• 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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91. The Tryout

“Ah, there we go,” Rarity said joyously. “Phase One is complete!”

Rarity sat back, wiped her brow, and examined her work on Radish’s flanks. They were conducting a trial run of the dye job in her workroom on the upper floor of Carousel Boutique. She had matched Radish’s coat color exactly and dyed over both his cutie marks, leaving no trace of them behind. Light Fantastic sat in a chair off to the side, sketching radishes.

“Now, this is my best fur dye,” Rarity said. “It should survive a good many washings intact. That’s a Carousel Boutique guarantee, dear.”

“Thanks, Rarity,” said Radish. He stepped into view of a floor mirror. He turned sideways and stared at his blank sides.

“This is surreal. It’s like I never had a mark in the first place.”

“I kind of like it that way,” said Light. “No visual clutter to get in the way of checking out your butt.”

“You know, without a mark, you look a bit like Halcyon,” Rarity sighed wistfully. “Remember him? I do hope he’s feeling better, wherever he is.”

“I’m sure he is,” Radish said.

“Rarity! Are you up here?” called Sweetie Belle. The door swung open, and she walked in. “I need you to sign something for…”

She saw Radish, standing unclothed in the center of the room. Her eyes went wide. She scampered to his side and locked her eyes on his flanks. She stared.

“Oh, hi there, Sweetie Belle,” said Radish nonchalantly. “How was school today?”

Her jaw dropped. She reeled back in horror. “You’re… an adult blank flank!?

“That’s right, young lady," Radish said. "And you know what? If you don’t eat your vegetables, you'll end up one, too.”

Sweetie Belled gasped. She turned and fled out the door, screaming.

Rarity clicked her tongue. “Radish, that was quite cruel. Though, she has been a picky eater lately, so I can’t be too mad at you. Now, on to Phase Two. How’s it coming, Light?”

Light held up her sketchbook. “What do you think, Rad? Any of these call out to you?”

Radish looked over her sketches. He pointed to a round, red radish that was drawn at a forty-five degree angle. It had a long taproot at the bottom and three leaves budding out the top.

“That’s the one.”

“Why that one?”

“The root represents how I’ll hold firm in defense of Equestria. The three leaves are for the three pony tribes. The angle is to give it a sense of forward motion. And I want it red because that’s the best kind of radish.”

“Aww, you’ve really thought about it, huh?” said Light.

“That’s quite lovely,” said Rarity. “I’ve got just the shade of red- it’s bold, yet unpretentious.”

“Just like you, Rad!” said Light.

Radish looked at himself in the mirror again. “What more could I ask for?”

Rarity coached Light as she applied the finishing touches to Radish’s new marks.

“A little more… just a little more… and stop! Perfect!”

“Not quite yet,” said Light, wiping her brush. “Now they need shading.”

“Shading?” asked Rarity. “We didn’t discuss that in the planning stages.”

“I just thought of it,” said Light.

“You can’t ‘just think’ of changing the plan once the plan is in motion! This is a collaboration, dear.”

“Ladies,” said Radish, seeing himself in the mirror, “I think we’re good. They’re done. I’m ready.”

“How does it feel?” asked Light.

Radish stared at his reflection, transfixed. He brushed at the fake cutie mark, and it seemed as real as his genuine one. “It looks amazing.”

“But how does it feel? Is it you?” asked Rarity.

“I’m not sure. I’ve never known what I’m supposed to feel like.”

“Why not take a walk around town?” suggested Rarity. “See how it feels to go around in public? We’ll see how well it holds up under everyday conditions, and reapply it with what we’ve learned for the Games and for the reunion.”

“Don’t most Ponyvillians know about my real mark?”

“You’d be surprised by what Ponyvillians don’t know,” sighed Rarity. “I’ve lived in this town all my life, I’ve made front-page news multiple times, yet the counter girl at the teahouse still asks my name each week!”

“Okay.” Radish walked to the door. “I can do this.” He touched the knob, hesitated, then opened the door. He walked out.

Rarity held her hooves to her heart. “Ooh, it’s a bit like sending a child off to kindergarten for the first time, isn’t it? Perhaps he’ll make new friends!”

“Yeah,” said Light, watching him through the window.

“Are you looking forward to the reunion?”

“I suppose. I’ve never been to one.”

Light walked up to the mirror. She checked out her face from multiple angles.

“Rarity… do you think you could doll me up real pretty for the reunion? I want to be a drop-dead sexy trophy girlfriend for Radish.”

“Ooh! But of course, dear!” She sped to Light’s side. “I’ll give you a makeover that will make you the envy of every mare, doe, cow, and jenny in the room! Oh, I just love making a lady out of a tomboy!”

“I don’t really think of myself as a tomboy.”

“Light, on the train back from the Southern Plains, you got into a spitting contest with the engineer and won.”

“Damn right, I won! Oh. I see what you mean.”

Radish trotted through town. The streets were about as busy as normal, with mares and stallions going about their daily routines. Some walked with foals at their sides, causing Radish to tense up as they passed him. As each one seemed to pay him no particular mind, he felt more and more at ease.

He took in the town’s various tourist sights, unafraid of mingling in large crowds. He stopped at a cafe for lunch, where for once he wasn’t the only stallion in the building wearing pants.

He strolled through the market square, checking out carts and stalls selling various produce and products. He noticed Applejack in an apron, standing in an elaborately-decorated apple booth.

“Get’cher apples here! Fresh off the farm!” she called to passers-by.

Radish watched a dark gray pegasus stallion approach her booth.

“Well, hey there, Miss Applejack!”

“Well, howdy there, Thunderlane! Your usual weekly bushel?”

He leaned an elbow on her counter. “From a pretty filly like you? I’d rather get a peck.”

She coquettishly giggled and twirled her braid. “Oh ho, stop it! Why, you could charm the spots off a honeycrisp.”

Radish watched them finish their transaction. Thunderlane left with a particularly expensive bushel of apples on his back. Radish brushed his mane over to cover most of his face and approached the stand. He kept his head low and his voice lower.

“Hello, miss. I’d like a bag of red delicious, please.”

“Sure thing, mister!” Applejack turned around and gathered the produce. “One bag of my finest red delicious, comin’ right up!”

“I hope they’re at least half as fine as you are.”

“Oh ho, stop it! Why you could charm the spots off a-” She realized who she was speaking to. “Radish!?”

“Hi, AJ,” Radish said, fixing his mane back.

“But… Radish! Your pants!”

“Hmm? I’m not wearing any today. It’s so hot, you know?”

He turned sideways to show off his flanks. She gasped.

“Radish Root! What in the hay did you do to yourself?”

“Do you like it?”

She shook her head. “Radish, you know how I am about honesty, and this is just plumb dishonest! It’s like you’re lyin’ to the whole dang world!”

“Oh? And pretending to flirt with customers is the height of honesty?”

Applejack grit her teeth. “I’m tryin’ to provide for my family here, Radish.”

“And I’m trying to live a normal life, Applejack.”

“Radish? Radish Root?”

Radish and Applejack turned to see Apple Bloom staring up at him. Her eyes fixed on his mark.

“What in tarnation? It’s just a radish?”

“Oh, hi, Apple Bloom,” Radish said pleasantly.

“But… it’s just a radish?” Apple Bloom reached out and poked firmly at Radish’s mark. “Are radishes… bad?”

“No. They're healthy and delicious,” Radish said.

“Apple Bloom! Quit pokin’ him!" admonished Applejack. "And you, Radish! Quit… quit this whole thing!”

“Well, fine! I’ll just wash these off and come back here to show Apple Bloom what my cutie marks really are!”

“You wouldn’t dare!”

“Wash them off? These are fake!? You can do that!?” asked Apple Bloom, poking Radish’s mark more rapidly.

“No, you can’t!” shouted Applejack. She pointed to Radish. “And neither can you!”

“You know, I think I’ve lost my appetite for apples,” Radish said dispassionately. “I’m going to go buy some papayas.”

He walked off. Applejack bristled. “You’ll be sorry! On both accounts!”

Apple Bloom put a hoof on her sister’s side. “Big sis? Are you okay?”

Applejack calmed herself and wiped her brow. “I’m fine, Apple Bloom. Somethin’ about what Radish did jus’ really set off somethin’ fierce inside me. It feels so… unnatural.”

“Well, what do his natural marks look like?”

“They’re a picture of- now cut that out!”

Radish sat underneath a hackberry tree on the bank of Ponyville’s river, finishing off a papaya. He heard light hoofsteps along the grass behind him, followed by a splash and the squelch of mud.

He peeked around the tree, and saw Scootaloo sunk knee-deep in the riverbank’s mud, struggling to pull herself free. She tried rocking her body while buzzing her wings, but was unable to budge herself an inch. Radish stood up.

As he approached, a pink filly Scootaloo’s age got to her first. She looked down at Scootaloo’s struggling with a smug grin.

“Playing in the mud?” she taunted.

“Diamond Tiara! I was trying to catch a frog for the jumping contest and I got stuck!” cried Scootaloo. “Please help me out of this!”

“And get mud on my hooves!?” the girl scoffed. Then, she leaned closer and smiled wickedly. “I know- why don’t you just fly yourself out of it?”

Scootaloo hunched over and turned away to hide the misery in her face. Radish felt a surge of fury. He stomped up close to them.

“Hey! You!”

Diamond Tiara turned and sneered. “Yeah, what?”

Scootaloo looked up at him. “Mr. Root? Is that you?”

“Root?” Diamond Tiara leaned sideways to see his cutie mark. “A radish? Wait, Radish Root? As in, Nightmare Root!? It is you! I have all your merchandise!”

Scootaloo cocked her head. “Merchandise?”

Diamond Tiara sighed in annoyance. “Don’t you know anything? This is the guy who gave Celestia a black eye for insulting his girlfriend!”

Radish stared down at her coldly. “Yeah? And if I did that to her, what do you think I’m going to do to you for insulting my friend Scootaloo?”

The girl cowered back. “What? I- I didn’t know she was your friend!”

“She asked for your help,” Radish said with irritation rising in his voice. “How much longer are you going to make her wait?”

“I was just going to!” She rushed to Scootaloo and pulled on her. Scootaloo popped free, and both girls tumbled sideways onto the ground.

“Thank you, Diamond Tiara,” said Scootaloo.

“Ewww!” spat Diamond Tiara, looking down at her muddied fur in disgust. She glared at Radish. “This is your fault! I’m tossing all your merch the minute I get home!”

She ran off in a huff. Radish looked down at Scootaloo. “You okay?”

“I am. Thank you.” She looked at Radish’s flank.

“What?” asked Radish.


“If you’re serious about that frog jumping contest, you can’t just catch any old frog,” Radish said, “you need to find one that has something to prove. Come on, I’ll show you what to look for.”

“All right!”

Radish helped Scootaloo find and secure the services of a red-legged frog for the contest. She thanked him and cheerfully trotted off with it to show Rainbow Dash. Radish washed his hooves in the town fountain, then turned to see Applejack, standing behind him with a bashful look on her face.

“I, uh, came lookin’ for you,” she said. “I had a whole speech about stayin’ true to yourself and whatnot. But then I watched you help out lil’ Scootaloo.”

“Guards are here to help.”

Applejack walked up to Radish and hugged him tightly. “Radish, I’m mighty sorry ‘bout what I said. I shoulda known that changing your fur doesn't change who you are inside. And you’ve always been a right noble steed on the inside.”

“Thank you, AJ.”

“Here,” she said, giving him a small sack. “A bag of my finest red delicious. No charge.”

“Ooh, they look delicious.”

“And your cutie marks look good enough to eat!”

“Oh. Uh, thanks.”

Radish entered Carousel Boutique. Rarity was busy tending to a mare with a classy bob manestyle, fitting the customer into an eye-catching black dress.

“Radish! How was the trial run?”

“It went pretty well. Did Light leave?”

The mare turned around. It was Light Fantastic, made over. She had gold eyeshadow and dark red lipstick.

“I’m right here, dear,” she said, flashing a smile and putting on a posh affectation.

Radish’s eyes grew wide. “Light? Is that really you?”

“Well, who else would it be, darling?”

“You look gorgeous!”

Rarity smiled proudly. Light smirked.

“You don’t look so bad yourself, handsome.”

Radish took her hoof in his. “Let’s go back to my cabin. We can test how well our makeovers hold up to strenuous exertion.”

Rarity winced. “Uh, I’m still here, you two.”

“Oh, darling,” Light said. “I am a high-class mare. If you wish to woo my affections, I expect to be wined and dined at only the fanciest establishments.”

“Are you making fun of me?” asked Rarity in a hurt voice.

Radish leaned close to Light. “I’ll treat you to takeout and a six-pack.”

“Mmm, you have yourself a deal, dear.”

“What on earth is a six-pack?” asked Rarity, befuddled.

Radish and Light walked hoof-in-hoof out the store. Rarity watched them go out the window.

“Well, Rarity, you’ve done it again,” she said to herself. “Two more satisfied customers. Two more lives transformed by your masterful skills of fabulosity. Hmm. We forgot to discuss payment, though.”

Sweetie Belle burst through the door, tripping over herself and spilling two saddlebags worth of newly-bought vegetables all over the floor.

“Rarity!” she squeaked. “Help me cook these before I grow up blank-flanked!”

Rarity picked up a brussel sprout. She chuckled to herself. “On second thought, Radish, consider the bill paid.”

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