• 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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113. The Crime

"Another?" asked Bold Roast, clearing away Radish's emptied glass.

“Nah,” said Radish, leaning against his hoof on the café’s counter.

“Is Light still out of town?”

“Yeah. How long do these artist retreat things usually take?”

“Usually, a week”

“It’s been a week.”

“Well, which one did she go to?”

“I, uh, don’t know. She was vague about it.”

“You didn’t ask for details?”

“I didn’t want to be one of those, you know, intrusive, untrusting boyfriends.”

“Yeah, mares hate it when you show interest in their interests.”

“Hmm.”

Hazy Shade entered the cafe. She noticed Radish and approached him curiously.

“Radish? You’re here? When I saw that Cat’s Howl was closed all week, I thought you and Light had… uh…”

“Had what?”

“Nothing! So, how are things? How’s Light been?”

“She’s been out of town since Tuesday.”

“You mean, she just… left? Right after she…” Hazy shade winced and looked away.

“After she what? Hazy… did Light talk to you before she left?” He took Hazy Shade by the shoulders. “Did she know?”

Hazy Shade gave a worried nod.

Radish slumped back. “She left me. I moved too fast, and I scared her off.”

“No you didn’t!” insisted Hazy Shade. “Fanny would never cut and run like that!”

“Come on, major,” said Bold Roast. “Light’s not afraid of anything.”

“She loves you, Radish,” said Hazy. “She really wants to be with you. I’m sure she’ll be back soon. Maybe she’s on her way back right now.”

“Yeah… maybe you’re right.”

Radish dumped some money on the counter, then left out the door. He wandered down the street, only pausing when he realized he wasn’t sure where he was going. He half-wanted to speak with Underglaze, Light’s ex-boyfriend, for some insight, and half-wanted to catch a balloon ride to Cirruscinnati to see if she went home to her parents.

“Hey! You there! Stop!” Radish heard shouted out.

Midtown ponies had a tendency to shout their conversations from across the street. Assuming it was directed at anypony else, Radish kept going. He then heard an ear-splitting whistle, and the clamber of hoofbeats on the sidewalk behind him.

“I said stop!”

Radish turned. A uniformed pony of the City Watch was standing behind him, with fury in his eyes and a truncheon in his hoof.

“What do you think you’re doing!?” he bellowed.

“I’m sorry?”

“That! What on earth is that!?” he said, pointing with his truncheon.

Radish looked at what he was pointing to. It was his cutie mark, on public display. He had forgotten his coat at Bold Roast’s.


Saguaro Shade entered the ninth precinct of the Canterlot City Watch. His old pal Jitte, a Watch sergeant, met him in the lobby.

“Thanks for coming, Shady.”

“What’s the issue, Jitte?”

“A beat cop picked up one of yours in Midtown. I thought it best to send for you before processing got too far.”

“You know I don’t interfere in these matters. Whatever the crime, let them do the time. Goes for guards as well as anypony.”

“The crime here is an unusual one. Public indecency.”

“Really? How indecent we talkin’?”

“He walked down the street without any clothes on.”

“Well, what’s wrong with that?”

“Well…”

“Wait… Root?”

“Yes.”

“You arrested a pony for his own cutie marks!?”

“The officer thought they were fake. Like paint or something.”

“Let him go.”

“Shade, imagine if you took a page from a dirty magazine and taped it to your flank. Should you be able to trot all over town like that? There’s no difference.”

“Difference? It’s growing out of his blasted hide! You’re telling me it’s illegal to be walking around in your own fur!?”

“A kid could have seen them! If he went through the palace like that, you’d bust him, too.”

“For being out of uniform. Not for being himself.”

“Yeah? What if he took a palace tour on his day off, showed them then? You’d let him walk your halls with those?”

Saguaro Shade bristled.

“Damn straight I would.”

“Then that’s your call. My town, my call. I can remand him to your custody this time, but next time he forgets his jacket, I’m booking him.”

They entered the holding cell hallway and stopped in front of a cell. Radish was on the bed, lying down and facing the wall. He was covered in a poncho from the precinct’s lost-and-found box. Jitte unlocked the cell and left.

“Come on, Root. We’re leaving,” Saguaro Shade said.

“I’m not going.”

“How’s that?”

“Let them book me. Let it go to trial. Let them make a federal case out of it!”

“Root, you’re angry, and you have every right to be. This won’t help.”

Radish turned over to look at Saguaro Shade.

“No, commander. I wanna fight them in court over this. Let them try to explain to a judge why my body is illegal. Let the arresting officer get his name and face in the paper. Let them name a legal precedent after me! Let’s give Canterlot the trial of the century!”

“Root… that’d all be rosy. ‘cept for one thing.”

He leaned in and whispered.

“You really wanna drag her into this? Because you know she’d get involved. You know she’d walk into court and testify on your behalf. You know she’d say the nicest things about you to the jury, to the lawyers, and to the press. She’d do it all willingly, cheerfully, lovingly.

“And then idiots would come out of the woodwork to drag her for it. Opinion columns and newsreels questioning her judgment. Spittin’ accusations and insinuations. The whole city whispering innuendo about you two. She’d never complain, she’d never show a hint of unhappiness, she’d just live with it. For you.”

Radish pulled up the poncho and looked over his cutie mark. He touched it with his hoof.

“Guards protect princesses,” Radish said. “When I took that oath, I thought it meant from invaders and marauders. But it goes beyond that, huh? It means protecting her from those idiots. From my own pride. She’s got enough to worry about without taking a witness stand on my behalf.”

“It’s up to you, Root.”

“Let’s go, commander. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, Root. You haven’t done anything wrong.”

They left the cell and walked down the hall.

“Should I have just never come to this town, commander? Am I just one big headache for everypony in the palace?”

“Root, when you submitted an application to transfer from the Rangers to the Guard on my recommendation, Princess Celestia walked into my office and asked me what I thought I was doing. We actually got into a heated argument over you.”

“Really?”

“I looked her square in the eye and asked, ‘What are you afraid of?’”

“What did she say?”

“‘Getting that boy’s hopes up.’”

“Well, I did get my hopes up.”

“Yeah. But you’ve got a new hope now, huh?”

“Light Fantastic? I… was hoping…”

"Shady, one minute," called Jitte, as they passed by the front desk. Saguaro Shade and Radish turned. "Something's come up. I can't let him leave now."

"What’s this, now?"

"A mare is saying her child saw his cutie marks. I'm sorry, but I have to book him."

Saguaro Shade put himself between Jitte and Radish.

"Don't do this, Jitte."

A tall pink earth mare shoved past Jitte and pointed at Radish. "There he is! That's the pervert who shoved pornography in my daughter’s face!"

"I'm sorry, Shady," said Jitte, pulling out hoofcuffs.

Radish frowned. "I guess I'm getting my wish. Trial of the century."

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