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  1. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
    (Bunnelby)
    Level 16
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2017
    Posts:
    2,575
    PokéPoints:
    ₽7,690.8
    Samus maneuvered the gunship around the Valley of Bowser and locked into place behind the gargantuan rock sculptures head. The nuclear golem tried to turn around to face them again, but its considerable bulk made it incredibly slow. This made it easy for Samus to simply keep the ship out of danger. The only problem was that they were now at a stalemate. The Valley of Bowser couldn’t hit them because it was too slow but they still didn’t know how to attack it without setting off an apocalyptic explosion that could potentially wipe out all life on the planet. Obviously, this was not an ideal situation.

    “Well, at least it’s not firing lasers at us anymore.” Joey commented in partial relief.

    “Those weren’t lasers.” Samus corrected him. “They were thermonuclear energy blasts.”

    “Lasers is easier to say.” The boy muttered under his breath.

    “This does give us more time to think, though.” Ridley eyed the view screen closely as if staring at it would be enough to figure out how to stop it. “Anyone have any ideas?”

    “Maybe we could try tripping it?” Roshi suggested, looking down at his larger-than-average belly with a twinge of sadness. “I know that always works on me.”

    “That could work.” Samus considered the option for a moment. “We could use the ship’s grapple beam as a tripwire to knock it over.”

    “There is a flaw in that plan.” ADAM interjected. “The resulting tidal wave caused by something that big crashing into the water like that could potentially flood the surrounding continent.”

    “Then how else are we supposed to submerge this thing?” Samus yelled in frustration, which was not a smart thing to do in a confined space crammed with people.

    “I am afraid that I don’t know the answer to that question.” ADAM admitted. “I can not calculate any scenario in which we are able to successfully defeat this thing without massive ecological damage as a result.”

    Samus punched the ship’s windshield out of frustration. Fortunately, it wasn’t with enough force to damage it.

    “That’s certainly not the reaction that I would have expected from you.” Ridley snickered. “How many planets have you blown up at this point?”

    “Can it, lizard!” Samus tried to point her arm cannon at the space dragon, though there wasn’t enough room in the cramped cockpit for her to do so and she just ended up smacking Diesel in the face. The small, furry mechanic swore loudly, prompting Armstrong to cover Joey’s ears. “Now’s not the time!”

    “Right, sorry.” Ridley apologized, which was not something he was used to doing or that he particularly liked. “Still new at this whole, ‘being the good guy’ thing. It’s going to take some getting used to.”

    “I-a have an idea!” Luigi spoke up. “Can-a we use the-a thing that-a pulled us in her to-a lift that-a thing up out of-a the water and fly it into-a space?”

    “Nice thought.” Samus replied. “But the tractor beam isn’t nearly strong enough to lift that thing up.”

    “If only we knew what was actually powering that thing.” Armstrong mused. “It would be much easier if we could just turn it off.”

    Before anyone could react to that comment, the giant rocks that made up the Valley of Bowser began to shift and move around each other. Samus barely had time to send the ship hurtling out of the way before the titanic stone recreation of the Koopa King was suddenly facing them and fired off another beam of radioactive blue flames.

    “Well, apparently it can do that now.” Samus said, mildly stunned by the unexpected turn of events. “So much for hiding in its blind spot.”

    “Am I crazy or did I just see a castle inside that thing’s head?” Ridley asked, not really expecting an answer.

    “Why not both?” Yoshi replied sarcastically.

    “I-a didn’t see it, but-a there was a castle in-a the Valley of Bowser when-a Mario and I were-a here last time.” Luigi stated. “I-a don’t know-a how that works now that-a the Valley is-a like this-a now.”

    Ridley pondered silently for a moment as they dodged another radioactive blast before speaking up again. “I’m going in there.”

    “You’re what?” Just about everyone asked at more-or-less the same time.

    “I’m going in there.” The ex-space pirate repeated. “There might be something inside that we can use to stop it safely.”

    “But you’ll die!” Joey pointed out.

    “Oh, please. Do you really think a lit something like nuclear radiation is going to bother me? I’m mother-eating Ridley!”

    “I don’t think that’s how that saying goes.” Armstrong muttered.

    “Accurate, though. He ate my mother, after all.” Samus said semi-sarcastically as she grabbed Diesel out of the air and pulled him to the ship’s controls. “Take over for me, I’m going too.”

    “Wait, what?” Diesel quickly grabbed hold of the controls with the long, slender tentacle-like appendages emerging from his sides to steer the ship out of the way of a radioactive blast.

    “You can’t be serious!” Armstrong grabbed her arm to keep her from going. “It’s too dangerous.”

    “What, do ya think I’m goin’ ta let my archnemesis upstage me?” Samus laughed. “Besides, my suit should protect me.”

    “Just barely.” ADAM said. “Your Fusion Suit won’t be able to shield you from that much radiation for more than about an hour.”

    “Then we just won’t take that long.” Samus shrugged as she shook loose from Armstrong’s grip. “And I’m surprised that you aren’t just sending me in there without any proper protection. That’s what the original you would have done.”

    “That was one time!” ADAM snapped.

    Samus managed to work her way to the back of the overly crowded cockpit where Ridley was waiting and pressed a button to open the entrance. Then she turned around to face everyone, gave an enthusiastic thumbs-down and fell backward out of the ship.

    “Did… did Samus just forget to wait until we were actually above the enemy?” Armstrong questioned.

    Ridley sighed and facepalmed before jumping out of the ship after her. He dove down beside the bounty hunter and reached out to grab her, but he was too slow as Samus suddenly went into a summersault and was surrounded by an aura of crackling energy.

    “Oh, right.” Ridley said as he watched the sizzling ball of orange energy bounced through air towards the Valley of Bowser. “Space Jump… and Screw Attack. You’d think that I’d have the Hunter’s normal powerset memorized by now.”

    Ridley glided along behind Samus, making sure to keep his distance. He had been hit by her Screw Attack enough to know to stay clear of her when she was using it. He had no idea how it actually worked but he did now that it was enough to hurt him even in his regular form. He didn’t even want to know how much it could hurt him in his current state.

    Samus landed on one of the rocks that made of the Valley of Bowser’s nose and looked up as Ridley flew past. He perched atop the Valley’s head and climbed down to where the Hunter was waiting.

    “Well, that was fun. Now let’s… um…” Samus stared up at Ridley.

    “What?” The space dragon asked defensively.

    “How does that thing stay on.” She pointed up to his head, prompting Ridley to glance up at Mario’s cap, which was somehow able to stay on his head without being blown off by the wind.

    “I… don’t know.”

    “Whatever, let’s just get going.”

    With that, Samus jumped into the blue flames emerging from the Valley of Bowser’s eye and Ridley crawled in after her. It was hard to see anything through the magically radioactive blue fire that filled the massive stone structure, but they could both just barely make out a large castle in the distance. Unfortunately, it was still quite a ways away from them with no pathways leading to it. Ridley unfurled his wings and was immediately sent hurtling upwards, crashing into the ceiling at terminal velocity before falling back down decide Samus in a contorted heap.

    “I can’t believe I’m asking you this, but are y’all OK?” Samus prodded Ridley in the rib with one of her metal boots.

    “Never better.” Ridley growled as he straightened himself out and stood up again, most of his joints noisily cracking into place as he did so. “You’ve beaten me worse than that countless times.”

    “That I have.” Samus nodded.

    “I feel like my flesh is about ready to melt off my bones, though, so I think we should hurry up.”

    “I know what ya mean. Even with mah suit’s heat shielding I still feel like I’m inside an oven.” Samus agreed. “But now I’m not sure how we’re supposed to get over there. If I were to use mah Screw Attack or Grapple Beam in here, it’d probably set the whole thing off. Not that I even have my Grapple Beam anymore, anyway.”

    “Considering we came here specifically to prevent that from happening, it’s definitely a good idea that we don’t do that.” Ridley scratched his chin for a moment. “I have an idea. I hate it, but it’s an idea. I’m going to have to grab you, so try not to instinctively try to kill me or anything.”

    “What are you…”

    Ridley wrapped his long, spindly arms around Samus’ waist in a surprisingly strong grip and opened up his wings again. The dragon and bounty hunter were both sent flying up but with the extra weight, their ascent wasn’t quite as fast as it had been when Ridley was on his own. This gave Ridley the time he needed to control their trajectory just enough so that when Ridley crashed into the cave ceiling again, they were just above the castle. Unfortunately, Ridley wasn’t able to control his fall any better than before and the two crashed right through the castle’s roof.

    “Never. Do. That. AGAIN!” Samus yelled furiously at her former archnemesis as she managed to pull herself out of his grip and looked around. “Well, that’s odd.”

    Ridley managed to slowly clamber up onto all fours and quickly noticed the same thing that Samus had. They were no longer engulfed in magic blue flames. He looked up at the hole where they had just made through the castle’s roof, as well as a few windows scattered around the large room they were now in. The fires still burned brightly just outside but seemed to stop at every available entrance into the castle.

    “Wait… but it’s… the fire… but it should… how?” Samus babbled incoherently.

    “I’ve learned that its best not to question the laws of physics on this planet. They don’t seem to apply.” Ridley said sagely as he placed an assuring hand on Samus’ armored shoulder, prompting the space hunter to slam him face-first into the hard-stone floor. “Ow.”

    “Okay, my suit’s detecting a life signature somewhere nearby.” Samus suddenly acted as if everything was normal again. “I say we check it out.”

    “Yes, I can smell it.” Ridley sniffed the air. “It smells familiar, but I can’t quite place it. I think it might be… wait, why do you smell like a Metroid?”

    Samus tensed up noticeably. “Let’s just get going. These readings indicate that it’s the same alien that we saw earlier.”

    “Yes, that’s what I was just about to say.” Ridley wanted an answer, but his sense of self-preservation told him that he shouldn’t press her further right now. He didn’t want to get on her bad side, after all. Well, further on her bad side, anyway. He was always on her bad side. “I think its name was Kazzak, or Kalek, or something like that. Works for Bowser.”

    “What’s the deal with this Bowser guy, anyway?” Samus asked as they started walking towards where they both detected the Magikoopa to be.

    “I don’t know?” Ridley shrugged. “My crew and I fled to this star system to get away from a Federation warship that had been tracking us down when we picked up a transmission from this planet. When we answered, we found that it was from some sort of local king or warlord or something, asking for help kidnapping the princess of a rival kingdom. Normally I don’t do abductions, but it sounded like a bit of fun and I had nothing better to do while we were lying low, so I took the job. He had me stationed in a small castle with orders to kill a human guy in a red cap, the one I’m wearing right now. I carried out the job while I had my crew take the princess from Bowser’s castle and send her back to her own people. For a sizable reward, of course. It sounds like he seems to try abducting the princess a lot but was always defeated by ‘the Mario’, which is why he hired me to kill the guy. In fact, he took the princess just a day after my crew ‘rescued’ her, which is why the green one and I are going to fight him.”

    “I was asking if ya knew anything about him, not for your whole life story.” Samus pointed out. “Although that is interesting.”

    “That wasn’t my life story. My life story is far more interesting than that.” Ridley muttered. “But what is it that you found interesting?”

    “Because your side of the story if very different than what I was told. When Bowser called me to hire me for this job, he claimed to be the ruler of this planet and that you were attacking his people for no reason. I’m guessing he just made that story up to get me to kill you before you could kill him.”

    “Truly a monster of my own heart.” There was no sarcasm in Ridley’s voice as he said that. “But that does make me wonder how he even knew that it was me that was going after him when just about everyone else that I’ve run into since then has thought that I was the Mario.”

    Samus blasted a door open with her Ice Beam, freezing it over, then shattered it with an Ice Missile which froze the surrounding section of wall around the now empty doorway.

    “You seem to be using a lot of ice-based weaponry these days.” Ridley observed.

    “Unfortunately, it's all I’ve got right now.” Samus shook her head, which looked odd when she was in her armor. “I lost most of my suit’s weapons and powerups when it was stripped down and turned into this Fusion Suit and only managed to get a handful of abilities during my final mission working for the Federation. I want to be able to fill out my arsenal again, but Zebes and SR388 are both gone, I can’t get anywhere near Talon IV or Elysia without being caught by the Federation and arrested for treason, and I haven’t been able to find any other Chozo settlements where I can find upgrades for my suit. I can’t even go to Aether and see if the Luminoth can help me out.”

    “Interesting.” Ridley scratched his chin. “I have a lot of questions about what you’ve done since we last fought, but I suppose those will have to wait. We’ve already spent too much time just standing here and talking.”

    “I agree.” Samus finally stepped through the icy archway leading into the next room, with Ridley keeping close behind her.

    Kamek was floating in the air at the far end of the room. He didn’t notice the two intruders’ approach as his attention was focused solely on a large crystal ball in front of him which showed the battle outside. He appeared to be using it to control the Valley of Bowser.

    “Now let’s see you dodge this one!” Kamek yelled angrily and raised his glowing wand for a moment. “Oh, the dodged that one, too. Well, how about this! Oh.”

    “Yeah, unless you change up your tactics, there’s no way you’re going to be able to get them.” Samus said mockingly as she aimed her arm cannon at the Magikoopa. “You’re just too slow.”

    “Gaah!” Kamek screamed at fell off his broom, landing on the red carpeted floor with a loud thump. “H-how… when did you get in here?”

    “I don’t know, maybe a few minutes ago.” Ridley shrugged. “Or do you mean in this room, specifically. Because we just got here. Did you really not notice the Hunter here blow up the door. It wasn’t exactly quiet.”

    “You know what, it doesn’t matter.” Kamek said dramatically as he floated up off the ground and landed gently on his feet. “This just means that I can have the privilege of taking both of you out myself. Take this!”

    Kamek swung his wand, releasing a blast of magical energy flying towards Samus. The ball of sparkling energy glowed red, blue and yellow as it made its way across the room. Samus sidestepped out of the way, causing the magic to keep going until it hit the wall and turned one of the bricks into a Koopa.

    “As I said, you’re too slow.” Samus reiterated. “I feel like a turtle could have dodged that.”

    “Why you…” Kamek seemed to seethe with anger, to the point where a dark red aura seemed to radiate out from his body. “That’s it! I’ll show you my ultimate attack!”

    Kamek rose off the ground as he began to dance around wildly, shouting some sort of magical incantation in a language that neither Samus nor Ridley could identify. Samus aimed her arm cannon at the dancing Magikoopa, prepared to fire an Ice Missile at him. She didn’t get the chance to, however, as Ridley acted first. The purple space dragon picked up the green-shelled Koopa that Kamek’s spell had created, which retreated into its shell upon seeing him approach it. He then chucked the green shell at Kamek like a football, putting as much strength into the throw as he could. The makeshift projectile hurtled through the air like a rocket before bouncing off of Kamek’s skull at what Samus estimated to be well over a hundred miles per hour. The blue-robed magician dropped to the floor like a ragdoll, with the Koopa landing on its back next to him.

    “Well, that’s… one way to do it.” Samus lowered her canon as it was clear that their opponent was out cold and would not be waking up anytime soon.

    “Okay, now let’s get out of here before…”

    Ridley didn’t get a chance to finish his sentence before the castle began shaking violently around them. The floor began cracking apart as chunks of stone fell from the walls and ceiling.

    “Why does this always happen!” Samus shouted in frustration. “Every! Single! Time!”

    “Look’s like we’re going to have to find a way to get out of here before the whole thing explodes.” Riley sighed. “Hopefully it doesn’t take the whole planet with it.”

    The hunter and ex-pirate ran back out the way they had come. As they ran through the hallway back to the room that they had crashed into, Samus began to glow as her speed suddenly more than doubled. It became nearly impossible for Ridley to keep up with her, even running on all fours. She suddenly stopped and crouched down just below the hole in the ceiling that they had come in from, continuing to glow as Ridley caught up to her.

    “Frak.” Samus muttered under her breath. “I was going to shinespark my way out of here, but the flames outside haven’t fully died off yet.”

    Samus’ glowing armor steadily dimmed and returned to normal as Ridley looked around outside. The blue fire did appear to be subsiding, but they were still there for now, meaning that they still had to be careful about setting off an explosion. He could also see that the rocks making up the outer shell of the Valley of Bowser were breaking apart just like the castle, which at least gave them more options for where to find a way out. In fact, they could probably just stay there until the radioactive fire was completely gone if it weren’t for the fact that they would likely end up crushed to death under an almost literal mountain of stone first.

    “How’re we supposed to get out of here?” Samus wondered aloud.

    “You’re the expert when it comes to these situations.” Ridley pointed out. “Although, I think I may have an idea.”

    “Spill it.”

    “First, I’m going to need to do that thing where you somehow contort yourself into a sphere. I’m still not sure how you do that.”

    “Well, that’s easy. You see, the Morph Ball works by-”

    “I didn’t ask for an explanation, I just need you to do it if you want out of here safely.”

    Samus shot Ridley a deathly glare, not that it was visible through the green-tinted visor of her helmet, before doing something that she never thought she would do by following Ridley’s orders. Once she had activated her suit’s Morph Ball functionality, Ridley picked her up and tucked her under his elbow before spreading his wings and kicking up off the ground. He was able to fly up to the roof without any issues and climbed out into the burning blue fire outside. The magical flames weren’t burning nearly as hot as they had been before, which signified to Ridley that he wouldn’t have as much of an issue with the updraft, which was nice. He spread out his wings again and was sent flying straight up again, though at a much slower speed than earlier. It didn’t take long before he was able to maneuver his way to an opening leading outside and he was able to glide out.

    Ridley took a deep breath of fresh air before flying up and circling the collapsing Valley of Bowser like a vulture above a dying animal. He spotted the orange gunship flying around nearby and glided down to it. He perched atop the ship before climbing around to its undercarriage and in through the entrance hatch that opened for him as he approached it. Once Ridley was safely inside, he finally dropped Samus onto the floor.

    “Well, that was certainly different.” Samus said, slightly relieved, as she stood back up again. “ADAM, status report!”

    “Radiation levels are steadily dropping.” The ship’s A.I. confirmed. “At the current rate, it will reach safe levels in 45 seconds. 44, 43…”

    “We don’t need the countdown.” Samus said as she climbed around the ship’s other occupants to get back to the pilot’s seat. “Is there any chance that it could still go critical?”

    “Yes.” ADAM replied. “Though the odds are only about 1.98% and dropping.”

    “So that’s a no, then.” Samus pulled Diesel out her chair and sat down, to the small engineer’s annoyance.

    “I was actually getting kind of worried there.” Armstrong sighed. “For a moment I wasn’t sure that you’d be able to do it.”

    “Oh, come on, you know me.” Samus said playfully. “I always manage to save the day.”

    “Well, that really depends on your point of view.” Ridley muttered.

    “What are we going to do now?” Joey asked Samus.

    “Well, I don’t know about y’all, but I really don’t like it when people try to kill me.”

    “She really doesn’t.” Ridley confirmed.

    “So, I think I’m going to go pay this Bowser fellah a visit and give him a piece of my mind.” Samus continued. “Who’s with me?”

    “Yeah!” Joey cheered excitedly. “Let’s show that nerf-herding jerk what’s coming to him!”

    “Watch your language.” Armstrong said, concerned. “Though of course, I agree with your sentiment. Of course I’m in.”

    “Sure, whatever.” Diesel shrugged.

    “We-a still need to-a save the Princess.” Luigi pointed out. “So, if you could-a give us a ride, that would-a be great.”

    “Would sure beat walking.” Ridley added.

    “Why not.” Samus nodded.

    “I want to help out, too.” Roshi spoke up. “I may not be all that useful, but I still want to do what I can.”

    “That’s-a the spirit!” Luigi said encouragingly.

    “So, it looks like we’re all in agreement, then.” Samus turned back to the controls. “Then it looks like we’re off to… actually, someone’s going to need to tell me where we’re going.”

    “Hold up! I didn’t agree to any of this!” Yoshi’s sudden outburst drew everyone’s attention to him. “I’m not going anywhere other than back home.”

    “What?” Luigi asked. “Why?”

    “Yeah, you always help out Mario.” Roshi added.

    “That’s just it.” Yoshi shook his head. “I help Mario. I don’t know this… Ridley, was it? And this is all way out of my comfort zone. I mean seriously, WE’RE IN A SPACESHIP! Most of the people here are aliens! We just fought a mountain! What’s even going on at this point?”

    “If you don’t want to come, you don’t have to.” Samus said. “I’m not going to force anyone.”

    “Thank you.” Yoshi calmed down. “Now just drop me off on my island and go.”
    I'm back with chapter 15, which is now the longest chapter in this story so far at 4,174 words, mostly just because I wanted to finally get this story arc done with and move on, rather than split it in two. Now, the first thing that you'll probably notice is that this isn't actually changed the numbering system and the chapters now have actual names. I actually came up with the idea of the current system during the hiatus and finally decided to implement it shortly after the last chapter (in fact, anyone who's checked the story recently may have noticed that I actually made the change a couple weeks ago). The new numbering system is to show off an aspect of the story that I had planned pretty much from the start but probably wasn't obvious early on, which is that Ridley's adventure is meant to be broken up into different 'worlds' like how Mario games traditionally are. Admittedly, the first two worlds only ended up a chapter each because I wasn't really sure what to do with them, but after that I managed to work it out so that each world should be its own little story arc of sorts. This chapter also marks the end of World 4, and the next chapter will be started World 5. And in case anyone thinks that this system may make the story get a bit predictable or something, don't. These next couple of worlds will be... different. I don't want to spoil why, though. Anyway, I suppose I should get to discussing the chapter itself, which I'm going to but in a Spoiler tag, mostly because this is already turning into a huge wall of text.
    This was a hard chapter to write, but also a fun one. So much bickering. I hope that I'm doing a good job of being able to express each character's personality here. To me it feels like I am, but its hard to tell as the author whether or not things are actually coming across the way I want them to or not. This battle also ended up very different than how I planned, mostly because I didn't have a clear battle in mind other than having the characters dramitaclly running up the Valley of Bowser's arms (which didn't end up happening) and I just kept changing things that made it harder and harder to actually write this fight. The first big change was making it so that the magical fire empowering the Valley was actually radioactive (mostly just to reference Godzilla's atomic breath) which suddenly made it so that the characters couldn't directly fight it without setting off a huge nuclear explosion that would essentially turn the Mushroom Kingdom in the Fallout franchise as a best case scenario and simply end all life on the planet at worst. Obviously I couldn't do that, so I came up with the idea of having them trip the Valley to have it fully submerged, safely extinguishing the flames. Then I realized that tripping it would be borderline impossible, not to mention that the resulting tidal waves caused by that would cause all kinds of ecological devastation to Dinosaur Land. So naturally that was out. Finally I decided on having Ridley and Samus enter the Valley of Bowser to hit an off switch or something and figured including Bowser's Castle inside of the Valley of Bowser would make sense and work well for this purpose. Then I decided that would be too anticlimactic and figured they should get into some kind of fight in there, so I added the confrontation with Kamek. Samus was kind of channeling Sonic the Hedgehog there for a bit when taunting Kamek, who in turn accomplishes absolutely nothing. I actually didn't come up with how exactly they would defeat Kamek (other than having Kamek go down in a single hit) until I was in the middle of writing it. I had the magic that Kamek fires at them turn a brick into a koopa because turning blocks into enemies is what magikoopa spells were shown to do in Super Mario World and it was meant as nothing more than a reference to that. Then I had the mental image of Ridley throwing the Koopa like a football and, well, I couldn't pass that up.
    As for for the end of the chapter, I had actually been planning on having Yoshi leave the group here since introducing him. He was mostly just there to help introduce Roshi to the story. Although now that I've had Samus' team join Ridley's (which was not originally planned, I was going to have Samus working alone and leave after her fight with Ridley) I'm not entirely sure how well Roshi's even going to fit into the new team dynamics. I'm sure that I'll be able to make it work, though.
     
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    #21 Oct 26, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2019
  2. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
    (Bunnelby)
    Level 16
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2017
    Posts:
    2,575
    PokéPoints:
    ₽7,690.8
    Things were just beginning to finally calm down in the Yoshi village after a series of earthquakes and tidal waves ravaged the small island that the saurian race called home. Some members of the tribe had reported that the large rock dragon that had risen from the ocean one fateful summer had suddenly sprung to life and started to shoot blue fire from its mouth at a UFO before falling apart to be consumed by the waves.

    The more sensible members of the community knew that this whole story was obviously nothing more than a bunch of malarkey and that the earthquakes must have caused the stone dragon to collapse. There was no way anything so preposterous could have happened. Or at least that was what they thought until the mysterious UFO suddenly flew by overhead and landed in the middle of town.

    The citizens of the Yoshi village all gathered cautiously around the apparently alien spacecraft to get a closer look, making sure to keep their distance. After a moment, the bottom opened up and the surprise of all of the Yoshis who witnessed the strange occurrence, one of their own hopped down from inside the orange-yellow flying saucer.

    “Are you-a sure that you-a don’t want to-a come with us?” A voice could be heard coming from inside the UFO, seemingly calling out to the green Yoshi who had just left the extra-terrestrial vehicle.

    “Completely.” The green Yoshi snapped back at the voice. “Now leave, you’re causing a commotion here.”

    The ship lifted back up off the ground as Yoshi walked away from it, towards the group of onlookers. The clan chief ran up to the green Yoshi, his son, with a look of worry on his face.

    “Are you alright?” The chief asked. “What happened?”

    “I’m fine.” Yoshi sighed. “It’s a long story, which I’d rather not talk about it.”

    “Well, I’m glad you're okay.” The chief patted his son on the shoulder reassuringly, then glanced around. “Wait, where’s your cousin, Roshi? Wasn’t he with you?”

    “Uh…” Yoshi tried to think of what to tell his father. “He was abducted by aliens?”

    “Oh, no!” The chief exclaimed. “That’s horrible! My sister and her mate will be devastated!”

    “Yeah…” Yoshi was already beginning to suspect that he had a mistake, even if what he said was sort of true, from a certain point of view. “But something tells me that he’ll be fine.”

    * * *
    “Okay, which way are we goin’?” Samus asked once they had set off from Yoshi’s Island.

    “Well, I-a think that-a Dark Land should-a be somewhere in that-a direction.” Luigi pointed in the direction he meant.

    “Not very specific, but okay.” Samus turned the ship of set off in the direction that the plumber indicated. “Set course for ‘that-a direction’.”

    “You do realize that I can just check the coordinates that the message King Bowser sent you earlier was sent from to determine his location, don’t you?” ADAM asked his pilot.

    “Ah, where’s the fun in that.”

    “I already miss Yoshi.” Roshi muttered from the back of the ship.

    “Do you-a want us to-a go back and-a drop you-a off?” Luigi asked the heavyset yellow Yoshi.

    “No.” Roshi shook his head, though he sounded unsure. “No. I said that I was going to help you and I am. It’s just… I’ve never left the island before, and now…”

    “Now you’re on an unfamiliar spaceship headed towards a place literally called ‘Dark Land’, where you're going to help a bunch of people you’ve never met before today fight a giant fire-breathing dragon-turtle-monster so that we can rescue the princess of the kingdom that you’ve never visited before.” Ridley summed up.

    “Well, yeah, I guess.” Roshi nodded.

    “Eh, I’ve been on weirder missions before.” Ridley shrugged.

    “Haven’t we all?” Samus asked from back in the front of the ship.

    “No, I don’t believe most of us have.” Armstrong replied. “Unlike you two, the rest of us are at least somewhat normal.”

    “Well, that sounds boring.” Ridley remarked snidely. “Where’s the fun in-”

    “Incoming plasma charge detected!”

    Before anyone had a chance to react to ADAM’s sudden warning, the gunship’s left engine exploded, sending the ship and everyone in it spiraling to the ground in a fiery collision course for the ground. The only thing that stopped anyone from panicking was the fact that everyone in the ship apart from Samus was thrown to the back of the ship before they could.

    “Joey! Barrier! Now!” Samus shouted to her young apprentice, who understood the order and complied.

    The boy created an energy barrier around everyone stuck in the back of the ship just in time to shield them from the impact as the gunship hit the ground at terminal velocity. Samus was still forced to take the full impact of the crash landing, but fortunately her Fusion Suit was able to protect her well enough to only leave her mildly injured and annoyed.

    “What was that?” Armstrong shouted once he and the others regained their senses.

    “Don’t know, but whatever did that is goin’ down.” Samus muttered through gritted teeth as she pulled herself out from what had been the ship’s control panel. “Everyone out, now!”

    Diesel flipped an emergency switch, which forced a panel of the ship’s roof to jettison away, allowing everyone to climb out of the wreckage.

    “ADAM, status report.” Samus ordered once everyone else had evacuated the small gunship.

    “Obviously not good.” ADAM replied. “Almost all systems are down. The auto-repair drones should still be functional, but it will take at least 0.038 cycles to restore the ship back to useable condition. Or, to use the local measurement of time, approximately one week.”

    Samus swore under her breath before jumping out of the ship to check on the others. “Any sign of whatever attacked us?”

    “Not yet, but whatever it was, it’s probably still nearby.” Armstrong replied. “Ridley took off. I think he’s trying to scan the area from overhead.”

    Samus looked around. They had crashed in what appeared to be an open quarry of some kind. The area was barren apart from large piles of rock and stone scattered about randomly. Samus’ Scan Visor was pointing out evidence that the area had been strip-mined at some point in the past but there were no signs of anyone having made use of the area in a very long time. The area reminded her somewhat of the Agon Wastes of Aether, which did nothing to put her at ease. She switched to her Thermal Visor to see if that would pick anything up, but to no avail. Samus switched back to her standard Combat Visor, wishing that she still had some of the other visor systems that she’d found over the course of her many adventures, only to inevitably lose shortly afterward. She used to have a nasty habit of losing all of her suit’s functions with disturbing regularity, though fortunately she hadn’t been too bad with that lately. Unfortunately, she also hadn’t been able to gain very many new weapons or utility features since blowing up the BSL research station, becoming a wanted fugitive and essentially losing the ability to travel to former Chozo worlds without the risk of being arrested or executed as soon as she ventured back into Federation-controlled space.

    Everyone stood around anxiously, ready to be attacked at any moment. After a short moment that felt like an eternity, Ridley flew back into view. He came to a halt just overhead and dropped down.

    “Found it.” Ridley said as she landed. “There’s a big cannon a few miles away. Doesn’t look mobile, so we shouldn’t need to worry about it for now. Although whoever fired it at us is probably on their way to make sure that they finished the job.”

    “Right.” Samus nodded and considered their options, then turned to Luigi and Roshi. “You’re natives to this planet, right? What can you tell us about where we are right now?”

    “I’ve never left the island before.” Roshi reminded her.

    “I’m afraid that-a I haven’t-a been here-a before either.” Luigi shook his head.

    “If none of us know this area, then it would be safe to assume that the enemy has the terrain advantage.” Samus looked back and forth between her companions and as she tried to figure out what they should do now. “Diesel, you’ll need to stay here and help repair the ship. ‘s not like you could really help in a fight, anyway.”

    “I resent that, even if it’s true.” Diesel grumbled before hovering over to the damaged ship.

    “Now, Deisel and ADAM are going to be defenseless if the enemy attack. Joey, Armstrong, I want ya’ll to stay behind to defend them if that happens. You’re both good at defense and offense, respectively, so you should be able to do the job.”

    “Right.” Armstrong nodded in agreement.

    “Got it!” Joey said enthusiastically.

    “That leaves the four of us.” Samus turned to Ridley, Luigi and Roshi. “We’ll be headin’ to try and confront the enemy. They’ll probably be expecting to fight us here, which means we might be able to throw them off a bit by meeting them half-way. Any objections, ladies?”

    Samus gave a thumbs-down, which Armstong and Joey returned. Ridley, Luigi and Roshi were just left confused by the references they weren’t in on. Roshi rose his hand.

    “Um, I’m not sure how much help I’ll be.” He said. “I’ve never been in a fight or anything. Unless you count being bullied, but I never fought back.”

    “Good to know.” Samus nodded, hiding the fact that she wasn’t sure how to react to that last bit of information at the moment. “But I’ll probably be doing most of the work. Ridley might get a hit in if he decides not to be completely useless for once.”

    “I am the deadliest being the universe has ever known. Men, women, hermaphrodites, asexual organisms and everything in-between cower before my presents. The mere utterance of my name is enough to make even the toughest warriors tremble in fear. I haunt the nightmares children and adults across every known galaxy. There are those who would swear they would rather face whatever devil their primitive cultures fear than to ever encounter me on even a good day. There are those who worship me as a God of Destruction that will one day bring about the end of all things. I was voted ‘Most Likely to Finally Kill the Hunter’ seven years in a row.” Ridley objected. “I am not useless.”

    Everyone but Samus backed away uneasily from Ridley, who had subconsciously tapped into his natural ability to induce fear, anxiety and agitation in all but the most strong-willed of individuals as he spoke.

    Ridley cleared his throat before continuing. “Sorry, that was the old me coming out for a moment there.”

    “Right.” Samus nodded as if nothing strange had just happened. “Now let’s get going before we lose what little chance we have of catchin’ ‘em off guard. Which way was the cannon?”

    Ridley pointed in the direction that he had seen it with his tail, which made for a convenient arrow. Samus then ran off in that direction, leaving the other three to follow after her while Armstrong and Joey walked over to the ship’s wreckage. Roshi was having trouble keeping up with the others until Ridley decided to grab him by the arms and take to the air.

    “Woah!” Roshi yelled in surprise. “Is this safe?”

    “I’ve never dropped anyone before.” Ridley smirked. “Or at least not on accident.”

    Roshi was beginning to question if going along on this adventure was really the best choice. Even if he was still sure it was the right thing to do, he was becoming increasingly aware of how sociopathic Ridley could be at times. Although Roshi had meant what he had said to Samus earlier about Ridley being the first person to really treat him nicely. He had always heard that friends were supposed to stick by each other even when they have problems. He hadn’t really had friends before, but he was pretty sure that Ridley, Luigi and the others were his friends now. With that thought, Roshi started to feel warm inside. Ridley was kind of weird, definitely scary, but he was in essence Roshi’s first real friend.

    Ridley noticed that Roshi seemed to relax in his grip, which was not something that Ridley was used to. Usually, when something he was holding stopped resisting, that meant it was dead or about to die.

    “Are you alright down there?” Ridley asked for what was likely the first time in his life.

    “I’m fine.” Roshi shouted back. “I’m feeling- Woah!”

    Ridley suddenly did an aileron roll to spin out of the way of a small, fast oncoming projectile. As soon as he righted himself, he dipped slightly and let Roshi down onto the ground before landing beside Samus and Luigi. The Hunter was aiming her arm cannon in the direction where several of the quick projectile’s had come from, while Luigi braced himself for a fight. It was then that their attackers decided to reveal themselves. A whirlwind of color skipped into view before breaking off into four differently colored shells that landed in a row.

    “Hi-ya!” A red-shelled Koopa in a mask emerged from its shell and pointed dramatically into the air.

    “Hyah!” A Koopa with a black shell and mask landed beside the first one, making the same gesture.

    “Hooyah!” A third Koopa, with a yellow shell and mask, landed next to the black one before striking the same pose.

    “Booyah!” The fourth and final masked Koopa, this one wearing green, landed on the opposite side of the red one than the others.

    With all four Koopas in position, they moved their extended arms to point directly at Ridley and the others.

    “Well, well! It’s been a long time, hasn’t it Mario?” The red one asked. “Bet you never thought that you’d be running into us again, did you?”

    “Dude, King Bowser said that this guy’s not really Mario, remember?” The black-masked Koopa reminded the apparent leader of the group as they all lowered their arms.

    “Oh, right.” The red Koopa shook his head, before pointing at Ridley again. “Since we’ve never met before, I guess it’s only fair that we introduce ourselves. We are…”

    “The Super!” The black Koopa shouted.

    “Ultra!” The yellow Koopa yelled.

    “Mighty!” The green Koopa exclaimed.

    “Koopa Bros!” All four Koopas finished in unison.

    “We are the greatest…”

    “Coolest…”

    “Awesomest…”

    “Best…”

    “And most elite members the entire Koopa Pack.” The red Koopa folded his arms imposingly.

    “We’ve been trained from hatchlings in the ways of the Ninja.” The black Koopa struck a defensive pose.

    “King Bowser himself personally selected us for this mission.” The yellow Koopa cocked his head to the side and cracked his knuckles.

    “Mario may have beaten us once, but we’ve gotten way stronger since then.” The green Koopa said proudly before his red-clad brother slapped his shoulder.

    “Dude, why would you tell them that we’ve been beaten before?”

    “Sorry.” The green Koopa Brother rubbed his now-sore arm.

    “Anyway, prepare to get beaten by the now-beatable Super Ultra Mighty Koopa Bros!” The red one announced as all four Ninjakoopas regained their composure.

    “Are these guys serious?” Samus gestured towards the Koopa Bros. with her thumb while turning to face Luigi and Ridley.

    “Don’t know.” Ridley shrugged. “Probably.”

    “I-a think that I’ve heard-a Mario mention them-a before, now-a that I-a think about it.” Luigi scratched his chin. “As-a far as-a I-a recall, he said that-a they weren’t that hard to-a beat.”

    “Not that hard to…” The red Ninjakoopa repeated angrily. “WE’LL SHOW YOU! Wait until you get a load of our Super Secret Special Ultimate Techni-”

    “NOT SO FAST!”

    Both groups had their attention pulled away from each other by the unexpected interruption, and eight pairs of eyes turned to where the voice had come from. An armored red and silver humanoid with a large, oblong head jumped out from behind a large pile of rocks and flipped through the air before landing and striking a pose.

    “We fight for evil!” The mysterious figure announced before a similar black and silver figure leaped out and landed beside the first.

    “We live for disorder!” The second figure was nearly identical to the first apart from its coloration and the fact that it wore a pair of pointed black sunglasses.

    “We like what we do!” A third, green one jumped out that was noticeably thinner than the first two.

    “We struggle for chaos!” The fourth one was pink and had a decidedly feminine voice compared to the others.

    “We are…” The fifth and apparently last one of these mysterious new beings was yellow and had a much stouter build than the others.

    “THE NEO AXEM RANGERS!” All five shouted at once as a multicolored explosion erupted behind them for no apparent reason.

    Ridley tilted his head to the side and looked back to the Koopa Bros., who were clearly just as confused as he and his companions were by these new arrivals.

    “What do you want?” The Red Koopa Brother yelled angrily at the Neo Axem Rangers. “We’re kind of in the middle of something, here!”

    The red Axem Ranger pulled out a long-handled axe from behind his back and pointed it towards Ridley and his companions. “We’re here to capture the one known as Ridley and his allies for our master.”

    “Well, too bad!” The red Koopa Brother yelled. “We have orders from our king to capture them, which means that if you want them, you’re going to have to go through us first!”

    Ridley tilted his head to the side and looked back and forth between the Koopa Bros. and the Neo Axem Rangers. He was at a loss for words.

    “What’s going on?” Samus wondered aloud.

    “No idea.” Luigi replied.

    I've been looking forward to this chapter for months now. This marks the beginning of what should be a really fun story arc. I had a blast writing this and I expect to have just as much fun with the next couple chapters.
     
    Rezna likes this.
  3. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
    (Bunnelby)
    Level 16
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    The air through the quarry was tense as the three groups stared each other down. An unspoken moment seemed to serve as a signal of sorts for everyone to spring into action. Red Ninjakoopa threw a shuriken towards the Neo Axem Rangers as his brothers retracted into their shells. Axem Black ducked to the side to avoid the sharp metal star before he and the other rangers charged towards the Koopa Bros. Ridley, Luigi, Samus and Roshi backed away quietly while their enemies were distracted.

    Each member of the Neo Axem Rangers carried a large, powerful axe that a normal human would have trouble lifting, let alone using as a weapon. Neither size nor weight seemed to be an issue for the villainous robots, however, who somehow managed to swing their axes around with a level of grace and finesse. The Koopa Brothers, on the other hand, primarily fought by trying to slam into their opponents while in their shells. This was not a particularly ninja-like way of fighting, nor was it particularly effective against their current opponents.

    Red Ninjakoopa launched himself off the ground towards Axem Red. The robot responded with a swing of his axe and sent the large turtle flying away like a baseball. The ninjakoopa emerged from his shell and tossed something at the ground.

    “Shell tactics aren’t working!” Red announced to his brothers as smoke suddenly filled the area. “Time for plan B!”

    The other ninjakoopas backed away from the Neo Axem Rangers for a moment and stood up. Each member pulling out a different weapon that they had somehow concealed in their shells. Black wore a pair of metal claws on his hands, which he used to swipe at Axem Green as he charged back into the fray. Yellow, on the other hand, pulled out a retractable staff which he extended to its full length before using it to block an axe swing from Axem Yellow. Meanwhile Green pulled out a small scythe-like weapon with a weighted chain at one end, which he swung overhead as charged Axem Black. This left Red Ninjakoopa to fend off both Axem Red and Axem Pink using a pair of sai.

    “What do-a we do now?” Luigi whispered from behind a large pile of rocks and stone.

    “Wait until one group defeats the other.” Samus replied. “It’ll be easier to fight off one group of already weakened opponents than to fight off two groups of enemies at once.”

    The group watched their would-be attackers fight off their other would-be attackers while making sure to stay out of sight. The battle raged on for a while but remained relatively one-sided. While the Koopa Brothers were able to avoid getting to hurt by their opponents thanks to their shells, their attacks proved near-useless against the heavily armored Neo Axem Rangers.

    “Looks like we’ve got no choice.” Red Ninjakoopa relented after it became clear which side was going to wing the fight. “It’s time to use our secret weapon!”

    “Really, bro?” Green asked.

    “Yes, really. Now move out!”

    At Red’s command, the Koopa Brothers made a strategic retreat and gathered together. All four ninjakoopa brothers reached up and pressed a large yellow button on the collars they each wore around their neck. A massive explosion erupted behind them, which created an even larger cloud of smoke. The Koopa Brothers backflipped into the smoke and out of view. When the smoke finally cleared away, it was to reveal a mechanical facsimile of King Bowser towering over everyone. Light reflected off the giant robot’s metallic green and gold armor as it towered over the group menacingly.

    “Behold the Super Mecha Bowser X Mk. II!” The red Koopa Brother’s voice shouted through a built-in speaker system.

    “Wait, where did that come from?” Ridley wondered aloud.

    “Perhaps leaving might be in our best interest right now, after all.” Samus noted. “Then again, that one looks like it’s much smaller than that last one we fought.”

    “Probably easier to take down, too.” Ridley agreed. “We should be fine.”

    The Axem Rangers looked up at the Super Mecha Bowser X Mk. II, then glanced at each other.

    “That thing looks kind of familiar.” Axem Yellow noted.

    “No time to dwell on that.” Axem Red pumped his fist into the air. “It’s time to summon the Bows!”

    “Right!” The other Axem Rangers nodded and followed his lead.

    A sudden rumbling shook the area like Wario getting his hands on a new bag of gold. It soon became obvious what caused the sudden tremors as five distinct figures charged into battle.

    “Spiny Bow Power!” Axem Red jumped into the first of the five giant robots, which resembled a large red turtle covered in spikes and crawling on all fours.

    “Bullet Bill Bow Power!” Axem Black jumped into the second one, which looked like a large black missile with eyes and arms.

    “Yoshi Bow Power!” Axem Green entered the third Bow, which true to its name looked like a giant mechanical Yoshi.

    “Piranha Plant Bow Power!” Axem Pink jumped into one that resembled a large pink and white plant with teeth.

    “Wiggler Bow Power!” Axem Yellow took the final, bug-like Bow.

    “Oh, come on!” Red groaned exasperatedly. “Seriously?”

    “Okay, that’s it.” Samus sighed. “We’re leaving. Now.”

    “Right-a behind you.” Luigi agreed as the four got up and starting to flee.

    “Alright, Neo Axem Ranger!” Axem Red shouted. “Initiate Gigabow sequence!”

    The five Bows each began to fold up into each other and rose into the air. The Bullet Bill and Wiggler Bows transformed into a pair of legs, which the Yoshi Bow locked onto to form a body with one arm. The Piranha Plant Bow formed the other arm, while the Spiny Bow settled on top to become the head of the newly formed Gigabow. The heads of the Yoshi and Piranha Plant Bows, which now formed the Gigabow’s hands, opened up so that a giant axe could emerge from each. The Gigabow towered over the Super Mecha Bowser X Mk. II, which only reached up to its shoulders, as it assumed a battle stance.

    “If the giant robots just turn into a larger robot, then why were they even separate to begin with?” Roshi asked as he ran away along with the others, for once actually keeping up with them.

    “Don’t know, don’t care!” Ridley replied while sprinting along on all fours. “Getting out of here!”

    “This just isn’t our day.” Red Ninjakoopa muttered, not realizing that he was still talking into the Super Mecha Bowser X Mk. II’s speakers. “Alright, let’s just try and get this over with. Fire!”

    The Super Mecha Bowser X Mk. II’s mouth opened up and a gush of fire blasted out from the giant flamethrower held within. The Neo Axem Rangers replied by charging forward in the Gigabow, one axe held high over its head while the other was kept low to the ground. The Gigabow ran through the fire and swung its elevated axe down to strike the Super Mecha Bowser X Mk. II’s head while swinging its lower axe into the mechanical dragon turtle's side. The Koopa Brothers managed to grab one of the Gigabow’s arms with one of the Super Mecha Bowser X Mk. II’s clawed hands, pulling the larger giant robot closer and decking it in the face. The Gigabow struck the Super Mecha Bowser X Mk. II with a rocket-propelled kick from its Bullet Bill leg, sending the smaller giant robot hurtling back.

    “How are we supposed to beat this thing?” Black asked.

    “I don’t know.” Red shook his head, trying to consider their rather limited options.

    “Don’t worry, brothers! I’ve got this!” A voice called from the distance.

    “Oh, no.” Red and his brothers groaned upon recognizing the voice.

    A giant spiked ball hurtled through the air, crashing into the Gigazord and knocking the giant multicolored robot into the ground. The source of the attack quickly became apparent as yet another giant robot ran up to them, similar in design to the Super Mecha Bowser X Mk. II though smaller in size and with some stylistic differences as it was designed to resemble not Bowser himself but his son Bowser Jr.

    “Sorry I’m late.” The v Super Mecha Bowser Jr.’s pilot said.

    “Go home, Blue!” Red called back.

    “What, why?” Blue sounded offended. “I’m a part of the family, too!”

    “Yeah, but we’re the Koopa Brothers, not the Koopa Siblings.” Red pointed out.

    “What? Are you saying you don’t want my help just because I’m a girl?” Blue shouted angrily.

    “Yep, more or less.” The four brothers all nodded in agreement.

    “Ugh, you boys are so infuriating! Fine, see if I ever try saving your life again.”

    While the ninjakoopa siblings argued, the Neo Axem Rangers were able to get the Gigabow back onto its feet.

    “Looks like they’ve got backup.” Axem Pink pointed out.

    “This could get difficult.” Axem Black agreed.

    “Looks like it’s time to call in our own backup.” Axem Red noted as he reached down to a button on his control panel.

    “No need, I’m already here!” Another voice sounded from the top of a nearby rocky hill.

    “Axem Silver!” The five Axem Rangers piloting the Gigabow called out in unison.

    “That’s right. I’m here now and ready to help.” The silver Axem Ranger pulled out his axe and held it out above his head. “Now come to me, Silver Gigabow!”

    Axem Silver flipped his axe around and raised the base of the handle up to his cylindrical mouth while placing his fingers along a series of small holes along the shaft. He then proceeded to play the axe like a saxophone to summon his personal Gigabow.

    “How many times do we have to tell you that you can’t join the Koopa Bros?” Red asked his sister with growing exasperation.

    “I’m telling mom!” Blue whined. “Then you’ll be sorry!”

    “Yeah, go ahead. See if we care-huh?”

    The bickering Koopa siblings turned their attention back to their opponent. Or rather, their opponents. A silver, winged Gigabow had just landed beside the first one and the sound of a saxophone filled the air. It was shorter than the first Gigabow, being closer to the Super Mecha Bowser X Mk. II in height, and had a more uniform appearance as it was not made from several smaller robots like the first Gigabow.

    “Where did you come from?” Red wondered aloud.

    “That doesn’t matter to you.” Axem Red replied. “Just know that you’re going down in the name of our new boss!”

    “Does that mean that you’re not working for, uh, Smitty anymore?” Yellow asked.

    “Smithy.” Axem Black corrected him. “And that’s a no. We work for the one who rebuilt and upgraded us now, Master Kamek!”

    Silence filled the air, apart from the continued music of Axem Silver’s s-axe-ophone.

    “Did you just say… Kamek?” Red asked.

    “That’s right!” Axem Pink confirmed. “And we won’t let anyone get in his way!”

    “But, Kamek works for King Bowser.” Black pointed out. Doesn’t that mean that you work for Bowser?”

    “I guess so.” Axem Red replied, leading to another pause.

    “But… we work for Bowser.” Red Ninjakoopa said at last.

    “You do?”

    “Why do you think we have a giant robot designed to look like him?” Green asked.

    “I knew it looked familiar.” Axem Yellow replied.

    “Wait, but if you work for Bowser, and we work for Bowser…” Axem Red started to put the pieces together. “Then that would mean that we’re on the same side.”

    “Well, this is embarrassing.” Axem Pink sighed.

    * * *​

    “That was certainly something.” Ridley remarked after he and the others managed to get out of sight from the giant fighting robots and slowed to a walk.

    “Do-a you think the-a others will-a be alright?” Luigi asked.

    “I’m sure that ADAM and Diesel can get the ship running again soon.” Samus assured him. “I doubt they’ll be in any trouble.”

    “But what happens if we get attacked again?” Roshi asked, sounding a bit panicked.

    “I doubt that’ll happen.”

    Samus was almost immediately proven wrong as they suddenly found themselves surrounded by four giant robots, all looking down at them menacingly.

    “Well, frak.”
    Yeesh, it's been a month since I last updated this story. I'm surprised it took me so long to get around to writing this, considering how much I've been waning to write this chapter since coming up with it last July. And despite how long it took between the initial planning and actually writing it, this chapter is almost exactly how I planned it. Although I was expecting it to take longer, probably filling up more around two chapters. But I still included everything that I wanted to, so I'm happy. This just means one less chapter before starting up the next World.
    Ninja Koopas vs. Axem Rangers! What could be cooler than that? I even added an extra member to each side just for fun. I especially enjoyed coming up with the name of the Bows. On the surface it sounds like it's a reference to the bow and arrow, fitting the medieval weapons theme of Smithy's forces in Super Mario RPG (a game I still have yet to play). However, it's actually derived from Bowser's name, like how the Zords in Power Rangers are named after Zordon. By extension the Gigabow and Silver Gigabow are named after Giga Bowser from Super Smash Bros while also being a similar name to the Megazord from Power Rangers. Axem Silver controlling his Silver Gigabow by using his axe as a saxophone is a reference to how the Green Ranger controlled the Dragonzord by using his dagger as a flute (that sounds more like a trumpet). I didn't even realized the pun until after coming up with the idea and referring to it as Axem Silver's axe saxophone, which I then immediately changed to Axem Silver's s-axe-ophone upon noticing it.
     
  4. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
    (Bunnelby)
    Level 16
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    If Rosalina was still a normal human being, she wasn’t sure if she would be able to tolerate the heat of standing over an open lava flow. But as it happened, it had been a very long time since she was something that could be considered ‘human’, and the heat barely bothered her as she looked down from the stone bridge.

    “So, this is where it happened.” Rosalina muttered to herself. “It’s still hard to believe that he’s gone.”

    The Mother of Lumas pulled out a book, protected by magic so that it wouldn’t burst into flames or anything, and opened to the page she wanted. She may not have been able to find a suitable resurrection spell, but if this worked then she wouldn’t need one. With a swish of her wand through the air, she recited the ancient incantation that would, with luck, return Mario to the realm of the living.

    A trail of sparkles emerged from the tip of her wand and began to swirl around the air, forming into a clock face. After ticking forward a couple of seconds, the magical clock stopped and reversed its direction, gaining speed as it went. Rosalina struggled to continue the incantation as she could feel an excessive amount of magical energy drained from her body. Attempting to reverse time in a localized area wasn’t exactly an easy task and it had been at least a few centuries since she had tried casting a spell this powerful. Rosalina was no longer used to this kind of strain, but she held on.

    After several minutes, the spell finally did its task. The portly hero of the Mushroom Kingdom emerged from the lava and seemed to fall up back to the bridge. Rosalina let out a sigh of relief as she watched.

    “Nope.”

    An unexpected blast of magical energy struck Rosalina square in the back, throwing off her concentration. The disruption to her flow of magic caused the time-reversal spell to explode in her face, sending her flying back and de-aging her several years. Not that it made a noticeable difference to an ageless being like herself. With the spell broken, time resumed as normal for Mario, who let out a yell as he suddenly found himself falling to his death a second time.

    “Mario!” Rosalina rushed back to the edge and tried to use her magic to levitate him back up to safety. A second blast of magical energy struck her hand, knocking her wand out of her grasp. She watched as both the plumber and her wand fell sunk into the molten rock before turning to see who dared attack her.

    “I had a feeling that someone would come along and try something.” A crotchety old Magikoopa in purple robes flew down into view on her broom, pointing a golden scepter at Rosalina. “I guess it’s a good thing I decided to keep guard after all.”

    “Do you have any idea what you’ve just done.” Rosalina practically growled the words out as she clenched her fists so tight that her nails were starting to dig into her palms.

    “I’ve stopped you from bringing back the biggest thorn in His Viciousness’ side.” The old Magikoopa happily replied. “Now why don’t you run along, and I’ll forget this little incident ever happened, kiddo?”

    “Kiddo?” Rosalina let herself smirk. “You have no idea who I am, do you?”

    “Some little girl who fancies herself a witch?” The Magikoopa guessed. “Of course, you can’t even call yourself that, now that you’ve lost that pathetic little wand of yours.”

    “Wrong.” Rosalina couldn’t stop herself from laughing, as she lifted herself up a few inches off the ground. “I am Rosalina, Guardian of the Comet Observatory and Mother of Lumas. I am older than the universe itself and have more power at my command than you could possibly imagine. And I am far from helpless without my wand. While it will certainly be harder to focus my magic without it, I should have an easy enough time painting the walls with you.”

    “So, the little girl thinks that she can take on the magnificent Kammy Koopa, does she? Well, I’m afraid that it will take more than a few made-up titles to avoid a wallop from the strongest magician in King Bowser’s army! Unless you can back up those claims of yours, then I’m going to make you wish you had taken my offer to leave.”

    * * *​

    Ridley wasn’t sure how long he had been unconscious, but he woke up lying on the ground. He did know one thing, though. He was lying on dirt. Soft dirt covered in grass. That meant that wherever he was, was not the same place where he and the others had found themselves thoroughly trounced by a bunch of colorful idiots controlling giant robots. The purple space-dragon opened his eyes and stood up cautiously, looking around. His wrists and ankles were shackled, and he had been placed in a line up with Luigi, Roshi and a human woman that Ridley didn’t recognize.

    “How good of you to finally join us.” An older looking Koopa with a black shell paced back and forth in front of them. Ridley thought for a moment that the Koopa was blind in his left eye, before realizing the slight discoloration was caused by glass lens propped up against his eye rather than a cataract.

    “Where are we?” The unfamiliar-looking woman asked demandingly, and Ridley was shocked to recognize her voice. He knew it had been a long time since he had seen the Hunter out of her armor, but she didn’t look like how he remembered.

    “You are in Darkland Prison Camp XIII-B.” The monocle-wearing Koopa replied. “Or as we here like to call it, Camp Shell. I am the commanding officer here, Colonel Klang, though you may just refer to me as your warden.”

    “Yeah, I don’t think so.” An orange glow began to radiate around Samus as she tried to rematerialize her armor. The glow was short-lived, however, as a painful electrical jolt was released from a metal collar that had been placed around her neck. As Samus dropped to her knees, Ridley realized that all four of them had been fitted with these shock collars.

    Colonel Klang laughed. “I’m afraid that you’ll find that none of you will be able to use your powers, natural or otherwise, while you are here. You have all been equipped with the latest in anti-power-up technology, which means that as long as you wear those collars, you will not be able to use powers of any kind without, well… you’ve seen what happens. And before any of you get any bright ideas about how to try and get them off, you should know that they are each fitted with an explosive mechanism designed so that if they are removed…” Klang slid a finger across his throat to illustrate what would happen.

    An ominous feeling passed over the four captives and both Samus and Ridley quickly began trying to think their way out of the situation. Ridley had survived death countless times, usually either at the hands of the Hunter or due to Science Teams’ sheer incompetence. Under normal circumstances, he would just tear the collar off and if the explosion was strong enough to hurt him, then he would just wait until he could regrow a new head. However, he wasn’t sure what his limitations were now. He had felt weaker ever since he had become human-sized and wasn’t sure he wanted to risk the possibility that his regenerative capabilities were no longer working properly.

    “Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s time that you four got to work.” Klang continued. “Sargent Gutz!”

    The second-largest Goomba that Ridley had ever seen waddled up to them, wearing a bucket on his head like a helmet.

    “Yes, Commander?” They heavyset Goomba stood at attention.

    “Escort the new prisoners to the barracks and let Commander Cedar show them the ropes.”

    “Yes, Commander!” Gutz turned to Ridley and the others. “Follow me.”

    Ridley and the others followed the oversized Goomba across the camp, giving them a good look at the place. The area was mostly barren save for a few small buildings scattered about that seemed to serve various purposes, although outside of the main area were several large fields where captive Toads seemed to be gardening. What they were growing, however, Ridley couldn’t quite tell. Eventually, Sargent Gutz led them to a cluster of small buildings, where a lone Toad was maintaining a bonfire.

    “Hello there, Colonel Cedar.” Gutz said pleasantly to the brown-spotted mushroom man.

    “Hello, Sargent Gutz.” The Toad replied bitterly. “These the newbs?”

    “Yep. I thought it best that you show them the ropes around here.” Gutz nodded.

    “And by that, you mean that you don’t feel like doing it yourself.” Cedar sighed. “Fine then.”

    Gutz turned around and began to march away, prompting the Toad to look up at the others.

    “It truly is a sad day for the Mushroom Kingdom.” He muttered upon realizing who he was with. “I never thought that I’d see the day when the Mario Brothers ended up here. My name is Cedar T., Colonel in the Mushroom Kingdom Army and the senior prisoner here at Camp Shell.”

    “I’m-a Luigi.” The green-capped plumber introduced himself. “But I take it you already knew that.”

    “I’m Roshi and this, well, isn’t exactly how I thought my first adventure would go.” Roshi waved nervously.

    “Name’s Samus Aran, bounty hunter.” Samus said while fidgeting with her collar.

    “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Cedar T. warned her. “We’ve lost countless good men that way.”

    Samus stopped and lowered her arms slowly, realizing what he meant. Ridley noticed that her arms seemed to shake for a moment and could smell fear coming from the Hunter. It was not something he was used to.

    “And of course, you know that I am the Mario.” Ridley paused. “Okay, you know what, the Gronkat’s out of the bag anyway and I’m sure the space witch is probably on her way to kill me or something, I might as well introduce myself for real. My name is Ridley. I am a formally-giant, purple dragon alien from the Space Pirate Alliance.”

    “Okay, the hero of the Mushroom Kingdom has completely lost it.” Cedar T. commented, poking a stick into the flames to adjust the burning logs. “The news just keeps getting worse.”

    “Why does everyone keep thinking that you’re this Mario person, anyway?” Samus asked Ridley. “If looked anything like his brother here, then there’s absolutely no resemblance. You’d think the wings, tail purple skin and, well, everything about you would be a dead giveaway.”

    “I don’t know.” Ridley shrugged. “But it’s been happening ever since I put on the hat, which I have no idea why I’m still wearing at this point.”

    “Wait, are you serious?” Cedar T. asked.

    “I’m afraid-a so.” Luigi shook his head. “My actual brother is-a gone.”

    “Just what I needed, more bad news.” The Toad groaned.

    * * *​

    Rosalina dodged another of Kammy’s attacks. The magical energy sped through the air and blasted a hole in the wall behind her. Before the old Magikoopa could strike again, Rosalina retaliated with an attack of her own. Her magic may not have been as refined or elegant without her wand to channel it through, but she didn’t need it for this. A ball of burning plasma, like a miniature sun, manifested in front of her open hand before being launched at her opponent. Kammy wasn’t as swift as the Mother of Lumas and the attack ended up lighting her broom on fire.

    “What, no!” Kammy quickly dispelled the flames with a wave of her wand. “This was custom made, you witch!”
    “I’m getting tired of people calling me that.” In a flash, Rosalina warped directly in front of Kammy and pulled the old Magikoopa’s wand out of her grasp. “Since you took away mine, I think that it’s only fair that I take yours.”

    “Hey, you can’t do that!” Kammy protested.

    “I’m not exactly in the mood to be argued with right now.”

    With a flick of her newly ‘acquired’ wand, Rosalina sent Kammy Koopa crashing straight through the wall and flying through the sky into the far-off distance.

    “Hm, not bad.” Rosalina examined the ruby-encrusted gold wand. It was thicker and heavier than her old wand but still quite comfortable to grasp. She could actually see herself getting used to using it without much trouble. Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as powerful of her old wand and wouldn’t allow her to use her strongest magic. A bit of modification could fix that problem easily but that would take time. Time that she didn’t have.

    She had already been reaching the end of her window of opportunity for using the time-reversal spell to save Mario. By the time she would be able to cast the spell again, it would be too late to reverse time far enough back to pull him out of the lava. In fact, by the time she got this wand ready to perform such a spell, it would probably be too late to even get her old wand back. Her last chance of restoring the hero of the Mushroom Kingdom was gone. As far as she was aware, the only two options left were to storm her way into the afterlife and bring him back the hard way or she could reboot the universe again. The former was out of her power and she knew from personal experience that doing the latter option again so soon after the last time would have disastrous consequences. There was nothing more she could do.
    This chapter didn't quite go how I planned. The part with Ridley and the others was meant to be the bulk of the chapter, setting up the new story arc, after briefly checking in with Rosalina to see what she's up to with trying to bring back Mario. When I started to write it, however, I ended up throwing Kammy Koopa in there for fun and soon the balance of chapter content was shifted in the opposite direction.
    I've actually had this story arc roughly planned out since last Summer, at the same time I came up with the last one. I happened to be in the middle of re-watching Hogan's Heroes at the time, which was my inspiration for this. Colonel Klang and Sargent Gutz are heavily based off of Colonel Clink and Sargent Schultz from that series. Colonel Cedar T. was originally going to be based off of Colonel Hogan, though I've decided to take his characterization in a different way.
     
  5. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
    (Bunnelby)
    Level 16
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    Ridley stared up at the rickety old ceiling of the barracks he shared with his companions, half asleep. It was a cold night, as they had all been in the week since their capture. Ridley wasn’t particularly bothered by the cold, though it would have been a bit more comfortable if he hadn’t given his only blanket to the Hunter back on their first night there. Ridley still didn’t understand why he had done so and when he mentioned it to Roshi the next day, the yellow Yoshi said mentioned something about ‘compassion’. This was a concept that Ridley had yet to wrap his head around. At least he now finally knew the Hunter’s weakness. She seemed to be far more vulnerable to the cold than Ridley ever would have guessed. It should have brought a smile to his face but for some reason seeing the Hunter shiver so much had made him feel… pity? That was another emotion he was not used to.

    The morning daylight began to trickle in through the boarded-up window. Ridley glanced at his watch, which he had won from one of the guards in a poker game a few days earlier, then rolled out of bed. That probably wasn’t the best decision considering that he was on the upper bunk. However, he was at the point where he no longer cared about hitting the floor in a huddled mess of limbs and wings. The sound of him crashing to the floor also worked as a particularly lazy wake-up call for the others.

    Roshi was the first up, having been so startled by Ridley’s fall that he had nearly fallen out of bed himself. Ridley was glad that he didn’t, considering that Roshi had the bunk directly under his own, meaning that the heavy-set Yoshi would have collapsed directly on the space dragon if he had done so.

    “Are you alright?” Roshi asked after his heart rate started to go back down.

    “Mmph…” Ridley grunted a weak reply, trying and failing to gather the will to get up.

    “Oh, how the mighty have fallen.” Samus said half-heartedly as she sat up in bed.

    “Speak for yourself.” Ridley retorted the sickly-looking Hunter. She was bundled up in several of the plain gray scraps of cloth that somehow constituted blankets in the camp and wore a thick brown jacket over her zero suit, which was several sizes too small for her as it originally belonged to a Toad prisoner who… would no longer be needing it.

    Luigi hopped out of bed and slipped his shoes on. He had grown accustomed to sleeping in his clothes for warmth, meaning that his shoes were the only thing he needed to put on in the morning to get ready for rollcall.

    Speaking of rollcall, a shout could be heard from outside, signaling for them to get out there and line up with the others. Not wanting to face the Colonel’s wrath, the four quickly headed out the door to wait in the early morning sun. Colonel Klang and Sergeant Guts walked up to them as they got into position.

    “Aran, Samus!” The Colonel called out.

    “Here.” Samus replied weekly.

    “Mario, Luigi!”

    “I’m-a here.” Luigi sighed.

    “Mario, Ridley!”

    “I keep telling you that my name is just Ridley.” Ridley’s response was met with a sharp glare from Klang. “But yes, I’m clearly here.”

    “Munchakoopas, Gregory Roshisaurus!” The Colonel read off the last name on his list.

    “Here.” Roshi replied.

    “All prisoners present and accounted for, sir!” Sergeant Guts reported jovially.

    “I know that, Guts. I just took role.” Klang sighed, then directed his attention back to the inmates. “Now, I want you all on your best behavior today. We have a General arriving to inspect the camp today, and if any of you do anything to disrespect me, the camp, or the general, then you can all kiss your necks goodbye.”

    “Fine, we won’t try anything.” Ridley shrugged. “But I suggest you move out of the way before the General runs you over.”

    “What are you talking abou- Ah!” Klang barely had time to retract into his shell before a black car slammed into him, and he was sent flying into the barracks window as the car made a hard break.

    “I am never letting you drive again.” A large koopa with voluminous blue hair and a spikey stepped out of the car, clearly disoriented.

    “Greetings, General Ludwig von Koopa!” Sergeant Guts stood at attention, looking the most professional that Ridley or the others had ever seen him. “Welcome to Camp Shell!”

    “Yeah, yeah, whatever.” Ludwig waved him away.

    “Hey, don’t forget about me!” A cross-eyed Koopa with a multicolored mohawk, who was clearly too small to have been able to drive the large black car hopped out from the driver’s seat.

    “General Lemmy.” Colonel Klang identified the small koopa as he climbed back out from the barracks. “We were not expecting you.”

    “He insisted on tagging along.” Ludwig grumbled, then turned his attention to Luigi and Ridley. “Ah, the infamous Mario Brothers. I heard that we finally had you in custody, but I didn’t think it could be true. Although, if the rumors are true, one of you is a fake.”

    “That would be me.” Ridley took his hat off and gave an exaggerated bow. “Ridley, at your service.”

    “Ooh, a dragon!” Lemmy hopped up and down excitedly on a larger rubber ball that no one saw him pull out. “Are you magic? Do you grant wishes? Can you grant my wish? I want a pony! Can I have a pony?”

    “No. No. Probably not. Maybe.” Ridley answered the hyperactive koopa child’s questions in order.

    “Yipee! I’m going to call him Jehoshaphat and I’m going to teach him how to jump real good!”

    “Please don’t encourage him.” Ludwig sighed and massaged his temples.

    “I apologize for the behavior of our prisoner.” Colonel Klang bowed. “He hasn’t quite learned his place, yet.”

    “Well, he has plenty of time to learn.” Ludwig regained his composure and chuckled. “They’re all going to be here a very long time.”

    “Of a very short time, depending on how they behave.” Klang added. “One wrong step and… wait, where is it?”

    “What are you looking for?” Ludwig asked the colonel.

    “The controller for the collars is missing!” Colonel Klang suddenly shouted in surprise.

    “You mean this?” Ridley asked mockingly, holding up the small remote.

    “How did you get that?” Klang demanded to know.

    “I grabbed it off you with my tail while you were distracted by that hyperactive Geemer over there.” Ridley replied, waving said appendage in front of his face. “Now, how do you turn these things off? Oh, here we go.”

    Ridley pressed a button, rendering the explosive charges contained within the collars inert. Another button press later and the collars automatically released, falling to the ground.

    “Hm, that was actually easier than I was expecting.” Ridley noted. “I can’t believe it took me this long to try that.”

    “Call the guards!” Ludwig ordered Klang.

    “Call the guards!” Klang ordered Guts.

    “Call the guards!” Guts ordered a non-existent soldier before realizing his mistake. “Guards! Stop the prisoners from escaping!”

    “What, you don’t think that you can take us on your own?” Ridley asked sarcastically. “I suppose you’re probably right on that. I believe that normally this would be the point where I skewer you with my tail and begin devouring you before your bodies have the chance to realize what’s happened. But I’m on a strict no-killing restriction right now, so I think I’ll settle for just beating you unconscious. I can’t say the same for the Hunter here, though.”

    “I’m going to enjoy this, probably more than I should.” Samus held her arm out in front of herself and was enveloped in a bright orange glow. The light subsided as quickly as it came to reveal that she was now once again clad in her orange and yellow Fusion Suit. “Now, who’s first?”

    Colonel Klang yelped and dove behind Sergeant Guts for protection. This proved to be a tactical error as Guts then lost his footing and fell on top of the Colonel. The weight of the oversized Goomba caused Klang to shoot out from under him towards the two generals. Ludwig was knocked flat onto his spikey back while Lemmy hopped off his ball and rode the runaway Koopa off into the distance.

    “Somehow I was expecting this to be harder.” Ridley remarked slyly, watching as Ludwig tried in vain to roll back to his feet. “Not much harder, mind you.”

    “Maybe the guards will put up more of a fight.” Samus smirked, not that anyone could tell with her helmet on, as the group was surrounded.

    The guards consisted of a few dozen Koopas clad in spikey armor, Goombas wearing spiked helmets and more Koopas lacked spikes but were armed with hammers instead. To a denizen of the Mushroom Kingdom, they would have made a formidable force. Ridley and Samus were not from the Mushroom Kingdom, however, and regularly faced much larger threats with ease.

    The guards charged in from all sides, attempting to overwhelm Ridley and the others. The plan failed, however, when Samus immediately fired her Ice Beam and froze several of them in their tracks. The remaining guards began to slow down as Ridley rushed forward and began savagely beating everyone he could get his claws on in a rabid frenzy. Even Luigi and Roshi were able to get a few hits in against the enemies as their numbers quickly began to dwindle. Before long, not a single Koopa or Goomba was left standing.

    “Mama mia, even Mario would have-a had trouble against that many enemies at once.” Luigi commented once he realized they had won the fight.

    “Even Space Pirates could put up more of a fight than that.” Samus laughed. “I can’t believe they managed to keep us here this long.”

    “You’re a lot stronger than I would have guessed.” Ludwig von Koopa admitted as he finally managed to get himself upright again. “But you haven’t escaped yet!”

    The blue-haired Koopa pulled a magic wand out of his shell and held it in the air, releasing a spray of technicolor sparks flying everywhere. At first, nothing more happened. After a few seconds, however, Ludwig began to grow, expanding larger and larger with each passing second.

    “Does that happen a lot?” Roshi asked, pointing up at the now-gargantuan spiky Koopa.

    “That’s a new one for me but I’ve seen weirder.” Samus shrugged.

    “Actually, you would-a be surprised how often Bowser and-a his minions use-a this trick.” Luigi noted.

    “At least this one won’t explode if we try to hit it too hard.” Samus turned to Luigi. “Will it?”

    “No, we-a should be fine.” Luigi assured the bounty hunter.

    “Alright, this’ll be a piece of cake, then.” The bounty hunter fired a shot from her Ice Beam that she had been charging up during the conversation.

    Ludwig’s left leg was fully encased in a thick layer of ice to his knee, preventing the giant Koopa from moving. Enraged, he prepared to fire a blast of fire breath at his enemies, only to be met with an Ice Missile exploding against his mouth, freezing it wide open. The Hunter followed up the second attack by running up to the giant and slammed into his unfrozen knee with a Screw Attack. Ludwig's eyes began to well up from the pain before Samus rapidly fired a barrage of icy blasts at his chest, causing the colossal turtle to fall onto his back, one leg still stuck in place.

    “Down already?” Samus asked mockingly. “That was actually a bit disappointing.”

    “The inhabitants of this planet don’t seem to be able to offer much of a challenge most of the time.” Ridley smirked. “If I were back to normal, I would have already saved that princess and razed the kingdom by now.”

    “Wait, do you-a mean Darkland or the Mushroom Kingdom?” Luigi asked, concerned.

    “Yes.” Ridley spotted movement out of the corner of his eye and looked up at the sky to see what appeared to be a shooting star falling towards them. “Should we be concerned about that?”

    “What is it?” Roshi wondered aloud.

    “I don’t know, but we’re about to find out.” Samus readied her arm cannon again, preparing for another fight.

    The mysterious streak of light hurtles towards them at incredible speeds as everyone braced themselves. Within seconds, it crashed down beside the fallen Ludwig, pulverizing the ground so hard it left a small crater where it hit. A single blue eye pierced through the resultant cloud of dirt as it dissipated, revealing who was now standing before them.

    “Oh, hey, it’s-a just Rosalina.” Luigi pointed out, relieved to see a friendly face for once.

    “What have you guys been doing?” The space witch shouted angrily at them. “I’ve been searching everywhere for you!”
    What the heck? How has it been seven months since I last updated this story? I know it's been a white, bot that's more than half a year! Oh, well. I'm back and hopefully won't take this long between chapters again. As for this chapter, I don't think that I really have much to say about it. I just want to finally move on with this story so that I can move on to something else.
     
  6. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
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    After her duel with Kammy Koopa cost Rosalina her wand and her last apparent hope of returning Mario to the Mushroom Kingdom, the Mother of Lumas had returned to her home on the Comet Observatory to reflect on what she should do now. She already knew from experience that resetting the universe for something as ‘insignificant’ as a single life was far too drastic a measure and would lead to untold consequences that she was not prepared to face again. Which meant that at this point, it seemed like she would have to accept that he was gone. It wasn’t like she could her way over there and bring the ex-plumber back to the world of the living. Then again, maybe she could?

    That was Rosalina came up with a new plan. If she was going to go through with it, however, she would not be working alone. It was his fault they were in this position to begin with, which meant that it was also his responsibility to bring Mario back. Thus, Rosalina set out to track down the fake Mario to enlist his help, one way or another. This proved to be a more difficult task than she expected, however.

    It never seemed to take Mario very long to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser’s clutches, and it had already been several days since she had sent his murderer out in Mario’s place. Thus, Rosalina decided that the best place to begin her search for Ridley would be Peach’s Castle. She could tell as soon as she reached the front door that things would not be that simple, however, when she noticed that the guards were gone. Her first thought was that Ridley had gone back on his word and turned against the Mushroom Kingdom. He was a space pirate, after all, and they were not known for being trustworthy. However, the castle itself did not seem to be in any worse shape than when she had left, so she decided to investigate further before jumping to conclusions. With a wave of her new wand, the castle doors opened and Rosalina was stunned by the horror she saw inside.

    The castle was a mess, but not for the reasons that Rosalina had been expecting. She floated cautiously down the hallways of the castle that was not filled with the telltale carnage of a pirate raid, but the telltale carnage of an absurdly wild party. Confetti was everywhere, there was paint streaked across the walls, the castle’s decorations were in disarray and Toads were scattered about in places that Rosalina wasn’t even sure how they managed to get to. The throne room seemed to have suffered the worst, with strobe lights and mirror balls everywhere. Only one Toad still seemed to be standing, a DJ operating sound system so loud and obnoxious that Rosalina was amazed she couldn’t hear it from outside.

    Rosalina spotted someone at the other end of the room and made her way over there, hovering a few feet higher above the ground than normal in order to avoid the filth that covered the floor. She did not want to know what some of those Toads had been eating to leave stains those colors. When she reached her destination, she was dismayed to see who she thought she had spotted sleeping on the floor, drool dribbling out the side of her mouth. With a groan and a swish of her wand, Rosalina condensed the moisture in the air into water, which splashed onto the woman’s face, waking her up.

    “I don’t want to be a dinosaur!” Princess Daisy jumped awake, slowly taking in her surroundings before finally noticing Rosalina floating beside her. “Um… hi?”

    “What. Happened. Here?” Rosalina asked Sarasan Princess threateningly.

    “Um, well… you see, uh…” Daisy scrambled to come up with an explanation. “The Toads were, uh, panicking because Peach isn’t normally gone this long, and, uh… I thought it would be good to find a way to get them to calm down… and I figured, well, a party might help with that, but, um… things got kind of out of control once things got started and, well, one thing led to another and before I knew it, well…”

    “Never mind.” Rosalina massaged her temples, feeling an astral migraine setting in from the sheer stupidity of the situation. “What happened to the Mario brothers?”

    “I don’t know,” Daisy shrugged. “No one’s seen them since they set out to rescue Peach again.”

    “Of course not,” Rosalina sighed. “I don’t know why I thought finding that stupid space pirate would be easy.”

    “What space pirate?” Daisy asked, confused.

    “The one that’s currently filling in for Mario,” Rosalina replied without thinking. “I’m trying to track him down so that I can force him to help me bring the real Mario back from the dead.”

    “Mario’s dead?” Daisy’s eyes widened as she realized what she just heard. “How? Wait, what about Luigi?”

    “Mario’s dead!” A not-as-unconscious-as-Rosalina-thought toad that overheard the conversation screamed, quickly starting a riot as more Toads began to wake up.

    “What? Mario can’t be dead!”

    “Mario’s dead?”

    “Where am I?”

    “What happened to Mario?”

    “Huh, Mario is missing?”

    “Whose shoes am I wearing?”

    “Mario freaking died?”

    “How did Mario die?”

    “Mario knows about timed hits! Wait, what’s going on?”

    Rosalina regretted opening her mouth as she waved her wand again. In a flash, she and Princess Daisy were both standing in the middle of Toad Town’s northern square, where everything was calm for the time being.

    “So, what was that abo-mph!” Rosalina quickly put her hand over Daisy’s mouth before the princess could finish her question.

    “We are not starting another mass panic,” Rosalina whispered, placing a finger over her own mouth.

    “Oh, right.” Daisy pulled Rosalina’s hand away.

    “Do you know which way ‘Mario’ and your boyfriend went when they left?” Rosalina asked. “We should be able to track them down if we can follow their trail.”

    “Luigi’s not my boyfriend!” Daisy replied defensively.

    Rosalina glared at the princess. “I’ve been to your personal resort. I’ve seen the giant golden statues of you two dancing together, one of which has you as babies for some reason. To say nothing of the one at your castle that has Luigi wearing nothing but a fig leaf over his admittedly impressive-”

    “You made your point!” Daisy quickly cut her off, her face bright red. “And I heard they were last seen heading down Goomba Road.”

    “Then that’s where we’re going,” Rosalina replied. “Lead the way.”

    “Why me?” Princess Daisy asked.

    “Because I don’t know this area very well. Besides, do you really want to stick around when that spreads?” Rosalina cocked her head towards Peach’s Castle.

    “Oh, right,” Daisy relented. “It’s this way.”

    * * *​

    The two women followed a long winding road that eventually led them to a small fortress inhabited by Goombas. The doors were locked but that didn’t stop Rosalina from knocking them clear off their hinges with a wave of her wand. Once inside, the two quickly stumbled into a room where three giant Goombas were playing video games. The largest of the three was the standard Goomba brown, with a white mustache and a scar across its left eye and a crown on its head, plus a stubby pair of wings sticking out of its sides. The other two were a bit closer to regular Goomba size but one was blue while the other was red. The trio were so focused on their game that they likely wouldn’t have noticed Rosalina and Daisy enter the room if Rosalina hadn’t blasted the door open.

    “HEY, WHAT’S TA BIG IDEA HERE?” The crowned Goomba demanded as he stood up and faced the invaders. “YOU DO YA THINK YA ARE, BREAKING INTO MA CASTLE LIKE DIS? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHO I AM? I’M DA PARAGOOMBA KING!”

    “Yeah, who do you think you are, breaking into Goomba Castle?” The Red Goomba asked.

    “Didn’t your mama ever teach you that breaking into people’s homes is rude?” The Blue Goomba chimed in.

    This proved to be exactly the wrong thing to say to Rosalina and before Daisy even had a chance to realize what was happening, all three Goombas were lying in a bruised heap on the ceiling.

    Never talk about my mother that way,” Rosalina paused and took a deep breath, trying to calm down. “Wait, what were we doing again?”

    “We’re looking for Luigi and Mario,” Daisy reminded her.

    “Ah, right,” Rosalina pointed her wand threateningly at the Goombas. “Where are the Mario Brothers? We know they came this way!”

    “AH’LL SHOW YA, AH’LL SHOW YA!” The Paragoomba King sobbed. “JUST DON’T HURT ME ANYMORE!”

    “Or us!” The Red Goomba begged.

    “I’ll never talk about your mama again, I’m sure she was a lovely and intelligent woman who raised you well,” The Blue Goomba added.

    “Very well,” Rosalina swished her stolen wand and the three Gommbas crashed back down onto the floor. “Where did they go?”

    “DEY WENT THIS WAY!” King Paragoomba quickly flew out of the room and everyone else followed.

    The group made their way into the large chamber where King Paragoomba had tried to fight Ridley and Luigi just a few days prior. Rosalina and Daisy stayed close to the self-styled king while the colored Goombas ran off to the side.

    “NOW!” King Paragoomba yelled, signaling his underlings to activate the trap door.

    The floor gave way underneath their feet. Rosalina reflexively reached for Daisy, the only one actually standing on said floor, and managed to grab the Princess by her hair.

    “Ow!” Daisy shouted involuntarily.

    “You had one chance,” Rosalina pointed her wand at the Paragoomba King again, the red jewel glowing brightly.

    “DON’T HURT ME!” The Paragoomba cowered in fear. “DEY WENT DOWN DIS WAY, AH SWEAR! AH PULLED THE LEVER AFTER DEY BEAT ME AND DEY BOTH FELL INTO DA CAVES BELOW! AH DON’T KNOW WHERE DEY WENT AFTAH THAT!”

    “And why should I believe that?” Rosalina cocked her visible eyebrow.

    “IF AH WERE LYIN’, THEN YAH’D JUST COME BACK AND HURT ME!” The Paragoomba King pointed out.

    “True,” Rosalina considered. “I suppose I can give you the benefit of the doubt, for now, but you clearly already know what’s going to happen if you’re lying to me.”

    “Can you please stop pulling on my hair?” Daisy yelled at Rosalina.

    “Oh, of course,” Rosalina looked down at her companion and released her grip, causing Daisy to fall, screaming, down the pit.

    “That’s not what I me-e-e-a-n-t!” Daisy’s voice trailed out as she plummeted down into the old caves.

    “If we don’t find them, then I will be back.” Rosalina glared at King Paragoomba one last time before diving after Daisy.

    King Paragoomba’s let out a huge sigh of relief and slouched to the floor as the Goomba Brothers hesitantly walked over to him. “AH THINK DAT AH’VE HAHD ENOUGH AH DIS, BOYS! WE’RE LEAVIN’ THE MUSHROOM KINGDOM AN’ NEVAH COMING BACK TAH DIS CRAZY PLACE!”

    * * *​

    Rosalina swooped up just as she was about to hit the rocky ground and looked around at the desolate cave. Daisy was leaning up against a large stalagmite while clutching her aching behind, but other than that the place seemed deserted.

    “Why did you drop me like that?” Daisy asked furiously as she tried patting her messed-up hair back into place. “That flippin’ hurt!”

    “Why didn’t you just use your dress to slow your fall, like what Peach does?”

    “What makes you think that I know how to do that?”

    “I just assumed.” Rosalina pointed down the tunnel ahead of them. “If they ended up down here, then they must have done that way. Let’s hurry.”

    The Sarasalandian Princess reluctantly followed Rosalina as they made their way through the old tunnels until the way eventually opened up into a large pit of lava far below them. The only way across to the other side was an incredibly narrow ledge around the edge, across which was another tunnel that appeared to lead outside.

    “Please tell me we don’t have to get across this thing.” Daisy stared down into the molten abyss and could have sworn that it was staring back at her.

    “Do you have any better ideas?”

    Rosalina floated to the edge of the pit and held out her hand, which Daisy begrudgingly grabbed onto. She felt like a great weight had been lifted from her body as Rosalina dragged her through the air, flying over the lava and through the tunnel’s exit out onto a sunny beach. Daisy set foot on the sandy shore as Rosalina glanced around at their surroundings.

    “Any sign of them?” Daisy asked.

    “No,” Rosalina grumbled in reply. “Any tracks they may have left have been washed away by the tide. If I had to make a guess, though. I would say that they went out to sea.”

    “What makes you say that?”

    “It’s a sunny day out,” Rosalina pointed out, gesturing to several chunks of ice that could be seen floating in the ocean. “Unfortunately, they don’t appear to have left a trail for us to follow thanks to the waves.”

    “Oi, you lasses lookin’ fer somethin’?” The sound of a distinctly reptilian voice caused both women to whip around and assume defensive positions as they spotted the crocodile that had spoken. “Hey, I’m not lookin’ fer a fight!”

    “Who are you?” Rosalina pointed her stolen wand at the newcomer, preparing to blast him if she didn’t like his answer.

    “Ah’m a member of the Kremlin’ Krew,” the reptile replied, gesturing to a ship docked further down the beach. “Now would yah kindly put that thing away before yah hurt someone, namely me?”

    “Pirates,” Daisy muttered disdainfully.

    “We are looking for someone,” Rosalina answered the Kremling’s initial question. “You wouldn’t happen to know where the Mario Brothers are, would you?”

    “Mario Brothers?” the Kremling repeated while scratching his chin contemplatively. “Can’t say the name sounds familiar… Wait a minute, I have ‘eard o’ dem before. I think those are the ones which ‘elped us out not too long ago. Last I saw ‘em was when the Kaptains dropped ‘em off on, um, I think it was Yoshi’s Island over in Dinosaur Land.”

    Rosalina let out a startlingly loud sigh at that and grumbled. “Thank you for the information.”

    * * *​

    “What… what happened here?” Daisy wondered aloud in horror as she looked down at the devastated remains of Dinosaur Land from where she and Rosalina hovered in the sky.

    “I’m not sure that I want to know,” Rosalina let out another sigh, which was beginning to become a habit. “I’m going to kill that space dragon when I get my hands on him.”

    With that foreboding remark, they dropped down to the nearby Yoshi’s Island, landing in the middle of a small village that seemed oddly calm considering what must have just happened to the nearby landmass. Spotting an older, authoritative Yoshi nearby, Rosalina hovered over to him to get some questions answered.

    “Can I help you?” The elder Yoshi asked as he spotted the two as they approached.

    “I have two questions,” Rosalina stated. “One, what happened to Dinosaur Island? Two, do you know if the Mario Brothers passed by here recently?”

    “Yes, a couple of our younger villagers met with Mario and Luigi recently, one of them choosing to aide them on their journey. As for what happened, that’s a bit of a long story and I don’t really know the details myself.”

    “Please try to tell us what you can,” Rosalina’s polite phrasing did little to hide her growing impatience.

    “Well, it started shortly after Mario and Luigi passed through. Someone spotted a UFO up in the maintains and there were a number of explosions on the far side of Dinosaur Island. Shortly after that the Valley of Bowser seemed to rise up from the ocean and fought the UFO, causing the destruction that I would assume you’ve already seen for yourself. But just as quickly as it had risen, the Valley fell back into the sea and the UFO flew over here. The aliens or whatever they were dropped of one of the Yoshis that had joined the Mario Brothers while brothers themselves and the other Yoshi went with the aliens.”

    Rosalina grimaced as she listened to the old Yoshi’s story while Daisy was awestruck by what she was hearing.

    “Luigi was abducted by aliens?” The Saraslandian Princess gasped.

    “No, they all went willingly.” The elder Yoshi clarified and pointed into the distance. “The flying saucer went that way. I think they were headed to Darkland.”

    “Well, at least he seems to still be on task,” Rosalina muttered to herself and turned her attention back to the elder. “Thank you for the information. We’ll be on our way now.”

    * * *​

    “Are you sure we’re still headed the right way?” Daisy asked her companion as they flew over a large expanse of rocky hills.

    “We’re about to find out,” Rosalina slowed to a stop. “I think I just found the spaceship.”

    Rosalina set Princess Daisy gently on the ground as they approached the unknown vessel, which appeared to have taken quite a beating. The orange ship had been heavily patched up and was clearly in no state to take off anytime soon. At first, it appeared to have been abandoned until a large man in blue armor stepped out from inside the ship.

    “Hey, you there,” the man called out to them. “You wouldn’t happen to know if there’s a space station in this sector that can do tow jobs, do you?”

    “I told you I can fix this thing myself!” An angry voice yelled from inside.

    “The ship was more damaged than we expected and we don’t have the parts to make all the repairs, despite what our mechanic may think.”

    “That depends on what you’re doing on this planet,” Rosalina replied.

    “Oh, right, I suppose I should introduce myself,” the man looked apologetic. “My name’s Armstrong Houston. The voice you heard earlier is Diesel and I sent Joey to scout out the area since the ship’s scanners were damaged when we were shut down. We were hired to hunt down a notorious space pirate who was spotted on this planet that goes by the name Ridley. But when we got here and tracked him down, it turned out that Ridley isn’t the dangerous criminal he once was and we were double-crossed by our employer, some local ruler named Bowser. Our leader, Samus, decided to team up with Ridley and the group he was with to take down Bowser but we were shot down here.”

    Rosalina considered the stranger’s story carefully. “So then where are Ridley and the others now?”

    “I’m not sure,” Armstrong shook his head. “They went after whatever it was that attacked us, but I don’t know what happened to them after that. I haven’t been able to contact Samus since then, which has me worried but there’s not much we can do until he can get ADAM here up and flying again.”

    “Was Luigi with them?” Daisy asked nervously.

    “That’s the guy with the green hat, right?” Armstrong paused as Daisy nodded. “Yeah, it was him, Samus, Ridley and a yellow lizard guy. I don’t remember his name.”

    “Tell us which way they went and I can have my Lumas pick up your ship to be repaired at the Astral Observatory,” Rosalina offered.

    “Thanks, but before I accept I’m going to need to know what you want with them,” Armstrong replied.

    “Of course,” Rosalina nodded. “I need to make sure that Ridley’s staying in line and aide them in rescuing the princess that Bowser has abducted. And I think that Daisy wants to make sure that her boyfriend is safe.”

    “Luigi’s not my boyfriend,” Daisy said defensively, earning a one-eyed glare from Rosalina. “Well, not officially, anyway…”

    “Alright, I guess I’ll trust you. Even if your intentions were bad I’m sure Samus could handle herself,” Armstong laughed. “We may not be able to get in contact with her but ADAM’s sensors are still picking up her location. I’ll show you where they are.”

    * * *​

    Rosalina and Daisy flew through the air once again on their search for Ridley and Luigi, now sure they knew where they were going. They quickly approached the area that the ship’s computer had indicated Samus was, which would hopefully be where they would finally find the ones they were trying to find. They stopped, however, as they witnessed a Koopa magically grow to a massive size off in the distance where they were headed.

    “Yep, that’s probably where they are,” Rosalina grumbled. “What have they gotten themselves into now.”

    “I think that’s one of Bowser’s kids,” Daisy remarked, vaguely recognizing the blue-haired turtle. “Or are they his kids? I’ve never been quite clear on that.”

    “Wait here, I’ll deal with whatever this is.” Rosalina gave a quick swish of her hand and Daisy began to slowly float back down to the ground.

    “Hey, wait!” Daisy called out as her companion rushed ahead. “Ugh, now I have to walk. Wait, these aren’t my shoes.”

    * * *​

    By the time Rosalina had gotten there the giant Koopa had already been taken care of, so she landed beside him with much more force than usual due to her frustration over how long it had taken to track down Ridley. However, she at last found herself face-to-face with the alien dragon.

    “What have you guys been doing?” Rosalina had a tough time trying to keep her composure. “I’ve been searching everywhere for you!”

    “What have you been doing?” Ridley turned her question back at her.

    “I asked you first,” Rosalina replied angrily.

    “We’ve-a been on our way to-a rescue the princess,” Luigi hastily explained before another fight broke out. “But-a other things-a keep getting in our way.”

    “Mostly the fact that we’ve been held prisoner here for, what, a week? Two? I’ve lost track of time.” Ridley added.

    “You’ve… what?” Rosalina was caught off guard by that. “That’s… unusual behavior for Bowser’s forces.”

    Ridley shrugged. “I guess I’m just considered a bigger threat than a fat man in overalls. Then again, from all I’ve heard so far, Mario was a much bigger threat to those people than I would have expected. Oh, by the way, everyone here knows I’m not Mario but they figured it out themselves, so I didn’t break my end of the deal.”

    “I don’t even care about that anymore,” Rosalina sighed before turning to a person in armor similar to Armstong’s. “I take it you must be Samus. We ran into your team on the way here and sent them to the Comet Observatory to finish repairing your ship, which is currently in orbit around the planet.”

    “Thanks,” Samus nodded. “But who’s ‘we’?”

    “Hey!” Everyone turned to see Daisy running up to them. “What’s the deal, you just totally ditched me back there!”

    “Anyway,” Rosalina ignored her. “I’ve pretty much run out of ideas on how to bring back Mario, but I do have one more thing that I want to try. If we stop by a Ghost House on the way to Bowser’s Castle, I think we may be able to find a way.”

    “Oh, sure, what’s another detour,” Ridley replied sarcastically. “I’m sure that the captured princess we’re supposed to be rescuing wouldn’t mind if we just go off and do something else entirely instead. Again.”

    “Ah, she’ll be fine,” Daisy waved off Ridley’s comment, catching her breath. “The way Peach talks about it sometimes, you’d think that being kidnapped was like a vacation to her. Just don’t tell me that we’ll have to walk all the way there.”
    I really need to update this story more regularly. I went through a couple bad boughts of writers block while working on this chapter and it feels like it took forever to finally get it done. Hopefully it won't take so long for me to finish the next chapter.
     
  7. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
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    I'm back again with another chapter! I really need to get better at updating my stories more regularly.
    Ridley reflected on how this whole misadventure had started. After his last defeat at the hands of the Hunter, Ridley had been caught in the explosion as the Space Pirate Base on planet Zebes self-destructed. Again. This was not enough to actually kill Ridley, of course, even as the planet itself was destroyed in the blast. But it did take longer for him to recover from his injuries than normal. Drifting aimlessly through space while desperately clinging on to life through sheer spite against the universe was not exactly an opportune situation for recovering from fatal injuries. But he eventually drifted into orbit around an inhabited planet and crashed onto its surface, where he was able to engorge himself on the local wildlife to recover the biomatter he required to make a full recovery. Once he felt that he was back in top shape again, he then took off and flew through space back to the space pirate homeworld to resume his duties among their leadership. He could see now, in hindsight, that this is when his life had truly begun to change.

    It had not been the first time that the Space Pirates had lost their queen, the technogenic supercomputer designated Mother Brain. The first time it had happened the Space Pirates had spent years working on a way to bring her back, eventually hatching a convoluted scheme that involved a major heist on a Federation warship to steal one of their experimental Aurora Units to convert it into a new Mother Brain. It was an ingenious plan from Science Team. Wildly out of character for them, in fact. But it turned out that the Space Pirates only had one such scheme in them. With the other Mother meeting the same fate as the original, the Space Pirate’s command structure had fallen apart completely. The pirates that Ridley returned to were not the major transgalactic superpower they had once been but had reverted to the chaotic group of unorganized marauders they had been before Mother Brain had found them. Ridley didn’t mind too much when he found out, this was the same state they had been in when he had first joined up with them. He simply used the opportunity to captain his own ship again: the Frigate Wyvern. He had actually enjoyed returning to his old skirmishing days while it lasted.

    But then he had decided to fly out to a restricted region of space while laying low from the Federation, where his ship had picked up a transmission coming from planet SMB-985. This transmission had turned out to be a request from one of the planet’s inhabitants for a hit job in exchange for a hoard of treasure. Excepting that job had been the catalyst that kicked off the sequence of events that lead Ridley to where he was now.

    Rosalina lead the way as the group marched onward to some kind of old haunted house built atop a nearby mountain on the way to Darkland. Behind her walked Luigi and Roshi, the yellow dinosaur having offered Princess Daisy a ride on his back so that she could rest her feet. The two humans seemed to be deep in conversation about something, but Ridley wasn’t sure what. He was walking at the back of the group, keeping pace alongside his most hated enemy, his archrival, his nemesis, the one whom he had fought to the death countless times in a conflict that had spread throughout the known universe as legend.

    “So, what have you been up to lately?” Ridley asked her, trying to make light conversation to alleviate his boredom as they trekked. Normally he would just fly straight to his destination, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to know what Rosalina would do if he tried to split off from the group.

    “You mean besides rotting away in a prison camp?” Samus replied sarcastically. “Not much. I had a bit of a falling out with the Federation a while back when I blew up a research station where they were developing dangerous bioweapons and technically stealing a ship. Since then I’ve been doing freelance bounty gigs outside of Federation space. Not as glamourous as my old work but it pays the bills.”

    “You’ve also got your own crew now,” Ridley noted. “Where did you even pick them up, if you don’t mind me asking?”

    “Ooh, now that’s a long story,” Samus sighed.

    “It looks like we have time,” Ridley gestured towards the hill they were headed to.

    “Fine, I’ll tell you,” Samus relented. “Well, first there’s ADAM, my ship. He was originally a Federation gunship lent to me during my last mission but, well, I’ve already told you how that ended up. While on the run we ended up settling on a deep space station on the fringes of Federation Space which happened to be home to the best mechanic I’ve ever met. That’d be Diesel, the little hamster thing in the hover pod. He didn’t start coming with me on missions until after Joey joined, though. Armstrong Houston is the guy with the blue armor similar to my old Power Suit. He was a rival bounty hunter who I got into more than a fair share of skirmished with over my career, particularly after he started trying to collect the bounty on my head. Over time we eventually started to see eye to eye though and even started working together. And then there’s Joey Apronika…”

    Samus trailed off for a moment and sighed before continuing. “I met him when I tracked down a Space Pirate ship to a small frontier world called Liberty. The pirates had managed to create a genetically modified Metroid subspecies that they called a Megaroid. With Joey’s help, I was able to defeat it and take down the pirate leader, I think his name was Dragud, and before I left the kid convinced me to let him tag along so that he could learn how to be a hero like his dad was.”

    Ridley snickered. “Let’s see… theft, kidnapping, and bounty on your end and of course plenty of property damage along the way. It sounds like it won’t be long now until the Hunter ends up the captain of her own Space Pirate fleet!”

    Samus held her hand up to her head in exasperation. “No, just… no…”

    Ridley continued to laugh until a shudder rippled down his spine and a look of horror fell over him. “Wait a minute… you said Apronika… from the planet Liberty. Of course, that energy shield he used in our fight, that must have been the Barrier Knuckle! That boy is the son of Rand Apronika!”

    “You… know Joey’s father?” Samus couldn’t hide her surprise at this revelation.

    “Of course I have!” Ridley snapped at her. “You weren’t always the Space Pirate’s greatest enemy, you know. Before there was the Hunter there was the Warrior, Rand Apronika. And now the Warrior’s son is being trained by the Hunter… Perhaps I chose the right time to defect from the Space Pirates?”

    “Defect?” Samus repeated questioningly. “Are you really leaving the Space Pirates, then?”

    “Huh, I hadn’t thought about it.” Ridley mulled over the idea. “I’ve been so caught up in everything that’s happened since I arrived on this planet that I haven’t considered what’s next. But, I think I may end up staying here, even after this adventure is over.”

    “I can’t say that’s something I ever expected to hear from you,” Samus replied. “Maybe this place really has changed you.”

    “I don’t think it’s the place,” Ridley said wistfully as looked over at their other companions. “But I have changed a lot since I got here. I still don’t know how to even process what- who I’ve become now.”

    Samus sighed, trying to think of a response. “You know, for as long as I can remember I’ve wanted you dead. For good reason, mind you. But now… Now I’m finding it harder and harder to keep hating you. You don’t seem like the monster I’ve known all these years. I don’t know what you are now… and it’s making me wonder who I am now…”

    “The only natural end to our rivalry was for one of us to kill the other. Permanently, I mean, as you’ve killed me plenty of times but that never changed anything. But now… now that’s not an option for either of us. But what does that leave us?”

    “I don’t know…” Samus admitted. “I guess we move on, but… I don’t know how. I’m not sure I even know what that means.”

    “I know that I don’t.” Ridley gave a strained smile. “But, I have this… feeling… that I’ll learn. Is this… faith? Hope? I’ve been using a lot of words lately that I’ve never needed before.”

    “It must be hard,” Samus said before deciding to change the topic. “So right now we’re going to try and bring back the dead guy that you’ve been filling in for, right?”

    “Mario.” Ridley nodded.

    “Well ignoring, for now, the absurdity of bringing a dead man back to life, what would that mean for you if they do somehow bring that guy back? Would there still be a place for you here? And if not, what will you do? What would stop you from just going back to your old life?”

    “I… hadn’t thought about that yet…” Ridley looked over at Luigi, Roshi and the princess whose name he had neglected to memorize, then the space witch leading their group, before finally staring up at the too blue sky. “It’s not like I could just keep filling Mario’s place forever, anyway. No matter how things turn out, I’m going to have to find my own way eventually. But that will be then and I’d rather just… enjoy… the time I have now. The one thing that I do know is that I can’t go back to who or what I was before. I’ve changed too much for that. I have feelings that I’ve never imagined… I think I’ve even started developing a conscious, as uncomfortable as it is.”

    “I can’t imagine how painful that must be, not being a sociopath,” Samus said in a painfully mocking tone.

    “Yes…” Ridley trailed off. “I think I’ve had enough introspection for now. I’d rather just walk the rest of the way in silence.”

    “You read my mind.”

    * * *​

    After hiking for what felt like too long, the group finally reached their destination, a decrepit old manor built atop the highest mountain along the border of Dark Land. The Ghost House lived up to its name. From the mysterious fog that settled in as they approached but dispersed if they backed away, to the fact that the building was in such disrepair that it shouldn’t have remained standing, it was clear that the place was haunted.

    “Is this place really full of g-ghosts?” Roshi stammered as the group walked up to the front door.

    “Yes, that’s why they call it a Ghost House,” Rosalina pointed out. “And it’s the reason we’re here. This place has a strong connection to the afterlife, and as such is the best place to try and contact someone who’s moved on, aka Mario.”

    “Right…” Roshi said unenthusiastically. “I, uh, think I’ll wait out here and, um, stand watch.”

    “I-a think I will, too.” Luigi chimed in. “You guys can-a go ahead.”

    “It's your brother we’re trying to bring back,” Rosalina replied.

    “Oh, right…” Luigi glanced around nervously. “I guess I-a should go with you.”

    “Well, I’m not afraid of any ghosts.” Samus cocked her arm cannon. “I’ve fought them before.”

    “What? When?” Ridley turned to his ex-nemesis.

    “Talon IV,” Samus said simply.

    Ridley wracked his brains remembering the events of the 1st Phazon Incident. “Wait, you mean those energy things guarding the Artifacts were actual ghosts?”

    “More or less.” Samus shrugged. “Technically they were Chozo that had corrupted by Phazon while in the process of ascending beyond their physical forms, but basically they were ghosts.”

    “What’s Phazon?” Daisy asked.

    “Pray that you never have reason to find out,” Rosalina replied before opening the doors with a swish of her stolen wand. “Now, let’s move on.”

    Rosalina, Daisy, Luigi, Ridley and Samus all stepped through the doorway into the haunted manor, while Roshi stayed behind outside. The doors slammed shut behind them as a high-pitched cackle filled the air.

    “I-I hope they’ll be alright in there,” Roshi muttered to himself while wringing his hands together and glancing around.

    “I wouldn’t be too worried if I were you.”

    “You’re right, they’ve all been through worse than just a haunted house before.” Roshi turned to the tall, hooded figure floating beside him “Thank you- Ah! W-wait a minute. Y-you’re d-d-d-”

    “Death.”
     
  8. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
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    Also me: Doesn't update for a year and half.
    “So this is the Ghost House?” Samus looked around at the rickety old manor that their group had entered. “Certainly looks haunted.”

    “Is it just me, or does it feel colder in here than it did outside?” Daisy shivered and rubbed her hands along her arms to try and warm up, her short-sleeved dress being decidedly impractical for the eerily chilled mansion…

    “And how long have these candles been burning?” Ridley eyed the candelabras, chandeliers, sconces and other various candleholders placed erratically around the walls and ceiling, or in some cases floating in midair for no apparent reason other than to spite the laws of physics. “You’d think that with the amount of dust in here that this place hasn’t been touched in years.”

    “This is a Ghost House,” Rosalina reminded them. “A gateway between our world and the next. I recommend leaving your expectations for what is and isn’t possible at the door.”

    “This place feels like Dark Aether,” Samus noted with a touch of disdain as the group made their way down another long hallway.

    “Dark Aether?” Luigi repeated questioningly.

    “Does that have something to do with the planet Aether?” Ridley asked. “I know we had a small outpost on that planet around the time of our operations on Talon IV and that something bad went down there while I was recovering from our most recent battle, but the Federation had already swooped in and annexed the planet before we could send a team in to respond to the distress signal. I never did find out what happened there."

    “It’s a long story,” Samus sighed. “Basically, the native Luminoth who inhabited planet Aether found a way to manipulate their planet’s energy and used it to power all their tech. Naturally, trying to reroute their planet’s life source backfired horrifically when a Leviathan crashed into the planet. Now, normally when a Leviathan strikes a planet like that, it essentially turns the planet into a desolate wasteland infested with the almost-literal spawn of hell we called Phazon. That’s more or less what happened to Aether, except it also managed to create an extradimensional rift around the planet that in turn led to the creation of a second Aether with a corrosive atmosphere and was populated by creatures of pure darkness called the Ing that I think wanted to destroy the universe or something.”

    “Wow, are all of your adventures like that?” Daisy asked.

    “Actually, no. That one was unusually intense. Usually, I just fight space pirates and occasionally have to exterminate bioengineered superpredators. Although I guess Phaaze and the X Parasites were fairly similar threat-levels.”

    “That’s… still a lot,” Luigi said. “Mario and I have had to-a save the world a few times from-a some pretty big threats, too, but I don’t think we’ve-a ever had to fight anything on that level before.”

    “Actually, Mario has,” Rosalina replied, eliciting reactions of varying levels of shock from the others. “One time Bowser managed to nearly destroy reality with a supermassive singularity in the center of the universe that required the sacrifices of all of my Lumas to stop before we ultimately had to reboot the universe outright.”

    “Wait, you what?” Ridley's jaw nearly hit the floor.

    “The universe?” Samus tried to wrap her mind around that sudden revelation. “How big was that… the entire universe?”

    “I don’t remember that,” Luigi muttered.

    “Mario and I were the only ones who carried over from that reality to this one,” Rosalina explained far too casually. “And before anyone asks, we shouldn’t need to worry about something like that happening again. I didn’t have much control over forming the current reality, but I did have enough influence to ensure that it won’t happen again. Our Bowser is far less maliciously ambitious than that one was, and the technology that Bowser used wouldn’t be able to work now.”

    “Well,” Ridley recomposed himself, “it would appear that you’ve won the contest for who's had the biggest adventure. I don't think anyone could ever top that. Also, I think we’re missing someone.”

    Rosalina stopped in her tracks and turned around to face the others, who also stopped walking. Ridley and Luigi were in the middle of the hallway behind her, while Samus stood by a bookcase propped up against one of the walls. That just left…

    “Where’s Daisy?” Luigi started to panic.

    “She couldn’t have gone far,” Rosalina sighed. “Let’s head back and look for her. And remember, we are not splitting up.”

    “Ugh, I should have been paying more attention!” Samus slammed her fist against the bookcase, which suddenly opened up and fell forward, seemingly swallowing the armored bounty hunter.

    “Hunter?” Ridley rushed over to where Samus had just been and began tearing books off the old wooden shelves, but nothing happened. “What the blitznak is going on?”

    “Oh, no.” Luigi backed up against the opposite wall. “I-a knew going into a haunted house was a bad idea. Bad things-a always happen when-a ghosts are involved”

    A pair of gangly white arms burst out from a faded portrait hanging next to Luigi and grabbed him, pulling him into the painting.

    “No!” Ridley roared and dove after him, only to slam head-first into the canvas. The serious frown of the old man depicted in the painting somehow turned into an expression of shocked horror as Ridley began to tear up the portrait with his razor-sharp claws. “Bring him back or so help me I will make you wish your painter never put brush to canvas! I will burn this entire fraking shack down to ashes and spit on the remains! I will personally learn how to kill the dead just so that I can hunt down and murder every spirit and ghost that ever dated haunt this pathetic excuse of a mansion!"

    “Ridley! Calm down!” Rosalina ordered the flailing space dragon as his threats devolved into mindless shrieking. “Acting rashly can only make things worse. We need to stick together and think things through. The kinds of ghosts that live in these old mansions are mischievous, but not dangerous.

    Ridley’s chest heaved as he slid his claws down the side of the wall, trying to regain his composure. After a few seconds his breathing slowed to normal and he turned his attention back to Rosalina.

    “Yes, you’re right.” Ridley's voice returned to its normal level as he straightened his posture. “One of the disadvantages of being a genetically engineered killing machine is that my base instincts tend to run wild in stressful situations.”

    Rosalina closed her eyes and rubbed her temples for a second before looking back up at Ridley. “That’s something we’re going to have to work on after this is over. For now, we just need to find the others and then find a spot where the veil between our world and the afterlife is thin enough that I can summon Mario’s spirit. Do you think you can hold in long enough for us to do that?”

    “Yes… yes, I should be able to keep a hold of myself for a while.” Ridley held in a breath as he focused his gaze on Rosalina’s uncovered eye. “Does your no-killing rule apply to things that are already dead?”

    Rosalina considered the question for a moment. She highly doubted that Ridley could kill a ghost, especially in his weakened state, but she decided that it was best not to take any chances. “Yes.”

    “You’re no fun.” Ridley smirked briefly, before furrowing his brow. "I just hope they're all alright."

    * * *​

    It was no secret that Luigi hated ghosts. Ever since he was a child, he had always found the idea of lingering spirits roaming around and haunting people terrified him in a way that he could never quite explain, and it certainly didn't help that he constantly found himself trapped in haunted buildings. It seemed like every time Luigi ended up going on his own adventure without his older twin brother Mario, he'd always end up facing a horde of ghosts.

    On the plus side, that meant that he had plenty of experience and generally knew how to handle himself in these kinds of situations. On paper, Luigi was the most qualified to be left alone in a haunted mansion and be able to make it out unscathed. Unfortunately, Luigi found that exploring big haunted buildings like this one never actually got any easier for him no matter how many times he found himself in these situations. And this time, he didn't even have so much as a flashlight, let alone one of the ghost-sucking vacuums that were usually provided to him by the eccentric scientist Elvin Gadd.

    With a whimper, Luigi pulled himself off the spot on the rotted-wood floor that he had managed to land face-first on and patted himself off. Unlike the sprawling, decorative hallways that Luigi and the others had wandered through before, wherever Luigi was now was so rundown that it could barely even be called a room. He could say that the floor had holes in it, but it would have been more accurate to say that the hole had sections of flooring randomly strewn about. There were also, of course, countless Boos flying around randomly. The stark-white, almost ball-shaped spirits didn't seem to notice Luigi for the time being and he sincerely hoped that it stayed that way.

    "Now what?" Luigi asked himself quietly, looking around for any way to get out of there. Eventually, he spotted a ladder leading back up to the mansion, but of course it had to be at the far end of the ghastly chamber. Straightening his cap, Luigi took his first step forward. "Well, here we go! I-a hope Daisy's going to be okay."

    * * *​

    Unlike the rest of the group, Daisy didn't have much experience with adventures. Sure, there was that one time she got kidnapped by a purple alien that wanted to take over her Sarasaland, but she had spent most of that time locked up and even then that had been a long time ago. That wasn't to say that she was completely useless on her own, however. In fact, Princess Daisy was actually one of the most skilled athletes in her kingdom, trained in a wide variety of sports and martial arts. In particular, she had always been a fan of games like tennis and golf, which primarily involved whacking small, round, hard to hit objects with as much strength as she could muster.

    "Retreat! Retreat!"

    "Every Boo for themself!"

    "She's got a pipe!"

    As it turned out, those skills transferred surprisingly well to fending off ghosts. Smirking, the princess gave a powerful swing at a cowering boo who was hoping that she wouldn't notice him. He was wrong, and quickly sent flying through a wall.

    "You know, I always thought this would be harder." Daisy gave the thick iron pipe she was carrying a good twirl and she walked briskly down the hallway. "Now, does anyone here want to help me get back to the others, or should I keep practicing my batting?"

    “Enough!”

    Daisy had just enough time to turn around before getting tackled to the ground, her pipe flying out of her hands down the hallway. She looked up at her assaulter, a giant ghost similar to the boos she had just been fending off, though instead of a small, round body it seemed almost snake-like in appearance, twisting and coiling out from a cracked flower pot resting on an old litter carried by a set of skeletal koopas known as dry bones. There was also a large bouquet of yellow flowers sitting atop the ghost’s head and Daisy had trouble suppressing a chuckle at how comical that ended up making the ghost look, despite its large fangs, big bushy eyebrows and hideous snarl.

    “You’re laughing?” The ghost seemed even more outraged than before. “You attack my brethren, enslaved as they are the whims of a false king, with a weapon of cold iron… And. You’re! Laughing?!”

    “I-I’m sorry,” Daisy clenched her sides tightly as she stood back up. “But I just can’t can’t take you seriously with- Wait, what was that about a false king?”

    Before the potted ghost had a chance to reply, there was a flash of pale blue light and two of the dry bones holding up its platform crumbled, sending the pot rolling into a wall, the ghost tumbling along with it. An orange and red blur then dashed and leapt onto the litter, flattening the remaining skeletons. Samus, engulfed in a violent yellow glow, suddenly rocketed into the ghost’s head, slamming it into the wall.

    “You alright, Lady?” Samus chuckled at a joke only she understood.

    “Yeah, I’m fine,” Daisy replied in a daze, startled by what just happened, before snapping back to her senses and waving her arms frantically. “Wait, stop attacking! He was just about to tell me something important! I think.”

    “Did anyone catch the license plate on that truck?” The ghost wobbled around in a daze as a flock of ghostly birds circled about his head. Where they came from was anyone’s guess.

    “Oh, of course, don’t attack the big angry ghost that was just attacking me,” Samus replied sarcastically. “What, I don’t even get a thanks for trying to save your life?”

    The potted ghost shook his head and the ghost birds dispersed into nothingness. “Hey, she was the one who was attacking my friends first!”

    “Yeah, sorry about that.” Daisy shrugged. “But in my defense, boos are usually hostile.”

    “You lot are the ones who barged into our house uninvited!” the ghost pointed out. “What are you even doing here, we’re not even wrapped up in Bowser’s nonsense this time?”

    “Something about trying to resurrect a guy named Marten?” Samus replied. “I don’t know, I haven’t really been following all this magic mumbo jumbo.”

    “Nevermind, that’s not important right now.” Daisy shook her head. “Well, it is important, but… ah, just get back to the part about the boos being controlled by a false king.”

    “Oh, right, that.” The ghost cleared his throat, which was impressive considering that he didn’t have one. “So a while ago this one big boo wearing a crown on his head showed up and took control of all, well, most of the undead living here. He’s trying to raise an army or something, I think. To be honest, I wasn’t really listening to his plans but his messing things up around here. We’re dead, we’re supposed to be resting in peace.”

    “So, there’s a big bad guy upstart causing trouble?” Samus slammed the end of her armcannon into her open hand. “Sounds like my kind of job.”

    “Wait, are you saying you want to help?” the potted ghost asked.

    “Of course.” Daisy nodded. “As a princess, it’s my responsibility to help those in need, even if we’re not in my kingdom right now. We should probably regroup with the others first and fill them in, though.”

    “Oh, thank you! I wasn’t expecting to get any outside help with this,” the ghost said. “Normally the living leave the dead to their own problems, and vice versa. Show, let’s get going!”

    The potted ghost turned to the collapsed piles of dry bones which had been carrying him. “Yo, lazy bones! Time to get up!”

    The ghost sucked in air and spit out several spectral blue flames, which drifted through the air to each dry bones, which then began to shake and rise from the ground, reforming into their koopa-like forms.

    “So, do you have a name?” Daisy asked as the dry bones repositioned the ghost’s pot back on the litter. “Because in my head I’ve just been calling you ‘The Flower Ghost’.”

    “Huh?” The Flower Ghost turned back to the two women. “Oh, right, my name’s Roger. Roger the Potted Ghost.”

    “Nice to meet you, Roger.” Daisy gave a polite curtsy. “I am Princess Daisy, of Sarasaland.”

    “Aran.” Samus nodded. “Samus Aran.”

    “My name’s Daryl!” One of the dry bones happily exclaimed.

    “Shut up, Daryl! No one cares.” Another one punched him in the ribs.

    “Oh, don’t mind them.” Roger sighed. “The thing about dry bones is that they don’t have brains. Anyway, shall we get going?”

    “Wait, hold on a sec.” Daisy held a hand up. “I should go get my pipe back.”

    * * *​

    Ridley opened a door and peered inside to find Rosalina waiting impatiently. Then he turned around and looked back down the hallway he had just walked down, where Rosalina was standing. Then he turned back to the door and stuck his head through, turning to see himself looking through the door.

    “I have so many questions,” Ridley said.

    “The dead have no need for euclidean physics.” Rosalina replied as if that explained anything.

    “Have I always been this skinny?” Ridley wiggled around, getting a good look at himself. “Or does it just look that way because of how small I am now?”

    “Does that really matter?” Rosalina sighed.

    “Hey, I’ve been learning a lot about myself lately. Wouldn’t hurt to learn more.” Ridley shrugged and scratched his chin as he walked out from the doorway. “Hey, so I know that certain objects can temporarily bestow different powers and abilities, like the red flower that the green guy used to throw fireballs, or the blue flower that Boom Boom gave me which gave me freezing breath. How do those work?”

    “Powerups?” Rosalina replied as they went back to searching the ghost house. “I guess I’ve never really thought to question how they work, but I guess they don’t really have those outside of this region of space. They take a variety of forms, though mushrooms and flowers are the most common. The ones you just described are called Fire Flowers and Ice Flowers, respectively, and they’re two of the most commonly found types, along with the Super Mushroom, which increases height. Exactly how they work varies from powerup to powerup, but usually they grant a specific ability, and often some kind of physical change to correspond with it, until you get hurt by something.”

    Ridley nodded. “And purple mushrooms… I take it they shrink whoever eats them?”

    “No, shrinking would be Mini Mushrooms, which are blue.” Rosalina shook her head. “Purple would be Poison Mushrooms, which negate the effects of powerups and poison anyone who doesn’t already have a powerup to protect them. Why do you…”

    Rosalina’s visible eye widened. “Wait, you keep complaining about how you’re smaller than you used to be. Did you-”

    “Eat a bunch of Poison Mushrooms growing around an old well shortly after arriving on this planet? Yep.” Ridley slumped his shoulders. “Normally my body can handle poisons and toxins easily, so I didn’t think anything of it at the time. Guess that was a mistake.”

    Rosalina rubbed her chin as she considered what Ridley said. “I take it that your body handles nutrients differently than normal?”

    Ridley nodded. “I’m a genetically-engineered bioweapon built with a bunch of nifty features designed to make me the ultimate killing machine. One of those is that I can essentially absorb matter that I consume and use it to recover any lost flesh from injuries or the like. I’ve been completely blown up before. It hurts like belgium and takes forever to heal, but I can always make a full recovery as long as a specific cluster of cells located in my secondary brain remain unscathed. Wait, why am I telling you my biggest weakness?”

    “Watch your language.” Rosalina flinched at the use of the foulest word in the entire known universe, but quickly recovered. “Anyway, if your body absorbs the matter you consume like you said, then would that mean that you can take on the properties of what you eat?”

    “I don’t know, I’ve never really put much thought into it.” Ridley shrugged. “But I’ve never grown bark or an extra set of arms or anything like that, if that’s what you’re asking.”

    “Well, this is just a theory for now,” Rosalina replied, “but I think that when you ate those Poison Mushrooms, you may have absorbed part of them into yourself, essentially becoming a part of this world.”

    “What?”

    Ridley and Rosalina both stopped walking and turned to face each other.

    “I’m sure you’ve noticed how things work differently here than on any other planet you’ve been to.”

    “Yes…” Ridley replied hesitantly.

    “It would take too long to explain in detail, but essentially different areas of space function differently than each other on a fundamental level. If you travel far enough, it's almost like you cross over into an entirely different reality. Normally, these areas are so big and far apart that you wouldn’t be able to cross over like this, or even be aware of it. But this region of space and the one you came from are close just close enough to their respective borders that you’ve been able to travel here without the use of teleportation or the like. Now, normally it would take a while before the change would really take effect on someone who travels from one space to another. Samus and her team, for example, likely still operate under the ‘rules’ of Federation space. But because of your unique genetic structure, eating those mushrooms from our space has likely accelerated that process to an almost unheard-of degree, to the point where you are already essentially a native of this world.”

    Ridley scratched his head as he tried to process all of that. It was a lot to take in, but he thought he understood the basics. “So, are you saying that the Hunter wouldn’t be able to use powerups because she hasn’t been in this -I’m just going to say reality- because she hasn’t been here long enough. But I can. But if we returned to the reality we came from, then she’d just be normal but I’d still behave like I was here until I eat something that would revert me back to normal?”

    “Again, this is just speculation for now, but I believe so.” Rosalina nodded. “Your reduced size is likely a side effect of that, as the residents of this planet are generally smaller than where you come from. Though they can make up for this by eating a Super Mushroom, which as I said earlier causes people to grow. But of course that’s just temporary until something causes them to shrink again. If you returned to your ‘reality’, as you put it, then I would assume you’d return to your normal size. Or perhaps you’d stay at whatever size you are when you arrive there. It’s hard to say.”

    Ridley considered that. “You know, this would also explain my recent change in temperament. Things here are a lot… Nicer? Friendlier? I’m not quite sure how to put it… compared to where I’m from. If I’ve become a native of this world, or however this works, then that could be why I’ve developed empathy and kindness so quickly.”

    “That very well may be.” Rosalina nodded, then frowned. “But that means you’ll likely revert back to how you were when you return.”

    Ridley scratched his chin as he pondered that. “Then I guess that’s decided, then.”

    “What’s decided?”

    “I’m not going back.” Ridley said simply.

    “What?” This threw Rosalina off guard.

    “I said I’m not going back,” Ridley repeated. “I always thought that I was happy, or at least content, with how I was. But now that I’ve become… more… I don’t want to be that space dragon any more. I’m staying here, on planet SMB-985.”

    “You know you don’t have a life here,” Rosalina countered. “You may be filling in for Mario now, but we’re bringing him back to life. Not to mention that you’re responsible for killing him in the first place. If you stay here then you’re going to spend the rest of your life in prison.”

    “True, I’m a murderer here, even if no one’s actually treated me like that yet, and what little I’ve gained in the way of friends and respect will likely evaporate once this situation blows over. But if I go home, then I’m back to being a heartless monster and ruthless space pirate responsible for the deaths of thousands, reveling in the despair of others, and with a death warrant out for me everywhere I go. Did you know that I ate the Hunter’s… no, Samus’s mother. In front of her, when she was still just a child… just to traumatize her… just because that naive little girl actually tried to make friends with me…”

    Rosalina grit her teeth and clenched her fists tightly, while Ridley wiped a tear from his eye. Likely the first he had ever shed.

    “You know, it’s funny and I don’t quite understand it, but…” Ridley stared up at the ceiling, more tears running down the sides of his face. “I feel… terrible, awful… the guilt of everything I’ve ever done. All the lives I’ve ended. That I’ve ruined… I really am a monster, aren’t I? And yet, this is somehow better.”

    Rosalina relaxed her shoulders, though her grip on her wand remained firm.

    “Better how?”

    “I don’t fraking know!” Ridley began crying in earnest. “It’s pain, like I’ve never imagined… turmoil, I think the appropriate word would be… And yet, I can live with it. No, I have to live with it. If I go back to who I was, this all goes away. I go back to being that monster. And somehow, the me who’s here now would rather die than be him again! Somehow, this pain, this regret, is better than being me.”

    “That’s… unexpected…” Rosalina stood there, unsure of what to do.

    “Yeah, no one’s more confused than I am.” Ridley sniffed and lowered his head, looking back at Rosalina again. “And I’m sure I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to figure it out. But I guess it is what it is.”

    “Yes, I suppose.” Rosalina stared into Ridley’s yellow eyes, which glowed softly in the dark and somehow seemed far more human than they ever had before. Where once there would have been nothing but animalistic rage, she could actually see the person who was forming underneath that draconic exterior.

    “Of course, none of this explains what’s going on with the hat and why people always seem to think that I am Mario until they see me without it. I still have no idea what that’s about.”

    “Yeah, um, yes.” Rosalina coughed awkwardly and turned to the side, using her free hand to brush aside her hair. “I guess we’ll just have to ask Mario about that when we get him back.”

    “That’s going to be an awkward meeting,” Ridley mused, tilting his head as Rosalina turned back to him. Her cheeks were slightly flushed, though Ridley’s attention was on something just to the side of her nose, on the side that she kept covered by her bangs. “Hey, you’ve got something on your-”

    Ridley reached out to wipe off whatever it was, causing Rosalina's eyes to widen suddenly and she reflexively lashed out with her wand, sending out a blast of magic that sent Ridley flying through the wall.

    “Oh, gosh,” Rosalina gasped once she realized what just happened. “I’m sorry about that, are you okay?”

    “No harm done.” RIdley said weekly as he raised one arm out of the pile of rubble he suddenly found himself in. “I see we’re back to me being on a tight leash.”

    “No, no, you’re fine.” Rosalina raised her wand, intentionally this time, and some of the larger pieces of broken wood and plaster drifted through the air into a tidy heap off to the side, then quickly brushed her hair back into place. “It’s just… it’s just an old scar. I’d rather not talk about it.”

    “Understandable.” Ridley lifted himself back onto his feet. “I think I still need to work out these, um, what do you call them? Interpersonal skills? Yeah, that’s it.”

    “Yes, well… I suppose we’ll have time to work on those after this is all over.” Rosalina’s face turned red again and her shoes suddenly became the most fascinating thing in the room. Though with a sigh, she forced her attention back to Ridley, who was sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck. Perhaps it was time to finally share her secrets. To tell someone about her past, her history, and the things she was too afraid to even let the Lumas she watched over as her children know of. “Hey, I-”

    There was a loud crash from behind Ridley, and the two turned to find Luigi having just crashed through the ceiling, face planted on the floor while the rest of his body hung straight up in the air for a minute before finally slumping to the ground.

    “Ow, why’s it-a always have to-a be the face.” Luigi grumbled as he pulled himself up and looked around. “Oh, hey, guys!”

    “Hey, it’s-a Luigi!” Ridley said in his best impression of his best friend’s accent. “Where have you been?”

    “Ah, Luigi.” Rosalina tried not to sound disappointed. “It’s, um, it’s good to see you’re safe. Have you found either of the others yet?”

    “Ah, no, I-a just managed to-a get myself out of wherever it-a was I ended up when I-a fell down here and ran into you two.” Luigi admitted as he looked around at where they were, noticing the broken wall and how roughed up Ridley looked. “Hey, were-a you two fighting again? I-a thought we were-a done with that. We’re all on the same team-a now, right?”

    “Well, you see…” Rosalina began.

    “It was a ghost!” Ridley raised both hands dramatically while hopping in front of Rosalina, cutting her off. “This is a Ghost House, isn’t it? It was a tricky little thing that kept flying between us and then vanishing right as we tried to attack it so that we’d hit each other. I guess your sudden arrival must have scared it off.”

    “Oh,” Luigi glanced between them again. “Alright, then.”

    “Yes,” Rosalina hesitated and gave Ridley a strained look, “it was actually just a standard Boo, but you know how they can be.”

    “Oh, yeah.” Luigi nodded. “Mario and I usually just-a try to avoid them when we can, or at least we-a used to.”

    That somber note was interrupted by a loud ‘ding’ sound and a pair of double doors slid open to reveal an old elevator and a couple of familiar faces.

    “Daisy!” Luigi cried out excitedly as he ran over to the princess.

    “Luigi!” Daisy met him half way and the two embarrassed, crying.

    “I was-a so worried about you! Are you alright, you aren’t hurt, are you?”

    “No, no, I’m fine.” Daisy assured him and pulled out her new trusty pipe. “I found this thing lying around, and it turns out ghosts are weak to iron. Who knew, right?”

    “Those two certainly seem close.” Samus remarked quietly as she walked up to Rosalina and Ridley. “Everyone else doing alright?”

    “Yes, we’re uh… we’re fine.” Rosalina replied while Ridley quietly nodded.

    “G-ghost!” Luigi yelled as he finally looked up and noticed the elevator’s other occupants. He quickly stood up and stepped in front of Daisy, holding an arm out as if to protect her. He would have looked downright heroic if he could have stopped his legs from wobbling and his teeth from chattering. “S-s-stay back!”

    “No, Luigi, he’s fine!” Daisy quickly grabbed Luigi’s outstretched arm and pulled him back. “This is Roger, he’s a friend.”

    “Yeah, we ran into him down below and got into a bit of a fight, but it turns out he’s not that bad.” Samus elaborated. “He agreed to help us if we help him get rid of another, actually bad, ghost who’s apparently been causing trouble around here.”

    “Yes,” Roger nodded. “He calls himself King Boo, and is trying to raise an army of the undead to invade your world. I hope you don’t mind, but honestly he’d probably be a bigger problem for you than he is for us.”

    “Well, that certainly sounds like something we should stop.” Ridley mused.

    “Of course,” Rosalina nodded.

    “King Boo.” Luigi shuddered, recognizing the name. “Why does it-a always have to be-a King Boo.”

    “So you’re all on board, then? Great!” Roger nodded again and smiled. “Then come on, this elevator will take us straight down to his lair.”

    Everyone clambered into the elevator, which proved to be quite crowded once everyone was inside. Ridley found himself crouched in a corner, next to one of the dry bones holding up Roger’s litter.

    “Hi, I’m Daryl,” the skeletal turtle said.

    “Um, hey,” Ridley nodded, not sure what else to do. “Ridley.”

    The doors closed and the elevator quickly dropped down below into the abyss, leaving the room empty. Empty, save for the growing echo of rattling chains and the scratching of a large scythe against the wooden floorboards, as Death approached ever closer.

    I'm back and plan on keeping this story updated on a hopefully regular basis. I really want to finally get to the end of this and move on to the sequels that I've had planned pretty much since I started. Though admittedly my plans have changed gradually over time and will likely continue to do so moving forward. Right now, I plan on following up SRB with two spin-offs, "Symphony of Luigi" and "Dread Reckoning", then tie it all back together with Super Ridley Bros. 2, with further plans for SRB 3 and 4.

    If anybody even still reads this story here, then I'd love to hear any feedback, comments or speculation you might have, so feel free to post whatever you have to say here! I'd like the engagement to help keep me motivated to work on this. I'm also going to be getting back to Stray Thoughts II, so keep an eye on that one as well if you're interested.
     
  9. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
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    New chapter! And it's only been a month this time!
    After a long descent, the elevator doors finally opened again with a loud ding and everyone scrambled out into a massive fog-filled cave. Glowing green runes were etched along every surface and the ground was covered in a thin layer of an unidentifiable liquid that seemed to shimmer orange and purple.

    “I… don’t think that I want to know what this place is,” Daisy muttered as a chill ran up her spine.

    “Yeah, even by my standards this place is creepy.” Samus began tapping a button on the side of her helmet, switching between different visor settings as she scanned the area.

    “This cave is basically just a step away from the afterlife,” Roger the Potted Ghost explained, as his dry bone servants carried him off to the side. “I’m sure none of you have been this close to death before, and hopefully you never will again until your time comes. Now, get ready because he should be somewhere around-”

    “WHO DARES!”

    Everyone’s attention turned to a crown set with a large purple gemstone, which lifted up from the ground on the other side of the cave. Once the crown finished its ascent and hovered in the air for a moment, a pair of purple eyes flashed beneath it and a ghostly visage slowly faded into view. King Boo, true to his name, looked much like the other boos that most of the team had faced before, though much, much larger. A dark shadow seemed to be permanently cast over his face, and the normally white spectral body had a darker tint to it that almost seemed to ooze with malevolence.

    “AH, IT IS YOU!” King Boo looked down at the group, his gaze letting on one person in particular. “LUIGI! COME TO MEDDLE IN MY AFFAIRS AGAIN, HAVE YOU? THEN I AM AFRAID THAT YOU WILL BE MOST DISAPPOINTED, FOR I HAVE NO INTENTION OF BEING STOPPED THIS TIME!”

    “Wait, you’ve met this guy before?” Ridley asked.

    “U-unfortunately.” Luigi tried to stop his legs from shaking, to little success. “We… we’ve-a fought a few times, but… um… he-a seems a lot b-b-bigger than before.”

    “Well, if you’ve beat him before, then we can do it again!” Daisy slapped Luigi on the shoulder. “Heck, I’m sure that guy in the armor could do this even just on his own.”

    “Guy?” Samus turned to Daisy. “I’m not a-”

    “ROGER!” King Boo ignored the mortals and turned to his fellow ghost. “I SEE YOU HAVE TURNED TRAITOR AND JOINED WITH THESE MORTAL FOOLS!”

    “Of course not,” Roger replied, causing everyone else a moment of panic before he continued. “I would have had to have been on your side at some point to be considered a traitor. I was quite clear from the start that I wasn’t going to let your scheming get in the way of our restful peace.”

    “THEN YOU HAVE MADE A GRAVE MISTAKE!” King Boo declared angrily. “NONE OF YOU ARE LEAVING HERE ALIVE! FOR TOO LONG I HAVE BEEN CONTENT WITH MERELY TRAPPING PEOPLE IN PAINTINGS IN MANSIONS AND HOTELS! THIS TIME, I SHALL PLUNGE YOUR ENTIRE WORLD INTO DARKNESS AND TRULY CLAIM MY RIGHTFUL PLACE AS SUPREME RULER OF REALITY! IT REALLY IS GAME OVER FOR YOU AND YOUR PUNY FRIENDS, LUIGI, FOR THIS TIME I-”

    Whatever King Boo was going to say, it was interrupted as he suddenly found himself being bombarded by Ice Missiles.

    “Did-did you just cut off the bad guy mid-monologue?” Daisy asked, stunned. “Is that even legal?”

    “Well, excuse me for not being in the habit of talking with the monsters I fight before I take ‘em out,” Samus said sarcastically as she began strafing the ghost. “And for the record, Princess, I am a woman!”

    King Boo yelled as he was continuously bombarded with freezing explosives, before spinning around and dropping through the floor.

    “ENOUGH!” King Boo’s voice echoed through the haunted chamber. “YOU INSOLENT FOOLS! YOU DARE THINK THAT YOU COULD CHALLENGE ME! FOR THAT, I WILL UNLEASH MY ULTIMATE POWER!”

    “That doesn’t sound good,” Ridley remarked.

    “Don’t tell me…” Roger said. “He couldn’t mean to…”

    “COME TO ME! SPIRITS OF THE DEAD! SACRIFICE YOURSELVES TO THY KING! BECOME MY POWER!”

    An intense wind swept through the ghastly cavern, as if the area was suddenly swallowed up by a tornado. Ridley dug his claws into the ground while Rosalina cast a spell to keep their other allies from being swept away. King Boo emerged from the ground again, opening his mouth wide as every boo in the mansion above was dragged into the room and sucked straight into his mouth. Even Roger and his dry bones were sucked up by King Boo, and Roger’s pot shattered as it fell to the ground. The spectral monarch began to swell in size, growing larger and larger while his ghostly form darkened and warped. By the time the wind settled down, King Boo had grown to a truly colossal size, too big for the cave they were in so that he passed through the ceiling and floor, and his body had turned a deep purple. The undead monstrosity stared down at them through golden eyes, musky blue smoke drifting from his mouth.

    “KING BOO IS NO MORE!” He announced. “I HAVE TRANSCENDED TO MY ULTIMATE FORM! BEHOLD! THE CHTHONIC EMPEROR, DARK ATOMIC BOOLOSSUS!”

    “I’d say that this is getting ridiculous, but I think we passed that milestone a long time ago.” Samus aimed her arm cannon, charging up a shot before firing at the self-styled Chthonic Emperor. The attack did nothing.

    “Sometimes I hate this planet,” Ridley said. “Only on SMB-985 could something like this happen.”

    “Oh, you’d be surprised.” Rosalina held up her ruby-tipped golden wand. “But this isn’t exactly normal here, either.”

    With a swish of the stolen wand, Rosalina sent out a blast of magic which looked like a scattered arrangement of various brightly-colored geometric shapes. This proved just as ineffective as Samus’ attack, however. Ridley was the next one to act, attempting to pelt the Dark Atomic Boolossus with his plasma breath. Unfortunately, all this did was solidly prove that he could no longer perform his breath attacks at all without the assistance of a power up, something he had assumed for a while but hadn’t gotten around to testing.

    “TREMBLE, MORTALS! SOON YOUR LIVES WILL END AND YOUR SOULS SHALL FUEL MY POWER AS I SHAPE THE WORLD INTO MY MAGNUM OPUS!”

    Dark Atomic Boolossus exhaled deeply and the blue smoke emitting from his mouth filled the cave. Everyone but Samus fell to the ground, unable to breathe properly in the ghostly miasma. Rosalina’s wand tumbled out of her hand while Daisy’s crown clattered off to the side.

    “Poison,” Samus announced. “Not like anything on record, according to my scans. We need to get rid of this stuff, ASAP.”

    “Kind of figured that out already,” Ridley slowly lifted himself up onto all fours, splashing around in the unidentified liquid still spread across the floor. “Got any ideas on how?”

    “Wand,” Rosalina choked out. “Now.”

    Ridley stumbled over to where the magic rod in question had fallen and picked it up off the strange block it was resting on. He paused for a moment, staring at the strange cubic object that he could have sworn wasn’t there a moment ago, before crawling over the Rosalina and handing her the wand.

    Rosalina looked up at him and faintly reached her arm out but collapsed before she could grab it. Ridley looked around to see that Luigi and Daisy had both passed out already as well. Or at least that’s what Ridley assumed, as the blurry shapes he identified as his friends weren’t moving.

    “Not good.” Samus walked over to him. “If this keeps up it’ll cause permanent damage, at least. And even my suit’s filters are about to give out.”

    Ridley started to screech but it turned into a hacking cough almost as soon as he opened his mouth. Whatever death magic Dark Atomic Boolossus was using was even bypassing his own natural poison immunities. Desperate, Ridley did the only thing he could think of, passing Rosalina’s wand to his tail and grabbing the strange block it had been on with both hands. The cool gray cube began to flash through a cycle of overly-bright colors the moment he picked it up but he hadn’t even had time to process that before he chucked it at the Dark Atomic Boolossus with all the strength he could muster. The attack hit its mark and, to Ridley and Samus’ surprise, the giant boo was thrown back by the attack, shouting angrily before blinking out of view. The miasma cleared almost as quickly as it had spread despite the cave’s lack of proper ventilation. Rosalina, Luigi and Daisy soon roused back into consciousness as well.

    “Success!” Ridley pumped his fists into the air despite having no idea what just happened.

    “Don’t count your shnooks before they hatch.” Samus pointed her cannon where the Dark Atomic Boolossus had been. “He’s still there, just invisible.”

    “Of course, why would it be that easy?”

    “How did you-a fight him?” Luigi asked, walking up to them.

    “I threw a rock at him,” Ridley summarized.

    “What kind of rock can hit a ghost?” Daisy wondered aloud.

    “I don’t know, it just a big block I found when I grabbed the space witch’s wand.” Ridley swung his tail around to show off the wand, but the motion caused it to fire off a spell of geometric shapes which hit the liquid on the cave floor and another block identical to the first one appeared.

    “Of course!” Rosalina rushed over. “I took this wand from a magikoopa, who are known to specialize in spells that turn blocks into other things and vice versa. Unchanneled magic fired from it must default to that spell, turning this liquid into blocks of whatever netherworld material it’s composed of, which in turn must have the ability to affect spirits.”

    “Ah ha!” Ridley began swinging the wand wildly, making magic blocks pop up all over the place. “I am a space pirate dragon wizard!”

    “No,” Rosalina stated matter-of-factly and snatched the wand from him. “Mine.”

    “YOU FOOLS MAY THINK THAT YOU HAVE FOUND A WAY TO HARM ME, BUT I ASSURE YOU THAT-”

    The Dark Atomic Boolossus didn’t even have time to finish his sentence before Ridley threw one of the blocks into his mouth, causing the re-manifested ghost to vanish again. But not before a group of boos were able to fly out of its mouth.

    “DON’T DO THAT!” The Chthonic Emperor appeared again after moving to the other side of the room, noticeably smaller than before.

    “Everyone, throw rocks at him ‘til he dies!” Ridley shouted, hurling another block at the ghost.

    And thus the cycle of hurt began for the being formerly known as King Boo. Everytime the tyrannical tyrant appeared, the group would pelt him with more magic blocks, Rosalina using her wand’s inherent magic to keep their supply from running out, and everytime one managed to land in his mouth more boos would be freed from the forced conglomerate. Eventually, they were left facing one smaller-than-average boo, identifiable as King Boo only because of his shadowed purple eyes and the now-oversized crown atop his head.

    “Well, I guess we win this round,” Ridley cackled, absently tossing a block up and down with one hand. “Got any last words, ‘Chthonic Emperor’?”

    “you, no! how dare you?” the diminished king squeaked out. “i was supposed to win! me!

    “You-a know, he’s a lot less scary like-a this.” Luigi crouched down beside King Boo and started poking the tiny gray ball. King Boo bit his finger in response, causing Luigi to jump back and almost fall over before Daisy caught him.

    “Let’s just finish this creep off before he causes any more trouble.” Samus picked up a block and was about to throw it at King Boo, but it slipped from her fingers as her power suit dematerialized, falling to the floor and dissolving in the purple-orange liquid.

    Fear. Primordial and instinctual fear overwhelmed every being in the cave, living or otherwise, as the doors to the elevator opened once again. Ridley had to fight his every instinct to turn around as the sound of rattling chains drew louder. What he saw was a skeletal figure draped in tattered blue robes slowly floating through the air towards them. Ridley had never seen this figure before and yet he instantly knew who, or rather what, this being was. Death had arrived.

    “n-no. no, it can’t be!” King Boo whimpered as Death drew closer.

    A skeletal hand lifted up, pointing a single bony finger toward the cowering boo. “Reginald Boosford, son of Samuel Boosford and Carol McBoo, self-proclaimed King of the Boos. Your time has come.”

    King Boo could do nothing but shiver as Death raised his scythe. If he had a bladder, King Boo would have wet himself before the mighty curved blade swung low. The jeweled crown splashed against the wet ground, the only remaining evidence that he had ever existed. His task complete, Death turned to face the others. It may have lacked eyes inside the hollows of its skull yet its gaze seemed to pierce the very souls of those it looked upon. All was silent save for the rattling of the chains wrapped loosely around Death’s arms and spine, the entity lacking anything below what would be its waist. After a few seconds that lasted an eternity, Samus began reaching for the stun pistol holstered on her thigh.

    “Samus Aran, daughter of Rodney Aran and Virginia Wayne. You know better than to start a fight you can’t win, and I will not bring harm to any of you. My job is to collect the souls of the dead, not to take those of the living.” Death reached under its robes and procured an old lantern with ghostly flame burning within. “Luigi Mario, son of Mario Mario Senior and Daniella Verducci, hero of the Mushroom Kingdom. Rosalina, daughter of a dead timeline, mother of lumas. Daisy Karma, daughter of Murphy Karma and Deanna Matthis, princess of another kingdom. Ridley, first of your line, writer of your own story. You have all come here for a purpose. To find the soul of Mario Mario Junior, son of Mario Mario Senior and Daniella Verducci, and return him to the mortal realm. I cannot allow this.”

    “If we must fight you, then we will-” Rosalina was cut off as Death raised a finger to silence her.

    “I wasn’t finished. I cannot allow you to bring Mario back to the realm of the living. But I have brought his soul here so that you may speak to him.” Death jiggled the lantern in his hand. “I’m afraid that your time will be limited, however. Even in this place, a soul cannot stay for long. Make the most of what you have.”

    With that, Death opened the old lantern and the spectral flame poured out from within, growing and changing shape until Mario stood before them. Or rather, the ghostly image of Mario hovered in the air a few inches above the ground.

    “It’s-a me, Mario!”

    “M-Mario!” Tears streaked down Luigi’s cheeks as stepped forward to hug his brother. Surprising most of the group, Mario’s ghost was corporeal enough in form to return the embrace. “I thought you were gone.”

    “I am gone, Luigi.” Mario reminded him and pulled away. “I-a don’t know how-a much time I have left, but I’m-a glad to finally have-a this chance to say goodbye. I-a wish the others were here, but… this-a will have to do. I miss you, more than-a you could know. But I-a hope you don’t mind if I-a say that I hope I won’t be seeing you again anytime soon.”

    “I don’t understand why we aren’t allowed to bring you back,” Rosalina spoke up. “Plenty of other spirits return as ghosts and I know resurrections should be possible. You’ve only been gone a few days, which should be enough time to-”

    “That’s-a the thing.” Mario cut her off. “I haven’t been dead for a few days. It’s been years.”

    “What?” Everyone seemed to ask at once.

    “But that’s not possible!” Ridley stated. “I killed you myself and even with this strange planet’s weirdness, there’s no way that-”

    “You didn’t kill me.” Mario replied.

    “Yes I did!” Ridley argued. “I pushed you off a bridge into a pool of lava!”

    “That-a wasn’t me. I did-a fall to my death but that was a long time ago. It was back when… I-a died when… Ah! AHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHRGH!”

    Mario’s ghostly form burst back into flames again as the dead plumber screamed in agony, prompting Death to fumble around with his lantern.

    “Drat! Nononononoooooooooooo!” Death quickly scooped up the flames and pushed them back into the empty vessel as quickly as he could. “I’m so sorry, you were supposed to have more time than that! Reginald must have destabilized this place more than I thought. It isn’t safe for spirits to dwell here anymore. I’m terribly sorry about that but I’m afraid that’s all the time you have. It will take a long time resting in the afterlife before Mario’s recovered enough for another visit like this, not to mention you’d need to find a new place to meet and I’m always super busy.”

    “W-what was Mario talking about?” Luigi asked, clearly shaken up over the whole ordeal. “He was already dead? What happened to him? How long has he been gone?”

    “Oh, that’s simple. You see, it happened back when Bowser-” Death stopped and reached for an hourglass. “Really, now? Come on, Ganondorf, you always have the worst timing with… Sorry but I have to go now. Repeat customer. Causes a lot of problems when I don’t collect him right away. Be seeing you again soon, Luigi!”

    Death stuffed the lantern and hourglass back into his robes and picked up the scythe he had set down before rushing to the elevator.

    “Hey, what about Mario!” Daisy called after Death, but it was too late as the doors shut behind him.

    “Well, that didn’t go according to plan,” Samus said.

    “Who knew Death would be so amiable?” Ridley replied. “Or exist as an intelligent entity in any form, for that matter? I always thought that death was just the nothingness that comes when a life ends, but now suddenly I’m burdened with the knowledge that souls are real, there’s some sort of afterlife system in place meaning that we all likely have to ‘live’ with the consequences of our actions for eternity and perpetuity, and the grim reaper really feels like someone I could go for a drink with.”

    “Same.”

    “Now is not the time!” Rosalina screamed at them both.

    “Mario’s gone?” Luigi fell to his knees. “He’s been dead for years? But-a then, who have I… who-a was it that’s-a been pretending to-a be Mario all this time? And why didn’t I-a notice? I-a should have realized… I-a should have known…”

    “That was certainly unexpected.” Roger made a movement that resembled a shrug.

    “How didn’t I see it?” Rosalina rested her hand against her face. “And for who knows how long?”

    Daisy knelt down beside Luigi and wrapped her arm around his shoulders. “I know that was a lot to take in, but… you know I’m here for you, right?”

    “Yeah,” Luigi forced a smile as he grabbed her hand. “I know.”

    “We all are,” Samus said with a shaky voice. “I know I pretty much just met you all, but I like you guys and… I know what it’s like to lose someone you care about. If there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know.”

    “Hey, guys, I know this is kind of a big moment and all, but…” Ridley raised his hands, “are we all just going to ignore the fact that Roger’s back now?”

    “Oh, hey, that’s right.” Daisy turned to the ghost with a bouquet of flowers on his head. “I thought you got eaten. When did you get back?”

    “I was released from King Boo’s clutches along with the other ghosts you rescued,” Roger explained. “But alas, unlike the others my essence requires inhabiting a vessel of some sort, and my pot appears to have been destroyed in the battle, meaning that I was forced to improvise with what was available on-hand.”

    Roger looked forlornly down the trail of his ghostly form towards the item he was now bound to. The others followed his gaze.

    “Hey, that’s my crown!” Daisy yelled.

    “And now it is also my anchor to reality,” Roger the unpotted ghost replied sadly. “Without it, I am quite literally nothing.”

    “I think it looks good on you, boss man.” Daryl the dry bones picked the small golden crown off the ground and walked over to Daisy. “Here yah go, miss.”

    “Um, thank you.” Daisy took the crown and placed it on her head as normal. To her relief it wasn’t any heavier than before. Roger then retracted into the jeweled headwear so that only the flowers sticking out of his head were still sticking out. “Well, I guess this will do for now.”

    “Well, this experience has only left us with more questions than answers.” Rosalina sighed and straightened her dress. “We will need to follow up on this at some point to get to the bottom of what happened. But for now, I believe we’ve kept Princess Peach waiting for far too long. It is time that we take the fight to Bowser!”

    Rosalina made her way back to the elevator and everyone else followed. As they were about to step in, however, Luigi hesitated and stopped.

    “What’s wrong?” Daisy asked him.

    Luigi trembled and stared down at his feet. He had gone through a lot in the last few minutes. So much, in fact, that he had almost completely missed a detail which now seemed the most important revelation of all to him.

    ‘Be seeing you again soon, Luigi!’

    He had been so focused on what had happened to his older twin brother Mario that Luigi hadn’t even considered his own mortality. And yet now he knew that his life would be ending before long. He didn’t know how much time he had left but he still had so much he wanted to do, and someone special that he wanted to do that with.

    “D-Daisy, er, princess?” Luigi clenched and unclenched his fists, fidgeting around before finally taking his hat off and wringing it tightly in his hands.

    “Yeah?” Daisy tilted her head to the side, confused.

    “I, uh, I-a have a question I need to ask you.”

    “Shoot.” Daisy nodded, still not sure where this was going.

    “Well, I-uh… I don’t think this is-a really my place to ask, but… but I just going to go ahead and ask!” Luigi clutched his hat so tightly that his knuckles turned white, not that they were visible under his gloves, and dropped down to one knee. All three women widened their eyes, finally realizing what was about to happen, unlike Ridley who just glanced around at everyone with a confused look. “Princess Daisy, will you marry me?”

    “yes.” Daisy’s response was so faint that she didn’t even realize that she had said anything, as she stood there in shock. Then tears began to roll down her face and she nearly pounced on Luigi. “YES! Of course I will, yes! I’ve been waiting forever for you to ask!”

    “You know, she has two different gold statues of them dancing together at her palace,” Rosalina whispered to Samus and Ridley. “One of them has them as babies for some reason, even though they didn’t meet until they were adults. It’s weird.”

    “I didn’t commission that one, that sculptor just had issues!” Daisy snapped at her defensively before turning her attention back to her fiance. Oh, how she loved that she could finally call him that. Her fiance, and future prince of Sarasaland. Unlike Luigi, Daisy hadn’t caught Death’s parting words. “Oh, I can already picture the wedding! It’s going to amazing and perfect and we’re going to have so many kids and-”

    “Hey, I’m sorry to interrupt the moment,” Rosalina spoke up before Daisy could continue ranting about their theoretical future, “but we really do need to go. I doubt staying in this place could be good for our health. You can celebrate on the way.”

    “Oh, right, of course.” Luigi blushed and everyone crammed into the elevator once again. As they made their way back up to the ghost house, he turned to Ridley. “Hey, I-a know we haven’t known each other for-a very long and this is-a kind of early to ask, but… well, since I don’t have my-a real brother around anymore, I-a was wondering… if you could be the best man at the wedding?”

    “Yeah, of course,” Ridley nodded assuringly, then leaned over to Samus and whispered, “What’s a wedding?”

    Samus responded with a sigh and slapped her forehead, inadvertently reminding herself that she hadn’t put her power suit back on yet.

    * * *​

    Roshi sat on a boulder, fidgeting uncomfortably. He knew that not all of his friends were going to be making it out of the ghost house alive. For all he knew, they had all already met their untimely deaths in there. He had spotted Death fleeing the area in a hurry, muttering something about a ‘darn high rule warlock’, whatever that meant. The anxiety and terror was growing so overwhelming that he thought he was going to throw up. Not helping matters was that he could see ADAM flying towards him, the ship’s chipped orange paint job visible from miles away in the clear blue sky. Samus’ friends must have finished their repairs after ADAM was shot down a few days ago and now Roshi just knew that he was going to have to be the one to break the news of her death to him. All of them were dead. Ridley, his new best friend, was dead. Luigi, that heroic green plumber, was dead. The feisty princess and the strange magic lady, both dead. He was all alone now. He couldn’t return home after just letting everyone die like this. He had nowhere to go. No one would be able to accept him. He was just a big failure and… and…

    “Hey.”

    …and all his friends were dead and he was alone and he was just a fat, stupid failure and no one liked him and…

    “Hey!”

    …and it was like he could still hear their voices but they were gone and they were never coming back and…

    “I said hey!”

    Roshi felt a tap on his shoulder and nearly jumped out of his skin.

    “Whoah, are you alright? I’d say you look like you just saw a ghost, but we’re the ones who just had that experience.”

    Ridley looked down at Roshi, who was now lying on the ground, feet suspended in the air.

    “Y-you-you’re alive!” Roshi shouted excitedly before hurriedly standing back up and brushing himself off.

    “Of course we are,” Ridley tilted his head, then realized what was going on. “Oh, you saw him, didn’t you? Don’t worry, he wasn’t here for us. Well, I guess he kind of was but not that way.”

    “Oh, hey, my ship!” Samus said excitedly as she ran up beside them, back in her armor.

    “That will make things much easier.” Rosalina said, just behind her. “I trust, of course, that you’ll be willing to lend us a ride straight to Bowser’s Castle.”

    “Darn tootin’. Frak, we’re goin’ in gun’s blazin’!” Samus replied, then coughed. “Um, I mean sure.”

    “Ah, yes, the mighty Hunter. Just a foul-mouthed asteroid girl from a backwater colony at her core,” Ridley joked, earning a glare from Samus.

    “What, I have an accent. Sue me.”

    “And now I feel like I need to apologize to you again.” Ridley sighed. “Nothing I could ever do could ever make up for everything I took from you that day.”

    “I’m still not used to you being so…” Samus gestured towards him, “...this. Man, our lives are weird.”

    “Good afternoon, Lady.” ADAM’s synthetic voice sounded in Samus’ receiver before she switched it to an external speaker so that the others could listen. “We have finished the repairs and I am within operational capacity again. I trust you haven’t gotten into too much trouble.”

    “Define too much,” Samus quipped.

    “We were in a prison camp!” Ridley yelled angrily. “And then we fought a ghost!”

    “That is unlikely,” ADAM replied. “We are landing now.”

    Everyone stood back as the gunship set down on the grassy field near them and its occupants exited to greet them.

    “Hey, Samus!” Armstrong Houston waved as he walked up to them, clad in his bulky blue replica of Samus’ old armor. “Hope we didn’t keep you waiting too long. That laser really did a number on the old ship.”

    “I am not old.” ADAM objected. “I am still a top of the line model. Mostly.”

    “Did I hear you fought a ghost!” Joey shouted excitedly, running up to Samus. “You’ve got to tell me about it! Come on, please?”

    Diesel hovered up next to him, the hamster-like alien mumbling something about rushed workmanship while wiping the brow of his cybernetic eye with a tentacle.

    “Come on, I’ll tell you on the way.” Samus told Joey as she walked over to ADAM. “Everything’s working now, right? Because we’re taking on that Bowser guy now and I want to make sure that we’re prepared.”

    “Oh, sure, just fly straight into the warzone as soon as possible. No time for a proper checkup or tuning.” Diesel complained. “You do know I’m doubling my fee for this job, right? No, triple.”

    “Yeah, sure.” Samus waved him off. “You know we’re saving a princess, right? I’m sure we’re getting paid handsomely for this.”

    “I can confirm that the Mushroom Kingdom does pay quite generously,” Ridley added. “Bowser, too, actually. Managed to get both sides to pay me to help kidnap and rescue her. But, um, I don’t do that kind of thing anymore, I guess. I’m staying here, by the way. I don’t think I told you guys yet. Although now that I think about it, I might try and pay a visit to my old crew just to get some of my stuff back. I had a lot of stuff. Then again, maybe not. Not like any of it was that important now that I think about it.”

    “I forgot he talks now,” Armstrong said as everyone got loaded up on the ship. “And doesn’t attack everything on sight.”

    Once everyone was safely aboard the cramped spaceship, Samus fired up ADAM’s engines and they took off towards Darkland. Ridley, tucked away in the back corner, raised his hand.

    “Hey, can someone hand me a data pad?”

    “Yeah, sure.” Samus pulled hit a button on the controls and a digital tablet was ejected from one of the side consoles, which she held out and was handed along to Ridley. “Wait, what do you need that for?”

    “Nothing dangerous.” Ridley replied as he took the pad. “Just need to look something up. …nothing bad.”

    Ridley entered in his search and quickly began to look up everything ADAM’s database had to say about the topic of ‘weddings’. He had no idea what a best man was but he was now determined to be the best there ever was. After reading the first few paragraphs, he looked up to see two empty eye sockets staring at him.

    “Hi, I’m Daryl.”

    “Yes, we’ve met.” Ridley looked down at his research, then back up. “Wait, why are you here?”

    Daryl shrugged in response. “Dunno, I was just following everyone else. The other dry bones decided to stay back at the mansion, though.”

    “Oh, quiznak, it’s a zombie!” Armstrong yelled and pointed his arm cannon at Daryl.

    “Don’t be brash, he’s an animated skeleton. There is a difference.” Roger poked out from his place in Daisy’s crown.

    “Ghost!”

    “This is going to be a long trip,” Samus sighed and clenched her teeth as her grip tightened on ADAM’s controls.

    “I’m engaged!” Daisy suddenly yelled at the top of her lungs despite being in a small, enclosed space. “I’m going to be Mrs. Luigi!”

    “Well, technically you’d-a be Mrs. Mario, because-a Luigi’s my-a first name.” Luigi pointed out. “Or should I-a be the one taking-a your name, since-a you’re royalty and all?”

    “Congratulations!” Daryl cheered.

    “Wait, you’re a Princess?” Joey looked up at Daisy in awe.

    “I think I’m getting airsick.” Roshi complained.

    “Not in my ship!” Diesel shouted at him.

    “Hm, maybe I should consider becoming Roger the Spaceship Ghost?” Roger mused.

    “Good for you.” Armstrong slapped Luigi on the back, knocking him into Rosalina who fell over into Ridley’s lap.

    “I am trying to read, here!” Ridley yelled.

    It took every fiber of Samus’ self control not to activate her ejector seat.

    * * *​

    Author’s Note: I seem to have a habit of accidentally escalating battles as I write them. This chapter was supposed to be just a straightforward boss battle against King Boo. Next thing I know, I’m trying to combine every boo variant I can think of into one and finding a way to actually use the word chthonic (an adjective that comes from Greek and describes something, usually gods, as being connected to the underworld).

    Death’s fun to write. While his physical description is inspired by Castlevania’s take on the character, I took inspiration from Discworld for his more laidback and personable personality, which is also why I write his text in bold. I also decided fairly early on to have him address people by full name along with the names of their parents, which lead to me having to make up a lot of stuff for that scene which I’ll try to break down here:

    I was originally going to have King Boo referred to as “Boobaloobatoobasnooba, son of Oomfersnicket”, completely random funny-sounding names I came up with on the spot, but then decided that was taking it too far and toned it down to comparatively normal-sounding names.

    Samus’ parents being named Rodney and Virginia Aran comes from the Metroid manga which details Samus’ origins, which is actually referenced a lot in this story since I keep bringing up the events of Ridley’s attack on K-2L which is specifically from the manga. Virginia doesn’t have a canon maiden name so I had to make one up and decided that “Virginia Wayne” sounded nice, so I went with that. Whether or not that means this version of Samus is a distant descendant of Bruce “Batman” Wayne is anyone’s guess.

    Mario and Luigi’s parents need a lot of explaining. My headcanon for a long time now is that Mario, Luigi and Pauline (yes, you read that right) are the children of the original ‘Jumpman’ and ‘Lady’ from the Donkey Kong arcade game, just like how modern Donkey Kong is the son (or grandson, depending on your source) of the original. Obviously this theory always stood on extremely shaky ground that gets progressively more contradicted with each new bit of official information that we get. But still, I like the idea and decided to throw a bit of that in here by having Mario and Luigi’s father be Mario Sr. Their mother’s name of Daniella Verducci is a reference to Mario’s girlfriend from the classic Super Mario Bros. movie, which is a hot mess but I love it anyway and that character especially has always been one of my favorites. Her last name is never actually stated in the film, though, but apparently comes from an earlier draft of the script.

    I considered naming Rosalina’s parents here but realized that particular twist, based on an old fan theory that I seem to recall being popular back in the day and that I still like to headcanon, would be too distracting to include here as there’s no way that everyone would just ignore it. So instead, I tried to come up with the best way of avoiding that for now. Rosalina’s origins will be covered eventually but will have to wait until one of the sequels.

    Daisy’s parents were hard to come up with and I ultimately ended up with even more references to the SMB movie. Princess Daisy’s parents were featured in the film but never named (which is still an improvement over the games, where they’re lucky to get referenced at all). The King seems to have gone through several names throughout various drafts of the script, with the final version before his name was dropped settling on Bowser, which seems to be the preferred one for promotional material and the like. But obviously I couldn’t go with that name since there’s already a King Bowser running around as the big bad of the story. Karma and Murphy were apparently two earlier versions of the King’s name, so I decided to use those here with Karma being the family name. Daisy’s mother, Deanna Matthis, is a reference to Daisy’s primary voice actress, Deanna Mustard, and her actress from the film, Samantha Matthis.

    And then of course there’s Ridley, who in this story is explicitly a genetically engineered bioweapon with no parents. Thus, he is described as the first of his line. The question is, though, will he be the last member of that line?

    …and then of course after that we have the Pak E. Derm in the room, Mario’s death. My original plan for this story was that Ridley killed Mario in the first chapter as it was presented. But the problem is, I never came up with a reason for why Mario’s hat seemingly places a glamor on Ridley that causes almost everyone to literally see him as Mario until they see him without the hat. It’s been nagging me for years that the entire premise of the story revolves around a detail that had no explanation and would never be resolved despite obviously being one of the biggest questions everyone would have about what’s going on. But then a while ago, sometime between when I finished World 7-1 and finally started working on 7-2, I randomly remembered an old Mario fanfic idea I had years ago but never got around to writing, which also coincidentally involved Mario dying and someone being required to take his place without letting anyone know what happened. And then it occurred to me that I could take elements from that fic idea and reshape it to fit my needs in this one to finally fill up that plot hole. Sadly I can’t go into more detail here about that because it would spoil too much, and I likely won’t be picking this plot thread up for quite some time (in my current notes, this probably won’t be relevant until Super Ridley Bros 3). So until then, I guess you’re just going to have to speculate.

    And lastly, Luigi’s proposal. I have been planning that for years and it feels so good to finally reach it. And I’m sure that I’ll be feeling that a lot moving forward as we’ll be starting the final arc of this story in the next chapter. I’ve had the ending floating around in my head and story notes basically since I started this story and it’s such a relief to be able to finally get there. Luigi asking Ridley to be his best man may seem a bit out of the blue, considering they actually barely know each other at this point despite having gone through a lot together on this adventure. However, it will actually be important moving forward, for reasons that I can’t say yet. Oh, and Roger and Daryl have both joined the main cast. I honestly wasn’t planning on that. I just added Roger into the previous chapter because he happened to fit and Daryl was just an improvised one-off joke. It’s weird how these things happen.

    …and there was something about Luigi possibly maybe dying soon? Huh, I wonder what that’s about? I guess you’ll just have to wait and see. (Spoiler Alert, he’s not dying in this story but I do seem to recall having announced a Luigi-themed spinoff in the works. Coincidence?)
    See you later, Space Pirate!​
    Next Time: World 8-1
    The beginning of the final arc.
     
  10. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
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    Deep in the heart of Dark Land, a volcanic region untouched by the light of day, King Bowser of the Koopa Troop marched through the halls of his castle. The large, green and orange turtle-like monarch was growing frustrated. Mario was dead. Princess Peach held securely within his dungeons. He had finally won this pitiful game. There shouldn’t have been anything more standing in the way of Bowser finally getting everything that he ever wanted. But of course, his luck never turned out that way.

    Bowser was flanked on either side by a pair of old magikoopas hovering along on flying broomsticks. To his right was the blue-robed Kamek, who had served as the king’s most loyal and trusted advisor since he was still just a young koopaling prince, while the purple-glad witch Kammy Koopa flew along on the king’s left.

    “Status report!” Bowser ordered as he threw open the doors to his throne room.

    “We have assembled your forces here, Your Highness!” Kamek informed him. “All of your highest ranking officers are here, awaiting your orders.”

    Bowser huffed and looked around as he made his way to where three ornate gray and red thrones were lined up, taking a seat in the largest, central one. His son, Bowser Jr, was slouched in the smaller throne to his right while the third one remained empty, reserved for Princess Peach once Bowser had finally managed to make her his. But that would have to wait for the time being. For now, he looked up at the rows of his generals lined up along the sides of the chamber, awaiting their orders.

    The seven koopalings, Iggy, Larry, Lemmy, Ludwig, Morton Jr, Roy and Wendy O. made up the bulk of his generals but were by no means the only elite members of his army that the two magikoopas had gathered. The relentless juggernaut Boom Boom and his younger sister Pom Pom, the gluttunous plant monster Petey Piranha, the explosive King Bob-omb and the mad jester Motley Bossblob filled in the rest of their ranks. Bowser noted that this lineup was hardly ‘all of his highest ranking officers’ but it would have to do for the time being.

    “What’s going on?” Junior asked, looking up at his father.

    Bowser took a deep breath before replying. “As many of you have likely heard, Mario is dead.”

    Cheers filled the throne room as the Troop Generals celebrated their greatest enemy’s defeat. Bowser wished he could share his underlings’ jubilation but found that he couldn’t. He had been working to defeat the red plumber for as long as he could remember but had found since the news of his rival’s fatal end that he just felt… hollow.

    “He was done in at the hands of an alien space pirate I hired,” Bowser continued his explanation once the cheering had died down. “But then the pirate turned against us and sided with those do-gooders from the Mushroom Kingdom to try and rescue Princess Peach. I tried hiring a bounty hunter who was supposed to have had a personal grudge against that pirate but apparently that must have been some kind of scam and now she’s teamed up with them as well. We’ve tried sending everything we can after them but our forces have proven too incompetent to fight those aliens and now they’re apparently planning to storm my lands any day now. So now it’s up to you bozos to defend my kingdom from aliens!”

    The response to this revelation was tepid. The news of alien invaders getting ready to attack was a bit much to take in, even for Dark Land’s elite. King Bob-omb fidgeted uncomfortably, while Boom Boom and Pom Pom looked at each other nervously. Even the koopalings seemed unsure of themselves for once. Motley, however, seemed completely unfazed and laughed at the danger. Or at least that’s what Bowser chose to believe Motley was laughing at, anyway.

    Kammy Koopa pulled out her new wand, a silver rod with a purple gemstone, which she had replaced the one Rosalina had stolen from her with and waved it around to summon a large chalkboard featuring detailed diagrams of their known foes.

    “The main threats we’re facing right now are the pirate Ridley, who’s basically a big dragon thing, and the bounty hunter Samus, who’s a walking tank,” the supercentenarian turtle witch explained. “In addition, we’ve also confirmed that Mario’s brother Leopold, Rosalina from the Comet Observatory, at least two Yoshis, Orange Peach, what appears to be a blue recolor of Samus we’re calling Blue Samus, and some whippersnapper in green that we’re calling Little Luis are traveling with them. They had an armed spaceship but thankfully it was destroyed through the combined efforts of the Koopa Brothers and the Neo Axem Rangers so we won’t have to deal with that.”

    “Unfortunately, the Koopa Brothers are currently taking their mandatory vacation days and the Neo Axem Rangers are currently offline while our scientists upgrade them into the Axem Rangers Space in order to deal with potential future alien invasions, so neither group will be able to help in defending the homeland,” Kamek added.

    “Hey, does anyone hear an engine rumbling?” Larry raised his hand.

    “Based on our latest reports, we will likely have at least a week before they are able to arrive here on foot,” Kammy continued. “Thus, we will use that time to prepare our defenses as the rest of our forces are recalled to the castle. By the time they get here, we should be able to unleash the entirety of our forces down on their heads, overwhelming them with sheer numbers before they have the chance to do anything.”

    “Hey, I hear it too,” Iggy spoke up.

    “That’s Plan A, anyway.” Kamek adjusted his glasses as he flew up beside Kammy. “We also have a Plan B but we’ve chosen to withhold that information for now as a precaution against the Inverse Law of Plan Exposition.”

    Then the castle exploded and everyone died. Bowser fell to the floor surrounded by flame and debris as the world grew cold and blurry. He couldn’t believe that this was how it ended, so suddenly and without any fanfare. Everything was gone in an instant. There was still so much he wanted to do, so many regrets. But it was too late now. It was too late for anything. He just wished that he could have spent more time with his family and that he could have finally gotten the chance to win over the love of his life. But it was too late. Too late for anything. Bowser struggled to let out his last breath as his eyes closed for the final time…

    …then he opened his eyes again and realized he was overreacting. With a groan, Bowser climbed back to his feet and looked around. A massive hole had been blown out of the ceiling and the entire throne room had been thrown into disarray. His generals were panicking and running around, Petey Piranha was on fire and King Bob-Omb had exploded from the shock of the surprise attack, adding to the damage. Outside, a small spaceship with a shoddy orange paint job had its guns trained on him. Perched atop the ship, a purple dragon unfurled his wings.

    “He~re’s Ridley!” The manic alien cried out as he leaped down into the throne room. “Miss me?”

    The spaceship hovered closer and one-by-one the other members of Ridley’s gang dropped in. Rosalina, Lloyd, the other princess, a hefty yellow Yoshi, Samus, Blue Samus and the unknown boy were all ready for a fight. Bowser hoped that he and his underlings would be able to give them one.

    “We’re-a here for the Princess!” Laraby took a step forward.

    Bowser shoved aside his panic and chuckled menacingly as he rose to his feet. “You come barging here into my castle and make demands? I never would have expected this kind of audacity from you, Laurence. But I suppose putting on a brave face and acting like a thug is easy when you’ve got so many minions standing behind you.”

    Luigi clenched his fists and stood there silently for a moment. The brown-haired princess wrapped her arm around his shoulder gently.

    “Don’t let him get to you, honey. He’s just trying to rile you up.”

    Wait, were those two a thing now? Bowser had to blink a few times as he processed the implications. How did the scared green brother manage to win over a princess before he, the mighty King of the Koopas and the most handsome and charismatic eligible bachelor in the world, could. His nostrils flared as Bowser steamed over how unfair things had gotten.

    Luigi sighed and relaxed, before turning his gaze back to Bowser. “Just-a let Peach go. We don’t-a want a fight.”

    “Then you made a mistake coming here,” Bowser leaned forward, preparing to charge. Glancing around the room, he could see his followers also readying themselves for battle.

    “Speaking as one unfettered, tyrannical villain to another,” Ridley raised his hand politely, “you should know by this point that we always lose in the end. You might as well just surrender now and save everyone here the trouble of going through with this.”

    “Koopa Pack, attack!” Bowser yelled out as he charged forward. At his command the others sprung into action around him.

    * * *​

    Chaos erupted and for once Ridley felt at home. He dashed over to Luigi to intercept the charging turtle king before he could attack the recently engaged plumber. He only took two steps, however, when a giant pink throwing-star passed in front of his face and he was forced to make an abrupt halt, allowing Bowser to tackle Luigi at full strength through a wall. Ridley wanted to go after them but instead he turned his attention to the source of the sneak attack as the fighting broke out in earnest around him.

    Ridley’s eyes narrowed as he pinpointed a red and pink turtle at the other end of the room, who had pulled out another of her four-pointed stars, and he dashed across the room like a purple torpedo. Before she had a chance to throw the weapon, he had pounced and pinned her to the floor.

    “Pom pom pom pom!” The overgrown tortoise struggled to get out of his grip as Ridley waved the sharpened point of his tail over her face menacingly.

    “And give me one good reason to?” Ridley chuckled threateningly, slipping back into old mannerisms.

    “Boom boom boom boom boom boom!”

    Ridley’s eyes widened as a sudden intense force struck him from behind like a train and he was thrown flying into a wall, slumping to a heap on the ground. It took him a moment to get back to his feet and a moment longer for the room to stop spinning around him. Once he had regained his focus, he stared down the two big turtles approaching him cautiously. The brown one who had hit him flailed around his giant fists while the red one gripped her throwing star tightly.

    “Wait, Boom Boom?” Ridley cocked his head to the side curiously as he recognized the brown turtle who he had fought and subsequently teamed up with back near the beginning of his adventure.

    “Boom?” Boom Boom hesitated.

    “It’s good to see you again, though I wish it could have been under better circumstances. How have you been?”

    “Boom boom, boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom.” Boom Boom replied.

    “Yep, I understand.” Ridley nodded. “My old boss Mother Brain could be like that, too.”

    “Pom, pom pom pom pom pom pom pom?” the red turtle asked, looking back and forth between them in confusion.

    “Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom,” Boom Boom explained.

    “The name’s Ridley,” the purple space dragon bowed. “And you?”

    “Pom Pom,” the turtle, Pom Pom, replied. “Pom pom pom.”

    “Good to meet you.” Ridley nodded again.

    An awkward silence passed between them, as the rest of the battle went on around the three.

    “So, are we going to keep fighting, or…” Ridley trailed off.

    “Boom boom boom boom boom, boom boom boom boom,” Boom Boom said. “Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom.”

    “Pom pom pom pom pom,” Pom Pom agreed.

    “Alright,” Ridley nodded. “Let’s meet up again sometime, after this is all over. It’s always a pleasure talking to you.”

    With that, Boom Boom and Pom Pom headed to the main doors and left to head home.

    “Nice family,” Ridley muttered as he turned back to the battle. “Now, what was I doing? Oh, right.”

    With that, Ridley raced back to where Bowser had knocked Luigi out of the room.

    * * *​

    As chaos erupted around them, Kamek and Kammy took the opportunity to flee from the room, using their enchanted brooms to fly out through the hole that had been blasted out of the ceiling. Their intent was to slip out unnoticed but unfortunately for them they weren’t able to manage it.

    Rosalina spotted the two Magikoopas fleeing the fight and quickly flew after them. Her last duel with Kammy had cost Rosalina her wand, but she would not be so careless this time. She was not accustomed to making the same mistake twice.

    With a swish of her stolen wand, Rosalina sent a bolt of cyan lightning arcing through the sky, narrowly missing Kamek’s pointy blue hat.

    “Gah!” the startled Magikoopa nearly fell off his broom.

    “You again!” Kammy’s eyes narrowed as she scowled down at Rosalina. “That’s *my* wand you’re using!”

    “Is it?” Rosalina lightly tapped the ruby tip of the stolen wand against her chin. “Because it looks to me like it’s mine now. Certainly not as strong as the one you cast into the lava last time we fought, but I suppose beggars can’t be choosers. I have been thinking about making some customizations to it once I finally get a chance to go home after this mess is over. Boost its potency and really make it mine, you know?”

    “Why, you pesky little brat!” Kammy aimed her new wand at Rosalina and a ball of purple flames shot out from it.

    Rosalina acted almost reflexively, pointing her wand at Kamek and pulling it back. The younger Magikoopa found himself yanked off of his broomstick as he was pulled directly into the path of the magical flames.

    “OHGOSHITBURNSWHY!” Kamek flailed around as his broom sailed through the air to catch him and he nearly dropped his glasses as he fell back on the wooden shaft. He thrust his wand in the air and a rain cloud formed above him, dousing the flames. “I’m going to get you for that!”

    Kamek thrust his wand out and a Bullet Bill fired out from it, launching straight at Rosalina. With a flick of her own wand, Rosalina flung a star-shaped ring of light that seemed to swallow the Bullet Bill before shrinking down into nothing.

    “Why don’t you just make this easier on yourselves and surrender now?” Rosalina taunted them. “We all know I’m going to beat you.”

    “Spoiled brat!” Kammy yelled and flung a giant yellow block at her. “The youth should respect their elders!”

    “I know,” Rosalina dodged to the side and sent a spray of colorful amorphous crystals scattering through the air at her opponents. “But you insist on acting out anyway.”

    One of the crystals smacked Kammy in the forehead and she fell off her broom, barely managing to grab hold of its feathery brush. Meanwhile, Kamek spun his wand around and launched a miniaturized tornado flying at Rosalina. Once she had climbed back up on her broom, Kammy gave her own wand a flourish and summoned a swarm of bat-like Swoops that arced around the other side. Rosalina, cornered between the two attacks, spun around quickly and disappeared.

    “Huh, where did she go?” Kamek asked as the tornado and Swoops crashed into each other.

    “Right here,” Rosalina answered from behind him. “And I think it’s about time that I end this.”

    Before either Magikoopa could turn around, they both suddenly found themselves encased in blocks of ice. The weight of that ice proved to be too much for their flying broomsticks, which suddenly became more accurately described as falling broomsticks. They both crashed hard into the roof with enough force to shatter the ice, leaving Kammy and Kamek both unconscious.

    “That’s going to hurt in the morning.”

    * * *​

    Armstrong wasn’t much of a fighter when he began his career as a bounty hunter. He had been inspired to take up the job after being rescued by Samus on one of her early missions and subsequently managed to get his hands on his own set of Power Armor, a one-of-a-kind prototype from a scrapped Federation project to recreate Samus’ iconic Chozo armor. It wasn’t as strong as hers but with a few tweaks he had been able to make it work well enough for the job.

    Of course, he hadn’t understood what being a bounty hunter really meant. To him, it was just a way to earn fame, glory and money, as well as grow closer to his hero and the woman he wasn’t ashamed to admit he had a huge crush on back then: Samus Aran. It wasn’t until he had met her again after the destruction of the BSL Research Lab, when Samus was branded as an outlaw and went from ‘The Hunter’ to the hunted, that his entire worldview had changed. He had taken that job of course, like every other hunter in the Federation, expecting to take Samus in for the biggest paycheck of his life and take her spot as the most famous bounty hunter in the known universe. That is, until he managed to track her down and found the supposedly-treasonous rogue rescuing struggling refugees from a powerful warlord in the outskirts of Federation Space. It was only then, after they had teamed up to take down that warlord and he learned the truth of Samus adventures, that his entire worldview had been shaken. Gone was the gloryhound bounty hunter enforcing the corrupt Federation’s ideals for cash. In his place, Armstrong had set out to grow, to become stronger and become someone who could stand side-by-side with Samus herself as an equal. He was still trying to reach that mark but he had at least gotten far enough to be considered her partner.

    That was why Armstrong wasn’t about to back down as he found himself cornered by a trio of overgrown Geemers. He readied his arm cannon, quietly analyzing the situation before making his move. Normally, Armstrong would just take them all out quickly with his Plasma Beam but that wasn’t an option right now as their team was apparently operating under a strict ‘no-killing’ rule for this mission. Unfortunately, Armstrong didn’t have much in the way of non-lethal takedown methods in his armory. But not much wasn’t none.

    “Man, are you guys ugly.” Armstrong tried goading the aliens as he slowly moved his free hand to his side.

    “Look who’s talking,” one of them, a burly looking creature with a pink shell and what appeared to be sunglasses, replied. “What, did your momma dress you this morning?”

    “Actually I believe it was your mother,” Armstrong retorted, glad they were taking the bait.

    “Hey, don’t you dare talk about our mother like that!” Another, this one with a blue shell and matching wild hair.

    “You’re right, I’m sorry.” Armstrong shook his head. “I’m sure that she’s twice the man I’ll ever be.”

    “Oh, that is it!” The third alien, with a black shell, darker skin than the others and a notable star-shaped mark around its left eye crouched down and tried to tackle him.

    Armstrong uppercutted the turtle with his arm cannon and slid under it. Now that he was no longer surrounded, he activated a switch in his cannon and a small metal object was ejected from a secret compartment in his armor’s left leg, which he caught with his free hand and tossed at the spiky alien turtles. The flash grenade exploded in a burst of light, temporarily blinding the black and blue turtles. Unfortunately for Armstrong, the pink one managed to shake off the disorienting effects of the grenade, in part due to its dark sunglasses lessening the brightness of the flash.

    The pink Koopa tackled Armstrong and slammed him into the ground, winding him. He didn’t stay down for long, however, activating the thrusters in his right boot to launch his attacker into the ceiling with a rocket-powered kick and rolling out of the way before it could fall back on him again. By this point, the other two had managed to recover from the flash grenade and were preparing to attack. Thinking quickly, Armstrong managed to lift the unconscious pink Koopa and tossed it at the black-shelled one with enough force to knock it back into a wall. That just left the hairy one, who went down with a suckerpunch to the face.

    Armstrong took a moment to catch his breath before straightening up and pumping his fist in the air. “They don’t call me Armstrong for nothing!”

    * * *​

    Roshi was not a fighter. This was something that he knew all too well. He had grown up with stories of how his people had ventured across their island home facing perilous dangers and fighting countless enemies on a grand mission to return a lost baby to his home. His cousin, the plainly-named Yoshi, and even some of the others from their village would regularly go out on adventures with the late Mario and his friends. Roshi had even heard of a young hatchling who had become a champion fighter in a famous fighting arena in a far off land that Roshi himself would likely never see. Yoshis were warriors, yet somehow Roshi himself had simply been skipped over for that trait. He was slow, physically speaking, and not very strong. He wasn’t the sharpest lightbulb in the toolbox, and he never thought he was as brave as the others around him. He ate less than half of what the other Yoshis his age did and yet gained twice the weight. He had been put down and discouraged by his peers his whole life and had, he was ashamed to admit, completely given up on himself.

    But things had changed. He had friends now. Actual friends, not just people who were forced to hang out with him. He had traveled farther from home than he had ever thought he would be able to. He’d gone on adventures like he had always dreamed of. And most importantly of all, he finally had the positive affirmation that just because he couldn’t be as strong or smart as he wanted, he was still good enough. He was who he was, and he could do what he could do, and that was all that mattered. And that was why he was finally able to work up the courage not to back down from his first real fight.

    Motley Bossblob danced around wildly in his brightly-colored patchwork outfit, globs of dark goo swelling up from the floor around him. Each gooey ball seemed to have a pair of starry eyes that all fixated on Roshi, and soon they began inching towards him. Roshi braced himself, not knowing what to expect, and slowly approached the jester.

    As Roshi reached his opponent, the globs all around suddenly began to shake violently before leaping into the air. Roshi panicked and fell over but to his surprise, the balls aimed at Motley instead of him, covering their creator in a mass of goo that formed into a giant version of himself. Roshi gulped as the giant goo clown looked down at him, before it grabbed him in its slimy hand and ran out the room.

    Roshi struggled and squirmed in Motley’s grip only to find it harder and harder to move. The goo construct bounded down an otherwise empty hallway and Roshi could only guess at where Motley planned on taking him. Roshi continued to fight his way out but was instead sucked further into the slimy mass until eventually his head was submerged in the unknown substance.

    Roshi felt himself suffocating and soon lost the strength to struggle. Everything was dark and it felt to Roshi like he no longer had any chance of escape. He struggled to cling to the hope that one of his friends would come and rescue him but he knew that they were all busy with their own fights and likely hadn’t even noticed that he was gone. All Roshi could do was cry, buried in goo. His mouth opened and some of the gunk slid into his mouth.

    It tasted like licorice. Not Roshi’s favorite flavor -that would be bananas- but it wasn’t particularly bad. As far as he could tell, it wasn’t poisonous, either. Roshi had a plan, now. He was a Yoshi, after all. He just had to eat his way out of the situation.

    Roshi began chewing and shoving more of the dark goo into his mouth with his tongue until he finally emerged from what was left of the Motley construct’s arm, finally able to breath again. He stopped to see what was happening. They were still in the same hallway, the door to the throne room still visible in the distance, and Motley was stumbling into a wall, clearly startled by Roshi’s sudden attack. Roshi then dove back in, continuing to swallow more of Motley’s goo until at last his tongue struck something solid in the center of its mass. This was his chance.

    Roshi pulled Motley into his mouth, managing to cram the large koopa in there in his entirety. The rest of the goo shook and fell apart, no longer being able to hold its form on its own. Suddenly finding himself hanging in mid-air without any support, Roshi tried to stay airborne as long as he could with a flutter jump but quickly came crashing down into the floor like a brick. The force caused Roshi to involuntarily swallow and his eyes widened for a second as he realized what he had just done, before he found a giant white-and-yellow spotted egg forcibly ejected from… Roshi didn’t want to think about where that egg just came out of. It was the first time that Roshi had laid an egg, despite it being one of his species’ most well-known abilities, and he was at least glad that it didn’t hurt as much as he had always assumed. The unexpected experience was, however, still mildly traumatizing and he could only wonder how the others of his kind could stand doing that so often.

    Staring at the egg for a while, which was occasionally shifting around as Motley tried to break his way out, Roshi decided to just leave it there and run back to the others. He wasn’t sure how long that egg shell would hold out, but he was confident that they wouldn’t have to deal with Motley Bossblob again until after this was all sorted out.

    * * *​

    Daisy was a princess. She always had been and she would remain as such until the day she took the Sarasaland throne as Queen. To most people, that indicated that she had a pampered childhood and a dainty physique. But a childhood full of self defense courses ensured that only one of those things was true. There was a reason Daisy had only ever been kidnapped once, by a literal alien invader, compared to how regular an occurrence it was for Peach. And to add to that, Daisy was still armed with her new favorite weapon, the old iron pipe she was now calling the Ghostslayer. Said pipe was now pretty beat up and bent in more places than she would like, but it would continue to serve her well until she had a chance to return home, where she would ensure that the old pipe would be placed in an ornate display case and she would commission her royal blacksmith to make a Ghostslayer II.

    Opposite the princess were two of the Koopalings: Wendy O., the only girl of the group, and Lemmy, the smallest. Lemmy was rolling around on a big yellow ball, while Wendy twirled around a pair of large gold rings. This was going to be fun.

    Wendy tossed one of the rings at Daisy as hard as she could. Daisy hit the ring out of the air like it was a baseball, managing to smack Lemmy straight in the face with it, knocking him off his ball. In turn, the ball was launched straight at Wendy, knocking her off her feet.

    “Ow, hey!” Wendy yelled as she stood back up. “That was, like, so not fair.”

    “Oh, wow, I can see colors,” Lemmy declared as he sat up. Daisy thought for a moment that the hit had sent him crosseyed, but then she remembered that he was always like that. “Wait, that’s normal. Ooh, it’s a haunted hat!”

    “Gimme that!” Wendy grabbed the Ghostslayer and yanked it out of Daisy’s hands while she was distracted by Lemmy’s non-sequitur.

    “Hey, give that back!” Daisy yelled at the koopa girl.

    “No!”

    Wendy tossed the old iron tube off to the side and Daisy reached out her arm as if to grab it despite the fact that it was well out of her reach. To her surprise, it worked. A large spectral arm shot out from her hand and grasped the Ghostslayer. It steamed a bit as it made contact with the iron, before retreating back into her arm as quickly as it had appeared.

    “What?” Daisy stared at her hand blankly. “How did I… What?”

    “Haunted hat! Haunted hat!” Lemmy clapped excitedly, jumping around on his ball again.

    “What’s going on?” Wendy fell flat on her rear, eyes focused just above Daisy’s head. “Your crown, like, has a face.”

    “Huh?” Daisy instinctively looked up, even though she couldn’t actually see her crown while she was wearing it.

    “Oh, that’s just me.” Roger emerged from the crown, his flowers sticking out of his ghostly head like normal. “To be honest, I have no idea how you did that, either. But you're welcome anyway.”

    “Wait, does that mean I have ghost powers now?” Daisy asked as Roger retreated back into the crown, and her face spread into a massive grin. “Man, this day just keeps getting better and better!”

    Holding up her free hand, Daisy wiggled her fingers around as a test, trying to will the ghost hand out. A translucent, blue-tinted hand with long, pointed fingers emerged around her own and seemed to match her movements exactly. Daisy thrust her fist out and, sure enough, the ghost arm stretched out from it, punching Wendy in the face and bowling her over.

    “Cool.” Daisy laughed. “I’m going to have fun with this.”

    “You should see if you can do my fire breath,” Roger suggested.

    Daisy inhaled deeply while thinking about how to do the fire trick. Her lungs suddenly grew icy cold and burned like crazy. She blew the air back out as quickly as she could and a ball of blue flames shot out with it, nearly hitting Lemmy who managed to jump over the freezing ghost fire.

    "Ow, my lungs," Daisy rasped. "Not doing that again… I feel kind of numb."

    "Well, it was worth a try," Roger said. "In retrospect, I suppose that it makes sense that your mortal body wouldn't be able to handle generating soul fire very well. But now we know, and knowing is half the battle."

    “What’s the other half?” Lemmy asked.

    “Violence!” Daisy backhanded Lemmy’s ball with her outstretched ghost arm, her strength beginning to return, and Lemmy face-planted into the floor. “Behold, I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds and Wrecker of your Stuff!”

    * * *​

    Iggy and Larry pounced at their target in unison, slashing with their claws. Surely a young boy like Joey would go down easily, especially since he wasn’t even armed. They quickly regretted their decision as they crashed into an invisible wall.

    “Hah, you’re going to have to try better than that.” Joey lowered his hands as he deactivated his father’s Field Knuckle. The armor may not have looked like much, resembling little more than plain green clothes, and yet it had the strength and durability of any metal armor. Even when not activated, it could still protect even his exposed arms and head. “Nothing can get past my Field Wall barriers.”

    “Oh, cool!” Larry proclaimed excitedly.

    “Interesting, so I assume that the energy is produced from that generator mounted on your back, then carried along the yellow straps running down your arms and emitted from the metal caps on your gloves?” Iggy inquired, scratching his chin.

    “Oh, yeah…” Joey wasn’t used to his opponents taking such an interest in how the Field Knuckle worked. Usually they only cared about how they could get past it. “Something like that. It can also create magnetic fields and recently I’ve been experimenting with other kinds of energy.”

    “Neat.” Larry nodded. “Can you do any tricks with it?”

    “Um, yeah, I guess I’ve picked up a few neat moves.” Joey said sheepishly.

    “I’m also curious to see what you can do,” Iggy said.

    “Well, there’s this one I’ve been working on but I haven’t quite worked out how to do it properly yet. You see, there’s this one bounty hunter I’ve met, though I think he’s better known as a racer… Anyway he can control fire somehow and uses that when fighting bad guys. I’m not sure how he does it but I’ve worked out how to make Field Walls out of the superheated energy that Samus and Armstrong use for their Plasma Beams, and if I construct the Plasma Fields around my fist in a certain way, then… Falcon!” Joey drew his fist back as it erupted in flames. “Punch!”

    The Plasma Field, as he called it, exploded around Joey’s fist as he struck the air with a dramatic punch. Larry and Iggy both clapped at the impromptu pyrotechnic display.

    “Oh, man, that was soooooooo cool!” Larry cheered.

    “Not really.” Joey scratched the back of his head uncomfortably. “Oh, you should see the Captain do it. He actually manages to form the fire into the shape of a bird with its wings spread out when he does it and it’s just so cool! But I haven’t quite been able to form my barriers into complex patterns like that yet so I can’t quite pull it off. Plus, the punch itself is so heavily telegraphed that it’s not really that useful in a fight.”

    “Show us another one!” Larry demanded excitedly.

    “Okay, okay, one more.” Joey's earlier nervousness had all but vanished. “Okay, so for this one I start out by creating two magnetic fields. A positive field around my shoes, and a negative field just off the ground. And then…”

    Joey crouched down and jumped, using the fields he described to launch himself into the air. Then, once he reached the peak of his jump, he formed a spiraling field of purple Wave Beam energy around his outstretched leg.

    “Giga Drill Kick!”

    Joey rocketed back down to the ground with enough force to make a crater in the floor. Larry and Iggy clapped even harder.

    “That one’s an armor-piercing attack,” Joey explained, dusting himself off even though the Field Knuckle ensured that his clothes didn’t actually get dirty despite the force of the strike. “Probably even my best move right now.”

    “That was awesome!” Larry raised his arms up dramatically. “You were all like ‘woosh’ and then you turned your leg into a drill and you were like ‘zoom’ and you made a huge hole in Uncle Bowser’s floor!”

    “An impressive display, indeed,” Iggy agreed. “I think I’m going to need to study just how that thing works to see if I can recreate the results. A tool like that would revolutionize… well, everything.”

    “Um, we should probably get back to the fight now,” Joey pointed out, realizing how much time they had just wasted on his showing off.

    “No thanks, I’m good,” Larry replied.

    Iggy nodded his head. “Yes, if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather sit this one out as well. It’s clear that we wouldn’t stand any chance against you in direct combat like this, so fighting would just be a waste of time and result in the two of us getting hurt when we don’t need to. Plus, it looks like the other fights are all wrapping up about now as well, so we might as well just let you go and help your friends take down the king.”

    “It’s not like we were ever really expecting to win this, anyway.” Larry shrugged. “Dark Land always loses in the end. No matter what we do, we’re never a match for Mario. Even when he’s gone, apparently.”

    “Oh, well then…” Joey wasn’t really sure how to respond to that. “Thanks, I guess. And, um… I hope things turn out better for you in the future. I think I heard Samus and Ridley coming up with a plan for what to do after the fighting. I didn’t catch any details but I know I trust Samus to come up with a solution to help everybody. Less sure about Ridley, though. Anyway, it’s been fun! I hope we meet again someday, on better terms.”

    “Yeah, it was nice meeting you!” Larry waved as Joey turned to leave.

    “Indubitably.” Iggy nodded.

    * * *​

    Samus sized up her opponents. One was a giant plant monster with sharp teeth and which was currently on fire, though the flames didn’t seem to bother it much. The scan visor identified the monster as ‘Petey Piranha’, though as the flames died down its green body turned red and the leaves and petals remained frayed, with the visor revised its identification to ‘Fiery Petey Piranha’. Other than the odd name, this felt like a standard fight for Samus. Her other opponent, on the other hand, was a turtle-like creature with a spiky green shell and a white bib with an angry mouth painted on. He was small compared to the others of its kind but still fairly big for a turtle, and was holding a comically oversized paint brush as a weapon. Not quite what she was used to but probably fairly normal for this quirky planet. The scan visor indicated that this was ‘Bowser Jr.’, King Bowser’s son.

    The fiery plant monster predictably launched a fireball at Samus, which she dodged with ease. Junior followed that up by painting on the floor with his brush, and another plant-like creature popped up from the paint, a Proto Piranha according to Samus’ visor. Samus fired at the new arrival with her Ice Beam, freezing its gaping mouth open with a large chunk of ice. Petey did a twirling jump, creating two mini-cyclones. The fire-breathing plant ignited one of the cyclones while Bowser Jr. somehow managed to electrify the other with a dash of teal and yellow paint, and the two wind funnels arced along the ground towards Samus. She was good, but not good enough, accidentally jumping right in the path of the electric twister while trying to get out of the way of the other. It didn’t do much, but it did give the Proto Piranha a chance to headbutt her in the helmet, shattering the ice propping its mouth open.

    Outnumbered, Samus considered her options. The easier solution would be to charge up a Diffusion Missile to freeze all three opponents completely, but that would also put everyone else in the room on ice as well, which was a less than stellar option given how many of her own allies were nearby. Power Bombs were also out for similar reasons.

    Before she had decided on her plan of attack, Fiery Petey Piranha sucked in a large breath of air and launched another fireball at her. Samus barely managed to dodge that one but it did give her an idea. She hit the Proto Piranha with an Ice Missile, which finished it off in a mini explosion of brown paint, then fired a warning shot at Bowser Jr. to keep him from attacking for a moment. When the fiery plant opened its mouth to prepare another projectile, Samus sprung into action by curling up into her Morph Ball form and jumping so that she was sucked in with the air. She then started laying bombs in Petey Piranha’s mouth that started going off before it had a chance to fire its attack. Petey spit Samus back out as the last of her bombs went off, before collapsing in a heap. That just left Bowser Jr. as her last opponent standing.

    “So, you must be some kind of prince or something, right?” Samus decided that this was the right time for some banter. “I don’t recall if I’ve killed one of those before, so this will be a first.”

    “Wait, killed? No!” Bowser Jr. immediately started to panic. “No, please don’t hurt me!”

    “Relax, kid, it was just a joke,” Samus immediately backpedaled. “No one’s killing anyone today. But since you obviously don’t want to get hurt, and I don’t like the idea of beating up a child, why don’t you just stand down?”

    Junior took a deep breath and slapped his cheeks a couple times before responding. “No, I can’t do that. As the prince of Darkland, it’s my duty to defend our country against our enemies. I-I can’t just l-let you go and hurt my daddy!”

    “Hm, I like you,” Samus nodded. “Your knees are shaking and you’re starting to stutter, but you’re still standing up to me. Good, you might actually make a reasonable leader one day. But I’m afraid that won’t be today.”

    Samus fired the charged Ice Beam she had been building up during their brief conversation. Bowser Jr. tried to deflect it with his paintbrush but the blast passed right through it and froze the young prince solid, right where he stood. Fortunately for him, the Ice Beam used a specialized form of freezing technology meant for cryostasis, meaning that he wasn’t killed on the spot as being flash frozen like that would normally do. Samus had no idea how that actually worked but she did know that he would be fine after a few hours. Probably still quite chilly, though. Especially if he was cold blooded like his reptilian features implied. But it wouldn’t be anything that a night under a thick stack of blankets or a large sunlamp couldn’t fix.

    “Alright, who’s next?” Samus looked around the room to check on how the rest of her allies were doing, just in time to see Ridley run out through the hole in the wall. Everyone else seemed to be wrapping up their fights or were out of sight, so she decided to follow him out into what would soon prove to be the final battle of this strange adventure they had been dragged into.
    At last, we have reached the beginning of the end of the beginning! And once again I've broken the record for longest chapter that I've written so far. I've been waiting years to finally get this this part of the story and now we're finally at the final "World" of this adventure. Only a couple chapters left now. This chapter's mostly just a series of back-to-back fight scenes, which I'm not particularly fond of writing, but I still had some fun with this. I also tried to fit in some background for some of the less-developed characters who I didn't explore as much as I should have earlier in the story.
     
  11. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
    (Bunnelby)
    Level 16
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    Luigi ducked seconds before a clawed hand tore through the wall just below where his head had been. Bowser certainly wasn't playing around this time, much to the plumber's dismay. He could really go for a power-up right around then but was going to have to make do on his own.

    "Stop running!" Bowser shouted angrily as Luigi ducked behind a statue.

    "N-no!" Luigi struggled to keep his knees from shaking before rolling out of the way as a ball of fire struck his cover.

    "I have had it up to here with you pesky brothers!"

    Bowser retreated into his shell and spun rapidly before launching himself in Luigi's direction. He wasn't able to get out of the way in time and was sent flying out a window. Fortunately, he landed on the roof of a lower level and managed to clamber away. Dark Land's king broke through the wall and stormed after him.

    "I have tried everything!" Bowser took another swipe with his sharp claws, which Luigi barely managed to dodge. "I have sent all of the forces available on this planet and beyond, time and time again, but you two always manage to win! And now that I've finally managed to get the older brother out of the picture, you still manage to stand in my way!”

    Luigi managed to climb the roof to a higher level but Bowser continued his pursuit.

    "You've always been a spineless coward, Lloyd!" Hate burned behind the turtle's eyes. "I thought you would just roll over and play dead once you no longer had your brother to stand behind, but no! You just have to keep playing hero and build yourself a new group of friends to stand behind. Why can't you people just let me win, for once in my life? Don't I deserve to be happy once in a while?"

    "Perhaps." A now-familiar figure swooped up behind them as Ridley managed to catch up. "If a monster like me is allowed a second lease on life, then it stands to reason that everyone does."

    "Then you understand!" Bowser turned to the purple space dragon pleadingly. "Just let me have the win this time!"

    "I'm afraid that I can't do that," Ridley replied as he ascended further overhead. "You see, a thing I've learned recently is that being happy isn't always tied to getting what you want, and getting what you want can often mean taking away other people's happiness."

    Ridley dive-bombed Bowser, who was sent sliding along the sloped rooftop.

    "I think the real goal here," Ridley continued as Bowser rose back to his feet, "is to find a solution that works for everyone. And unfortunately, I don't see that happening as long as you're still fighting."

    "Fine then!" Bowser bellowed a wave of fire at Ridley, who blocked the flames with his wings as he landed. "I'll just have to take you down!"

    Bowser tried to charge but a blast of icy energy stopped him in his tracks. Samus hopped up onto the roof a moment later.

    "What, you guys aren't done yet?" She remarked.

    "Barely started," Ridley replied. “You should know better than anyone how stubborn a dragon can be.”

    “Frakin’ right I do.” Samus fired another shot, this one aimed just beneath Bowser’s feet, causing the king to slip around the now slick surface before finally falling over onto his back. “I’d say that we can do this the easy way or the hard way, but we all know that there isn’t an easy way.”

    “You can all go-” Bowser couldn’t even finish his sentence before he was thrown skyward as a plucky young boy in green crashed through the ceiling beneath him with an uppercut.

    “Did we miss anything?” Joey landed beside the hole he had just made, followed shortly after by Armstrong jumping onto the roof behind him.

    Bowser’s descent was suddenly halted before he could crash into the castle again, as he suddenly found himself being suspended in midair. Rosalina flew up beside him, levitating Daisy and Roshi onto the roof beside the others. With a flick of her wand, Bowser was then launched sideways into a tower wall.

    Luigi looked around in a daze, taking a moment to process what had just happened. He used the back of his gloved hand to wipe away a sudden tear. “Thank you. I-a don’t think that I-a could have done this alone.”

    “No problem, Green.” Ridley smiled back at him sincerely. It was an odd look for the space dragon.

    Princess Daisy rushed over to her fiance and practically tackled him into a bearhug. “I’ll always be here for you, Sweetie!”

    Luigi blushed and returned the embrace before pulling her away. He could see Bowser crawling out of the rubble, smoke flaring from the corners of his mouth. “It-a looks like we’re-a going to have to finish this a-once and for all.”

    “Yes.” Ridley nodded. “But the question is how we’re going to finish this. I know what I want to do but you’re the leader here and I think I can speak for everyone here when I say that we’re following your lead on this.”

    “M-me?” Luigi stammered. “But I’m just-”

    “The hero of the Mushroom Kingdom,” Rosalina cut him off before Luigi could put himself down. “I agree with Ridley. If anyone should be in charge here, it should be you.”

    Luigi stared at them all in nervous confusion, before finally shaking his head and looking up. “I don’t agree with you but it-a looks like I’ve been outvoted. Fine.”

    Luigi adjusted his cap and marched towards where a fuming Bowser was crawling towards him. His knees were shaking and it was all that he could do to keep his teeth from clattering, but Luigi knew that his friends were there for him if anything happened. And so, the plumber steeled his resolve.

    “It’s-a time to end this, once and for all, Bowser!” Luigi shouted to his brother’s old foe. “Please, just-a surrender. We can-a still end this peacefully.”

    “No,” Bowser growled as backed up to the edge of the roof, “I’ve come too far for that! Maybe there was a time when I could have accepted this loss but I’ve come too far for that now. I’ve lost too much. Darkland has lost too much. If I’m going out, then it’s going to be on my terms!”

    Bowser pulled a vile of putrid black liquid out from his shell and downed the contents before raising his arms as if he were about to strike, only to fall backward off the ledge instead. Luigi cried out in horror and dashed forward, the others behind him. This wasn’t what he had meant. Bowser may have been his enemy but this isn’t how he wanted things to go. Luigi nearly fell off the roof himself as he slid to a stop and gazed down where Bowser had fallen. He hoped that there was another ledge just below or that Bowser’s flying Clown Car was waiting there for him but there was nothing there but a straight drop to the ground many stories below.

    Luigi couldn’t help but start to cry. Things weren’t supposed to go like this. In one fell swoop it felt like they’d come to the worst possible way that this could have ended.

    “I sense magic,” Rosalina spoke up suddenly. “Powerful magic, we need to get out of here, now!”

    It was too late, as the entire castle and the surrounding area began to quake violently. Luigi backed away from the edge quickly as everyone braced themselves for whatever was going on. It didn’t take long to find out as a colossal form emerged in front of them, growing and expanding at an alarming rate. A roar of sickening cracks and crunching, as well as actual roaring, echoed throughout Darkland as Bowser transformed. If you could even still refer to the monster before them as Bowser.

    The thing that had been Bowser glowered down at them with empty, glowing eyes that were devoid of all emotion safe for pure, unadulterated fury. All of the colors of his body drained and darkened to ash save for his hair and spikes which seemed to glow red-hot and let off steam as trickles of rain started to fall from the sky. It almost resembled the form that Mario had described from his adventure in Lake Lapcat, save for the fact that Bowser’s body itself was contorting and becoming even more monstrous by the second as his snout elongated, his horns grew and twisted up, and the plates of his shell cracked and shifted into even more spikes. Flames spewed forth from his mouth, nose and even from under his shell. For some reason, the name Giga Fury Bowser sprang into Luigi’s mind and he was going to need a new set of overalls after this. Assuming that he even survived the encounter at all.

    Giga Fury Bowser roared in time to a crack of thunder as the storm settled around them. The beast practically vomited a spew of flames down onto them. Luigi was too stunned to react but thankfully Ridley was able to grab him in one arm and Daisy in the other before snatching up Roshi with his taloned feet and flying high into the air. Luigi was barely aware of the others dodging out of the way as well. All that he could think was that the situation seemed utterly hopeless.

    “I know that I just gave that whole speech about how you were the leader and all that, but I think that it’s safe to say that things have escalated outside of what you can deal with,” Ridley said nervously. “Do you mind if I set you two down somewhere safe so that you can leave this up to the heavy hitters?”

    “N-not at all,” Luigi stammered back.

    “Hey, I’m a heavy hitter!” Daisy protested. “I’ve got ghost powers now and everything!”

    “Do you really think we can fight that thing?” Roger asked from inside her crown.

    “Um, no…” Daisy admitted.

    “Right, how about that tower over there?” Ridley pointed with his tail to a spire at the other end of Bowser’s Castle. “That seems far enough that you can probably avoid the worst of whatever’s about to happen.”

    Ridley flew to the tower, though his course was erratic as he had to dodge out of the way of numerous blasts of fire from the beast. Luigi had to struggle not to throw up on the love of his life but thankfully managed to hold it in long enough for Ridley to shove them both through an open window. Daisy rubbed his back as couldn’t hold it in anymore.

    “Okay, try to stay safe!” Ridley leaped off the outer wall and glided back over to the fight, leaving Luigi and Daisy alone.

    Luigi watched the battle unfold from the window, Daisy standing beside him with her hand on his shoulder. Part of him wanted to fight alongside the others but his clattering knees reminded him that he wouldn't be any help. He silently chastised himself for being such a coward and knew that he needed to find a way to improve once this was all over.

    “Hey, uh, guys?” Roshi spoke up quietly, and Luigi turned to the yellow Yoshi. His eyes widened as saw what Roshi was looking at. “I think we might be in an armory or something.”

    * * *

    Samus hopped onto the top of her gunship as ADAM flew by, charging up a diffusion missile. It had been a while since she’d fought an opponent this big but she did have experience defeating these kinds of colossal monsters. Fortunately, most of her current equipment load out was ice-themed, which in her experience was usually effective against fiery enemies like Bowser clearly was. Still, she found herself wishing that she had more of her old weapons and upgrades back. There was nothing more annoying than losing all of her gear at the start of a mission, which happened far more often than she would like to admit.

    She fired off the flash-freezing explosive at Giga Fury Bowser’s shoulder and a wave of ice spread along his skin. The ice sheet was barely enough to slow him down, however, as the fiery behemoth was able to break it off almost effortlessly. Normally this would be about the part of the fight where the giant monster revealed its very obvious weak point that they always seemed to have but she wasn’t spotting anything. She was starting to wonder if she would have to let herself get eaten so that she could detonate a Power Bomb in Bowser’s stomach. She always hated that strategy but sometimes it was the best option. The insides were generally much more vulnerable, after all.

    ADAM dove to avoid a giant fireball and Samus jumped over it, using her Space Jump and Screw Attack abilities to cartwheel through the air like a sparkling ball of death. She took the next blast head-on but to her surprise, it was strong enough to knock her out of the sky, though thankfully the energy discharge was at least strong enough to shield her from harm. She found herself being caught out of the air by Ridley, who set her down on the castle roof.

    “Thanks for the assist.” Samus nodded and gave Ridley a thumbs-down with her left hand, before realizing that he wouldn’t get the reference. “It feels weird saying that to you.”

    “I’m sure it’s just as weird as it is for me to hear it from you.” Ridley returned the gesture curiously, not knowing enough about humanoid cultures to understand its traditional meaning. “Any ideas on how to take this guy down? I’m not used to fighting opponents bigger than myself.”

    “What, you and Kraid never got into fights?” Samus asked teasingly.

    “Of course we did, all the time,” Ridley replied wistfully. “Looking back on it, I suppose we were kind of like brothers. Closest thing to family I ever had, anyway. I actually kind of miss the old lug, now.”

    “Well, considering how much you’ve been able to live through, I’m sure that he’s still stomping around somewhere, too.”

    “I wish I could share your confidence, but I’m afraid that isn’t true.” Ridley shook his hid and for a moment Samus found swear she saw a tear trickle down one of his cheeks. “I’m afraid Kraid didn’t make it off of Zebes in time and his species doesn’t have the regenerative abilities that I do. Junior did manage to make it out alive, though, but I’m not sure where he is now. Haven’t seen him in a while.”

    “Junior?” Samus asked, not sure who he was referring to.

    “Kraid’s son,” Ridley clarified, to Samus’s confusion. “Technically he was also just named Kraid, as their species pass down their names from parent to child, but I always called him Junior. You fought him back on Zebes last time.”

    “Wait,” Samus held up her hand as she processed that information. “You’re telling me that smaller Kraid I fought before the big one was big Kraid’s son?”

    “Yes.” Ridley nodded. “What did you think he was?”

    “I don’t know, I never really thought about it,” Samus admitted.

    “Excuse me, we’re in the middle of a fight here!” Rosalina shouted at them, swooping down overhead and launching a barrage of star-like projectiles at Bowser.

    “Hey, Space Witch!” Ridley called back to her. “Got any idea on how to take this guy down? Just hitting him with everything we’ve got doesn’t seem to be doing anything.”

    “I’m afraid that I don’t.” Rosalina shook her head. “Normally an enemy this big would have shown off its weakness by now.”

    “I know, right?” Samus nodded. “Why do they do that, anyway? Like, a big boss monster will be completely immune to your attacks except they keep stopping to show off the one point they’re vulnerable. It’s almost like they’re asking to be defeated.”

    “It varies,” Ridley replied. “Sometimes it’s sheer idiocy but usually it isn’t something that they have control over. Perhaps they need to expose the point where they happen to be vulnerable in order to cool down after a powerful attack, or could be a reflexive response that forces them to reveal themselves. It’s really up to the individual species. Hm, perhaps if we could try getting him to use his fire breath for a prolonged period, he may need to stop to vent smoke or something?”

    “Incoming!”

    Samus had to blink a few times to make sure that what she was seeing was real as she looked up to see who had just called out. To her surprise and amazement, that chubby yellow theropod who she vaguely remembered was named Roshi was flying through the air above them with a pair of feathery white wings that he definitely didn’t have before. Luigi and Daisy were both riding on his back, though the mustachioed man was now wearing a light blue version of his previous outfit with green overalls, and the princess was now wearing a bulky orange cat costume of all things. And, as if things couldn’t get weirder, Luigi started launching snowballs from his hands at Bowser that seemed to have similar properties to her Ice Beam.

    “You guys were supposed to wait where it was safe!” Ridley started chewing the new arrivals out as Roshi landed beside them, Luig and Daisy climbing off his back. “Wait, where’d you get the powerups?”

    “That tower you dropped us off in was full of them,” Luigi said, holding up a large sack. “We should have an easier time fighting them with these!”

    “Good work, Luigi,” Rosalina floated closer and reached her hand into the sack, pulling out a red and yellow flower that seemed to have a pair of beady black eyes for some reason. Samus barely had time to register that, however, before the flower blinked out of existence and suddenly Rosalina’s dress had turned red while her hair had been pulled back into a ponytail.

    The cosmic sorcerer, or whatever she was, held out her free hand and a ball of fire materialized above her palm. Ridley then reached into the bag himself and pulled out a metallic version of the red hat he’d been wearing throughout this adventure and, with loud clang, that hat disappeared while Ridley’s entire body and the hat he had been wearing turned to what seemed to be steel. Samus thought that she had figured out that this world didn’t seem to operate by any form of logic or physics that she understood but was now on a whole new level of confusion.

    “Heh, now I almost feel nostalgic for when I used to be a cyborg for awhile,” Ridley chuckled, his voice distorted and echoey thanks to the apparent transformation. “Or that robot version of me that I built to guard my room. I should have rebuilt that thing after you destroyed it back during the first Zebes massacre. I always liked that old thing.”

    “I think that I need to stop trying to understand the things that happen here,” Samus shook her head and rested her left hand on her visor. “So, we just grab an item from there and get superpowers?”

    “Pretty much.” Daisy smiled at her, and Samus realized that the princess was resting on all fours as if she was actually a cat.

    Samus sighed and reached into the bag, pulling out a grey leaf that seemed to be made out of stone. She held her breath as the transformation took place, hoping that it wouldn’t be something silly. To her exasperation, she found that her Power Suit was suddenly gone, replaced entirely with a furry brown outfit that was far too bulky around the hips for her liking, with animal ears sticking out a hood, a bushy striped tail jutting out from just above her rear and a blue bandana around her neck that was the only part of this she liked.

    “I regret everything.” Samus buried her face in her hands, her face turning as red as her helmet usually was. “Please just kill me now.”

    “That’s the Tanooki form,” Luigi explained. “You can whack things with your tail or wave it around while you’re in the air to slow your fall, or even fly by spinning it around quickly after taking a running leap. You should also be able to turn yourself into a statue but I’m not really sure how to explain how to do it.”

    “I’m sure I’ll figure it out,” Samus moped.

    “Also, keep in mind that you’ll lose the power-up if you get hit,” Rosalina added helpfully. “But on the other hand, you can also survive almost anything before you lose it. You can think of it as a one-time shield that works with any power-up.”

    “Let’s get everyone else powered up,” Ridley said. “Hopefully we should stand more of a chance now.”

    * * *

    Joey found himself looking down on the battle raging on below and he couldn’t have been more excited because he. Was. FLYING! He did a backflip through the air just because he could, the bright yellow cape now hanging from his shoulders swishing around in the wind. The movement caught Giga Fury Bowser’s attention and the infernal behemoth turned its gaze up toward him, flame building up in his shadowy jaws. That was fine, though. Distracting Bowser was what Joey was supposed to be doing, anyway.

    “Hey, lizard brain!” Joey called down at the monster. “Betcha can’t hit me!”

    Giga Fury Bowser launched a jet of fire at the boy, who dove straight into the blast, punching his way through the fire as if it were nothing. Though he really didn’t need to as it was his Field Knuckle’s barrier was doing all the work. He was effectively invincible as long as he didn’t drop his guard, with the side effect of not even having to worry about losing the effects of the Cape Feather he had used since no attacks could touch him to rob him of the power-up.

    Meanwhile, down below, everyone else was getting into positions to surround Bowser and attack him from all sides. Armstrong, wearing a black-shelled outfit started pelting sledgehammers at his knees, while Luigi threw ice balls at Bowser’s left side from Roshi’s back and Rosalina threw fire at his right. Ridley was climbing up the back of his shell with Daisy’s assistance, his metal body being to heavy to fly. Bowser let out a cry of pure, unadulterated rage and started to turn to attack Luig and Roshi but was cut off by a missile strike from ADAM, redirecting the ashen turtle-dragon’s focus. Giga Fury Bowser launched a ball of intense fire from his mouth at the gunship but it never reached its target as Joey swooped in and, with a Field Knuckle-boosted flick of his tail, sent the humungous fireball flying right back at Bowser. The primal beast grunted loudly as the flames lapped against his underbelly and let out another deafening roar. His whole body began to glow even hotter as if charging up for some kind of finishing move. Whatever it was, however, Joey and the others would never find out as Metal Ridley got into position atop Giga Fury Bowser’s head. It was time to finish this fight.

    Ridley hopped up and was caught by Cat Daisy, who through him as high as she could with her enhanced strength and new ghost arm trick, launching the steel dragon high into the air while Roshi fly up to meet him. The yellow dinosaur stuck his frog-like tongue out to catch Ridley as his assent reached its peak and hurled him even higher where Rosalina caught up with him and, with a twirl of her wand, sent him even higher still. During this, Joey flew up as high as he could as well, meeting Ridley at the apex of his aerial climb sof far up that the people still near ground level seemed like bugs to the boy. Bowser turned his head up to face them, white flames billowing wildly from his mouth. With a nod of confirmation from Ridley, Joey grabbed him and swung around, throwing him back down with all the power that his Field Knuckle could provide him with, turning the ex-space pirate into a massive, living flechette.

    Ridley’s decades of aerial combat experience served him well as he dove with more power than he ever could have had on his own, quickly breaking the sound barrier on his way down and continuing to speed up as he fell before finally striking Bowser in the dead center of his muzzle, sending the overgrown turtle slamming down into the paved ground, kicking up a veritable eruption of dirt, dust and smoke that completely obscured everything down below save for the silhouette of Bowser’s might form illuminated by his fiery glow but even that quickly began to fade. Joey smiled as he made his own descent, confident that they had won.

    * * *

    King Bowser slowly stirred, the headache to end all headaches telling him that he had lost, though the details of the battle were barely a haze in his memory. Clearly, the potion that his magikoopas had cooked up with the aid of Junior’s magic paint had failed. With a groan, Bowser slowly opened his eyes to find Ridley, Lucio and the others standing before him. It was all over for him.

    “Ah, finally back with us?” Ridley tilted his head playfully, to Bowser’s annoyance. “Ready to admit defeat?”

    “Not as long as I’m still breathing,” Bowser grumbled, slowly climbing back onto his feet despite every muscle in his body telling him not to move. He knew there was nothing more than he could do but even then he felt he had no choice but to go out fighting. He was many things, but he would not be remembered as a coward.

    “Very well, then.” Ridley shrugged and shoved Bowser onto his back, rendering the spiky turtle even more defenseless. “I guess I’ll just have to finish you off, then. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to end a life. I might even enjoy this.”

    The smiling alien pressed a foot down on Bowser’s chest to hold him down, an unnecessary effort at this point as the koopa king couldn’t move even if he wanted to at this point, and lowered the pointed tip of his spear-like tail over Bowser’s throat. Bowser glanced at the others, who all seemed nervous or looked away. Of course, Bowser had caused far too much chaos, incited far too much chaos and destruction, to warrant any sympathy or help from his enemies.

    In the end, he could only wonder what it had all been for. He was supposed to be Dark Land’s King, to bring his country and his people to prosperity and ensure their safety. But in the end, he had only ever acted towards his own selfish and foolish interests. He could see now, in the moment of his end, that he had been a failure and a disgrace. He found himself being filled with regrets, not the least of which was that he would never get the chance to see his son grow into a man.

    Bowser closed his eyes as Ridley’s tail drew closer to his neck, preparing for what was about to happen. But his death never came. To his surprise, he felt the weight on his chest lifted and Bowser opened his eyes again to see Ridley turn back to the others.

    “Really? No one was going to stop me?” Ridley shook his head, looking down. “I’m disappointed in all of you. I shouldn’t be the one to have to point out that this is wrong.”

    “Y-you’re right,” Liam stammered, pulling off his hat, which was an icy blue instead of the usual green, and wringing it tightly in his hands. “I just… No, you’re-a right. This-a can’t end that way. It’s-a not what-a Mario would have wanted. It’s not what I-a want.”

    “Are we sure about that?” Rosalina flexed her fingers and a small fireball sparked into existance above her hand. “Given everything that’s happened by this point, we should know by now that leaving Bowser alive will only lead to more problems in the future. We’ve already lost Mario, who knows who could be next? Perhaps we should…”

    “No!” The Sarasaland princess shouted angrily, which looked somewhat comical as she was standing on all fours in a fuzzy cat costume. “We can’t just kill him! We’re supposed to be the good guys!”

    “But if you’re not going to kill him, what are you going to do?” a blonde woman in a Tanooki Suit asked, and it took a moment for Bowser to recognize her as the bounty hunter, Samus Aran.

    An argument broke out but Bowser was too tired to listen. He was too tired for any of this. Eventually, he just sighed and tried to sit up.

    “Just finish me off,” he grumbled, finding that he didn’t have the energy to keep up his defiant facade. “What good am I, anyway?”

    “No, Bowser, I’m afraid that you’re not going to die tonight.” Ridley smiled as he crouched down to eye level with the defeated king. “You’re going to dine.”

    “What?” Bowser asked flatly, as most of the assembled group had similar reactions to the ex-pirate’s unexpected statement.

    “This is a palace, isn’t it?” Ridley asked, standing up straight again. “Certainly you’ve got a grand mess hall here, assuming that it wasn’t destroyed in the battle. This place is kind of a wreck right now… Anyway, you’re going to tell your staff to make a feast. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just big enough for everyone. Then, you’re going to let the princess you have captured go free and gather whatever advisors you want with you and we’re all going to discuss things over food. Talk things out like ration beings so that we can figure out just why things have gotten so bad on this relatively peaceful planet and sort out what we’re all going to change moving forward. Politics may not be my strong suit but I do know my way around a negotiation. No one leaves until we’ve come to an arrangement that suits all parties involved as fairly as possible. The Hunter and I should be able to preside as neutral parties.”

    “What?” That… was not at all what Bowser had been expecting and he wasn’t even sure how to process what he had just heard, instead just staring blankly at the purple space dragon as if it had just grown a second head. Actually, that would have been far less surprising to Bowser at the moment.

    “Are… are you joking?” Rosalina asked, looking just as confused as Bowser felt.

    “Nope, not this time.” Ridley shook his head. “I know it probably seems weird, coming from the former mass-murdering pirate captain but I’m a different being than when I arrived on this planet, with a new way of looking at things, and this just seems right. Besides, I’m hungry. Anyone else?”

    “I know this probably seems strange, but Ridley and I discussed it on the way here and this does seem like the best course of action right now,” Samus added. “This planet is a lot more peaceful than the ones we’re used to seeing and we think we should do what we can to keep it that way. Also, how do I get out of this ridiculous outfit?”
    I can’t believe that we’re finally here, after all these years: the penultimate chapter of this crazy story! It’s been a really fun ride, even if I kept letting my writing fall to the wayside for months at a time. But, I’m trying to keep to a more consistent update schedule moving forward, so hopefully you won’t have to wait too long for the finale. It’s fun how I’ve ended up changing a lot of the details of this story along the way and yet it all still leads up to the same ending that I’ve always had planned: Metal Ridley beating up Bowser (though originally he was just going to be in his normal form for the fight, then just Giga Bowser from Smash Bros, before finally combining that form with Fury Bowser when I realized that I needed him to be a physical match for the entire team of heroes) then having him force everyone into a room together so that they can talk things out like adults in order to plan a new, bright future for everyone. Of course, there’s still a lot of bad blood going around and motivations to be explored, so hopefully my wrap-up next chapter won’t be too boring. But this chapter was, for all intents and purposes, the big finale. So, I hope you liked it and that you’ve liked the story as a whole so far.
     
  12. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
    (Bunnelby)
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    Princess Peach Toadstool was tired of what her life had become. It was almost a bit fun at first, if terrifying, when she had been whisked away from her home by the vile King Bowser and had to be rescued by the unlikeliest of heroes, a humble plumber named Mario and his well-meaning but cowardly younger brother Luigi. And then she had been returned safely to her kingdom to resume her reign and had assumed that chapter of her life was behind her. But then it happened again… and again… and again… She had quickly lost track of how often it happened. Sometimes it felt like she spent more time in Bowser’s various castles than her own. She even knew half the guard by name at this point. Honestly, she didn’t even think Bowser was all that bad when he wasn’t being a total jerkface. If he had ever actually bothered to just ask her out properly instead of jumping straight to kidnapping (well, technically it was obduction because she was an adult but she didn’t care that much and nobody else seemed to, either) then she might have even considered it at some point. Probably not now, though. It had just been too long.

    Still, at least the details of these adventures usually changed just enough to keep things at least somewhat interesting. Take her last kidnapping for example, when a bunch of freaky lobster men broke into the castle before Mario could rescue her and stuffed her in a sack so that they could ransom her back to her people. She had actually been willing to pay the red crustaceans almost twice as much gold as they had been asking for just for the sheer novelty of it. Unfortunately, she hadn’t even had a full day to recover from that escapade before getting kidnapped again for the bijillionth time. She hadn’t had a chance to see Mario, either, which was concerning since she’d been hearing rumors from some of the gossipier guards that he had somehow died. She didn’t want to believe it and tried her hardest to hold out hope, which had apparently paid off now that the mustachioed plumber was seated nearby at the head of the crowded table where they were now being served. Although, something did seem a bit odd about him. She’d never know her kingdom’s hero to slouch like that, nor to rest his feet up on the table. There was definitely something wrong, though more strange than that was the fact that they were all seated together in the first place.

    Mario was sitting at the head of Bowser’s dining room table, one where the princess had been forced to spend many surprisingly delicious dinners with the koopa king, while Peach had been shown to the chair to his left. Princess Daisy was seated next to her, followed by Luigi, Daisy, a large yellow yoshi who she didn’t think she had met before, Rosalina, a man in an armored blue spacesuit, what appeared to be some sort of hamster-like creature sitting on a floating disc, and a blue-haired boy in a green jumpsuit. On the other side of the table were Bowser, his son, the two old Magikoopas that served him and several of the koopalings, while a tall blonde woman in a tanooki suit sat at the other end of the table across from Mario.

    It was certainly a strange turn of events and Princess Peach found herself completely out of the loop about why they were all there and who some of these people even were. At least the food was good, even if that was the least of her concerns at the moment. She had been working her way through a mushroom steak with a side of mashed potatoes when the proceedings finally came to order.

    Everyone’s attention turned to Mario as he banged on the table with… actually, she couldn’t see him bang the table with anything but she could definitely hear it, and the various whispered conversations that had been filling the room suddenly died down.

    “Alright, alright, let’s bring this meeting to order.” Mario stood up and placed his hands on the edges of the table… Wait, Mario’s arms shouldn’t have been long enough for him to be able to do that. “ We should start these negotiations by making sure that we’re all on the same page. Does everyone know why we are here?”

    Princess Peach saw this as her opportunity to finally learn just what was going on and quietly raised her hand before speaking. “Um, I don’t. What’s going on, Mario?”

    Mario proceeded to stare at her blankly as if the princess had just grown a second head. Looking around, she noticed that everyone else in the room was giving her similar looks. But then Mario sighed and she turned her attention back to him.

    “Ah, right, I forgot that I’m still wearing the hat.” Mario shook his head and glanced up at the cap in question. “I still don’t know how this thing works, or why. We’re probably going to have to look into that when we get the chance. Regardless, it seems only fitting that this should be given to his last of kin. Here you go, Luigi.”

    Mario took off his hat and- Princess Peach nearly jumped out of her seat as some sort of big purple pterodactyl dragon… thing… handed the red cap off to Luigi, who accepted it somberly. Peach appeared to be even more out of the loop than she thought.

    “Now, for those who I haven’t properly introduced myself to yet, my name is Ridley.” The dragon-like creature stood up to his full height, which Peach estimated to be somewhere between Rosalina and Bowser, before giving a deep bow. “Formerly Captain Ridley of the Space Pirates and all-around heartless monster. However, coming to this planet has given me a new lease on life and allowed me to see things from an entirely new perspective. As such, I’d like to repay the favor by doing something that I’ve never done before and helping to make this world better than I found it.”

    This prompted a dark chuckle from Bowser for some reason, who then spoke up.

    “Yeah, sure you do,” he said sarcastically, though the princess had no idea why. She still didn't really understand what was going on. “And I’m sure you’d just love it if I told everyone here what you're even doing on our planet in the first place. What you’ve done…”

    “Most of the people here already know.” The alien, Ridley, nodded solemnly. “But, for the sake of transparency, we should probably get the sheegoth in the room out of the way. Would you care to explain, King Bowser?”

    Bowser laughed darkly before taking a sip of his drink. After setting his glass back down, he turned to Peach and the others, a wicked grin on his face.

    “This pirate is here because I hired him… to kill Mario… which he did.”

    It felt like the whole room was spinning. This purple dragon thing has killed Mario? That didn't make sense. Mario couldn't be dead, he was Mario. Peach looked around at the others, waiting for someone to point out that he was wrong. But no one did. She could see it on all of their faces. Mario really was gone, wasn't he?

    “It is true.” Ridley nodded. “That hat is all that is left of the man I killed, which I had taken as a trophy and intended to use to mock the people of the Mushroom Kingdom. But to my surprise, whatever magic is in that hat made it so that people mistook me for him and I ended up getting dragged into an adventure in his place. And along the way, my entire way of thinking has changed. I’d like to think that I've become a better person, even if it's far too late to make up for the sins of my past, and while I do expect to face trial for my actions, today is not that day. Also, there's now some confusion about whether or not the person I killed was actually Mario, but that's mostly irrelevant for now.”

    “What?” Bowser practically spat out his drink. “What do you mean, ‘there’s some confusion’? Did you kill Mario or not?”

    “Mario is dead,” Ridley confirmed. “And I killed someone who appeared to be him. But we had a brief meeting with the real Mario’s spirit, who confirmed that whoever I killed wasn't him because he was already dead. However, that's all we know and he had to return to the afterlife or something before he could tell us any more than that. You're probably going to want to launch an investigation into that but that's an issue for another day. Today, we’re here to talk about the future. Oh, but speaking of the future, I believe that you two have an announcement.”

    Ridley gestured to Daisy and Luigi, who both looked around nervously. Peach noticed Daisy place her hand reassuringly on Luigi’s before they stood up to address the assorted crowd.

    “Y-yes, well, you see-” Luigi stammered before Daisy suddenly half-tackled him into a hug and picked him up in her arms, which seemed to be glowing with some sort of ghostly blue aura for some reason.

    “We're getting married!”

    It seemed the day was just chock-full of surprising developments and revelations, and Peach felt like she'd already been through more than she could handle. But still, at least one was good news. She politely clapped along with everyone else as the happy couple sat down again.

    “Congratulations, we’re all very happy for you.” Ridley smiled and leaned forward over the table, his hands steepled under his chin. “Now, unless anyone else has anything that they want to bring up, I think it's time that we get to business.”

    Peach still didn't know what they were even doing there in the first place but nodded along with everyone else. Taking his cue, Ridley straightened up again and spread his wings dramatically.

    “Alright, so, as I said earlier, I am new to this planet and I'm still learning about your history and culture. But the thing that keeps coming up through our adventure so far is that there seems to be some sort of long feud between your two countries, the Mushroom Kingdom and Dark Land. It's clear that you’ve been caught up in some sort of vicious cycle that needs to end. That's why the Hunter and I have decided to gather you all here, to discuss why things are how they are and how you can move forward to a better future for you and your people.”

    Ridley motioned to the woman at the other end of the table, who was greedily guzzling a mug of what Peach hoped was just root beer.

    “Right, the name’s Samus Aran, intergalactic bounty hunter,” she said enthusiastically as she set down her mug. “We’d be here all day if I told y'all my full story, so I’ll just keep it simple. I was raised to be the ultimate warrior and champion of universal peace. I’ve made it my stock and stade to defend the universe at large from threats beyond what you could imagine. I’ve traveled to countless worlds, righting wrongs and stopping evil. I’ve seen the worst that our reality has to offer, horrors beyond what you could imagine, and I’ve tackled them head-on. I’ve been to worlds ravaged and scarred by bloody war and I can tell you that it ain't pretty. This is a nice, peaceful planet that you've got here but if y'all don't get your act together then it's not always going to stay that way.”

    “First, we need to learn more about the situation here and why things are the way they are,” Ridley said. “We're going to hear both of your stories, starting with Princess Peach. Now, Princess, how would you describe the diplomatic situation between your kingdom and Dark Land, as well as your relationship with King Bowser.”

    Princess Peach just sat there, staring blankly at everyone as she tried to process what was happening. Mario was dead and now aliens, one of whom admitted to being his would-be killer, had come to force them to… negotiate? Wait, what were they even negotiating? A ceasefire? We're they even technically at war? The more she thought about it, the more confused she was. But since everyone seemed to expect her to talk, she figured that she might as well try to sort out her feelings aloud.

    “I… don't know?” She said finally. “I just… I try to be a good princess and rule the toads fairly, but it seems like practical every week Bowser comes in with a new scheme and causes trouble. Usually, he ends up kidnapping me or something but honestly, I never know what to expect with him these days. I'm just so tired of it.”

    “So, you would say that Darkland are the aggressors in this war and that you wish for peace?” Ridley asked, and Peach nodded in confirmation. “What about you, King Bowser? What's your side of the story?”

    “What's my side of the story?” Bowser repeated angrily. “Why should I tell you?”

    “Because one way or another, this conflict is going to be resolved by the time we all leave this room,” Samus replied. “If you don't cooperate or try to defend yourself, then we’ll probably end up leaving your fate and the fate of your lands and followers, purely up to the Princess' discretion. I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like the best-case scenario for your country.”

    “Bah, what does it even matter at this point.” Bowser sighed and sat back in his chair with a disgruntled huff, and, for the first time, Peach realized just how battered and bruised he was. His horns were chipped, his shell was scuffed and there was just something about the way he was carrying himself… he just looked so defeated. “It's not like I was ever a good king, anyway. Darkland would probably be better off without me.”

    The room was quiet for a while, an oppressive silence pressing down on them. Junior ended up being the one to break it.

    “Don't say that, Dad!” The young koopa prince tugged at his father's arm. “You're the best king in the whole world!”

    “No, son, I’m not.” Bowser picked up Junior and set him down on his lap. He hesitated, as if unsure of what to say, before continuing. This was a side of the king that Peach wasn't used to seeing. “I’ve spent my entire reign just squandering our people's resources for personal gain. It's just been one failed conquest after another, and I have nothing to show for it. What have I actually done for this country other than constantly running it into the ground? …I’ve become my father…”

    Bowser sighed and looked longingly out one of the tall open windows lining the far wall. Peach could only tell that it was day because she’d spent enough time here to notice the faint light filtering through the constant cover of thick black clouds.

    “They call this place Dark Land because the sun never shines its light on us. Do you think a kingdom really would have been built here, under these conditions?” Bowser turned to Princess Peach, an earnestness in his gaze that she hadn't seen from him in a long time, as well as pain. “This land had another name when I was growing up, the Lava Kingdom. I don't have very many memories of what it was like back then since I spent most of my childhood in a remote castle out in Dinosaur Land, but I do remember the sky. It was this vivid blue, not quite the same shade that it has over in your kingdom. And the mountains were covered in lush green grass.”

    “Ah, that takes me back,” Kamek said wistfully from a few seats down. “The rivers of flowing lava would often cause the grass and trees and what have you to catch fire and burn away, but the dead plants would fertilize the soil and ensure that whatever grew in its place would grow twice as vibrant. Why, I remember this one farm the lads and I would always hang out at after charm school-”

    Bowser cleared his throat and the old magikoopa clammed up quickly.

    “Yes, it was a paradise compared to what it is now.” Bowser agreed. “But then my father, King Kerog, decided that we needed more. He set out to conquer the surrounding kingdoms and annex them into our lands, but in order to back his ambitions he required an industrialized army. Factories were built, forests were cut down… It wasn't too bad at first, but things were never enough for him. He always had to have more. Eventually, it reached the point where my older brother felt that he had to step in and put an end to it himself. He challenged Father for the throne and they met atop the highest volcano for their duel. Not even I know for sure what happened that day, but it was the day that the volcano erupted, and Dark Land was born. I never saw either of them again.”

    Peach couldn't stop herself from gasping, and many of the others reacted similarly. She had no idea, even after all of this time.

    “I had been crowned king in their absence by the end of the week.” Bowser turned to the gathered koopalings at the other end of the table. “I'm one fell swoop I was left with a broken kingdom to rebuild and seven orphaned nieces and nephews to raise as my own. I’d like to think that I did do a good job of ruling in those early years, or at least as good as I could under the circumstances, but we needed resources, the kids needed a mother and I needed a partner. I hatched a plan to solve all of those at once but I guess I must have lost track of things along the way.”

    “I didn't know any of that,” it took Peach a moment to realize that she was the one who had spoken up. “You never said anything.”

    “It wasn't exactly something that I wanted to bring up,” Bowser growled. “And… I think I’d forgotten as well.”

    “Well, I think we're getting somewhere here.” The purple alien, Ridley, sat up and glanced around the room. “So, it sounds like the Mushroom Kingdom has abundant resources but is clearly susceptible to attack, especially with their hero now gone. Meanwhile, Dark La- er, the Lava Kingdom has a pollution issue and limited resources but a strong military presence. Feudal politics may not be my specialty, but I think the solution that benefits everyone here should be obvious.”

    Peach looked to Bowser and the two locked eyes for a moment, reading each other. In that moment, the princess made her decision. The past would take time to heal and any peace they brokered here would be hard won, but if this is what it would take for a better future for both their nations, then she would gladly sign a trade negotiation-

    “I propose a political marriage.”

    Time seemed to stand still as everyone turned to Ridley in stunned silence, except for Samus who had burst out in laughter. Bowser soon followed suit. Princess Peach, for her part, had managed to turn even redder than her namesake as she suddenly took a keen interest in the glass of fruity tonic in front of her.

    “What?” Rosalina asked flatly.

    “Oh man, I can't believe you actually went through with that.” Samus doubled over, slamming her fist down on the table. “I wish I had a camera.”

    “Okay, let me explain.” Ridley held out his hands reassuringly. “You see, Luigi asked me to be the best man in his wedding before we got here but I had no idea what that meant so I spent the trip researching the topic of marriage. In my research, I learned that royals from different kingdoms often marry into each other to merge their kingdoms together. It seems to me like we could just do that here. If King Bowser and Princess Peach just get married, then you can all combine into one great big Mushlava Kingdom! Lavashroom Kingdom? Darkshroom Land!”

    “That was… priceless…” Bowser wheezed as he wiped a tear from his eye. “I haven't had a good laugh like that for a long time. So, Princess, you ready to finally say yes?”

    “I think you may need to continue your research.” Rosalina buried her face in her hands. “They may hold marriages purely out of political pragmatism in some worlds but they're generally held for love.”

    “I have heard the word but do not understand the concept,” Ridley replied flatly.

    “Maybe you should have her teach you!” Samus continued laughing.

    Princess Peach set down her now-empty glass and began to massage her aching temples while a koopa waiter swapped it out for a fresh one. There was just so much to take in, she was starting to wish the alien lobsters had taken her with them.

    “On a more serious note,” Bowser began, “I’d be fine with drafting up some trade agreement. Honestly, this is still better than anything I could have hoped for-”

    “You know what, screw it. We might as well.” Peach slammed down another empty glass, then waggled a finger back and forth between herself and Bowser. “You, me, let's get hitched. It's not like any of it even matters at this point.”

    Bowser stared back at the princess, his mouth hanging open. Everyone else seemed just as surprised by her sudden outburst.

    “Does this mean that Peach is gonna be my momma after all?” Junior asked curiously.

    “Are you… drunk?” Bowser asked at last.

    “Possibly,” Peach admitted. “I don't know what that would even feel like.”

    Rosalina waved her wand over the Princess' drink and then her head. “No, she doesn't appear to be.”

    “I just… don't really care anymore,” Princess Peach said. “I kind of always assumed that I’d end up with Mario but… if he’s gone… I don't know that I even liked him like that to begin with, but… I guess now I’ll never know… I forgot where I was going with that. Oh, right! I was going to say that we might as well give it a chance. After everything we’ve been through, we might as well, you know?”

    “Um, right…” Bowser looked at her warily. “I, uh, never thought that I’d get this far. Are you sure that you're not drunk?”

    “I'm not sure of anything, anymore!” Peach declared, standing up. “But I do want to make one thing clear going into this. I'm the queen, whatever I say, goes. You don't do anything that I don't want you to.”

    “Of course,” Bowser nodded along. “Whatever you want.”

    “Fine, then as long as that's clear, let's do this properly.” Princess Peach sighed and began to walk around the table. She snapped her fingers and quickly a hastily-made bouquet of piranha plans was handed to her, which she held out as she knelt in front of Bowser, who had just stood up from his own seat. “King Bowser of Dark Land, will you marry me?”

    “Um, shouldn't I be the one asking?” Bowser looked down at her, unsure.

    “No,” she snapped back.

    “Then, yes!” Bowser said, taking the bouquet from her. “I will marry you.”

    “Did that… did that just… did that really just happen?” Daisy wondered aloud.

    The others continued talking but Peach tuned them out. She found herself doing something that she never thought that she would ever do voluntarily and kissed Bowser. It was awkward but less unpleasant than she would have expected. She was pretty sure that this was a mistake but it was her mistake to make. For now, she was just going to try and live in the moment. After all, there was no telling what day could be her last. You never knew when bad news would come.

    * * *​

    Samus chuckled as she sat back in her chair. She was definitely glad that he had come on this trip, she’d had a lot of fun experiences on this planet. She’d also been locked away in a prison camp but she chose to focus on the positives for now. She was pulled out of her musings by a message alert from her helmet and automatically attempted to accept the call, only to end up poking herself in the ear through the furry hood of her current outfit. She really needed to get out of that stupid power-up, or whatever they called it. She had tried simply taking the costume off but had discovered that it was somehow stuck onto her. So, it seemed that she was going to have to try plan b.

    “Hey, kid, can you do me a favor?” She asked her young ward, Joey Apronika.

    “Yeah, sure. What is it?” The boy replied eagerly.

    “I need you to punch me,” Samus told him, holding her arms loosely to the side and motioning towards her center of mass.

    “What?” Joey tilted his head, looking back up at her.

    “I need to get out of this stupid fur suit so that I can take a call,” she explained. “Hit me so that I can change back to my power suit.”

    “If you say so…” Joey wound back his right fist and slugged her in the gut harder than he needed to. That boy really needed to learn his strength.

    Samus pulled herself out of the wreckage of a wall and gave Joey a thumbs down as she walked out into the hallway. Thankfully, the tanuki suit had taken the full brunt of the hit as it dissipated, and her reconstituted armor had shielded her from her sudden collision with the masonry. She noticed as she looked down at her armor that it seemed to design seemed to have changed, having grown bulkier and more mechanical-looking again. She was pleasantly surprised to realize that interacting with the power-up must have somehow kick-started her power suit’s regenerative abilities, meaning that it hopefully wouldn’t be too much longer before it was restored to its original design. Although she did note that the yellow plating had somehow turned white. She wasn’t sure what that was about but had other things on her mind as she was finally able to accept the transmission.

    Samus froze. A chill ran up her spine. That should have been impossible. She had wiped them all out, she was sure of it. But there the organism was, caught as clear as day in hi-res footage. She had to leave, now. Well, not right then. She still needed to take Joey home, plus she was Armstrong and Diesel’s ride home as well. But once they were safe, she needed to find the spacial coordinates embedded in the video file. She had never heard of planet ZDR but somehow the name alone seemed to fill her with dread.

    * * *
    Doing good, Ridley decided, felt good. He cracked his knuckles and stretched as he stood up from his chair, a content smile on his face.

    “Let's see, that's one princess saved and nobody killed along the way,” Ridley said as he walked over to where Rosalina was gazing out of a window. “I didn't end up making it by nightfall, but two out of three isn't bad.”

    “I will admit that you did a better job than I was expecting.” She sighed. “Things certainly got out of hand by the end, though.”

    “Which was in no way my fault and we made it through every challenge, anyway.” Ridley looked out at the dark morning sky. “It feels weird to help people, but I think I like it. So, what's next for you?”

    “First, I’ll be returning to the Comet Observatory to see how my kids have been doing without me,” Rosalina replied. “After that, I’m not sure. Maybe research a way to clear out these ash clouds. I also need to see if I can find any leads into Mario's death. What about you? You're a free… whatever you are, now.”

    “That depends on what you consider to be free. I may not have a powerful space witch lording her magic over me but now I have the worst jailor of them all: my own conscience.” Ridley chuckled. “I figured that I’d head back to the Mushroom Kingdom with the others and turn myself in. Whatever happens after that, happens.”

    “This has certainly been a wild ride.” Rosalina shook her head, but a thin smile crossed her lips. “I’ve lived through countless universes but this may very well be the strangest so far, thanks to you. I look forward to seeing what the future brings. It's time for me to get going. Farewell, Ridley. Give the others my regards.”

    “See you.”

    With that, Rosalina jumped out through the window and flew up into the sky. Ridley watched her leave, then turned back once she was out of sight. He was pretty sure that he had made another friend but he wasn't entirely sure where he actually stood with the witch. He didn't have time to dwell on that, however, as he spotted Samus marching up to him.

    “Somethin’s come up,” the bounty hunter said, and Ridley noted a hint of concern in her voice. “I just wanted to say that I'm glad we were finally able to bury the hatchet, more or less, and I wish you well with your new life. I will be back to check in on you, though. Make sure that you stay in line. Also, I got invited to both weddings, so there's that as well.”

    “Good luck out there, Hunter.” Ridley nodded. “Do you need help with whatever it is?”

    Samus seemed to seriously consider the offer, which gave Ridley pause. But finally, she shook her head.

    “No, too risky,” she said. “I’ve seen them assimilate your clone’s corpse, which means that they could do the same to you.”

    “Wait, what?”

    “It’d take too long to explain. I’ll tell you next time we meet.” Samus nodded curtly and turned, walking out of the room.

    Ridley, now very confused, decided to walk over to where Roshi was standing alone.

    “What's up?” He asked the yellow Yoshi.

    “Huh, oh, hi.” Roshi turned to him. “I just, uh, don't really know anyone here.”

    “Understandable.” Ridley nodded. “But you know, the only way to change that is to talk to people.”

    “I know, but…”

    “Yeah, I’ve never been much of a social skree myself,” Ridley said. “So, what are your plans after this? Going back home to that island?”

    “Huh, I hadn't thought about it.” Roshi scratched his chin in contemplation. “I never really got along all that well with the other villagers. Do you think I could move to the Mushroom Kingdom with you?”

    Ridley shrugged. “I don't know, it's not up to me. I’ve only spent one night there and I'm probably going to be spending the rest of my time in a dungeon or something. Maybe ask Luigi?”

    “Ask-a me what?” The plumber in question walked over to them as if on cue.

    “Oh, I was just wondering if I could move to the Mushroom Kingdom with you guys,” Roshi explained. “If that would be alright.”

    “Sure, a-why not?” Luigi said happily. “You can-a stay at my place for now.”

    “Isn't that house a bit small for three people?” Ridley asked. “Um, assuming you let me stay with you if I don't get arrested.”

    “It’ll be fine,” Luigi assured him. “Besides, I’m-a thinking about cleaning out-a my other place now that I'm getting married.”

    “You have another home?” Ridley asked quizzically.

    “I-a won a mansion in a contest a while back, on top of a hill on-a the outskirts of town,” Luigi explained. “Well, sort of. It-a turned out to-a be part of a scheme by King Boo, but I-a still have the mansion and I think I-a cleared all the ghosts out. I-a could use a hand clearing it out, though, if you-a wouldn't mind.”

    “If I’m available.” Ridley nodded.

    “I guess,” Roshi said nervously. “You did say that you got the ghosts out, right?”

    “Pretty sure. At-a least most of them, anyway.” Luigi confirmed. “But if I-a missed any, then we can-a call the professor for help.”

    * * *​

    Ridley’s trial was held the next day, in the throne room of Peach’s castle. A few citizens had come to watch the proceedings but it was still mostly empty. Most residents of the Mushroom Kingdom were too preoccupied with the royal wedding announcement to pay attention to some random alien getting arrested. His friends were there to support him, though, which was all that mattered to Ridley.

    “I find the defendant guilty,” Princess Peach proclaimed from atop her throne, “of the attempted murder of Mario Mario Jr. However, as your intended victim was already dead and with no evidence to verify the deed, I cannot justify charging you with anything else. Furthermore, the other various charges you’ve accused yourself of are both unverifiable and well outside the jurisdiction of my authority, and will be dismissed accordingly. Under ordinary circumstances, I would sentence you to life in the dungeons. However, in light of the great service you have provided to the kingdom, your sentence will be reduced to 1,000 hours of community service.”

    Ridley stood quietly in the center of the courtroom, more than a little stunned. He had been expecting to receive at least a little jail time for murder but he wasn’t about to complain. The next thing he knew, he was surrounded by a group of his closest friends, all congratulating him on the results.

    “Way to go!” Roshi patted him on the back. “I knew you weren't guilty.”

    “I am guilty of pretty much every crime known to civilization.” Ridley corrected him. “But I guess I’ll be working on trying to figure out how to make up for that on my own terms. I'm curious as to what kind of service they want me to do, though.”

    “I-a think I-a have an idea about that.” Luigi held out a familiar red cap. Ridley was about to object that he shouldn't be able to keep Mario's old hat. Not after everything that he had done, or at least thought that he had. But then he noticed the big red ‘R’ in the center of the white spot on the front, where there should have been an ‘M’. “Welcome to Super Mario Bros. Plumbing.”

    Ridley accepted the new hat reluctantly, not really sure what to say. His eyes seemed to be leaking for some reason as he placed it on his head. Finally, he smiled a mischievous grin. “More like Super Ridley Bros.”

    “No.” Luigi shook his head, laughing.

    It was the dawn of a new era for the Mushroom Kingdom. But for Ridley and the others, their adventure had only just begun.

    GAME OVER

    SEE YOU NEXT MISSION​
    I'm not used to actually finishing stories. I started this silly little thing back in 2018, inspired by Ridley's fighter announcement video for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and thanks to my abysmal update schedule it's taken me over 5 years to finish it. But here we are, at last.

    I’ve had ups and downs over the years and I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a writer in that time. As such, when I look back on the early chapters, I mostly just feel unsatisfied with the quality. I’ve been thinking about going back and doing a full rewrite of the story called Super Ridley Bros. Deluxe but I won't be getting to that anytime soon as I want to focus on moving forward, not back. Speaking of moving forward...

    Coming soon in the Super Ridley verse:
    Dread Reckoning
    Samus thought that she'd eliminated the threat of the X Parasites from the universe. She was wrong. She thought that Ridley would be the only old foe from her past to return. She was wrong. Now she's stranded on the uncharted planet ZDR for her toughest mission yet, alongside the most unlikely of allies, the SA-X.

    Symphony of Luigi

    Wedding bells can be heard throughout the Mushroom Kingdom as Luigi prepares for his big day. But when he stumbles upon an old grimoire, our hapless hero finds himself whisked away to a dark forest outside of an ancient castle, where he finds himself caught in the middle of the battle between a legacy of hunters and creatures of the night. Will Luigi be able to defeat Dracula and escape Castlevania in time for his wedding or will Princess Daisy find herself his widow before she can even be his wife?

    Super Ridley Bros. 2: Subcon Nightmare
    Purple, Green, Yellow, Blue,

    Four heroes, standing true,

    Must save the world by morning’s dew,

    Or the dream king’s wrath, they soon will rue.
     

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