Part 2: The Battle Begins
We can give everlasting nightmares,
want to try one?
-Darkmoon Circus Freak, Sailor Moon
And travellers now within that valley,
through the red- litten windows see,
vast forms that move fantastically,
to a discordant melody,
while like a rapid ghastly river,
through the pale door,
a hideous throng rush out forever and laugh,
but smile no more
-Edgar Alan Poe, The Haunted Palace
At first, Lemmy couldn't believe that Culex was behind this. When the demon king entered the room, he thought that his fear was making him hallucinate. It couldn't be Culex. It couldn't be. "I'm only dreaming again. What I'm seeing is not real. I'm just so frightened that my mind can't accept reality anymore and I'm starting to see things," he whispered. Lemmy closed his eyes for a few moments, hoping, praying that when he opened them the time master would be gone. When he opened them, he almost shrieked. Culex was still there, hovering above the ground like a ghost. "No. Oh DAD no," he moaned. He was finally forced to accept the truth. Plit was gone, Culex had caused it, and he was as real as anything. He had hoped his dream was only a nightmare of some kind, but now his greatest fear had come true: the dream had become a prophecy.
A door on the other side of the room opened and the Koopas watched the Marios and their friends be led in by Zaelos. Culex and Sanzan watched them line up against the wall with the koopas.
"Well," Culex said, "I assume that everybody is here?" He surveyed his captives. Yes, they were all here; Mario, Yoshi, the princess Peach, Luigi, Toad, everybody. Then he noticed Biribiri X. He had never seen him before. How had he been missed? "Bring the hybrid up to me," he ordered. Sanzan brought Biribiri X up to his master. Biribiri X's face had gone from its normal chalk white to a bright orange, the color an Aquanitan turns when frightened. "Who are you?" Culex asked.
"My name is Biribiri X," he said.
"I do not recall you at all. Why were you not destroyed along with Plit?"
"I escaped with the others," Biribiri X said. Sanzan, feeling that Culex wanted him killed, began to raise his scythe up.
"No!" Culex barked. "I think he will provide as much entertainment as the rest of them.". Sanzan hesitated for a moment but then put his blade back down. Disobeying Culex was not something he intended to do, especially after he had saved him from starving in Lands End. Biribiri X went back to his place in line. Culex floated up to a large podium. "As you already know, Plit as you know it has been destroyed and you are my captives. Why I have brought you here I will tell you in a moment."
Before he could continue Larry yelled, "Plit's destroyed?! I thought you only destroyed Dark Land!"
Culex laughed. "Don't believe me? Look out the window!" He snapped his fingers and a large curtain opened to reveal a gigantic window that was large enough to cover the entire wall. Larry rushed to it and gasped at what he saw. Plit, which had once been a beautiful lush green, was now a black, smoking cinder. The planet had been entirely covered by magma and the oceans were now steam, caused by the intense heat. Plit no longer looked like a planet at all. It looked like an ugly, black burning ball floating in space.
"Oh DAD..." Larry said as he sank to his knees. "No... please don't let it be...". Larry began to sob loudly. Sanzan delivered a kick to his stomach, causing him to double over.
"Shut up! I won't tolerate tears in this fortress! Now get back in line!" he snarled. Larry obediently walked back to his place in line, although tears were still coming out of his eyes. Culex resumed speaking.
"If I may continue, I shall tell you why I have done what I have and why. Because you took my most prized possession, the Quartz Charm, I have been punished severely by my master. Once I returned to my own home after losing the battle to you in Monstro Town, the Dark Mage, my lord and master, tortured me for four days straight. Shortly afterwards, he himself was destroyed along with his men. I escaped and fled back into the universe you dwelled in. I could not survive on a living planet, but I could easily thrive in space. After some time, I decided that with my master out of the way I could build my own empire. I began by gathering recruits to my army. By going into people’s dreams, I communicated with them and persuaded them to work for me. All of my men, especially Sanzan, are traitors to Bowser and his forces. With their help I destroyed your planet for my revenge and, at the same time, made it habitable for me. My men can dwell on this planet because they have the ability to thrive in any type of climate condition. Plit shall be the first of many planets that I shall conquer.
“Now I shall tell you why I have spared your lives and ended all the others. Due to the fact you have caused me torment and pain and taken my most prized possession, I have decided to use you for entertainment."
"What're you gonna do? Make us your jesters?" Toad asked.
"No," Culex said. "I am going to kill you in a special way. I am going to send you into another dimension from which there is only one escape. As you could guess, nobody has ever found a way out. I can assure you your torment in this land will not be merciful."
"Why would you do that?!" Ludwig yelled.
"I'm doing it for vengeance. You have caused me pain, now I will cause you even greater pain. That is why I am going to kill you this way. I shall be watching you on radar as you struggle to survive. It will be fun watching you die."
Mario rolled up his sleeves. "You won't send us anywhere, Culex! We'll take care of you!" he said, leaping forward. Just as he was about to throw a fireball, Culex's eyes flashed and Mario was suddenly hurled against the wall with a thud. He groaned and slid down the wall in a heap.
"I wouldn't try that if I were you." Culex chuckled. "Guards! Take them into the realm of a thousand nightmares!"
"Realm of a thousand nightmares? I don't like the sound of that!" Clawdia exclaimed.
"Be quiet!" Culex growled. Sanzan and Zaelos led them down to a dark room with a hole in the center of it. Bowser looked down the hole and saw that at the bottom was a large black hole. That just didn't seem logical. A black hole consumed everything around it, so why wasn't it sucking them up right now? More of Culex's twisted magic, no doubt.
"Well get in there!" Sanzan yelled. Bowser did not move. "I said go!" he yelled again.
"I'm not going in!" Bowser snarled. Sanzan lunged for him, but Bowser ducked and rammed him with his head. Sanzan doubled back and then fired a lightning ball out of his hands. It struck Bowser and paralyzed him. Wasting no time, Sanzan grabbed the stunned Koopa and flung him into the pit. The black hole in it swallowed Bowser up. The others attempted to attack but Zaelos swept his arm out and a blast of wind knocked them into the hole, one right after the other.
"They always end up losing in the end." Sanzan muttered as he left the room. Zaelos followed him.
The hole was much deeper than expected. It seemed as though they were falling through time and space rather than a hole. Stars twinkled all around them and entire universes passed by them within seconds. "Where are we?" Ludwig thought to himself. "This defies all logic. Galaxies cannot pass by one within such a short period of time. How can we be moving so fast?" Then he looked down and gasped. Below them, another hole was waiting. This one, however, seemed to be a gigantic funnel of fire rather than a black hole. As Ludwig and his family plunged through it, the air, if there was any, became incredibly hot and sticky. The temperature rose and the fire surrounded them like some sort of magical tornado. Ludwig screamed. A moment later, all was darkness.
Some time later, Ludwig awoke. Groggily he got to his feet and surveyed the landscape. He did not like the way things looked here. The landscape appeared to be Dark Land, but it was not the same. The trees were gnarled and twisted, making their once beautiful branches look like horribly twisted arms. The flowers were rotted and decayed; they were so old they looked as though they might disintegrate into dust if you touched them. Some of the telephone poles had been uprooted and slung on the ground. Others had been stripped of their wires and stood silhouetted against the sky like crude crosses. Up ahead was an old castle, but it was not Bowser's. It was grim, uninviting, with a drawbridge that looked to be over a million years old. The castle really looked more like a gothic cathedral of some sort rather than a castle and if it was then any holiness or love within it had left it. "Stop worrying yourself! It's only a deserted temple!" Ludwig whispered to himself. His intuition told him that this was definitely not just an old castle. Its windows seemed to leer at him like horrible eyes, as if something was waiting for him in there. Maybe there was.
Suddenly Culex's voice boomed. It seemed to come from everywhere. Ludwig jumped at the sound. "You've woken up! You’re the first one to awaken!"
"Where are you?! Show yourself and fight!" Ludwig yelled back.
"Foolish child! I am not going to fight you here! You would be too easy to beat in the realm of a thousand nightmares!"
"What is this realm?!" Ludwig demanded.
"The realm of a thousand nightmares is the land where all hope is extinguished. Years ago, my master cursed this world so that all the inhabitants of this world would have their greatest nightmares take physical form and destroy them. In this world, everything is but barren wasteland since that day. The only thing that dwells here is your worst nightmare! Your greatest fear can come to life in this land and come after you! Your family and enemies are still alive as well. They are in different areas of this land, literally confronting their greatest fears! I have placed each of them in different locations, all in small groups to add to the fun of this game of survival. Because you are the smartest of the lot, I have placed you alone to test your ability to escape. Yours will come after you shortly!" Culex broke into crazed laughter that echoed into oblivion.
Ludwig was frightened. No, he was terrified. If his worst fear could come alive in this world, then he doubted there was any way he could fight against it. His fright would paralyze him and leave him open to attack. Oh why had this happened? What had he done to deserve this? "I've got to get out of here," he thought. "I've got to find a way out of here! If I don't..." Before he could finish an inhuman shriek sounded across the landscape. Ludwig turned around and the thing’s shriek became his. Rushing towards him was a hideous creature that he remembered from when he was little. It was a simple fear, but the memory of it came back and Ludwig's fear went out of control. It was a human, but it was hideously deformed, its body so thin you could see the bones. The head was a skull but it still had eyes. Its hair dangled from its head as if it had been glued to it. In its hands, it held a dagger.
"I've come for you, Ludwig..." the thing crooned. "I’ve come for you and now you won't get away. You don't have Mommy and Daddy to protect you this time and now I'm going to get you. You can't get away! Can't get away, can't get away, CAN'T GET AWAY!!!"
Ludwig's control broke and he dashed away screeching, sobbing, and gibbering. He remembered that thing only too well. The monster was from a memory of his. When he was little, around the time Clawdia was pregnant for the third time and Lemmy was still a baby, he had been watching TV while Bowser wasn't around. He had been wondering about the strange buttons on the TV and began to press them. He had pressed the channel button by accident and the TV had changed to a horror movie, some sort of zombie movie, he was guessing. He had seen the creature on TV and he had become mesmerized by it, not moving or blinking, only watching it. He wanted to run away but he couldn't. Eventually it had turned towards the TV screen and when he saw its face, he had screamed. He remembered screaming so loud that Clawdia had come rushing in to see what had happened and Lemmy had woken up in the next room and began screaming just as loud. Clawdia had seen what he was watching and had shut the TV off and hugged her screaming son. He eventually calmed down but the thing on TV had given him nightmares for a whole month.
Now he ran from his greatest fear, resurfaced after all these years, screaming that he would give anything to be home right now. He didn't care where he could be or what could be happening; sitting in the dungeon for a month without food or water, being attacked by the Mario Brothers, even being being beaten up by Karma would be better than this horror. Ludwig ran on for what seemed like hours and finally turned around. He was still crying, but not as hard now.
"Finally," he sobbed, "he's gone. I'm safe." Just as he turned around, he saw another one of the zombies coming after him. He screamed and ran only to run into the first again. As he looked around, more of them began to pop out of the ground. They surrounded him like wolves and began to close in on him. "NO!!! MAKE IT STOP, KING DAD!! PLEASE MAKE IT STOP, MAKE IT STOP!!!" he wailed. Then one of the monsters touched him. He was too frightened to scream. Ludwig shut his eyes, not wanting to go through this experience again. He eventually opened his eyes and finally gazed into the face of his nightmares.
"Where is this?" Larry whispered to himself. First he had been thrown into the pit, then everything had gone black, and then there was nothing. Where was he now? A store of some kind, apparently. All around him were beautiful costumes and masks of all sorts. How had he gotten inside here? Just as he got to his feet, Culex's cruel voice spoke.
"You’re the second to awaken! Ludwig awoke first!" he exclaimed.
"Where are you, Culex?!" Larry screamed.
"Calm down, child. I'm everywhere. You’re in the realm of a thousand nightmares now!" Culex cackled.
"Tell me what is going on!" Larry replied.
Culex laughed again. "I'll tell you!" He chuckled and proceeded to explain the same grim details to him. Larry's face went pale after hearing what Culex revealed to him. "Yes, you’re scared. I can tell. But as many parents say, you can't keep running from your fears forever! Now I'll see if you really can be as brave as you have been in the past!" Culex's voice stopped, leaving Larry standing in the middle of the store.
"My worst fear can be realized? I'd better get out of here," he thought to himself. He turned around to leave, but when he saw what was behind him, he stopped dead. Propped up on a chair was a grim reaper's cloak with a mask in the hood. It was a horrible ghost-pale with blank eyes and a horrible smirk on it. The cloak was not still. It waggled its arms at Larry and then it got up. Horrible laughter issued forth from the mask, laughter which made Larry scream like he had never screamed before. He wheeled around and ran as fast as he could, the cloak, which had now risen into the air somehow, in hot pursuit. Larry dashed through racks of cloaks and suits and costumes, all the while screaming while the thing laughed hysterically behind him. After what seemed like hours, Larry slumped down in a corner, panting and weeping. He turned around and saw with relief that the mask of his nightmares was gone at last. He sat against the wall, weeping, gasping for breath. He eventually caught his breath and stopped crying. "Thank DAD," he muttered. He went into a daze, but did not realize it. He sat in the corner, not moving for quite sometime.
"Is anybody here?" Iggy called out. Nobody answered. "Will somebody answer me?" he called again. He had been calling out for fifteen minutes now and he had not been able to find his siblings or parents. He did not like this place. Everything was just… well, wrong. There could be no other way to describe it. "Lemmy? Are you anywhere in here? Please answer me!" Still no reply. Iggy looked around and saw an old building. There was a sign on it, but the writing on it was smudged, making it indecipherable. "Maybe they’re inside," he thought. He walked into the building and immediately he began to be afraid. He looked around the building interior. This place was apparently a costume shop. All sorts of beautiful and colorful costumes were lined up on coat hangers all around the room. Yeti suits, pirate costumes, grim reaper cloaks, clown suits, animal suits, uniforms, all sorts of things with beautiful colors were hung up. Fake swords, scythes, guns, and all sorts of other toys and accessories were on display and on sale here as well. "A marvelous place," Iggy thought. Then he saw a shadow. For a moment, he thought it might be Sanzan, or something worse. He cautiously stepped towards the shadow and it became more distinct. Relief replaced fear. The shadow belonged to his younger brother Larry. "Larry, I've been looking everywhere for somebody! What are you doing here?" He looked and he frowned. Larry was sitting in the corner, his eyes wide. The young Koopa was sucking his thumb. He said nothing, only sat there.
"Uh, Larry? Why are you doing that? You’re too old for that!" Iggy exclaimed. Larry said nothing. He only sat there, sucking his thumb, his eyes wide. "Will you speak up or something?" Iggy said, growing impatient. After another moment of silence from his little brother Iggy walked up and grabbed Larry's arm. He jerked it forward and brought Larry's thumb out of his mouth. Larry snapped out of his trance and began to sob, weakly.
"Why are you crying, Larry? I found you in here and-"
"Get out of here!" Larry whimpered. "Get out now. Culex told me about this place so I went in here to hide. Then I found that thing and I... I… I can't say it!" Larry wailed.
"What thing, Larry?" Iggy asked. Larry resumed sucking his thumb. With his other hand he pointed behind him. Iggy turned around but saw was nothing there. "What are you so afraid of?" Iggy asked. Just as he finished speaking, he heard a playful giggle. Now he began to be afraid. The laughter was innocent, playful, but he didn't trust it. He turned to his little brother. "C'mon, Larry, let's get out of here and find King Dad and Queen Mom." Larry got up, although he still had his thumb in his mouth. Then that same giggle came again, this time from behind them. Iggy turned and gasped. Then he smiled. It was only a grim reaper cloak on a rack with a white mask in the hood. The mask looked much like the kind of mask Iggy had seen in pictures of Earth theatres, the ones that represented happiness and sadness. This one seemed to be the happy one. No, wait. Something was different. The mask wasn't just white, it was an ugly pale. The eyes were black and hollow with a mouth that was more of a smirk than a smile. It was a creepy mask. Iggy jumped as Larry screamed.
"That’s the thing I found!!!" Larry screeched, pointing an accusing finger at the cloak and mask. "It raised its arms when I came in here and it chased after me! Then I hid in the corner and it stopped and I sat there until you showed up!" He started crying again.
"What are you talking about?" Iggy asked. "It's only a-". That giggle yet again. This time, it did not stop. It began to get louder, harder, eviler. It became a light laugh, a chuckle, a loud laugh, and then a horrible screaming lunatic laugh, cackling and hooting like some old witch or a mad scientist. And it was too real to come from a machine. Bewildered, Iggy stumbled back. Then the cloak began to move. It waved its arms at them, then it rose into the air, hovering like a ghost. Its eyes lit up like fire and it produced from thin air a long sword. It cackled crazily and swooped at them. Larry screamed like a banshee and tore off. Iggy just stood there, aghast. The thing swooped over him and chased after his little brother. Iggy snapped back into reality and took out his wand. "It's a good thing Ryorga didn't search us when we were captured," he said. He fired a blast of energy at the ghost, but it bounced off like a rubber ball. The ghost whirled around and charged at Iggy. He screamed as the monster hit him with the handle of its sword. He looked up to see the figure raise its blade. He cringed.
Outside, Larry saw Iggy being attacked. He remembered that costume too well. A year ago, he had been buying a costume for Halloween and had happened upon the exact same costume that was attacking Iggy right now. He had gazed into the mask's empty, vacant eyes and looked at its smirking mouth and had almost cried out. The way the mask looked was terrifiying to him. The way the eyes seemed to gaze back at you made you wonder if it would come to life and attack you. It seemed to be fascinated with everything around it, like you were a lab animal and it was the scientist, watching your every movement, and that had freaked him out.
Now here it was again, same mask, same cloak, but seeing it attack Iggy made him forget all about the childish dread of the thing. He took out his wand. A thought came to him. "Burn it," his mind told him. Larry fired a stream of fire at the apparition and this time the energy worked. The creature wailed as its cloak caught on fire. "How do you like it, huh?!" Larry snarled, firing again. The monster exploded into a mass of burning cloth this time. Its mask fell to the ground, burning. Its sword fell down and became a child’s toy again. Larry collapsed to the ground, amazed that he had conquered his fear. Had he really done it? No, he couldn't have. But he had. Out of exhaustion, he began to sob.
Iggy picked himself up and looked at the burning remnants of the monster. Then he saw something glimmer under the mask and picked it up. It was an emerald fragment. He stuck it inside his shell. "This might be useful later," he thought. He heard Larry crying outside. He went to his younger brother, who was lying on the ground shivering and crying. He couldn't really blame him though.
"I want to die!" Larry sobbed. "Death would be better than this!"
"Death wouldn't solve anything. We have to find the others and find a way to defeat Culex," Iggy said. He helped Larry up and helped him walk, he was trembling so badly. Everybody was out there somewhere. On the way, Iggy asked Larry what Culex had told him. Larry explained everything. By the end, Iggy was as pale as a corpse, and he doubted that he and his family would escape intact.
"Curses!" Culex snarled. "That whelp managed to conquer his fear! I have never seen this happen before!" He and Sanzan had been watching the whole thing on a large monitor and Culex had never been more aggravated. By now, those brats should have been beaten. Nobody had ever stood up to their fears when they were real. He knew that. When one is truly terrified about something, they never forget about it. They might say they had forgotten about it, but in reality they had not. They had either suppressed the memory of it all or stored away in the deepest portions of their minds, not knowing it is there until they encounter something that reminds them of their fear. A person might dream about ways of conquering their fears, but they could never really do that. They might be able to ignore it for a while, but when that person’s nightmare is presented to them for real, they have no defense against it. They submit to the terror, whatever it may be.
But what he had seen defied that rule. Larry Koopa had actually conquered his fear of a simple mask and cloak, all because his brother had been in danger. Culex realized that in times of true desperation, one forgets about all risk to ones self and attacks without any fear at all, making them almost unstoppable. This was an example of that little law. Surely it had never happened. It would not happen again. He was sure of that.
"Master," Sanzan said, "are you sure that they will die in here? If one of them could defeat what they are afraid of, I wonder if the others could as well."
"Oh, they'll die in there. They're tricky, but they will make a mistake at one point and then they will all die," Culex said.
"You are absolutely positive that they have no means of escape?"
"Oh, there is one way, but one way only. That jewel fragment Iggy picked up from the cloak after it was defeated is a piece of a magic crystal. Whenever a fear is bested in battle it gives up a jewel piece. When all of the victims inside have defeated their worst nightmares, the jewel pieces merge into a large jewel which can create a warp hole back to reality. This, of course, has never happened," Culex said.
"If you want to ensure that they will not survive, my king, then allow me to go after them as well!" said a voice. Culex turned to see a figure standing in the doorway. The figure was tall with long, icy blue hair that parted in the center of his forehead in a widow’s peak and fell all the way down to his legs, making it look like an ice-colored cape that came out of his head. The body was that of a Boom Boom, but it had the head of a dragon. This was Kasoko, yet another one of Culex's fighters. Kasoko was almost as good a fighter as Sanzan, but he was too confident in his abilities. He never wore armor like the others did. He always dressed pretty casually, this time in jeans, a checked shirt, and a leather jacket. "I will go into the maze and aid their fears to decrease their chances of victory, master.”
"Very well. The Dark Mage's curse does not affect people who fight for him and me. You may go. Just don't muck it up," Culex said.
"Yes my lord," Kasoko said. He ran to the entrance to the nightmare realm and jumped into the black hole.
"With Kasoko leading the nightmares, this will be very interesting, don't you think so, Sanzan?"
Sanzan nodded and turned back to the monitor. "Master, I think you will enjoy this," he said. Culex looked at the screen and began to laugh.
"Yow!" Biribiri X screamed as his tail was burnt by a blast of fire. He looked at the apparition that stood before him. It was a large lizard, made entirely of flames. Biribiri X was terrified of fires since his home planet was destroyed by one. The lizard hissed at him, its eyes glowing with hatred. Biribiri X floated backwards, not wanting to look at the awful thing. The lizard hissed again and fired another fireball from its mouth. It struck Biribiri X on the arm. This time he shrieked. Clutching the burnt spot on his arm, Biribiri X dodged more of the fireballs as best as he could. With his right arm he took out his wand. "AQUA BEAM!" he yelled. His wand fired a stream of water at the lizard. Much to his horror, the water didn't even make steam rise from the creature. As he turned and hovered off as quickly as he could, Biribiri X thought he heard laughter. He eventually stopped. Man he hated this place. Then he heard a yell. "Huh?" he said as Mario, Luigi, and Yoshi came crashing down from the sky in front of him.
"Run for it, Biribiri X!" Mario screamed. "If you don't run you won't be alive much longer!"
"I can't run, you moron!" Biribiri X said.
"Why not?!" Mario yelled.
"I don't have any legs!" replied Biribiri X. Mario groaned. "Well then float or something! If we don't get moving-" Then the ground shook. The ground opened up and a humongous worm burrowed out. It looked like an earthworm but had a gigantic mouth filled with razor sharp teeth that looked like railroad spikes, and it had hot, yellow eyes. Mario and Luigi both screamed. Yoshi also screamed as a hideous ghost, definitely not a Boo, materialized in front of him and gave a withering cry. Biribiri X grabbed Yoshi's arm and yanked him away as the specter made a grab at him. Yoshi was whimpering. Mario and Luigi were screaming. All was chaos.
"That was a close call!" Yoshi said. The ghost laughed and lunged at him again. Yoshi darted back as the ghost fastened its transparent hands onto Biribiri X's throat. Biribiri X swung his wand at the ghost like a club, but as expected it went through the ghost. The shimmering specter bellowed laughter into Biribiri X's ear, making him wince.
"Get off of me!" Biribiri X growled. He may have been frightened of flames, but he did not fear ghosts, which of course were Yoshi's greatest fear. Mustering all his strength, he jerked his entire body to the left, breaking the ghoul’s hold on him. Just as he got up, he moved to one side as Mario dashed past him, the worm in hot pursuit. For such a large beast, it moved incredibly fast. Mario rolled to one side to avoid it. The worm, not having any legs, was not as mobile and had to circle around to get at its prey. Mario threw a fireball at its mouth, but the worm gobbled it as if it were candy. Mario dived forward and grabbed Luigi out of the way. Again the worm missed its target. However it did manage to keep going towards Yoshi, who was standing only a bit behind them. "Yoshi! Look out!" Biribiri X cried.
"Huh?" said Yoshi as he turned around to see the worm rushing at him, gnashing its powerful teeth. Biribiri X tackled Yoshi and knocked him out of harm’s way but he could not fully avoid the worm. He screamed as the worm’s teeth sliced through the side of his arm. He had managed to get to the side though. Instead of having his arm taken off entirely he instead received three long jagged slash marks on the side of his left arm. Biribiri X clutched his arm, which was bleeding quite badly, and landed on the ground, balancing himself on his tailfin so he wouldn't fall down. He had never felt such agony before.
Over the horizen, Iggy and Larry appeared and saw the monsters. They both instinctively fired their wands. Iggy's shot went through the ghost, but it was big and loud enough to scare it. The ghost flew away screaming and cursing. The worm saw the wand fire and burrowed back underground. The battle had ended... for a while.
"Oh great. Now we have to deal with you guys," Mario groaned.
"We aren't going to attack you. Not yet at least," Larry said back. Mario was completely taken by surprise to hear this. He had expected Iggy and Larry to start attacking them the moment they saw them. The fact that they were weary from battle made them prime targets for Koopa attack. "I have a request to ask, Mario," Larry said.
"What? Hold still so you can shoot me?" Mario asked sarcastically.
"No. I want to ask for your assistance for a period of time."
"Us help you? That'll happen the day the sky turns plaid," Yoshi said.
"We have reasons. Our brothers, sister, and parents are missing. I think we may have gotten separated when we were thrown into this place. Although it's difficult not to punch myself for asking this, we wanted to know if you could help us get back together with our family. We won't cause any mischief on the way, but once we are reunited all bets are off. Does this seem reasonable to you?" Iggy asked.
"Why can't you use your wands to track them down?” Mario asked. “We're already looking for the princess and Toad! And why do you want us to help you? We're enemies!"
Iggy sighed. "We tried our wands but something in the atmosphere is disrupting the tracers so we can't find them. We're turning to you because we have no other choice. If we did, we wouldn't be having this conversation," he said. Mario was reluctant, but he eventually conceded. Even the Koopas didn't deserve to die out here, especially against creatures such as these. Besides, he had teamed up with Bowser when Smithy invaded Plit, so surely he could trust his children.
"All right, we'll help you. But if you guys pull one wrong move, you’re outta here." Iggy and Larry nodded.
Iggy went to Biribiri X and reached out for his arm. It was really bleeding now. "Here, let me help y-".
"Don't touch me!" Biribiri X snarled.
"I'm only trying to help you!" Iggy yelled. "You act as if I was going to hurt you!"
"Who knows? You might! Mario, Luigi, and Yoshi might trust you, but I don't!"
Luigi put an arm on Biribiri X's shoulder. "Come on. They seem to be telling the truth, so give them a chance." Biribiri X reluctantly held out his arm. Iggy used to wand to create some gauze wrappings and wrapped them around Biribiri X's injured arm. The Aquanitan flexed his arm to make sure that he could still work his arm.
"Thanks, I think," he growled.
"Don't be such a pill," Iggy muttered. He had to admit, Biribiri X was not the most pleasant person to be around when you’re a Koopa. He did remember Bowser telling him about the time he worked with Mario to defeat Smithy. He had said that he and Mario had agreed never to work together again, although now he didn't seem to have much of a choice. If they managed to survive this and somehow defeat Culex and restore Plit to its former glory (he didn't know how they could do all that) and Bowser found out he had worked with Mario again, Iggy felt that he wouldn't be able to sit down for a month. Oh well. Sitting in the magma pits for a week didn't seem that bad compared to the situation now before them. "We'll help you look for your friends as well. Once again, we're only helping you because it is our only option," he said.
"Fine. Let's get moving," Luigi said. "What is this place anyway?" he asked.
"Larry told me. He said that Culex had communicated with them telepathically and told him about this place. He said it's a place the Dark Mage cursed years ago. This was once a beautiful planet, but they were not obedient to him so he destroyed them. The curse is that anybody who enters here will have their worse nightmares realized."
"What's that mean?" asked Yoshi.
"It means," Larry began, "that when a person enters the land, the curse takes effect and goes into their minds. It searches the brain until it finds what the person is most frightened of. Then it causes that fear to take on a physical form and come after the victim. It can use any fear at all, whenever it wants."
"So that explains the worm and the ghost," Luigi muttered. "That worm was something we saw in a horror movie. It really frightened us when we saw it and Mario and I still haven't forgotten how loud we screamed when we saw it."
"I take it the ghost was for Yoshi?" Biribiri X said.
"Yeah. I really hate ghosts," Yoshi sighed. "In the meantime, let’s get moving.".
"Right," Iggy said. They began their long trek across the realm of a thousand nightmares, unaware that behind them, a shadow lurked.
"Try all you want, fools," Kasoko whispered. "Even if you do get past your fears you will still have to deal with me." He knew what he had to do. All he had to do now was wait. They would come. They would come...
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