"Um, guys?" a gruff voice called from the darkness. "What are we doing here?"
Another voice, one belonging to an aged female, sighed deeply.
"My leige," the voice said, "we're here on your orders."
"Preposterous!" the gruff voice exclaimed. "I'm supposed to be on a vacation, not in some inky cave!"
"But sir," another aged voice said, "we came here to uncover treasure, remember? We were informed that something very valuable was hidden somewhere in these caves."
"I did NOT come to Plateaus to look for some stupid treasure in some stupid cave! I want to be on the beach! I WANT OUT!"
"SILENCE!" the gruff voice roared. "I want out of here immediately."
"Well, Sire," the female voice said, "that will be difficult to accomplish in the dark."
"Didn't you guys have enough sense to bring a lantern or something?"
"We could light our wands," the third voice suggested quietly.
"Excuse me?!" the first voice growled. "You mean to tell me we've been standing around in the dark for no reason this entire time?!"
"It wasn't dark until you dropped the torch..." the female voice muttered.
"What did you just say?"
"Nothing, my liege."
The dark cavern was now being illuminated slowly by two colored lights. The surrounding cavern was tube-shaped, and jagged stone etched the walls and floor. As the light consumed the tunnel, a Swooper clinging to the ceiling let out a screech and darted away from the brightness.
With the chamber fully lit, three figures were now distinguishable. One was very large and bulky; large spikes protruded from its large head and shell-shaped back. The remaining figures were considerably shorter than the first, both wearing tall pointed hats and clutching lit wands. One was garbed in blue, while the other was clad in purple.
"Well?" Bowser, King of the Koopas boomed. "What are we waiting for? Let's get out of here!"
"Very well, my Lord," Kammy Koopa, head Magikoopa Sorceress said.
"Hold it," Kamek, ex-Magikoopa in Chief,
snapped, clutching a handful of Kammy's robes as she began her
retreat. "We've spent over three hours in here. I'm not leaving empty-handed!"
"On my orders you will!" Bowser growled.
Kamek rolled his eyes.
"My Lord," he said, "there's something shining very brightly just a few yards that way."
"I don't-" Bowser began, stopping himself as he absorbed his underling's words. "Something shiny, you say?"
"Yes," Kamek continued, gilding in the
direction he had indicated. The old Magikoopa aimed his wand light
toward a darkened corner, revealing a small brown orb, glittering brightly in the newly cast light.
"Score!" Bowser said, lumbering toward
the round object and snatching it up from the rocky floor. He
deposited it gingerly into his shell and turned to face is cohorts. "Great. That wasn't a complete loss, was it? So let's go! Some random beach has my name on it!"
"Haven't you had enough beaching?" Kammy asked as the three figures strode away.
"Beaching...?" Kamek muttered under his breath.
"Of course not, Kammy!" Bowser exclaimed, his voice growing fainter. "This place has all sorts of beaches we haven't been to! We haven't even been to the Water Region yet, and those beaches are some of the best on Plit!"
"Yes, that's all well and good," Kammy agreed, "but aren't you in the least worried about what those children of yours are up to?"
"Nonsense," Bowser replied. "How much trouble could those kids get into? Bring it on, I say! Ah, the joys of parenthood..." The Koopa King's voice trailed off in the darkness.
Just as a shadow crept back into the room and the group of three had turned a corner, a ghost of yellow color appeared in the cavern. Smiling slightly, the spirit shot a glance in the direction of the retreating Koopas.
"That's interesting," the specter muttered to himself, now eyeing an orb of his own, its rhythmic pulse slowing slightly.
"That's very interesting..."
"Oh my aching-"
"HOW?!" Mecha Guy shouted, spit flying from his mouth as he gazed down at the fallen Larry Koopa, who had just managed to survive a fall of over fifty feet. Luigi, who was standing close by the bewildered Shyster, simply smiled.
"What, you expected him to be dead or something?" the plumber asked.
"Um, yeah," Mecha Guy replied, his voice still peppered with anger. "Did you see that fall?"
"I think I broke something..." Larry whimpered.
"I can assure you that more things will be broken if you don't can it!" Mecha Guy snapped, turning toward the Koopaling. "C'mon, Luigi, a good ninety-five percent of the Mushroomer population is either downed via shovel or hibernating under their coffee tables. It's up to us to escort Larry here to the Castle Dungeons."
"Can't I get like a Band-Aid or something?" the youngest Koopaling asked as Mecha Guy and Luigi hoisted him into the air. Mecha Guy shot him a warning glare, and the Koopa fell silent as the two comrades hauled him off toward castle.
As the group of three reached the castle's front door, Mecha Guy said loudly, "Anyone gonna help us with the door?"
"Don't think anyone's here," Luigi pointed out, glancing around at the barren streets.
"Fine," the Shyster growled, dropping Larry and creaking the door open. Breathing loudly, Mecha Guy lifted Larry into the air once more, and the three of them entered the castle.
It was now safe to assume the location of the frightened Mushroomers. As the group of three entered the castle, dozens of squeaky voices called out to them.
"Did you win?"
"Is that Larry?"
"Is that giant plant monster dead?"
"SHUT UP!!!" Mecha Guy roared, causing the Mushroomers to leap back in surprise.
There were no further interruptions as Mecha Guy and Luigi hauled Larry down a long, winding spiral staircase. As they entered the castle's dungeons, a loud, triumphant voice echoed through the room.
"Well, well," Roy Koopa called from inside a dungeon cell, "it looks like little Larry was foiled as well!"
"I knew it! I knew it!" Morton called from a different cell. "If I, the greatest Koopa of them all, was unsuccessful, then surely young Larry would meet the same fate as I, which is, of course, the-"
"QUIET!!!" Mecha Guy bellowed, unlocking a free cell with a set of keys swiped from a frightened dungeon guard and hurling Larry into it.
"I'm going to make myself a cup of coffee and do some inventing," he explained stiffly, striding quickly towards the exit. "A very LARGE cup of coffee..."
Ludwig von Koopa sauntered into the lobby of Koopa Castle and called out to Lemmy, who had once again stayed to view the skirmish between his sibling and the Mushroom Kingdom. The Emperor of Ice Land was perched comfortably on a squishy sofa facing away from the new arrival.
"Well?" the elder sibling asked.
"He was close..." Lemmy replied, downing the last of his popcorn, "but no banana."
The tiny Koopaling batted his beloved ball to the floor and made a rather graceful transition from the sofa to the spherical object, mounting it while it was on the go. Lemmy rolled past his brother and made for the exit.
"What kind of weapon did he use?" Ludwig asked, pursuing Lemmy out of the room.
"What do you think used?" Lemmy asked, rolling his eyes.
"A plant of some sort?"
"Yup," Lemmy confirmed, the pair of Koopas now traveling along a narrow hallway. "He made this seed that could produce a gnarly, fifty-foot tall Piranha monster."
Ludwig whistled his approval.
"And the Marios did away with it?" he asked skeptically, pursuing Lemmy further as the ball-riding Koopa turned a sharp corner.
"Yeah," Lemmy answered. "Well, actually, now that I think about it, Mario wasn't even there."
"Nope," Lemmy said. "He wouldn't be your greatest concern anyway..."
"He wouldn't?" Ludwig asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Nope," Lemmy repeated. "No... there's this Shy Guy-"
"A Shy Guy?"
"Yes, Kooky, a Shy Guy," Lemmy echoed impatiently. "I'm serious, he's a tricky little bugger."
Ludwig halted his pursuit, a smile etching across his face.
"If some Shy Guy is the most I have to worry about, then this attack should be smooth sailing."
Lemmy turned back toward his brother as he rolled further down the hall.
"We'll see how you fair," Lemmy said with a wink. "Because, you know, I'll be watching."
A slew of unheard curse words erupted from Broshi's mouth as he gazed upon the terrifying creature before him. Aid and Mario were equally dumbfounded, gazing upon the monster in motionless fear.
The horrifying beast was a gigantic sea serpent, its abnormally long body creating a jumbled web as it wove about the now brightened cavern. Its head was over ten meters in length and took the shape of a jagged arrow. The monster's mouth was lined with several rows of yellow, knife-shaped teeth; the creature's forked tongue looked like an enormous blood red flag being torn at by the wind. The fearsome beast also bore a pair of large yellow eyes and a lengthy tail tipped with several blades that looked sharp enough to glide through human flesh as though it were butter.
The monstrous sea creature jerked its head in Mario's direction and narrowed it's horrific yellow eyes. After a moment of deliberation, the ocean beast shot its neck in the plumber's direction, widening its mouth as it drew closer. The frightened human made no attempt to evade the creature, still immobilized by its terrifying appearance.
Seconds before the enormous creature's jaws snapped around the plumber, a shining, rectangular shield appeared in the monster's path. The sea serpent's arrow-shaped cranium collided with the shimmering shield, halting the assail. Mario remained motionless, still frozen in shock as the creature's head began pounding against the barrier.
Once more, a strange pulse swept through the plumber's body. Mario's first thought was to shake it away, but then remembered that it meant Aid wished to mentally communicate with him. Mario calmed himself, and focused on his thoughts.
"Mario!!!" Aid's voice screeched through his head. "What are you doing?! MOVE!!!"
The communication ended abruptly, and the plumber snapped back into reality just in time to notice a heavily bladed tail swing at him from the left side. The human took a gigantic downward stroke, narrowly avoiding the atack. He glanced to his right and saw the serpent's head back away from a magic shield and snap its head in the direction of Broshi. The hefty dino had a tight grip on his club-like stone, and as Mario examined his comrade, he noticed Aid for the first time since she had lit the cavern. The female spell-user was like a human-shaped lantern, every surface of her body was radiating a bright white light.
The gigantic serpent was now baring down upon Broshi, but the burly Yoshi seemed to be holding his own. Whenever the monster's head came within striking distance, Broshi would swing his gigantic club at the beast, and the monster would dart backwards.
Mario tore his eyes from the battle and swam towards the tunnel's edge, breaking off his own club-like stone from the rocky surface. He then pushed off the tunnel's wall and swam toward Broshi, only to be cut off by the creature's dangerous tail. The vine-like body structure swooped toward the plumber, who was barely able to block the assail with his chunk of stone. The bladed tail sunk deep into the club's surface, where it seemed, as Mario made unsuccessful attempts to free his makeshift weapon, it would stay indefinitely.
The horrid creature wrenched its tail backwards in a forceful, whip-like movement, freeing the stone from Mario's grasp. The serpent attempted to flick its tail towards the plumber once more, but found that the stuck stone created too much tail-weight to allow free movement. Chuckling inwardly, Mario easily scooted by the tail's awkward lashes and swam quickly toward Broshi, who was still doing battle with the creature's head.
Mario lunged into the fray, planting a kick on the side of the giant sea serpent's head. The creature snarled in anger before twisting its head toward Mario and taking a quick snap at him. The plumber barely avoided the assail by darting upwards, but as he gazed down below him, the monster was already lunging towards him once more. The creature's progress, however, was held up by a powerful strike to the head via Broshi. Seizing the opportunity, Mario jutted his own foot down toward the monster and slammed his boot in the creature's eye.
Letting out a muffled cry, the creature retreated backwards slightly and fired a streaking set of bubbles in Mario's direction. Finding no time to evade, the plumber was hit dead on by the serpent's blast. A scorching pain swept through the plumber's body; it felt as though someone had drenched him with a bucket of boiling water.
The pummeled plumber was too focused on the recent pain to realize that several more sets of superheated bubbles were jetting in his direction. Noticing this, Broshi streaked toward his companion and tackled him out of the way. The black-skinned dino whirled around in time to see the gigantic sea snake barreling towards him, yellow teeth glistening in the shimmering light.
Feeling there was no time for evasive action, Broshi carefully positioned his club as the creature's jaws closed around himself and Mario. Inches from spearing both comrades, the serpent's jaws were locked in place by the horrizontally positioned slab of stone. Grinning slightly, the large dino grabbed a hold of Mario's leg and darted from the mouth of the snake, which crushed the club a split-second later.
Snarling, the creature blasted another wave of superheated bubbles at the pair. The jets of boiling water collided with the two heroes, knocking the already bewildered plumber out cold and Broshi into a painful submission. Struggling to remain conscious, the large dino booted the serpent in the face as it charged toward him. The unconscious Mario began to sink slowly behind the dino, and the Yoshi noticed just in time, sweeping downward to hold up his comrade as a new pack of bubbles rocketed above him.
The Yoshi was beginning to tire as the giant creature's head snapped at him once more. Broshi dodged with a spurt to the left, and ducked under another blast of bubbles. The serpent positioned itself under the two comrades and lunged up at them, promptly receiving two of Broshi's boots in its face. The hit was hard, and Broshi could tell that the giant creature was weakening just as he was. Grabbing Mario firmly around the waste, Broshi swam upwards and away from the serpent of the sea, only to be struck by a horizontal blow from the creature's weighted tail. The heavy stone chunk, which Mario had accidentally lodged in the serpent's tail, collided with Broshi's large head, sending his mind into a pit of unending darkness. Both comrades began to sink toward the monster, which licked its chops and launched toward the defeated heroes.
The assail was stopped by a magnificent beam of light that erupted from the ends of Aid's hands. The magical blast collided with the creature's cranium, altering its course and blowing it back several meters. The serpent let out another muffled cry, and focused its menacing yellow eyes on Aid, who had been charging this powerful magic attack for a large portion of the fight. The creature tilted its head back slightly, and unleashed a blast of boiling bubbles aimed at the sorceress. The female magic user neatly wove through the assails, noticing out of the corner of her eye that the serpent's tail was lashing in her direction.
Quickly forming a plan, Aid ducked under the swinging tail and swam toward the creature's obese head while beginning to charge up a new magic atack. As she approached, the mighty serpent charged at her, quite keen on tearing the spell user in two. Aid simply stopped herself and glanced back toward the tail, which was swinging swiftly in her direction as well. Just as the creature's head was within snapping distance, Aid unleashed her spell. A mighty orb of light hit the snake's head dead-on, and the serpent's cranium was covered with a semi-transparent, silk-like coating.
Darting quickly upward, Aid glanced down upon the gigantic beast as it tried to reposition its head, but found that the silk-like blanket disallowed movement of any kind. Eyes wide with terror, the enormous sea monster watched pitifully as its tail, carrying too much weight and momentum to stop, slammed into its head with a sickening crunch. Wearing a smug smile, Aid watched as the defeated creature sank slowly to the bottom of the cavern, its blood darkening the water around it.
Bowser, Kamek, and Kammy trudged wearily through a thick, tree-covered forest. All three figures were thoroughly cut, bruised, and flustered, having traveled though the dense underbrush for over two hours. Bowser was ahead of the two Magikoopas, angrily tearing through brushes and twigs. Kamek and Kammy were several yards behind, periodically shooting Bowser's back looks of irritation.
"That's it, I've had enough!" Kamek snapped after several more minutes of travel. "This path isn't going to lead us anywhere NEAR a beach!"
The angered Magikoopa increased his pace in order to catch King Koopa, but as he strode forward, a stray twig caught the hem of his robes and caused him to trip and slam to the forest floor. Cursing, the Magikoopa returned to his feet and chased after Bowser once more, conveniently realizing that the king had stopped in his tracks. The sorcerer clad in blue stopped next to the Koopa King and stared up at him.
"Is there something wrong, my liege?" Kamek asked.
"Yeah," Bowser grunted. "I think there's something moving in my shell."
Kamek's withered face portrayed a great deal of doubt for a moment, but as Bowser looked down at his lackey, it quickly vanished.
"Something moving, Sire?" Kamek repeated.
"Yeah," Bowser replied, reaching behind him and into the depths of his shell. A loud squeal echoed through the forest as Bowser removed the claw from his shell, gripping a yellow-colored Boo. In the Boo's hand was the shiny brown stone King Koopa and company had removed from the mine several hours prior.
"Um... hi?" the Boo said somewhat lamely as Bowser and Kamek starred at the ghost with looks of shock. "Warm bunch, aren't ya? Well, I'd better be going..."
"Oh no you don't!" Kamek snarled, regaining his senses and firing a strange green mist from the tip of his wand. The magical mist surrounded the specter, and as it cleared, the yellow Boo was still in Bowser's grasp.
"Very clever," the Boo said, applying a touch of sarcasm. "Anti-teleportation, eh? Very clever..."
"I know," Kamek said shortly. "Now who are you and what are you doing here?"
"Name's Rio," the Boo introduced, "and I'm here to steal this pretty gem from you. Happy?"
"What's so special about the gem?" Kamek questioned, eyeing the specter suspiciously.
"Well..." Rio answered, showing obvious thought. "It just seemed really valuable, I guess."
"Lies!" Kammy shrieked, causing Kamek to jump.
"What the-?" Kamek said, whirling around. "When did you get here?"
"No time to explain!" Kammy shouted, pointing a wrinkled finger forward. "That Boo's escaping!"
"Not on my watch!" Kamek said predictably, sticking his arm out at his side. There was a tiny whizzing sound, and a floating broomstick shot toward the sorcerer and into his scaled hand. Kammy did the same, and both Magikoopas boarded their broomsticks and pelted off toward the escaping specter.
Bowser stood stationary, still holding the same position he had been in when he had yanked Rio out of his shell.
"Okay guys," he said to no one. "Just leave me here. I'm fine with that. Sure thing. Go ahead. I'll just... wait here."
Rio shot quickly through the forest, swerving around a rather large pine tree. He glanced behind him and saw both Kamek and Kammy speeding after him on a pair of broomsticks. The Boo cursed and took a sharp left turn, hoping to shake off his pursuers.
"That way!" Kamek shouted, motioning to the left. Kammy nodded and followed Kamek as the old sorcerer turned, ducking under a thick tree branch.
"Perhaps we should slow him up with some spells?" Kammy suggested, swerving by another tree.
"Good idea!" Kamek agreed, raising his wand and firing a small pyroshpere at the escaping Boo. The shot was poorly aimed, however, and the spell flew several feet over the specter's head.
"Keep trying!" Kammy said, firing a jumble of geometric shapes at the fleeing ghost. This shot was unsuccessful as well, but the pair of Koopas continued firing. One of Kamek's pyrospheres came within a foot of the Boo, who noticed for the first time that his pursuers were sending spells in his direction.
Rio snarled and faced forward once more, just in time to see an incoming tree trunk. The ghost quickly became transparent, sliding easily through the trunk. Rio wished dearly that he could continue staying transparent, but knew it took much energy, energy he would need in the very near future. Dodging another limb, Rio turned back and saw a group of multicolored shapes heading in his direction. He swerved upwards, failing to see a tree branch that hung several feet above him. The ghost slammed face-first into the limb, halting his progress and causing temporary blindness.
Kamek and Kammy spotted the injured ghost and slowed, increasing the number of spells shot toward the yellow-colored Boo. The ghost regained his vision, dodged past several projectiles, and rocketed in Kammy's direction. The hag clad in purple let out a yelp and raised her broom several feet, causing Rio to zoom under her. Instead of turning, however, the sneaky specter continued forward and sped deeper into the forest. The Koopas snarled and continued their pursuit, beginning another cascade of projectile magic.
"Kammy," Kamek said as his latest pyrosphere went several feet wide of his target, "this isn't working. I'll need to charge a barrier spell."
"Fine," Kammy croaked, swerving around a stray limb.
The chase continued uneventfully as Kamek charged his magic. Rio took several evasive turns and swerves, but the Magikoopa duo were able to keep up. After a well placed shot by Kammy only missed Rio by inches, the ghost glanced behind him and noticed that Kamek had been charging his energy. Frowning slightly, the specter looked skyward and noticed that it was relatively clear of limbs and branches. Shooting the pair of Koopas one last glance, the specter rocketed upward.
"He's going up!" Kammy shouted, swerving upwards. Kamek followed suit, continuing to charge his powerful magic.
After about a half-minute of ducking and weaving, the tricky spirit broke free from the dense forest and entered a patch of empty sky. Grinning deviously, Rio positioned himself downward slightly so that he was only a foot away from the tops of the nearest trees. As both Koopas emerged from the forest, Rio landed a broad slap on Kammy, who had been closest.
Rio's assail had knocked Kammy from her broom, and with a loud, earsplitting screech, the elderly Magikoopa dropped back into the dense forest, her broom continuing upwards without its rider. Kamek had managed to avoid an ill fate, and was now circling above the ghost like a cloak-wearing hawk. Rio simply smiled up at the Magikoopa and waved farewell, dropping back below the tree tops.
Or he would have, if Kamek hadn't finally unleashed his magic. The spell was not a projectile, however; instead of blasting toward Rio, it created a large, green, semi-transparent globe around the two enemies. The ghost collided with the globe's edge and found that he could no longer escape. The Boo twisted his face into a frown, and hovered slowly toward the aged Magikoopa.
"Clever," Rio said as he neared Kamek. "Very clever."
"You said that already," Kamek pointed out, readying his wand.
"So it seems..." Rio admitted, who was now level with the robed Koopa.
"I'll give you one last chance: tell me what you want with our gem and I might not have to kill you."
"Ha!" Rio scoffed. "First, I'd like to point out that I can't die. Been there, done that, thank you very much. Second, even if I could die, I still wouldn't tell you."
"Fine then," Kamek said, straightening his hat. "It seems as though we'll have to do battle."
"I'm ready whenever you are, old man," Rio said lazily.
"Is that your idea of an insult?" Kamek asked. "Great age suppliments great wisdom! You should know that."
"No kidding?" Rio asked with touch of sarcasm. "Well it looks like you're in trouble, then. I've been in existence for over five-hundred years!"
In the very center of Toad Town there was shop known as Toad Town Sweets that sold a wide variety of tasty chocolates and candies. It was a very popular shop, and each resident stopped there almost every day to pick up their favorite sugary food. At the moment, however, the shop was completely empty, save for the owner, Scrum T. The old Mushroomer was whistling a happy tune as he cheerfully swept the sweet shop's floor, too preoccupied to hear the door quickly open and close.
Before he even realized that something out of the ordinary was occurring, Scrum T. felt something large and chocolate flavored being forced down his throat. After a moment of gagging, the Mushroomer's eyes began to flick out of focus, and his arms fell limp at his sides. Ludwig von Koopa stood behind Mushroomer, admiring his handiwork as he withdrew a large white bag and a remote control.
"This was an excellent idea," Ludwig said, grinning widely. "Before the fools even know what hit them, it will be far too late..."
"Sir!" a squeaky, urgent voice called. "Sir! Mr. Mecha Guy, sir! You must get up!"
"Wha...?" Mecha Guy muttered groggily, slowly opening an eye. It took him a moment to realize that he had been resting face down on his work desk.
"Sir!" the voice squeaked again. "Sir! You must get up! It is already half-past ten!"
"Half-past... ten...?" Mecha Guy sputtered, opening his other eye, sitting up, and turning to see a very anxious Mushroomer hovering next to him.
"Yes, sir, yes!" the Mushroomer said.
Mecha Guy cursed loudly, got to his feet, and grabbed his toolbox.
"Geez..." the Shyster said, heading for the door. "Luigi will be up to his lurpy neck in trouble, no doubt. Once again, it's up to me to save his rear!"
The Shy Guy swiftly exited his home and darted off towards the castle.
"Aw, man!" Luigi said to himself as he pounded down a Toad Town road. "Mecha Guy's gonna kill me! I knew I should have put fresh batteries into my alarm clock..."
The plumber rounded a corner and caught a glimpse of the Front Gate. As he neared it, he was surprised to notice that neither the Koopaling or Mecha Guy was anywhere in sight. A single Mushroomer with unfixed eyes that seemed noticeably out of focus stood next to gate. The Toad Town resident was standing eerily still, and Luigi grew nervous as he approached him.
"What... what's going on?" Luigi huffed as he reached the gate.
"The Koopaling has not yet arrived," the Mushroomer responded in a monotone.
"R-really?" Luigi asked.
"The Koopaling has not yet arrived," the Mushroomer repeated.
"Yeah, you already said that," Luigi pointed out.
"The Koopaling has not yet arrived."
"All right," Luigi said loudly, losing his patience. "Something is up. You're acting like an RPG character!"
"The Koopaling has not yet arrived."
"Yeah, I'll bet he hasn't," Luigi muttered, peering through the gate. Parked next to gate on the opposite wall was a Koopa Copter, the clown-like eyes sparkling innocently in the sun. The sight of the machine confirmed Luigi's fears.
"Thanks for all the help," the plumber told the Mushroomer sarcastically, sprinting away from the gate.
"The Koopaling has not yet arrived."
"Let me in!" Mecha Guy growled, staring heatedly at the Mushroomers that guarded the gates of the castle.
"None shall pass," the guards said in unison.
"What?!" the perturbed Shy Guy shouted. "Why can't I go in?"
"None shall pass," both repeated.
"Why?!" Mecha Guy yelled. "What's going on in there?!"
"None shall pass."
"That's it!" the Shyster roared, swinging his toolbox at the nearest guard. The Mushroomer made no attempt to dodge or block the assail, and took the hit head-on, falling to the ground with no change of expression.
"None shall pass."
Likewise, the second guard did not attempt to stop Mecha Guy as he dealt a strong horizontal blow with his metal possession.
"None shall pass."
"SHUT UP!!!" Mecha Guy bellowed, ripping the door open.
Mecha Guy entered the front hall, slamming the castle door closed behind him. The Shyster's eyes widened in surprise as he glanced around the room, and his lip quivered slightly. The front hall was filled with almost fifty Mushroomers, all armed with the pathetic golden spears. All fifty had pairs of unfocused eyes, and all fifty began to lumber zombie-like towards the new arrival, spears raised threateningly.
Luigi ran frantically along the streets of Toad Town, hurriedly dodging the town's Mushroom-like residents. Every Mushroomer, it seemed, was standing stalk still with their eyes fixed expressionless on their faces. As Luigi passed, each resident said loudly:
"Go to Toad Town Sweets. They're giving away free chocolate, and it's very good."
Luigi's original destination was the castle, but as he heard the Mushroomers' suggestion, he frowned slightly, and took a left on the main road. This street went straight through the center of town, and would lead him to the sweet shop.
"It's more then just a coincidence," Luigi told himself. "There must be a reason why all the Shrooms are saying to go the sweet shop. It must be the source of the problem..."
Luigi reached the shop, wrenching open the door and quickly entering. A few feet in front of him stood Scrum T, a huge barrel full of chocolate bars sitting in front of him.
"Please," the Mushroomer said in a monotone, "have a free sample."
"Don't mind if I do..." Luigi said, picking up a chocolate bar and examining it.
"Please, have a free sample."
"Yeah, yeah..." Luigi muttered, breaking the bar in two and inspecting the innards.
"You won't find anything," a sinister voice came from behind Luigi.
The plumber whipped around just in time to see a scaly foot slam into his gut and send him flying into the barrel of chocolates. The wooden container was knocked on its side and hundreds of chocolate bars scattered onto the floor. The new arrival carefully picked his way through the sweets, picking up a bar as he strode confidently toward Luigi.
"You!" Luigi sneered, recovering from the attack and looking up at the intruder.
"Why yes, it is me," Ludwig said, closing in on Luigi. "Have you figured it out, plumber boy? Have you discovered the fuel behind my ingenious plan?"
"I do believe I have," Luigi replied, getting to his feet. "Mind control chocolate? How clever. Too bad your little run ends here!"
Ludwig laughed loudly, halting a few feet in front of the plumber.
"You know what I want," Ludwig whispered.
Luigi raised an eyebrow in confusion.
"No, Ludwig, I actually don't."
"Fool!" Ludwig spat. "Don't play dumb with me! What is the password that allows me to enter the security chamber?!"
If the situation wasn't so serious, Luigi would have broken into a fit of laughter.
"Don't know what you're talking about, Ludy," Luigi replied truthfully. "Last time I checked, we didn't have a security chamber."
"Lies!" Ludwig shouted. "Bold face lies! If you don't tell me the truth... I'll have to force it out of you!"
Without warning, Ludwig charged at Luigi and pinned him to the floor. The human was taken by surprise, and could not react quickly enough as the eldest Koopaling shoved the bar of chocolate down the plumber's throat. Luigi went into a loud coughing fit, but was soon overcome by the mind-altering sweet.
Grinning triumphantly, Ludwig withdrew his remote control and pointed it at Luigi. He entered in a command, and Luigi rigidly rose to his feet and snapped to attention.
"Tell me the password for the security chamber!" Ludwig ordered.
"There is no security chamber that I know of," Luigi replied in a monotone.
Ludwig snarled angrily.
"This fool is unaware of the security chamber?" the Koopaling asked himself. "Then who...? Who created it? Who knows the password?!"
"AAAAAAAH!!!" Mecha Guy cried, stumbling backwards toward the door. "ZOMBIE TOADSTOOLS!!!"
The frightened Shyster whirled around and attempted to reopen the door. The castle door wouldn't budge, however, as Mecha Guy swore loudly.
"Why won't you open?!" he yelled, pounding the door spastically.
A muffled "None shall pass" came from
behind the closed door, and the enraged Mecha Guy swore once
again and turned to face the advancing Mushroomers.
"Well," he said, gulping loudly as the marching guards grew nearer, "Larry Koopa did it with a shovel, so..."
Mecha Guy cracked his neck to the side, and raised his toolbox. The nearest guard leapt toward the Shy Guy, and Mecha Guy began the battle with a crushing, vertical blow that sent the guard flying into the advancing mob. Grinning, Mecha Guy swung his leg forward, kicked an advancing Shroom in the stomach, and whirled his toolbox around in circular motion, knocking three additional guards to the floor.
The swarm of guards was thickening, though, and it was difficult for the Shyster to continue fighting. He began to take several stabs to the body as the Mushroomers ruthlessly continued their assault. Mecha Guy's toolbox was nothing more then a blur as the panicked Shyster swung it at the advancing force, slamming and cracking as it went.
Finally, a Mushroomer Guard landed a hard kick on the Shy Guy's stomach, sending him to the floor. The remaining guards formed a tight circle around him, pointing their golden spears at the tired Shy Guy. They were about to land the finishing blow when several golden weapons rained down on the group, killing several and causing the guards to halt their assail. The mind-warped Shrooms turned and discovered that Princess Toadstool and a handful of non-zombiefied Mushroomers had burst into the room, flinging dozens of their own projectiles.
Seizing his chance, Mecha Guy leapt up and landed several blows with his toolbox, downing the remaining guards. Princess Toadstool and company hurried down to meet Mecha Guy, who stood stationary, breathing deeply as he dropped his toolbox to the ground.
"Go..." Mecha Guy said finally, gazing up at Peach. "I appreciate your help, but you're going to have to go back to the security chamber. I have a feeling whoever's behind all this is going to show up shortly."
"Are you sure that you don't need assistance?" Peach asked.
"Leave the guards if you wish," Mecha Guy said, whipping blood from his arm. "I think perhaps Luigi has fallen victim to the Koopa's trance..."
"There's no time to explain!" Mecha Guy urged. "Please, retreat back into the chamber!"
Peach nodded and scurried away, leaving the remaining guards at Mecha Guy's side. The Shyster frowned grimly and strode to the castle's door, motioning for the guards to follow him.
"Come on," he said, failing in an attempt to open the door. "Oh... right. It's still being barricaded. There's a back way, isn't there?"
Remote in claw, Ludwig moved quickly toward the Toad Town Castle, Luigi following mindlessly behind him. Upon reaching the castle, the Koopaling shot the pair of door guards a confused look as he examined what they had done. The two Mushroomers had their backs against the door and their spears jammed against it, obviously keen on keeping the door shut.
"All I did was order them to keep the castle entryway secure..." Ludwig said to himself. "Is there someone on the opposite end trying to get out? If so, how did they get in? Could it be Peach?"
"No," a calm voice came from behind Ludwig, causing the Koopa to whip around. A few feet in front of him stood Mecha Guy, his robes torn and bloody. With him were five Mushroomers equipped with the flimsy golden spears.
"You're that Shy Guy..." Ludwig said, examining the figure. "That one Lemmy told me about."
Mecha Guy shot Ludwig a confused glance.
"Lemmy... Lemmy Koopa?" the Shyster asked. "You mean, your brother? How does he know about me?"
"None of your business!" Ludwig snapped, eyeing the tiny camera machine that floated a few meters above the group. Noticing out of the corner of his eye that Mecha Guy had followed his gaze, he hastily swept his eyes back on the Shy Guy mechanic.
"It was you who designed the security chamber, wasn't it?" Ludwig asked audibly. "How clever of you not to tell the foolish plumber."
"I thought so," Mecha Guy said brightly. "I don't know if you've noticed, but he really hasn't been pulling his weight around here as of late."
"Oh really..." Ludwig said deviously, eyeing his new mind-slave. "So, I'm guessing that you could take him one-on-one?"
"Easily," Mecha Guy replied. "I'd even have enough time to stop your from inserting that mind-altering sweet into my mouth."
"Oh really?" Ludwig repeated. "I have trouble believing that. Shall we see if my suspicion is confirmed?"
"Gladly," Mecha Guy responded, turning to the Mushroomers. "I know you guys are going to be throttled by this Koopaling rather easily, but at least try to trip him up a little bit, okay?"
"I do think that was the most pessimistic pep-talk I've ever heard," Ludwig said, chuckling.
Mecha Guy rolled his eyes and shot toward Ludwig, swinging his toolbox at the heavy Koopa. Ludwig leaped over the assault, and retreated backwards, plugging a control into his remote. Like some sort of strange humanized puppet, Luigi jerked into a fighting position and hurled himself at Mecha Guy. The Shy Guy, showing no sign of emotional attachment to his comrade, slammed the plumber in the jaw with his toolbox-gone-weapon.
Luigi seemed to be unaffected by the pain, and righted himself in time to land a hard punch on Mecha Guy's mask. Slightly baffled but more or less unharmed, the crafty Shy Guy ducked a kick and slammed his own foot into Luigi's stomach. The plumber was blown back slightly, but remained unaffected, charging at the Shy Guy once more. Mecha Guy let out a gasp of irritation, continuing to dodge fists and feet.
"Oh, give it up already!" Ludwig said as Mecha Guy landed another blow that seemed to have no effect on the human. "While under my spell, the fool feels no pain or strain. Unlike you... he can continue to fight forever!"
"Why are you allowing him to monologue like that?!" Mecha Guy cried to the guards, ignoring Ludwig and ducking Luigi's swinging fist. "Don't just stand there! Get that remote!"
The guards jumped in surprise, slightly ashamed that they had forgotten their task. Taking no time to strategize, the guards pelted toward Ludwig, who took out one immediately with a well-placed fireball. He took out another with a spinning kick, and ducked under a spear that had been thrown at him. Ludwig then retreated into his shell and began to spin in wild circles, smashing the remaining guards like bowling pins. Laughing, Ludwig popped his limbs and head out from the depths of his shell and glanced toward Mecha Guy, who was standing alone.
"Where's Luigi?" Ludwig asked.
"He wasn't set on autopilot," Mecha Guy explained, grinning deviously.
"Excuse me?" Ludwig snarled. "And what do you mean by that?"
"I'm simply saying that your mind-slave could not continue to slave as the mind that controlled it was preoccupied."
"Where is he?!" Ludwig repeated.
"Why should I tell you?" Mecha Guy replied slyly. "You can't use what you can't see."
"Enough!" Ludwig roared. "I don't need that idiot anyway! I've got plenty of other mind-slaves..." The kooky Koopa began to hammer away at his remote in a frenzy, and as he did, the Mushroomers that occupied the street (Mecha Guy had not noticed them before) began to march zombie-like toward the Shyster.
"Oh boy..." Mecha Guy muttered, retreating slightly. "This is not good..."
"You're darn right it isn't!" Ludwig agreed as the Mushroomers closed in. "Now you will feel the full fury of Ludwig von Koop- OW!"
While the eldest Koopaling monologued, Mecha Guy had hurled a screwdriver in the Koopa's direction. The tiny tool had slammed into Ludwig's right shoulder.
"Why are you-?" Ludwig cried, dodging another flying object. "Hey! HEY!!! Stop- OW! Aw c'mon, that really... OW!!!"
"Hold still!" Mecha Guy grumbled, stepping back as the Mushroomers continued their lengthy approach.
"Hold still?!" Ludwig sputtered in disbelief. "What, so you can bean me in the head with a pair of pliers?!"
Mecha Guy said nothing as he swatted a Mushroomer away and glanced into his toolbox. It was nearly empty now; only two metal objects remained. The Shy Guy ducked away from the slow crowd of Shrooms and hurled one of his last tools at the eldest Koopaling. Ludwig saw the tool coming and hurriedly threw his right arm forward in hopes of blocking the projectile. The Koopaling closed his eyes as the object impacted him, but the sound of metal hitting metal caused his eyes to reopen in a panic.
"Yahtzee," Mecha Guy said, grinning.
"My remote!" Ludwig cried, staring at his ruined mind control device with bulging eyes.
A pair of sparks flew from the remote and Ludwig quickly hurled it into the air, where it exploded a second later. The Koopaling cursed under his breath and turned back toward Mecha Guy, only to see a flying wrench smack square in the face. Mecha Guy whipped his hands together, wearing a look of satisfaction as he watched Ludwig fall to the ground in an unconscious heap.
"All right!" an angered Italian voice called from behind Mecha Guy, who turned to see Luigi stumble out of the closest home. "Who's the one responsible for locking me in a closet?!"
Aid floated in place for a moment, mentally enjoying her victory. Her cheerful thoughts were suddenly averted, however, as she remembered that Broshi and Mario were both out cold and most likely lying unconscious at the cave's rocky floor. Cranking up the velocity of her light with all the excess energy she could muster, Aid darted around the cavern in hopes of spotting either Mario or Broshi. After several minutes of unsuccessful hunting, the sorceress gave up the search and focused on her thoughts.
"Broshi?" Aid called, hearing her voice echo around her.
"Yes?" a calm voice called.
"Broshi?!" Aid repeated. "Is that you? Are you all right?!"
"Yeah, yeah," Broshi replied. "Mario's okay, too, in case you're wondering."
"What happened? Where are you guys?"
"The beast got a a hold of me with
that tail of his," Broshi explained. "I wasn't out for too long,
When I regained consciousness, I figured you were doing well enough on your own, so I grabbed Mario and
swam back to the boat."
"So that's where you are? On the boat?"
"Eagerly awaiting your arrival," Broshi answered cheerfully.
"Sure..." Aid said. "Hold on... we still have to get the gem!"
"Oh... yeah. About that..."
"Excuse me?" Aid asked angrily.
"Pirgoom has it."
"Eh heh heh, yeah..." Broshi
replied sheepishly. "Look, he sent us down there to kill that thing
him so that he could explore the cavern safely again, okay? He's gonna give us the gem."
"He'd BETTER give us the gem, that lousy little-"
"Hey, if you're that angry, come up here and yell at him yourself."
"I'll make sure to," Aid growled. "He'd better head for the hills too... if he values his health."
"What was that all about, now?" Pirgoom asked Broshi as he lost magical contact.
"Uh..." Broshi replied nervously, shifting his eyes. "Nothing... important."
Kamek sneered and quickly shot his wand forward, blasting Rio directly in the face with a fast-moving pyrosphere.
"Cheap shot!" Rio cried, dodging another fiery projectile.
"With all that age, you'd think you would have seen that coming," Kamek said, chuckling as Rio darted toward him.
The crafty Magickoopa swooped under the yellow specter and fired a counter-attack. Rio turned just in time to receive a another face full of flame. Angered, the Boo shot toward Kamek once more. The spell-user simply soared over him and fired another blast, this one missing by a few inches.
"So that's the way you wanna play, huh?" Rio asked, whipping around to face Kamek. "Swoop around while blasting me with projectiles? Fine, then. I'll use a weapon of my own..."
Rio plunged his hand into his large stocking cap and withdrew a medium-sized dagger. The spirit gracefully flipped it into the air and caught it again, shooting a Kamek a wide grin.
"A dagger?" Kamek scoffed. "Give me a break. I'm thinking your weapon selection should be a little more twenty-first century."
"Pah," Rio snorted. "I don't need a pansy fireball-shooting wand to beat you!"
"Magic is not 'pansy', you ignorant fool!" Kamek shouted, brandishing his weapon and firing a string of pyrospheres in Rio's direction.
The clever ghost dodged the assails and lunged toward Kamek, slicing at him with his blade. Kamek swerved to the left just in time, receiving nothing but a cut sleeve; but Rio continued forward, his blade slamming into the semi-transparent globe that surrounded the fighters.
"I think your breaks need adjusting," Kamek joked, blasting another flaming cascade of projectiles at the specter. Rio ducked under the fiery spheres, watching the shots slam into the magical globe with mild interest.
"This is getting repetitive..." Rio yawned. "Do something else for change!"
"Fine!" Kamek snapped. "Try this!"
The aged Magikoopa stuck his wand into the air and quickly pushed all excess energy into the magical device. After several seconds, a thought passed through the Koopa's mind; why wasn't the ghost attacking? It was irrelevant now... the sorcerer's attack was fully charged, and-
"What in blazes are you doing?" Kamek asked as his eyes darted in the Boo's direction.
"Nothing," Rio replied casually, taking one last hack at the semi-transparent wall behind him.
"Whatever it was," Kamek said, narrowing
his eyes and slashing his wand forward, "it won't help you now.
Prepare to fall victim to my ultimate attack!"
Kamek fired, and an enormous orb of dark energy erupted from the tip of his wand; the sheer force of the attack sent the aged Koopa flying backwards several meters. The Boo did not seem worried, however; at the last second, Rio became semi-transparent, and the blast soared right through him.
"Blast!" Kamek cursed. "I should have known..."
"That's not the half of it, bucko," Rio said slyly, fully visualizing himself and turning about-face. "See, while you were charging that pathetic attack of yours, I slashed up the dome a bit. You see, it was already weak from several attacks from before, and now..."
Kamek watched in horror as his powerful orb blasted cleanly through his magical barrier and continued barreling out of sight.
"It's been fun, sir," Rio said tauntingly, "but I really must be going."
The specter zipped quickly toward the newly created opening and slipped through it. Kamek hastily pursued the ghost, glancing frantically about as he passed through the opening.
"Fast little maggot," Kamek murmured. "Oh well... I suppose I should start looking for Kammy and Lord Bowser..."
"You know," Rio chuckled to himself as he navigated through the dense forest, "that Magikoopa actually looked sort of clever. I thought keeping the gem from him might have actually been a challenge." He paused, swooping gracefully over a dead branch. "The stupidity of the Koopa Kind never ceases to amaze me. Anyway... let's figure out where I should head next."
The yellow specter stuffed his right hand into his cap and withdrew the Location Orb, raising it up to mouth level and saying in a loud, clear voice, "Wind Gem." The blood red arrow appeared inside the magical device and pointed due north. The Boo nodded in recognition and began to float lazily in the direction the orb had indicated, but stopped himself abruptly.
"It's been a while since I've contacted Ehcon," the ghost told himself. "I guess he'd like to know of my progress..."
"Ehcon?" Rio asked. "You there, buddy?"
"Yeah, yeah," a voice responded moments later.
"Is this a bad time?" the ghost questioned.
"Nah," Ehcon replied. "Just had to take care of few onlookers."
"Jeez, man. You didn't have to blow some random guys up just 'cause of this, did you?"
"Of course not," Ehcon answered, sounding amused. "I only kill if I really need to; you know that. No, their senses are just being dulled for a moment. But enough about that; what's going on?"
"Not much, really," Rio responded somewhat untruthfully. "I've just called in to tell you that I have both the Earth and Shadow Gems."
"Excellent," Ehcon said. "I've recently obtained one myself, actually. It was the-" the dark wizard cut himself off.
"What's happening?" Rio asked, his tone implying a note of mild panic.
"Someone's coming," Ehcon said quickly. "I'm gonna have to go."
"And don't contact me again," Ehcon interrupted hastily. "No time to tell you why, just keep collecting the gems!"
"Yeah, all right," Rio said irritably as his connection broke. "Why does he always have to be so mysterious? Whatever..."
The cap-wearing specter took another
swift glance down at his Location Orb and sped off in the direction it
pointed, not noticing a pair of bright yellow eyes that had been keenly observing him from the shadow of a large tree. As Rio raced out of sight, the eerie eyes flickered once and vanished without a sound.