• 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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89. The Favor

The door of Cat’s Howl swung open, ringing the bell hanging above it. Light Fantastic looked up from her counter to see Rarity approaching her.

“Light, darling!”

“Oh, hi, Rares. What’s up?”

“I came as quickly as I could! I wanted to offer my sincerest commiserations.”

“For what?”

“Oh. Then, you haven’t heard?”

“Heard… what? Is everything okay? What’s happened!?”

“I hate to be the one to break bad news to you, dear,” Rarity said, rummaging through her bag.

“What!? What’s going on!?”

She pulled out a magazine, opened it to a middle page, and placed it on the counter facing Light.

“I’m afraid the latest column of Trenderhoof’s ‘Sashay or Passé’ hit the stands today. And he’s quite definitively stated that the Midtown art scene is Passé.”

“What?”

“I am so sorry, Light.”

“Rarity! I thought you were about to tell me that Radish died or something!”

“What? How would I have news of that?”

“He has adventures with your buddy squad!”

“Ah, I see. Well, as far as I know, Radish is hale and hearty! But back to the matter at hoof- let’s discuss a rebranding strategy. If you focus on the mail-order side of business, you can project any image you want. Now, I’ve brought some materials...”

“Uh, thanks, but I don’t see this as a problem. If some trendy magazine is calling me passé, that can only help my business.”

“Oh, dear, you’re having a breakdown. Here, have some water.”

She pulled out and set a crystal decanter and tumbler glass on the counter, then filled the glass with water from the decanter. Light shrugged and drank some.

“Listen, Rare- Midtowners do what they want, how they want, the outside world be damned. That’s what keeps Midtown from becoming Downtown, or- stars forbid- Uptown.”

“Now, Light, flouting the desires of the market is no way to run a business.”

“Yeah? What if that magazine said that baggy sweaters with fishnet stockings were the next fashion trend?”

“Then I’d craft the most fabulous line of baggy sweaters and fishnets the world had ever known!”

Light took another sip. “I think we’re very different mares, with very different philosophies for our shops.”

“Hmm. Perhaps we are. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, eh?”

“You’re right. And thanks for caring enough to come all the way here.”

“Think nothing of it,” Rarity said, reclaiming her magazine. “You may keep the decanter and glass.”

“What? No. These look crazy expensive.”

“Consider it a gift, from one small business owner to another.”

“Oh. Thanks. Here, take one of these.”

Light tossed Rarity a red headband. Rarity caught it in her aura.

“Uh, I’m afraid headbands are also Passé this season.”

“I think you can make it work.”

Rarity put on the headband and pulled out a small mirror. “You know, I really can. Thank you, darling.”

“No problem, darling.”

“Ooh, uh…”

“Yeah, that’s the last time I say that.”

“Ta ta,” Rarity said, turning to leave.

Light sat up straight on her stool. “Wait! Uh… Rarity?”

“Yes?”

“Can I get your advice about something?”


Radish stood on the line of the target practice course at PEERS, feeling the weight of his new spear in his hoof. He reeled back and threw it at a bullseye painted on a hay bale. The spear stuck into the hay just a little above the center of the target.

“Not bad,” said Rainbow Dash, drifting down from above. “Can I try?”

“No. What can I do for you, Dash?”

She landed at his side. “You’ve probably heard that the Equestria Games are coming up, right?”

“Uh huh.”

“And Ponyville’s going to need all its best athletes going for as many medals as they can. I checked at City Hall, and this station of yours is technically within Ponyville’s municipality. That means anypony living here can compete for Ponyville!”

“What, you want to poach my guards for Ponyville’s teams?”

“I want you for our wrestling team!”

“Ugh. No.”

“Aw, come on.”

“I’m busy with my duties.”

“It won’t take up that much of your time, I promise. These are amateur competitions, and you’ve already got the conditioning and the moves.”

“Dash, they put the competitors’ cutie marks up on the scoreboards.”

“Not always. Plenty of non-ponies compete, and none of them have cutie marks. You can just use a picture of your face, or the Guard emblem, or something.”

“Then I’d be the only pony there who isn't using their mark. Ponies would wonder why I’m singling myself out.”

“You’re gonna let something like that keep you out of the games?”

“I don’t want a whole stadium of ponies whispering about me.”

Rainbow Dash put a hoof across his shoulders and gestured to the sky. “They won’t be whispering, they’ll be cheering! A thousand voices rooting you on to victory! No other feeling in the world comes close!”

“Thanks, but no thanks.”

Rainbow Dash leaned her face in close to his with half-lidded eyes. “There’s going to be cheerleaders there, you know. Picture it- a whole squad of hot mares, bouncing around in cute little outfits, shaking their pom-poms, chanting your name…”

“Don’t even try that with me.”

“...and when you win that gold, they’ll all come rushing at you, They’ll toss you in the air and catch you in their soft, appreciative embrace…”

“No.”

“Okay, fine. How about this- I’ll hoof-wrestle you for it. If I beat you, you have to join the team.”

Radish cocked his eyebrows. “Sure. But if I beat you, you have to provide free custom weather over PEERS for the rest of summer.”

“Pfft. Fine. Let’s do this, big guy.”


Sporting her new headband, Rarity trotted up the path to PEERS. She encountered Rainbow Dash grumpily limping her way down the path back to Ponyville.

“Oh, hello, Rainbow Dash! Uh, are you quite all right?”

I’m fine,” she grumbled.

“Is Radish receiving visitors?”

Rainbow Dash just muttered something under her breath and continued limping on. Rarity trotted up to Radish’s cabin and knocked on the door. Radish opened it, freshly-showered and wearing a towel draped over his hindquarters.

“Oh, hi Rarity. What’s up?”

“Radish, I’ve just spoken with Light. May I come in?”

“Uh, sure.”

She walked in, looked at Radish’s towel, and clicked her tongue. “Now, Radish, dear, you know you don’t need to cover up your cutie mark around me. It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”

Radish looked down at his towel. “I know, but it still doesn’t feel right to put it on display in front of a guest. Especially a lady.”

“Oh, Radish. That’s actually what I wanted to speak with you about. Light tells me that you have an impending class reunion.”

“I’m… I’m not going.”

“Because of your cutie marks, yes?”

“Yes.”

“But you want to go, don’t you?”

“Well, if things were different- if nopony in the world cared about cutie marks- I would go. I’d like to see some of those old friends again.”

“What if I could make that happen?”

“How?”

“Well, I can’t change the world, but I know a thing or two about coloring hair. And your coat is such a nice color- deceptively common, but with a lovely bright undercoat. I could easily match the color and dye over your marks.”

“And what, be an adult blank flank at my reunion? I can’t do that!”

“No, Radish, I would then dye something in its place!”

“A… fake cutie mark? That seems… wrong.”

“What’s wrong is you missing out on life because of a tiny patch of fur on your sides.”

“But… a fake mark? Pretending to be something I’m not? It’s cowardly.”

Rarity smiled and walked up close to him. “We all know you are not cowardly, Radish. You’re the bravest stallion I’ve ever met. Besides, I’ll wager that most ponies at your reunion will come with cosmetic enhancements- mane extensions, lifts in their shoes, dental work, not to mention various nips, tucks, and implants.”

Radish looked down at the floor. “Hmm. Well, I guess when a lizard changes its color, nobody calls the lizard a coward…”

Rarity chuckled. “I certainly didn’t think I’d end up being compared to a lizard today.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that I enhance myself, as well.” Rarity lowered her voice and put on a serious expression. “Radish, I’m going to show you a part of my body that very few ponies have seen.”

“Uh…”

“My face.”

“What?”

She pulled a white cloth from her bag. She pressed it onto her face and wiped. She then floated the cloth to Radish’s hooves. He looked at it. The cloth now bore her eyeshadow, blush, lipstick, primer, concealer, eyeliner, foundation, and false eyelashes. He looked up at her makeup-less face. Her features were now subtly more subdued.

“Rarity? You wear all this stuff… all the time?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“When you look your best, you feel your best. And then you can be at your best. But some of us need more help than others to look their best.”

“But you don’t, Rarity! You’re a very pretty mare. And I’m saying that sober this time.”

“Ah, that’s kind of you. But there are many ‘very pretty’ mares out there, all in a constant struggle- whether that struggle is for love, for business, or just for the right to be heard.”

Radish looked down at the cloth again. “You’re saying that looks are your weapon, but you’re locked in an arms race.”

“It’s a warzone out there, darling.”

“I’m sorry, Rarity, I had no idea.”

“But now that you do, are you going to think any less of me?”

“Of course not!’

“Then you shouldn’t think any less of yourself then, either.”

He walked over to a floor mirror, took off his towel, and stared at his cutie mark. “You really think you could paint a fake one? And it would look convincing?”

“I believe so, if we keep it simple. What would you like?”

“What would I like?” He brushed a hoof over his cutie mark. “Funny. All these years I’ve angsted over this mark, I never really asked myself what I would have wanted instead.”

“Ooh, there are so many possibilities! How about something from the world of heraldry? A big silver chevron, a bright red X, or a trio of gold balls!”

“I may need some time to think about this.”

Rarity smiled. “Of course. It’s a big decision, and I certainly don’t expect you to make it now. Take some time, give it some thought, and discuss it with friends.”

“Rarity… thank you. You always give good advice.”

“You’re quite welcome.”

“And I like your headband.”

“Why, thank you. It was a gift from a good friend of mine.”


Rainbow Dash sipped a hay shake at an outdoor table of a Ponyville cafe, cradling her hoof in pain. Radish approached her, and she scowled at him.

“Hey, Dash?”

“What do you want?”

“Let’s forget the wager. I want to wrestle for Ponyville.”

She sat up straight and fluttered her wings. “Really? What made you change your mind?”

“I’m tired of missing out on things I could be doing, just because of my cutie marks.”

She pounced to his side and hugged him. “That’s what I was trying to tell you, you big dummy!”

“Yeah, you were right. But I still need something to put on the scoreboard. What image do you think would represent me the best?”

“Ooh! How about a picture of that big metal wolf we fought?”

“Why?”

“Because it’s awesome, that’s why!”

“I’ll think about it.”

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