• 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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116. The Sentence

Radish sat in a plain room in the back of the courthouse, staring at the bare folding table in front of him. The door opened a crack, and Spats poked his head in the room. He gave a sheepish grimace.

“Hey, buddy…”

“Spats… what the fuck was that?”

Spats winced and entered the room. “Okay, so, there was a courtroom tactic we didn’t quite anticipate…”

“Spats, what the fuck was that!?

“I, uh, don’t know. It was a catchy tune, though. The bailiff is still humming it.”

“We can appeal this, right?”

“We sure can! But… we’ll have to do it with a different lawyer. The firm dropped you.”


“They thought this would be a quick and easy prestige case. Instead, it made them a laughingstock. They want to wash their hooves of it.”

“Everything Flim and Flam said was a lie! They’re not even real specialists!”

“I looked into that. It turns out anypony can start up a childhood development institute in their living room and call themselves experts on foal rearing. There’s no certification standards or anything.”

“Can’t we call for a mistrial or something?”

“Well, the judge has to do that. And Judge Bangs is refusing to admit any errors occurred in the trial.”

“But errors did occur.”

“Oh, yeah. A boatload.”

“Then, can we do something about Judge Bangs? Get him unbenched or something?”

“Disbarred. Yes! But to do that…”

The door swung open. Princess Celestia walked into the room.

“To do that, we’d have to make a complaint to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Committee,” she said.

“Yeah, the JCIC,” said Spats.

“Well, then, let’s do that,” Radish said.

“That’s what I just finished attempting to do,” sighed Celestia.

“Attempting, ma’am?” asked Spats.

“Yes, I’ve been meeting with the JCIC members. Out of the five of them, the first said she wholeheartedly agrees with the verdict, out of concern for her children’s future. The second said the same thing, out of concern for his future children. The third is Judge Bangs’s mother. The fourth was out on vacation and left no contact information. And the fifth didn’t even know he was on the committee. Their decisions all have to be unanimous, by the way.”

“Well, who do we complain to about them?”

“They were appointed by, and answer to, the Judiciary Oversight Director. And she says your case is ‘low-to-no priority’, and she ‘may look at it sometime next year.’”

“What’s her problem?” asked Spats.

“Oh, she never liked me,” grumbled Celestia.

“Okay, can we do something about her?” Radish asked.

“Judiciary Oversight Director is an elected position. She would have to be unseated in the municipal elections… which are two years from now.”

Radish slumped back in his seat. “Princess… I think there might be some flaws in our justice system.”

Celestia winced and drooped her ears. “I’m sorry, Radish. Maybe if I had taken a more involved role in building the system, it would be in a better state today.”

“It’s not your fault, ma’am. Like you said, I'm good at finding holes in things. I guess I just fell through the cracks this time.”

“We’re not going to let this miscarriage of justice stand, major,” avowed Celestia.

“Here, here!” announced Spats, banging his hoof on the table. “If we have to start by ousting the Director, then, by gum, that’s what we’ll do! Why, I’ll run for the position myself! We’ll get you your justice, Rad, if it takes the rest of our lives!”

“Indeed,” said Celestia. “And I have favors I can call in, deals I can make, and certain… lengths I could go to…”

Radish stood up. “Stop. Both of you, just stop.”

“Stop what, Rad?” asked Spats.

“Spats, you got into law because you want to improve the system from the inside, right? To help ponies back in the old neighborhood. Well, you’ll never have any kind of law career if you’re associated with me. I’d be the last pony you’d ever help.”

“Rad, I’m not going to leave you in the lurch for my career.”

“And princess, you’ve already spent way too much of your life worrying about me. I’m one guard out of hundreds who work for you. Remember what you said about how you need to split your heart evenly amongst everypony?”

She shook her head. “Not anymore, Radish. I’m going to be selfish on this.”

“You’re both forgetting one thing- I am guilty. I exposed a kid to something a kid shouldn’t see. That’s not in question. If Worthy Wagoner did that, you wouldn’t be going out of your way trying to help him. I have to face the mus… uh, take my punishment. Like a stallion.”

“Absolutely not, Radish,” said Celestia. “We cannot accept this ruling.”

Radish stood up, walked over to Celestia, and hugged her. Celestia’s eyes went wide.

“Uh, I’ll just… give you two the room,” said Spats. He left out the door.

“Princess Celestia,” said Radish, looking up at her, “it’s okay.”

“It’s not okay, Radish,” she said, returning the hug, "injustice for one is injustice for all.”

“I’m lucky to have evaded jail time for my cutie marks as long as I have. But if I don’t take responsibility for them, I have no business being your guard. I can’t enforce the law and flout it at the same time.”


“This is my decision to make, and I've made it.”

“Light is going to be pissed at you.”

“Heh, yeah.”

“She’s going to be pissed at me, too.”


Radish stopped on the sidewalk in front of Cat’s Howl. The store was closed and dark inside. He peeked through the window. Junk mail was accumulating under the mail slot in the door.


Radish turned to see Splash Page.

“Oh, hi, Splash Page.”

“I, uh, heard about the trial. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah. Could you do me a favor?”


Radish pulled an envelope out of his coat and passed it to Splash Page. “If you see Light, could you give this to her?”

He took it. “Oh. Yes, I can do that.”

“And keep her out of trouble, will you?”

“Well, I definitely can’t do that.”

Radish walked down a long hallway of the Canterlot courthouse. His sentencing was scheduled to begin in five minutes. As he rounded a corner, he found himself face-to-face with Twilight and her friends, who were standing in front of the door to the courtroom.

“Hi, ladies.”

Twilight stepped forward. “Radish, don’t go in there. We can’t let them get away with this. I’m reading as many law books as I can get my hooves on, and-”

Radish stepped forward and hugged her. “Twilight, I’m doing this.”


He nuzzled her cheek. “And if I end up going to jail, I'll need my pen pal now more than ever.”

She whimpered. Applejack added herself to the hug. “Radish, this is my fault. Flim and Flam are my nemesises. I shoulda been there to foil them again.”

“It’s okay. You’ll get ‘em next time.”

Fluttershy joined in the hug. “I could talk to Discord about this. Maybe he can alter reality for you or something?”

“Please, no.”

Rainbow Dash scowled at Radish. “I know why you’re doing this.”

“Yeah? Why?”

“You think going to prison will make you seem cooler than me.”

“Now, who could ever be cooler than Rainbow Dash?”

Rainbow Dash hugged him. “Not you, you big dummy.”

Rarity placed a bag from her boutique down on the floor.

“Radish, dear, I’ve heard those prison cells can be awfully drafty. That’s why I’ve crafted this for you- incarceration couture.”

She pulled out a bright orange knit cap from the bag and affixed it snugly on his head.

“Thanks, Rarity. It’s nice.”

“And if your cellblock chums ask where you got it, you’ll be kind enough to share with them my mail-order catalog, won’t you?”

“Of course.”

Pinkie Pie gave Radish a small cake box, then put a hoof to the side of her mouth and whispered in his ear.

“I baked this cake for you. I put a little something extra in the filling, if you know what I mean. A ‘special ingredient’, if you will.”

“Thanks, Pinkie Pie. I do and I will.”

Radish broke the group hug. “Now, I’ll see you all later, one way or another.”

Radish Root sat in front of Judge Bigwig Bangs for the second time. Only he, the judge, the court reporter, and the bailiff were in the room.

“Radish Root,” started the judge, “you were, ahem, found guilty of Indecent Exposure, Breach of the Peace, and Corruption of a Minor. But in light of certain… circumstances surrounding the trial…”

Radish narrowed his eyes.

“...the court has seen fit to demonstrate leniency and apply the minimum sentence of ninety days in prison.”

Radish cocked his eyebrows.

“Furthermore, in the interest of certain… community interests… the court has decided to commute that sentence to fifty hours of community service.”

Radish’s posture and ears perked up.

“And that community service will be administered at the discretion of your assigned rehabilitation sponsor, who will be in contact with you shortly regarding your… assignment. Court is adjourned.”

He banged his gavel, then left out a back door. Radish sat for a moment, then stood up. “Uh, so that’s… it? I can go?”

The bailiff and the court reporter nodded. Radish stood up, then walked back to the room’s large double doors. Before he reached them, the doors burst open, and Twilight and her friends leapt through and piled on him, cheering and whooping.

“Hi, girls. I’m guessing you were listening at the door?”

“Radish, I’m so relieved!” cried Twilight, squeezing him.

“Me, too,” said Radish, hugging her back.

“Community service? Pffft. You can do that standing on your head,” said Rainbow Dash, giving him a noogie.

“Hey!” said Pinkie Pie, shoving her muzzle into Radish’s, “You know what this calls for?”

“I don’t think this really warrants a par-”


Radish managed to negotiate Pinkie Pie down from a party to an intimate gathering in his palace quarters. Aside from AG1, Radish’s closest friends from the guards and palace staff came. Spats and Rarity avoided eye contact throughout the evening. Celestia and Luna showed up, smiling brightly.

“Major, I was so relieved to hear about your sentencing,” said Celestia.

“Indeed,” said Luna, “it was welcome news to wake up to.”

“Thank you, princesses. Say, uh, I don’t suppose either of you had anything to do with it? Did you do some kind of… backroom wheeling and dealing to save my hide? Maybe pop a few nightmares into the judge’s head?”

The sisters looked at each other. They shook their heads.

“As far as I know, all of my attempts to nudge the bureaucracy in the right direction were fruitless,” said Celestia.

“And my power over dreams is a sacred duty,” said Luna. “To weaponize it would be to employ Nightmare Moon’s methods.”

“I see,” said Radish. “Well, I guess sometimes a guy catches a break.”

Radish trotted off to speak with Spats. Luna leaned over to Celestia’s ear.

“But seriously, sister, did you secure this outcome?”

Celestia shook her head. “No, I thought you did.”

“Hmm.” Luna looked at Twilight. “You don’t think young Twilight Sparkle did the ‘backroom wheeling and dealing’, do you?”

“If so, I’m impressed,” said Celestia. “And a little concerned. It’s not something I taught her.”

Pinkie Pie bounced up to Radish. “Hey, Raddy! Let’s cut that cake!”

Radish looked over to his desk, where he had put the cake Pinkie Pie gave him before the sentencing. “Oh, right.”

The guests gathered around him as he sliced into it. Fake rubber snakes burst out and landed all around the room. The party guests laughed. Radish smiled.

The gathering ended late. The guests said their goodbyes. As Radish prepared for bed, he heard a knock at his door. He opened it to see a towering reddish-brown earth stallion in an overcoat.

“Good evening, major.”

Radish took a step back, trying to remember where he had seen the stallion before. He realized he knew him from portraits and photos on the walls of Plains Ranger Academy. Radish was face-to-face with the head of the entire Ranger organization.

“...Admiral Sunset Rider?”

“That’s me,” he said affably. “Forgive the hour of the call. May I come in?”

Radish stepped out of the way and saluted. “Yes sir!”

The admiral entered. Radish closed the door. “Uh, to what do I owe the pleasure, sir?”

He held up a file folder. “I’m here to brief you on your new assignment.”

“I’m, uh, I’m no longer a ranger, sir.”

“Your community service assignment.”

“You’re my rehabilitation sponsor?”

“That’s right. Equestria needs your help, Root.”

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