• 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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71. The Change

Radish nervously knocked on the door of his captain’s office.

“Come in,” she called from the other side.

Radish entered. Barrel Roller had redecorated Shining Armor’s old office with her own belongings, mostly medals and photos. The fern was still there. Barrel Roller was leaning back in her chair, while Saguaro Shade was leaning against the desk.

“You wanted to see me, ma’am?”

“Have a seat, Root.”

Radish sat down.

“Root,” said Barrel Roller, leaning forward, “you know what I hate more than anything?”

“Paperwork?”

“Well, that’s a close second. But what I hate more than paperwork is a pony who thinks they’re above everyone else. A pony who thinks the rules don’t apply to them.”

“Ma’am, I followed procedure to the letter on the mission!”

“She doesn’t mean you, Root,” said Saguaro Shade, chuckling.

“Yeah,” said Barrel Roller. “I mean the smarmy bastard I marched into Secure Holding. I never liked that Worthy Wagoner. You know the day I was promoted, he put an editorial in the paper saying I was too ‘hotheaded and shortsighted’ to be captain?”

“I saw that, ma’am,” said Radish. “I wrote a letter expressing my disagreement… but they didn’t print it.”

“The point is, you did good out there. You helped our allies, you put a nasty piece of work away, and you rewrote a page or two of the history books. You even filled out your mission report pretty well.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

She reached into her desk drawer and placed a flat box on her desk. “You remember what Celestia said about how you just keep failing upward?”

“Barry, no jokes now,” sighed Saguaro Shade.

“I wasn’t. Root, today you’ve succeeded upward. This has been under consideration for a while, but your performance on the mission cinched it.”

She opened the box. Inside was an insignia for the rank of major- the rank immediately above lieutenant.

Radish stared. “Ma’am? Sir?”

“Congratulations, Major Root,” said Barrel Roller.

“Major?”

“It means ‘big’, Root,” said Saguaro Shade. “As in, a big pain in the flank for Equestria’s enemies.”

“I don’t know what to say,” said Radish. “Except, thank you. I’m honored.”

"But this doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels,” said Barrel Roller. “More will be expected of you than ever before. More paperwork, too.”

“I understand. I’ll do you proud, Barry.”

“Call me that again, and you’re back to a lieutenant.”

“Sorry, captain.”


Curtsey Blush led Radish down a brightly-lit hallway. She stopped in front of a door and opened it, revealing a furnished apartment.

“So, here it is,” she said. She led him inside.

Radish gazed around the room. "This is for me? To live in?"

“That’s right. It’s the standard private quarters for a major. Housekeeping is on Wednesdays-”

“Sorry, what?” interrupted Radish. “You’ll be cleaning in here?”

“Me or another maid. We can’t have our majors spending their valuable time dusting blinds, after all.”

Radish opened a side door to reveal a bathroom. He walked in and stared dumbfounded at himself in the mirror above the sink.

“Uh, major? Are you okay?”

“I’ve… I’ve never had my own bathroom before.”

She smiled. “I see. This one,” she said, opening a rear door, “is your bedroom. If the pillows aren’t to your liking-”

Radish entered the bedroom. He stifled a gasp.

“I’m guessing you’ve never had a bed this big before?” she asked.

Radish nodded.

“I figured that, since you’re dating, you’d appreciate a mattress large enough for two.”

Radish put his hoof on the bed. “I can finally ask Light, ‘Your place or mine?’ I have a place that’s mine.”

“You’ve earned it. I’ll let you make yourself at home. Have a nice day, Major Root.”

She curtseyed and left the apartment. Radish lay down on the bed. The mattress was firm. The room was warm and quiet. He stretched out and sighed contentedly.


He opened his eyes to see Luna staring down at him.

“Gah!”

“Radish! I have just heard the news! Congratulations, major!

“Oh, uh, thank you.” He looked around. Luna was standing next to his bed, and the bedroom around them looked discolored and askew. “Is this a dream?”

“Indeed. I could not wait to tell you how proud of you I am! Of course, as my Champion, your station already exceeded any conventional rank. But it is nice that you are being materially rewarded for your achievements, just the same.”

Radish sat up. “Princess… can we talk?”

“About the purloined sun shard?”

Radish nodded. Luna sat down next to him.

“Celestia insists that it is her burden alone,” she sighed. “She is quite stubborn when it comes to the sun. She tells me she has a plan, but she has not been forthcoming with specifics. For my part, I have met with the Wagoner family, and they claim they possess no such thing. They could be keeping it anywhere now.”

“There must be something we can do to make them give it back. The castle’s press office could put out a statement-”

“I think it is best not to take the matter public. If ponies knew how easily a piece of the sun could be stolen without Celestia realizing, many more will attempt to claim shards of their own.”

“That would be bad,” agreed Radish. “Princess Luna… my deed to the Sea of Omens- it’s not the same, is it?”

Luna shook her head. “No. Your parcel of the moon was gladly gifted, not secretly stolen. The moon’s greatness is only enhanced by association with you.”

“Aww, thank you, Princess Luna. I had this idea about- ow!”

Radish opened his eyes. Light Fantastic was laying in his bed next to him, digging an elbow into his side.

“Oh. Hey, Fan.”

“Hey, you,” she said, “I just stopped by to see your new place. And I found you talking to Luna in your sleep. Was she barging into your dreams again?”

“It’s not what you think. We were talking about work stuff.”

“If they make you work in your sleep, you should get paid overtime.”

“I’ll bring that up. What do you think of my new pad? Pretty swanky, right?”

“Yeah, swanky.” She snuggled into him. “Congrats, Rad.”

“Thanks. I feel like such a grownup.”

“I’ve never dated a guy who was actually going somewhere in life. I feel like I’m growing up, too.” She pulled his face close. “So… wanna do something really grownup?”

Radish grinned. “Your place or mine?”

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