Chapter 9 - The Fastest Pony on Earth, Duo (Part 2)
"Let us out of here!"
"No. And for the tenth time, keep quiet."
"It's been five days already, and nobody has taken care of us yet."
"The lawyers are very busy."
"Busy, my ass. We are the only two prisoners here."
"You are not prisoners. We are simply detaining you until a lawyer has time to look into your case. Now keep quiet. Eleventh time."
Sophie relentlessly insisted. The first of the three Triple Crown races was supposed to start in a few minutes, and she was still stuck in this police station cell with Brittany as a co-cellmate. She was aware that even if she had been released, she wouldn't have been allowed to participate in the event, but at least she would be able to watch it on TV.
Brittany was as anxious but had preferred not to say anything, letting Sophie exhaust her voice instead. But since words hadn't yielded any results so far, she decided to take things into her own hands. She grabbed her metal cup, tossed the water on the ground next to her crappy bed, and walked up to Sophie who was still tugging on the bars.
"… Move aside, moron."
"Shut up, Britt. They have to let us watch the race. It starts in twenty minutes."
"I know that. Move."
Unable to make the sheriff's assistant react, there was nothing to lose in letting Brittany try. So Sophie returned to her corner and let her enemy attempt something. Brittany wasn't the most polite person in the world, so it was very possible that things would get much worse from here and that they would even end up with additional charges. But at this point, who really cared?
Penny had not visited them. Stardust had not visited them. They had no idea how their ponies would be able to participate in the race without them. This unknown was probably the nastiest part of their punishment. So there was no real risk in letting Brittany do her worse.
Using her metal cup, Brittany began rattling it on the prison bars, loudly and most annoyingly. Very loudly. The metal-on-metal noise was downright unbearable and guaranteed a reaction. The policeman immediately stood up and came to warn her.
"HEY! Stop this!"
"In your dream, moron. Bring us a TV so we can watch the race."
"I said NO! Both of you are going to stay quiet in your cell until the lawyer comes to see you."
"I don't care about that. We just want to watch the race."
Brittany resumed her rattling, right in front of the man, and when he tried to take the metal cup away from her, she hit him on the knuckle with it.
"OW! Are you crazy? I could charge you for assault on a police officer."
"I don't care. Bring us a TV."
"NO! And keep quiet."
The policeman returned to his desk and resumed his paperwork… and Britany resumed the rattling.
This time, the man ignored her, assuming that not reacting to her childish ruckus would eventually make her stop. But Brittany was strong.
"Bring us a TV."
"Bring us a TV."
"Bring us a TV."
"Bring us a TV."
Sophie placed her two hands over her mouth when Brittany threw her heavy metal cup very hard directly at the man's skull. There was no doubt that he would feel that one tonight.
After placing a small black and white TV in front of the jail door, the sheriff's assistant returned to his desk, holding a towel full of ice on his head. His two small prisoners were out of their minds, and it was probably better to comply before they found a way to set fire to the police station.
Sophie and Brittany dragged one of the beds near the jail door and sat on it, side by side, not realizing that they had never been this close without attacking each other physically. In this instance, their teamwork had allowed them to get what they wanted, so an informal truce was in order.
On the small screen, a bunch of little ponies was about to line up for the first of the three most important races in the world, but because of the poor quality of the screen, it was impossible to see much detail. They only began to understand what was going on when the camera switched from one team to the other, displaying the members' names.
The first two teams presented weren't what neither of the two jailed drivers was looking for, but Brittany had a heart attack when the third one appeared on the screen. It was Hemlock and Nightshade, and the driver was Xiuying, someone she didn't particularly like to say the least.
"WHAT!? What is this bitch doing in MY cart!? I can't believe Stardust did that to me! I'll kick her in the head when I get out of here."
Obviously, Brittany was impulsive. At least, Sophie was around to bring her down to Earth.
"Relax, idiot. It's a good thing for you. Xiuying is a very good driver. It probably cost Stardust a fortune to hire her on such a risky contract. If there is someone who can make your ponies perform, that's her."
"Whatever! She is still a bitch!"
Two more teams were presented but, again, they were not who Sophie wanted to see. Somehow, all the other competitors felt a bit irrelevant, as if this race would only be between Stardust and Penny stables. The visceral rivalry between the two houses was undeniable and couldn't be avoided.
But when the last team appeared on the crappy TV screen, Morning Star with her bright star sewn on her bridle's forehead and Moonlight with her moon similarly applied, Sophie had a heart attack when she saw who was driving the cart. It was a small and cute lady, dressed in white with flashy show pony makeup, and who looked too happy to be there.
As Sophie tried to breathe with her paralyzed lungs, Brittany didn't miss the opportunity to bask in cruelty.
"Bhahaha! Sophie! You are sooo fucked!"
"Ivory is everything but a driver. What an imbecile!"
"HEY! Don't talk like that about her. She let you watch her show the other day!"
"True. I don't hate her. But seriously. You are sooo fucked!"
Sophie brought her heels to the mattress and hugged her knees. What did Penny do? Why? Why Ivory? The small show pony didn't have ANY experience in racing and wouldn't even be able to come up with a somewhat decent strategy to fight against all those other professional drivers. As much as she hated to admit it, Brittany had a very valid point.
Penny's team was fucked.
"Hahaha! Moon, Star, smile for the camera! Oh, right, you are wearing a bite. Still, push your chest out and try to be gracious. The world is looking at us."
Proudly and excited about being broadcasted live on national TV, Ivory yakked all kinds of nonsense to her two nervous ponies. Sure, Penny had instructed her not to take any initiative and let Morning Star's instinct do all the work during the race, but she had not mentioned anything regarding the part that came before it.
"Penny said it was okay for me to wear my white outfit if I wanted to. She checked the rules and said it was okay. Haha. I would feel bad to be in front of a camera without wearing it. You know, habits. She just said I couldn't wear my pony boots and bridle because it would be weird. But at least I can wear my ponytail."
As the improbable team zigzagged around to warm up, another driver came close to them.
"Hey! Ivory! What the heck are you doing here?"
"Oh, Xiuying. Hi. I'm driving for Penny."
"I see that. I didn't know you were a driver!?"
"Oh, I'm not. I know nothing about racing. But it's fun. I got scared at first, but then I learned to like it and…"
"Okay, okay! I get it… Well, I don't. But good luck. You'll need it."
"And put your helmet on. The race is about to begin! That's mandatory."
Too proud of her white ponytail, Ivory decided to wait until later before hiding it with the dusty helmet that Penny had found for her little head. Good looks were important. She leaned forward and grabbed it from the side of the seat, and planted it on her small head.
"Woot! Look at me! I'm a racer!"
At that point Morning Star and Moonlight were pretty convinced that they had been abandoned. Racing and winning were up to them and nobody else, particularly not their cute dead weight sitting on the springy seat of the cart they were pulling, no matter how adorable she was. Nobody today would reassure them, assist them, or guide them to victory.
Simply put, the word strategy has been erased from their vocabulary. What was to come next, a most probable fiasco, would be frozen in history.
At least Morning Star knew how to read, thanks to her passion for racing magazines, so when the officials called her cart number and directed them to a specific gate, she could identify which one it was by looking at the numbers at the top, something she had never had to do before.
Well trained by Sophie, she and Moonlight entered the gate and then pressed their foreheads on the metal door in front of them. The good thing about this technique was that they didn't need a driver to perform a good start. Morning Star had done this a million times and was possibly the most skilled at it, but even though Moonlight mimicked her, she was not nearly as prepared as her elite companion. So instead of feeling the gate movement, she would simply focus on Morning Star and attempt to rocket forward as soon as it would be logical to do so. As for Ivory, she probably would just scream of terror, so she should be ignored.
"Come on, Moonlight! Don't mess this up this time!"
"Shut up, Sophie! You know your ponies are incompetent. And I tell you, if Xiuying fuck up this race, I'll punch her in the face."
"Would you stop with violence for once, Brittany! I'm trying to watch a race here!"
"Screw you and your stupid ponies!"
"Whatever, turd! The race is about to start. Just watch the TV and keep quiet!"
Quickly enough, a countdown could be heard, and the rusty gates swung open.
It was an amazing sight for the spectators both on-site or in front of the TV. Before them were the six best racing teams in the world, and the way they all exited the gates simultaneously, as if they were all on the same wavelength, as if they were all connected by an invisible force, was nothing but impressive. They all had a perfect start…
… Except for one team.
Sophie's fingers quickly plunged inside her hair.
"AAAAH! Moonlight messed up again! What a horrible start! They are already so far behind."
"Haha! Hemlock and Nightshade are first! Good girls!"
Brittany and Sophie experienced drastically opposite emotions during the first few seconds of this first Triple Crown race. Already a few lengths behind everybody, Penny's team had no chance to win this unless everybody else would crash or get disqualified. Stardust's team, strong as ever, managed to get the very advantageous position on the side of the rail, and it was unlikely that any other team would be powerful enough to pass them. This race already had a taste of defeat and victory.
Gripping the bars separating them from the small black and white TV, the two excluded drivers still experienced the thrill of a true race, the good and the bad.
"YAY! You are so good, Morning Star! We are going so fast!"
No! Not at all.
Even if Ivory screamed her irrational positivism, it didn't make Morning Star's situation any easier. Moonlight had a terrible start and almost tripped, causing the cart to jerk sideways, killing all possibilities to build a crucial momentum. Now they were so far behind already before they even reached the first turn.
Usually, Sophie would have jumped in and told them to calm down and refocus before coming up with a magical strategy to solve the issue or, at least, dampen the impacts of the mistake. But she wasn't around, and Ivory was as useful as a hay bale. All that Morning Star had left to work with were Penny's words.
Earlier this week, the old lady, calmly and confidently, explained to Morning Star what she expected of her. She was not to use any strategy. She was not to analyze and comprehend what would happen around her. She was not to worry about a screaming Ivory or an inexperienced Moonlight. She would be racing alone from a certain point of view.
Herself accompanied by her passion for racing.
Two actions were generally required during a race. Run and sprint—the two actions at the core of all racing. Morning Star could do both very well, and in fact, they were the only things she knew how to do. The entirety of the rest was the responsibility of the driver. So, in her instructions, what Penny had asked her to do was not that special. Run, and when she felt that sprinting was required to win the race, she would trigger it, and Moonlight would just have to keep up and help with the pulling.
This simplicity was somewhat reassuring, but now that everybody was well ahead of them due to her atrocious start, a question popped up inside her brain a bit sooner than she had expected.
Would now be a good time to sprint? So soon into the race?
Morning Star had no idea. She wished Sophie was here, but since she wasn't, nobody would provide her with a decision. All she knew was that she was far behind the pack and needed to somehow finish this long lap before them if she wanted to win.
So, before she even reached the first turn, she decided to go for it, not understanding that she might exhaust herself before the end of the race.
She gave her all. A sprint seemed important.
"NOOO! IVORY! What are you doiiiiiing!?"
"Bwahaha! Sophie! Your team is sooo stupid! A sprint at the beginning of the race. What a bunch of idiots!"
Sophie grabbed her pillow and placed it on top of her head. In a few seconds, her ponies would run out of energy, and no matter how many positions they would gain with this bold move, they would fall back behind all the other teams who would manage their race better. This time, Brittany seemed to be correct with her offensive assessment.
Also overjoyed by something else, Brittany showed a rare smile.
"Haha. My ponies are still first. They are doing amazing. Maybe Xiuying doesn't suck as much as I thought."
The pink ponygirls, Hemlock and Nightshade, were indeed doing very well.
"Perfect, Hemlock! Perfect, Nightshade! You are just perfect! Keep that pace, and we will win! We got this!"
No matter how Xiuying had unconditional love for Tiantang Zhi Ma, no matter how much she loved driving the love of her life, her lover wasn't the ponygirl who was pulling her cart at the moment. Tiantang was sitting in the stands with the rest of the crowd, trusting her remotely, not on the race track. Xiuying's ponies were Hemlock and Nightshade, two of the strongest ponygirls on the surface of the Earth, and it showed.
Wearing their blinding pink latex suits and meticulously maintained harnesses, the two athletes were exactly what Xiuying had described. Perfect. Stardust had paid her to drive them for this race, but at the moment, it felt as if it should have been the other way around. She should have paid for the privilege to drive the best team in the world.
Was this incredible performance due to Hemlock and Nightshade being a couple on top of race partners? Their synchronism was flawless, their energy was balanced, their will to win was unbreakable. There was no messing around, their obedience was absolute and stunning. They did every single thing Xiuying had asked them to, even if she wasn't their regular driver, proving how well trained they had been.
Xiuying didn't look behind often. The other competitors were not too far, but never in a lifetime could they find the energy and strength required to pass her ponies or even just catch up to them. As for Penny's team, they had committed a big mistake and had ruined their race right at the start. Before even reaching the first turn, the team she had feared the most had disqualified themselves.
After the last turn, entering the last straight to the finish line, Xiuying was convinced of her victory, but she still had a job to do. Driving. It was not the right time to relax. She took a quick look behind to make sure all previous thoughts were still valid and returned her gaze toward the finish line, not noticing right away that something was extremely wrong with her assessment.
"Haha! Nobody can catch us now and… Wait… WHAT!? HOW!?"
A panicking Xiuying returned her eyes to the teams behind her, and on the outside lane, where nobody ever rode, were two black ponygirls with a very white driver screaming in the seat. And they were coming at her FAST.
Instinctually, Xiuying screamed an ultimate command at her two pink ponies while whipping their reins hard.
"SPRINT! SPRINT! FASTER! FASTER! NOW! NOW!
Unsure about what was going on, Hemlock and Nightshade didn't argue per se, but they were already at their maximum. Xiuying had already ordered them to initiate their sprint while they were exiting the last curve. They knew how fast they were going, so what was the big deal.
They tried nonetheless, but it didn't seem to soothe Xiuying's distress. The Asian driver kept pressuring them.
"YAAA! YAAA! FASTER! FASTER!"
And that's when the most bizarre thing in the history of racing happened. There were only twenty meters left to the finish line, but Morning Star and Moonlight passed them at a speed that didn't make any sense.
This last twenty meters had been enough for Penny's team to finish one length ahead of Stardust's team and steal the victory.
Sitting on the cheap bed behind the bars separating them from the crappy black and white TV, Sophie and Brittany couldn't say anything. They were both trembling and unable to comprehend what they had just witnessed.
Sophie attempted to replay the race in her head to figure out the part she had missed.
Morning Star and Moonlight messed up their start and immediately fell behind, way behind. Then they began a sprint, easily catching up with the other teams and passing them effortlessly, all that while staying in the outside lane to avoid the traffic, which should have made their job ten times harder. And then, in the last straight, they accelerated even more and passed the best team in the world, Hemlock and Nightshade, to finally win the race.
Simply put, they successfully sprinted an entire track that was almost four times as long as what they were used to on the Super Cup circuit.
Simply put, again, what they have done was purely impossible.
"… Yeah? What about them?"
"They are fucking not normal."
"… Yeah. I agree."
At the moment, there was something comforting about being on the same page with another expert.
"STAR! LOOK AT THE CAMERA!"
"MOON! SMILE FOR US!"
"IVORY! TELL US ABOUT THE RACE!"
Poor Ivory. She was so small, and there were so many reporters trying to interview her and her ponies or trying to take pictures. As a show pony, she was very much used to being the center of attention, but this… this was way too much. Frankly, those reporters were rough, disrespectful, they pulled on her arms desperately trying to make her look in their direction, but she didn't want to.
Penny had told her very clearly that, right after the race, she should bring the ponies back to the racetrack stalls where she would meet them. But for some odd reason, all those people rushed to her as soon as she left the track making her little trip very difficult.
"Aaaah! Move! Move! Leave us alone! Go see someone else!"
Moonlight and Morning Star were also in trouble. They had unfastened their wrist from their waist, but they still had trouble going through the crowd. Telling them to go pound sand was also not an option since they still wore their bit.
Not used to this kind of madness, Moonlight was about to punch one of them, but Morning Star, more used to fame, prevented her from doing so. Something odd was going on, but a bad action would have been immortalized forever. Morning Star, the most famous ponygirl in the world, knew better and couldn't let this happen.
After some efforts and some race employees assisting with the chaos, Ivory and her two ponies finally entered the stable, where only staff and racers were allowed, and headed to their assigned stall.
Ivory began to remove the bit and Bridle from her friends.
"Aaaah! What's wrong with these people, Morning Star? Is it always like that?"
"No. It's odd. Sometimes it's crazy, but this is strange."
"Did I do something wrong?"
"I don't think so. Maybe they just really like you?"
"Yay! Maybe they will all come to see my shows."
Naivety was running strong in this team, at least until Penny showed up.
"Well, well, well. What happened just now?"
"I saw that, Morning Star. Is that all you have to say about your race?"
"I don't know. I did what you said. Run, then sprint."
"Haha. Is that so? And, aren't you a bit tired? You sprinted very early, to say the least."
"A bit, but not much. Moonlight did most of the work."
Penny turned to her very silent young pony. Moonlight didn't seem too tired either. Just a bit sweaty, but nothing dramatic.
"Is that true, Moonlight?"
"I don't think so. I just ran at the same speed as Morning Star. It was fun for once."
"Fun? How come?"
"I could run the way I wanted instead of waiting for Sophie to tell us when."
"Haha. She wouldn't be happy to hear that."
"Oh, no,no! I mean, I like Sophie a lot. But It was easier that way. I mean… yeah."
Penny clearly saw that their ponies had no idea how unusual their performance had been—coming back from so far and so strongly. There was another thing they had accomplished, but for that part, she suspected her Elite ponygirl, an avid fan of racing magazines, already knew.
"Star? You know about your time, right?"
"Oh yes, Penny. We broke the track record. Hemlock and Nightshade were about to do it, but we passed them at the end."
"That's right. It's incredible."
"This one was twenty-seven years old."
"Yes, it was. Hehe. It was."
From Penny's point of view, a woman who had seen everything in her lifetime, those ponies were very entertaining.
A week later!
"LET US OUT! OR I WILL DECAPITATE YOU!"
"Sorry, Miss Brittany. Your assigned lawyer broke his ankle last night and said he wouldn't be back in town for a while. It's okay. We will assign a new one to you and Miss Sophie. I'm sure he will resolve your situation swiftly."
"THE SECOND RACE IS TONIGHT, YOU PREMIUM MORON! WE NEED OUT NOW!"
While Brittany discussed delicately with the sheriff through the bars, Sophie had already accepted her faith. She would spend another night sharing a cell with her harsh enemy and would watch the race on the small TV. Since the Sheriff's assistant had confiscated their metal cups, they could do nothing to help the situation progress faster this time. Anyway, what would have been the point?
"Britt, stop screaming."
"Shut up, catfish face! We need to get out of here!"
"And you need to stop screaming. Even if we get out, we are still technically suspended for tonight's race. You wouldn't even be able to drive your ponies anyway."
"I need to get my revenge! I can't let Xiuying destroy my efforts once more."
"Ah! Don't act stupid, Brittany. You know very well that it wasn't her fault."
Frustrated and defeated by Sophie's truthful point, Brittany returned to her bed to watch the TV with Sophie. At least the sheriff decided to move it inside the cell this time so they wouldn't have to watch the race through the bars.
Brittany played with the two long antennae, attempting to get rid of as much static as possible.
"Black and White TVs are so old school. Everything is in color now."
"Yes, but we are in jail, not a living room. Go back. It was better a second ago."
Without realizing it, the two drivers had to work together to set the antennas in a correct position in a way that would allow them to watch the second Triple Crown race. What happened during the first one was so unusual that it made the entire planet buzz. If, for some obscure reason Morning Star and Moonlight were to pull another crazy stunt like last week, the newspaper presses would literally overheat and explode.
Since the last event, Penny's stable has refused all interview requests, and nobody has even been allowed to approach them. Sophie had a good idea why, but isolated as she was, she sure would have appreciated hearing something from them instead of listening to those interview-starved pseudo-experts on TV all day. However, that was not possible. Penny and Stardust had stayed firm about their desire to let her and Brittany endure their punishment for bad behavior to the fullest.
It felt very odd to think this, but Brittany was with her. Even though Sophie hated her at a visceral level, it was at least a competent ponygirl expert to exchange with. If they stuck to a professional topic, there was some room for interesting discussion.
That said, they didn't really talk about what they had witnessed during the first race. What happened was simply not possible, yet, it had happened. As Brittany said so gracefully, those ponygirls were fucking not normal.
"Move your butt, Britt. I can't see the screen."
"I can't! If I do, the image goes all snowy."
"Then just keep your hand on the antenna. The race is only two minutes long anyway."
"Yeah, why don't you hold it then?"
"You do it better than I do. Shut up, now. They are lining up."
Indeed, all the little ponygirls pulling their small carts entered the gates one after the other. Same as last time, Ivory, Morning Star, and Moonlight entered the last gate.
The second race of the Triple Crown was about to start.
Sitting in the stands, waiting for the race to begin, two veterans discussed the meaning of life.
"Penny, do you think they can do it again?"
"I don't know, Tiantang. If I knew, I wouldn't have to watch the race."
"Good point. As much as I love Xiu and admire the athleticism of Hemlock and Nightshade, I'm kind of rooting for your team."
"Just enjoy the race as it comes, Tiang. You know better. It doesn't matter who wins or loses. What is important is the race."
"True that. But I don't want you to lose your stable."
"That, too, doesn't matter. True life is not something we can control. It's a series of events thrown at us, and no matter what happens, good or bad, we have to savor every moment of it. We will take those memories to our graves."
"Grim. But yeah, I see what you mean."
It was common knowledge that watching the action from the stands had a different meaning than experiencing it with feet resting on a freshly groomed race track.
"Okay, Morning Star. This time, I made you a very pretty ponytail, so you'll go very very fast."
Morning Star didn't know why Ivory had spent so much time working on her and Moonlight's ponytail this morning instead of enforcing rigorous training exercises, but it might have something to do with the fact that Ivory and racing was the equivalent of a sculptor trying to perform music; they were unrelated art forms. Why didn't Penny intervene and tell Ivory that this was not how pre-racing training should be conducted? The old owner didn't seem to overly care about the outcome of the race or the future of the stable. Did she have that much confidence in a team's ability that has been broken and reconstructed multiple times?
In any case, this would be a repeat of last week's race. When the gate would open, Ivory would scream, Moonlight would try not to mess up her start, they would probably end up behind the pack, and Morning Star would feel like the fate of the entire world was resting on her shoulder.
Run and sprint.
She knew the order of what she had to do well, but not a glimpse of strategy existed inside her pony brain. Again, why did Penny entrust her with such responsibility?
A short countdown later, when the gates slammed open, at least, Moonlight didn't mess up her start. It was not a good start by any means, but at least it was not a catastrophic failure like last time. A little piece of Morning Star's heart wanted to say, "good job," but there was already a lot of work to do because they were, once more, behind the entire pack.
Even though they were very close to everybody else, this was a different challenge. There was no room to go anywhere, and it was dangerous. One wrong move while trying to pass an adversary and their cart, including the small Ivory, could fly off the track and crash. Since their driver was still useless as a hay bale, Morning Star guided the cart to the outside lane where it was safer.
Over there, there was no traffic, and she didn't get dirt in the face anymore, so it was an improvement. But since the track was oval, being on the outside also made it longer, so the other teams had it easier while she struggled to find a new pace that would have matched theirs.
Since running and sprinting were the only two things she knew how to do, the latter seemed appropriate before the other teams increased their lead too much. Perhaps, like last time, it would work well, and Moonlight would do most of the work. Or maybe this time, it wouldn't work at all, and their efforts would be in vain.
There was only one way to know.
"Noooo! Not that again!"
"Haha. Sophie. This time they are waaaay too high on the track. Why are they even there? It's so dumb. It's making their life sooo much harder!"
Sophie placed the pillow back on her head, secretly hoping for a miracle. Her heart screamed at the worst racing strategy of all time, yet, her memory recalled what had happened last time, when everything seemed over after the first few seconds of the race, installing a foolishly optimistic doubt in her mind.
What if they could pull it off again?
On her side, as much as Brittany was shocked and amused by the stupidity of Penny's team, she quickly turned her attention to her own team. Hemlock and Nightshade, driven by Xiuying, were stuck in third place behind two strong teams. They were literally boxed in and had no way to take the lead.
"Come on, you idiot! DO SOMETHING!"
Holding the TV antennae while screaming at her replacement driver, even Brittany secretly couldn't think of a good way for her team to get out of this difficult position. If only she had been there, on-site, to feel what intentions the other drivers had. If only she could have triggered a distraction to cause an opening. Here in her cell, she couldn't do anything and was at the mercy of a person she hated.
"Give me a sec, Hemlock and Nightshade. I will get us out of this. I know it sucks, but keep tailing this cart."
While Hemlock and Nightshade had to endure dirt flying to their face, Xiuying looked around her and determined that the best course of action would be to move to the outside lane and pass numbers one and two on their right. Unfortunately, number four prevented her from doing so as their ponygirls were at her wheel level. Moving to the right would mean breaking their legs, which wouldn't be a nice thing to do on top of getting disqualified.
Her two temporary ponies had to be taken into consideration as well. Xiuying's style and Brittany's style were different, but all the success the pink ponies had under Brittany's lead were undeniable. Together, those three have always been willing to do whatever was necessary to win, even playing dirty. There was no way Hemlock and Nightshade would feel guilty because of a nasty move that would allow them to win. Based on that fact, Xiuying thought of a solution, and a most compatible word appeared in her head.
She turned to the team that was blocking her progress and spat some scary shit that didn't quite match her personality.
"MOVE! I swear, your ponies are going to lose their legs tonight!"
At the same time, she pulled the reins in a way that made her cart jerk and come extremely close to the opposite team's racers.
"AAAH! Xiuying! Are you insane!? You almost hit us!"
"MOVE! Or else I won't miss next time!"
"Aaaah! Relax! Relax! You are crazy!"
Despite the other team's reluctance to comply, fear made them involuntarily adjust their course and provided just enough gap for Xiuying's team to squeeze in and get in the outside lane. Now in a position to make some progress, the Asian driver pushed her ponies as they should have been from the start.
"Alright, you two! Pick up the pace before falling asleep!"
Almost effortlessly, motivated by the bold move that their temporary driver dared to perform and almost giving them the impression that it was Brittany who was sitting in their car, Hemlock and Nightshade accelerated with renewed energy. This was what a good driver could do to help them win.
It didn't take too much time to complete the maneuver. After passing the two annoying leading teams, Xiuying returned her cart to the inner lane, in the first position. But this time, something was different. It was as if a dark shadow hovered above her head, an uneasiness that she couldn't shake. The last race had left a stain on her self-confidence when Penny's team came out of nowhere at an impossible speed to win it.
Well engaged inside the last turn, Xiuying looked over her left shoulder to see what was happening behind her. She had quickly increased her lead over all the other teams, meaning that, in theory, nobody would be able to catch up to her at this point, but her main fear took a very weird shape.
She couldn't see Morning Star, Moonlight, or Ivory. Her eyes surveyed the pack of racers, she could see all kinds of colors, but the black team was just not there. Was it possible that they had crashed or abandoned? She had this horrible feeling that not knowing had generated.
And that when she looked over her right shoulder and gasped.
"… NO! What the…"
Hugging the outside railing, something that no half-smart teams would ever attempt, was Penny's team, dangerously catching up to them despite their disadvantageous track position. As odd and impressive as it was, Xiuying's first reaction was not to ask questions but to attempt winning. A fire ignited in her heart with a strong desire not to lose this second race.
"YAAA! Hemlock! Nightshade! Don't let them win this time! You are better than they are! Give me all you've got!"
And she even struck their shiny pink butt with her riding crop, something that even Brittany had never done before.
A jolt of electricity traveled from their ass to their brain, which had a surprisingly positive effect on them. Usually, Brittany only used the crop to correct their bad techniques and help them keep a good racing form, so this was a first.
They picked up the pace.
"Did… Did she just hit my ponies!?"
"… Calm down, Britt… It was just a… light touch."
"BIIITCH! I'm going to carve her eyes out! I swear!"
Brittany loved her ponies.
This time, it was harder. Hemlock and Nightshade managed to accelerate enough to keep up with Morning Star and Moonlight. As everybody had predicted after the last race, there were only two teams on the track today, the two enemies that seemed to fuel each other's burning desire to win by constantly pushing the limits of the impossible. Everybody else behind them became invisible ghosts, amateurs.
"Aaaah! Slow down, please!"
On the left side of the track was Xiuying pushing her two ponies girls beyond their abilities, and on the right side of the track was Ivory, terrified by a speed that she couldn't fathom. Between them was uncertainty.
Could they keep this early sprint alive until the end? And in Star and Moon's cases, could they do it again? Sprint the whole race in the outside lane? Could Hemlock and Nightshade push hard enough to survive this unnatural assault? The four ponygirl bodies were burning like an overheated furnace. Their hooves were stomping the dry dirt at a relentless rhythm. Their legs were about to break.
Well, that wasn't entirely true.
Only one of the ponies seemed to be okay with this. Moonlight wasn't overly in pain and somewhat enjoyed herself. Sure, this was hard because Morning Star didn't seem to be capable of helping her much anymore, but it just made things more interesting. As long as Star would keep dictating this insane pace, Moonlight would naively follow and do all the work in her friend's stead.
A hundred meters before the end, exhausted, Hemlock and Nightshade's willpower began flagging. They could still work through pain due to their rigorous training and years of experience, but once their physical limits had been breached, it was only a matter of time before they depleted their emergency reserves.
Slowly, Penny's team pulled ahead under the horrified gaze of Xiuying.
"No… How!? How!? … She will run out of energy… She HAS to!"
But no. Her logical assessment of Moonlight didn't become a reality, and Penny's team finished two lengths ahead of her team.
"… What the fuck?"
"… I dunno, Britt… But you can let the antennae go now. You bent it quite a bit."
Two days later.
Early in the morning, the jail door opened, and a man dressed in a nice suit placed his briefcase on the small desk between the two beds under the unamused gaze of Sophie and Brittany.
Brittany, unwilling to make a new friend, still attempted to figure out who he was.
"Me? A lawyer."
"… Are we free to go?"
"Oh, it depends. Let's see. I just arrived in town ten minutes ago. I have no clue about what you did. They asked me to come because they were sick of you apparently. Something about metal cups."
Definitely not amusing. A lawyer with no previous knowledge of their case wasn't promising. They had been simmering in this cell for the past two weeks, and nobody had started any procedure for or against them.
The lawyer opened his briefcase and pulled out some documents. His eyes coursed through the various papers, and he let out a discouraging noise that meant nothing.
"You, the little angry one. You are Sophie?"
"Ew! No. I'm Brittany."
"I see. So, you, there. You are Sophie?"
"Okay. So, you hate each other?"
"Okay. So who is pressing charges against who then?"
"If you don't answer me, it will make things more complicated."
Sophie and Brittany looked at each other, trying to figure out what was going on. Nobody ever talked about pressing charges against the other. This was nonsense.
Brittany answered first.
"I don't give a shit about her."
"So? You won't press charges?"
"No. Why would I do that?"
"And you, Sophie?"
"Hell no. I'm in enough trouble as it is. I'm not going to waste my precious time on her."
"Mmm… Why are you both here then? It's not a crime to hate each other."
Once more, the two small drivers looked at each other, trying to make sense of what they were experiencing. This time, it was Sophie who replied.
"Are we… free?"
"Yes. Just sign here. And you, here."
The lawyer presented each girl with a clipboard and a pen.
A simple signature later, the two drivers were sitting on the sidewalk, appreciating their freedom while waiting for their respective rides to show up. They weren't too sure how it happened. It was like the past two weeks were just a blur, a punishment served for bad behavior.
"I don't want to see your face ever again."
"Same here, Britt. Same here."
There was no love between the two of them and probably never would.
"… But… I enjoyed watching the races with you."
"What did you just say, Britt?"
"Shut up, Sophie. You've heard me."
"I said, shut up!"
"Okay, okay. But, for what it's worth. I didn't hate it either."
"Yeah. I know."
A rusty pickup truck turned around the corner and parked in front of the police station. Aboard, Ivory in the driver's seat and Morning Star and Moonlight in the back seat. The window lowered, the white show pony waved at Sophie.
"Sophie! Hello! Penny told us to come to pick you up. Did you have fun?"
"… Ugh. Fun isn't the word I would choose, no."
"Aww. Star and Moon are here too. They were AMAZING while you were on vacation."
"Ivory! I wasn't on vacation! I was in jail!"
"Oh, I know. I'm trying to put a positive spin on this."
Without any goodbye, Sophie walked across the street to the awaiting car. But before climbing into it, she looked at Brittany one last time.
"See you on the track, turd."
"Yeah. I'll beat your retarded ass."
A discreet smile later, Sophie sat next to Ivory, and the rusty pickup truck pulled away.
Brittany sighed. Finally, alone, her natural state. She looked up at the blue sky, there was no cloud in sight, and this mini-town was awfully quiet. Stardust or a designated person was en route to come pick her up as well.
She wasn't in the same great mood as Sophie, of course, because her ponies finished second in the two first races of the Triple Crown during her absence. It wasn't the results she had hoped for. It would be enough to earn a substantial amount of money and some fame, but it was not a victory, and it was certainly not achieving her goal of destroying Penny's stable once and for all.
The only thing that prevented Brittany from depressing even more than she already was was that it was nobody's fault. Xiuying, as much as she disliked her, was not in any way, shape, or form responsible for their mixed results. Actually, Xiuying had performed better than she had expected, and it was unlikely that she would have done better. The Asian driver had squeezed the best out of Hemlock and Nightshade's talent despite being their temporary driver.
No, it was all because of this abnormal ponygirl, Moonlight, this newbie who came out of nowhere with this natural power and unawareness about everything pony-related.
Secretly, Brittany thought that this was a good thing. Brittany was a racer, and her ultimate goal was not necessarily to win everything, no matter how pleasant that was. It was simply to race against the best and give them a run for their money.
Perhaps, next week, she would have a perfect opportunity to do that again.