Relations of Light and Dark

By Din

Part 7
Chapter 31

"Okay, gentlemen," Mecha Guy exclaimed in a businesslike voice. "It's taken a while for me to build these babies but you will find, of course, that it was well worth the effort."

It was late at night, and Yoshi, Luigi, and Mecha Guy were stationed inside a small room in the castle that had been set up specifically for the Shyster mechanic to construct his gadgets. The princess had been very happy to make it for the Shy Guy; after all, it was his skills in both mechanics and martial arts that was saving her kingdom from certain destruction by not only constructing an impenetrable security chamber, but also fighting off various Koopalings with his trusty toolbox.

The room was dank and windowless and smelled strongly of gas, oil, and coffee. A pair of torches provided the sole light source, and perhaps a half-dozen desks and tables, bearing random bits of machinery, a coffee bean grinder, and several empty mugs sat around the room. Additionally, Luigi believed firmly that,even though he had traveled through several different sewers on many occasions, this was the filthiest room he had ever set foot it. Cringing, the plumber glanced down at the nearest table, which Mecha Guy had been motioning towards. It was clear apart from three odd looking pieces Luigi deduced were the "babies" the Shy Guy had been referring to.

"Um, what are they?" Yoshi asked Mecha Guy timidly.

"They're weapons, of course," Mecha Guy replied as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Would you like me to tell you how each one of them works?"

"Yes, please," Luigi said, and Yoshi nodded.

"Right," Mecha Guy began, continuing his business-like manor and snatching up the nearest weapon off the table. "This one here his a magnet gun," he explained, holding up the weapon in front of Luigi and Yoshi, who peered at it questioningly. It took the appearance of a large steal trumpet; apart from solid metal, its body was made up mostly of a rubber grip, and the tip was shaped like a giant steal funnel.

"Please allow me to demonstrate," Mecha Guy said, grinning as he pressed down on the first of two triggers. A small metal screw, which the Shyster had aimed at, was immediately yanked toward the funnel end and clung there. Aiming it toward the wall, Mecha Guy pulled the second trigger and the screw shot forward and slammed into the wall, creating a small dent in the plaster.

"Basically, as you can see," Mecha Guy continued as he placed the magnet gun down, "it sucks up whatever bit of metal it's aimed at and flings it in whatever direction you choose. Remember though, don't try it on something larger than, like, a watermelon, or something. The interior electromagnetic cables would then stress a bit too much, causing the funnel gear to... well, never mind that. Just don't do it.

"Anyway, moving on," Mecha Guy said, grabbing the smallest of the three weapons from the table and presenting it to his comrades; it seemed nothing more then a tiny, black disk sporting a few buttons, "this is a boomerang blade. When you push this button," he motioned toward a small green one, "blades automatically pop out. Step back now."

Yoshi and Luigi did so, though with a bit of difficulty; the room was rather cluttered. Mecha Guy pressed firmly down on the button he had indicated earlier and, quick as lightning, a half dozen blades, triangular in shape, jutted out from the weapon's edge.

"When you throw this thing," Mecha Guy explained further, "it automatically soars back to you after you hurl it. With the blades sheathed, obviously," he added, seeing Luigi and Yoshi's horrified looks. "You can retract them manually by pushing the large red button." The Shy Guy pressed down on the button, and the triangular blades tucked themselves away.

"Lastly," Mecha Guy said as he placed the boomerang blade down on the table and picked up what appeared to be a plain-looking sword with two buttons situated by the handle, "my little blade here. Again, when you push green," the Shyster did so, and a hue of yellow energy surrounded the blade, "things get a lot more interesting. When in is lit up like this, it can easily glide through any sort of metal. Insanely useful for what we've got coming, I'm sure. Just keep in mind that it won't slice through anything else in this form, it'll just kind of... smack into it. You get rid of the light by pushing the other button."

Mecha Guy demonstrated for the final time and then replaced the weapon upon the wooden surface of the table. "So, that's that," he said, turning to his fellow heroes. "Any questions?"


Rio quickly halted himself, sweeping gracefully backwards as Aid's magical ray blasted by, missing the front of his face by less then half a meter. Turning, Rio caught sight of his attackers and frowned irritably; three figures, including a fat plumber, a sorceress in a white robe, and large black Yoshi, had suddenly entered the room. The large Yoshi appeared to be staring directly at him, and the Boo felt his mind prickle slightly. Shaking it off, Rio jammed his brain into Rapid Think Mode.

"Step away from the Gem, buddy," Mario growled at Rio as his group of three approached the pedestal.

"Step?" Rio repeated with a snort. "How is it possible for me to 'step' anywhere?"

"Oh yes, very clever," Aid said with icy sarcasm. "But I really do suggest you get out of here, seeing as you're just a little a Boo in a hat and we happen to outnumber you."

"That's never stopped me before," Rio said with a grin, inching toward the Gem as the three heroes drew nearer.

"Keep away," Aid snapped, shooting her arm out and aiming it at Rio again, who ignored her and quickly shot toward the Light Gem.

There was a sudden, blinding flash of white light as Aid shot a speedy orb of magic, which slammed directly into Rio's side, automatically covering the ghost with a silky, semitransparent coat. Rio attempted to dart forward once more, but found that Aid's magic had sealed him in place.

"Nice shot," Mario praised as he reached the pedestal and snatched up the Light Gem.

"Yes, well done," Broshi said in slightly dull tone as he stepped next to Mario.

"Broshi, the sack, if you will," Mario requested.

"Right," Broshi complied, swinging the pack from his back and prying it open. "Got it here somewhere..." he muttered, tearing through it for a moment and then producing a small brown sack that held both the collected Fire and Water Gems.

"Excellent," Mario said cheerfully, taking the sack from the dino and stowing the Light Gem. Returning the bag to Broshi, the plumber continued, "That wasn't so bad, was it? At this rate, we'll have the remaining Gems looted in no time."

"Remaining Gems, you say?" Rio asked from inside his magical seal. "You have... more? You're collecting them?"

"So what if we are?" Aid replied testily, taking a step for the exit. "Come on, guys, let's get out of here..."

"So you've done my work for me, have you?" Rio pursued.

Aid stopped and wheeled around. "Excuse me? What are talking about?"

"Could mean a lot of things," Rio said slyly. "Most obvious of which, I'm thinking, is that I, too, may be after the Gems."

"He's lying," Mario said quickly. "He's just trying to get himself out of your-"

"Lying, am I?" Rio cut in loudly, clearly enjoying himself. "No, I don't think I am..."

"He is," Mario persisted firmly. "I bet he doesn't even know what the Elemental Gems are. Let's just get out-"

"Go for it," Rio interrupted nastily. "It may be a a bit of a downer for you when you realize that the rest of the Gems have been found already..."

"By who?" Mario questioned in a half-shout. "You?"

Rio smirked. "Could be."

"He's lying," Mario repeated, following Aid, who nodded in agreement and swept once again for the exit.

"Fine," Rio called. "I suppose I'll have to convince you the hard way..."

Aid ignored the Boo and instead turned to Broshi, who was still standing by the pedestal and staring at the floor with a glazed look in his eyes. She was about to call to him when she saw Rio rocketing from his magical prison in a transparent form and, upon making himself solid again, checked Broshi roughly in the gut. The black Yoshi, taken by surprise, was knocked  back several feet when Rio added an additional smack to his face, and slammed to the ground, unconscious.

"No!" Aid shouted, sending another ray of magic toward Rio, who simply swept under it.

"How-?" Mario, who had turned at the sound of Aid's scream, sputtered.

"He can turn transparent," Aid growled, sending more waves of magic toward Rio as he advanced speedily toward them, dodging when necessary.

"Oh," Mario said. "Right. I forgot they could do that."

Aid rolled her eyes as Rio approached and sent out one last desperation attack, which Rio easily ducked under. Drawing the short blade from his stocking cap, Rio hacked skillfully at Aid, who dodged to the left. Sweeping over a needle of light magic conjured by the sorceress in white, Rio made a powerful vertical slash toward her. The attack was interrupted, though, when Mario landed a kick on Rio's side, causing him to be knocked astray. Rounding on Mario, Rio delivered a strong smack to the side of the plumber's face, spiraling him to the ground, and quickly made himself transparent in order to dodge a new magical projectile launched via Aid.

Fully visualizing himself, Rio darted toward Aid once more, raising his dagger. Aid shot her right hand forward and flicked a glob of magic toward the Boo's sword, which was caught in the sticky substance and lurched from his hand. Snarling, Rio spun around and attempted to retrieve his weapon, but was quickly blown to the side by a beam of light shot from Aid's palm. The sorceress reached the blade, vanished the gooey magic with a firm wave, snatched up the sword, and hurled it toward a nearby marble pillar. Upon impacting, the blade of the dagger slid cleanly into the marble and quivered a moment before coming to a rest.

Rio lunged for his weapon, but Mario, back on his feet, incepted him with a flying fist. The plumber completely whiffed his attack, however, as Rio avoided the attack by pulling back for a moment. Shoving Mario out of the way, the Boo then swept quickly for the blade, arching over a new Aid attack, which took the form of a magical bolt. Reaching his stuck weapon, Rio quickly yanked it out and made a wild slash at Aid, who was only a few feet behind him. The nimble sorceress dodged the blunt of the attack, but was sliced lightly in the elbow as she leapt to the right. Sensing the advantage, Rio made another quick cut with his blade, only to find it met by a dazzling, canery yellow shield Aid had produced from thin air.

Drawing his blade back, Rio made a low slash for Aid's legs, but missed as the sorceress hopped over the sword. Dodging another magic attack with transparency, Rio swung his blade upwards, caught the inside of Aid's shield, wrenched it from her hands, and sent it sailing several yards behind him with a flick of his sword. Now disarmed and slightly injured, Aid was put on the defensive as Rio relentlessly hacked away with his blade.

"Aid!" Mario cried, forcing Aid to turn and look in his direction as she ducked under a horizontal slash. The plumber seemed to be carrying a rusty steel sword.

"Where did you get that thing?" Aid asked as she spun away from another attack.

"Some statue," Mario replied, approaching the battle at a jog. "Here, catch!" The plumber quickly lobbed the sword handle-first in Aid's direction. The sorceress retreated back a few steps, caught the sword, and quickly met Rio's blade with it as he pressed forward and swung once more.

Rio slid his blade off Aid's, and a small wave of sparks showered from the two weapons. Aid parried another Rio assail, swiftly placing her hand an inch or so away from the blade of her weapon and tracing the length of it. Suddenly, the sword was surrounded by an aura of pure white light, which Rio cringed from as he took another swing at Aid. The magic user easily met the attack, and flung her magically enhanced sword upward so that Rio's blade was sent billowing away from his grasp, landing on the floor a good fifty feet away.

Flipping over Mario, who had lunged from behind, Rio snatched up the plumber from behind and hurled him at Aid, who was preparing a slash. The two comrades collided painfully, and Rio soared by them, making a beeline for Broshi's bag. The dino himself was still lying unconscious on the floor some feet away. Shoving Mario off her, Aid traced the air with her hands and shot them forward, creating a rectangular blockade of magic, which Rio promptly slammed into as he lunged for the bag. Clutching his head, Rio moved back a half-foot, then attempted to fly over Aid's magical barrier. Once more he slammed into the wall, which the sorceress had shifted upwards with a wrist flick as she approached the Boo from behind.

Sighing with annoyance, Rio ducked a vertical slash, which shattered the barrier behind him, and whipped off to the right, where there was a marble pillar he could use as refuge. Aid pelted after him, taking several swings at the ghost while doing so. Avoiding the attacks with hard spins to the right and left, Rio reached the pillar and threw himself behind it as Aid swung once more. This time she met the thick pillar, which jammed her sword quite nicely as the enchanted weapon slid hallway into the stone and stopped. Seeing this, Rio appeared from behind his shelter and landed several quick smacks, which plowed Aid painfully to the ground. Wasting no more time, Rio sped past the temporarily downed sorceress and darted for Broshi's bag once more.

This time, however, his resistance was in the form of an irked plumber, who delivered a sharp roundhouse kick to Rio's face as the Boo attempted to charge past him. Yelling several profanities, Rio twirled smoothly around, swept over another Mario assail, and lunged for his fallen blade, which was lying nearby. The heroic plumber pursued, only to meet a rather sickening fate as Rio snatched up his weapon and turned; the blade of the yellow specter's sword, after a swift vertical thrust, had gone cleanly into Mario's gut.

"You lose, plumber boy," Rio snarled, sliding Mario's
shocked form off his blade and hovering rapidly toward Broshi's bag.

"What-?" Aid stammered in a woozy tone as she finally found her feet, glancing casually in Mario's direction. Upon seeing her fallen comrade, she let out a shrill shout and sprinted full bore toward him.

"No! No no no no no!" Aid cried, flinging herself next to the fallen plumber, who was out cold and bleeding rather profusely. Muttering wordily under her breath, Aid ran her hands over Mario's wound, sending tiny orbs of light from the tips of her fingers to seal it and fix the damage as much as possible.

Oozing horrendous fury, Aid threw herself to her feet and glanced jerkily about, attempting to locate Rio. She spotted him immediately; the Boo was bolting for the door, carrying what she assumed was Broshi's bag of Elemental Gems. Heart pounding wildly, Aid tore after him, unleashing waves of magic projectiles that flew about in random directions, smashing into the surrounding walls and pillars and causing bits of ruble and debris to tumble down from them.

It wouldn't do. None of the passion-inspired attacks even came within a foot or so of Rio, and the ghost was only feet away from the exit. Suddenly extremely weary and sapped of energy, Aid crumpled to floor in mid-stride, landing face first on the cold, hard ground. Focusing her eyes up, Aid saw Rio floating toward the exit, closer... closer... closer...

"MINE!!!" roared a horribly high-pitched voice.

Rio suddenly froze, and, out of nowhere, a thick beam of scarlet energy shot from Rio's right side, impacting him and sending the ghost's stolen bag of Elemental Gems, as well as his sword, sailing away from his grasp. The ghost, upon righting himself, seemed quite hurt; he was coressing his body and barely able to stay afloat as he gazed to his right in horror. From out of the shadows, a figure appeared: a Shy Guy sporting a tattered brown robe, a rusted belt buckle, and bearing a pair of eyes that glowed a furious crimson.

Chapter 32

"Showtime," Yoshi said firmly as he, Mecha Guy, and Luigi stood next to each other near the Toad Town Front gate, eyes glued to a flying mechanical monster that was very, very familiar indeed.

But when the former Robo Iggy crashed to the ground in front of the three heroes, there were some obvious changes. The machine's spectacles had been pried off, a mechanical Koopaling wand had been welded into the robot's clutches, and, overall, the behemoth metal monster was quite a bit bulkier around the middle, where several square feet of storage face had been hastily added.

"It's been a long week, I'll tell you what," Lemmy called from his stolen robot, using the microphone Iggy had installed for himself. "But now that I'm here, finally here, I'm going to be enjoying myself immensely, so I hope you fools are ready for a little blast from the past!"

Laughing insanely, Lemmy slammed a claw onto a large button on the revamped control board, causing a large metal hatch on the chest of his robot to slide open. From within it shot a shoddy, but stirringly accurate version of a certain spherical machine that had caused some plight in an earlier skirmish.

"Oh no..." Luigi moaned as he gazed open the soaring sun beast that had just revealed itself. "Not again..."

"Like my Angry Sun 3.0, do you, Luigi?" Lemmy asked wickedly, plugging in another command. "Lovely. I think the two of you ought to be better acquainted."

Flashing its robotic eyes, the Angry Sun double remake swooped speedily down toward the frightened plumber, who dove out of the way just in time. Swinging around, the metallic sun made a dive toward Yoshi, who hopped away, skinning his right knee on one of the Angry Sun 3.0's spikes.

"Luigi!" Mecha Guy yelled toward the plumber, who was dodging another arial assault via the Angry Sun remake. "Divert the sun for a moment, will you? Yoshi and I need to deal with the actual robot."

"Fat chance!" Lemmy growled, entering another command.

The large machine weapon lurched forward and thrust down its right arm toward Yoshi and Mecha Guy, stopping several meters above them. Slamming down another button, Lemmy commanded a gaping hole to appear at the palm of the Robo Lemmy's hand, from which a high speed, full-stuffed boxing mitt attached to a spiraling wire shot toward the heroes. Not expecting this, Mecha Guy was clocked painfully in the face by what was originally the weapon idea of Roy Koopa, sending the Shy Guy toppling backwards.

Swinging his robot's left arm toward Yoshi, who was still standing, Lemmy shot a second P.O.W. toward the dino, who sprung backwards, drew Mecha Guy's boomerang blade from his saddle, slid out the triangular blades from the weapon's center, and hurled it swiftly at the spiraling wire that was connected to the boxing mitt. The frisbee-like weapon easily hacked through the wire and flew back to Yoshi, you caught it cleanly and dodged another assail attempt made by Lemmy with the P.O.W. he had used to take out Mecha Guy.

Detaching the second P.O.W. with another hurl of his boomerang blade, Yoshi retracted his weapon and returned to help Mecha Guy to his feet. Above the pair, Lemmy had opened another hatch in his robot's stomach and, from it, shot out something small and round, which soared over to a large patch of grass and sunk in.

"Oh great," Mecha Guy muttered, sprinting for the patch of grass. "Come on, Yoshi, we can't let another one of those enormous Piranha Plants sprout up!"

"Wha-?" Yoshi began, then yelped as the foot of Lemmy's machine swung forward and smacked into Mecha Guy, smashing him into a nearby building.

Lemmy cackled in delight. "I'll let you two provide lunch for my little plant while I go stir up some trouble at the castle with my little machine. Adios, losers!" Lemmy fired up his robot's boosters, which immediately lifted the machine into the air, and soared off.

Just as Yoshi shifted his attention back to the birth site of the new floral enemy, a wave of small tremors rocketed from the patch of seeded grass, and the bulbous head of a large Piranha Plant erupted violently from the ground. This one, while not as big as the original Larry had created, was still nearly twenty feet tall and possessed dozens of extendable vines, which quickly shot out toward the dino. Hardening his large eyes in focus, Yoshi raised his boomerang blade and hurled it at the nearest advancing vines, slicing several of them as the green hero darted toward the Piranha's head.

Snatching his blade from the air as it returned to him, Yoshi leaped over a swinging vine, dodged his head around another, and hacked apart a third as he continued forward. Throwing his flying blade at another patch of advancing vines, Yoshi was suddenly knocked back by a fireball that had been barreling toward him. Stumbling to his feet, Yoshi felt several vines latch onto his legs. Tugging at him, the long stretches of plant slowly began to drag the dino toward the Piranha Plant's head, where dozens of pointy teeth awaited him.


"WHY?!" Luigi cried helplessly as he barely avoided a stream of burning lasers from the Angry Sun 3.0, which circled above him. "Why would he remake the Angry Sun... AGAIN?!"

Apparently fed up with trying to fry the lanky plumber, the flying mechanical remake shifted its attack to heat-seeking missiles, which it sprayed in a ferocious cascade toward the terrified human bellow. Vaguely remembering how Mecha Guy, who had related his fight with the original Angry Sun remake of Morton's a few days ago, dealt with the heat-seeking explosives, Luigi scurried into the nearest building. Upon entering, Luigi positioned himself at the far corner of room he had just entered, and felt the walls of the building tremble as the missiles impacted it.

As the impacting ceased, Luigi dodged by a bit of falling metal rubble and pelted for the door, when the idea of falling metal stopped him abruptly. Recalling the weapon Mecha Guy had assigned to him earlier that day, Luigi withdrew his magnet gun from a large jean pocket and aimed it at the piece of destroyed metal. Immediately the metal chunk flew from its resting place and clung to the end of Luigi's weapon. Grinning in spite of himself, Luigi leaped from the collapsing building and began to scan the sky for the Angry Sun 3.0.

Spying the metallic beast immediately, Luigi pointed his magnet gun upward toward it and slammed down the second trigger, which sent the piece of steel rocketing toward the Angry Sun double remake. It smacked into the machine with an echoing thud and pushed it back a few feet, creating a large dent. Apparently very ticked off by this, the metallic monstrosity began firing an insane barrage of scorching lasers downward, creating a web of fiery pain. Singing his left boot as he hopped over one of the fired lasers, Luigi spotted another chunk of fallen steal, and activated his magnet gun.

Equipped with another metal projectile, Luigi turned to the Angry Sun 3.0, sidestepped a laser, and fired once more. This time, upon being impacted, the manic machine lost a great chunk of its left side, which caused it to enter a spiraling decent toward a nearby by home. Crashing into the building, the Angry Sun double remake exploded violently, setting the house it had crashed into, as well as several homes nearby, ablaze. Seemingly not perturbed by this, Luigi pocketed his weapon with a twirl and sprinted for the castle.


His head spinning in an annoying fashion, Mecha Guy found his feet and glanced skyward in time to see the Robo Lemmy fly lazily toward the Mushroom Castle. Shaking his cranium, the Shyster darted after the robot, withdrawing his metal-cutting blade while doing so. The Koopaling must have noticed he was being trailed, however, and opened a new hatch in his machine's shell, from which came a wave of large blow-up balls, which, Mecha Guy noticed, violently exploded whenever they came in contact with something solid. Swearing loudly, the Shy Guy wove through almost a half-dozen explosive balls when one landed near him, threw him into the air, and plowed him into the ground for the third time that day.

Bruised and seething, and barely being missed by another one of Lemmy's exploding balls, Mecha Guy watched as the Robo Lemmy soared out of sight, Lemmy's high-pitched cackle ringing in his ears. Raising to his feet, the Shyster made a wide dodge around another ball and, popping another ball in midair with a thrown pair of pliers from his toolbox, jogged in the direction of the escaping Robo Lemmy.


Yoshi, at this point, was seriously considering himself plant bait as more and more prickly vines latched onto him and dragged him closer and closer to the maw of the vile vegetation. That was, until the familiar whirling sound of his boomerang blade entered his hearing, and that very weapon began soaring toward him. Biting off a vine that had curled around his right arm, Yoshi reached up and snagged his boomerang blade from the air. Unsheathing the blades from within, the dino began to hack away at the vines that had ensnared him.

After finally cutting away the vines that held his feet, Yoshi looked up to see another steaming ball of flame hurtling towards him. Dropping swiftly to the ground, the large fireball soared harmlessly over him and slammed into a nearby tree, setting it easily on fire. Stomping harshly at a vine that approached him from the ground, the dino lunged forward and hurled his boomerang blade toward the neck-like stem of the large plant beast. Several of the vines launched up to intercept the flying weapon, but the boomerang blade simply sliced through the lengths of plant and continued toward the main stem.

Yoshi groaned. The stem of the Piranha Plant had shifted to the right, and the boomerang blade had simply whizzed by it. Kicking at an approaching vine, the dino tore after his flying weapon and dove for it, missing none-so-gracefully as the weapon arched back toward the position its owner had occupied some seconds earlier. Feeling a pair of vines coil around his legs, Yoshi shot his long tongue toward his soaring weapon and pulled it back toward him just as three more vines latched onto him. Shifting his boomerang blade from his tongue to his hand, Yoshi slashed away at the vines and quickly freed himself.

Taking no chances this time, Yoshi stepped toward the Piranha's head and forcefully threw the boomerang blade at it from close range. The large plant let out a horrible screeching cry as the weapon's circular blades sliced through its main stem and caused the creature's head to come crashing to the ground. His body covered in a a great amount of blood and sweat, Yoshi stowed his boomerang blade in his saddle and pressed toward the Mushroom Castle.


"Free chocolate!" Mecha Guy heard a Mushroomer cry. The Shyster stopped dead in his tracks, and glanced behind him in horror.

Dozens of Mushroomers were streaming toward a large pile of chocolate which, Mecha Guy had no doubt in his mind, was dropped by Lemmy Koopa as he had passed over the area in his robot. Wheeling back around, Mecha Guy sprinted away from the group of Mushroomers gorging on the mind-control chocolate and further down the street, where, his heart leaped again, another large group of Toad Town residents were zombie-walking toward him.

"Oh, come on!" Mecha Guy growled in frustration, sliding his metal-cutting sword away in a sheath he had attached to his belt and readying his toolbox.

Stepping forward, Mecha Guy conked the first Mushroomer on the head with a swift vertical blow, dodged away from a golden spear thrown by one of the Shrooms, and elbowed another in the gut. Taking another few steps forward, the Shyster entered a metal-wielding spiral, smashing no less than five Mushroomers with his toolbox before halting his twirl and pelting forward again. A few steps later, he leapt over a diving Mushroomer, swatted away another approaching from the side with his toolbox, and smashed a third in the jaw with a quick, vertical kick.

Finally shouldering through the last group of Mushroomers, Mecha Guy, spotting the Mushroomer Castle some fifty meters ahead of him, entered a mad dash toward it, once again readying his metal-cutting blade.


"Kids!" Bowser called as he, Kammy, and Kamek strode into Castle Koopa, slamming closed the red-iron door behind them. "We're home! Did you miss us?"

There was a pause, in which Lord Bowser figured his kids would recognize his voice and come bounding into the room and greet him. When minutes passed and this didn't occur, Bowser frowned slightly and roared once more, "Kids! I'm home! Come down here and here and greet your good ol' dad!"

"Perhaps they're not hearing you, Sire," Kamek
suggested. "The castle is rather... large."

"He's right, of course," Kammy agreed. "Unless they're situated rather close to this room-"

"Okay, okay!" Bowser snorted impatiently. "What do you suppose I do about it, then?"

"Here," Kamek said, drawing his wand and running his wrinkled hand over its tip, causing it to glow. "Just speak into the wand, Sire, and your voice should be magnified so that the whole castle will ring with your voice."

"Excellent," Bowser praised, snatching up Kamek's wand and placing it by his mouth. "Children of King Koopa," Bowser's voice boomed, "I have returned. Come meet me at the front of the castle immediately."

"Very official, sir," Kammy offered as Bowser lowered the wand.

"Thank you," Bowser said, stroking his chin. "Oh, here we are!"

One of the two doors situated at the top of the stairway, which lowered toward the front gate, had opened, and a Hammer Brother strode timidly into the room.

Bowser glared at it, annoyed. "Idiot!" he growled, "I asked for my kids, not... well, certainly not you! Go away!"

"I-I'm so sorry, Sire," the Hammer Brother stuttered, "but the guards and I would like to inform you that your children are, at the moment, away."

"Away?!" Bowser shouted. "Why would they be away? Where are they?!"

"The Mushroom Kingdom, Sire," the Hammer Brother informed with a gulp. "It's a long story, Sire, but they... they, um..."

"Spit it out, man!" Bowser roared.

"They held a contest!" the Hammer Brother admitted, nearly as loud. "A contest to see who could takeover the Mushroom Kingdom, Sire. I'm sorry to say that, well, all of your children, that is, apart from, well, Lemmy, and.... well, I... well..."

"Say 'well' one more time and I will slice you open," Kamek threatened, snatching his wand from Bowser and pointing it at the Hammer Brother. "What has happened to Lord Bowser's children?"

"Jail!" the Hammer Brother gasped hysterically. "All of them but Lemmy! Locked in the Mushroomer Castle dungeons!"

"We're leaving," Bowser hissed in a horrifyingly dark tone, motioning for his two Magikoopa Advisors to follow him out the front door.

"Um, leaving, Sire?" Kammy asked.

"Of course!" Bowser bellowed. "My kids are in the hands of those grubby Mushroom Freaks! We'll be needing to free them!"

Kamek gulped, though managed to disguise it as a mild neck seizure. "But of course, Sire."

Chapter 33

The realization hit Rio like one of the hefty pieces of debris that was now falling from the walls of the Watching Shrine. The Shy Guy that was now approaching him from darkness was the same one he had seen on his venture to locate the Shadow Gem, the one he had actually stolen the Gem from. It had been stalking him all this time, which, Rio reasoned, was why he had caught random glimpses of neon yellow in his peripheral vision. It also explained the strange light inside the maze of ice and the "earlier intruder" the Boo recalled his Frost Piranha foe mentioning when he had been searching for the Ice Gem.

Unfortunately, the creepy Shyster's eyes were no longer yellow but instead an eye pirecing crimson, which Rio, knowing from his past experience, meant that the Shy Guy was very ticked off. It also, for some inexplicable reason, gave the weird Shyster the power to shoot powerful streams of scarlet magic from its eyes. This was obviously what he had been hit with when he was so, so close to making a clean getaway with all seven of the Elemental Gems.

The Shyster fired again, and Rio made himself transparent to avoid the attack while he darted for Broshi's bag of Elemental Gems, which now lay on the shrine floor some twenty yards away after they had been knocked from his hand. The ghost's energy was spent from his earlier skirmish, though, and he was not able to keep himself transparent for very long. Indeed, with the frightening Shy Guy only a few steps behind him, Rio immediately became an open target for a pointblank blast when he finally became fully visible with the bag of Gems only a few feet away.

The Shy Guy released another wave of crimson, which impacted Rio painfully in the rear, sending him spiraling forward several dozen feet before smashing him into one of the marble pillars that lined the room. Slowly regaining his vision, the yellow specter glanced to the right in time to see the Shyster stalking quickly after him, firing another beam. Rio ducked it sloppily, but not before spotting his blade, which, fortunately, had been knocked only a foot or two away from his current position by the Shy Guy's original attack.

With the Shyster closing in, Rio swooped around another blast and made a swift horizontal hack toward the oncoming creature with his blade. Ducking its head down, the Shy Guy blasted a beam of crimson toward the ground just before Rio's blade sunk into its flesh, propelling it high into the air and causing Rio's attack to whiff harmlessly. While in the air, the Shy Guy turned and fired another beam of magic, which Rio darted back to avoid.

Weaving through another wave of attacks and missing several more times with his sword, Rio found himself pinned back against another pillar. Grinning with a demented smirk, the Shyster charged a bit of scarlet magic and released. Digging into the bowls of his ghostly energy, Rio became transparent for a brief second, during which he slipped through the marble pillar that sat behind him and ducked for cover at the same time. The Shyster's attack slammed forcefully into the stone surface of the pillar, then smashed through it.

The pillar began to tip and the upper half of the large stone structure began to fall toward the Shy Guy. In a moment of tremendous tactical decision making, Rio hurled his blade toward the ragged robe of the Shyster and pinned it to the floor of the shrine. Struggling to free itself and blast Rio at the same time, the Shy Guy fired a frenzied barrage of crimson beams toward the ghost, while at the same time tried to yank the yellow specter's blade from the floor. Taking cover behind the statue of a priest, Rio watched as the Shyster finally removed the blade from the floor, threw it aside, then was promptly smashed by the falling pillar.

Without bothering to let out a sigh of relief or to retrieve his blade, Rio bolted in the direction of Broshi's bag, only to find a very large surprise awaiting; Mario, completely healed at the hands of Aid, it appeared, was wearing a smug smile and holding the bag of Gems aloft while Aid, standing next to the plumber, grinned at the advancing ghost.

"Found ourselves a bit distracted, did we?" Aid asked the specter as he halted in front of them, glaring at them with his own pair of crimson eyes. "How unfortunate."

"Snakes!" Rio hissed, waving his right hand crazily toward the pair of heroes. "You little-! How dare you snatch up the Gems while I deal with that... with that monster. I thought you idiots possessed a little honor!"

"Oh, give me a break," Mario snarled. "You would've done the same thing had you been in our position! Aid," he turned to his partner, "let's take this little Boo out for good."

"Certainly," Aid agreed, raising her right arm and pointing it at Rio.

The sorceress launched a flashing bolt of energy toward Rio, but it appeared the ghost wasn't going down without a proper fight. The yellow Boo made a quick swoop over the magical projectile and darted toward Mario, placing a hard smack on the side of his face before either he or Aid  could react. He flew to the floor, and Rio snagged the bag of Gems as they fell from his hand. He only had them for a fraction of a second, though, as Aid smacked into the ghost with her shoulder and grabbed up the bag as it was knocked from the specter's grasp.

Rio recovered with an airborne flip and lunged for Aid, but was violently hit astray by a hard kick from Mario, who had found his feet. While the ghost was stunned, Aid released a final attack, a beam of light, at the specter. Rio suffered a harsh impact, then slowly dropped to the ground. His crimson eyes shot the pair of heroes one last glare of glowing hatred, then the diligent spirit slipped into unconsciousness.

"Oh, bravo," a cold voice came from behind the two comrades.

Immediately, as both Aid and Mario whirled about face, they were hit by something horribly cold and constricting. They were launched to the opposite sides of the room and rammed violently against two separate pillars, where they found themselves pinned around both arms and legs by a wriggling, purple, liquid-like magic. Both struggled, but immediately found that, while it had a limited effect on the binding magic, the purple liquid sent pulses of pain through each of the heroes bodies each time they attempted to free themselves.

There, standing at the center of the room, was Broshi. His arms were folded across his bulky chest, his eyes narrowed ominously, and his face forming a look of pure, indistinguishable malice.

"Yes, bravo indeed," Broshi repeated in the terribly cold voice. "You've done well, both of you. You've helped me greatly in completing my ultimate dream, and for that I thank you dearly."

"Broshi, what-?" Aid began.

"Please allow me to explain, my dear," Broshi cut in. "I owe you that, at least. Behold."

Broshi placed his right palm upon his chest, and the dino's hand began to glow pitch black. Suddenly, it was as if Broshi began to mystically melt parts of his body into a thick, gas-like substance, which slowly began to float up and away. Beneath the shedding body was another, this one small, thin, possessing large amounts of black hair, and clad in a flowing black robe. His skin was pale, and his eyes sparkled a bright, glowing sapphire.

"You," Mario stammered, taking in Broshi's new appearance, "you look like-"

"Aid?" Broshi finished. "Why yes, I do. It's because Guardian Aid was based off my appearance and my
power after I united the Elemental Gems the first time."

"You?" Aid echoed. "You, Broshi? You originally united the Elemental Gems?"

"My dear girl!" Broshi boomed in his new icy voice. "Don't you understand? There is no such person as Broshi! I simply impersonated him so that I could travel with you to collect the Gems."

"But-!" Mario stammered.

"Silence," Broshi cut in cooly. "I told you earlier that I owed you both a clear explanation, did I not? Well, friends, here it is:

"My name is Ehcon, I am a Sorcerer of Plateaus and used to live in a tower that was built on the Plains of the Dark Region many years ago. It was between the efforts of Rio," Ehcon motioned toward the specter's fallen form with his arm, "and I that the Elemental Gems were first rediscovered. But alas, I was ignorant then. I had no idea what kind of defenses the wizard of old, Venhemourge, had placed on the gems. I united them, and not only did they nearly kill me, but they destroyed the tower and nearly destroyed my dream. Nearly.

"Fortunately, both Rio and I were able to escape the crumbling tower; Rio simply teleported away while I launched myself from it and returned to the ground through the use of strong wind currents I had manipulated with dark magic. However, though I was safe, I was also devastated and ashamed; Rio had warned me that further research on the Gems was needed before we united them, and he had been accurate. Not wanting to face them, I took off to do proper research of my own. Through the use of magic, I quickly arrived at the Earth Region Library of Information located in the city of Bortopoliss.

"I learned everything there, everything I needed to know to about the gems. I learned that what had flown from my tower was the Gem Guardian, and that the Guardian in question would wind up near the dwelling of Plit's greatest hero. I knew that said hero would receive a vision from the Gems in the Realm of Antimatter, and I knew that accompanied by the Guardian, that hero would venture off to Plateaus to search for the Gems and secure them so that they could not be reunited. It was after I learned all this that I formed my most ultimate and ingenious plan. I would use the power of physical manipulation, a branch of dark magic in which I show a particular gift.

"I then traveled to the Mushroom Kingdom by means of magic, hijacking a swift boat and enhancing its speed with a little magical boost. Upon arriving, I transformed into the form of Broshi and searched the town. After a few hours of finding nothing, I finally found you, Aid, crawling along the cold streets on Toad Town, obviously lost and tired. I whispered you a message, Aid, do you remember it? Words of intimidation via a cold, heartless voice. A voice, you see, that I find quite favorable when dealing with enemies, when distorted with a little help from my Dark Magic.

"They didn't last. That meddling Shy Guy mechanic was coming for you, and I was forced to flee before being seen. At a time around dawn, I awoke and immediately came across a skirmish between Mario and one of the Koopa Clan, and took watch from the sidelines. Once the battle finished and Mario, or should I say, Mario's little Shy Guy helper, defeated the Koopa's floating mechanical weapon, I tailed after the group. Upon arriving at the house of the Shyster, I cast a quick, simple mind alteration spell that would force the Shy Guy to forget to close the door, so that it would seem believable that I had overheard the group conversing about, what I figured would be, the Elemental Gems.

"And, lo-and-behold, you did indeed converse about the Elemental Gems, and I, having "overheard" you, barged in and informed you about the location of the Elemental Gems and that I was willing to help. I thought such an entrance might draw suspicion, but it appeared none existed; you were both trusting me completely when we took off from Toad Town, flying toward Plateaus in a contraption cooked up by your little Shyster mechanic pal.

"Of course, I had not forgotten Rio. As soon as the two of you left me alone in one of the vehicle compartments, I mentally contacted and we held a brief conversation, in which I mentioned that I was alive and that we should once again begin our search for the Gems. Of course, Rio was skeptical, having witnessed first hand the Gems blowing up in his face not too long ago. It took me a moment to convince him that yes, I had researched the Gems and that yes, they would work this time. Unfortunately, I knew that the two of you would grow skeptical of me sitting by myself in the other compartment, so there was not enough time for me to inform Rio of my accomplishments thus far.

"Then we arrived at Plateaus and leapt into the ocean's waters to locate the first Gem on our list, the Water Gem. It was then, as we found ourselves alone in a darkened underwater cavern, that Aid discovered her ability of mental conversation. She then targeted both Mario and I with the mental itch. Thinking it was Rio, I answered quickly, soon realizing that this was a mistake; in disguise, I was not Magic-Savy Ehcon, but instead a powerless Yoshi who had no experience mentally linking with anyone. I figured that perhaps my skill of mental conversation would go unnoticed, but it did not. Aid mentioned near the end of our talk that she found it 'weird' that I was good at conversing mentally, and this caused my blood to run cold.

"But there was no harm done. She did not suspect me of foul play. It was then that we ran into the sea serpent monster that, halfway through the battle, knocked Mario out cold. Unfortunately, Mario was a bit of a necessity; having him die wasn't something I was keen on doing, simply because it would have aroused suspicion and hamper our progress, among other things. So, after the creature struck me, I pretended to be knocked cold and then returned Mario to the surface. Aid then killed the serpent while I learned that that idiot Goomba, Pirgoom, had been concealing the Gem himself all along. A short moment later, I received two quick mental itches; one from Aid, who wanted to know what was going on, and one from Rio, who wanted to know the same thing.

"Rio's mental conversation was nearly the end of my disguise. I was, however, able to manipulate the minds of Mario and Pirgoom while I made mental contact so they took no notice, but then Aid showed up. Knowing that a mind alter of a fellow magic user would be more trouble then it was worth, I cut Rio off, again without explaining what I had done. I simply told him that I had a Gem, and he informed me that he had found two. I was delighted. There were only four Gems left to be found before I could finally live out my dream.

"Time then passed quickly and eventfully; Aid was hurt during our battle on the beach, we got her to safety in Ashton, and Mario and I infiltrated the volcano. We encountered a clan of Spinies in its depths, and they would have killed us had I not, risking everything, tapped into a little magical power and defeated the Spinies. However, I was lucky. Mario had been preoccupied with his own battle, and we escaped the volcano, once again, without arousing suspicion.

"And then we arrived here and I spotted Rio. Surprise got the best of me; I stilled like a gawking idiot and mouthed Rio's name. I then tried to mentally contact him, but he simply threw me off and engaged us. I let him 'knock me out' with a single strike, then, when you both were preoccupied, hid behind one of the pillars and watched the proceedings. I was almost happy that the two of you triumphed, because I was then able to reveal myself and inform you that I had been playing you all along.

"And this is where the story ends," Ehcon finished, "with me in control of the seven Elemental Gems and you tied helplessly to pillars, unable to to do anything apart from feeling like an idiots for helping me."

Ehcon strode briskly toward the fallen Rio and ripped off the specter's hat. He dug his pale hand into it, and fished out another leather bag similar to the one he was already holding. Hands clutched tightly on both sacks, Ehcon returned to the center of the Shrine and held the bags aloft. The seven gems then burst from the sacks and began circling through the air in a helix-like pattern, glowing and emitting tiny sparks of colored energy.

Finally, the Gems halted their swilling and began to shake. Cracks began to line their surface and, with a mighty wave of energy, burst open, revealing a hazy purple mist that, like Ehcon's disguised form, drifted slowly upwards. Only this gas did not disappear. On the contrary, it formed a large, thick cloud in the air several meters above Ehcon. The cloud then released wave after wave of blinding purple, black, and neon yellow light, then the mist began to seep away into the air.




The Watcher had risen once more.

Chapter 34

The Robo Lemmy had finally found its way to the Mushroom Castle when Luigi, sprinting full-bore down one of the nearby roads, leapt in front of the enormous machine.

"Freeze!" Luigi called, pointing his magnet gun up at the giant Lemmy Robot that loomed above him.

Lemmy laughed hardily. "Threatening me, are you? I hardly think that's wise considering your position..."

"Oh yeah?" Luigi said, locating a line of metal screws that seemingly kept the left leg of the Robo Lemmy in place.

Aiming his magnet gun at the screws, the thin plumber switched on his weapon and, almost immediately, the connecting bits of metal were sucked from their place in the large machine and rocketed toward Luigi's gun. Horrified, Lemmy slammed several buttons and watched in annoyance as the left leg of his Robo Lemmy gave an odd sort of grinding sound and simply disconnected itself from the machine, crashing motionlessly to the side.

"Ha!" Luigi cried in triumph.

"You haven't won yet, idiot!" Lemmy snarled as his robot began to tip to the left, owing to its lack of support on that side.

Frantically plugging in a another set of commands from the cockpit of the Robo Lemmy, the upper-body of the metallic monstrosity thrust upwards, unharmed, into the air while what was left of the lower body crashed to the ground. A large set of flaring thrusters kept the upper half of the Robo Lemmy active as the real Koopaling himself smirked down at the irritated plumber.

"I think you need to lighten up, Luigi!" Lemmy said gleefully, maneuvering his machine so that it hovered directly over the thin human. "Here! We can arrange a little play time, courtesy of me!"

A hatch in the Robo Lemmy's shell slid open, and a new wave of tumbling blowup balls poured toward Luigi. Not trusting that the spherical objects would do nothing apart from bounce off him upon impact, the plumber in green scurried backward at a quick rate. It didn't take Luigi long to figure out that his assumption had been accurate; he saw all to plainly the explosive effects that the balls had on anything they ran into. Launching himself quickly away from an exploding ball that was drifting toward the ground a few feet away, the human observed Lemmy's annoying habit of keeping a close hover over him, providing a constant rain of spherical projectiles showering down upon him.

It was too difficult for the plumber to keep up; one of the balls impacted the ground only a yard away, throwing Luigi into the air as though he were weightless. Having gone through a skirmish of his own already, Luigi could not even get back on his feet after crashing harshly into the ground after his momentary flight. He could, out of the corner of his eyes, see the gigantic wand of the robotic Koopaling rotate towards him, and he tried once more to right himself. The action appeared ultimately unmanageable, and the plumber did nothing as a flash of light from the wand lit the air around him, and he felt something cold and metallic close around him. Then all was black.


"Must be almost-!"


Dazed, Mecha Guy focused his eyes onto something large and green, the same something, by the looks of it, he had just run headfirst into. The green thing offered a hand. The Shyster took it and found his feet at the same time he found his full vision.

"Yoshi," Mecha Guy said, snatching up his fallen toolbox. "Pleasure running into you."

"Pleasure running into you as well," Yoshi said, grinning. "But I wish you'd have lay off the overused puns."

"As if you weren't going to say it in about two seconds anyway," the Shy Guy mechanic predicted.

"Calling me a hypocrite, are you?" Yoshi questioned with mock seriousness.

"Perhaps," Mecha Guy agreed, "but anyway, this isn't the time to be standing around discussing bad jokes and hypocrisy. Last I saw, Lemmy was making a beeline for the Castle, infecting more idiotic Mushroomers on the way there with- Yoshi, are you even listening?"

Yoshi seemed to have spotted something curious halfway through Mecha Guy's speech, and was looking in another direction. "He isn't the only one making a beeline for the Castle," the dino mused.

"Eh?" Mecha Guy said. "What are talking about?"

"Lemmy isn't the only Koopa here today," Yoshi informed. "I just saw King Bowser and his two Magikoopa advisors scurrying down an alleyway that will probably lead up to the Castle."

"Seriously?" Mecha Guy asked.

"Seriously," Yoshi confirmed.

"Then what are we waiting for?" Mecha Guy shouted. "We have to stop them before they reach the Castle! Come on!"

Mecha Guy made a dash in the direction Yoshi had indicated, and it took only a fraction of a second for the large dino to catch the Shyster in stride. "Hop on," Yoshi requested, making a motion for his saddle. "It'll be quicker."

"Good thinking," Mecha Guy praised, sheathing his blade and leaping onto Yoshi's back.

"Hold on," Yoshi suggested briskly as he increased his running pace and tore off into the alley where he had seen the trio of Koopas.

Fortunately, being the quick, limber dino Yoshi was, it didn't take long for him to catch up with the advancing Koopas. Unfortunately, being the wise, observing Magikoopas Kammy and Kamek were, they located their pursuers immediately.

"Lord Bowser," Kamek informed from above (both he and Kammy were traveling aboard hovering brooms while Bowser himself traveled by foot), "we're being followed."

"Are we?" Bowser questioned with a quick backward glance. "Well, it seems as though we are. Wait-" he paused, "is that Yoshi back there?"

"Yes, my Lord," Kammy confirmed. "It is indeed."

Bowser snarled. "You two deal with him! After you've finished, meet me up at the Castle!"

"Of course, my liege," Kamek and Kammy said together as they both shifted their brooms into two identical midair half-turns.

"Well, well," Yoshi stated typically, halting a few meters away from the Magikoopa duo, who were now facing them. "Been awhile, hasn't it Kamek? I dare say you've wrinkled up a bit since I saw you last."

"You're lucky," Kamek snapped, "that young Lord Bowser's life was worth more then your own, or I would have crushed you then and there!"

"Pretty lame excuse, old man," Yoshi taunted. "But it seems you've been given a chance to redeem yourself anyway. Or are you going run off like you did last time?"

"Well, perhaps now that you're through running that overly large tongue of yours," Kamek responded, jetting a quick wand-casted fireball in the dino's direction.

Knowing that he was providing Kamek with an advantage by sitting on top of Yoshi, Mecha Guy leapt from the dino and had his metal-cutting blade unsheathed before his feet hit the ground. The Shyster then ran forward to engage Kammy while Yoshi made a large hop over the fiery projectile Kamek had launched at him. Stepping forward, the dino's adversary began making quick circles with his wand, then fired dozens of additional fireballs from it while doing so, creating a complex wave of heat that came billowing toward Yoshi. The Yoshi withdrew his boomerang blade, unsheathed the triangular cutters, and began to swat away some of the fireballs while leaping and dodging the remainders.

Growing tired of this, Kamek swept upwards on his broom and made violent midair slash with his wand. The dino knew the old Magikoopa's tricks well enough to understand what was coming, though, and held off the Chopping Curse via a deflection from his boomerang blade. Perturbed, Kamek made a more complex series of slashes using the same curse, but found all of them countered by a flourish of blocks made by Yoshi and his weapon. Noticing that the Magikoopa's spellwork was beginning to have a weakening effect on Kamek, Yoshi threw off the last Cutting Curse, then went on the attack by hurling his boomerang blade in the old sorcerer's direction. Kamek had not been expecting this, and had only a second or so to cast a weak Shield Spell to intercept Yoshi's whirling weapon.

Grinding through the poorly cast magic with relative ease, the boomerang blade continued forward, grazing the tip of Kamek's blue hat as the Koopa ducked just in time. The weapon was, however, a boomerang, and this was something Kamek hadn't been prepared for, either; just as the sorcerer was casting another spell, the blade came back and, though it missed Kamek himself, sliced cleanly throw the tail end of his broom. With no end to keep it balanced, the broom drooped quickly backwards, throwing off Kamek's spell and forcing him off the broken flying machine. The Koopa fell some twenty feet before smacking into the ground and blacking out.


"I'M SO LOST!" Bowser howled, stumbling through a small street of Toad Town. "Where is that stupid Castle?!"


Kammy was circling above Mecha Guy and was casting the annoying yellow cubes she had become famous for creating during Mario's quest for the Star Spirits down at the Shyster. Mecha Guy, however, was simply dodging the projectiles as they rained down, while sometimes slicing through them with his blade which, while the metal-cutting option had not been activated, was still able to cleave them. Growing frustrated with this attack, Kammy stopped her assails and upped the ante by sending down metal versions of the same cubes, a technique that she had just recently perfected. Cackling, Kammy gazed down as her first metal cube plowed down toward Mecha Guy, who was standing stalk-still.

The Shy Guy made a silky activation of his sword, and the yellow-colored energy surrounded its blade. Whipping the weapon upwards, Mecha Guy's blade swung through the metal cube as though it were a link of sausages, and the two remaining halves of the projectile slammed down harmlessly on either side of the Shyster. More were coming, though, but they proved to be as easy to deal with as the first; any that weren't cut through were simply avoided. After a final wave of metal cubes, Kammy once again shifted tactics. Or, she would have, had Yoshi not just finished with Kamek and hurled his boomerang blade at her. The old witch had turned her gaze off Mecha Guy just in time to see the twirling weapon zooming at her from only feet away, and was able to pull her broom down in time to avoid serious injury. The boomerang blade had, however, pinned a bit of the Magikoopa's robe to the alley wall, sticking her in place as her broom continued to dip down without her.

"Aw man," Yoshi complained. "How are we gonna get it
down from there?"

"Hm," Mecha Guy pondered as Kammy squawked at them from above, flailing her old limbs madly. "I suppose I could try to dislodge it with my blade."

"Go for it," Yoshi agreed passively.

Mecha Guy nodded and threw his sword at the stuck boomerang blade with Kammy attached. Finally finding her wits, the old Magikoopa was about to launch a spell down at the two heroes but quickly found herself lodged from her position and plummeting toward the ground; the Shy Guy mechanic had scored a direct hit with his weapon, and the boomerang blade had been knocked from the alley wall. Both Yoshi's boomerang blade and Kammy hit the ground simultaneously, causing the latter to join Kamek in the realm of unconsciousness.

"Shall we?" Yoshi asked as he motioned down the alley. "Lemmy and Bowser await."

"Aye," Mecha Guy replied, hopping onto his comrade. "Let's roll."

"I hear ya," Yoshi said, snatching up his boomerang blade as he passed it.


"GAH!" Bowser yelped, taking several longs strides from a group of Mushroomers standing by a pile of chocolate, wearing dull, expressionless looks. "I am not eating any of that chocolate," the Koopa King muttered as he shuffled away, looking noticeably frightened.


"Took you long enough," Lemmy snarled as Mecha Guy and Yoshi came into view and stopped their advance some feet in front of the Koopaling.

"We got held up," Mecha Guy explained shortly. "So

"Why'd you leave that stupid tin can of yours?" Yoshi questioned, eyeing Lemmy; the upper and still functioning half was indeed pilot-less and had been parked on the ground ten or so yards behind Lemmy.

"Thought it'd be better for negotiation," Lemmy explained.

"Negotiation?" Mecha Guy echoed.

"That's right," Lemmy acknowledged with grim satisfaction. "We'll be negotiating your little plumber friend's life."

The Koopaling produced Luigi, who had been lying behind him, ensnared by several large, green rings, and threw him to the ground a foot in front of his clawed toes. Positioning one of his larger foot claws at the unconscious plumber's chin, the small Koopaling with rainbow-colored hair grinned up at his enemies.

"What do you want?" Yoshi asked in a voice that was almost hollow.

"The Mushroom Kingdom, of course," Lemmy informed.

"We're not the ones you need to be talking two," Mecha Guy said bitterly. "You'll be wanting Princess Peach, I'm afraid. She-"

"Is currently locked away in a tight security chamber created by yourself," Lemmy finished sharply.

"True," Mecha Guy admitted. "I could go-"

"No," Lemmy cut in. "Humor me and play politician yourselves."

"Fine," Yoshi agreed quickly, eyeing the claw Lemmy had at Luigi's neck. "What do you want us to do?"

"Hand yourselves over," Lemmy said. "Let me tie you both up with your partner here and allow me to wreak my havoc and gain control of the Kingdom."

"You'll kill us!" Mecha Guy spat, shaking his head. "I
know your type! You'll just slit our-"

"Mecha Guy!" Yoshi cried, his voice cracking; Lemmy had scooted his claw so close to the fallen plumber's neck that it remained only a half-inch away. "We... we have to-"

But Mecha Guy never heard what he had to do, because King Bowser, who had seemingly bounded into the area out of nowhere, suddenly had his second-eldest son by the hair and was glaring at him straight in the eyes.

"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!" Bowser roared, bits of flame
flying from his mouth.

"K-King Dad," Lemmy whimpered. "Look, this really isn't a good-"

"YOU'RE COMING WITH ME!" Bowser interrupted with a bellow, dragging his son toward the front door of Mushroom Castle. "And I'm going to have a little talk... with ALL SEVEN OF YOU!"

"W-Wait," Lemmy moaned. "Please, I was so close to... GAH!"

The little Koopaling had managed to wrench one arm from his father's grasp. With it, he pointed a remote, one he had seen his own younger sibling, Iggy, use to power up the Robo Iggy on its maiden flight, at his enormous machine and slam down a button with his thumb. The machine gave a lurch and, as Lemmy's remote was crushed by his father and the Koopaling was dragged into the Mushroom Castle, a voice coming from the Robo Lemmy spoke, "DESTRUCTION AUTOPILOT ACTIVATED."

"Take the stupid thing out once and for all, will you?" Mecha Guy requested of Yoshi, bending down next to Luigi. "I'm going to try to get Luigi out of these things."

"No problem," Yoshi said, readying his boomerang blade as he raced toward the machine, which was currently torching a bank building with its fire breath.


"I hear something!" Larry whispered from his cell in the Mushroom Castle dungeons.

"Really?" Morton questioned. "Truly? What does it
sound like, Larry, O brother of mine who possesses
brilliant ears which he uses for spying? Is it good?
Bad? Grand? Great? Terrible? Okay? Excellent? Helpful?
Useful? Troublesome? Irritating? Marginally decent?
Come on, now, speak up a little-"

"It was nothing!" Ludwig snapped. "He's just making up things to feel important. That, or the lack of edible food is finally getting to him..."

"I'm serious!" Larry snapped. "Look, someone's coming!"

"You bet your shells someone's coming!" Bowser's voice rang through the prison. "And that someone is very, very, very MAD."

"Oh my DAD," Wendy whispered hysterically as Bowser plowed into the room, Lemmy being dragged behind the towering turtle like a rag doll. "It's... it's..."

"Lemmy!" Iggy cried. "Lemmy, are you all right? What happened?"

Lemmy simply let out a little moan and Bowser snorted loudly. "That's actually what I've been wondering!" the Koopa King shouted. "All of you are coming back to the Castle right now and explain all the," Bowser cursed loudly, "you've been up to!"

"But King D-Dad, we're stuck in these here cells," Roy pointed out.

Lord Bowser let out an inhuman roar and, striding angrily by each cell, ripped out each and every prison bar. Stunned, the six Koopalings simply kept in place, their mouths sagging open.

"What did I just tell you?!" Bowser bellowed. "We're blowing this dump right now, so GET MOVING!"

The six Koopas had no other option; they timidly stepped out of their cells and followed their raging father out of the room.


Mecha Guy had just finished slicing off Luigi's bonds with his metal-cutting blade, and glanced up in time to see Yoshi taking on what was left of Lemmy's mechanical monster off in the distance. The autopiloted robot had finally noticed the dino and was showering the Yoshi with projectiles, forcing the green wonder to sidestep a punch, leap over a cascade of flames, and hack through an approaching ring shot by the metal Koopa's wand. After squirming away from what was the last load of exploding balls the manic machine had discharged from its shell, Yoshi finally reached the ground after his jump, only to be swatted down by a smack from the left arm of the Robo Lemmy.

His muscles aching horribly, Yoshi struggled to his feet and saw the right fist of the robot shoot for him. Cringing, the dino closed his eyes and pictured the mechanical fist smashing into his side and his bones shattering, but the hit never came. Wrenching open his eyes, Yoshi saw his boomerang weapon slice through the mechanical arm that was about to crush him, sheath its blades, and return into his now outstretched hand. The arm collapsed from its place and, instead of hitting the Yoshi, fell to the ground accompanied by a large crashing sound.

Yoshi gazed up in relief at the rest of the machine; it seemed to be imbalanced due to the loss of its arm, and was now circling through the air in a spastic manner. Finally the machine accidentally slammed itself into the last remaining ball-like explosives. There was a moment's pause when all the world seemed still, then the Robo Lemmy exploded passionately, causing scraps of metal, showers of screws, and plumes of flame to take over the sky. The sizzling heap of junk that was once one of the mightiest fighting machines ever to do battle slammed to the ground, completely and utterly desolated.

Yoshi turned to Mecha Guy, who was supporting a still unconscious Luigi, wiping sweat and blood from his forehead. "Never again," the dino gasped.

"Never again what?" Mecha Guy questioned.

Yoshi took in several breaths before saying, "Robots. I'm so," he inhaled, "sick of robots."

Mecha Guy was smiling, despite all that had happened. "Join the club."

Chapter 35

Both Mario and Aid let out a plainly audible gasps; the Watcher was like nothing they'd ever seen. It stood roughly ten feet tall, and every bit of its substance seemed to be tainted by something incomparably cruel and demonic. The deity's entire face, apart from its eyes, which were neon-yellowed and shaped like tilted half-moons, was covered by foggy strands of dark purple hair that swayed horribly in a slow, rhythmic fashion. The gas-like hair covered most of the Watcher's body, shaping a winged, human-like form. Any uncovered bits, such as the hands, emitted the same neon-yellow the eyes did, and were complete skeletal and fleshless. In its left hand, the deity carried a long metal staff tipped by a black jewel on which was a ying yang symbol etched in pulsating crimson energy. Hung over its head and shimmering innocently was a small halo, one that, again, matched the blinding yellow of its eyes.

The Watcher, oozing raw power, lowered slowly to the ground, its neon eyes scanning the room, finding Mario and Aid latched to their separate pillars, looks of complete terror plain on their faces, and Ehcon, who looked triumphant and, it appeared, slightly rattled. Upon touching down, the Watcher shifted slowly around so that he could face his summoner.

"You are a fool," the Watcher spoke in a light, scratchy voice that pierced the skin of anyone listening like thousands of tiny needles.

"A fool?" Ehcon echoed, doing a fair job of keeping his voice even and calm. "But... but I have freed you-"

"Exactly," the Watcher cut in, making everyone in the vicinity wince once more. "You think, like every other fool before you, that you can control me, that you can use me to make you stronger. This is inaccurate, of course. That fool Venhemourge thought he could control me, too, but he couldn't. No one can."

"I knew I couldn't control you," Ehcon piped up, making sure the Watcher had finished speaking. "I was just thinking that maybe, since I freed you-"

"Fool," the Watcher interrupted once more. "I listen to no one, I work with no one. I am my own master, and soon to be master of this entire planet."

The Watcher raised his wand at Ehcon, and he scuttled back like an insect. "I-I can help you!" he stuttered. "My knowledge of Plit is immense, as is my knowledge of-"

"FOOL!" the Watcher roared once more, causing the room's other occupants to go through more spasms of pain.

Quicker then either Mario or Aid thought possible, there were two flashes of light. The first, caused by Ehcon, had shot across the room on either side and released both heroes from their magical bonds. The second, cast by the Watcher, had thrown Ehcon forcefully against a far wall and pinned him there. Nothing visible seemed to be restraining him, but obviously something was; the shapeshifter in black was completely stiff and unmoving, though invisible energy that seemingly clashed with the forces around him was evident. Seemingly satisfied, the Watcher began to drift slowly in the direction of Aid.

It sounded as though an enormous glass window had just shattered, and Ehcon's head was moving again. "Leave her!" he shouted throatily.

The Watcher twisted his head in Ehcon's direction at superhuman speed, still drifting his body in the direction of Aid, who had retreated to the wall. "Why?"

"You have no business with her!" Ehcon said. "You should be focused on the leaders of Plit if you're looking to take it over, not her! Just... just go on your way!"

"But she is the Guardian," the Watcher said, continuing his path. "Venhemourge's slime."

"You're wasting time," Ehcon persisted.

The Watch laughed, causing all those hearing to receive another painful prickle. "I have all the time in the world."

"So be it!" Ehcon roared.

There was another shattering sound, and a huge rush of pure black energy erupted from Ehcon's palms and flew at near-light speed toward Aid. The sorceress received the energy, causing her body to lift from its retreated position and hover above the ground, much like the Watcher himself. Ehcon moaned, and collapsed to the floor just as the invisible energy of the Watcher completely encased him.

"An energy transfer," the Watcher said. "Very clever. Unfortunate that it won't matter..."

"It will matter," Aid called firmly, moving herself toward the Watcher so that the two powerful beings were now facing each other less than ten feet away. "But if you're so sure of yourself, then fire away."

"With pleasure," the Watcher purred, making a slash with his staff that was nothing more then a shadowy blur.

Aid must have seen it, however, and had shielded with her right forearm just as fast. The invisible attack impacted her a fraction of a second later and, though it did no visible damage, forcefully rocketed her toward a nearby pillar at an unfathomable speed. Flipping gracefully backwards, the bottoms of Aid's feet touched the surface of the pillar briefly, then the nimble sorceress sprung forward toward the Watcher, who had just appeared in the air before her a split second earlier. Whipping her hand quickly forward as she flew, thousands of magic bolts of light appeared in the air around her and shot toward the Watcher. The demonic deity made a swift sweeping motion with his staff and a billowing stream of steaming, purple gas rose before him, deadening the bolts upon impact.

The sorceress, still heading toward the Watcher, made a horrendously fast parting motion with her hands, forcing the magical, shielding gas out of the way as she flew at the deity. Aid made no contact, however; the Watcher had disappeared and reappeared several meters to her left, where he launched a trio of Dark Magic Saws that whizzed toward the female magic user. Landing nimbly, Aid shot both arms in a direction behind her and two enormous chunks of debris, ones she had knocked down by earlier spells she had shot while Rio was escaping, soared through the air and intercepted two of the magical projectiles, vanishing them with a puff of purple smoke.

Noticing the Watch had relocated himself once more, Aid spotted him reappearing a half second later, ten or so meters behind her. With only a foot between her and the last advancing Dark Magic Saw, the sorceress pulled her arms roughly apart and the magic projectile split into thousands of tiny shards. Bending her knees very briefly, Aid leapt over a thick, swirling beam of darkness shot by the Watcher and thrust her arms forward, directing the shards of magic that had once been a Dark Magic Saw toward the demonic deity. Casting additional projectile magic in the form of four heat-seeking orbs, Aid hurled them toward the Watcher's new location (he had vanished once more). The sorceress then noticed, as she was coming down from her jump, that the beam the Watcher had launched was quickly rising in her direction.

Throwing one of her arms downward, she split the beam in two just in time to slip through it to avoid damage. Meanwhile, the Watcher was throwing Aid's seeking spells off course with flicks of his staff while at the same time running a skeletal hand over the staff's surface. Turning, the Watcher saw a streaking, disk-like projectile that pulsated gold light launching toward him at a blindingly fast rate. Slicing the air ahead of the magic disk with his staff, the Watcher created a rip in the dimensional fabric of Plit, sucking the advancing light magic into the realm of Antimatter. Sealing the rip, the Watcher, before disappearing, swatted away another flying magical disk and released a wave of dark bolts in Aid's direction.

Meanwhile, Mario, with the passionate battle before him storming in his eyes, finally found his feet and began to walk discretely over to the fallen Ehcon. Keeping the skirmish between Aid and the Watcher in his peripheral vision, the plumber squatted next to the downed shapeshifter. Carefully, Mario moved a trembling hand toward Ehcon and felt the air around him. Whatever magic the Watcher had been using to bind the sorcerer was gone, it seemed; Ehcon was simply out cold, Mario reasoned, due to the amount of energy he had transferred to Aid. Glancing back toward what had been "Broshi's" bag throughout his journey, Mario wondered whether he ought to risk going to grab it to see whether or not something existed inside that would help the situation.

While Mario pondered this, Aid was forced to start a frantic bit of waving to drive off the dozens of dark bolts that were lashing toward her. Sweat pouring down her face, the sorceress flicked off two approaching bolts and did away with a third when a new blast shot by the Watcher, a powerful arrow of shadow, smashed into her from behind. Horrifying pain seared through her body, and she felt herself being blasted into something very hard and solid. Lights dancing in her eyes, Aid slammed onto the cold floor and spotted a huge chunk of pillar, one influenced by dark magic, fall downward obscenely fast in her direction. Focusing her waning power, the sorceress shot her hands forward and halted the pillar when it was feet away from crushing her.

Lurching to her feet, Aid thrust the pillar forward several meters, to an area where the Watcher had just reappeared. The deity took the hit but vanished quickly afterwards, appearing fifty feet or so above Aid's current position. Before she could summon her own attack, the Watcher quickly launched a cage, its bars crafted of dark magic, down in the female magic user's direction. Aid flicked it aside and launched a few projectiles upwards before she realized that the Watcher had disappeared once more. The sorceress spotted him quickly, and darted swiftly forward, hitting the deity with a powerful ray of light just as the cage he had attempted to use on Aid closed around Mario who, the female magic user saw, had lunged toward Ehcon's fallen form with the blade Rio had been using earlier.

Remembering that she was now missing an opening, Aid unleashed a barrage of light magic in the direction she had blasted the Watcher, but soon found he had relocated once more. She found his new position the hard way; just as she was wheeling around, she was immediately impaled in the chest by a Dark Magic Saw. Yelping in pain, Aid felt the saw tear at her flesh as it attempted to dig further into her body. Tearing the horrible bit of dark magic from herself with a mental yank, she hurled it at another Dark Magic Saw that was flying toward her, vanishing both upon impact. As a fountain of crimson swept down her front, Aid made quick healing motion over her wounds with her left hand, and sent several small spears of light forward to prevent a new wave of the Watcher's magic from reaching her.

Mario gazed out at the battle grimly from his new cage. Having finally recalled the story told to him regarding the Watcher's weaknesses by Aid in the Mecha Chopper after leaving Ashton, Mario had snatched up Rio's blade, which had been lying nearby, and attempted to kill Ehcon off, thus, as he remembered Aid telling him, taking out the Watcher, too. But the deity had seen him somehow, and had thrown a cage on him at the last second to prevent him from doing away with Ehcon. Furious that he hadn't thought of it sooner, Mario angrily hacked at the dark magic bars that kept him sealed away, but accidentally lost a hold of the blade as it made contact with the shadowy magic. Swearing, the plumber watched the blade skid across the floor and halt right next to the unconscious Ehcon.

Aid's blood-covered form was moving like a dancer, weaving in and out of the terrifying dark magic launched at her by the relentless Watcher. After launching a set of her own projectiles that were simply outmatched by the demonic deity's, Aid had begun to focus on the discarded pillar she had used to score a hit with before. Mentally hovering the large chunk of stone upward a few inches, the sorceress squirmed by an orb of darkness, ducked another, then swung her new telekinetic weapon at the Watcher. He quickly vanished in time to avoid the attack, but Aid quickly relocated him, swept over another magical shot, then swiftly slammed the narrow shaft of stone into the demonic deity's gut. Waving off a pair of searing magical bolts, Aid brought the pillar back a foot or two, then swung again, adding a few of her own cast orb shots for good measure.

There was a large explosion as the two orbs hit their target, and the Watcher was slammed back into one of the far walls. It seemed, Aid reasoned as she pursued the Watcher with her pillar and getting in a few more good hits with her own magic, that the demonic deity was preoccupied with something. There seemed to be something beyond the fight that he was partially focused on. Wracking her brain as she blocked a wave of Dark Magic Saws with her enchanted pillar, Aid made another direct hit with a powerful blast of light magic. It came to her when the Watcher flew past the cage that held Mario then teleported away; it was the cage. That was definitely it. He was spending energy trying to keep the cage operational so that Mario wouldn't be able to kill Ehcon.

But that wasn't it either. Making a quick magical sense, Aid could feel only a tiny fraction of the Watcher's power going into the cage. Then that wasn't it. Then a new idea entered the female magic user's mind, and it could have made her cry out with annoyance; why wasn't she killing Ehcon? Certainly it would be easier then killing the Watcher himself? Mentally kicking herself in the face, Aid launched an unrelenting bolt of light toward Ehcon only to watch it bounce away. Confused, Aid tried again with the same result. Completely flustered now, she tried another form of killing magic, but it too failed. Why wasn't it working? Why wasn't he dying? Why was it bouncing off him? Why was Ehcon now... stirring? How-?

Aid was hit from behind. Hard. Harder then she had ever felt. She wasn't aware of herself hitting the side of the shrine. She wasn't aware of herself crumpling to the floor. She wasn't aware of the buzzing conversation that seemed to be going on between the Watcher and Ehcon. She wasn't aware that her eyes were drooping. She wasn't aware that darkness was filling her vision. She was only aware of the terrible pain that was searing through her entire body and the horrifying realization that filled the very fabric of her being; she had left herself wide open to any attack while she had been pointlessly doing nothing, thinking about... things that... didn't... matter.

"Don't kill her, please!" Ehcon was sobbing.

"Why not?" the Watcher hissed horribly. "Was she not your enemy? Was she not designed to prevent you from summoning me?"

"Summoning you was a mistake, obviously," Ehcon choked out, tears streaming down his face. "I realize that now, after all these years. I never should've- Why I thought-"

"But you did," the Watcher said wickedly. "And for that I am grateful."

"Then spare her!" Ehcon cried.

"I do not take orders from others," the Watcher informed once again. "I do as I please. She has fallen in battle, and now she must pay the price."

"No!" It was Mario's turn to cry out. The plumber was pummeling the shadowy bars madly with fists and feet, but accomplishing nothing.

"Please," Ehcon said again.

The Watcher ignored him and turned to Aid, who, after being hit from behind, had fallen to the floor and not returned to her feet. She was up now, however, and this made the demonic deity give a tiny twitch of surprise. Her sparkling blue eyes were completely cold and determined, and gazed unblinkingly into the Watcher's own yellow pair. Letting out a vile hiss, the Watcher rapidly swung his staff several times in the air, launching a wave of darkness blades toward Aid. Intercepting the attacks with a shining magical shield, the sorceress directed the pillar she had been fighting with earlier to swing at the Watcher. The deity had vanished in time to avoid being hit by the first swing, but not by a second; his teleportation had only moved him a few feet above his original position, making it easy for Aid to land a hit by telekinetically thrusting the large piece of stone upwards.

Accompanying her hit with the pillar, Aid blasted dozens of tiny, magic arrows in direction of her foe. Several met their target before the Watcher disappeared once more, reappearing only a few feet behind his sorceress adversary. He landed one hit with a weak projectile before Aid whirled around and smashed the Watcher backward with a powerful magic ray. As he tumbled through the air, the sorceress then came down with the pillar, brutally slamming the deity downward with a vertical blow. The Watcher hit the ground painfully, and was barely able to stagger to his feet before Aid closed in, readying what she thought would be the final attack.

"Aid!" Ehcon called suddenly. "Aid, he's released his full magical protection on me! You can kill me now! Hurry!"

"There's no need!" Aid shouted back. "He's almost dead. One more attack and he'll be gone."

"No!" Ehcon shouted; he sounded more frightened than Aid had ever heard him. "Upon withdrawing his protection from me, he'll be fighting at full power! Even you-!"

"I'll be fine!" Aid cut him off.

It was then that Watcher sprung to his feet and fired a spear of light that moved so fast that it threatened to tear the very dimensional fabric that held all of the world in place. The sorceress had no time to react; the blast of dark magic passed cleanly through her middle, and Aid collapsed to her knees. Tumbling weakly forward, the sorceress felt her torso slam painfully onto the cold floor, just as it had when she had lost herself on the streets of Toad Town on that cold, bitter night. It was the same now. Her entire body seemed to be shutting down and she could feel each and every part of it cease functioning, until...

"Dead," the Watcher hissed; he had snatched Aid's now lifeless body from the ground on which it had fallen and was gazing into her unmoving eyes.

"NO!" both Mario and Ehcon shouted simultaneously.

"Yes," the Watcher said, throwing the limp body aside and focusing his neon-yellow eyes on Ehcon, who was crying again. "I do not understand why you are so sad, fool. It is quite pathetic. It was your doing. You freed me from my prison; you and only you brought this upon yourself."

"Then I suppose it's only fitting," Ehcon said bitterly, tears running down his pale face, "that it will be me and only me that will do away with you FOREVER!"

Ehcon, before the Watcher realized what he was doing, lunged for Rio's blade, which sat only a few feet away, and plunged the sword swiftly into his chest. The Watcher unleashed a horrible hissing wail, but no spell he could cast nor dark sorcery he could use would save him now; Ehcon was dead before he hit the ground and, due to Venhemourge's ancient spell of defense, so was the Watcher. The swaying gas-like hair that covered the deity's body shot off in all directions, disappearing with huge flashes of light. Soon all that remained of the Watcher was a thin, glowing skeleton that hung in the air, clutching a staff. There was a moment where nothing happened, then the glowing faded, causing the skeleton to fall to the ground and smash into dozens of splintered pieces.

Mario's cell then faded, though the plumber stood unmoving for several seconds, gazing forward at the pile of bones that had once made up the most powerful dark being on all of Plit, then the two bodies of his two dead comrades. Moving in a slow, zombie-like fashion, Mario collected the two corpses and slung them over his shoulder, grabbed up what had been Ehcon's bag of supplies, then finally took the staff of the fallen Watcher which, the plumber reasoned, wasn't a good thing to have lying around. Giving the shrine one last look of emptiness, Mario strode slowly out of the room.

There, illuminated by the moon light, was the Mecha Chopper, waiting to take him to the place he longed to be.


The End

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