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Through Fire · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
On that vast shore washed with the farthest sea, Celestia landed and bade hello to the Incorruptible One.

"Catty! It's so good to see you again!"

The Incorruptible One smiled. "Celestia. Is it that time of the millennium again?"

"Oh, I had some vacation time, so I thought I'd stop by a bit earlier than usual," Celestia replied with a casual wave.

"I see. Well, Zeal will be happy to see you taking the initiative." A worried frown creased the young stallion's brow. "I hope things are better than when last we spoke? You were rather distraught at the loss of your sister, and a hundred years of loneliness can weigh on a pony's heart."

"Oh, I'm much better now, Catty." Celestia grinned. "I have my sister back, and I have a new student too! She's incredible, like nothing I've ever seen."

"That is quite a statement, coming from one such as you. I hope to one day meet her on these shores, though for your sake I hope that day is far, far away."

"Oh, she should be around in about a thousand years." A coy smile lit up Celestia's expression. "She managed to ascend, and become an alicorn."

For the first time centuries, surprise showed on Catty's face. "Truly? That is most marvelous. Please, convey my sincerest congratulations to her when you return."

"I will. And how about you? Still don't want to make the climb?"

"Somepony must guide the souls who arrive here," Catty replied. "It is good work, and it satisfies me."

"Well, take it from someone who's been around the block a few more times than you: sometimes, it's time to hand the reins over to the next generation, and enjoy some well-deserved rest."

Catty laughed. "It is rare for someone to call me young. I've missed not being the old fogey."

"Respect your elders," Celestia said with mock sternness. "I was ancient before you drew your first breath in life, Catty."

"Hey, that's my line!" The stern mask on both their faces dissolved into carefree grins. "Oh, it is good to speak with someone who remembers my old nickname. Well, I've held you up long enough. If you fly, you should be able to get past the Negligent Rulers before sunset. Though, please say hello to August for me if you see him."

"I will. Farewell, Catty."

Celestia spread her wings, and took to the sky, flying away from the Incorruptible One and towards the mountain that loomed in the distance, its tip piercing the sky itself.

"Halt! Who dares approach the Terraces?"

"It's just me, Gatekeeper." Celestia didn't even flinch as the tip of a blade flew inches from her neck. She knew Gatekeeper liked her dramatics.

"Ah, Celestia." The blade withdrew, and Gatekeeper shot her a sheepish smile. "My apologies. Are you here to make the ascent once again?"

"I am."

"Very well then." The blade flashed out, and Celestia felt a jolt of pain on her forehead. She conjured up a mirror and looked at the seven "P"s that had been carved around her horn.

"Your penmanship is improving," she commented as the pain subsided into a dull ache.

"Thank you," Gatekeeper replied. "You may continue now. May you be Enlightened and Purified of Sin." She sheathed her sword and stepped aside, allowing Celestia to pass.

"That mare really needs to find something else to live for besides her job," Celestia muttered before smiling to herself. "But then again, who am I to judge her for that?"

With a soft chuckle, Celestia stepped onto the First Terrace, and began her Ascent.

"Your stone is lighter this time," the Angel of Humility said as she walked alongside Celestia. "Barely a thousand pounds."

"T-Thank you," Celestia gasped out as she took another step, her back weighed down by a boulder that covered her entire withers. "I-Its been a humbling few years for me. I've been struck down far more times than I care to admit, and had to rely on my beloved student to save the day. She's a shining example of one who wields power without Pride, and she's helped me accept that I am only just a m-mare." Her hoof slipped, and Celestia barely kept herself upright as the stone shifted on her back.

"That is good," Humility said, making no move to help her. That would have defeated the purpose of the exercise. "Only by accepting the aid of others can we truly overcome Pride and embrace Humility."

"I should write that d-down." Another step. "Twilight will appreciate it." Celestia grunted. "How far do I still have to go?"

"Celestia, it has only been a dozen yards since we began. You still have a mile to walk before your burden is lifted."

"Oh bother. Well, at least there's that really nice spider statue to look at over there. Say, since I'll be here for a while, do you want to hear about the time that my Faithful Student encountered this traveling showmare, and learned to express herself without being prideful? I think you'll like this story..."

"Love those who have done harm to you."

"They have no wine..."

"Whoever captures me will kill me..."

"No, I'm Spartacus! Wait, wrong story... oh well, it still works."

Celestia pulled the coat she'd been given around her as the voices surrounded her continued to speak. "You know, I feel like you need to update some of these pithy lines. Most kids these days don't even know about Cane and Able's story anymore."

"Duly noted," said a voice on her left.

"Also, I feel like the purpose of giving us a really dull cloak to wear is defeated by also sewing our eyes shut." Celestia turned her head to the left as she spoke.

"Why are you even in here?" The Angel of Charity muttered. "I didn't think you had an envious bone in your body! I'm not convinced that you aren't here just to bug me every thousand years."

"You would not believe how many times I've been tempted to shove off all my responsibilities to some poor usurper and let them drown in it," Celestia said with a smirk. "I'm just glad I found Twilight before I actually did something like that. Now, there's a mare who's actually worthy of responsibility. She probably wouldn't even care about wearing such an unfashionable cloak — you should've seen what she wore on her birthday a few years ago. Mare has no fashion sense, I swear! And don't get me started on that time she got her friend to help her design a dress—"

"Okay, we're here! Congratulations, you are free of Envy!" Charity pressed a hoof against Celestia's withers to stop her, and then used her magic to free her eyes.

"Oh, already?" Celestia blinked and looked around, confirming that they were indeed at the top of the Second Terrace. "Such a shame. I was hoping to tell you the story of how Twilight got her first student. I think you'd appreciate it, since it's a story about a pony overcoming their Envy."

"Maybe next time." Charity brushed her wing against Celestia's forehead, removing the second "P" just as Humility had removed the first. "Alright, on you go! Say hi to Peace for me!"

She gave Celestia a light tap on the rump to push her forward, making the princess squeak and sputter even as she continued her ascent.

"Hmmph, some mares..."

"...So anyways, Twilight finally got through Starlight's anger and convinced her to give friendship another try instead of holding on to hate. Then they reset the timeline and Starlight became Twilight's first student!"

Celestia trotted cheerfully through the acrid smoke alongside the Angel of Peace, regaling him with the tale of how her wonderful student had saved Equestria yet again.

"Your student sounds like quite the firecracker," Peace said as they passed by another group of penitents coughing and wheezing in the smog. "Though, her habit of shooting first and asking questions later makes me think I'll be seeing more of her than you in the future."

A sigh escaped from Celestia's lips. "It's true. She's getting better, but she can sometimes be... passionate... about things. But that passion is also something incredible to watch in action. Twilight doesn't do anything by half-measures."

"I look forward to meeting her, then." Peace winked at her. "But I'll always cherish our conversations, Celestia. Everypony else around here is too busy coughing up their lungs to speak." As if on cue, there was another chorus of hacking and wheezing by those who surrounded them. "It's nice to be with a pony who is free enough of her anger to help me dispell the loneliness."

"Anytime, Peacy." Celestia giggled a little before giving off a polite cough. After all, she wasn't completely immune to the fires of Wrath.

"...dona nobis pacem!"

"We're here." Peace sighed as he raised a wing. "I'll see you in a thousand years, then?"

Celestia gave him a quick hug. "You know, you're allowed to have some time off from time to time. You should all pick a day to come visit me in Canterlot. I'm sure Luna will be thrilled to see you — her thousand-year banishment means she won't be around for another purification for at least a few hundred more years."

Another "P" faded away as Peace brushed it off with his wing. "I'll think on it, and speak with the others. Enjoy the rest of your ascent."

"I didn't expect you to be here for so long."

"You know as well as I that purification is about thoughts as well as actions," Celestia replied as she completed another lap around the mountain. "Besides, I really don't get enough exercise, and the time stop on this place means that I don't have to take time out of my schedule for it."

The Angel of Zeal laughed as she flew alongside her. "Well, I suppose we don't get to spend enough time together during your visits. Maybe with your new student taking over, you can have more chances to laze around so we can hang out more."

Despite her heavy breathing, Celestia still managed a mock gasp. "An angel encouraging me to sin? How scandalous!"

Zeal did a little pirouette in the air as she pouted as Celestia. "Hey, it's okay if it's proactive Sloth!"

Celestia raised an eyebrow. "Does that even exist?"

"Well, you can be the first to find out!" Zeal giggled as they reached the end of the Terrace. "Okay, looks like you're finally free of Sloth." With an overly-elaborate and wholly-unnecessary backflip, she alighted before Celestia and brushed away the fourth "P" from her forehead. "Oh, and since I'm the Angel of Zeal and stuff, I should tell you to spend more time with that student of yours instead of just ruling the country and going on vacations. Don't want to waste a moment of time with her, right?"

Celestia nodded. "Sage advice, Zeal. Perhaps I should think more on living life to the fullest with her. She certainly has gained a passion for living that rivals her love of books."

"Thatta girl. Now get going and knock 'em dead!" Completely oblivious to the irony of her words, The Angel of Zeal flashed one last grin at Celestia before diving backward off the mountain, whooping and hollering as she soared among the clouds.

"You know, I tried to give her a castle when she first ascended? Offered to give her all the resources she would need to have one built in Ponyville. But she just told me she was happy in her tree library, and she barely even used her royal stipend for anything except donations. The Royal Accountant spent weeks trying to prove that she was embezzling the money because he just couldn't believe a pony could be that selfless."

With her face pressed against the ground, Celestia couldn't turn to face her conversation partner and see his reaction, but she heard him hum appreciatively.

"I'm glad you found someone, princess. I still regret that I spent more time pursuing fame and fortune than being your friend."

"Don't beat yourself up over it, Stat. I should have done more to connect with you as well, but I was too busy wallowing in my own misery."

Silver Status shifted, the crunching of gravel echoing in Celestia's ears. "You had a lot on your plate after The Banishment."

"And you did as well. Please, Stat, forgive yourself and move on. Don't let me be the reason you're still trapped here."

"I— okay." As Status spoke, the ground rumbled, and the tremors of the incoming earthquake shook Celestia to her soul. She pressed herself closer into the ground to anchor herself as her whole body vibrated along with the earth.

Distantly, she heard Status' voice through the cacophony.

"Thank you."

The rumbling stopped, and there was silence. Celestia relaxed and continued to lie with her face to the ground.

Some time later, she heard a new voice speak. "I see you've helped another soul continue on his journey. I guess you can take the mare away from the princesshood, but you can't take the princesshood out of the mare."

"It's what I do." Celestia shrugged as she allowed herself to rise. "How have you been, Moddy? I didn't see you on my way in."

The Angel of Moderation shrugged as he wiped the next "P" from Celestia's brow. "Not all of us are on vacation, Celestia. There was, unfortunately, a luxury zeppelin crash during your stay here, and I've had to deal with a rather large influx of rich ponies who tried to temper their Avarice with good deeds but need some help achieving their inner balance."

"Oh, that's terrible." Celestia's heart ached as she walked towards the exit of the fifth Terrace. "I hope Twilight is dealing with it okay."

"Your student is showing adorable strength of character," Moderation said. "She grieves though she didn't know any of the ponies on board, and still she held strong as she expressed her condolences."

"That's good to hear." Celestia bowed her head. "Thank you, Moddy, and I'm sorry we didn't get to spend much time together this round."

"We have eternity, Celestia. Shall I see you again in a thousand years?"

"I wouldn't miss it for the world."

"I hate you."

"You say that every time, Celestia."

"I mean it this time, Tempy." Celestia moaned as she reached for the juicy-looking peach hanging in front of her, only to have it vanish when her hoof made contact with the succulent fruit. "Why are you doing this to me?"

The Angel of Temperance rolled her eyes. "Are we really going to do this? You actually need less purification for your Gluttony this time. I guess you found something else besides pastries to fill the void in your heart?"

The tortured act dropped as Celestia allowed herself a sincere smile. "I did. Good friends and beloved family are far better than any cake." She paused, thinking. "Although, having cake with friends is even better. Can we get some cake?" She batted uselessly at the tantalizing phantom fruits hanging in front of her.

"I know you're playing, Celestia." Temperance raised a wing and wiped off the penultimate "P." "But if you wish, we can partake in a light meal before you continue your ascent."

"And cake?"

Temperance shook her head. "No cake."

Celestia pouted. "Aww, you're no fun."

"Hello, Chastity."

"Celestia." The Angel of Chastity glared at her as she entered the final Terrace. "I don't appreciate the deception you've committed here. You may have fooled the others, but I can see the true purpose of your visit in your heart."

She should have known better than to try to fool the angels. "Please, Chastity," Celestia begged. "I can't— I can't go on like this. Please free me from my sin! It is your duty to purify me!"

"I do have a duty." Chastity's wing whipped across Celestia's head, removing the final "P." "You have never been guilty of the sin of Lust."

"B-But these thoughts!" Celestia protested, pressing a hoof against her brow and feeling it clean once again. "How can I be free of Lust when I cannot stop thinking about her?"

"You know as well as I that Chastity is not Celibacy." The angel's glare softened. "Desire born from Love is not evil."

"I am not worthy of her," Celestia bowed her head. "And these thoughts will interfere with my ability to deal fairly with her."

"As I said, I tire of your lies." Chastity reared up in front of Celestia, towering over her as she spoke with the voice of the Ancients. "In coming here, you have proven yourself humble, generous, tranquil, zealous, moderate, temperate, and chaste. Your only fault, now, is fear. Fear which you must overcome lest you fall into Sin as many others have."

"No, I cannot allow myself to fall for this temptation." Even as she said the words, Celestia knew they were hollow.

"Then step through the flames," Chastity said. "Step through the Wall of Fire and be Cleansed of your Lust."

Celestia glanced at the end of the Terrace, where there was indeed a wall of flame blocking her ascent to the final level. She spread her wings and held her head high, every inch the untouchable princess she was meant to be.

She walked over to the fire and took a deep breath before stepping through, bracing herself for the cleansing of her soul that would take place.

Nothing happened.

As she exited on the other side completely unchanged, she saw Chastity standing there smirking at her. "Congratulations," she said snidely. "You have proven yourself free of improper Lust."

"No," Celestia whispered. "Please, no."

"Your path is clear now," Chastity said as she walked away. "I'll see you again in a thousand years."

Celestia looked up at the stars as she approached the banks of the Lethean River.

"Beautiful, isn't it? Your sister has done a fine job this night."

"Mighty Hilt." Celestia greeted the mare who had appeared beside her. "My sister has indeed invigorated the night sky since her return. I was always a poor artist."

"So you were." Mighty joined Celestia at gazing upwards as they enjoyed the beauty of Paradise. "You know the river won't wash away your desire for Twilight, right?"

Celestia sighed. "I was so sure that this place would be a cure for the thoughts that had been plaguing me. It couldn't possibly be right to desire my own student, could it?"

"Former student," Mighty corrected. "She's a princess now, one who stands equal to you. Perhaps in the past your feelings would have been improper, but even that bar is gone."

"And now my final excuse has just been burned to ashes." Celestia stared into the calm waters, not yet ready to step inside its purifying stream.

In the distance, a griffon pulled a cart towards the top of the mountain. Mighty smiled at him before returning her attention to Celestia. "So, what are you going to do once you are born anew and pure?"

A weak smile graced Celestia's features. "Well, after this, I guess I'll be free of sin and worthy to ask Twilight out on a date." The thought terrified here, set her heart beating wildly with dread, but she couldn't help but feel excited at the prospect as well.

"That's not how it works and you know it," Mighty admonished. "If you don't truly believe yourself worthy, you will eventually sabotage your own relationship with her."

Celestia shook her head. "I don't know what I believe. The Ascent has given me no more clarity of mind than I had at the beginning of my journey."

"Are you sure?" Mighty asked. "Think of your journey and what you have learned of love."

Celestia paused. "I've learned that love is generous, and humble, and gentle, and zealous, and many other qualities that Twilight possesses. And that... I possess as well. I am worthy of giving love. I am worthy of being loved." Her soul still roiled with uncertainty as she spoke those words, but something within her felt that they were somehow ineffably right.

"Very good," Mighty said. "You are on your way towards the greatest journey you will ever take." She gestured towards the river once again. "So, are you ready to take the next step in your new life? To be purified and reborn again as a being of love, free from sin?"

"I am." Resolve hardening, Celestia walked towards the river. "Thank you, Mighty. I'll see you in a thousand years."

"Friends should not be parted for so long," Mighty replied. "Invite me to your wedding, and I shall attend, along with the angels."

"And Gatekeeper?" Her hooves were touching the water now. Celestia could feel the drowsiness begin to invade her mind.

Mighty nodded. "And Gatekeeper. I'll even drag the Incorruptible One over. Maybe you can finally convince him to make the climb."

"I'll do my best." The waters tickled her barrel, and Celestia felt true peace for the first time in nearly a millennium. "Goodbye, Mighty."

"Fare thee well, Celestia. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

Celestia's head disappeared below the waves, and the world became nothing but love.
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#1 ·
I honestly didn't expect the "Seven Heavenly Virtues". This was done very well. I liked the concept that Celestia had to perform Buddhist Monk like exercises to purify herself. This came out of left field and I total enjoyed it. At first, I thought the realization that Celestia had a crush on Twilight had come out of nowhere. But after thinking it over, it makes sense why Celestia kept deciding to talk about Twilight. Overall, it was a real nice story.
#2 ·
I'm going to preface all of my comments with the fact that I don't know that much about writing as of yet. Neither have I looked through others' reviews of these stories. With that in mind:

I’m getting nice Divine Comedy vibes off this one. The prose is good. The idea and the plot are very interesting, as are the various characters. I tried to come up with ways to improve it, but in all honesty, I don’t think any of the things that I did would. Sorry.

A well thought-out, well written story. Thank you for writing.
#3 · 1
This is top-drawer, top-notch. top-to-bottom. Great job. My only request might be that we get more description of what all these immortal beings look like, but that could make the story too hokey, so nevermind.

Thanks for writing! You dastard, you.
#4 ·
Okay, so basically, I love this. Celestia has been and always will be #bestgirl, and I love the characterization you've given her. It's great that she's absolutely confident in how she deals with the Angels, but is hopelessly lost when it comes to Twilight. I've always thought that the best part of Celestia is her duality, and this is an excellent take on the concept. Also, I really like what you're doing with the mythology. I'm not sure if this is closely based on a real-world mythos, but I'm sensing Greek and East-Asian themes, along with the Judeo-Christian stuff. It's really cool, and it feels familiar and intriguing at the same time.

Now in terms of critique, I will have to say that the bit of a tone shift in Celestia's scene with Chastity took me off guard. This is mainly because in the immediately previous scene, we see Celestia sarcastically saying things like "I hate you" to another Angel, which also made me think Celestia's begging was also a joke. It wasn't until I reached almost the end of the scene where I did a double-take and re-read the whole thing, realizing that she was serious.

I think my suggestion would be to not have Celestia be honest so quickly. Show her trying to play around, just as she did with the other Angels, before finally breaking down and being forthright. That way, when she begs, the reader will know that something is different, and the importance of this scene will be much more apparent.

Honestly, other than that, though, I think I'm in love with everything else. I'm pretty sure that I'm going to be rating this as one of my favorites this round.
#5 ·
· · >>Posh
Okay, so, I really didn't like this. And a big part of that is that my reaction to show-contemporary Twilestia shipping is a big NO. That's not exactly your fault, author, though you sure could have done more to make it palatable ("she's not technically your student anymore, so there's no ethical problems here whatsoever!" is... really, really missing the point). But anyway, I'm sure you can see how, for the not-insignificant portion of the general readership which I'm presuming to speak for, "Celestia goes to get purified of sin" and "Celestia's gonna go be a statutory rapist after this"* are incompatible.

But, good news: when you post this on FiMFiction, it'll have the "Celestia," "Twilight," and "Shipping" tags, and most of us who feel that way will be smart enough to avoid it. So, that's probably more than enough time talking about that.

Even past the whole premise, though, that transition to Chastity was so far out of left field, I honestly couldn't tell what that it wasn't meant to be Celestia pretending she wanted to bang Twilight in order to tease her friend until I got to the end of the fic. The story could really benefit from seeding her feelings a lot earlier, and more strongly ("Celestia talking about Twi" is not, in itself, something I'd consider sufficient seeding; we already know they have a relationship, it's the nature of Celestia's feelings that needs seeding). I'd also try to establish some anxiety on Celestia's part going in; right now, the casual joviality with which she treats all the other friends, and the lack of any sign that there's a more important-to-her trial coming up, are guiding me strongly away from reading her talk with Chastity as serious. This wouldn't require big changes; I'm not saying Celestia needs to be spouting her doom every page. But I think it would be to the fic's benefit to have it establish at some point, and probably to lightly reinforce a time or two, that there is an upcoming trial/purification that Celestia dreads/desires, and a "friend" who she's not quite so excited to see.

I will say, I enjoyed the way you balanced purification of suffering and casual, glad dialogue in the first three-quarters or so of the fic. It was fun, and surprisingly breezy, and I very much enjoyed that part of the reading experience. Please don't take my "this story makes me feel disgusted" as any sort of criticism of its writing (or for that matter, of you as a person; in no way am I trying to pass judgement on any author or reader who likes this stuff!). If you smooth out the move to Chastity, I think you'll have a story that a lot of readers will really enjoy, and that the rest of us, well, won't be your audience for. So... ignore us, and keep doing what makes you happy!

*I'm not asking you to agree that she is; I'm just saying, what you've presented in this story is something that I, and plenty of other readers, can and will 100% read as statutory rape.
#6 ·
I think there's a really cool concept here that sneaks its way in part way through. At first I thought the whole climb was just a way for the author to dote on Twi for a bit via Celestia—which, sign me right up—but then we come to Celestia's true motive and all the banging on makes more sense. TwiLestia can be fun, especially contemporary Twilight since it's easier to wiggle around some of those ethical student-teacher/age gap* questions.

I'm all about the Stairway to Heaven setting. Tartarus is a real, tangible place so I can buy this Christo-Greek Angel Mountain visit no problem. But, I do agree with Bachi that we're a bit light on descriptions of how the place and the angels look and act, especially since we're sub-4k on the word count (time obviously being the other likely confounding factor). You hang a lampshade on the speedy visit well enough with Celestia not being particularly sinful in most respects, thus not having to linger and chat, but it'd still be nice to have a bit more between them all. Especially to contextualize the opening interaction with Chastity.

Anyway, there's a cool idea and great framework here, so thumbs up and please do carry on.

*If Celestia only went after creatures her own age she'd have a choice of Discord (which is also fine and hilarious) or... Luna. Maybe that rock in the garden that's particularly weathered.
#7 ·
· · >>Chris
"...So anyways, Twilight finally got through Starlight's anger and convinced her to give friendship another try instead of holding on to hate. Then they reset the timeline and Starlight became Twilight's first student!"

This is Sunset Shimmer erasure. :l

This is a highly competent piece with a compelling concept and some remarkably likeable side characters... who, unfortunately, manage to outshine our protagonist, the Princess Superior With the Big White Posterior. Part of that, I think, comes from Celestia's voice and characterization; her dialogue and personality don't quite sound like her. You also have an issue with tonal whiplash, from several scenes of amusing comedy giving up to a dark look inside Celestia's psyche during her final trial.

I might tone down her effusive, light-hearted banter with the angels she encounters.

I think the climb, itself, could be illustrated more effectively, as well, to give a stronger sense of continuity. Right now, your scenes are a bit disjointed. Show Celestia making progress; give us those details.

I'm just saying, what you've presented in this story is something that I, and plenty of other readers, can and will 100% read as statutory rape.

I'm sure the author knows that already, and I don't see why you brought it up in the first place, beyond just providing the disclaimer that you don't care for the ship.
#8 ·
Holy shit this was fucking amazing. What is with all the quality entries this round?

I am and always will be a sucker for Celestia fics. Slightly less well known is that well done Twilestia, particularly when Celestia is the interested party, is my freaking jam.

But my obvious bias aside, the concept for this was cool as hell, and the execution was refreshing and interesting. The Angels of the Virtues as old friends, occaisonally sweet, sometimes annoying, and always very pony (by which I mean, of course, human) is inspired. Their characters are feel fleshed out and fully realised, which is doubly impressive given how little time we spend with each.

Celestia's characterisation flows with a naturalness I rarely see in stories that stick so close to her canon personality (that is, without any of the lovely lovely fanon we have lovingly built over the years), with both that kindly motherly quality and the mischievousness that were so prevalent in early seasons. Her hesitation over Twilight is adorable and also, as previously stated, my jam, and the ending is hopeful and satisfying while remaining open ended.

If I had been here early enough to vote, I think this would have been a top contender for me.