• 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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90. The Alternate

Light poked her head in Radish’s cabin. “Rad? You in here?”

“Hey, Fan.”

She entered, rubbing the back of her head with a wing. “Did, uh, did Rarity come by to talk to you?”

“Yeah. And I think she had a good idea.”

“You do?”

“I do. I want to go to the reunion, unafraid of questions about my flanks. I want to go to the Games and have something nice to put up on the scoreboard. It’s time to put my butt behind me. ”

“Okay, then, if you’re sure. Would you like my help designing a new cutie mark?”

“Yeah, I can’t think of one. I’m just not sure what my special talent is. Maybe I don’t have one- I never clicked with anything the way other ponies did to get their marks. Maybe if I never fell for Celestia, I’d never have gotten a cutie mark at all.”

“You’re good at plenty of things. Remember the night we met? The poem you read? That was amazing.”


“Really. I think you could have easily earned a poet’s cutie mark. Like a manuscript, or a quill.”

“Hmm. I never thought of that.”

“The quill could even be the same color as my feathers!” she said, spreading her wings wide.

“Oh? You’re saying you want to take Celestia’s place on my flanks?”

Light chuckled and nuzzled Radish. “Well, why not?”

He kissed her. “Because you’ve already taken her place in my heart.”

Light’s face turned bright red. “Sheesh, Radish!”

Celestia sat behind her desk, typing away at a report. There was a knock at her door.


Radish entered the office. She looked up and waved him over to her desk.

“Radish, I wanted to share the news with you. Worthy Wagoner’s hearing was this morning. He plead not guilty to all charges.”

“Ugh. I’m going to have to take the stand, won’t I? He’ll have an army of high-priced lawyers trying to discredit me.”

“Most likely. But we have skilled counselors of our own, and the case against him is strong. I promise you, we’ll have you well-prepared by the time of the trial.”

“Thank you, princess.”

“Rainbow Dash has been boasting about how she snagged you for the Equestria Games. It was kind of you to volunteer your time.”

“Ponyville folk have been good to me. I’m hoping to bring them a win.”

“Good luck- you’ll be up against Equestria’s best athletes. I also see you’ve requested time off to go to a class reunion. It’s approved.”

“Thank you, ma’am. Uh… princess?


“For the games, and for the reunion… I would like to dye over my cutie marks.”

“Oh… I see.” Celestia said, looking aside.

“Is that okay?”

She sat up straight. “As I’ve said, you merit an exemption from that part of the dress code. You are free to alter your marks however you wish.”

Radish walked closer. “I wasn’t worried about the dress code. I was worried about you.”


“I just didn’t want you to think I was doing it to hurt you or anything.”

“No, of course not. But I appreciate you saying that.”

“And I was also hoping maybe it could alleviate your pain a little.”

“My pain?”

“You know, like I’m a piece of sand in your eye that won’t come out.”

“Oh, that. Radish, I was out of line. Forgive me.”

“No, it’s not your fault. We were both victims of my cutie mark. That's why I had to make sure you were okay with me changing it.”

“Of course, Radish, I-”

“And remember, we’re supposed to be honest with each other.”

Celestia sighed. “Well, may I see it again?”


He pulled his armor up. She peered close. “It is very well-drawn, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. Light says my butt is the most skilled artist she knows.”

“I suppose it never feels good to have an image of you painted over. And I’m sorry we couldn’t… figure out their meaning. But it’s your body, Radish. Your decision.” She smiled. “Remember when I said that your marks are taking you on a unique path? If this is where the path leads, then walk it with your head held high.”

“Thank you, princess.”

“What were you planning on putting in its place?”

“I’m actually taking suggestions. Do you have any ideas?”

“How about something to reflect your skills as a guard?”

“That’s what I was thinking. Something like a spear hitting a bullseye.”

“Hmm. Don’t you think that’s still rather suggestive?”

“How so, ma’am?” asked Radish, leaning forward.

She looked down at her desk. “Because it’s like a… you know…”

“Like a what, ma’am?”

“That will be all, major.”

Radish and Princess Luna shared a table and a carafe of coffee on the palace’s back patio. He had been catching her up on the news.

“So, what kind of cutie mark do you think I should have?” he asked her.

“Why, a moon, of course!” Luna said warmly. “A big, full moon surrounded by a bright halo!”

“What would I tell ponies that it means?”

“That your wisdom illuminates the haze of confusion, that your strength is a light that shines through the dark times, and that your bravery is a beacon to all who are lost.”

“That might sound like I’m bragging.”

“All ponies brag about their cutie marks, Radish. It is time you joined in on the tradition.”


“You could have a spatterdash!” said Spats. “Then we’d be cutie mark twins!”

Several of Radish’s fellow guards were gathered around him in their old common room. They’d been discussing Radish’s new mark for a while.

“That’s nice, Spats. But I would feel like a phony,” said Radish. “I’m not a snazzy dresser like you.”

“Ooh, do a big snarling dragon!” said Bunker Buster. “That’s plenty authentic to your life!”

“That sounds too complicated to draw.”

“Just do something with food,” said Shoofly. “Half the country has something with food.”

“Like a radish?” Radish asked.

Everypony shook their heads.

“Something a little more creative than that,” said Spats.

“Okay, I’ll think about it.”

Spike found Radish in a corner of Ponyville’s library, surrounded by stacks of books about history, art, and food.

“Hi, Rad!”

“Hey, Spike. Got a question for you. If you had a cutie mark, what would you want it to be?”

“You know, I’ve thought about that. I’d want a huge flame! Why do you ask?”

“I’m going to paint over my cutie mark with a new one.”

“What? I don’t think that’s a very good idea.”

“It was Rarity’s idea.”

“Okay, then it must be a very good idea. But don’t tell Twilight. I doubt she’d take it very well.”

“Don’t tell me what? Take what well?” asked Twilight, descending the stairs.

“I’m going to paint over my cutie mark with a new one,” said Radish.

“What!?” Twilight teleported right in Radish’s face. “Radish, you can’t do that! You’d be denying the most important part of yourself! It would be like defacing destiny!”

“Maybe your cutie mark represents your destiny, but mine’s just a big headache.”

Twilight frowned. “Radish, you shouldn’t be ashamed of your mark.”

“Oh, really? Then I guess you wouldn’t mind if I showed it to Spike,” Radish said, reaching for his belt buckle.

“All right! Finally!” cheered Spike, positioning himself for a good view.

“Radish! No!” Twilight tackled Radish with her horn glowing bright. They both disappeared with a flash of magic.

They reappeared in a heap on the floor of Twilight’s bedroom. Radish looked up into Twilight’s eyes.

“I was kidding. But see how you reacted? That’s the story of my life.”

Twilight climbed off of Radish, hanging her head in shame. “I’m sorry, Radish. But just because you can’t show your mark to a child, doesn’t mean you should just change it to something else. What if everypony did that?”

“Well… what if everypony did that? What if changing your cutie mark were as inconsequential as changing your hairstyle? What if cutie marks just didn’t matter?”

Didn’t matter!? Radish, cutie marks are an integral part of pony culture, dating back earlier than recorded history. Our cutie marks symbolize what makes us special and unique!”

“What makes me unique, Twilight? Because it sure isn’t having sex with Celestia. I’ll never do that. Nopony will ever do that. My mark is a mystery, a lie, and a hindrance.”

Twilight put a hoof on Radish’s shoulder. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what your mark means. And I want you to be happy. But deep down, this feels like a mistake.”

“Twilight… friends can disagree on something and still be friends, right?”

Her ears drooped. “Yes, but… this?”

“Yes. This.”

“I… I won’t try to stop you. Just don’t ask me to help you with this, okay?”


“And please tell Spike you were kidding.”


Radish stepped into Carousel Boutique. Rarity was preparing dyes. Light Fantastic was drawing in her sketchbook.

“Hi, gals.”

“Hey! So, have you figured it out?” asked Light.

“Yes, don’t keep us in suspense!” said Rarity, giddily trotting in place. “What will be the new icon to emblematize your idiom?

“I want a radish.”

Light smirked. Rarity winced and turned around to hide her disappointment. “Oh. What a… charmingly traditional idea.”


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