• 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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126. The Stallion with the Equal Sign

Radish sat naked while Doctor Gamma, the palace’s mage-physician, finished up her thorough examination of his physical and magical well-being. She and her assistant checked over their notes from previous visits.

“Major, do you realize that your fur color has changed? Your coat, mane, and tail are more muted now.”

“I can’t really see a difference, but my girlfriend and my buddy Spats both told me the same thing. They both have an eye for color.”

“Hmm, your eye color is muted, as well.”

“Is that bad?”

“Pigmentation change is a very common side effect of dark magic manipulation. But I haven’t detected any residual dark magic on you. I think I can safely classify you as a ‘Hapless Victim’, rather than a ‘Cursed Individual’.”

“That’s good. Wait, ‘hapless’?”

“But I want you to take it easy, just to be on the safe side. I’m ordering you a week of medical leave,”

“Oh. Okay. Thanks.”

Princess Luna approached the Elements of Harmony vault in Canterlot Tower. The two guards flanking its door saluted her as she unlocked it with her horn. Celestia was inside the chamber, sitting up in bed and working through a stack of scrolls. She raised an eyebrow.

“Hello, Luna. Come to knock me unconscious again?”

“I come bearing news that concerns your mysterious affliction. While Radish was away, he encountered a villainous unicorn. She has stolen his cutie marks.”

“Stolen!? Such a thing is possible?”

“Indeed. She did the same to numerous other ponies, including Twilight and her friends. They all got theirs back, but she escaped with his.”

“Is he all right?”

“Seemingly. Medical has cleared him, and he has submitted his preliminary report.” She passed a copy of the report to Celestia. “Based on his account, I believe it was the villain’s initial, unsuccessful attempt to remove his mark which struck you to the floor.”

Celestia read it over. “Hmm. Out of all the forms of magic we ruled out, we didn’t even consider cutie mark magic. Of course, it’s the least-understood magic of all.”

“Yes. Had we not isolated you inside this vault, her second, successful attempt may well have killed you.”

“Then you saved my life. Thank you, Luna.”

“Don’t thank me just yet. This proves that you and Radish share a deep magical connection- one that threatens your life.” Luna lowered her voice. “Celestia… it is time we revisit our worst fears about him.”

Celestia shook her head. “I refuse to entertain that hypothesis.”

“You must. You were harmed through unprecedented means, and Radish was involved.”

“You cannot blame this on him.”

“He may be but an unwitting pawn.”

“That could be true of anypony.”

“There are ways we can put these fears to rest. Scans. Tests.”

“I have already devised one.”

“Oh? What does it entail?”

“We’ll discuss it later. Right now, I'd like to get back to running the kingdom.”

Celestia stood up out of bed and headed to the door. Luna frowned.

“Sister! You still may not leave the safety of the vault. Now that a villainess has Radish’s cutie mark, she may use it to attack you again.”

“I don’t think so, Luna. I believe that connection has been severed.”

“How can you be sure?”

“Mare’s intuition.”

Luna rolled her eyes. “At least promise me you won’t be alone with Radish until we’ve spoken of this test of yours.”

“Very well, Luna.”

“Thank you.”

Luna returned to her own tower for a full day’s rest. Celestia left for the throne room. Along the way, a lady-in-waiting met her and curtseyed.

“Your highness? Major Root has requested to speak with you.”

“Thank you,” said Celestia. “Have him meet me in my office.”

“Major, how are you?” Celestia asked Radish as he arrived at her office.

“I’m all right, ma’am. But, as you may have heard, I’m, well… different now.”

He lifted up his saddle plate to show his equal sign. Celestia leaned in for a closer look.

“Are you in any pain?”

“No. I feel a little fatigued, but it’s been a long week.”

Celestia gave a stern look. “Admiral Rider had no right to co-opt your sentence and send you on that mission.”

“It had to be done, ma’am. They thought a Ranger was in trouble, and they were worried there was a threat to Equestria in that town. I’m just sorry Glimmer got away.”

“Radish,” said Celestia, “may I ask- without your cutie marks, well…”

“Have my feelings for you changed?”

Celestia nodded.

“Well, a lot of ponies have asked me that,” Radish chuckled. “I’ve been asking myself that, too. The truth is, it’s hard to tell. I like to think that our relationship has naturally grown more mature over the years...”

“Yes, I agree.”

“...and I won’t deny that I still find you to be a very beautiful mare,” he said resignedly. She smiled. “And as your guard, I’ve sworn an oath to protect you with my life. And I would still absolutely do so without hesitation.”

“Thank you, Radish. That is very sweet.”

“So if I had to put it into words, I’d say that losing my mark has taken a certain… pressure off of me. In the past, whenever I’ve done something, like get my sword certification, or make security suggestions, I’d wonder if, deep down, I was still just trying to impress you. But now I don’t need to interrogate my motivations for every little thing. I can just… live my life.”

“I’m happy you’re feeling relief, Radish. Nopony should have to live with that kind of self-doubt.”

“But, princess- you were on that cutie mark, too. I’m sorry that an image of me doing… that… to you is now in a villain’s hooves. I hope she’s not out there, charging admission to see it or something.”

Celestia smirked. “Ah, well, one can only hope. What about Light Fantastic? Is she all right?”

“She says she’s working through the experience in her own way.”

“Check it out, Hazy,” said Light Fantastic, showing her sketchbook to Hazy Shade. “New character- Crepuscular Haze. She's an ugly, evil bitch with a bad haircut.”

“I take it she’s based on Starlight Glimmer?”

“How’d you guess?”

“Does it make sense to sell merchandise based on a villain nopony’s ever heard of?”

“I’m ahead of the curve on this- the bitch’s wanted posters are going up all over the kingdom as we speak. While she’s on the lam, I’ll be profiting off her.”

“Nice. So, is she going to be another love interest for Nightmare Root?”


Hazy Shade watched Light sketch at her store counter for a few more moments. She cleared her throat.

“So, Fanny… now that Radish no longer has his cutie mark… is the sex different?”

“None of your fucking business, Hazy.”

“Then, Glimmer actually engineered your arrest?” Celestia asked Radish.

“Yes, ma’am. Apparently, that mare didn’t like the cutie mark her daughter got. She sought out Glimmer’s town, hoping to get it changed. Glimmer cut her a deal- conspire against me, and get a new cutie mark for her daughter. As for Flim and Flam, she just hired them after seeing a swindle they were pulling at a carnival. They’ve all been taken in. Saguaro Shade got pretty thorough confessions out of them.”

“In light of this new evidence, we should be able to overturn your conviction expeditiously.”

“You mean, I won’t have a criminal record anymore? That’s a relief. Thank you,” Radish said with a bow.

“I only wish I could have stopped the whole farce before it began. The gears of justice may jam sometimes, but they eventually turn in the proper fashion.”

“Eventually, yes.”

“Now, let’s discuss the future. Has your captain given you a new assignment?”

“Actually, the doctor put me on medical leave. I’m going to take Light to meet my parents.”

“Oh. I see.”

“And, uh, one more thing... Light also told me about the, uh, petition she made to you before she left town,” Radish said, giving an embarrassed smile. “I'm sorry about that. You must have been mortified.”

Celestia shook her head. “Don't worry. I understood why she did it. Sometimes love prompts a pony to take drastic actions.”

“Well, like I promised you before, my days of pursuing you in that way are over. I’ll always care about you- as my princess and my friend, nothing more.”

“Thank you, Radish. I appreciate that.”

Radish saluted her. She returned it, and he left her office.

He walked down one of the castle’s many brightly-lit halls, to the wing containing guest suites. He knocked on one of the doors, Princess Cadance answered.

“Radish!” she said, ushering him inside. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“I wanted to speak with you about a couple of things before you returned to the Crystal Empire. First of all, I’m sorry that the outpost was destroyed. It may have held some answers about your past.”

“Perhaps, but we still may be able to learn something from the ruins. What’s important is that we saved the most precious thing from within.”


She laughed. “You, silly.”

“Aw, thanks. But the other thing I wanted to talk about was Twilight. She told me she’s going to close herself off to love because of her duties.”

“Yes, I know.”

“I don’t want her to do that. Can’t you just… I don’t know… use your magic to find a guy who’d be perfect for her?”

Cadance smiled. “It’s very sweet that you care about her happiness. But love can’t be forced upon anypony. Twilight will find love when and if she’s ready for it.”

“Okay. You know best.”

“But what about your love life, Radish? I can feel how your love for Light Fantastic is stronger than ever. Is there something you’d like to announce?”

Radish smiled. “Well, not yet… but soon.”

Cadance hugged Radish. “That’s wonderful! I’m so happy for you. Let me know if you need any help or advice.”

“Thanks, Cadance. I will.”

Radish left the suite. A few moments later, there was another knock at Cadance’s door. It was Celestia.

“Hello, Aunt Celestia. What can I do for you?”

Celestia took a deep breath. “I’m here to request your services as the Princess of Love. I’m… done being alone. I need your help taking the next steps.”

Cadance hugged Celestia tightly. “Of course. Come in, and let’s talk.”

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