• 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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94. The Reunion

“Rad, can we get going already?”

“Just a minute, Fan.”

Radish stared at his new cutie marks in his hotel bathroom mirror. He checked the left one, then the right one, then glanced back and forth between them several times.

“Are you sure they’re the same?” he asked Light. “If they’re not perfectly symmetrical, everyone will know they’re fake.”

“No one at the reunion is going to be going over your cutie marks with a microscope.”

“What if there’s a pony who’s special talent is noticing tiny details?”

“Then maybe I can draw their attention. How do I look?” Light asked, joining him in the mirror.

Radish turned to look at her. She had reapplied the makeup and outfit that Rarity had helped her pick out. Radish smiled.

“You look beautiful. All the guys are going to be asking how a guy like me landed a hot girlfriend like you.”

“Ooh, maybe they’ll think I’m a hired escort. Let’s see how many guys ask for my price!”

“Let’s just go.”

The two left their hotel and made their way to Radish’s class reunion on hoof. Before moving to the Flint Steppes, Radish’s family had lived in Tailer, a medium-sized town in Equestria’s hill country province. The reunion was being held at his old school. Radish only had the vaguest memories of the town, and everything seemed unfamiliar to him as they walked.

“What exactly happens at school reunions?” asked Light. “I’ve only seen them in movies.”

“Just catch up, I guess. Brag about accomplishments.”

“You’ve got plenty of those.”

“Yeah, but a lot of them are classified.”

“Then just name-drop all the famous ponies you know. And plug my store while you’re at it.”

They reached the school. A friendly banner welcoming alumni was hung over the entrance, and numerous ponies were making their way inside. Radish checked them in at a folding table set up inside.

“Radish Root, plus one.”

Light smirked at Radish as they filled out and applied name tags. “You know, this is the first time I’ve attended something as your plus one.”

“Well, I really think of you as my plus infinity.”

“Rad, try to keep your cheese in its can tonight, okay?”

“Okay.”

They followed signs to the gymnasium, where paper decorations, refreshments tables, and a band playing soft rock were set up.

“Radish? Radish Root? Is that you?”

They turned. A tall, slender pronghorn doe was walking toward them. Radish gasped.

“Praline? Praline Stottingstepper?”

“Radish! Look at you, all grown up!” They clasped hooves. “I’m so glad you could come!”

“Me too.”

She approached Light. “Wow, you look fantastic, Miss Fantastic.”

“Thanks. A friend helped.”

Praline noticed Radish’s side. “Oh, your cutie mark! It’s a radish!”

“Do you like it?”

“It suits you perfectly. But you’re not the only one who got their mark of adulthood. Take a look at these.” She bent her head down, showing off two small black horns. “I got my horns right around the time you moved away.”

“Ooh, they suit you perfectly, too,” said Radish. “They look powerful, yet elegant.”

Praline looked over to Light. “Is he always this effortlessly charming?”

“Yeah,” sighed Light. "Isn't it the worst?"

“Come on,” said Praline, “most of the old class showed up.”

She took the pair around the gym, reintroducing Radish and acquainting Light with attendees. Radish didn’t remember many of them at first, but when they started recounting anecdotes from their school days, his memories came creeping back.

Radish and Light soon found themselves talking to an old classmate, an easygoing green earth stallion. He was accompanied by his wife, a pastel purple unicorn mare.

“Royal Guard? No kidding!” said the stallion. “You were always a big fan of all that royal stuff, weren’t you?”

“That’s right.”

“Then, how does your cutie mark relate to that?”

“I like to think it represents how I’ll hold firm like a root in defense of Equestria.”

“Hey, that’s swell,” the stallion said. He turned to show his own cutie mark, a length of train tracks. “I got a train cutie mark because I like trains. So now I design trains.”

“I like it,” Radish said.

“Now, Radish,” the mare said, “if you’re a palace guard, does that mean you were there for the arrest of Worthy Wagoner?”

“Yes. I worked on that case, in fact.”

“I have to thank you, then,” she said affably. “I’m in the real estate biz, and the Wagoners’ real estate firm was the biggest competition in town. But Worthy’s arrest knocked all the Wagoner businesses down a few pegs.”

“I do what I can to help the little guy,” Radish said with a shrug.

Radish and Light visited the refreshments table, where a big gray stallion pulled Radish aside and leaned on his shoulder. He spoke and smelled as if he was a few drinks into the evening.

“Say, did you fight in the Battle of the Brides?”

“I did.”

“How many changelings did you kill?”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s too bad I wasn’t there. I woulda squashed the whole lot of those bugs! Hi-yah!”

He punched the air next to Radish’s head. Radish raised an eyebrow. “Yes, too bad you weren’t there. Excuse me.”

Radish moved away from him and looked for Light. He saw her talking to a group of mares. He started off in her direction, but was accosted by several unsupervised foals. They surrounded him from all sides.

“Have you really met the princesses?” asked a pegasus colt.

“Oh, sure,” Radish said. “All four of them.”

“Which one’s the prettiest?” asked a unicorn filly.

“You know, I think they’re all the prettiest.”

“That’s a stupid answer,” scoffed an earth colt.

Radish tried to ignore the boy and walk away, but an earth filly jumped in front of him.

“Have you met Discord?” she asked excitedly.

“Uh… not really.”

“Did you know that he and Princess Celestia are in love with each other?”

“They’re not,” Radish stated firmly.

“Yeah, they are! And Princess Luna was in love with King Sombra.”

“Sombra? What the f… I don’t believe that’s true, miss.”

“Yeah, it is!” the girl asserted. “They got secretly married, but when Celestia banished Sombra, Luna got so mad she turned into Nightmare Moon.”

Young lady, this is historical revisionism bordering on slander.”

“Nuh-uh!”

“Yuh-huh!”

Radish felt a hoof hooking around his foreleg. He looked to see Praline. “Sorry kids,” she said, “but I’m going to have to tear Radish away from you now. Go try the brownies.”

Praline led Radish off into a corner.

“Thanks,” he said.

“I take it you don’t deal with kids much?”

“I’ve put a lot of effort into avoiding kids most my life. I feel vindicated now.”

“Come with me, there’s something I want to show you.”

She led him out of the gym, down the hallways, and through a door into a classroom. She clicked on the lights.

“Do you remember this place?” she asked. “It’s our old homeroom. This is where we met.”

Radish looked around. The furniture was of a more modern style than he remembered, the books and magazines were all recent, and the green chalkboards had been replaced with white dry erase boards.

“It’s changed.”

“But some things never change. Look," she said, pointing at a wall, "that's still there. Remember it?”

She directed his attention to an old poster of Princess Celestia. The princess was looking down at the viewer with a joyful smile. Yellow block letters across the top and bottom read, “THE WORLD SHINES BRIGHTER WHEN WE’RE KIND TO EACH OTHER!”

Radish stared at it. A year’s worth of old memories rushed up on him.

“Oh. This is… this is how it all began. This was the first time I saw Celestia. I mean, the newspaper would have little black-and-white photos of her, and she’s on coins and stuff… but this poster was the first time I saw her life-size, in full color… and smiling. It changed something in me. From then on, I wanted to make her smile like that.”

Praline grinned broadly at him. “And you let everyone in class know it. Whenever you got a good grade on something, you said you wished you could show it to Celestia. Whenever we had any kind of report to do, you’d find a way to pick Celestia as the topic. Whenever a girl got a new haircut, you’d compare her mane to Celestia’s.”

“You… you must have thought I was an idiot, falling in love with a piece of paper.”

She shook her head. “No, I didn’t. Look at its message- be kind to each other. You took that to heart, didn’t you?”

“I suppose? It’s a pretty standard thing to tell kids. It’s not even a good rhyme.”

“When I first started at this school, I was scared. The other foals didn’t know what to make of a fawn. But you didn’t care that I was different. You just walked right up to me and invited me to play. And the other kids soon joined in. I was never scared of coming to school after that.”

She hugged him. “It may have been because of a silly piece of paper, but my world did shine brighter when you were kind to me. I never got the chance to thank you for that, so… thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Radish, there’s another reason I needed to speak with you alone.”


The group of mares Light was chatting with was starting to wear on her nerves. They had first discussed all the inconveniences of traveling to the reunion, then went on to competitively compare their boyfriends’ irritating habits, then complained about various aspects of their lives, including their careers, their homes, and their families. She managed to break away from the group, then leaned against a wall, scanning the room for Radish. The pastel purple unicorn from before- the one who said she worked in real estate- leaned against the wall next to her.

“Having fun?” she asked.

“Oh, sure.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Well, I’m here for Radish. I’ve attended worse events for worse stallions.”

“I know what you mean. It can be as tedious to upkeep a relationship as it is to upkeep a property. But it’s usually worth it in the end.”

“Yeah.”

“It was very wise of you to invest in Radish.”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, you know. Radish Root was the ultimate fixer-upper of a stallion: solid foundation, good looking exterior, warm comfortable interior… yet he was languishing on the market because of his cutie marks. But you saw the potential. All it took was a fresh coat of paint on those marks, and you turned that fixer-upper into valuable property. Something worth showing off.”

Light scowled. “I didn’t make Radish change his marks. He wanted to.”

“Don’t get defensive. Be proud of a successful remodeling.”

“You know what? Fuck you, bitch.”

She left the room. She wandered down the halls, and noticed a light coming from one of the classrooms.


Praline put a hoof on Radish’s shoulder. She gave him a serious look.

"Radish, I've reached the stage in my life where I'm looking to get married."

"Oh, uh…"

“And since I want children someday, my dating pool is limited to other pronghorns. There’s not that many in Canterlot, so I may have to move back west to find a buck.”

“Sorry.”

“But your dating pool is even more limited, isn’t it?”

“I’m not in the pool anymore. Light pulled me out of it.”

“Radish, I know what your cutie marks are. Your real cutie marks.”

“Oh…”

“Your dating pool is one single mare. You’re supposed to end up with Celestia.”

“That’s… that’s not necessarily what my marks mean.”

“Well, what else could they mean?”

Radish signed and looked out the classroom’s window, gazing out at the school’s front lawn. “It doesn’t really matter.”

“How can it not matter? Cutie marks are magical. They don’t appear for no reason.”

“Celestia has turned me down- like, four or five different times. It’s her decision, and I accept that.”

“Then she’s denying you your destiny. And depriving herself of hers, as well.”

“She has reasons for not pursuing romance.”

“Good reasons, or bad excuses?”

“I can’t even date a superior, anyway.”

“There’s a lot of jobs out there.”

“I’m happy with Light!”

“But aren’t you just stringing her along? If Celestia is really your destiny-”

“She’s not!”

“-then you’re just using Light as a placeholder. It’s not fair to either of you.”

“She is not a placeholder! I love her!”

Praline frowned. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything. I’m probably just projecting my own problems onto you. If you really love her, don’t listen to me.”

“Praline… to tell you the truth… I’m worried about Celestia. She's been alone for so long. I want her to find happiness with someone, even if it’s not me.”

"What are you going to do, play matchmaker for a princess?"

"Maybe. I don’t suppose you know any single guys who are good enough for her?"

“Not a single one. Sorry."

"Oh, well."

Praline leaned close. “Well, then… uh… are you and Light… very serious?”

“No, we make each other laugh all the time.”

She chuckled. “Okay, I won’t pry. But I’m glad you two found each other.”

“I know you’ll find someone, too.”

“Thanks. I’m going to the powder room. Save me a dance before you leave, okay?”

“All right.”

Praline left the classroom. She found Light standing by the door. Their eyes met. After a beat, Praline leaned over to Light.

“Take care of him.”

“I will.”

Praline walked away. Light entered the classroom and saw Radish staring up at the poster.

“Hi, Light.”

“That’s a nice poster. Would you like to keep it?”

“No. It could still do some good here. Did you get to know my classmates?”

“Mmm hmm.”

“Did any guys ask you your price?”

“Nah.”

“Sorry.”


Radish and Light settled into their hotel room bed.

“So, was it worth it coming to your reunion?” Light asked.

“I didn’t feel much connection with most of my old classmates- or their kids- but at least my cutie marks passed for normal. And I’m glad I could catch up with Praline.”

“She has feelings for you, you know.”

“I know. But it’s not meant to be.”

“Hmm. Between her and Sky, were there any other broken hearts you’ve left in your wake?”

“Hey, come on.”

“No, I’m serious. I bet there’s been more than you’ve realized. Did you know any girls who would hang around you a lot? Seemed to pay you special attention? Maybe made excuses to see you?”

“No, Fan.”

“Okay.”

“I mean, there was this girl I knew in the Flint Steppes. A daughter of a friend of my folks. She would sometimes visit and invite me to go hiking, spelunking, stargazing, and so on. I usually said I was too busy.”

“Oh, great. Sounds like another one.”

“And of course, my cousin Ginger was always weirdly flirty with me- but, you know, in a joking way.”

“Come again?”

“And I guess there was that singer from across the lake. I wonder what happened to her…”

“What singer? Which lake?”

“Now that you mention it, Pinkie Pie’s sister always comes to Ponyville’s gym to watch me practice wrestling...”

“Uh huh.”

“And I can never really tell what’s going on in Luna’s head. Sometimes when she looks at me, I get this feeling…”

“Okay! Great. Thanks. You’ve answered my question.”

“Well, what about you? Are there any guys out there who might be carrying a torch for you?”

“No torches. Maybe some pitchforks.”

“Okay, good.”

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