• 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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98. The Games, Part 4

Radish smiled as he placed his hoof gently on Crosspatch’s. He leaned toward her.

“Listen, Flag Captain…”

“Yes?”

He seized her hoof, flipped her over, and pinned her to the floor, gripping her throat.

“I’ve felt that tug at my heart before, changeling.”

“Not just any changeling,” Crosspatch purred self-assuredly.

Radish grit his teeth. “Maxilla!?

A cold green flame washed over Crosspatch, turning her into a large female changeling with dark red eyes. She rolled over, pinning Radish under her. The rest of Crosspatch’s armor sloughed off her and clattered to the floor.

“I am happy to see you again, Radish Root. The last time we met, we were interrupted before we could get to know each other.”

“Whatever your goal here is, you won’t succeed.”

“My only goal here was you.”

“What?”

Maxilla put her face centimeters from his and inhaled deeply. Radish grit his teeth.

“I’ve never feasted on any love like yours before,” she said. “I needed to taste that love again.”

“My love isn’t for you, bug.”

“Yes, I can feel it. You’ve built a lockbox around your heart. You keep your love closely guarded now.”

With a blaze of green fire, she changed into Celestia.

“Guarded for me, perhaps?” she asked, pouting her lips and batting her eyelashes.

Radish sneered. “That’s not going to work.”

“No?” She changed into Luna. “This one, perhaps? You fought so hard to keep me from her. ”

“And I always will. You bugs will never harm my princesses as long as I live.”

She grinned. “The lockbox is leaking. Your concern for your princesses is just another expression of your love for them. It makes a fine appetizer.”

He seized her head and flipped her over, and locked her forehooves behind her back. He twisted and pressed her limbs. She flashed with green flame again, and she was now Cadance, on her back, with her legs and wings wrapping around Radish. She pulled him in close.

“Just give in. Feed me your love. In exchange, I'll be any mare you desire.”

Radish stopped struggling. He looked askance. “Any mare? Even…”

She leaned in. “Yes, Radish Root? Who do you desire?”

“Have you seen… my wrestling partner?”

She flashed into Cheerilee. She gave a bright smile. “This one? You fancy her?”

“During practice… I…”

“You…?”

Radish bucked her in the air, seized her, and slammed her down at full strength. She bounced off the marble floor, leaving a crack.

“...I taught her how to counter that move. Guess you never learned.”

Maxilla snarled and changed into a cragadile. Radish leapt onto her snout and pinned it close. She flashed into the form of a four-legged beast somewhat akin to a furry rhinoceros. It tossed Radish off and charged him. Radish instinctively reached for his sword, which he didn’t have. He grimaced and rolled to avoid the charge.

She returned to her true form before she hit the wall, then opened her wings and hovered. She spat a glob of green goo at Radish. He leapt to avoid it. She spat more.

Radish dove towards Crosspatch’s discarded armor and held up the saddle plate as a shield. As Maxilla’s goo blobs impacted it, he searched it for weapons, but found none.

Radish kicked Crosspatch’s helmet at Maxilla, then pressed the shield to the floor and pulled back on it. The changeling goo adhered to the floor and stretched out like the rubber band of a slingshot. He loaded the rest of Crosspatch’s armor- her four boots- onto the shield, aimed it at Maxilla, and let it go.

Maxilla dodged the helmet, only to fly into the path of the salvo of armored boots. They struck her face, chest, and wings. She fell to the floor, growling and shaking off the pain.

Radish rushed forward and slugged her. She reeled back, hissing in fury. He pounced on her and seized her neck in a headlock. She flashed into the form of a large timberwolf, ensnaring and half-burying Radish into her body of sticks.

“Enough fighting,” she said in a creaky, hollow voice. “I am leaving now and taking you with me.”

Radish struggled to free himself. The magic doorway reopened, flooding the room with light. Cadance, Shining Armor, Crosspatch, and a contingent of crystal guards stood at the threshold, horns glowing and weapons drawn.

“Radish!” gasped Cadance. She threw her aura around him and ripped him out of the timberwolf’s body, pulling him through the air toward herself. She caught him and hugged him tight.

Maxilla snarled and pounced at them, slamming face-first into a transparent shield projected from Shining Armor’s horn. She reverted to her true form and fell limp to the floor.

“Guards! Seize her!” shouted the real Crosspatch.

The guards quickly swarmed and piled onto Maxilla. They shackled her limbs, restrained her wings, and clamped an inhibitor ring onto her horn.

“Radish, are you all right?” asked Cadance, letting him slip from her embrace.

Radish sighed. “Please forgive me, ma’am, sir. I drew her to the Crystal Empire. I was complacent about changeling-checking. I let her trap me alone. I should have-”

Shining Armor narrowed his eyes at Radish. He walked up to him, threw his hooves around him, and hugged him tightly.

“Sir?”

“Radish… shut up. Just shut up. This was a win. Stop apologizing for it.”

“I… okay.”

“What was she after?”

“Uh… me, apparently.”

“Are you hurt?”

“Some splinters.”

Princess Cadance waved her horn over Radish’s chest. “Hmm. She barely got any of your love this time.”

“This time I knew to hold onto it.”

“Interesting technique,” said Shining. “Let’s debrief and you can tell me about it.”

“Shiny, I think Radish should get some rest right now,” Cadance said.

“Thank you, ma’am,” said Radish.

“Quit ma’am-ing me. We’re family.”


Radish awoke in his hotel room bed. It was night out. Light Fantastic was on the sofa, reading.

“Oh, hey, Light. Did I miss dinner?”

“No, but the closing ceremonies are about to start. I didn’t wake you because you looked like you really needed the nap.”

“I did. Was there any news from the castle?”

“That was what I was going to ask you. It seems something happened there today, but the royals aren’t giving any details. What’s up?”

“I can’t comment on an ongoing investigation.”

“That’s all you’re going to give me, huh?”

“Yes.”

“Fine. Keep your big important top secrets.”

A series of colorful lights burst outside, followed by loud booms and rising crackles. Radish and Light went to the window.

“Oh, fireworks. Nice,” she said.

A zapping noise much louder than any firework blared out from the direction of the castle. Suddenly, a dome of pink light expanded from the city center and passed through the room. Radish and Light felt their entire bodies tingle.

“Gah! What was that?” gasped Light, rubbing her eyes.

Radish looked down at his body. It was crystalline, translucent, and sparkling.

“Twilight’s mentioned this. She said that when the city gets happy enough, the crystal heart activates and turns everypony crystal for a while. It also changes your manestyle into something old-timey.”

He looked at Light’s mane. It was now fashioned into a short bob with two small braids framing her face.

“You look really cute like that.”

Light scoffed. “Oh, really? Well, don’t expect me to keep it like this. I hate braiding my hair.”

“How do I look?”

“Pretty damn good. But… oh…”

“What?”

Light pointed to his side. “Your cutie mark.”

Radish looked at his cutie mark. The radish was gone. His original mark was in its place. The tiny Radish and the tiny Celestia were now both back in their usual positions, but were drawn as if they were crystal ponies.

“What does it mean?” Light asked.

“I guess the effect doesn’t carry over stuff like hair dye or makeup. This is how the crystal heart thinks I should look.”

“Hey, that heart doesn’t know the real you.”

“Thanks.”

“Do you think the dyed marks will come back?”

“I guess. Applejack said her hat got changed into a fancy hair ornament, but it came back. Still, we can’t go to dinner until the effect wears off.”

“Oh, just throw on a coat. I’m hungry.”


Shining Armor burst into the Crystal Castle’s infirmary. He stomped up to a bed, in which Maxilla lay unconscious. Crosspatch was by her side.

“Flag Captain! Mind telling me what happened to our prisoner?”

“That big wave from the crystal heart happened, sir. I was with her when it activated. It hit her like a bug zapper. She passed out, twitching.”

“Hmm. I guess the wave worked similar to the love blast at my wedding.”

“Sir, if there were any other changelings in the Empire, the same thing would have happened to them too. We should comb the city for any other passed-out changelings.”

“Okay. You stay with the prisoner, I’ll organize a search.”

“You realize, sir, that if Spike lit the fireworks show, which inspired the citizens to power the crystal heart, which disabled any changelings in the city…”

“Then Spike just saved the city for the third time. Ugh, he’s going to be unbearable after this.”

“And sir, I’ve been thinking- the little colt that told Radish he got his cutie mark? He could have been Maxilla in disguise.”

“I was thinking the same thing. But that would mean a leap forward in changeling tactics. Maxilla would’ve needed to know exactly how to psychologically manipulate Radish. Not even Chrysalis bothered to do that- whenever I got suspicious, she just zapped my brain.”

“Then, the changelings are getting smarter, sir?”

“Either that or they’re getting help from somewhere.”

“Who would do that?”

“We’ll just have to ask her that when she wakes up.”


Fetching Steps got off the elevator of the top floor of the Crystal Empire’s finest hotel. She walked to the end of the hall, checked her surroundings, then knocked on the last door- one time slow and three times fast.

The door opened with a unicorn’s aura. She walked in to find the hefty seafoam green unicorn stallion with a gray mane staring out the window at the fireworks.

“Hey boss. Bad news. Maxilla went off-script. The Crystal Guard has her now.”

“Yes, I heard. I blame myself. Putting her anywhere near Radish Root was a mistake. I underestimated how much of a junkie she was for another hit of him.”

“What do we do?”

“Let them have her. She’ll be missed, but the work can continue without her. She was becoming intractable, anyway.”

A pink wave of light and positivity passed through the room. Fetching Step’s body turned crystal, her mane turned into a tight wave of curls, and her coat turned dull gray. She looked down at her hooves and frowned.

“Oh, great. I’m boring old me again. How long does this last?”

“Don’t turn around.”

A shiver crept down her spine. “It did the same to you, I take it? You’re standing right behind me, not a spot of dye on your fur.”

“That’s right.”

“What would you do to me if I saw you like that?”

There was no response.

“Are you still there?”

She turned around cautiously. He was gone.


Radish sat in his private compartment on the crystal train. It would soon be departing back home. There was a knock at the door.

“Come in.”

Twilight entered the compartment. “Hello, Radish.”

“Hi, Twilight.”

“Where’s Light?”

“The dining car.”

“Cadance told me about what happened. The changeling attack... and the boy.”

Radish sighed. “Twilight… you were right. A pony can’t live under a fake cutie mark. It’s no better than what changelings do.”

“Have you considered that the boy could have been the changeling, too?”

“I’ve thought about it. But that’s bad, too. It means she knew my weakness. She knew just where to stab the knife in and twist. Living this lie just makes me a liability- a danger to Equestria. So, I’m not going to live this lie anymore. I’d rather hide embarrassing marks than proudly show off fake ones.”

“You’re going to take the radishes off?”

“I’ll let time do that. Without retouchings, they’ll just fade away. Little Radish and Little Celestia will fade in and get back to their… usual business.”

“Radish, I’m sorry. I wasn’t comfortable with your dyed marks, but I didn’t want something like this to happen.”

“It’s fine, Twilight. The fake marks served their purpose. They got me through my class reunion and the Equestria Games. I got a gold medal and a smooch from Rainbow Dash.”

“Huh?”

“How was dinner with Shinethrough?”

Twilight looked down. “Oh, it was nice. She’s, uh, planning on proposing to Flash. She even showed me the ring she picked out.”

“Ooh. Sorry.”

“Why are you sorry? I told you, he’s not the Flash Sentry I fell for.”

“But if the one in this universe is getting married, then that could mean that the one in-”

“Well! It was nice talking to you, Radish, but I should get back to my seat. See you back in Ponyville, okay?”

“Okay. See you.”


Shining Armor and Cadance stood on the balcony of the Crystal Castle, watching the train depart. Cadance put her head on Shining Armor’s shoulder.

“Not a bad week, all things considered,” Shining said.

“Thanks to Radish,” noted Cadance.

Shining Armor looked at his wife. “Cadance… would you feel safer if Radish was your guard?”

“You want to poach him from Celestia and Luna?”

“He might enjoy living here.”

“No, the mare he loves lives in Canterlot.”

“Well, that’s never going to happen as long as he works for her. Working for us, he could have a chance.”

“Uh, Shiny, I was talking about Light Fantastic.”

“Oh right. Yeah, okay.”

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