• Published 23rd Sep 2021
  • 10,358 Views, 4,217 Comments

The Only Mark That Matters - CocktailOlive

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

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21. New Friends

Radish sat on a bench in a quiet spot by the castle's lake, watching a wren hop around the sedges. He heard light hoofprints approaching from behind, and turned to see Twilight.

"Hi," she softly said.

"Hi, Twilight. What brings you here?"

"The girls and I wanted to come visit you. Basically, a friendship follow-up. We split up to look for you. How are you feeling?"

"The doc says I'm fine. But he prescribed me a few days off anyway. And some of these."

He held up a half-empty pill bottle and read its label. "For maintaining regular myocardial rhythm following moderate to severe curses."

She groaned. She sat next to him on the bench, and pulled a thermos out of her bag. "I brought you something. Zecora says that nettle tea is good for the heart."

"Really? The buffalo say it's good for the liver."

"Well, hopefully it's good for something."

She poured him a capful. He sipped it. "It's sure not good for the mouth. How are things between you and Princess Celestia?"

"Still tense. I just dropped off my next month's syllabus for her approval. I'm back to a really basic curriculum. Mostly studying fundamental theory."


"Don't be. I like it. In fact... I had this idea that I wanted to run by you."

"What do you mean?"

"Now that I'll be spending most of my time doing research, I could devote some of that research to cutie mark magic. Maybe I could help you figure out what yours mean."

Radish sighed. "Twilight, Celestia said cutie mark experts tried to figure them out. They never got anywhere."

"But that was years ago. There's always more to learn. Maybe new relevant data has come to light in the meantime."

"I don't want you worrying about it. Please, let it go, okay?"

"Okay. But if I come across something, I'll write you."

"All right."

Radish sipped his tea. "I'm starting to like this stuff."

"Some things just take a little patience and understanding."

"You don't have to turn everything into a friendship lesson, you know."

"Sorry, force of habit. I'm going to go find the others. Stay here, okay?"


She left, and Radish waited, sipping more tea. A sudden urgency reminded him why nettle tea was said to be good for so many different organs.

Oh, right. It's a diuretic.

He rushed to the nearest bathroom. Upon exiting, he heard a bouncing noise approaching him down the hall.

"Radish!" shouted Pinkie Pie, springing up to him. She threw herself on the ground before him and held up two hooves pleadingly. "I am so, so, so sorry! Please forgive me!"

"For what?"

"We've been friends for days now, and I haven't even given you the questionnaire!"

"The what?"

She pulled out a quill and a composition notebook. "First up, when's your birthday?"

"It's... wait. Is this a party thing?"

"No, this is your party thing! I prepare a party-planning preference profile for all my pals!" She looked back at her notebook. "I'm also gonna need to know your favorite flavor of punch, what you want your piñata shaped as, whether or not you want it to be a surprise..."

"How could it be a surprise if I ask for it?"

"You let me worry about that! I'm full of surprises!"

"Pinkie Pie, I don't really make a big deal out of my birthday."

"Ha! Good one! Now, what did you do for your last birthday? Be specific- I need to top it."

"Well, I was living alone on the plains. Ranger Command sent me a dram of whiskey for my birthday. I woke up before the break of dawn and used it to toast the sun as it crested over the horizon. It was my way of feeling connected to Celestia- I had this small hope that she could somehow see me through the sun, and would smile upon the gesture."

Pinkie Pie dropped her quill and notebook, frowning. She slowly walked over to Radish and hugged him tightly. "Radish, that's the saddest thing I've ever heard."

"Well, it was good whiskey."

She patted him on the head. "You don't need to worry about feeling connected to Celestia now. She'll be first on the guest list."

"You don't have to do that."

"I'll make it a pool party. Just imagine her emerging from the pool, her dripping wet fur clinging to her every curve..."

"Please stop."

"...then the two of you partner up for chicken fights, and she sits her thighs on your shoulders..."

"October tenth."

After finishing all six pages of Pinkie Pie's questionnaire, Radish continued his way down the hall back to the lake. Rarity trotted around a corner and cheerfully waved at him.

"Lieutenant! There you are!"

"Hello, Rarity."

"I'm glad I found you. I just had to give you your gift in person!"


"You didn't think I'd let you go unrewarded for everything you did on the mission, did you?"

"Oh, that's not necessary."

"Of course it's not necessary, darling. That's what makes it a gift!"

She pulled out a small gift box and passed it to Radish. He opened it to find a square of cloth.

"Oh! A bandana!"

"A pocket square, dear." She pointed at the pattern, a jagged, tessellated black-and-white design. "It's houndstooth! A fierce, striking pattern for a fiercely-striking stallion!"

"Wow, thank you."

"Not at all."

Radish looked around, then bent in low and motioned for her to come into whispering distance. "Just so you know, word among the maids is that Celestia's nephew just got out of a relationship. He's going stag to the Gala."

She grabbed him by both shoulders and shook him excitedly. "Really!? Oh, Radish! You're a doll! That's wonderful news!"

She let him go. "Oh dear, if word of this is already out, every eligible lady in the kingdom will be on the hunt."

"Come on, you're a national hero. Who can compete with that?"

"Oh, that's very kind of you to say. But there's no harm in scoping out the competition as long as I'm in town, is there?"

"I'm rooting for you."

"Is that a pun?"

"Not intended."

"Good. Ta ta, Radish." She turned to go, then turned back and grinned. "Ooh! I've got a fabulous idea! Once I've become a princess, I could have you transferred to our villa!"


"Think of the fun we'll have! You can guard us at the beach, on the yacht, on the roque court..."

"The what?"

"And," she said, putting a hoof over her stomach and smiling down at it, "when I'm expecting foals, there's no one I'd want guarding me more than you."

"Ugh, that's... oh, wait. That's actually a really nice compliment. Thank you."

"You are welcome, Radish."

She took her leave. Radish put his new pocket square in his pocket, trying to intuit its purpose. Barrel Roller rounded the same corner Rarity had appeared from. He quickly saluted her.

"Root, you gonna be okay in time for the Gala?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Good. You're on crowd monitoring. South wall. Shouldn't be too bad."

"Aye, ma'am."

"And you should advise your friend Miss Rarity not to get her hopes up."


"And neither should you- the prince doesn't use royal guards. He has a team of privately-hired bodyguards. All female."


"Don't 'sheesh' the royal family, Root."

"Yes, ma'am."

Radish took a door out of the building to find Applejack outside, staring at a palace map and scratching her head.


"Oh, Radish! I was lookin' for ya! I brought'cha somethin'." She pulled a jar from her bag and gave it to him. It contained what looked like a gelatinous rainbow. "It's zap apple jam. We always hang onto a few jars from each batch for special gifts."

"Applejack, I can't accept this. It's too precious. Your family's zap apple jam is legendary."

"Well, you can't return it. There's no receipt."

"Thank you."

"Ain't no biggie." She looked back down at her map. "Hey, Radish, maybe you could help me with this- I'm tryin' to figure out where to put my food stand for the Gala. Do y'know a spot that'd get a lot of hoof traffic all night?"

"Well, what's your packet say?"


"When you applied for a vendor's permit, you should've got-"

"Applied? Permit?"

"Applejack, you did get permission for your stand, didn't you?"

"Uh, let's say I didn't..."

"All the slots would've filled up on the first day!"

"Radish, I need this! Can you pull some strings for me?"

"What strings? I'm a lieutenant. You're an Element of Harmony. You have more strings than I do."

"Hey, you're right! I'm goin' straight to the top with this. Thanks again, Radish."

"Wait, straight to the top of what?"

Applejack galloped off. Radish watched her go with an uneasy grimace. He turned around to see Rainbow Dash standing right behind him.


"Radish. Gotta talk to you."

"Okay. What about?"

"I, uh... got this in the mail." She held up a reward certificate. It had the Wonderbolts insignia at the top, gold foil decorating the margins, and her name printed in the middle. "The Wonderbolts send these out to civilians who save lives with their resuscitation techniques. And they sent me one for saving yours."


"You told them?"

"It's a standard form. Part of mission reporting protocol."

She threw her hooves around his neck and squeezed him. "I can't thank you enough! This is going to put me so far into their good graces!" She let him go and nudged him with an elbow. "Hey, you didn't just do this to get a real kiss, did you?"

"Are you offering?"

She slugged his shoulder. "Ha. No. But you can have this." She pulled out an autographed headshot of herself. "This is proof that we were friends before I became the Wonderbolts' number one hotshot. Hang onto it. It'll be worth a lot some day."

"Aww. Thanks. That's good, too."

Radish returned to the bench by the lake to find Fluttershy already sitting in it. The wren was perched on her hoof, chirping at her.


"Oh, hi, Radish!" She whispered something to the wren, and it returned to the sedges. "I brought you this. I brewed it myself."

She gave Radish a thermos, smiling proudly. He opened it and took a whiff.

"Oh, is this-"

"It's nettle tea. It's supposed to be good for the heart."

"Why, thank you."

He screwed the cap back on and started to put it in his bag. Fluttershy frowned.

"Oh, you're not going to have some? You don't like it?"

"No, it's not that, it's..."

She looked on the verge of tears. Radish sighed, took off the cap, and downed it all in one gulp.

"Wow, that's fantastic."

She brightened. "I knew you'd like it! I made it extra-strength."


"Have you seen Twilight?"

"She went looking for you five."

"Oh? I should go find her!"

"She'll probably-"

Fluttershy had already flown off. Radish watched her go, then bolted for the restroom again.

Radish returned to the lake just as Twilight came back.

"Sorry, Radish. I couldn't find the others. Are you okay? You're shaking."

"Just a little dehydrated."

"Well, the six of us were going to have dinner in town tonight. Can you come?"

"Sure, I-"

"I asked Shining Armor to come, too..."

"Oh. You know-"

"...but he said he's too busy."

"Yes, I can come."


Radish returned to his bunk room and started putting his gifts from the girls in his footlocker.

"Hey, Rad," said Spats, peeking down from the top bunk, "how was your day?"

"Not bad. Met with some friends. Gonna have dinner with them later."

"That's nice. Is that a new pocket square?"

"Yeah. Do you know what they're for?"

"They give a stallion a touch of class."

"Wow, my first touch of class. Want some zap apple jam?"

"Look at all that stuff- drinks, food, accessories, autographs... the ladies just shower you with gifts, don't they? What's your secret?"

"Well, they got me killed."

"Never mind, then."

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