• Published 23rd Sep 2021
  • 10,196 Views, 4,154 Comments

The Only Mark That Matters - CocktailOlive

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

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82. The Mixer

“See here? Look at this shadow behind Firehoof,” said Splash Page, holding up an open comic book in Light Fantastic’s face. “I think she’s being stalked by a new villain. And I think it’s her sister.”

“Uh huh.”

“Fanny, pay attention. This is important.”

As was his usual Wednesday ritual, Splash Page had come into Light’s store to give her his takes on the latest comic releases. As was her usual ritual, she was ignoring him.

She instead kept her eyes on the customers perusing her store’s aisles. A blue mare trotted up to the checkout counter carrying a selection of Nightmare Root merchandise. Light rang up her purchases.

"Nice picks," said Light.

"Thanks. Did you know that Nightmare Root is based on a real guy? He’s a royal guard.”

“Is that a fact?”

“Yeah! He’s supposed to be stronger than Celestia, braver than Spitfire, and more handsome than Shining Armor! I toured the palace hoping to catch a glimpse of him, but he’s a hard stallion to track down.”

“I’ll bet.”

The girl left with her purchases. Splash Page leaned over to Light.

“Doesn’t that bug you?”

“I refuse to be that kind of girlfriend. I knew Rad was special when I first approached him. I can’t get upset at other mares for thinking the same.”

“That’s so mature of you. It’s weird.”

A tall pronghorn doe approached the counter. “Did I hear that right? You’re Radish Root’s girlfriend?”

“Yes, that’s right. I am.”

“Does he still say Celestia’s name in his sleep?”

Pinkie Pie had the lakeside party in full swing by early afternoon. Most of Ponyville had turned out. Zecora came, as did numerous families, business owners, and VIPs from Ponyville. The rest of AG1 was there unfashionably early.

“Hi, Radish!” called Twilight as the girls walked up to him.

“Hello, ladies. Welcome to the station.”

“Major, I just love what you’ve done with the place,” Rarity said. “It used to be so… outdoorsy.”

“Rarity and I went to summer camp here as fillies," reminisced Applejack. "We made us some mighty fine memories!"

“Well, maybe you did,” scoffed Rarity, “but all I remember is a certain farm girl who thought it was height of hilarity to sneak bugs into my mane.”

“Heh heh. Yeah, good times,” Applejack chuckled.

The girls split up to mingle. Twilight took Radish aside, beaming at him. “Radish, I’m really proud of you. You’ve brought this whole facility into fruition all on your own.”

“Thanks, Twi. But it took a lot of ponies to make it happen.”

“I’d love to meet the science team. Could you introduce me to them?”

Radish scanned the crowd. He caught sight of Timber Spruce, who also seemed to be scanning the crowd.

“Uh… I don’t see any right now. Want to meet some guards?”

Light Fantastic sat back and crossed her hooves, sizing up the doe. “And you are?”

“Oh, sorry! My name is Praline. I went to grade school with Radish."

"Really?” asked Splash Page. “You knew him as a kid?"

"That’s right. We were good pals. But one day, he just disappeared. The teacher said he moved away for health reasons.”

“Oh," said Light. “You meant he would say Celestia’s name during, like, naptime?”

“Yeah," Praline chuckled. "He fell in love with Celestia from the moment he laid eyes on a poster of her in the classroom. From then on, she was all he'd talk about.”

Light leaned forward. “That must have been annoying for all the girls in class, right? Having to compete with Celestia for the boys’ attention at such a young age?”

“Well, we felt more sorry for him than anything. Aiming impossibly high. But he’s doing okay now?”

“More than okay!” said Splash Page. “He just got promoted, got put in charge of a big project, and he couldn’t ask for a better girlfriend than Light here! They're great together!”

Light looked at Splash Page with surprise.

"That's a relief," said Praline. "He was always so kind. I was the only non-pony in our class, but he always treated me like I belonged. And because of that, the other kids did, too."

Light sat back. "Yeah… that's Radish, all right."

Radish introduced Twilight to the station’s guards. She furrowed her brows a little more with each one.

“Radish, just how many guards are going to be stationed here?” she asked.

“A little over thirty, plus other squads coming in and out for training.”

“Was this whole place just an elaborate ploy to put a lot of guards near me?”

“Uh, well… yes.”

She frowned. “You still don’t believe I can take care of myself?”

“I do now, but this station was initiated after the coronation infiltration situation.”

“The CAA is disbanded. Pilcrow just moved on to a new campaign- something about the Equestria Games committee selection bias.”

“But this place still has a lot to offer. Ponykind will get to learn more about the Everfree Forest, Ponyville will get more customers and more protection, and you’ll get to brush shoulders with the likes of Rosy Day.”

“Rosy Day? The grandmare of integrated behavioral botany? She’s going to be working here? Living here?”

“That’s right. I hear she loves to share stories about her expeditions into the Hosstrailian outback.”

“Ooh… I’d love to hear them. Dang it, Rad, you really know how to dangle a big juicy carrot in front of me.”

“Uh, don’t put it like that.”

“I mean, you're expertly skilled at pushing my buttons.”

“Much better.”

“Look, if you really want me fully onboard with this station, I’d like-”

Radish held up a stack of ring-bound papers. “A full strategic planning document? Got it right here.”

She took it in her aura and looked at the cover. “Ponyville-Everfree Ecological Research Station. P.E.E.R.S.? You’re calling this place P.E.E.R.S.?”

“Yeah, you know- like friends. A big, new group of friends to meet and hang out with.”

“Did you choose that name specifically to appeal to me?”

“Why? Do you have some special connection to the concept of friendship?”

She rolled her eyes, then flipped through the document. “Oh. This is very well-written.”

“It’s all those punctuation lessons you gave me.”

“Hmm. I remember the day that Shining Armor’s duties became less about patrolling hallways and more about sitting before a typewriter. It was a hard adjustment for him. How are you handling it?”

“I don’t mind. I like to think of a typewriter as just another weapon I can protect Equestria with.”

Twilight walked up to Radish and hugged him. “I know you just want to keep me safe. But what’s safest for me isn’t always what’s best for me. I don’t need a second big brother overprotecting me- I need room to breathe, room to learn, and even room to fail.”

Radish patted the back of her head. “Sorry, Twilight. It's hard for me to relax about a princess's safety. I took an oath, you know."

"I know. And I appreciate that."

"I'll give you the room you need."

“Thank you.”

“You shouldn’t hug me so much in front of the other guards. It makes you look like you’re playing favorites.”

“You are my favorite guard.”

“Aw, thank you.” Radish took another look around. “Say, I think I see Rosy Day’s assistant over there. Let me introduce you.”

“Uh… look,” said Light. “Radish’s big new project is by Ponyville Lake. They’re having a meet and greet open to the public today. I’m sure he’d be happy to see you again.”

“Oh? I don’t think I can make it down to Ponyville today,” said Praline. ”But our old class is holding a reunion at the end of August. You two should come.”

“I’ll, uh, let Radish know.”

Praline bought one of Light’s classic T-shirts and left. Light let out a sigh.

“Thanks for talking me up in front of her, Splash. That was nice of you.”

“Well I had to do something. She has history with Radish, and she’s a total knockout. You shouldn’t have told her where to find him.”

“I told you, I’m not going to be that kind of girlfriend. Radish should be able to catch up on old times with a childhood friend without me ruining it." She looked down at her counter. “You really think she was a knockout?”

“Don’t worry, Fanny. I’ll keep her away from Radish. I'll date her instead.”

“Wow, what a noble sacrifice.”

Radish led Twilight over to Timber Spruce. His eyes grew wide as she approached.

“Hello!” she said pleasantly. “I’m Twilight Sparkle.”

“Spruce! I’m Timber Spruce! So honored to make your acquaintance, your majesty!” he said, quickly bowing low.

“Oh, you don’t need to be formal with me,” said Twilight, slightly embarrassed.

“But… you’re you.”

Radish shook his head. “Say, Timber, why don’t you take the princess here and show her the station’s library?”

“Good idea!” He turned to Twilight. “I can show you our classification system- I developed it myself!”

“Really?” asked Twilight. “I invented my own as well, for Ponyville’s library! After all, aside from reading them, the most fun you can have with books…”

“...is organizing them!” Timber Spruce finished.

Radish watched them walk off together, laughing. He shrugged to himself, then rejoined the party. After helping himself to refreshments, he caught sight of Fluttershy, who seemed to be distracted by something in her wing. He approached with curiosity.

“Fluttershy, are you okay?”

“Uh, well…”

A juvenile ladder-backed rattlesnake poked its head out from under her wing. Radish squinted at it.

“Fluttershy, where did you… is that one of Hoopla’s kids!?”

“Um, yes.”

“You snakenapped him!?”

“No! Eddie wanted to see the world outside the plains, so Hoopla asked me to take him. But now he wants to work here with you.”


The snake nodded.

“Well, okay,” said Radish. “We could always use more eyes on the forest.”

“Thank you, Radish,” said Fluttershy. “He’ll be a great addition to your team.”

Eddie dropped off of Fluttershy, slithered up Radish’s leg, and got comfortable on his withers.

“Come on,” said Radish, “I’ll show you the reason we’re all here.”

He walked toward the Everfree Forest. He noticed a hunched-over figure standing at the forest’s edge. It was Pinkie’s sister, Marble, staring at something on the ground. He approached for a better look. She was looking at a trailing black vine with delicate tendrils and thick blue thorns.

“Hello, Miss Pie. I’ve never seen a plant like that before. What is it?”

She shook her head- she didn’t know either.

“Hmm. Well, make a note of it, and we’ll add it to the list of things to study. Who knows- maybe they’ll name it after you.”

She smiled and nodded. Radish walked off with Eddie. Marble looked back down at the vine. It was growing longer. She frowned.

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