• 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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80. The Assignment

Radish took a deep breath and entered his captain’s office. She was at her desk, typing. She looked up at him.

“Mornin’, Root.”

“Ma’am, I’m here to take responsibility for the Coronation Day infiltration. It was all my fault- they only got as far as they did because I was careless about discussing palace security.”

Barrel Roller pushed an unfurled scroll toward him. It had the cutie marks of Celestia, Luna, Cadance, and Twilight stamped across the bottom.

“Yeah, I know. But the four princesses have elected not to prosecute you on the matter.”

“Oh… I see.”

“But that only clears you of the criminal charges. Your actions not only endangered the princesses, but the palace staff, guests, and your fellow guards. And I have every right to punish a guard who violates his oath to defend Equestria.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll take whatever punishment is coming to me.”

She put a document with her own letterhead on top of the scroll. “Two weeks’ suspension. Without pay.”

“Oh? Uh, yes, ma’am.”

She rolled her chair over to her file cabinet and pulled out a folder. “And when that’s done, you’ve got a new assignment. We got the go-ahead for the Everfree Forest research station. It’ll take some time to set up the facility, and then you’re taking charge of it.”

“You want me to lead the station?”

“The whole thing was your idea, Root. A number of personnel only signed on to the project when they learned your name was attached.”

“What, me? Why?”

She flipped through the folder. “Some of the newer guards wanted to learn under the guy who faced off against the changeling commander. Some of the science team wanted to work alongside the guy who uncovered the history of the Storm Centurions. And a lot of ponies just want to meet the guy who beat Celestia in a cage match.”

“Really?”

“Really. You’re making a name for yourself out there, Root.”

“I never thought I’d be renowned for something other than… well, you know.”

“Uh huh.”

“But even so… I no longer feel like I should take a posting so far away from my girlfriend.”

“Her?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Root, new projects need strong leadership to get off the ground. You can name a replacement once the place is running smoothly. A few months, maybe.”

“Well, then, I’d want to use a pegasus chariot to come and go from Canterlot as I please.”

“You’re a major now. You already get that perk.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“All right, ma’am. I'll do it."

"Huzzah."


Radish lay back on his bed, reading detective anthology. There was a knock at this door. He opened it to see Light Fantastic, with a sheepish-looking Hazy Shade behind her.

“Hi, girls,” he said.

"Radish," said Hazy, "Light told me about how you got suspended because of me. I've come to apologize."

“I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at myself.”

“Just let her do this, Rad,” said Light. “Midtowners have a ritual for settling accounts.”

“Uh, okay.” He let them into his quarters. “How do you settle accounts?”

Hazy Shade held up two small glass bottles in her wings- one dark green and one pale yellow. “These liquors are hoofmade in the neighborhood. The green one is expensive and really good. The yellow one is really cheap and horrible. The wronged party -that’s you- gets a choice: you can either take the green as a gift, or make me drink the yellow as my punishment. Either way, we stay friends.”

“None of this is necessary. Everything worked out in the end.”

“No, it’s definitely necessary,” said Hazy.

“Yeah, Rad,” said Light, “she came out all this way. Don’t you want to honor our neighborhood traditions?”

“Fine. I’ll take the green.”

Hazy passed Radish the bottle. “Okay. Fanny also gets to pick, since I wronged her, too.”

“Oh, you’re getting the yellow,” said Light.

Hazy sighed. “I knew you’d say that.”

“Is it really that bad?" asked Radish.

“Worse.”

Radish took a sip of the green bottle. His eyes widened. “Whoa, this is good.”

Hazy pinched her nostrils closed with her wings and took a swig of the yellow bottle. She forced it down, shuddering. She held still for a moment, then bolted to Radish’s bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

“Hazy!?” called Radish. He heard her retching. Radish frowned at Light. “Fan, that was vindictive. She could really be sick.”

“Nah, she’s fine.” The sound of retching grew louder and more desperate. “How are you?”

“Bored.”

“You don’t have to spend your suspension in your quarters. Come hang out with me at the shop.”

“This is supposed to be a punishment. If I’m enjoying it, I’m only encouraging myself to break the rules again.”

“Honestly, sometimes I swear you’re from a different planet.”

A scroll burst overhead. Radish caught the dragon mail and read it.

“What’s her highness want now?” asked Light.

“Let’s see… I’m invited to Ponyville’s yearly… Tongue-Twister Festival.”

“Seriously?”

“Five days of tongue-twister games, panels, and workshops, capped off by a tournament. The grand prize is… a hat that looks like a tongue.”

“Ooh, let’s get you signed up.”

“I’d love to, but I’ll be too busy hanging out with my girlfriend at her shop.”

Hazy Shade limped out of the bathroom, holding her gut with her wings.

“Are you okay?” asked Radish.

“Yeah,” she said hoarsely. “I’m fine.”

“Hey, Hazy, I’ll make a deal with you,” said Light. She held up the invitation. “You don’t have to finish the yellow if you win me this hat.”

Hazy peered at the invitation. She gave Light a defiant glare, then grabbed the bottle and chugged it.

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