• 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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64. Their Fight

Twilight Sparkle and her friends strolled through a back hall of the royal palace.

“Sorry, girls,” said Twilight. “I really thought we’d find some clues in the orrery.”

“Don’t fret none,” said Applejack. “Ain’t a bad way to spend an afternoon, anyhow.”

“Perhaps we could try the statue garden again?” said Rarity. “I could swear some of them were pointing in rather suspicious directions.”

Spike ran up to them and skidded to a stop, out of breath.

“You guys!” he shouted, “Princess Celestia and Radish Root are about to fight in the courtyard! Come on!”

“What?” cried Twilight.

They all galloped after him. They reached the windows of one side of the courtyard. The signs now read “Starting in 1:15” and were counting down. A crowd of the palace’s personnel were gathering around the windows, jockeying for better views. Celestia and Radish were finishing their stretches and taking position.

“Whoa!” exclaimed Rainbow Dash. “How did this happen? Does this happen often?”

“Now, what’s gotten into that boy?” wondered Applejack.

“Oh my,” said Fluttershy. “Are they angry with each other?”

Twilight looked up at the signs.

“It says it’s an official match. It’s got to be just an impromptu training session.”

“In there?” asked Rarity. “What kind of a place is that for sparring? There are thorny bushes, trees, snow, stone furniture…”

Twilight cast a spell, and a large sports rulebook appeared before her and slammed to the ground. She flipped through it.

“Uh oh. This would have to be Variant Seven.”

“What’s that mean?” asked Rainbow Dash.

“Well, it’s for matches that need to be anytime, anywhere. Just a few rules. Grappling only. No biting, eye gouging, groin attacks…”

“Thank goodness for that!” said Rarity.

“…no weapons, but you can throw each other into anything in there. And, oh, wow. Each combatant is allowed one headbutt!?”

“Whoa-ho!” said Pinkie Pie. “This is gonna be good!”

“Oh, come on. Radish ain’t a-gonna headbutt the princess,” said Applejack.

“Indeed. And the princess is far too much of a lady to even think about such a thing,” added Rarity.

Radish and Celestia stood before each other. Celestia lowered her head in grim coldness. Radish met her gaze with steely determination. They were exchanging words.

“Oh, they’re looking mighty angry,” said Applejack.

“Naw,” said Rainbow Dash. “They just have their game faces on. Grr!”

“Like this?” asked Pinkie Pie, putting on the meanest face she could. “Grr!”

“Yeah! Grr!” laughed Rainbow Dash. She pressed up to the window. “What are they saying in there? Why is this soundproof? They could be talking smack to each other. Maybe even talking trash!”

“What’s the difference?” asked Twilight.

“Smack is when you say what you’re going to do, like, ‘I’ll shred you into hay burgers.’ Trash is when you say something about them personally, like, ‘You’re so ugly, when you were born, your mother slapped the doctor.’”

Celestia looked at the floating hourglass. She said something, shaking her head. Radish said something, raising his.

“Ugh! I’ve got to know what they’re saying!” groaned Rainbow Dash. “Does anypony read lips?”

All eyes turned to Twilight.

“Don’t look at me,” she said. “Where would I ever learn that?”

“Um, I know how to read lips,” said Fluttershy.

All eyes turned to her.

“Really?” asked Rainbow Dash.

“See, I have this thing about personal space, so it helps to-”

“Never mind why, tell us what they’re saying!”

Dash grabbed Fluttershy’s head and pressed it to the window. Fluttershy peered closely and watched the two exchange words. The exchange ended with Celestia furrowing her eyes.

“Oh my,” said Fluttershy.

“What? Is it smack? Trash?” asked Dash.

“Well, Celestia just said, ‘I’ve overseen the training of the royal guards for millennia. Every move you know has my stamp of approval on it. Oh, and these rules you agreed to fight by? I wrote them.’

“Ha! That’s good stuff,” laughed Rainbow Dash.

“But then Radish replied with, ‘I know. I’ve seen all the spelling errors in the first draft.’”

“Oh, what!? He immediately escalated to trash? Nice knowing you, Radish.”

An unseen bell rang. The hourglass turned over. The signs on the windows changed to “Official Match in Progress.”

Radish and Celestia circled each other. Radish looked around the courtyard. Celestia said something to him, and he squinted his eyes and said something back.

“Now what did they say?” asked Rainbow Dash.

Fluttershy cleared her throat and attempted an imitation of Celestia.

Are you going to fight me or just take in the scenery?

She switched to an approximation of Radish’s voice.

It’s on, your highness.”

Radish then charged at Celestia. She bent low. He leapt. She reared up, and the two collided high. Radish gripped Celestia around the neck, but Celestia seized him in her forelegs and slammed him into the ground. The thud shook the windows. The ponies watching backed away.

Radish struggled under Celestia. She looked down at him and spoke.

Is that all? Where’s your vaunted fighting techniques, Radish?” lip-read Fluttershy as Celestia.

Just getting started, your excellency.

Radish kicked to the side, flinging his body out of Celestia’s grip, then used his momentum and his grasp on her neck to vault himself onto her back. He clenched around her neck with his forelegs and onto her shoulders with his hind legs.

Celestia stood up calmly. She jumped. Radish held on. She flung her weight left and right, but Radish held on. She bucked her front and hind legs madly, but Radish held on.

“Hoo boy!” cheered Applejack. “He’s on her like a buckin’ rodeo pony!”

Celestia gave up, then took to her hind legs and ran backwards into the Balencian orange tree. She smashed Radish into its trunk, causing his eyes to bug out and his lungs to empty. As she crushed him into it, he reached back and tapped against the tree, causing several oranges to drop onto the ground. Celestia looked down at them, then spoke to Radish while crushing the oranges under her hoof.

Trying to trip me on oranges, Radish? Is that your plan for Chrysalis, too?” read Fluttershy.

“That’d be pretty funny!” said Pinkie Pie.

Celestia then seized him and flung him across the room. He smacked into the glass in front of Twilight and her friends. They startled back. Fluttershy bent down to see Celestia and read, “Oh, didn’t I mention? I have been taking hoof-to-hoof combat lessons! From the ‘dumb jock’!

Fluttershy turned to the others. “She said it sarcastically, like it’s a point of contention between them.”

“Who does she mean?” asked Twilight. “I know that Shining’s been training with her, but… hey!”

Radish peeled himself off the window and faced Celestia. Fluttershy scooted to the side so she could see his lips.

That explains why your form is so sloppy.”

Celestia struck a proud pose.

And here I thought you liked my form.”

Rainbow Dash snickered.

Celestia then charged at full bore and twisted to shoulder-ram him. He leapt out of the way and she skidded to a stop in front of the window. Radish sprang behind her and shoved her into the glass. Her face pressed into it, and she turned her eyes to the girls. They stared at her, mouths agape.

She pushed off the window and grappled Radish to the ground, shoving his face into snow-covered grass. He kicked wildly, but she held him down tight, gritting her teeth. Radish’s hooves found purchase on a garden path flagstone, but Celestia kicked it away, and Radish fell flat under her again. She pressed him into the ground and held him there, not saying a word.

Fluttershy turned to the crowd around her.

“While there’s a break in the action, I’d like to make an announcement. I saw some of you feeding bread to the ducks outside, and you really shouldn’t do that. Bread is terribly unhealthy for birds, and-”

“We’re back on!” said Rainbow Dash.

They looked. Radish had balled himself up and thrown Celestia off, then retreated to a distance away from her. He was panting. Celestia looked at him.

I hope Light Fantastic is prepared to spend Hearts and Hooves Day alone,” read Fluttershy, trying to mimic the sneer in Celestia’s tone.

“Wait, he’s fighting for his ladylove?” asked Rarity, leaning forward. “Ooh, I’m in his corner now!”

Radish pointed at Celestia.

Well, who’d know more about that than you?”

The crowd gasped. Celestia’s face turned furious.

“Whoa, too far, Radish,” said Twilight.

Fluttershy continued.

That’s a low blow!

You push me, I push back!

Really? Is that what’s happening? Because I seem to be mopping the floor with you!

You have two maids for your bedroom alone. I’m not worried about your mopping skills!

The girls heard a laugh behind them. They turned to see a maid watching the fight.

“He’s not wrong,” she said, shrugging.

Twilight looked around. The halls surrounding the courtyard were now full of spectators- palace staff, guards, tourists, even visiting dignitaries. Some were taking photographs. Some were scribbling down a blow-by-blow.

She looked up to see the windows in the floors above were full, too. Shining Armor, Barrel Roller, and Saguaro Shade were sharing a window, staring down at the fight and talking amongst themselves.

“Hey, Fluttershy,” said Twilight, “could you tell me what those three are saying?”

Fluttershy looked up at the guard leadership.

“Hey!” shouted a spectator behind the girls. “Don’t change the audio source! We wanna hear the fight!”

Several ponies shouted in agreement. Fluttershy looked at them angrily.

“They’re placing odds and taking bets on the fight,” she told Twilight.

“Really?” asked the same spectator. “What are the odds on Radish?”

“Shining gives him a million to one, against.”

“Oh, I’m taking that!”

The spectator and several others ran off. Fluttershy refocused on Celestia and Radish.

Celestia charged Radish. He leapt over her. She anticipated it, doubling back and catching him with her hind legs. She launched him into a wall. He rose to see her charging him again, then she turned around and crushed him into the wall with her rear end. He grunted, pinned. Celestia turned back and sneered. Fluttershy flew to a different window to get a better view of her speaking, and the crowd followed her.

Maybe this is it, Radish. Maybe THIS is the moment from your cutie mark!

She ground her bottom into Radish, then bowed her front down.

Come on, Radish. Do the face. Do the face you make on the mark!

Radish winced in pain and shook his head.

Fine. I’ll do mine.”

Celestia opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue in a mockery of her image on Radish’s cutie marks. The crowd murmured. Twilight covered Spike’s eyes, to his protests.

“Making fun of his marks? Oh, Celestia, how awful!” moaned Rarity.

“That ain’t right,” agreed Applejack.

You said you found them flattering,” read Fluttershy, approximating the exasperation in Radish’s voice.

I was taking pity on a mewling little whelp who thought his wet dream cutie marks entitled him to my body! Oh my.”

I have already apologized for treating you like an object! In essay form! But I will not apologize for my cutie marks! I got them from a childhood infatuation with you based on your cheesy merchandise, which I now know was heavily retouched!

Some of the spectators snickered.

“He’s right, you know,” said Rarity. “Those photographers reach for their airbrushes far too readily.”

That cheesy merchandise pays for your salary, Radish!

Well, maybe if you put Luna’s face on some, we could all get raises!

The audience gasped, then burst with laughter.

“Oh, he’s bringing me into it now, is he?” said Luna, walking up behind the girls.

“Princess Luna!” said Fluttershy, bowing.

“Keep relaying their words, Fluttershy. I want to hear everything.”

“Princess, do you know what this is about?” asked Twilight.

“Quite a few things long gone unsaid, it seems.”

Fluttershy cleared her throat. Celestia was speaking.

“... and ever since that day we met, all you’ve ever done is fail upward. You’ve built a career on dumb luck!

I did honorable work as a Plains Ranger!

The Plains Rangers are a bunch of rule-snubbing smoke watchers! You thought that would impress me?

I solved the mystery of the Storm Centurions!

You probably just snuck into that cave to canoodle with that buffalo girl of yours!

“Wait, there’s a third girl?” asked Rarity. “He’s losing me.”

I was always a perfect gentlecolt to Sky, because I knew she deserved better than me!

“Oh, never mind, I’m back on board with him!” cheered Rarity.

Fluttershy’s mouth was getting dry. Pinkie Pie passed her a soda. She sipped and continued as Celestia.

“You want to know about the Storm Centurions? They were the worst unit in Equestria! Willow Wagoner got her command through nepotism and bribery! I gave them the easiest assignment I could think of to bolster their confidence -bring in some measly bandits- and they still all got themselves wiped out!

Radish spoke, emphatically waving his hoof, then quickly turned to Fluttershy and said something directly to her in a panic.

“Uh, he started to say something, but then told me that it’s unpublished research, and he would like me not to repeat it.”

“Oh?” asked Worthy Wagoner, suddenly by her side. “What was it? I can make it worth your while.”

“No, you can’t,” said Fluttershy, and turned away from him. She winked at Radish. He smiled back, then turned to Celestia.

I saved Luna’s life during the invasion!”

You stuck my sister in a barrel while an artifact that you broke did all the work!

You gave me a medal for that!

We were giving medals out like popcorn that day!

“Aww…” said a guard. He looked down sadly at his polished Iron Barding award, then at the popcorn he was eating.

Radish grinned and leaned in.

That’s not all you gave me that day.

Celestia leaned in, looking smug.

I was giving THOSE out like popcorn, too.”

Radish slumped his shoulders, crestfallen.

“Oh. Poor Radish,” said Twilight.

“Well, I wasn’t,” muttered Luna.

“What do they mean?” asked Pinkie Pie.

“I’ll tell you later, okay?” Twilight said.

Radish refocused himself. He struggled and shouted in anger.

I don’t even know why you’re mad! I have done my best to serve you every day since I got here!

Oh please, all you ever cared about was fu- uh, making love to me! No, Fluttershy, you don’t censor your princess! I said ‘fuck’! Fuck fuck FUCK FUCK FUCK! Ohh...”

Fluttershy whimpered. Pinkie Pie patted her head. Twilight covered Spike’s ears, far too slowly. Celestia looked around at the gathered viewers. Fluttershy relayed her words with growing discomfort.

But at least he was honest about it! Half of you ponies only work here because you want to fuck me!

She pointed to various windows.

He wants to fuck me! Those senators want to fuck me! That tour guide wants to fuck me! And I’m pretty sure Twilight has thought about it a couple times!

Twilight buried her face in her hooves and sank low. Applejack rubbed her shoulders.

Do you have any idea what that’s like? Walking around this palace all day to a hundred libidinous stares!? A whole nation that sees me as a piece of tail first and their leader second!

Well, not me! Not anymore! I have a girlfriend! She’s my princess now!

The spectators let out a collective “Aww”.

And while we have your spa, I’m sending out for crêpes! Uh, he said that all dramatically. I don’t know why.”

Yeah, right, Radish. We both know you’ll never be over me. Never! Over! This!

Celestia shoved her backside into him with each word. Radish collapsed onto her haunches in pain. He caught his breath, then looked at her angrily.

Under you, then.”

He dug his elbows into her hip joints, forcing her to lean forward. He twisted sideways and slipped under Celestia, hooking all four of her legs as he ran forward. She fell onto his back, and he carried her at full speed. He stopped just short of the table with the hot chocolate set on it. The momentum carried her into the table, smashing it to flinders. The tableware shattered on her. The hot chocolate, long since cooled, splashed over Celestia’s body.

She stood, dripping expensive imported cocoa. She looked at the shattered set, then flung herself wildly at Radish. He caught her this time, and the two grappled back and forth across the grass. Radish got Celestia in a headlock and howled.

I AM over you! All I want is for you to be safe, healthy, and happy!

He squeezed her neck and dug his knees into her clavicle. Celestia threw him off and shoved him into a corner.

Your idea of safety is letting the enemy get close and hoping they make a mistake! You think I want that kind of protection?

It seems to be working out pretty well for me!

What are you talking about? I’ve splatted you against every surface in here. You’ve been flailing about like a deflating balloon!

Not flailing, learning! Measuring you! Your strength, speed, range, joints, and your weight distribution! And you know what, princess? You’ve got a really high center of gravity.”

Radish reeled back, then slammed his forehead into Celestia’s face at full force. As she stumbled back, he pushed off the wall, vaulting into the air over her, and dragged her down head-first into the stone bench. It shattered in half. He shoved her body over the snow-slick ground like a toboggan and crashed her through a thorny blackberry bush. Radish rolled over the crushed oranges, soaking their juice into his coat.

“Wait,” said Twilight. “He’s not going to…”

Celestia stood fuming. She was covered in thorny brambles piercing deep into her skin. She tore them out and advanced on Radish. He leapt at her. The concentrated citric acid in Radish’s coat splashed into Celestia’s cuts, and she howled. Her knees buckled, and Radish seized them and shoved her onto her back. He got one shoulder on the ground. Celestia’s eyes filled with panic as she realized she was one shoulder away from losing.

Radish put all his weight on her other shoulder, and she fought to keep it off the ground. The two struggled back and forth. Radish’s stamina was at its limits. Celestia jerked in pain as orange juice dripped into her cuts. Radish smiled.

Twilight wasn’t sure who started it, but she heard a soft female voice start to chant, “Ra-dish. Ra-dish. Ra-dish!”

The ponies around her joined in the chant, stomping their hooves in cadence.

“Ra-dish! Ra-dish! RADISH!”

Twilight rose with them and chanted.

“RADISH! RADISH! RADISH!”

Radish looked up to see the gallery cheering. Celestia looked sideways and saw it, too. Radish looked at the hourglass. The bottom bulb was almost full, with just a few more seconds of sand funneling above. He shoved with all his might.

Celestia sneered. Then, she smiled.

Oh, that’s right,” read Fluttershy only to herself, “I get one of these.”

Celestia drew her head to the ground. She slammed it into Radish’s. The impact made the audience yelp.

Radish saw stars. His hooves lost their strength as his body crumpled backwards. Celestia seized him and threw him under the hourglass. His vision refocused to see her looming over him.

I’d never give you a minute of my time, Radish. But you can have the rest of yours.”

She punched the latch on the bottom bulb of the hourglass. Nine minutes and fifty-seven seconds worth of sand dumped onto Radish’s face. He shut his eyes and shook his head, trying to avoid it. As he lifted his face out of the pile, he saw the last three seconds falling at him. It hit his cheek and rolled down to join the rest.

Radish’s time was up.

The crowd fell silent. Radish dropped his head to the ground. The hourglass, signs, and equipment vanished, leaving Radish naked on the ground. As her braces and pads disappeared, Celestia spread her wings and magicked open the doors and windows. A cold wind blew over the audience. She looked down at Radish.

“See you tomorrow, lieutenant. Bring a sponge.”

She looked up at the viewers. They were staring, motionless.

“The rest of you, get back to work!”

The palace staff snapped out of it and scurried away. The tourists scattered. Celestia made eye contact with Twilight, then teleported away, wordlessly. Luna turned and walked off. Shining Armor, Barrel Roller, and Saguaro Shade left their window, talking amongst themselves. Twilight looked at her friends.

“Should we, uh…?” asked Rainbow Dash.

“Yeah,” said Twilight.

The seven entered the courtyard. Radish hadn’t moved. As they approached him, he rolled over on his side away from them, hiding his cutie mark under his tail.

“Uh, good match, Radish,” said Rainbow Dash.

“You almost had her,” added Spike, encouragingly.

“Yeah. Mighty fine moves, there,” said Applejack.

“Truly an all-star exhibition,” assured Rarity.

“Good use of citrus,” said Pinkie Pie.

“And thanks for keeping your language clean,” said Fluttershy.

Twilight stepped closer to him. She cleared her throat.

“Radish Root. You fought with strength, cleverness, and valor, exemplifying the true spirit of competition. Thus, I bestow upon you this favor.”

She bent down to kiss him.

“Keep it,” he muttered.

“What?”

“Just… keep it. I don’t want it.”

Twilight backed away, saddened. She turned and left. The others followed her.

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