• Published 23rd Sep 2021
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The Only Mark That Matters - CocktailOlive



The story of Radish Root, a pony with obscene cutie marks.

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105. The Castle: Friday

Radish stared up at Twilight’s castle. He cocked his head. He trotted around its base. As he completed the circuit, Twilight popped her head out of the front door.

“Radish! What do you think? Isn’t it incredible!?”

“I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Come on in!”

He entered the castle through large double doors. The interior was the same color crystal as the exterior. Two halls curved away on each side, leading to multiple doors in a large circle. Another massive hall led forward.

“I’m glad you could come. You did such a great job at evaluating the security at my coronation, I thought it would be fun for you to evaluate the security of this place. I’d be curious to know what you think of the Tree of Harmony’s approach to designing this building.”

“I’m fascinated by the idea. Does this place have a name?”

“What do you think of ‘The Castle of Friendship’?”

“That’s kind of on-the-muzzle.”

“It needs to be a simple name so it can translate easily into other languages.”

“Oh. You really think ahead.”

She led him to the central chamber- a large round room with seven thrones arranged in a circle, facing each other. Each one had one of the girls’ cutie marks, except for a small one near Twilight’s- obviously intended to be Spike’s.

“Oh, wow. You weren’t kidding. It really grew thrones for you.”

“Neat, huh? Sorry there’s not one for you.”

“Oh, Twi. I’m not really a part of your team.”

“Don’t say that. You may not have an Element of Harmony, but you’re important to us.”

“Still, you can’t really display my mark on a chair.”

“Oh, Radish. Your mark may be a bit, uh, ribald…”

“Ribald, huh? That’s a new one.” He walked up to Twilight’s throne. He took a spot beside it, standing tall at attention. “This is a guard’s place, anyway. Not on a throne, but next to it. Standing ready to defend his princess.”

Twilight laughed. Radish looked at her, cockeyed.

“Sorry. When you act serious about guarding, you remind me of how Shining Armor was when we were kids. He knew from the start that he wanted to be captain someday.”

“That sounds like him, all right.”

“Do you want to be captain someday?”

“Commander Shade asked me that once. I told him I’d rather be the Royal Spymaster.”

“There is no Royal Spymaster.”

“Well, isn’t that what-”

“-a Royal Spymaster would want everyone to believe?” Twilight spoke simultaneously with Radish.

“Yeah,” said Radish.

“Maybe. What would you do as Spymaster?”

“I can’t tell you. You have to have deniability.”

“Thanks for looking out for me,” Twilight laughed.

“Twi… do you need guards here? I can recommend a whole platoon’s worth of capable guards for this place. I can ask the bat ponies to do night patrol. And Eddie could hide in the bushes outside.”

“Rad, that’s kind of you to offer. But let’s take it one thing at a time. You can evaluate the castle first, then we can talk about any other measures I might need. And I don’t think Owlowiscious would get along with a snake.”

“Okay. Are you going to put a conference table in here or something? It’s weird that the thrones just face each other with nothing between them.”

“Yeah, I have to fill this whole place with furniture. It grew me a bed, though, which is nice. A four-poster kind.”

“That is nice.”

“And I’m getting shipments of books from Canterlot to replace the ones that were... destroyed in the attack.”

She sighed, drooping her ears. Radish walked up to her and hugged her.

“Books are replaceable. You’re not.”

She smiled. “Thanks. Oh! Come check out the mirror!”

She led him into the library. The majority of shelves were bare, but Twilight and Spike had already labeled the sections and were filling them out. A massive mirror, built onto a pedestal and framed by a large stylized horseshoe, stood off to one side. Radish approached it. He looked at his reflection, and Twilight joined it.

“So, this is it, huh? The mirror on the edge of a universe.”

“Yes.”

Twilight gazed wistfully at her reflection in the mirror. Radish looked at her.

“You’ll see him again someday.”

“I may not. I may not see any of them again. But I’m glad I could help them before I left them. I think they’ll be fine.”

“Good.”

Radish noticed how quiet the building was.

“Anyone else here?”

“The other five are taking some well-deserved time off. After Tirek, everyone wanted to spend some time with their families.”

“Don’t you?”

“I am. Spike, Owlowiscious, and I are leaving for Canterlot soon. We’ll be at my parents’ for the weekend.”

“Oh? So I’ll be here all alone?”

“Yes. Sorry, did I not mention that?”

“Don’t worry. It’ll be nice to have a castle to myself for the weekend. Where should I set up my bedroll?”

He nodded to his saddlebags, which had his old Ranger sleeping bag tied up in one of their clasps.

“Oh, you don’t have to sleep on the floor!”

“There’s a guest bed?”

“No, that’s another piece of furniture I’ll have to get for this place. But you can just take my bed.”

“Oh… I, uh…”

“What? You’re going to tell me that’s weird or something? That a guard ‘mustn’t lay a hoof upon his princess’s royal bedsheets, lest he bring her scandal and shame’?”

“Nah, I’ve been in Luna’s bed.”

“Huh?”

“Twilight!” called Spike from another room. “Where’s that little bag that goes with the big bag?”

“Uh, just a minute, Spike! Hold that thought, Radish,” she said.

She trotted away, and Radish watched her go.

“See, Fanny? Nothing to worry about,” Radish muttered. “Can’t sleep with her if she’s not here.”

“Hoo.”

“Twilight,” Radish answered.

He turned around. Twilight’s owl assistant was perched on a top shelf, staring at him.

“Oh. You must be Owlowiscious. Nice to meet you. I’m Major Root.”

“Hoo.”

“Nothing. Just a joke between me and my girlfriend. So, what’s your take on this place?”

“Hooo. Hoo-hoo hoo.”

“I, uh, don’t know those terms.”

“Hooooo.”

“Hey, I’m not a scholar. I’m a guard. And it’s my job to see how safe this place is.”

“Hooo.”

“Yeah? What makes you so sure?”

“Hoo.”

“Oh, great. I feel safer for her already.”

Twilight walked back in.

“Radish? Oh, good. You two have met.”

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure you’ll be okay here all alone?”

“I’ll be fine. Enjoy your time with your family.”

Twilight, Spike, and Owlowiscious gathered their luggage and made their way to the front door.

“Bye, Radish!” said Spike. “Help yourself to anything in the fridge! I just stocked it!”

“Hooo.”

“Wait,” said Radish. “What do I do if the mirror portal opens and a human comes through?”

“Uh… be a good host? They don’t bite. But don’t let them get trapped on this side,” said Twilight.

“What if Discord shows up?”

“Just be really boring, and he’ll leave,” said Spike.

“Okay. There’s plumbing, right?”

“Yep. Hot showers and flush toilets,” said Twilight. “Still not sure where the water comes from. Or goes."

“Feel free to use the laundry room!” said Spike. “Just put what’s in there aside, I’ll run it when we get back.”

“How can there be laundry already? You’ve had this castle a day, and none of you wear clothes.”

“Tell me about it,” grumbled Spike.

“Oh! Uh… don’t… don’t go through the drawers in the bedroom. Or the trunk in the closet. Or the bathroom cabinet!” warned Twilight.

“What could possibly-”

“That’s an order, major.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Okay, that’s everything. Have fun here.”

“Oh, wait. I need the keys to this place.”

“Uh, there are no keys. There are no locks.”

“What? It’s a castle.”

“Look,” she said, pointing to the main doors.

Radish looked at the doors. Not only were there no locks, there were no handles or door knobs. He looked to Spike and Owlowiscious, who both shrugged.

“Son of a-”

“Goodbye, Rad!”

“Bye.”

“Hoo.”


Radish stared at himself in the dimensional mirror. He walked up to it. He tapped its surface. He felt nothing but cold glass.

“Okay. You just stay that way.”

Radish dropped off his bags in Twilight’s bedroom, and set up work materials on her desk. He turned to look at Twilight’s bed.

She used to sleep in the spare room of a library. Now she has a four-post bed in her own castle. She’s really moved up in the world.

He walked up to it and felt the sheets. They were silk.

This isn’t weird. It’s just a bed. She’s just a friend to me. More like a kid sister. But also, my boss. So this definitely isn’t weird.

He doffed his armor and lay down to get the feel of the mattress, resting his head on her pillow. The mattress felt soft. The pillow smelled like Twilight’s mane.

That’s not a weird thought to have. It’s normal to notice smells. It’d be weirder to ignore a smell.

He heard the front door open, followed by hoofsteps. He sprang out of the bed and snatched up his sword in his mouth.

Stupid! Never take off your armor unless you’re secure! Now there’s no time to re-don it!

He silently crept into the hall, focusing his senses on the hunt. The intruder had taken the outer circular hall, and was heading toward him. He could cut through the center room, then get behind them.

He heard another door open and close.

Wait, that direction is the laundry room. Did someone come here to… steal Twilight’s dirty clothes?

He fumed at the thought, quickening his pace to an almost audible level. He reached the laundry room door and put his ear to it. Someone was inside, all right. He kicked it open, sword in mouth.

“What the-!” shouted Rainbow Dash. “Radish!? You nearly gave me a heart attack!”

Radish took his sword in hoof.

“Rainbow? I thought all of you were visiting your parents.”

“I’m about to. But I always play cloudball with my cousins when I go home, and I left my lucky sock in this castle. I can’t play without it.”

“Lucky sock?”

“I was afraid Spike might have thrown it in with the laundry. And I was right! Look!”

She held up a filthy gray sock. Radish winced and stepped back.

“That was a close one!” said Rainbow Dash. “He almost washed all the luck out of it!”

“Dash, that’s gross. Don’t wear that.”

“I don’t wear it. I rub it for luck between plays.”

“Ugh.”

“So, how’s the whole security evaluation going? Actually, I guess if you have to run around with a sword, you can’t be feeling too safe here, can you?”

“You know there’s no lock on the door?”

“This is Ponyville. The worst thing that could wander in through that door is an overly-chatty neighbor.”

“Or someone like Tirek.”

“Tirek doesn’t use doors, he just blows up the building.”

“So you feel Twilight is safe in here?”

“You don’t? She’s like one of the most powerful beings on Earth now.”

“Dash, this castle is top-heavy, made of brittle material, and supported by a single column that’s hollowed out. It’s got a huge decorative star on the top that does nothing but add weight and wind resistance. I’m terrified it will all come crashing down on her.”

“What, you think the Tree of Harmony would grow her a deathtrap for a castle? Get real.”

“I’m starting to get suspicious of that tree.”

“Hey, don’t rag on the Tree. It saved our butts.”

“Yeah, fine. I just worry about Twilight, is all.”

“We all do. But this place is solid as a rock. It is a rock.”

“It’s crystal. Crystals can shatter. They’re especially vulnerable to sonic vibrations.”

“What’s going to attack a castle with sound? An evil opera singer?” She put her sock in her bag. She looked at him. “Hey, can I try out your sword?”

“No.”

“Fine. Guess I’m gonna go. What are you up to now?”

“Twilight didn't know where this castle gets its water. I need to make sure the source is safe.”

“Want some help?”


Twilight found Celestia in her private garden, watering a bed of lantana.

“I left my requisition forms in your office, princess. I’d be grateful for anything you could lend me.”

“Of course, dear. You can have anything you need. But you might want to consider turning the castle into a source of revenue- offering tours, opening a gift shop, and renting it out as a venue for events. Then it can upkeep itself.”

“Well, my priority is getting its library up and running. Ponyville shouldn’t go without a public library for too long, and we lost almost every book.”

“I am sorry about your home, Twilight. You may have been the only one to suffer a permanent loss at Tirek’s hands. But now that you live in an actual castle, I think it’s time you accepted a guard detail. And now that you have a title, you should have a support staff.”

“Thank you, but I don’t think it will be necessary. Spike and Owlowiscious are all the support staff I’ve ever needed, and I’ve been training new defensive spells.”

“The world grows more dangerous by the day, especially for princesses. Please, I only want you safe.”

“Well… I’ll give it thought. But the idea makes me uncomfortable.”

“You can select ponies that you know and trust. Like Radish, for example.”

“He was looking forward to moving back to Canterlot, to be closer to Light Fantastic.”

“Ah, yes.”

Celestia looked around the garden, then bent low to Twilight. “You know, before she came into the picture, I often wondered if you and Radish were on a… collision course.”

“Huh?”

“Romantically.”

“Oh. Ah, heh heh. That’s funny. I’ve never really… thought about him like that.”

“Really? Your letters about him always seemed… how shall I put this? Extra fond.”

“Funny, his letters about you seemed the same way. I used to wonder if the two of you were on a collision course.”

Celestia frowned.

We weren’t,” she said icily.

“Okay then. Nobody is on a collision course with Radish.”

“Right.”

“Except for Light Fantastic.”

“Ah, yes. Her. Twilight, do you find her to be a bit…”

“Much?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t tell anyone I said this, but I actually think he pairs better with Sky.”

“Oh, really?”

“Honestly, you two,” said Luna, standing in a balcony above them, “are you princesses, or gossiping old milkmaids?” She flitted down to them. “How would Radish feel if he knew you were speaking of his ladylove this way behind his back?”

“You’ve never met Light, have you?” asked Celestia, grinning.

“Hello, Princess Luna,” said Twilight. “Actually, my earliest friendship studies indicated that it’s very common for marefriends to gossip about the boys they know. But none of my Ponyville friends ever want to. I guess we don’t know that many guys who aren’t Radish, or one of our brothers.”

“You don’t say? Twilight, that’s a rather large blind spot for the Princess of Friendship. You should really have more male friends,” said Celestia.

“You think?”

“Indeed,” said Luna. “I have scads of friends of all manner of genders. It gives one perspectives one could not have otherwise.”

“Scads?” asked Celestia. “Name one.”

“This isn’t about my friends, it’s about Twilight’s.”

“You’re right,” Twilight said. “It’s just that Ponyville has always skewed heavily female. I’m not actually sure why it’s that way.”

“Twilight,” said Celestia, "why not use this weekend off as an opportunity to make a new friend? Canterlot has a much more balanced ratio, and a bigger variety of places to meet ponies.”

“That could be fun,” Twilight said. “A cold-call friendship.”

“And Luna, perhaps you could finally meet Light Fantastic.”

“Ah, a fine idea. It’s high time I met the mare who so captured the heart of my Champion. I’m sure we will be fast friends. But Celestia, if the two of us are making new friends this weekend, I think you ought to put in the effort, as well.”

“Hmm. You know, I’ve always wanted to do that thing where a royal disguises herself as a commoner to go amongst them. It would be fun to make a new friend without the baggage of royalty.”

“But wouldn’t trying to make friends while undercover mean you’d be starting off a friendship through deception?” asked Twilight.

“Or perhaps it would be a truer friendship if it began without the knowledge that I’m a princess,” said Celestia.

“Maybe.”

“Then it’s settled,” said Celestia. “We’ll all make a new friend this weekend.”

“Yes, and whoever makes the strongest friendship, wins!” announced Luna.

“Princess,” said Twilight, “I don’t think-”

“Wins what?” asked Celestia.

“One bit from the other two!”

“You’re on!”


Radish poked around the base of the Castle of Friendship. Rainbow Dash flapped out of a window and set down next to him.

“Sorry, I couldn’t find a basement, crawlspace, sewer access, or anything that could help us figure out where the water is coming from. Or going. I’d tell you to talk to the Water Department… but Ponyville doesn’t have one.”

“Okay, I’m going to try something.”

Radish planted his hooves into the earth, adjusted their placement, and lay prone. He put his chin on the ground and closed his eyes.

“Uh… what are you doing?”

“Communing with the soil,” he said, keeping his eyes closed. “It’s an earth pony thing.”

“What? No, it’s not. Applejack never does that.”

“She grew up on her farm. She already knows the soil there.”

“Yeah? How does it work?”

“I focus my senses and feel the ebb and flow of life in the ground. Soil is a stack of organic and mineral layers, each of which tells its own story. And there are countless insects, worms, fungi, bacteria, and other living things all forming a community underground. The way they move can give me some hint as to what else is down there.”

“You’re pulling my wing. I’ve never heard of this.”

“Don’t pegasi do pretty much the same thing with the sky? Become one with the wind and the birds and the clouds?”

“Yeah, we call it ‘stratojocking’.”

“Well, we call this ‘ground-truthing’.”

“Huh. So, what are you feeling?”

“The, uh, tree’s roots are super deep. But they’re not alive… at least not how a real tree is. And they’re not drying out the soil around them, so I don’t think the castle is just sucking up ground water. It must be tapping into the water table at a much deeper depth.”

“Then where does the wastewater go?”

“No clue. Maybe the Castle of Friendship has a septic tank.”

“Lovely.”

“Well, thanks for your help. I won’t keep you. I need to make lunch, anyway.”

“What are you making?”


Luna flung open the door of Cat’s Howl with a wham. Light Fantastic yelped at the noise and ducked behind her counter. She peeked over it.

“Greetings! I am Princess Luna! Light Fantastic, I presume?”

Light stood up.

“Oh! Hi!”

“I do apologize for not introducing myself sooner. My duties put my schedule out of sync with most ponies’ lives.”

“Uh, that’s okay. It’s nice to meet you. What… uh… why are you… how can I help you?”

“As you are no doubt aware, I am one of Major Radish Root’s oldest and dearest friends. And as such, I would very much like to be friends with the love of his life, as well.”

“He calls me the love of his life?”

“Ah, not so much in his words, but in his tone. A princess knows what’s in her Champion’s heart.”

“Oh. Nice.”

Luna looked around at the store. “So… what is all this?”

“Only the best stuff in Canterlot! Come on, I’ll show you.”

Light led Luna through the aisles, showing off her merchandise. Luna stopped in front of a display of the character based on her.

“Eclipsa. The Moon Mistress,” she read off a label.

“She’s a popular character,” said Light.

“A villain?”

“Not entirely. You dunk her in cold water, and her colors change. She becomes her face version- her good guy side. That’s why she costs twice as much. It was Rad’s idea.”

“Ah. You see? Even in such things as unauthorized merchandising, he defends my honor.”

“Yeah, he was insistent that the products put you in a positive light. Really insistent,” Light chuckled.

Luna cocked her head at Light. “Miss Fantastic, you need not be jealous of my relationship with Radish.”

“I’m not.”

“A guardstallion’s fealty to his princess is a non-romantic form of love. We may occupy two different halves of his heart without encroaching upon each other.”

“Okay. Right.”

“And true, some would say it is a more pure form of love than even erotic love, but I am sure his heart beats with as much passion for you as it does with devotion to me.”

Light laughed.

“You find this amusing?” Luna asked.

“I’m sorry. It’s just that, a few years ago, I never could have imagined that a princess would walk into my store to insist on how much my boyfriend loves her, non-romantically. Knowing Rad has opened a lot of crazy experiences for me.”

“Ah, yes.”

“Besides, we’re not the ones who are really in competition for space in Rad’s heart.”

“No?”

“Celestia is his princess, his boss, his boyhood crush, and she’s on his cutie marks. If anything, we should both be worried about her claiming him all for herself.”

“Be wary, Light Fantastic. Jealousy of Celestia can lead to a dark and regrettable place.”

“And sometimes I think he and Twilight are overly-familiar. They hug a lot for just friends.”

“Nay. She patently denied harboring such feelings just this morning.”

“Yeah? They used to hate each other, you know. Now she’s in a dominant position over him. That’s a recipe for serious sexual tension.”

“Well, that is… oh. I see. You are ribbing me, yes?”

“Yes.”

“I am honored. But perhaps we should put aside Radish for a moment, and seek common ground in other interests.”

“Sure.”

“Do you like… uh, the moon?”

“I love the moon!”

“Wonderful!”


Princess Celestia stepped out of her bathroom, having recolored her coat to a bright yellow, painted her horn to match, and braided her mane and tail after coloring them pastel blue. She had dyed a new cutie mark over hers- a beach ball. She had none of her regalia, but wore a flannel shirt which hid her wings.

“Well, how do I look?” she asked Sew Buttons, her lady-in-waiting. “Am I recognizable?”

Sew Buttons looked her over.

“Ma’am, your bearing is still rather… regal.”

“Hmm.”

Celestia stood in front of a floor mirror and shifted her posture, changing her resting expression.

“Now?”

“Your voice still sounds too magnificent and benevolent.”

“Ahem. Now?

“Perfect, your highness. Your own guards won’t recognize you.”

“Good.”

“Do you have a name for this… persona?”

“What do you think of ‘Summer Breeze’?”

“And what do you do for a living, Miss Summer Breeze?”

“I design roller coasters!”

“Really? That must be fun.”

“It has its ups and downs.”

Celestia burst out with laughter at her own joke.

“Good one, ma’am.”

“Don’t you ‘ma’am’ me. We’re the same age!”

“Oh? You completed a roller coaster engineering degree at my age? Where at?”

“Steeracuse.”

“Oh, I heard their basketball team is just awful this year.”

“Bite your tongue, Sew Buttons! They’ve put together an excellent-”

“You’ve lost the voice, ma’am.”

“Ahem.”


Twilight Sparkle stepped into a downtown Canterlot hobby shop. She walked down the aisles of model kits, paints, and accessories, taking in the crowd. She noticed an earth stallion about her age examining model rockets. She trotted up to him.

“Oh! An X-190!” she said enthusiastically. “That’s a classic design!”

“Yeah, and it’s-”

He turned to look at her, and realized he was talking to a princess.

“What the fuck!?”


“And she’d never played four-square before! Can you believe it?” said Rainbow Dash, talking with her mouth full.

“Hard to believe,” said Radish.

“These are good.”

Radish had baked toast points and covered them with beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo. They shared them on one of the castle’s balconies.

“Thanks. It’s from the Ranger cookbook. I made this all the time on the plains. I never get to cook in the palace.”

“Really? I barely ever cook. Seems a bit… involved, you know?”

“What do you eat, then?”

“Mostly takeout. See that place?” she asked, pointing into town. Radish squinted. “They have the best hay shakes in Equestria! We should get some after this.”

“Rainbow, don’t you have to get going?”

“I guess. It doesn’t take that long to fly to Cloudsdale, and I don’t really have an ETA with my parents.”

“Are you delaying going home for some reason?”

“It’s just… my folks are always super enthusiastic about me. They’re like a couple of cheerleaders who never turn off.”

“Well, you are one of Equestria’s greatest heroes.”

“I know, I know. Do your parents act the same way about the stuff you do?”

“Well, a lot of what I do is classified. But it’s nice being recognized for something other than my cutie marks.”

“I’ve been meaning to ask you- did you get your cutie marks during a sonic rainboom? Maybe you’re connected to us!”

“You want to take responsibility for my cutie marks?”

“Never mind.”


Princess Celestia, as Summer Breeze, sat at the counter at Pony Joe’s Donuts. Joe hadn’t seemed to recognize her yet. She focused her attention on listening in on various conversations taking place around the restaurant. One conversation in particular between two mares caught her notice.

“Oh yeah, Tirek sapped my entire family. What a shitshow.”

“This whole country’s been a shitshow for years. Things were better when it was just Celestia. How can we have more princesses than ever, but more existential threats than ever, too?”

Celestia turned to see the patrons. She recognized them as young adult students at her School for Gifted Unicorns.

“I swear, Celestia does it on purpose,” one said. “She lets these monsters loose on us so Twilight can look heroic fighting them.”

“Yeah? I had a different hypothesis. Ever notice that all these disasters began right after she hired Radish Root?”

“Who?”

“That guard who’s got a cutie mark of him banging her?”

“What, that guy is real?”

“Yeah, and you know what I think? I think she’s been sleeping with him since day one. These things happen because she’s too distracted by the sex to rule properly.”

“Must be good sex to keep bringing back thousand-year-old monsters.”

One of them noticed Summer Breeze looking at them.

“You want to say something?”


Rainbow Dash hovered around the massive crystal star on top of Twilight’s castle.

“Nope! I don’t think this thing does anything!” she called to Radish.

“I can’t find a way to reach it from the inside,” he said, appearing on a balcony. “I guess it’s just there to look pretty.”

Rainbow Dash caught her reflection in it.

“Well, it’s doing a good job, now.”

She tapped on it.

“Maybe it’ll turn out to be an energy shield emitter, or a big rainbow laser turret.”

“That would be nice.”

She landed on the balcony next to him.

“So, anything else I can help with around here?”

“Dash, now you really are avoiding your parents.”

“Yeah. I know. I guess I should get going. Have fun with the safety eval.”

“Oh, I have some ideas.”

“You’re not going to mess with the castle, are you? I thought you’re here to look, not touch.”

“I won’t touch. Much.”

“Right. Maybe I should go before you fill the halls with booby traps. Plausible deniability.”

“Say hi to your folks for me.”

“They don't know who you are. I'm so envious."


Sew Buttons hummed gaily as she folded royal towels and placed them on a cart for distribution. She heard hoofsteps behind her, and turned to see her princess, still in disguise.

“Good afternoon, princess.”

“Princess? Where?” Summer Breeze asked, checking behind her.

“Oh. I mean, good afternoon, Summer Breeze.”

“Good afternoon!”

“What brings you to the back of the castle?”

“I’ve been invited to a dorm party at the School for Gifted Unicorns. I need some advice from my bestie.”

“I’m your bestie?”

“Of course! You’re my oldest friend!”

“Okay… what advice do you need?”

She held up two different outfits in her aura.

“Which do you think looks best on me?”

“Well, that one-”

“And keep in mind, I want to look flirty, but not slutty.”

“Really? Flirty?”

“I was told there’d be some hot guys there tonight.”

“Oh? You’re… hoping to meet hot guys?”

“Who isn’t?”

“Uh… then the stripes, I think.”

“I think so, too. Thanks, Sew. Wanna come?”

“I’ll have to pass. I’m working early tomorrow.”

“Sew, you need to lighten up. There’s more to life than work.”

“Well, if I asked my boss for tomorrow off…”

“That old bat? She wouldn’t know fun if it showed up with her on its flanks.”

“Huh?”


A model rocket drifted down on a small white parachute. It landed upright on the grass of a Canterlot public park, in front of Twilight Sparkle and her new stallion friend, North Westing.

“Perfect!” she said, clapping her hooves.

“You were right about the launch vector,” said North.

“And you were right about the wind!” she said.

“Come on, let’s try out the big engines,” said North.

“Ooh.”


Splash Page threw open the door to Cat’s Howl with a comic book in hoof.

“Light! New issue of Ironcolt! No spoilers, but I was totally right about everything!”

He saw Princess Luna.

“Whoa, what the fuck? How many princesses do you get in here?”

“Hey, Splash. This is my good friend, Princess Luna. Luna, Splash Page.”

“Don’t let me interfere with you tending to your customer,” said Luna.

“Oh, Splash never buys anything. He just hangs out here. A lot.”

“Does he?” Luna stalked up to Splash Page and pointed her hoof in his face. “You know, Miss Fantastic is taken. By a good friend of mine.”

“Uh… Fanny?”

“She’s got you there, Splash. No more coming in here lusting after my hot bod, okay?”

“Right. Do you still want the comic?”

“Yeah.”

He held it up, and Luna snatched it in her aura. She leafed through it.

“Interesting. The artistry in penny dreadfuls is quite exquisite now.”

“Wait,” said Splash Page, “you’ve never seen a modern comic? The whole time Radish was on the Night Shift, he never shared any with you?”

“No. Should he have?”

“Why, that’s criminal! You’ve got a lot to catch up on!”

“Is it? Do I?”

“Fan, you’ve got some of your collection here, right?”

“Uh…”

She pulled a file box out from under her counter.

“Yep.”

“Then your highness’s education starts now!” said Splash Page, hopping excitedly.

The door opened. Hazy Shade entered and gasped at Luna.

“What the fuck!?”


Radish compiled a stack of his notes and paperclipped them together.

Good start, despite the distractions. I’ll really dig into this place’s problems tomorrow.

Radish heard a crash, followed by a swear, followed by a “Hush!”. He took up his sword.

That wasn’t Rainbow Dash. And it was no overly-chatty neighbor.

Once again, Radish snuck down the castle’s halls. He put his ear to the central throne room’s door. He heard the faintest of hoofsteps.

No, not hoofsteps. They’re… deliberately scraping the floor. They’re digging through it?

Radish kicked the door open. No one was inside. He scanned the ceiling while circling the room. There were dozens of small windows along the upper walls.

Do they open? That should have been the first thing I checked.

He decided to assert his presence.

“I heard you in here! Come on out! I’m trained, armed, and not in the mood!”

He heard a snicker, and then a shush.

Laughing, huh? That came from upstairs. What’s up there?

Radish made his way upstairs. He searched through a dozen empty rooms, finding no evidence of anyone.

“Okay! Wanna be that way? You don’t mess with a guard, you don’t mess with a ranger, and you don’t mess with a Root!”


“Okay, okay, okay. But have you ever tried one of these?”

One of Celestia’s students dangled a small orange potion in front of Summer Breeze’s face. Summer Breeze had already forgotten the girl’s name, and the names of everyone else at the party. She had also forgotten whose dorm she was now in.

“And that is?”

“Fated Love potion. You drink it, and you get a vision of the one you’re supposed to be with,” the girl said.

“Oh, bull honkey,” scoffed Summer Breeze.

“Hey, watch it,” said a bull on the couch, sipping a craft beer.

“Sorry.”

“No, it’s real,” said the girl, “this is from Kludgetown. My friend has a source there.”

“Then it’s illegal. And definitely bunk. And probably poison. You can’t trust a thing from that town.”

“It worked for me. It showed me Rider, here,” she said, pointing to the bull on the couch, “and we’ve been together since.”

“Yeah, Summer Breeze,” said Rider, “you can’t fight fate. It’s destiny.”

Summer Breeze snorted derisively.

“Fine. Give me the damn thing,” she said, snatching the potion in her aura. “And I better not see Radish Root.”

“Who?” the girl asked.

“He’s that guard who wrestled Celestia,” said Rider.

“Oh? Is he cute?”

Summer Breeze laughed. “Let me tell you something about Radish Root. He spent years working out because he assumed Celestia would be into big, buff stallions. By the time he joined her guard, he was so ripped, the royal armorer had to add extra plates to his armor to fit him!”

“No kidding?” asked Rider.

“But did Celestia appreciate it? Nooo. She wouldn’t know what to do with a hunk like Radish Root. She’s still moping over some weedy little scribe who bit the dust two thousand years ago!”

“Uh, how do you know that?” asked the girl.

“She should have just carried Radish up to her bedroom and had the time of her life with him! Heck, she should just be keeping him chained to the bed!”

“Okay, this is getting-”

“But it’s too late now! He forgot all about Celestia the minute some foulmouthed Midtown T-shirt maker batted her eyes at him!”

“What?”

“So the last face I want to see when I drink this swill is Radish-freakin’-Root!”

She popped the stopper off the vial and swigged the potion. Her eyes turned pure white and she stumbled back.

“So? Who you seeing?” the girl asked.

Summer Breeze shook her head violently. Her eyes returned to normal. She laughed, then seized a bottle of vodka from a nearby table in her aura.

“To destiny!” she toasted. She chugged the bottle.


Princess Luna sat in her divan, reading a graphic novel. She heard a knock at her door.

“Enter!”

Sew Buttons entered the bedroom with a cart of towels.

“Ah, excellent. I was almost out.”

“Your highness… I’m not sure if it’s my place to say so… but there might be a problem.”

“With towels?”

“No. Princess Celestia left last evening to attend a… social function… and hasn’t been seen since. I think you may need to raise the sun this morning.”

“Ah. That confirms it. I received this missive around the same time.”

She floated a letter off her desk and read it aloud. “Hey, Lulu. You do the sun, okay? Thanks.

“I see.”

“It is her hornwriting, though she hasn’t been this curt with me since she banished me to the moon.”

“Uh…”

“And I made her stop calling me ‘Lulu’ centuries before that.”

“Well, I’m relieved you got the message.”

“Yes, there’s just one problem.”

“Oh?”

“I don’t know how to raise the sun.”

“What!? Uh, maybe we can-”

“Ha! I was merely joking. You should have seen the terror on your face, chambermaid.”

“Oh… good one.”

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