Sparkle asked.
“I’ll be fine,” he gasped through ragged breaths. He looked at Twilight Sparkle. She wasn’t even breathing hard.
“Now do you see why I don’t race in the Running of the Leaves?”
“Where did you learn to run like that?” he asked.
“Okay. Let’s talk about this race. Applejack and Rainbow Dash are still neck and neck every year. Their times are around 29 minutes. The best time was recorded by a visitor to town, an earth pony stallion with a special talent in running. He finished in just over 26 minutes.
“Three years ago, after the race was over, I ran the course by myself. I wanted to test myself, and focused the whole of my magical core through my earth pony magic. I ran the entire course for the Running of the Leaves in 21 minutes. After watching the Equestria Games, I’m sure you can appreciate how unfair it would be for me to run.”
Blueblood gasped. “Five minutes faster?” He congratulated several ponies for breaking world records by seconds. To be that much faster....
“So, yes, it wouldn’t be fair for me to run. If you want to race, why don’t you run against your son?” She motioned to the door. “Go on, Blueblood.” And with that, Twilight Sparkle teleported away.
Prince Blueblood stared at the door to the Goldens’ house. He told himself he just needed to catch his breath. By now, he was fully recovered from his run, yet he still couldn’t raise his hoof.
“You are a prince,” he told himself. He raised his foreleg, and held it for nearly a minute before lowering it again.
He shook his head. “You have done far harder things, Blueblood.” He looked again at the closed door. He raised his foreleg again. He looked away from the door, and knocked. Or he tried to. His hoof hit something that was far too soft to be a door.
Blueblood turned and looked. He saw the door open, and Golden Grain rubbing his muzzle. “Oh. Sorry,” he said.
“Thought I heard something,” Golden Grain said. “Come in. Dinner’s ready.”
Blueblood followed Golden Grain into the quaint farmhouse. He was glad he wasn’t claustrophobic. The rooms were small, the hallways narrow. Yet he felt welcome.
Perhaps it was the smell. Whatever the Goldens were cooking smelled delicious, and he could smell it from the front door. He never visited the kitchen in his own home, so he wasn’t used to smelling his food until the serving staff lifted the cloche from over his plate.
And speaking of kitchens, that was where Blueblood was brought. A small table with benches was at its center, and a large number of ponies were frantically setting the table.
“Everypony, our guest is here,” Golden Grain announced. “Prince Blueblood, you remember my wife. And that’s Red Streak, Junebug, Juniper, and Cirrus.”
“Thank you for welcoming me into your home,” Blueblood said.
“And thank you for coming,” Blue Seas said. The young stallion walked up to his natural father, and the two ponies shared an embrace.
“Wow. You really do look just like him,” Golden Harvest said. “Enough talking. Let’s eat!”
Somehow, all eight ponies in the room fit at the small table. The table was crowded with plates, utensils, cups, and serving dishes. The main course was a carrot and potato stew, accompanied by green beans, salad, and honey wheat bread. It was a lot of food, and everypony wasted no time in loading up their plates.
Blueblood realized he was staring at the spectacle. He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen ponies eating like that.
“Aren’t you going to eat?” Golden Harvest asked.
“Oh. Yes, of course.” Blueblood put half a ladle of the carrot stew into his bowl. He sniffed and lifted a spoonful of the peasant fare. His eyes widened. “This is really good!” he exclaimed. He noticed a knowing smile on Golden Harvest’s face.
“Eat up. We have plenty,” Golden Grain said.
The food may not have been fancy. It may have lacked in presentation, and it was free from the sauces and garnishes that graced each of his meals at home. But Blueblood followed Golden Grain’s order and ate up. He listened to the pleasant chatter around the dinner table, mostly the family talking about their days.
His stomach full, Blueblood leaned back. “I couldn’t eat another bite,” he said, just before Golden Harvest dropped a large cake, covered in cream cheese frosting, on the table.
“You can’t miss Mom’s carrot cake,” Blue Seas said.
“He’s right,” Golden Harvest said. A large slice of cake was placed in front of Prince Blueblood.
He lifted one forkful of the cake into his mouth. He tasted carrots, raisins, apples, and spices. His eyes widened, and his mouth watered. He then decided he had room for dessert.
“I think he likes it, Mom!” Cirrus said.
The cake having been dispatched, Golden Harvest rose from the table. “Your dad and I, and Blue Seas, need to talk to our guest. Cirrus, I want you to go to your room. The rest of you, clean the kitchen.”
“Aw, Mom, why isn’t Cirrus helping?” Juniper protested.
“Because I said so. Now go!”
Blue Seas let Blueblood to the living room, where the older stallion sat on one of the couches. He groaned. “I really didn’t need that slice of cake,” he said.
“But it was good, right?” Blue Seas said.
“Yes. Everything was delicious.”
“Those are all our family’s special dishes. Mom’s carrot stew, Dad’s bread, Mom’s carrot cake. That’s what they made for me when I got back from the Equestria Games. Do you have a special food?”
“No,” he replied. “I don’t think my mother or father ever cooked.”
“That’s too bad,” Blue Seas said.
His mother and father joined them in the living room, his father carrying a tray with two glasses and an unlabeled bottle on his back. “I know just the way to settle your stomach after a big dinner!” Golden Grain said. He lowered the tray to the table. The ice in the two glasses clinked.
“Is that your carrot vodka?” Blueblood asked.
“It is,” Golden Grain replied. “Blue Seas and Juniper helped with this batch. I think Juniper has a real talent for distilling.”
“Yeah, it was more him than me,” Blue Seas said.
“But before you drink, we have something for you,” Golden Harvest said.
The earth pony couple grabbed Prince Blueblood in a tight hug. “Thank you so very much for giving us our son,” Golden Harvest said.
“You don’t know how much he means to us,” Golden Grain added.
Blue Seas looked away, embarrassed. “I’m sorry, Father,” he said.
“I think I can accept a... more informal greeting when I’m away from Canterlot,” Blueblood replied. He poured himself a glass of the carrot vodka and took a sip. “Golden Grain, I met you, got to know you, and wanted you to be happy. So I did the one thing I could do to help Blue Seas and to help you. As much as it hurt me to give him away, I did what was best for somepony other than me, perhaps for the first time in my life.”
“And thank you again,” Golden Harvest said. “But how did you convince Blue Seas’s mother to agree to this?”
“Mom? Do you really not know?” Blue Seas interjected.
“My mother was a seapony.”
“Yes, you told us,” she replied.
Blue Seas stared at his parent. “And seapony parents are different, remember?”
His parents looked at each other. Then they looked at Prince Blueblood. And then they laughed, loud and long.
Blue Seas levitated over the bottle of carrot vodka. “Do you need another, Father?”
“Just leave the bottle.”
Prince Blueblood finished off another glass before the Goldens collected themselves. “There’s a reason why I don’t talk about this,” he said once they were quiet.
“How in the world did you hide it?” Golden Grain asked.
“I always wore a long jacket, and when that wasn’t enough, I used an illusion spell that Twilight—Princess Twilight Sparkle taught me. But mostly, I relied on the fact that nopony was thinking that a stallion could be pregnant.”
“And I want to thank you again,” Golden Harvest said. “Your sacrifice reminded us that there are foals in need, and let us see that we could make a family even when nature said no.”
“You have quite the diverse family,” Blueblood said.
“Just because a foal doesn’t look like us, doesn’t mean he can’t be part of our family,” Golden Grain said.
Blueblood sighed. “You have freedoms I could only dream of, Golden Grain. I am forced by my heritage to be the representative of all unicorns.”
“Can you tell me about this heritage?” Blue Seas asked.
“What do you mean?” Blueblood replied.
“Well, what does the House of Platinum mean to you?”
“I wrote to you about how my house represents all the great unicorn traditions. We are skilled in many, but truly great in few, mostly diplomacy. But there are a few unicorns I am proud to call my ancestors.”
Prince Blueblood spoke warmly about several of his predecessors. A general in the army who fought against Nightmare Moon. The architect who helped build Canterlot. The musician who composed the Equestrian national anthem. And his great-grandfather, who served as ambassador to the pony nations across the ocean.
“I’m seeing something about all these great ponies,” Blue Seas observed. “They all became great when they were working with all types of ponies.”
“That’s right,” Blueblood said. “Blue Seas, you could be like these ponies, much easier than my daughter. Think about it. You have unicorn and seapony heritage, earth pony parents, and a nosy pegasus for a sister.”
Golden Harvest looked upstairs. Cirrus was poking her head through the railing surrounding the landing. “I told you to stay in your room!” Golden Harvest yelled. “Sorry,” she said to Blueblood.
“It’s all right. It looks like she cares about you, Blue Seas.” He sighed. “Another experience I fear my daughter will miss.”
“I was kind of hoping you would have brought your wife and daughter, Father,” Blue Seas said.
“Yes. Well. Just because Capella understands my desire to know you, doesn’t mean she’s happy. And Bluebell....”
“You haven’t told her?” Golden Grain asked.
“I don’t know if she’s ready to share my affection,” Blueblood said. “Being raised in Canterlot tends to give one a twisted understanding of the magic of friendship.”
“If that’s what you’re worried about, why not send her down here for a while?” Golden Harvest suggested.
“That’s... actually, that’s a good idea,” Blueblood said. “I know I learned a lot from Equestria’s newest princess in my time here.” He turned to Blue Seas. “But I’m here to spend time with you. Is there anything you want to do?”
Blue Seas thought for a while. Here he was, catching up with his father, his parents reunited with an old friend. It was much like meeting a distant member of the Golden family, of which there were many. “I think this is what I wanted.”
“And there’s one thing I want to ask of you, son,” Blueblood said. “Will you race me tomorrow?”
Blueblood, Blue Seas, and the Goldens talked for another hour, now joined by the rest of the family. Coffee and tea were shared. Golden Grain talked about the fishing hole, Golden Harvest gossiped about Ponyville, and Blueblood shared tales from the Equestria Games. It really was like a visit from a distant relative.
Golden Harvest offered the spare bed, but Blueblood politely declined. The princess was expecting him, after all. He also turned down an offer to fish the next morning. Blueblood did need to mingle with the runners before the race.
Blue Seas rose early the next morning, and headed with his mother to the edge of the Whitetail Wood. The early risers were of two groups, the officials and volunteers that helped organize, and the most eager runners. Golden Harvest was in the latter group, and Blue Seas watched his mother gather with Shoeshine and Bon Bon. No doubt they were wagering their respective products on the results of the race.
Blue Seas spotted many other rivals: Applejack and Rainbow Dash, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, Thunderlane and most of the weather team, Rumble and Archer. Prince Blueblood was deftly moving around the crowd, introducing himself and saying a few words to each racer. Other than the outdoor venue and the distinctly less formal attire, it could have been Blueblood at the party back in Baltimare.
Finally, Blueblood came over to Blue Seas. “Do you run the race every year?” he asked.
“I used to, before I got my cutie mark,” Blue Seas said. “I ran with Princess Twilight Sparkle. But after I got my cutie mark, it felt like I was betraying my talent.”
“I encourage you to run,” Blueblood said. “Fitness is a worthy goal, even in an activity that’s not your talent. As a future champion athlete, foals will look up to you, and I encourage you to set a good example.”
“Shall I start by outracing the chair of Princess Celestia’s council of athletics?”
“You can try,” Blueblood said with a smile. “I must move on. Perhaps we’ll talk on the trail, assuming you’re not too out of breath.”
Blue Seas just nodded. Silently, he was assessing his father’s chances. “I got this,” he thought.
Blue Seas wandered around. He saw the entire Cake family approaching. Pound Cake was in his armor, but without the helmet. “Interesting choice in racing gear,” Blue Seas quipped.
“The lieutenant said it’s good practice,” Pound Cake replied. “He has a funny concept of leave.”
“Then your best response is to run faster than him,” Blue Seas said. “How about you, Pumpkin? Are you sure you’re not going to run?”
“No. I’m here to cheer on my favorite athlete.” She nuzzled Blue Seas. “And my favorite brother. And help my parents sell drinks.” Cup Cake and Carrot Cake had already set up a cart, with hot chocolate, steamed milk, and spiced carrot-pumpkin juice ready for sale.
“Everypony racing, line up to get your numbers!” somepony called over the megaphone.
“That’s my cue,” Blue Seas said.
Blue Seas joined the queue. Dedicated racers lined up to get their official numbers. A few of the younger runners, imitating parents or older siblings, joined them. The volunteers gave them their own numbers with a smile. Blue Seas, for his own part, stood as the number 66 was placed over both his cutie marks. The material holding the cloth numbers to his coat itched like a burr under a saddle.
“Form up by groups!”
The racers stood up front, followed by the casual runners, distinguished by the lack of numbers. The five stallions in guard armor stood at attention behind them. Further back, the princess was trying to herd a group of excited foals, including Cirrus. The mayor gave her usual introductory speech about how the race was run to prepare the Whitetail Wood for winter. Then, Blueblood took the stage.
“I’d like to thank Princess Twilight Sparkle for the invitation, the mayor for her warm welcome, and everypony who has come out to race or support the racers. Preparing one’s town for the change of seasons is part of one’s civic duty. And staying fit should be part of everypony’s daily regimen. I am glad to see Ponyville combine these goals into one wonderful fall tradition.
“And to sweeten this year’s race, I am personally contributing a 100 bit prize for first place, 50 bits for second, and 10 bits down through tenth place. Now let’s get ready to run. These leaves aren’t going to fall off the trees by themselves!”
Blueblood joined the racers, taking a position two ponies away from Blue Seas. He glanced at his son and smiled. Blue Seas returned the smile, and then looked over at his mother.
The horn sounded, and three members of Blue Seas’s unusual family took off running.
Blue Seas’s hooves crunched through fallen leaves. Despite his best efforts to keep up, he fell behind the leading group of ponies. Applejack and Rainbow Dash were the first to break away, and a minute later, he lost sight of his mother amidst the trunks and branches. At least his father was still trailing him.
He felt the pains of overexertion, and slowed his pace. Blue Seas may have spent ten or more hours swimming on some days, but he never swam for over thirty minutes without stopping. The techniques he learned to maximize his speed while swimming weren’t usable here. As he ran at a slower pace, he recalled the lessons he learned from Princess Twilight Sparkle. “Take time to appreciate the beauty of the forest. Look at the vibrant colors. Listen for the animals that share these woods. And think of all that these woods provide ponies. Lumber. Herbs and flowers. Maple syrup.”
A maple walnut muffin from Sugarcube Corner sure sounded good.
The sound of hoofsteps alerted Blue Seas to somepony catching up to him. He glanced back and saw Prince Blueblood. “Hi, Father,” he huffed.
“You won’t win if you treat this as a sprint, Blue Seas,” Blueblood said.
“Let us pace each other.”
Blue Seas nodded and continued his slower pace. With each step, more of the multicolored leaves fell from the trees in the Whitetail Wood.
“It is beautiful,” Blueblood said. “A lesson I failed to learn on my previous race.”
“I can’t ever forget that lesson,” Blue Seas said. “The princess is insistent.”
“Ponyville is a special place,” Blueblood said. “Feeling better?”
Blue Seas nodded.
Blueblood smiled and increased his pace. Blue Seas grunted and increased his own speed.
They were running too fast to converse now, but Blue Seas didn’t mind. He was happy to be evenly matched against his father. Blueblood was breathing heavily as well. Sweat covered his sides and soaked the collar of his sportswear. Blue Seas didn’t want to think about how bad he himself looked.
Ahead, Blue Seas spotted one of the other racers, Bon Bon, moving at a slower trot. As he got closer, he noticed she was stepping tenderly with one of her legs. He moved to help her.
She waved him off. “I can make it back,” Bon Bon said. “You go finish the race.”
Blue Seas nodded and focused on the trail ahead. If his count was accurate, there were now eight racers ahead of him and his father. He thought a top ten finish would be wonderful. But he couldn’t rest. He heard at least two ponies behind him, making their final move.
The arrow sign ahead, painted red and marked with a 9, pointed out the final leg of the race. He glanced over at his father, who nodded. And with that, they both dug into their energy reserves and galloped as fast as possible.
Blue Seas narrowed his vision. He pictured himself in the pool. There was only him, only his lane. Don’t even think about the ponies racing you. Focus on yourself, the movement of your body. Once you’re out of the pool, then you can watch the competition.
Unlike swimming, though, he could hear the cheers of the ponies in the crowd. The cheers were growing louder. He saw the banner of the finish line ahead. His peripheral vision picked up somepony trying to beat him. It was now or never.
Blue Seas lowered his head and charged, not stopping until his hooves crossed the white chalk of the finish line. He slowed to a trot to cool down. One volunteer took the numbers off his coat, while another offered water. Blue Seas gladly accepted.
Of the ponies who had crossed the finish line around the same time as Blue Seas, he couldn’t determine who had placed where. So Blue Seas looked to the board. It might not have been as fancy as the ones used at the Equestria Games, but it served the same purpose. There were ten rows and two columns, with eight rows filled with numbers and times. He watched as somepony wrote a time in the ninth position, and then posted a number, not his own, to the board.
A tenth time was then added to the board, just slower than the previous time. And the last space on the board was filled by his own number 66.
It wasn’t a swim event at the Equestria Games, but Blue Seas was thrilled by his placing.
A victory that was interrupted, moments later, by somepony yelling “Oh, come on!” Blueblood was talking to a volunteer while looking at the board.
Blue Seas trotted over. “What’s the matter, Prince Blueblood?”
“I finished the race one second slower than you. One second. I missed finishing in the top ten by one second!”
“A valiant effort, you know, for a Canterlot noble,” Blue Seas replied with a smile. “Look at it this way; you have the fastest time for a visitor to town.”
“Given that the competitors for that title are all wearing armor, that’s not saying much.”
After sufficiently recovering from the run, Blue Seas joined the crowd in cheering for the other racers. After a half hour, the last of the adult racers had finished, and the trees were almost completely devoid of leaves. After another half hour, the squeals of delighted foals could be heard over the approaching thunder of a hundred small hooves. A minute later, they emerged from the woods. All of them, even Princess Twilight Sparkle, were covered in leaves, and some in tree sap.
With the princess’s encouragement, the colts and fillies ran to rejoin their parents. Golden Harvest hugged Cirrus, and then started fussing over her, picking leaves out of her mane and wings.
Blue Seas looked to Blueblood and smiled. “Mothers.”
“They’re the same everywhere,” Blueblood said.
The mayor took the stage. Twilight Sparkle and Blueblood followed her, the former carrying this year’s medals. The mayor thanked everypony, and then called the winners to stage. Applejack and Rainbow Dash took their customary first and second. Blue Seas watched his mother collect the fourth place medal. And once the medals were gone, two more ponies were called to stage. Blue Seas was one of them.
Blueblood spoke to the ninth and tenth place finishers. “I understand quite well that there are only medals given for the top eight competitors, but here is a small token of acknowledgment.” Blueblood levitated over small pouches of bits.
Blue Seas grabbed the pouch with his own aura and turned. But then he heard his father say his name softly. He turned back.
“Blue Seas. The one thing I try to emphasize in my position is that athletics is a worthy pursuit for all ponies. Look at the crowd. And look at the racers. Today, you’re a role model. Make everypony as excited about athletics as you are.”
Blue Seas nodded and joined the rest of the winners. Looking over them, two facts were obvious. He was the youngest pony on stage, and the only unicorn. Back when he was a colt, when athletics was more like playing, all kinds of ponies participated. But as he grew older, as he participated in all those teams that Scootaloo organized, he saw fewer pegasi and even fewer unicorns. It was much like the Equestria Games, even though this race is one almost anypony could do.
He ended his musing and rejoined his family. They were standing with the Cakes, who were enjoying the rare chance to be with both of their foals. “Are you going to the party?” Blue Seas asked everypony.
“Of course,” Golden Harvest said.
“We’ll be there, once we see little Pound off,” Cup Cake said.
“My big colt’s going back on duty,” Carrot Cake added.
“Mom, Daaaad,” Pound Cake protested.
Blue Seas couldn’t help but chuckle. If there was one thing parents were good at, it was embarrassing their foals.
“Well, once you open your shop, I think some treats are in order,” Blue Seas said. He looked to his family and held up his prize.
That received nods of approval and an ambush hug from Cirrus.
“Son, do you want to see off our town’s guest?” Golden Grain asked.
He looked to the stage, where Prince Blueblood was mingling with the princess, mayor, and other prominent townsfolk. “No, I’m good.”
“We had an entire evening to talk to him, and then I ran with him on the trail. I feel like I understand our relationship now.” Blue Seas recalled his original thought about it feeling like meeting a distant relative from out of town. He was glad to have learned more about another branch of his family, but his family was here, all around him.
“I’m glad to hear that, son,” Golden Grain said. “Now let’s get going.”
“Do you think he’ll send his daughter to Ponyville?” Golden Harvest asked.
“That would be something,” Red Streak said.
“It sure would,” Blue Seas said.