• 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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96. The Games, Part 2

Light Fantastic took her seat in the crystal stadium with a soda and a large bucket of popcorn. She, along with other friends and family members of the competitors, had been provided with a front-row seat in the premium section, several rows down from the VIP box where the princesses and delegates sat. The final wrestling match was about to begin.

A gray earth mare with a long gray mane sat down next to Light. It took a moment for Light to realize where she had seen her before.

“Oh, hey, you work with Radish, right? Marble Pie?”

Marble Pie nodded. Light held out a hoof.

“I’m Light. Radish is my boyfriend.”

They shook hooves. Light nodded to the sidelines, where Pinkie Pie and the rest of Ponyville’s cheerleaders were readying their routine.

“What, didn’t you want to join your sister down there on the cheer squad?” Light asked wryly.

Marble’s face turned red, and she aggressively shook her head.

“I’m just messing with you. But you know, you should come hang out in Midtown sometime. I think you’d like the scene- the ponies there aren’t the cheerleading type, either.”

Marble nodded appreciatively. Then, she looked back to the ring and leaned forward in interest. Radish and Cheerilee had taken positions at the edge of the wrestling ring opposite Shining Armor and Crosspatch.

Crosspatch stepped forward. Cheerilee stepped forward to meet her. They both took fighting stances.

“Looks like the girls will be going first,” said Light.

The whistle blew.

The two mares collided and locked their forehooves around each other’s shoulders. Crosspatch tried to shove Cheerilee down, but Cheerilee rolled down faster, dragging Crosspatch into a tumble. Cheerilee leapt to pin her opponent, but Crosspatch rolled clear and seized Cheerilee by the hind legs.

Cheerilee bucked straight out, flinging Crosspatch down. As Crosspatch climbed to her hooves, Cheerilee pounced with her elbow aimed at Crosspatch’s haunches.

She landed on Crosspatch with her full weight, causing Crosspatch’s eyes to bug out. Cheerilee seized all four of her legs and twisted them behind her back. Crosspatch grit her teeth and bucked Cheerilee off, then tackled her with vengeful ferocity. She plowed Cheerilee into the ground, picked her up, then threw back into the ground right at Radish’s hooves. She backed away, as if daring Radish to tag in. Radish tagged in.

Radish rushed Crosspatch. She dodged him and shoved his hindquarters. Radish flipped backward and collided into Crosspatch. He locked her forehooves around her face and pinned her down.

The whistle blew. Crosspatch was out. He helped her up, and they shook hooves.

Light Fantastic cheered. Marble gave her a quizzical look.

“Yeah, I know,” chuckled Light. “It is kind of weird to see my boyfriend rolling around on the ground with all these… athletic mares. But it’s fine. Rad is used to working with all kinds of hot girls- princesses, guards, Pastelles. Heck, you’re quite a looker, too.”

Marble’s face went red and she waved her hooves in a panic. Light put a reassuring hoof on her shoulder.

“Hey, don’t worry. I trust him, and I have a good feeling about you, too.”

She nodded, relieved. A mutter passed through the crowd as Shining Armor stepped into the ring.

His eyes met Radish’s. Radish stepped back and tagged Cheerilee back in. Shining Armor startled back as she swooped at him.

Shining dodged Cheerilee’s opening grab. She leapt at him again and again, and he warded her off, backing toward the edge of the ring. Suddenly he rushed forward, lifted her up in the air, and hurled her down. She latched onto him along the way, bringing him down with her. The two tumbled over each other.

Shining Armor seized Cheerilee’s forearm, spun, and slammed her down. She sprang up and reversed the hold on him, pressing him down with his hoof to his back. He rolled free and swung out his hoof, tossing her high in the air. She positioned herself to land on her rear hooves, but he tackled her at the last second, pinning her down. The whistle blew.

Only Radish and Shining Armor remained. Every pony in the audience was leaning forward, holding their breath. They watched Radish and Cheerilee whisper to each other, and then he stepped into the ring.

Pinkie Pie broke the silence by rallying the Ponyville Pep Platoon into a new cheer.

“Go Radish! Kick his tail! Pound him like a horseshoe nail!”

They were drowned out by another wave of voices- across the field, the Crystal Empire Cheer Chorus formed an inverted pyramid and belted out a cheer of their own.

“Shining, Shining, he’s the stallion, to overcome that rapscallion!”

Radish and Shining Armor circled each other. Radish made a feint to the left, then flanked right and barreled at Shining’s side. Shining leapt over Radish, clamped onto his back, and locked his own forehooves around Radish’s. He reeled back, trying to unbalance Radish.

Radish jumped, flipped mid-air, and landed on Shining’s belly, elbow-first. Shining’s eyes bugged out and he made an unponylike gurgling sound. Radish reached to pin Shining, but Shining caught his hooves and pulled, flipping Radish. Radish recovered to his hooves and grabbed Shining. The two stallions locked into a grapple tug-of-war, dragging each other back and forth across the ring.

Just below the VIP box, Applejack, Rarity and Fluttershy cheered for Radish. Rarity observed the match through a pair of her finest opera glasses. She set her sight on the scoreboard, where a facsimile of Radish’s fake cutie mark was posted. She smiled.

“To think, it was my fur dyeing skills that made Radish comfortable enough to compete. Ooh, perhaps he’ll return the favor by plugging Carousel Boutique in post-match interviews!”

Applejack rolled her eyes. "Why don'tcha just slap a billboard on him?"

"Not enough room, darling." Rarity offered the glasses to Fluttershy. “Say, Fluttershy, would you like to try these out?”

“Oh, thank you.” Fluttershy took the glasses and focused on Radish and Shining. As she spectated, she felt a growing discomfort, as if she was being watched.

Fluttershy lowered the glasses and looked around. Rarity and Applejack were staring at her. Everypony in the row in front of her was watching her expectantly. She looked behind her, and several of the VIPs were leaning over their section’s rail, eyes locked on her.

She scowled at Rarity. “You just wanted me to read their lips, didn't you?”

“Well, dear,” said Rarity, putting a hoof around Fluttershy’s shoulder, “if you happened to catch an inkling or two of what they’re saying to each other…”

“Forget it! I’m never doing that again! Besides, they’re not talking. They’re just… glaring at each other.”

“Well, that don’t mean they ain’t sayin’ nothin’,” said Applejack. “Fellas can say more with their silence than they can with their words. One of the benefits of growin’ up with a quiet brother is that ya learn the secret language of stallion silence.”

“Oh, really?” Rarity asked skeptically.

“I wish I grew up with a quiet brother,” grumbled Fluttershy.

“Well then, Applejack, would you be so kind as to tell us what their silence is saying?” Rarity asked.

Applejack took the glasses and focused on Radish’s and Shining Armor’s faces.

“Hmm. Shinin’ Armor’s got this angry look that says, ‘Dagnabbit, Radish, I thought I told ya not to hold back!’. And Radish is makin’ a scowl that’s sayin’, ‘I ain’t holdin’ back, consarn it!’”.

“Oh?” asked Rarity. “Interesting.”

“But Shinin’ Armor ain’t havin’ none o’ that. That sneer of his is bellowin’ out, ‘Oh, yes ya are! And I wanna know why you’re treatin’ me like a delicate daisy blossom!’ Now Radish’s gritted teeth are admittin’, ‘Cuz I swore a dang-blasted oath to protect Equestrian royalty, fer pony’s sake!’ And that’s got Shinin’ hoppin’ mad. He’s got a face that says, ‘Yer insultin’ my honor as a stallion by not takin’ me seriously as yer opponent!’ and Radish is jus’ about fed up. His flared nostrils just hollered, ‘Fine! You want me to fight’cha seriously? Have it your way! I’ll wallop ya like a plow wallops a dirt clod! I’ll beat you into the ground like a two-bit fence post! I’ll mash you up like a Sunday sweet potato casserole!’”

“Applejack, dear, I do believe you’re applying a rather specific interpretive lens to their exchange.”

“Well, you got the jist of it, didn’tcha?”

Radish lifted Shining over his head and tossed him across the ring. Shining Armor rose shakingly, raising his eyes to see Radish rushing at him. Before he could react, Radish seized his shoulders, spun, and flung him into the dirt hard. Radish leapt onto Shining, and Shining fought to keep Radish from pinning him.

In the VIP box, Luna leaned over to Cadance with a proud smirk. “It would seem your husband can scarcely keep up with my Champion. But don’t feel ashamed- Shining Armor is still a worthy stallion in many other respects.”

Cadance leaned toward Luna and whispered, “You know, Aunt Luna, one of these days we’re going to have to analyze this ‘Champion’ thing you have going on with Radish. It feels like you may be displacing some feelings that you’re otherwise afraid to-”

“Look! He’s scored yet another point!”

Radish dragged Shining off the ground, held him aloft in one hoof like his spear, and hurled him. Shining landed outside of the ring, scraping a furrow into the grass. He sat up and spat out a wad of turf. He now had ten seconds to get back in the ring before being disqualified.

He achingly lurched his way back to the ring. Radish watched him, eyes narrowed. Shining grit his teeth, pushed his soreness out of his mind, and charged. Radish charged to meet him. The two bodies collided with a loud thud.

Radish and Shining fought back and forth over the dirt, trading holds and reversals while kicking up dust and dripping sweat. Radish, fighting in a frenzy, felt his mind growing detached from his actions- he was no longer so much as choosing his moves, but watching as his body reacted on instinct. The duel turned into a dogfight. He and Shining ferociously slammed, twisted, and tackled each other with no notice of the world around them or regard for their own pain. The audience grew quiet in rapt attention. The cheerleading squads paused their routines and watched.

“Oh my, this fight is getting rather heated,” Rarity said, leaning back and fanning her face.

Applejack grinned at her. “Seems like that’s not the only thing that’s getting heated around here.”

“Ach! Rude. I simply mean that I can barely keep up with the action.”

“Neither can the scorekeepers,” pointed out Fluttershy. “Look.”

At a sideline table, the scorekeepers were flipping over their number cards in a panic, trying to keep up with the points each stallion was earning off the other. Getting seven points ahead of one’s opponent was an automatic win, but so far neither competitor had given up that much ground to the other.

Radish felt his consciousness slip further away. His higher reasoning and his base instincts synchronized, directing his body faster than Radish had ever moved. All the moves he had learned from Ranger training, Guard drills, and practice with Cheerilee were coalescing in his mind as a continuous tapestry of action and reaction. The dogfight had become a dissertation, a treatise on everything wrestling could be.

Shining Armor made a grab for Radish’s hind legs, and Radish countered effortlessly, taking Shining in his hooves, leaping high, and slamming him straight down with all the force he could muster. A blast of dust filled the ring.

The dust settled to reveal Shining Armor on his back, feebly pawing at Radish’s forehooves, which were pinning his shoulders to the ground.

The whistle blew. Radish had won.

The next few minutes Radish could only ever remember as a blur. The flashes from hundreds of cameras accompanied thousands of voices cheering. He felt himself being embraced, lifted, and carried. He was then standing next to Cheerilee on the top of the winners’ podium. A gold medal was placed around his neck, and he reflexively waved to the crowd.

When Radish’s senses returned to him, he found himself in the stadium’s locker room, sitting on a bench. His limbs ached and his skin was feeling cold from the sweat evaporating off his fur. The door opened, and Shining Armor limped in. He had a silver medal around his neck and a twitch in his right eye.

Radish stood. “Sir?”

“Just ‘Shining’, remember?”

“Shining, are you all right?”

“Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?” He slumped onto the bench. A cracking noise emanated from somewhere in his lower back. “Ow.

Radish sat next to him. “Did you get what you wanted out of the match?”

Shining lay down on the bench. “And then some. Thanks for keeping your promise. I haven’t had a fight like that in a long time.”

“I don’t think I ever have.”

A light blue aura opened the locker room door. Princess Cadance walked in, looking unamused.

“That was quite a fight, you two. Everypony’s going to be talking about it for a long time.”

“Thanks, dear.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

She turned to Radish with a sympathetic look. “Oh, Radish, you look awfully sore. Would you like a healing spell?”

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you.”

Her horn glowed, and she cast a spell which enveloped Radish in a warm pink light. His muscles instantly felt relief.

“Ooh. Much appreciated, ma’am.”

“You’re welcome.”

Shining Armor winced. “Uh, dear? Could you heal me, too?”

She stood over him, looking down with a stern expression. “Are you going to start acting like the prince you are, rather than trying to relive your glory days as an athlete?”

“Yes, dear.”

“And are you going to drop this immature competitive streak you have with Radish?”

“That’s… not what this was about.”

Her horn stopped glowing. “Fine, then. You can heal on your own.”

She started to walk away.

“Okay! Okay,” said Shining. He sighed. “Radish, I’m sorry. These Games are supposed to be friendly competitions, and I took this too far.”

He wincingly shifted on the bench to look at Radish. “After you joined the Ponyville team, everypony around the castle was talking like it was a given that you would win the gold. So maybe I just needed to… see how I stack up against you.”

Radish leaned back. “But why? You’re a living legend. You were the youngest Captain of the Guard in history. You blew away the changeling army. You beat a hydra into submission with your bare hooves when you were just a cadet.”

“That last one is more of a tall tale. See, the thing about being a living legend is that eventually, your legend outpaces your life. So you go chasing after it. But it laps you so many times that you can never catch up to it. And then you’re left wondering if you’ll be remembered as the MVP… or a benchwarmer.”

Cadance sighed in annoyance, dipped her horn toward Shining Armor, and cast her healing spell on him. “Good enough, I suppose.”

“Thank you, dear.”

“When you’re done in here, you’re needed back on the field- for official duties.”

“I’ll be right out.”

Cadance walked out. Radish turned to Shining. “You know, I worry about my legacy, too. Not so much about how I’ll be remembered, but about the mark I’ll leave on the world.”

“You don’t need to worry about that. I think you’re going to leave a fine mark on the world.”


Freshly showered, Radish left the locker room and walked down the hall, looking for the exit. Rainbow Dash appeared around a corner. She brightened as she saw him.

“There you are, Radish!”

“Hi, Dash.”

She walked up to him, widely grinning. “That was such a cool fight. You did great out there.”

“I’m just happy to help out Ponyville.”

“You sure did. Ponyville got the most medals of any town this year. And thanks to you, we got the highest percentage of gold medals, too!”

“That’s great.”

Rainbow Dash looked at the ground and rubbed the back of her head. "So, uh… I guess I have to do this now, huh?"

"Do what?"

She closed her eyes, raised a hoof, and cleared her throat. "Radish Root, you brought honor and glory to Ponyville. Thus, I bestow upon you this favor."

She kissed his cheek. His eyes went wide.


She chuckled and walked away. “See you around, champ.”

Radish watched her go. He heard a new set of hooves approaching. He turned to see Celestia.

“Good afternoon, princess.”

“Radish, I wanted to congratulate you on a truly incredible match. I haven’t seen a fight like that since Flash Magnus and Rockhoof sparred over the last piece of spice cake.”

“Aw, thank you, ma’am. That’s very flattering.”

“And that’s three members of the royal family you’ve now defeated in combat.”

“Well, they keep asking for it!”

Celestia laughed. “I think we’ve all learned our lesson by now. Though Delegate Amira from Saddle Arabia did remark to me that she ‘wouldn’t mind going a few rounds’ with you.”

“Really? Is she still here?”

Celestia raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps you should rest on your laurels, major?”

“Aye, ma’am.”

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