Lightning flashed and thunder boomed as a small and decent house located on Cookie Mountain withstood nature’s fury.
“Don’t go, please don’t go…” a green Yoshi pleaded softly. ”First her, then one of her friends… You’re one of the only people I know that knew her.”
“Don’t you want to see your daughter again? Chances are high that she’s still alive. I’ve known her for quite a long time, and she was tough. Very tough. She isn’t one to die from hunger or thirst, and you know that very well, I believe. Besides, I can do things that other Koopas can’t,” replied the male Koopa that Atara Yoshi was talking to. ”I may be a year younger than her, but I am not to be underestimated.” When she didn’t reply, the boy backed away, and, opening the front door quietly, walked into the raging storm. But before going, he turned and said one last thing.
“I will be back.
I promise.” With that, he closed the door, leaving a place he had known
“Ludwig? LUUDWIIIIIIIIG!” called Karma as she scanned the empty hallway for the blue-haired scientist. When the only thing that reached her ears was her own echoing voice, she sighed and abandoned all hope of finding the kook. Where was he when she most needed him, anyway? Karma made a mental note to sock him afterwards… if she found him, that is. Exhausted after searching the whole castle three times and still not having a clue to where he had gone, she retreated to her room and fell on her bed, having decided she needed a nap. She fell asleep when her head hit the pillow. She had the most peculiar dream, instead of having none at all.
In the dream, she stood on a small platform hovering unsteadily over what looked like a black hole surrounded by a swirling whirlpool of colors— blue, red, yellow, gray, and green. Standing on a similar platform across the void was a Koopa that looked somewhat familiar… but she just couldn’t place her finger on how he was familiar. Besides, he had a mask on— the type of mask that covers every part of your face— and she couldn’t see his face. The mask itself, though, was unsettling. It was the face of a human that tells you that he or she wasn’t a normal human; he had unruly, black hair that covered most of his top half of his face, dark circles under his eyes— indicating he hadn’t slept very well— and pitch-black eyes that seemed… lifeless, somehow. Suddenly, the figure spoke.
“Hi, Karma. It’s been years since we’ve seen each other. I hope you do recognize me, for we used to be good friends… fairly good friends.”
Surprised as she was, Karma was even more shocked at the hostility of the next words rolling off her tongue.
“How should I recognize you, when you have that creepy mask on? You look more like a stranger to me, and I don’t trust strangers who don’t show their face… old friend.” The Koopa boy seemed anything but offended, however. In fact, he seemed downright amused.
“You’re right… I should take this mask off, even if it makes me remember someone I liked,” he said, resignedly. He began to remove the object, when suddenly, overwhelming forces made everything begin to blur… to shrink… and to finally, disappear.
“Karma! Wake up, for DAD’s sake. It’s six, and dinner’s about to be served—” Karma, half-awake and half-sleeping, bolted upright and began throttling her fiancé.
“Where were you when I needed you?!” the now fully awake Karma growled. “My diary was stolen— again!— and I don’t know how to operate the DAD-forsaken tracking machine, so I searched the whole castle three times for you, and, and…” Karma was lost for words in her anger, and stopped throttling Ludwig. Instead, she glared at him expectantly for an explanation. Surprisingly, Ludwig apologized.
“Sorry, Karma. I was running an errand for Dad, and had to go to the forest nearby. I had to go alone to discuss a treaty— you know how Boos don’t trust Koopas unless they’re alone, unarmed, and, well…”Ludwig turned red at the last part. ”They have someone they care about that’s not from their family. Which means you.” Karma’s anger was forgotten in an instant. Ludwig did try to be friendly and lessen fights (though it wasn’t all that effective sometimes) every once in a while, but to think he really cared about her was astonishing.
“The reason why we didn’t get cramps from not being closer to each other was that the forest was only about two minutes from the opposite direction,” Ludwig continued, ”thus not affecting the Metbond at all.” He began to say more, but Karma interrupted.
“Wait wait wait. You really do care about me? Because if so, I apologize for throttling you… Fiancé.” Karma smiled. It was the first sincere smile Ludwig had seen in weeks; life had been strained lately, and few had real happiness. Relieved, Ludwig grinned and began leading her to the dining room.
someone watched, unfazed and passive. He had heard the word “Metbond” in
their conversation. That, at least, surprised him… but what to do? He couldn’t
possibly destroy the bond…that would mean sure death to the two heirs…
There was no solution, was there? The answer was surely a no. He blinked,
and disappeared into the darkness. He would think of something,
that was sure…just not now.
At the dinner table, Ludwig and Karma conversed animatedly and happily, surprising everyone else.
“Did it go well?”
“Yeah. It sure did. The Boos accepted me at once, finding out the three points I informed you about a few minutes ago.”
“Did you succeed in discussing the treaty?”
“It went better than I would have imagined. The Boos agreed not to wreak havoc in the basement if we didn’t cut down the trees.”
“The trees, eh? So all they wanted was the trees. It’s kind of weird, considering Boos as guardians of trees. Aren’t they dead souls that have come back to life? I think they should guard their graves instead of trees.”
“Yeah, but that’s pretty much their nature, I guess.”
Across the table, Roy muttered to Lemmy. ”Since when were they lovers?”
“I don’t know. They seemed to hate each other until now.”
“At least Yoshi did. As for Kooky, I don’t know.
“He seemed as if he didn’t mind her much. It was as if Yoshi was just an ordinary Koopa, or something.”
“Oh… I see your point.”
“Yeah, and I like to see them fighting instead of being mushy with each other. It’s kinda gross.”
“Don’t worry, Roy. They’ll turn back to normal tomorrow.” To this, Roy merely grunted and excused himself, dragging his tired body to his room to read comics, and to eventually fall asleep. What he hadn’t noticed, however, was that a certain member of the family was grinning mischievously, eyes glinting.
Meanwhile, a lone Koopa walked to the grayish brick wall of Bowser’s Keep and, leaning against it, closed his eyes. Tomorrow will be a long day, he thought. And I ought to prepare for it.
The next day, the same Koopa boy grinned to himself. This was going to be too easy.
Bowser had just finished his breakfast and was, oddly, in a great mood. I feel like I can forgive my kids even if they destroyed my castle, he thought. Nothing will make me angry, even if the filthy hybrid spat on my face and jeered at me. I ought to go somewhere with my kids… and my daughter-in-law.
Before he could do so, however, the doorbell rang. Wondering who it was, Bowser opened the door. Before him stood a Koopa boy, about Ludwig’s height but a little skinnier. He had a blue shell topped with seven pearly-white spikes. His hair was uncombed and messy, the color of it a shiny black. He had dark circles under his eyes, which told Bowser that the poor guy hadn’t slept enough for a while. Three fangs jutted out; one on each side and one on the middle, making his mouth look like a combination of Ludwig’s and Roy’s. He wore a necklace of what looked like a cross and a sword welded together. Just what this guy wanted was unclear, but Bowser decided to let him in anyway.
“So, what business do you have with us, traveler?” The Koopa shook his head to this.
“I am not traveling around, actually. I’m looking for someone, and I thought that you could tell me where she is, or at least where she might be, based on my description.”
“A she, eh? You looking for your girlfriend?”
“Not exactly my girlfriend… but a friend from long ago.”
“What’s she like?”
“I don’t think you would approve of her. She isn’t exactly a Koopa, and she isn’t a type you would like, either…” The Koopa boy paused. ”She’s part Yoshi and part Koopa. Shortly speaking, she’s a hybrid. Does that ring a bell?”
“Actually, I think it does. What’s her name?” Bowser asked, a little breathless. Was this boy someone who would lift Ludwig’s curse?
“Her name is Karma
In the living room, Ludwig and Karma racked their brains for a strategy to beat the other in chess. All morning they had competed in various games— fighting, racing, and puzzles, just to name a few— and both had won just as many times as the other. This chess game was the tiebreaker, and though both were in a competitive mood, the usual competitive static was thin, almost nonexistent. Just when Ludwig’s mental light bulb lit up, however, someone walked into the room. Quizzically, Ludwig and Karma turned their heads, and saw the person who seemed to have just arrived at Kastle Koopa. Upon seeing Karma, his eyes widened. Karma, on the other hand, didn’t immediately recognize the other, and cast a somewhat confused look at Ludwig, who just shrugged in return.
“Karma… long time no see,” began the Koopa (who seemed to have realized that Karma didn’t recognize him yet), and pulled out a rather expensive-looking gold locket from his shell, opening it at the same time. Seeing this, Karma let out something that seemed like a somewhat choked gasp, and whispered in barely audible voice, “Kaska… is that really you?”
“It is, old friend.”
“But… but you were presumed dead after the incident!”
“Yeah, but I faked my death and disguised myself— that is to say, I spent several sleepless nights and changed my shell. Remember that it used to be black?” Karma nodded. It had been black before, and, if she remembered correctly, there was a distinguishing scar on it as well. Dark crescents under the eyes and a different shell seemed enough to fool at least the Mario Bros.
“But… what happened to your family?” Upon hearing this, his eyes widened ever so slightly. But Karma and Ludwig didn’t miss it. Something was wrong with him or his family. Karma decided not to ask— she knew better than to provoke him— and began to divert the topic to other things, Ludwig was surprised to feel a pang of jealousy… and faint recognition, as he examined the locket that seemed to be made by clumsy hands but with great effort and devotion. Hadn’t he seen this newcomer before? The rational part of his mind answered that this was ridiculous, but his instinct replied in stronger tone. Feeling troubled, he began to ask Karma where she had met her friend, but before he could do so, Teela promptly appeared in the living room.
“Hi, Karma. Hi
Ludwig… Uh, who are you again?” Though she had seen him once before, Teela
had never gotten around to remembering Kaska’s name. Kaska, looking amused
and a little surprised, only said, ”The guy you gave directions to,” and
grinned. He had a flashback of that time when he had been lost in the woods…
Hmm, thought Kaska. Normally I don’t get lost in the woods, though this is the forest of illusion. I guess I’ll just have to check my map…Where’s my map? Panic began to flood his mind as he slowly realized what had happened. It seemed that he had lost his map on the way here or while he was sleeping. He searched fruitlessly for hours in the area, but, to his dismay, could not find it. Was it in the tree he had taken food from the day before? It wasn’t there. Was it under the rock with the scorpion? It wasn’t there either, and he got a painful reminder not to mess with poisonous creatures, no matter how small. He was getting exasperated and was about to give up and go back to where he had came from (he had done at least enough to find his way home) when someone called, ”Hey you! Yeah, you with the black hair!” As Kaska looked up, a female Yoshi sat on top of a branch, and for a moment Kaska thought she looked like a monkey. Quickly pushing out such thoughts, however, he replied, ”Can you help me find my way? Seems like I got lost.”
“Sure. Where do you want to go?”
“Do you know where Cookie Mountain is?”
“Um… It’s east of where you came from for about a mile, then turn north for about three miles. Then you’ll see the Twin Bridges.”
“Thanks. By the way, my name is Kaska Koopa. Nice to meet you.”
And my name is Teela Yoshi.”
His flashback ended; he began to tell her his name again, in other words, reintroduce himself, but suddenly stopped. He had, for the first time, noticed her fangs. Back in the forest, he couldn’t see them because shadows covered them, but now, he could see them clearly enough. He snapped out of his trance and asked, “Where did you acquire your rather sharp teeth?”
“Well, I got them from a Boo, or rather from being bitten by one. You see, you have to be curious enough to have it override your fear, and venture into a haunted house. Then a huge Boo comes up and bites you. If you’re lucky, you can have it bite your arm or leg—any place that’s not your neck. Anyway, it’s a process that sounds simple, but is actually very complex.” I still remember how I felt… so confused and unaware… everything going this way and that… like I was going insane and losing all rational thought… It was so scary… She shuddered inwardly. This boy wouldn’t have to know; too many had suffered intolerable pain, and enough was enough. Deciding that this subject should be left undisturbed, she began talking about other things. Soon the two were deep in conversation, and Ludwig and Karma resumed their chess match. In the end, Ludwig won, but only because of his rather unfair advantage: his intellect. Once they were done, however, Clawdia called them to dinner.
“What are you two going to do?” inquired Ludwig, poking his head through the door.
“We’ll be fine,” replied Kaska, his tone of voice obviously stating that he was irritated at having his conversation interrupted.
“Okay. I get the message.”
With that, Ludwig and Karma left the room and headed for the dinner table. As Kaska watched them go, however, he smirked evilly. How gullible, he thought. Too gullible, in fact. This is proceeding better than I expected…