• Published 23rd Sep 2021
  • 10,199 Views, 4,154 Comments

The Only Mark That Matters - CocktailOlive



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

  • ...
42
 4,154
 10,199

PreviousChapters Next
127. The Circuit

Radish Root stepped out of the Ponyville train station. Twilight was outside waiting for him.

“Hi Radish! Welcome to the Apology Circuit! A chance to renew and strengthen the Magic of Friendship!” she said, flourishing her hooves.

“You make it sound so formal.”

“I’m actually really excited about this! If this goes well, Apology Circuits could become a big hit in helping friends stay friends. For the first time, I feel like I’ve had an innovative idea as the Princess of Friendship!”

“Okay. How does it work?”

“The other five have set aside a whole day to repair their friendships with you after the, uh…”

“Dustup?”

“Sure. You’ll visit each girl and make peace with them, one-on-one. Remember- this isn’t just about you apologizing to them, it’s about them apologizing to you, too. At the end of the day, we’ll all have dinner at my place together, celebrating how our friendships have become stronger than ever! Start with Pinkie Pie, at Sugar Cube Corner.”

“That sounds exhausting. Can’t we just skip to the dinner?”

“There are no shortcuts to Friendship,” Twilight said in a lecturing tone.

“Fine.”

“Have fun!”

Radish found his way to Sugarcube Corner. He opened the door. Pinkie Pie was behind the counter, shining it with a rag.

“Radish! Hi!” she chirped cheerfully.

“Hello, Pinkie Pie. I’ve come to-”

“Uh huh! Come on in!”

Radish walked up to the counter.

“Radish, I’m really, really sorry about trying to hide the truth about Starlight from you. So, I got you this as an ‘I’m really, really sorry, please forgive me!’ gift!”

She placed a laminated card on the counter. “The first and only Sugar Cube Corner Lifetime Platinum Membership VIP Pass!”

Radish picked it up. “What’s it do?”

“It’s good for one free cookie per visit, ten percent off merchandise, and it lets you order off the secret menu!”

“There’s a secret menu?”

“Uh huh! It’s full of secret pies and cakes. Don’t tell anypony.”

“I won’t. Now, what can I do to apologize for uh, burning your mouth?”

She grinned and walked around the counter into the middle of the store. “Just for the record, I don’t need any big fancy apologies, but Twilight’s insisting. Ever since she got the title of Princess of Friendship, she’s been taking it super seriously.”

“I know. She capitalizes the word ‘friendship’ in her letters now.”

“So I came up with a fun thing we can do.”

Pinkie Pie cleared off a table top and motioned Radish to sit.

“You know,” she said, “no other pony I know likes spicy food.”

“Yeah, Central Equestria’s palate is kind of, well, gustatorily bland.”

“Yeah, and they don’t like spicy things, either. So I wanna have a Spice-Off with you!”

“What does that entail?”

“It’s a new game I invented.”

She pulled out a long narrow box candy box and placed it on the table between them. She opened it. Inside were two identical rows of ten candies.

“Each of these candies is hotter than the last. Whoever eats the furthest down their row, wins! No drinks, but the prize is a glass of milk. And keep a hankie handy.”

“And then we’re good?”

“We’re already good, Radish! This is just for funsies!”

“All right.”

Pinkie Pie smiled and ate the first candy in her row. She chewed slowly.

“Mmm.”

Radish ate his. It was cinnamon and cayenne.

Pinkie Pie took the next. So did Radish. This one was more of a nasal heat, like horseradish.

They took the third. It was jalapeño. The fourth was habanero. Pinkie Pie savored hers. Radish chewed his unhappily.

They took the fifth. Radish didn’t taste anything but a hint of vanilla.

“Uh, what’s this?”

Pinkie Pie coughed hers down.

“What?”

“I think mine was a dud.”

“Oh? Really?”

She looked at the box. She twisted her neck to look at it upside-down. Sweat dripped down her brow.

“Pinkie Pie, did you mean to give yourself a bunch of fake ones?”

“No… that would be cheating…”

“You’re right. That was wrong of me to accuse you. Let’s keep going.”

Radish took the sixth. It was obviously a cherry sour.

Pinkie Pie shakingly took hers. Her face turned flush.

Radish popped his seventh in his mouth. Caramel. Pinkie Pie reluctantly ate hers. She gasped air over her tongue. She whimpered and drew her hooves around herself. She seemed to be melting onto her chair.

Radish reached for his eighth, paused, and then took the eighth from Pinkie Pie’s row.

“Hey, that’s mine,” she croaked hoarsely.

“Oops. But both rows are the same, right? Just take mine.”

They ate each other’s candies. Radish’s tongue spasmed. Fire spread up his cheeks and into the back of his throat. Pain beyond anything he could describe enveloped his mouth, nose, and stomach. Pinkie Pie breathed a sigh of relief and chewed hers, savoring its juiciness.

Radish reached for Pinkie Pie’s ninth.

She quickly slapped his hoof away. “Don’t do it!”

He snatched it anyway. He offered his ninth to hers. She took it, looking worried. They ate.

Radish slammed his hoof on the table. He couldn’t control his tears. His own tongue was a white-hot poker rolling around in his mouth. His stomach was in revolt. He buckled onto the tabletop, shivering and sweating.

He blindly reached for Pinkie’s number ten. She swept the table, sending the box and the remaining candies onto the floor. She ran up to him and gave him a cold glass of milk. He swallowed it in one gulp.

“Frens hudnt huuze… ugh…”

“Yeah, friends shouldn’t use food to hurt each other.”

“Thorry.”

“I’m thorry too.”

They hugged.


Radish entered Carousel Boutique and found Rarity affixing clothes onto a mannequin.

“Rarity?”

“Oh, hello, major!”

“I’ve come to-”

“Yes, yes. Your apology, no? Hardly necessary. A card would have sufficed.”

“No, it wouldn’t have.”

“But as long as you’re here, there is something you could do for me.”

“Yes?”

She pointed to a box at the top of some shelves.

“Could you get that down for me?”

He took a stepladder and retrieved the box. She pulled a hat out of it and placed it on the mannequin’s head. She smiled.

“Thank you, dear. That’s all I require.”

“Come on, Rarity. I want to make it up to you.”

“Oh, I’m hardly holding a grudge, Radish. I was a little embarrassed by how easily you, uh, dealt with me, but I deserve that. I mean, maggots, really. Sweetie Belle isn’t as repulsed by them.”

She walked up to him.

“Your feelings about your cutie mark are completely valid. Just as I may put away garments that are longer in style, so too should you be allowed to shed a cutie mark that dashes your panache.”

She leaned to gaze at his equal sign cutie mark.

“Besides, I think equal signs look rather good on you! They exude a stately matter-of-factness which suits you perfectly.”

“Thank you, Rarity.”

“Now, for my part, I wish to craft you something bespoke. A nice, smart vest, perhaps?”

“Actually, I was hoping to get something for Light. Do you still do commissions for jewelry?”

“But of course! What did you have in mind?”

Radish pulled his notes out of his bag and showed them to Rarity.

“So, Light’s a wing size eight. I was thinking a dark red tourmaline, but-”

“Radish… is this… an engagement ring!?

“Yes. See, pegasi rings are traditionally worn-”

Rarity sputtered, squealed, then pulled him in for a tight hug.

“Why didn’t you say so!? Oh, you perfect fool! Do you know how long I’ve waited to craft an engagement ring for a friend!?”

She let him go, then put a hoof to the side of her mouth and whispered.

“Frankly, our gals seem to be pursuing every pursuit except for love. At this rate, I’d imagine our mailmare will get married before any of them.”

“Why the mailmare?”

“Oh, you haven’t met her, have you? Well, she’s a sweetheart, but she’s a bit of a mess. But enough about her! Radish, I’m going to craft Light the most glorious ring Equestria’s ever seen! She’ll be the envy of Canterlot! The princesses themselves will gnash their teeth and cry, ‘Why, Rarity? Why have you not presented us with such fineries?’ And I’ll say, ‘Here’s an order form, dears, let’s talk.’”

“You know Light kind of likes things, well, understated?”

“Yes, she’s a bit… alternative, I suppose is the charitable term.”

“Hey! Watch it.”

“Ha! Just testing your commitment, Radish. It is true love, then, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

“‘Yeah’, he says,” Rarity laughed. “Come. Let’s go over the particulars.”

Radish sat at the counter and spread his notes.

“So, Spats had an idea for the hinge.”

“Oh. Spats. You consulted Spats on this, did you? Well, fine, let’s see what our dear friend Spats had to say about the hinge.”

Radish and Rarity went over the ring’s design for an hour. Rarity helped him pick out a design that was at the same time novel and classical.

“Thanks, Rarity. Could you keep this under wraps until it’s ready?”

“But of course, dear. Discretion is part of my business.”

“Now, about the price…”

“It’s free, of course.”

“Come on, that’s too much. I know how hard you work on stuff like this.”

“You’ve more than earned this, dear. You deserve this.”

“Thank you.”

“Not at all.”

They shook hooves. She walked him out her front door, and he gave her a wave before leaving.

“Oh, one last thing, Radish!” she called at him.

“Yes?”

“NOW!”

He heard a squeak above him, and looked up to see Sweetie Belle on the upper floor balcony. She overturned a jar, spilling hundreds of maggots out onto him.

Radish stood still and sighed. He shuddered as some of them crawled under his collar.

Now everything is fine between us, major.”

“Great.”

“Good day, Radish.”

“Good day, Rarity.”

“Bye, Radish!”

“Bye, Sweetie Belle.”


Radish took the path to Fluttershy’s cottage. He took a deep breath as it came into view. She was outside, watering her butterfly garden. She heard his hoofsteps on the dirt path, and turned to look. She scowled.

“Fluttershy.”

“Radish.”

He gazed uneasily at her cottage.

“He’s not here. Just me.”

“I’d like to make peace.”

“Fine.”

“I’m sorry. What can I do?”

“There is something. I saw an injured baby creature in the Everfree Forest, and I’d like to bring it in for care.”

“Okay. What kind of creature is it?”

“A vampire watermelon.”

“Those are real?”

“I saw it from a distance the other day. It looked like it was in pain. It ran when I approached it.”

“It ran?”

“Well, rolled. You can track the sound it makes, sort of a ‘wurr wurr wurr’ noise. I drew you a map to where I saw it.”

“You’re not coming?”

“I have to take care of a rat.”

“Is it dangerous?”

“The rat? No, he has insomnia.”

“The vampire watermelon.”

“Only to other fruits.”

Three hours later, Radish emerged from the Everfree Forest, caked in mud, dripping with sweat, covered in insect bites, and wincing from thorn cuts and nettle stings. Stickseed burrs covered his clothes and fur.

“Radish? Is that you?”

Fluttershy was hovering above the forest’s edge. She landed in front of him, and gasped at the sight of him. He pulled a red-streaked watermelon out of his satchel. It buzzed in his hoof.

“Oh!”

She flew up to it and held it in her hooves. It buzzed a little softer.

“There, there. I’ll get you some pumpkin juice. Radish, I can’t believe you actually found…”

She lifted it up and checked under it.

“…him.”

“You thought I wouldn’t? You were sending me on a wild fruit chase?”

“I’m sorry. I was mad at you. But I was starting to get worried when you didn’t come back.”

“Are we good now?”

“You bled for this baby, Radish. I knew you weren’t a bad guy.”

She went in for a hug, then stopped at the sight of the mud and burrs.

“Uh, you should shower. I’ll get something for those cuts.”

Radish used Fluttershy’s shower. By the time he came out of the bathroom, Fluttershy had prepared tea. A rat was sleeping soundly in a tiny bed on one chair, while the vampire watermelon was sitting in another. He sat next to Fluttershy on a sofa. Her eyes drifted down to his equal signs. He noticed.

“Quite a big change, isn’t it?” he said, showing them off.

“Do you miss them at all?”

“Not really. I acknowledge that my life turned out more interesting because I had them, but I think my life’s interesting enough at this point. But sometimes I wonder if whatever drew them is disappointed in me.”

“You think something is out there, drawing cutie marks? Like a cosmic artist? My parents always told me that cutie marks are drawn by your own mind when it clicks with your talent.”

“I guess I always wanted to externalize the problem.”

“I wish you wouldn’t think of them as a problem.”

“Would you like to have grown up with them?”

“Oh, no!” she gasped.

Radish raised an eyebrow. Fluttershy cringed behind her teacup.

“I’m sorry. You’re right- I couldn’t have handled that growing up. But you did. And I bet that made you stronger, didn’t it?”

“I suppose.”

Fluttershy poured Radish some tea and set to work tending to his cuts.

“You’ve got a lot of old scars,” she said. “Are these from guard duty?”

“Some. Some are from my Ranger days. Some are from raptors perching a bit too tight.”

Radish looked at the vampire watermelon, unsure if it was looking back at him.

“Don’t you ever get worried about living next to that forest?” he asked.

“No, there are more potential friends in there than enemies.”

“Hmm. That’s a good way to look at it. Guards aren’t trained to think about potential friends, only potential enemies.”

“That’s too bad. But it could always change.”

“I suppose.”

“And you could be the one to change it.”

“That’s something to think on.”

She finished working on his cuts. She frowned. “Radish, I’m sorry we didn’t trust you enough to tell you about Starlight. I’ve been trying to think of what I could do to apologize, but all I could come up with was this. Here.”

She pulled his hind hooves onto the sofa, across her lap.

“What are you doing?”

“You traveled all over the forest today to help my new friend. You’re constantly traveling all over Equestria to protect us ponies from bad guys. Your tired hooves deserve a nice, relaxing massage.”

“Fluttershy, that’s a bit… intimate.”

“Hush, now.”

“But I’m… ooh…”

Radish lay back while Fluttershy gave Radish a long, thorough hoof rub. She hummed softly as she worked. He closed his eyes and relaxed.

After an indistinct amount of time, she finished, hugged him goodbye and sent him on his way. He felt like he was walking on clouds.

As he walked away, he thought he could hear her talking softly to someone. He looked back at her, but she was only smiling and waving. He trotted on.


It was late afternoon by the time Radish reached the gates of Sweet Apple Acres. Applejack was nervously pacing her front porch as he approached. She saw him and waved.

“Radish!”

“Applejack. I’ve come to make amends.”

“Good. ‘Cause I sure could use your help, earth pony farmer to earth pony farmer.”

Radish looked around. “With apples?”

“Nah, this is bigger than apples. C’mon.”

She led him through the orchards. After dozens of rows, they reached a clearing where her brother Big Macintosh stood, staring worriedly into a hole in the ground.

“Is that my grave?”

“Har har. Take a look. Winona dug this up this morning.”

Her brother stepped back as Radish looked into the hole. There was something at the bottom- a lumpy object, about five feet long, wrapped in a filthy burlap sack. It wiggled slightly.

Radish startled back. He looked at Big Macintosh.

“Is that…?”

“Eeyup.”

“Wow! Yours?”

He shook his head.

“We bought these acres from our neighbor, Golden Harvest, a while ago. She says she had no idea it was here,” said Applejack.

“I can believe that. These could still be buried all over Equestria, and we’d never know it.”

“You ever see one?”

“No, but my mother’s family had one in ancient times.”

“Would your family want this one?”

“They’re non-transferrable. If it’s going to spawn, it’ll spawn for these lands alone. If you don’t want that, you could remove it from the ground, and it’ll stop growing. Kind of a waste.”

Applejack looked at the thing.

“You think? You trust these… things?”

“This is rare knowledge, Applejack. An ancient earth pony science. What if this is the only one left in the world? You want the world to be just a little less interesting?”

“We ain’t superstitious or nothin’. It’s just…”

“‘What would the neighbors think?’”

“I know, that sounds silly. But Sweet Apple Acres has more competition each year. If a rival farm found out we had this, they could smear us until we lose all our customers.”

“Sorry, I wasn’t thinking about the business side to this.”

“We have to, all the time.”

He slid down into the hole. He put a hoof on the sack.

“It doesn't look that old. Who owned this parcel before Golden Harvest?”

“Nopony. It was grassland.”

Radish climbed out of the hole and dusted his hooves.

“Grassland on the edge of Apple property? Between you and the Everfree?”

Applejack looked out to the horizon. “Are you saying what I think you think you’re saying? Think hard now. And say it clear.”

“You tell me. Is this something they would have done?”

She looked into the hole. Big Macintosh walked up to her and hugged her. They looked at each other.

“Ma and Pa musta planted this here. They were thinkin’ it could protect us, no matter what everypony else may have thought.”

Big Macintosh nodded.

“We’ll let it be. If it blooms, it’ll be as welcome as any apple tree. No- as any Apple family member. If Ma and Pa didn’t care about the taboos on Farm Golems, then neither will we. ”

She kicked the edge of the hole, collapsing a blanket of soil back onto it. She packed it down carefully, then turned to give Radish a hug.

“Thanks, Radish. I feel a lot better about it now. You’re alright with me.”

“Really?”

“Really. Don’t worry none about that knock to the head you gave me. I’m a tough ol’ gal. All ya wounded was my pride, and I got pride miles wide.”

“Thanks, AJ.”

“Now,” she said, stepping closer with her head hung low, “I’m mighty sorry about tryin’ to scuffle with ya. How can I make amends?”

Radish nodded to the buried Farm Golem. “Just write me if it looks like it’s about to spawn. Seeing it happen would be a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

“Alrighty.”

They shook hooves. They turned to leave, but as Applejack walked ahead, Radish felt a heavy hoof across his shoulders. Big Macintosh gripped him hard and pulled him in close.

“If’n you ever harm a member of this family again,” he growled under his breath, “that won’t be the only thing buried out here.”

Radish shuddered in primal fear. He could only weakly mutter an assent.

Then, an idea struck him. He leaned into Big Macintosh and whispered, “Would you ever consider dating Twilight Sparkle?”

Big Macintosh shook his head.

“Bit of a trouble magnet, ain’t she?” he whispered back.

“Know any guys who like trouble?”

“How ‘bout Discord?”

“Nope. No. Uh-uh. No way.”

“Then I can’t help ya.”

As they returned to the farmhouse, they found Rainbow Dash hovering in front with her hooves crossed.

“Well, well, well. If it isn’t Mr. Sucker Punch himself. Saving the best for last?”

“Rainbow Dash. How can I make things right?”

“Oh, I don’t know… how about this!?

She swooped and snatched up Radish in her hooves, then blasted into the sky. She carried him higher until Sweet Apple Acres looked like a model set.

“Uh, Dash?”

“You slammed me into the ground, so I’m going to slam you into the ground from the same altitude, at the same speed.”

“Dash…”

“Unless you can dish it out but can’t take it?”

Radish looked at the ground. He looked up at Dash’s face. “If this is what it takes, Dash, fine.”

She raised an eyebrow. “I mean it. There’s going to be a new crater with your name on it.”

“I know. It’s okay.”

“Fine!”

She reached her apex, then dove. Radish felt the air compressing against his back. He tensed up. The ground was seconds away.

He closed his eyes.

“Ragh! Darn you, Radish!” called Rainbow Dash.

She pulled up at the last second, flying Radish parallel to the ground and inches away from it. The sudden shift in g-force pressed his guts into a pancake. She looked at him with pain in her eyes.

“How could you do it!?” she cried over the rushing air. “How could you betray us like that!? How could you hurt me!? We’re supposed to be friends!!”

“I’m sorry, Dash.”

They crashed through a wall of stacked hay bales and came tumbling out the other side in a burst of flying hay. They hit the ground and rolled to a stop. Dash landed on top of Radish.They looked each other in the eye, both breathing hard.

“I’m sorry, too,” she said.

She hugged him. He hugged her back. They held each other until their heartbeats returned to normal. Dash rolled off of Radish, and the two stared up at the sky.

“Radish, you and I are pretty similar, aren’t we?”

“Nice of you to say.”

“Promise me we’ll never fight again?”

“I promise, Rainbow Dash.”

“Good. Let’s go to dinner.”

“Aren’t you going to do something for me as an apology? All the other girls did.”

“I did. I made the dinner.”

“Since when do you cook?”

“Since you inspired me to learn how.”

“Since when do I inspire you?”

She rolled over to look at him. “Radish… you’ve been inspiring me since the bat pony mission.”

“Oh.”


Radish and the girls arrived at Twilight’s castle as a group. Twilight opened the doors and grinned widely.

“Hi! How’d it go?” she asked excitedly.

“I think it was a success,” said Radish. “Right, girls?”

“All good here!” said Pinkie Pie.

“We are boon companions once more,” said Rarity.

“I’m happy to be friends again,” said Fluttershy.

“Yup! We’re even-steven!” said Applejack.

“Solid as a rock,” said Rainbow Dash.

“Great! Come on in!”

While the other girls chatted over aperitifs, Twilight took Radish into the throne room. There was now a large circular crystal table growing right from the floor between the thrones.

“So, this is the map?” he asked, peering closely.

“Yep. It hasn’t activated since it sent us to Starlight’s village, but I doubt it was a one-time thing. I think this is going to send us all over Equestria and beyond.”

“To fight villains?”

“To spread the Magic of Friendship!”

“Hmm.” Radish tapped the table. Nothing happened. “How does it know what’s out there? Is it somehow monitoring all of Equestria at once?”

“Twilight! Radish!” called Spike from another room. “Dinner is served!”

“Coming!” called Twilight. “Come on, Radish. Whatever mysteries the map holds, we’ll solve in due time.”

“Right. In due time. Let’s eat.”

PreviousChapters Next