• 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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107. The Castle: Sunday

Applejack sipped coffee and watched the sun rise from Twilight’s balcony. She heard hoofsteps approaching. She saw her brother on the path to the door, and went downstairs to meet him.

“Howdy, bro. What brings you out here?”

Big Macintosh held up a tabloid from Ponyville’s newsstand. Applejack took it and read.

Not content with just two Elements of Harmony, Radish Root has now been spotted making time with Applejack. She tore off his clothes and threw him into bed… why, of all the nerve.”

Big Mac raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, you know it ain’t like that.”

He nodded.

“But don’t let Apple Bloom see this. Or Granny.”

He nodded. He craned his neck to look past her into the castle.

“He’s asleep. He got it in his head that somepony else was sneakin’ ‘round here. And you know, I think there might be sumthin’ to it. Get Winona. We’re gettin’ to the bottom of this.”

Radish, wearing Twilight’s pink terrycloth bathrobe, stomped up from behind Applejack.

“AJ! You lousy, deceitful, apple-bucking piece of-!”

He saw Big Macintosh. He took a step back.

“Uh, who wants breakfast?”

Twilight limped to her parents’ breakfast table.

“Hey, sweetie. Still sore?” her mother asked.

“Yes. What do the papers say now?”

“That you were brutalized by the jealous girlfriend of your new boytoy.”


“And sorry, sweetie- looks like Radish has moved on to Applejack.”

She showed her the paper.

“I was always rooting for those two,” laughed Night Light.

Twilight looked at the article.

“How the hay did they get these photos?”

Radish lay face-down in Twilight’s bed. The bed’s curtains were drawn around him, filtering out the morning light. He tossed and turned. A light too bright to ignore burst over his head, and he gazed up at it, squinting.

Floating above Radish was Twilight Sparkle, glittering and translucent. She frowned.

“Radish Root.”


“I am the Tree of Harmony. I’ve been observing you, and I cannot remain silent anymore.”

“The… tree?”

“This castle is my offspring. I would ask you to stop altering it. It is not yours to change.”

“This castle is unsafe. Look at this place. Anyone could walk in.”

“That is true. Anyone could walk in. A miscreant. A vandal. An assassin. Or a friend. Or a potential friend.”

“What are you saying?”

“This is a Castle of Friendship. The ones you wish to exclude are the ones who need to be here the most.”

“What, you want Twilight’s enemies to get in here so she can… befriend them?”

“That is the optimal way of eliminating enemies.”

“No, an arrest, trial and prison sentence is.”

“I did not grow Twilight a prison for her enemies. I grew her a foyer to receive them. A lounge to entertain them. A kitchen to cook for them.”

“And not a single thing for me.”

“You don’t need to be here.”

“Look here, tree. I’m not going to let you use Twilight as some kind of villain bait. Either you let me secure this dump, or I’m knocking this whole castle down and keeping Twilight in my footlocker where she’s safe.”

Her image vanished. In its place appeared a mirror image of Radish.

“I’m knocking this whole castle down and keeping Twilight in my footlocker where she’s safe,” it repeated in Radish’s voice.

“Uh, you don’t have to show her that.”

“I’m knocking this whole castle down and keeping Twilight in my footlocker where she’s safe.”

Radish lunged out at himself. He tumbled out of Twilight’s bed right into Pinkie Pie, knocking a tray of food off her head.

“Oh! Hey!” said Pinkie Pie, pinned under him.

“Pinkie Pie?”

He rolled off her.

“Good morning!” she chirped. “Applejack said you were having a rough weekend, so I brought you breakfast in bed!”

She pointed to the tray of spilled food and beverages on the floor.

“Oh. That was nice of you. Sorry I tackled you.”

“Aw, my fault for sneaking up on a sleeping guard. I bet they’ve drilled a never-ending state of alertness into you, and you’re coiled up like a snake ready to strike even while you’re asleep, huh?”

“Actually, I dreamt the Tree of Harmony was being a jerk, so I tried to strangle it.”

“Strangle a tree?”

“No, it looked like me.”

“If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”


“I’d be cedar! It smells great!”

“I thought you were visiting your folks this weekend.”

“This weekend is almost over, Radish. It’s Sunday afternoon.”

“Son of a bitch.”

“Hey! There could be kids listening.”

“I’ve been stumbling around this castle like an idiot all weekend, and I barely have anything to show for it.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” she giggled, pulling two tabloids from behind her back. Radish looked over them. One insinuated he was dating Rainbow Dash, the other proclaimed he was having relations with Applejack.

“Ugh. Are any of them mad?”

“Nah. We get this kind of thing all the time. You’re like, the least worst guy they’ve paired Rainbow Dash with.”

“Who was the most worst?”

“According to her, Discord. According to the rest of us, Iron Will.”

“I can see that working out.”

“Come on, we can have the backup breakfast I brought.”

“You brought a backup breakfast?”

“Oh, you never want to be caught without a backup breakfast.”

“You girls are always so nice,” Radish sighed.

“Yeah? What’s wrong with that?” asked Pinkie Pie.

“What if you someday have an enemy who takes advantage of your niceness?”

“That’s what niceness is for!”

Radish groaned.

Celestia’s head was pounding. She laboriously opened her eyes, and found herself in her bed. Twilight and Luna were staring down at her.

“Princess!” cried Twilight. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine, Twilight.”

“What happened?”

Celestia glanced at her wall. One of her tapestries had been moved slightly to cover the spot where her head had slammed into the marble. She looked down at her hooves, and all her fur dye had been removed.

“Just a momentary lapse of balance, dear. I believe I cut loose a bit too much this weekend. You were right- one should not attempt to make friends under a false identity. Whichever one of you won the bet may see the royal bursar to collect your bit.”

“Sadly, my friendship with Light Fantastic is on thin ice,” said Luna. “She learned of the bet and was most displeased. She only accepted my apology after I agreed to a drinking contest. I won, though she vomited thirteen hundred-year-old rum onto my floor. Hardly a victory. Also, her store was broken into while we were out, and I think she blames me for that.”

“Oh, that’s awful,” said Twilight. “What did they get?”

“Nothing was stolen, some young lady was just playing with the toys. The watchpony who saw her believed her to be under the influence of one or more substances.”

“Oh, poor girl,” Twilight said. “I hope she gets the help she needs.”

“What about you, Twilight?” Celestia quickly asked. “How did your cold-call friendship go?”

“Great! I made new friendships with a nice stallion named North Westing and his girlfriend Lander. She said we could double-date if I ever get a boyfriend… which, now that I think about it, was kind of passive-aggressive.”

“Speaking of which, how’s Radish?” Celestia asked with a smirk.

Twilight rolled her eyes. “I saw him on the way in. He looked pretty haggard. He said he’d have a full report soon.”

“Haggard?” Celestia asked. “That must mean he found fault with your castle.”

“Or your bed,” noted Luna. “Remember, a large stallion requires a firm mattress for a comfortable night’s sleep.”

“Oh? How did he find yours?” Twilight asked.

“He had no complaints,” Luna answered proudly.

“Would you two mind letting me rest now?” Celestia groaned.

Luna and Twilight said their goodbyes and took their leave. Celestia lay on her side and poked at her mattress with her hoof. Sew Buttons entered the bedroom with fresh towels.

“Ma’am? How are you feeling?”

“I’ll be fine. I’m sorry if I scared you.”

“That’s alright. I’m just glad you’re back to… I’m glad you’re okay.”

Celestia lifted the tapestry with her aura. Her face had left a sizable dent in the wall, with a much deeper hole where her horn penetrated.

“Thank you for your discretion,” Celestia said. “I’m embarrassed by my behavior as Summer Breeze. Perhaps she’s what rises from the grave after you’ve buried your longings too deeply and for too long.”

She opened her nightstand drawer and pulled out a woodcut of a handsome unicorn.

“He set such a high bar. But he’d be miserable if he knew I never tried to take the leap again. He just wanted me… to be happy.”

She hugged it to her chest and sniffled. Sew Buttons walked to her bedside.

“I’ll help you any way I can.”

“Thank you, dear.” Celestia noticed a newspaper rolled up in her lady-in-waiting’s pocket. “Are you done with that?”

“Oh. Yes. But, uh, it’s a bit of a silly rag, ma’am.”

“That’s fine. I’m in the mood for something silly.”

She opened the paper to see a front-page photo of Radish, lying unconscious on Twilight’s floor while Applejack tugged his armor off with her teeth. She smiled.

“And there he is.”

Applejack trotted into Ponyville’s confectionary.

“Hi, Applejack!” said the mare at the counter.

“Howdy, Bon Bon.”

“What can I get you?”

“An explanation.”

“Uh, that’s not a candy I’ve ever heard of.”

“No, I ain’t in the mood for somethin’ sweet. In fact, I’m feeling a might sour.”

“Applejack, what’s up?”

“Somepony was sneakin’ all over Twilight’s castle this weekend. Left no evidence. Not even Winona could pick up a scent.”

“Then how do you know they were there?”

“Well, I got to thinkin’… maybe they didn’t leave behind a scent, but maybe a scent got left on them. Radish was all over the castle, so if there’s anyone in Ponyville who smells like him that shouldn’t…”

Winona burst into the shop and barked furiously at Bon Bon.

“Well, look at that.”

Bon Bon’s ears drooped. “Okay, you caught me. I was at the castle.”

“Doin’ what?”

Bon Bon placed a series of photographs on her counter. They depicted Radish pinning Pinkie Pie to the floor of Twilight’s bedroom.

“Tabloids pay top bit for fun photos of you six. And they love to print stuff about Radish, too. All weekend long he’s been providing the best photo opportunities.”

“So that was you! Why, of all the low-down, dirty-dealin’, no good…”

“Sorry, Applejack. Lyra’s birthday is coming up, and I wanted to earn a little extra money to get her something special. I promise I won’t do it again.”

“You better not.”

“Why don’t you take a box of chocolates, on the house?”

“Why don’t you bring it to Radish instead, and apologize to him in person?”

“Oh… okay.”

Applejack turned and left. Winona gave Bon Bon a suspicious glance, then followed Applejack out. Bon Bon sat back on her stool and flipped through the photos. The last picture in the stack was an image of the Castle of Friendship’s thrones.

“Tree of Harmony… what are you hiding?”

Potion Nova sat down in the palace commissary with her lunch on a tray. As she picked up her sandwich, Celestia sat down opposite her.

“Oh, princess. What can I do for you?”

“I’m sorry to disturb your break, but I need to know something. About Fated Love potion.”

“Oh, I remember hearing about that. It was an old scam out of the badlands.”

“A scam, you say? So such potions are unreliable?”

“Yeah. No way a potion can show you who you’re meant to be with.”

“Thank you, Potion Nova.”

“All they do is spike your amygdala. They make you see whatever you want to see.”

“Whatever you want to see?”

“Yeah. Perfect scam, huh? Everyone walks away a satisfied customer.”

“Not everyone, Potion Nova.”

“Oh. I see. I’m sorry.”

“Thank you for your expertise.”

“Do you need anything else?”

“Just lunch. May I sit with you?”

“Of course!”

“Just no talking about work, please. Or relationships.”

“Sure. How about sports?”

“Oh, do you follow college basketball? Steeracuse has put together an excellent team this year.”

Rainbow Dash placed a casserole dish of potato gratin onto her parents’ dining room table. They gathered around it, forks in hoof, ready to try it.

“Now remember, this is my first attempt,” Rainbow Dash said. “So it’s obviously not going to be the greatest in the world. Got it?”

“How could it not be!?” asked her father. “It already smells the greatest!”

Rainbow Dash dug her fork in and tasted it. Her eyes bugged out.

“Whoa, maybe it is the greatest in the world! I guess I’m even more talented than I knew!”

Her parents cheered, then dug in.

“Ahh, home sweet home,” said Spike, holding the Crystal Castle’s door open for Twilight and Owlowiscious.


“Yeah. Home,” said Twilight, uneasily gazing around the cavernous foyer.

“I wonder if Radish learned anything interesting here?” Spike asked.

“Hoo. Hoo-oot.”

“Well, I don’t think- ow! What is this?” exclaimed Twilight. She poked at a string pulled taught across the hallway. Spike and Owlowiscious gathered near her.


“A tripwire!? Well, it didn’t seem to-”

A net fell on her. Its edges pulled together, enclosing her within it, and a rope dragged her screaming down the hall, through the laundry room, and flung her out the window. She landed, still netted, into a nearby oak tree. The rope snagged, and she dangled from its branches like a piñata.

“Hi, Twilight!” called Pinkie Pie, trotting past. “Oh, you didn’t see the tripwires? Rad put them all over the castle!”


Twilight teleported herself out of the net and shook the ringing out of her head.

“I am going to order Radish back here and have him take out every last one. He should never have made unauthorized alterations without my express approval!”

“Aww, he just wants to keep us safe. You don’t need express approval to care about someone.”

“Pinkie, what’s a net snare going to do against the likes of Tirek?”

“I asked him that! He said he’ll throw every idea he has against your enemies, because he can’t sleep at night knowing he’s done less than his best to protect you.”

She shifted to an imitation of Radish’s voice. “Even if my whole life’s purpose is to buy Twilight one extra second of safety, it will be worth it.

Twilight felt her chest warm up and her hooves quiver. “He said that?”

“Uh huh!”

“Oh… that’s nice.”

Radish entered Cat’s Howl to find Light at her counter, going over her books and chewing a muffin.

“Hey, hon,” he said, walking up to her. “I heard about the break-in. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. If anything, it’s free advertising.”

“I can fortify this place from intruders, if you want,” Radish offered.

“Rad, I know you. You’d go totally overboard. Besides, it’s all insured.”


“How was the castle?”

“Honestly, that place is kind of draining.”

Light chuckled. “Yeah, I can tell.”

She spread three tabloids across her counter.

“Boning Pastelles all weekend would drain anybody.”

“Ugh. Lousy paparazzi.”

“Hey, Luna came by. She wanted to make friends with the love of her Champion’s life.”

“Really? That’s great!”

“She’s fun. I can see why you’re so gaga over her.”

“Yeah. What’d you two get up to?”

“Sorry, that’s between us gals.”

“You look hungover.”

“Yeah. Good weekend.”

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