Procarrian Adventures

                It was another peaceful day in the Mushroom kingdom for everyone except their monarch. However, a depressing tone had gripped the denizens for some time, for Princess Peach felt trapped inside her own mind and feelings produced from her internal conflict spread throughout her kingdom. She wanted to stick to her neutral vow, but the war on Procarry Kingdom had gone on too long, too many lives had been lost, something had to be done. In the midst of her deep thought, Toad came in with a brightly colored book in his hands, to which he flipped to a marked page and began to read a joke. Peach giggled a little bit, then turned back to her work. Toad frowned at his failed efforts. He then had another idea and rushed off to the kitchen, where Yoshi was in the middle of making a banana split for himself, but Toad convinced him to share it with her. "It's true, I haven't seen much of her all week, and when I did, she always looked troubled." "Same for me." They walked up holding the delicacy back to her room.

When they got there, she appeared to be signing a document hiding a small grin before noticing them. She waved and set aside her some space on her table and set up three chairs for them. As they were eating, Peach became very enthusiastic once again: "I've finally come to a decision. We're going to Procarry ourselves and setting up peace talks with the two kings." Toad and Yoshi dropped their jaws. "You mean, we're gonna visit that place?" Peach nodded. Toad jumped up in the air, landing on his chair the wrong way and falling. When he got up, he hopped and screamed at the top of his lungs:"I've always wanted to go there! Just think of all the exotic adventures we'll have!" Yoshi then commented, "(Speaking of adventure, I think I could come along to and finally prove myself a worthy one.)" Toad gasped and rushed towards Peach, hugging her. He then whispered, "I'll always still be your favorite, right?" She told him yes. He stood back up official-like, remembering what he said. "Wait! If we're going somewhere on this huge of an occasion, we should find Mario and..." They heard a knock at the door.

Peach walked over and entering was none other than the heroic man in red himself holding a pink envelope. "Hey Peach..." Noticing Yoshi and Toad, he hastily stuffed the envelope in his pocket and blushed. Peach smirked at him. "So, what do you have a' planned," he asked Peach. Just planning an important diplomatic trip. I was just about to summon my guards to bring you." She herself blushed and chuckled again. "Say, do you think your brother would be interested in coming along with us?" "Of course he would." Toad looked at Mario and Peach funny. "Meet us in the courtyard, ok Mario." They shook hands; they gave each other brief longing looks before reluctantly letting go. Mario left the castle.

Once he got outside, he closed his eyes en route to his brother's house, for he knew that location by heart. When he got there, he found Luigi lying on a patio chair reading a book about green-colored blooms. Mario called out his brother's name to get his attention. He just said "Hmph" and further obscured his face with his book. Mario said Luigi's name again. He laughed. Mario walked over and gave a light tap on Luigi's head. He looked up at his brother, set the book on a nearby table alongside some lemonade, got up and set one arm around Mario. "Awww, Mario, do you really think I would ignore you for anything in the world", Luigi said as he underhandedly stole the letter and snuck it in his own pocket. Mario smirked. "Now what is it that you want?" "I was wondering if you would be interested in coming with us to bring peace to the Achaeans and Bacterians." Luigi pushed himself away from Mario and exclaimed "Are you crazy? Us in a perilous conflict zone? We'll be toast before the ceremonial toasting!" Mario gave his brother the same loving hug he gave him earlier. "Ah, Luigi, don't worry. You've got us to protect you, and it's not like the troops will hurt us in our bright Mushroom colors anyway. Besides, can't you see success beyond the dangers? Princess Peach chose us as the best possible representatives of the Mushroom Kingdom. We'll bring happiness back to millions of troubled lives and make history in the process." Luigi smiled and agreed. "I guess I can come. Just let me grab something and I'll be there right with you." He then ran off and started humming. Mario looked at him, but decided not to follow his brother and go ahead to the Castle Courtyard instead.

He came to find Peach and Toad sitting together on a bench and Yoshi waving. Peach got up from the bench and inquired him on Luigi. "What'd he say? Mario was about to give his answer when Luigi sprinted in the middle of everything, carrying another, heavier book with the Procarrian flag on its cover. "Did..hah...I miss anything...hah...I came here as fast as I could..hah..to avoid causing any trouble." "Umm, no," Peach said. "Whew." They all set off toward the docks to begin their adventure.
 
      As the five heroes approached the Mushroom port, practically everyone in Toad Town had come to wish them well. As they started to step upon the ship itself, several Toad carolers began to sing joyfully until the crowd was knocked down layer by layer. The gang on board could finally see Wario and Donkey Kong racing towards them. Wario pleaded that they take him and DK with themm. All five hastily scorned and agreed they shouldn't. Mario yelled, "You tried to kill me!" His friends followed. "You tried to steal treasure from my kingdom!" "You stuck me with the bill!" "You called me a worthless Shorty!" And you tripped me more times than I would dare to count and that says a lot, and..." Mario covered Luigi's mouth saying, "Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa, Luigi. We'd be here all day if you..." Wario yelled at both of them to shut up. Donkey Kong grunted at them. Mario, Yoshi, and Luigi turned to him and repeated their sayings: "You kidnapped my girlfriend!" "You stole all of my mangoes!" "You treat me like a walking punching bag, *sniff* which I'm not!" Peach patted Luigi's shoulder while saying, "Um, in a way you actually kind of are." He then leaned to the railing, pouting.  Annoyed, Wario told them that he would change over the course of the trip and so would Donkey Kong. Mario simply replied no. DK grew angrier and threw a large rock at Toad; but he dodged. Peach then told the captain to kick their ship into overdrive and speed off. The motor ran so loud, the crew couldn't hear Wario shouting at the top of his lungs, "YOU'LL PAY FOR THIS MARIO!"

Once they were out in the middle of the ocean, Mario and friends could properly relax, until they realized no one could beat Luigi at volleyball. A while later, Toad, having found out the Archaeans were planning to have a huge speech, called the entire group around the ship's radio. A man's voice could be heard among an upbeat band saying, "Here is another beautiful day in the Archaean Kingdom; the royal family is coming out for the first time since the war began and they are as beautiful as ever. Now we all shall remain silent for the almighty words of our beloved King Woltan." Clapping sounds could be heard, then, absolute silence as the elaborately robed Woltan stepped up onto a podium. His speech was one that would moralize his realm to keep on going, despite what looked like an eternal stalemate, but then, a cannon struck near and smoke enveloped the crowd. Screaming could be heard. The announcer tried to analyze the crisis for the listeners; "It appears the royals are being taken hostage by evil forces. I can't make out which ones are where. Everyone's panicking! I can't bear to watch! Oh the horror!" As he ran for cover, static generated and Mario turned the radio off.

He turned to his friends, who all bore looks of anger and fear, and spoke to them in a style similar to Woltan's. "Guys, we have to help them, even if we didn't plan on taking sides; people are in trouble!" He set his hand out towards them. "For the Archaea!' They all screamed "Yeah!" and put their hands over Mario's. They continued shouting until they realized only four of them had done so. Then all four looked irritatingly at a terrified Luigi. Mario gave him a raised eyebrow and an "Ahem!" He replied back with a simple "Nuh-uh." He then glanced at them again and thought about it some more, before finally deciding to lay a trembling hand on top with thoughts of being a hero for both kingdoms. After their pledge, they all stood near the bow and stared into the distance, sailing to those in need of help.
 
When Mario and friends reached Prokarry Isaland, they found a large car and guards waiting for them. They all went to the main castle only to find Woltan himself standing inside near the door. Toad exclaimed, "I thought you were kidnapped!" Woltan gave Toad a slight smirk, hiding a tear in the process. He then shook Peach's hand, then Mario's. "I've heard of your many adventures, surely you're capable of rescuing my kingdom in this dire hour," Mario nodded as Luigi gave a salute, "Follow me into a hidden compartment in the Library." They all did so into a secret compartment only the king knew about. It was a large, dark, bland room with only a few lanterns and a single table with a map covering it.

They all gathered around the table, Woltan pointed to various locations and explained them with his scepter; "You shall leave this area, heading towards the world's largest diamond mine," everyone got excited; "Diamonds!" Yes, but be sure to take the shortcut and don't let your greed give you any ideas. Then, there's the Pit of No Return which..." Everyone screamed. "Yes, I know, it's a rather ominous name, but surely anyone who's saved the world three times can get through it. Of course, it's entirely optional, but the treasures hidden in there centuries ago are invaluable!" Toad rose up, prodding on the table and exclaimed "So are our lives!" "Yeah, so after that the Bacterian Castle should be about one or two days away on foot with the right routes. Say, um..., is your friend over there okay?" Luigi was trying his best to hide any fear of The Pit of No Return from Woltan, but he couldn't do very well, shivering while standing straight up. Woltan made it obvious that he wasn't impressed with his cowardly traits. "Go forth, please, now."

All five proceeded to further into the continent. By late afternoon, they had already reached the next town, where they were debating on whether to go ahead and spend the night.  All seemed merry, aside from the occasional black decoration in response to the triple royal kidnapping, until a ship could be seen in the distance. All the inhabitants ran away into random houses, not even their own. Mario and the others started to take note until a weighted net thrown by the mysterious enemies enveloped Peach, only for a grapple to yank her away. The other four stared at the vessel, Peach hanging from a crane. Then, middle-aged man, whose elegant clothing rivaled Woltan's approached the main deck, for all to see. "Ahem, well, well, well. If it isn't the Mushroom Kingdomites. I thought you were supposed to come forth to me, traitors!" Mario yelled angrily, "How can we consider peace with you? you kidnapped the royal monarchs of the Archaen Kingdom and now ours!" He usedhe same tool to capture Toad too. The other three jumped on board, dodging numerous spears and swords. The trio was eventually surrounded by the guards. The Bacterian king stared at Mario, who held his hands up along with his friends. There was a long pause until Mario turned to Peach, said "I'm sorry, Peach", kissed her on the cheek, then jumped over the guards, punched them,  stole the sack containing Toad,  and pulled Yoshi and Luigi overboard into the sea, but the guards grabbed Yoshi. The brothers waited in the water, dodging cannon projectiles. Eventually, the ship sailed away, the crew thinking they've succeeded. After briefly checking, the brothers swam back to the surface and freed Toad.

All was quiet, aside from some tears shed by the trio, until a young woman approached the them; She was a slightly tinted, twenty-one-tear-old brunette standing at 5'3. Her clothes seemed semi-casual on the surface too: a standard orchid-colored T-shirt accompanied by a light navy short-sleeve vest. The rest of her fashion apparently took a cue from the brothers' designer as she also wore blue kint pants matching the color of their overalls and boots appearing almost identically to theirs, albeit a darker shade of brown (Similar to Luigi's shoes' current hue) and longer. She wasn't etherally beautiful, but her green eyes and overall lively appearance were enough to woo both of the Mario Brothers. Aware of their longing looks, she oddly flinched before realizing who the men were. She then composed herself and walked toward a house. Mario asked if the woman if they could follow her; she said yes in a quiet tone. They entered the building.  She made sure all secrecy was preserved and sat down in a chair, hesitating, before telling the heroes, "Before I introduce myself, Mario, Toad, and...err..Luigi, I..." Before she could say anything else, Luigi became eccentric and hastily pushed his chair close to her. "Dear Lady, you have no idea how long I've been waiting to hear those words from an admiring fan, especially such a beautiful woman as yourself." He then embraced her and gave a sudden large kiss, much to her shock. "Beautiful, I've been trying to hide that ever since...," she sighed "I escaped." The trio paused for a moment to take the deeper meaning of what she said in, then gasped.

Mario stuttered, "You must be..." "Yes, you heard me; my name is Hildy, Princess of Archaea. However," she began to tear up,"Clair and Varick are still in prison. Life here hasn't been particularly fun for me either; I've had to demote myself to all but untouchable; I even had to dye my hair", she said holding up a rather huge lock to her companions. Toad reminded Hildy that they would volunteer to save the kingdom at her side. Hildy shrieked and hastily hugged Luigi, further fueling his newfound desire for her; She blushed in return. The four heroes then left and set out further into Archaea.
 
              Two days pass since the events at the Archaean port town Kandlersburg .  King Boris of the Bacterian empire and his wife stared outside of his castle in deep concentration. Suddenly, two guards burst through the door, holding a struggling, detained Peach captive. "This woman has attempted to escape your confines again, sir." The other one added, "What shall we do with her this time?" Peach yelled, "You'll let me go, or so have that you will..." She realized it was best not to mention Mario's, who the Bacterian lord thought he had either drowned or shot with his cannon, name at the time, but the guards covered her mouth as she thought this. The king turned to face his prisoner: "I have the perfect solution; Antonina, fix her the chocolates." "Yes, my partner." She went into her retreat and did exactly as told and brought them out. Peach exclaimed, "Why would I eat something that you made? It's probably just a trick, isn't it?!" The king smirked and gave his response, "My dear woman, you won't get anything else; besides, don't you find it welcome that your captors are giving you sweets?" She grudgingly nodded, just as he untied the wrapping shaped like the Bacterian flag shoved one into her mouth.

Peach began to chew and found it amazing; she couldn't help but have another. "May I have more, please?" Antonina smiled at her husband, saying, "Yes, in fact, I encourage you to eat them all; just don't leave again." Peach walked in with the guards to another room and locked her in. One of them nervously asked, "Are you sure that..." Antonina interrupted, "Of course she won't." After that, they all went back to the main balcony to savor the miniature victory she had just accomplished and tell her king and most trusted "servant" the news.

Meanwhile, Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Hildy continued their journey deeper into the Archaean Kingdom. They were awed as they finally approached a massive cavern and Mount Spring. Mario paused and claimed to Hildy, "These must be the Thermophile Mines Woltan was talking about." "Oh, you met him?" Toad jumped up; "Yeah! He told us everything even a secret route!" "Ah, yes, there is a way the ancient kings hid from even the most veteran of miners. Follow me." Luigi muttered to himself, "Does this mean we can't go around the volcano?", then gulped before entering as the volcano could be seen overflowing in the distance.
The foursome looked around, hoping for a way to the volcano's core and some treasure. Mario directly commented on the cavern's blandness; "Gee, this place sure looks a little greyer than the brochure led me to believe; people must have been here for a long time if everything's already gone." Even still, they could see signs of continuing activity way away. After a while, what lay before them was a massive bustling rail network and two mine carts. Toad sprinted in front of the others asking them if he could "drive." They all looked at each other and Mario gave an expression that signaled, "Sure, why not?" "Yay!" Toad hastily leaped in while Hildy daintily stepped in as the Mario Brothers played rock-paper-scissors for issues over who could call shotgun for the other cart; Luigi had his way. Miners and tourists alike rushed to their heroes and heroine, unaware that they were bowing to their princess. Mario gave a salute, Luigi and Toad waved, Hildy did so too, yet she began to tear up, not feeling able to let everyone know their royal monarch was safe and out of Bacterian clutches. Two of the men chained the carts and pushed them away.

The gang gradually sped up in a series of twists and turns just like a child's coaster. They all had a magnificent  time riding, even Luigi squealed with joy rather than fear as they went down steep hills and hopped over the sweltering lava, but then came a long, straight corridor. Hildy realized this particular pattern and tapped Toad's shoulder to get his attention, "All right, if we want to take our principle route we have to take a series of turns in a very meticulous fashion." "Umm, Hildy, just what can we expect on this 'principle route?' Woltan was pretty vague on that one." Just as she was about to think of her wording, a flung ax sliced the chain holding the carts together. They looked to see where it came from; however they only saw an empty track. Hildy and Luigi tried to reach each other, but the front cart was moving too fast for her to do so. Mario's and Luigi's cart steadily came to a stop. The guys got out to pull out an emergency stick of dynamite, praying that Toad and Hildy went continuously straight.

Mario lit it, jumped back in along with his brother, and threw it a few feet from them, propelling them back into a chase for their friends. Shortly after, a bulky muscular man pursing them could be seen. Mario turned back and gasped to him,  seeing the giant scathed ax behind his back. "Name's... " Mario interrupted, "Let-a'-me guess, Axol?" Luigi turned around briefly to see what was going on, screaming at the sight of the warrior behind them before turning back. "THAT'S NOT FUNNY! I'VE BEEN ORDERED TO BY THE KING OF BACTERIAN KINGDOM TO KILL YOU AND KIDNAP HILDY, again; AND THE NAME'S AXTON!" He pulled out another one of his signature weapons towards Mario, who only had a shovel to defend himself. "That explains the armor, heh heh." He thrust it, but Mario pulled off a successful block. This exchange went on until Axton decided to slice Mario's shovel in half; his blade was gone. Mario tried to defend again, but the top section of that, too, was detached. Both became even more fearful, knowing they wouldn't last much longer with no defense. Luigi tried to make with what he had left of his fledging composition, looking in all directions for anything that could save their lives;  his eyes suddenly came to settle upon the wheels and came up with an idea. He turned himself towards the battle. Mario only had one shot left with his "rod." This time when Axton hacked it, Luigi grabbed the piece and bashed against one of the front wheels, just as Axton lost his patience: "No more games, Mario. Now, what would be the best way to do this...?" He positioned his axe against Mario's neck, wound it up, focused, as he prepared to strike, then he put it back, pulling out a small professional dagger instead. He unsheathed it and looked at its pure gray blade one last time. He proceeded to undergo the same procedure he had with his axe, but his concentration was broken as Luigi turned with the nearly smelted fragment in his hands yelling heatedly, "Nobody hurts my brother! Hiyyyaaahhhh," as he tossed it with all strength straight towards Axton's face. He covered his burning cheek with his hands, throwing the dagger backwards onto the tracks and into a pit.

Mario was stunned at what had just happened. He then turned to Luigi and gave him a high-five; the force kind of hurt Luigi's slightly burned hand. The two glanced at the front steering some corridors until approaching a pileup of rocks. They applied the brakes in just enough time, yet they didn't hear the sound of any bashing metal. Mario poked at the rocks and found out that it was all just a tarp set up someone a long time ago, perhaps the greediest of the greedy. He pushed their mine cart with Luigi still inside, unaware that a steep hill lay inches ahead. As it started to fall, Mario grabbed the edge, only to fall in head-first. They approached a cliff and were in the air for a moment; their hats fell on each other and Mario spun himself upwards. The cart itself made a rough landing in a large deep pit of magma. They gave each other their hats back and waited in an increasingly bubbly liquid surface.

Meanwhile, Toad and Hildy were pursued by a different guard. Toad hopped on his head. The guard grew angry and threw Toad into a distant cavern ahead. Hildy threw her dynamite to distract him right before a major turn and they went opposite directions, even though she knew they would meet again. Toad found several miners, asking what they were up to and telling him of his crisis. He found a rope and ran back to Hildy. The guard had come to her again, nearly taking her. Just then, out of nowhere, Toad swung in, hanging on a stalactite and kicked him down, flinging himself to Hildy. All returned to fun until they saw Mario and Luigi trapped inside the magma caverns. They stopped the cart and pushed it back over to where all four could see each other. "Are you two okay," Toad asked. After some hesitation, Mario stated they were fine as he lifted his hat and used it to fan himself, despite the pressure and heat. Moments passed, and the four paused to think up a solution.

All of said thought was interrupted when The magma erupted, taking Mario and Luigi with it. Screams could be heard. When they rose up to the sky, they stayed there for a while, holding, glancing, and leaning towards each other. After a little gliding, the lava finally dropped, they plummeted and slid down the volcano, shrieking. They then jumped off a ramp where another burst of lava shot them into a field some distance away. The landing was a safe one for them anyway, but not the flowers. when they stood up, a flamboyantly robed couple stepped out into their garden to investigate. The woman stated, "You must be the Mario Brothers." "Yeah, we are. Sorry about the flowers," Mario responded, rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment while blushing.

The sage introduced himself as Zeelah and led them into a religious sanctuary. They awed at the stained glass, one design in particular showed the two kingdoms' flags shattered with  red and blue divine beings along with a woman resembling Hildy wearing a dress and crown using some sort of magic. Mario pointed to this display; Zeelah's wife explained to them that the kingdom was grown from a star that crashed millennia earlier; this energy was welded into magical items with great power. When economic turmoil divided them into two, a great civil war was raged over handling of the items. All seemed lost in addition to an untold number of lives; eternal stalemate seemed to be the future, until nine noble warriors of neutrality took the gifts and disappeared into a small cave. This cave served as the border between Archae and Bacteria. Many have since tried to enter, but never came back, hence its modern name, The Pit of No Return. Where Mario and Luigi were was the last civilization near that cavern and her tale reminded them of so. As they left, Mario winked at the couple and assured them they'd be back.

The brothers quietly waited for Hildy and Toad, who would return that afternoon. They hugged each other. Hildy let Luigi go, then she turned away, frowning and about to say something, but when she looked at Luigi and the road ahead, decided not to talk to him about what had happened. They spent the rest of the day preparing for the trip.
 
              That night, Mario could be seen standing on the balcony of their deluxe hotel. He couldn't sleep and looked down upon himself, not being able to save Peach, letting her be kidnapped again. All he could think about was her. Luigi had also come up with problems of his own, worried The Pit of No Return.

Mario began to recite the words he spoke to Peach privately while on the ship alone together: "My dearest Toadstool, ever since we first met after I, no, we defended our homeland together, you have always been the 'peach' of my eye, not just as a woman, or a monarch, but as a person..."A touched Luigi pulled out Mario's letter and found the wording identical; he found his place and began to follow along as his brother went on without noticing: "My dream has always been to meet you and it only seems like a few days since I kissed you on that tropical island. I know our romance has been frequently interrupted by that nasty Bowser, and that is where I wish to start, I long to reawaken our relationship and keep in touch with you as a lover, for my passion for you is not simply heroism. Do you think that, maybe, after we save the Mushroom Kingdom once and for all and settle down, we could marry? Imagine the sight of us in our best and the sound of choir along with Luigi's voice, giving the words of our devotion to each other. The three of us, traveling the world on an extended private festival dedicated to our love; yes, the three of us basking in the sunset in true satisfaction. Please give a little respect for the guy; he's special too and I think the two of us wouldn't be where we are to some degree without him. Yours Dearest, Mario"

Mario paused for a moment, looking up at the night sky, clasping his hands; he saw a Ztar shape, regarding this as a bad omen, Mario clenched his fists; then he closed his eye, and kneeled his head downwards, making a wish for Peach's wellbeing, hoping, perhaps, it would help her. He then turned around and found Luigi in the same posture he had been in when wishing, only with his brother's head at a neutral position. Luigi realized his brother's presence and gave the letter back to Mario revealing he had found it because of his impulsive instinctive interest in his older brother' love life. Mario gave Luigi a scolding, yet playful pat on the shoulder before quietly proceeding to walk back to their room with the letter in hand. Luigi stepped out to the edge railings and placed his arms on them,  taking in the beautiful, calm nighttime scenery for a while; then he too, went inside and back to sleep, mentally preparing himself for what lie ahead.
 
              As dawn approached, the four made final preparations for their tour of The Pit of No Return. A few hours later, all dropped their jaws in awe of the mighty ole in the ground. They caught the attention of a young guard who appeared to be the Archean equivalent of Toad; he even kindly approached them asking in a friendly, cautious tone, "What are you guys doing here? You know, this is my last chance to keep you guys from making a huge and last mistake in your lives." Mario replied, "Well, you see, the thing is.." "Wait a minute,..." the guard said as he examined the Mario Brothers closely, "You're those foreigners my father was telling me about, speaking of which, name's Yeelah. I heard you're the ones looking to save Queen Clair, Prince Varick, and Peach too." Mario nodded as they shook hands and told him to stay standing in front of an ominous looking sign listing deaths attributed to the cave for, in Mario's words, "No reason, no reason at all, heh heh" , glad that the brothers weren't  remembered as the guys who smashed Yeelah's parents' flowers. Appreciative of Mario's kindness, he gave each of them a torch.

The foursome ventured into the legendary hollow onto a series of stairs. Each of them trotted without much care until Hildy stepped on a crumbling stair, nearly falling to her death and lost her torch. Mario pulled her hands from the ledge and even offered to brush off any dust on her shirt. Luigi nobly gave her his torch. As they restarted their descent, Hildy remarked, "You're too kind.", as Luigi pulled out his flashlight and blushed. They approached the first main chamber. It was pitch-black. Mario steps out first and hits something. He put his torch in front of him and found the blunt end of a sword in his face. He then realized that there might be legions of them throughout, as if waiting to go straight into them. Mario cautiously extended his arm further to get a better view of the room. Bored by his brother's time-consuming methods, Luigi  shined his light and entire series of traps was shown visible. Everyone agreed to follow him, stepping where he stepped and not touching anything. All went well until Toad stepped on a tile Luigi and Hildy in front of him did not. Another sword with the skeleton flying off of it came through a hole in the wall right as Toad flinched back. Mario and Hildy grabbed the blade, pushing it aside. The trio followed Luigi into the next room.

There were eight meticulously arranged  stone statues of fighting men about the same size as Mario on the edges of the dungeon floor. Mario ran straight or the door, but he couldn't open it, no matter how much muscle he put into it. His friends tried to help a little too. When Mario finally forced himself to take a breather, the room began to vibrate; the statues were trying to attack them and they grew! Mario ran to and climbed two of them, crushing them with several kicks of his boot. Toad tried to knock another one's feet of with his mushroom cap; it worked, but Toad became dizzy in the process. Luigi was able to jump on top of them and knock them out. The four worked together until there was only one, who in an act of aggression, stole Mario's torch from him and stomp on it. "ROOOOOAAAAR!" Hildy reflected on herself, then told the men, "I've got this one and I'll bet you I can do it in one hit." She scaled the golem, Mario and the others distracting it. Once she got to the top of the back of the torso, she pulled a shiny object and impaled the top of its head. He groaned in pain before collapsing. Hildy stood on top of it. She jumped onto the surface. The four celebrated as the door shimmered, grew colorful gems, and lifted itself up. after one last collected "Alright!" and high-five, they rushed into the final chamber, eager for the treasures that await them.

As they went through a long mysterious hallway, their walk became slower. They finally reached one last gate. Mario breathed deeply, closed his eyes, and gave it one simple shove. Once he felt that enough had been pushed away, they all entered at once, overwhelmed by the beauty. There was silver and gold everywhere, gemstones, vases, paintings, two grand fountains, and one huge pile of treasures. It truly was worth it. A voice took their attention; "I see you are quite taken by the sight, aren't you?" They looked around to see where it came from, yet they couldn't find anyone. A human spirit appeared in front of the artifacts. He appeared as an ancient warrior with brown hair and light facial hair, yet he seemed welcoming. Mario, Luigi, and Hildy each noticed something eerily familiar about his clothing and armor, like they had seen it before, but where?

The non-menacing ghost said " I see you are the first to see this, since I have and have never gotten used to it.  It's a shame really, that I've had these wonders you are taken by to myself for all this time, locked away, and anyone trying to share it with us has to die, but if they did so, countless, more innocent lives would be in danger. With that, it suddenly hit everyone who they were talking to. Mario stepped forward. "We need to save our friends, Lord", he blanked on his name, "Uh, Lord..." "Aragonion. I believe at least one of you seek this", he pulled a glittering crown decorated with a rainbow of colors out of a painting and approached him, "Mario." He set The Crown of Invincibility on Mario's head. He could feel the magic flowing through him. Aragonion looked at his mesmerized friends; "Go ahead." Toad walked up to Mario and swung his fist back and punched his hero. It shocked him. Owowowowow! Ok, that hurt..a lot." After falling, Aragonion approached Toad and shook his other hand; then the little mushroom man's eyes were drawn to a rather large vase. He staggered to it. As this happened, Aragonion moved to Hildy and kissed the top of her hand. Luigi made a quick move to bow to him. Aragonion laughed; "Ha ha ha. Fellow warrior, as much as I appreciate your humility, you must you see that we are equal. He grabbed one of Luigi's hands and shook it for what seemed to be forever. Luigi looked disgusted and couldn't bear to look at himself. Aragonion seemed puzzled, "What? You don't like handshakes?"

Toad finally reached the vase; he opened the cap and poked his head inside. All he could see was a blue void until Bowser's head popped out. He rose and rose all the way up to the lower torso. Toad was knocked over. Mario heard his screaming and jumped onto Bowser's head, stomping on it until he went down, then Toad finally put the lid back on. "Sorry about that, Mario. I need a new treasure." Mario suddenly realized that he had a question for Aragonion. "Sir, how did know my name?" He pulled out a large orb and gazed into it. "From here, I heard voices, telling me, 'Mario'...'Mario'..., but that was all." "Hmm." Toad saw the crystal; "Can that thing see into the future? If so, then I'll take it. No harm in that, right?" "True." He handed the Mystical Crystal Orb to Toad. Then, Hildy spoke up, 'I'll have the urn, please," she said lifting it with both hands, "This should prove quite useful." Luigi searched long for his reward. He found a small, smooth black box and opened it, and much to his surprise, there was a Super Leaf. "Wow! I never expected to find anything like this around here!" He was extremely careful not to touch it, for he closed it back up in case of an emergency. Hildy herself asked Luigi what the heck he was talking about. He explained to her its magical powers "Wow, no wonder it lies here within the pit; I've never seen or heard of one in my life, yet for you they grow all over the place! It must be quite fun!" "Hm-hmm, I'll see if I can send that to you someday."

"I see you have all found something interesting," Aragonion said, "Now I must ask of you to put your powers to the test." The group was shocked and led into a large, empty room. All was quiet until the light of Luigi's flashlight, Hildy and Toad's torches, Mario's crown shone. With this, he saw something in the wall glow. He went over to investigate, his friends close behind, some more than another. Toad and Hildy popped from behind Mario's back. Suddenly,  the slime-like substance turned into an arm that grabbed Hildy! Everyone screamed, especially the damsel. Luigi made sure the falling vase and torch were safe before joining Mario and Toad in pulling on Hildy. After a sudden jerk on the opposing side, Toad became desperate; he allowed Luigi to grab a hold of Mario so he could leave to club the arm mercilessly with his torch with so much power that it took him a while to realize it had went out after hitting all of that rock. The menace went back into the wall, letting go of Hildy. They took a moment to calm down, then stepped back in hopes of avoiding another attack. "We need to figure out what we're up against," Mario inquired.  "Maybe it's just him," Toad added. Just then, another arm moved to grab him. Toad jumped out of the way, but Luigi harmed it with his flashlight before anyone could process the vision in their minds.

They took another moment to catch their breath until the other three noticed something behind Luigi, not a limb, but a face, a different face from that of Aragonion. "Behind you!", they shouted, but Luigi could already feel something behind him. He turned around, shining his flashlight on the mysterious person, making it vanish before he could see it and for good reason. The group became confused: How could somebody with both of their arms burnt off attack them again and who's doing what? As Mario was thinking, he heard a squeal, then suddenly flinched from something trying to hit him. He was embarrassed that he had already forgotten of the storied Crown of Invincibility on his head, but even more shocked by what he saw: Luigi was standing close with a horrified look on his face and his arm sticking out holding his front-facing flashlight inches from his brother's face. Just as Mario got to looking, he swung again. Luigi screamed, "I'm not doing this!" Another motion pulled him toward his friends, forcing them back closer to the wall. "Fight it Lui!" Luigi heeded his brother's words. He did so, but nothing could be done. Then, he flinched as if being punched. As he covered it, his flashlight was stolen from him. Then, a series of pats on the shoulder. Luigi dare not turn around. Then, his right arm was pulled downwards. Another tug made him look to see what was happening. Moments later, the ghost performing all of this revealed himself.

Luigi screamed and jerked back.  Everyone else around him covered their ears, the ghosts included, so much that they lost their ability to keep themselves hidden, three of them surrounding Mario and the others, one of them holding the flashlight, and the last only wishing he was ready to brawl. After the shrieking had faded, the spirit made a move to attack. Luigi screamed again. The two ghosts with him proceeded to beat him, but both delusional attacks missed. There was a standoff between the three. Meanwhile, Mario and the others kept the others back and themselves out of the wall. Mario was still unsure in the powers of the Crown, but a light beam from the flashlight when the wielder was covering his ears for the second time reflected off of it and hit one of them. Hildy ricocheted that same light from her own crown, the same one she had used to "kill" the golem to bring it down to two. "Mario, surely the power of invincibility must be with you!"

Mario took a deep breath, focused on the center spirit, closed his eyes, and heard voices. He was nervous, yet he overcame his fear and ran. After a fiery short burst, Mario opened his eyes; he was astounded not only to find himself alive, but also that Toad and Hildy were free.  Luigi couldn't take much more as he faced exhaustion and felt a sharp pain in his throat. Mario felt the coronet's weight on his head suddenly. Then, he could feel his hands and his gloves began to turn blue. He faced the ghosts and trusted his gut, but there was still something that made him unable to look until after it was done. There were two perfect isometric ice crystals with a faint being inside them.  Luigi sat between them, stunned. Toad and Hildy shared the same expression. Mario sprinted to his brother. Luigi tried to tell him how amazing the ice spell was, holding his hands to Mario's cheeks, but his ability to speak had been all but shattered. When he wholly realized the reality, he cried over his twin's shoulders.

The instant he saw that first tear, Aragonion himself felt sorry for what he had sent his collaborators to do. They were all this way. He knew there was something different about them. He knew something about the tallest one was peculiar. They built the hollow to keep away what he called "Greed-filled, self-seeking mad men who had reduced their land to rubble," to bring peace. To him, their savagery towards a band of adventurers with a noble cause, one that included an entire quartet with a heart of gold, a blissful coward, and a female, all the first of which he had seen since his mortal life, along with the tear, that reminded him of his own childhood, was a failure, nothing but a gigantic failure. His finger graced Mario's shoulder and it returned to a droplet he felt in his hands. He returned to the hall where the riches were kept to seal it away. He then asked one of his friends to send them away for him because he couldn't stand his broken heart anymore, but then he regretted it. "I will teach Mario the full worth of The Crown of Invincibility." Mario obliged and he learned of its might and was reassured in his self-confidence when it came to using them, much to his friends' amusement. Upon leaving a room specially designed to help them relax, Aragonion cautioned Hildy, "Whatever you do, when you open it, don't look at it!"

Mario, Luigi, Hildy, Toad came forward from a newly created one-way tunnel as heroes. Yeelah was so astonished, he initially saw them as ghosts! Once he was told they were still alive, he kissed each of their shoes twice rapidly. Mario and the others decided to stay in the last Archaean city where they bought supplies for the future and relaxed. Later that day, they read their fortunes, taking turns holding Toad's crystal ball in front of them. Toad's contained an interesting secret: "The secret to defeating your enemies lies within one of your allies." There was discussion; Hildy knew her and the Bacterian people have a mysterious fatal weakness, but none of them could think of any connections with two entire races relating to flaws. Mario's told him that he would become a great hero., Hildy's said that she would learn an rousing lesson in the coming days. In comparison, Luigi's seemed rather trivial,  but no one else could understand him, but they could tell he was happy; "You will acquire a large, sudden accumulation of wealth, whether you like it or not." Luigi was confounded; lots of money seemed like a no brainer! After the exchanges, they attended some parades, went over some plans, said their good-nights, and rested themselves for their travels.
 
    When the four had arisen, they saw a package under Mario's hat. He opened it. Inside was a videotape from the Bacterians. "Should we play it?" "Mario-man, if we can take on something of No Return, we can take on anything!", he said jumping on his bed. Mario shrugged and inserted it into the TV. There was a guard, standing in the center, but Mario looked more into the background; there was just something off about their contrast. It was even explained: "If you are indeed Mario and crew and you are continuing your quest, then it will conclude at this fortress. I'm sure your friends will enjoy that." The recording turned to a tied-up Yoshi kicking the guards futilely. "Meet us in this room; Our majesty is not known to let his own castle be ruined." He displayed a map of the area, showing them the location of the fort. Before long, rays of black and white static consumed the screen. "Peach...", Mario muttered, "Something truly terrible must have happened to her. You don't think that, perhaps..." "Of course not," answered Hildy, "They could never hurt her. I mean, as much as you emphasize Bowser's badness, she's always been perfectly unharmed. They're probably just trying to psych you out, which reminds me..."

She paused for a long time, staring at Luigi's innocent, fragile, silent soul unable to say anything herself. She swiftly turned away, covering her face. Toad asked her what was wrong. Hildy hesitated and said "I love you," with a conflicting sad tone in her voice. Luigi smiled as she kissed his cheeks, collapsing over him. As they exchange romantic banter and hugs, Toad pulled a hesitant Mario towards the restaurant nearby. A while later, Hildy realized what she was doing. She then stood up on the floor and sighed, telling Luigi, "Luigi, after this adventure, I won't be with you anymore. There, I said it." "What?" he whispered. "Do you understand?" "C'mon, Hildy, what is it?" She sighed, "Remember when Toad said you met my father?" "Yes." "He won't let me have you, nor does he want me to think about you, a man whom he considers 'fatally flawed', one I discovered in Thermophile and The Pit of No Return." Luigi entered a pseudo-trance, reimagining the adventure and their relationship through her perspective and even touching into his own childhood. "It's because I'm a coward, isn't it?" "Yes, but don't get me wrong on this one, I still love you. Even if we kept it a secret, he would find out at some point, oh, he already knows about you, but your sweetness holds you from winding up like the last guy." "What happened to him?" "He was exiled, just into me for the money. Just promise me you won't miss me too much; I know I'll miss you." "Hildy..." A small tear fell from one of Luigi's eyes. A silence enveloped until they heard intense, rapid knocking.

"GUYS! WHEN ARE YOU GONNA WAKE UP?! WE HAVE A QUEST TO GO ON AND MARIO'S FINISHED HIS MEAL! OPEN UP! THIS DOOR IS LOCKED! WE HAVE TO CROSS THE KINGDOM! WE HAVE DISQUISES!" "Toad, give them some time; Hildy is always important when she speaks; she rehearsed an address she said she would share privately with Luigi last night; must be pretty imperative, if she skipped breakfast and wanted  us to leave like that. Her voice interrupted Toad as he dressed in his costume-"Just a minute!" "You wanted to be a Peeping Tom." Luigi and Hildy unlocked the door, came out, and took their outfits and food. As she ate, Mario, not noticing fishy looks on either member of the couple, spoke softly in her ear: "So, how'd it go?" "I don't think he took it too well. It's so sad-he's a real charmer." Mario paused before tapping her on the shoulder saying, "Bah, someone else will find him, if that helps." The four left the building. Every civilian bade them farewell as the quest to save the Archaean and Bacterian came to its final legs, but Hildy, Mario, and now Luigi knew that something else, something personal, would come to a tragic end.
 
    After several days of careful sneaking through enemy settlements, deserts, forests, secret underground paths, and a dangerous plateau, the adventurers made it deep into the Bacterian Kingdom. Before long, they could see the fort where they were told the foes would be waiting. They took a moment to rest on a hill. "You think they'll let us in as that sentry promised?" "I better go first," Mario signaled. He quietly walked down. Several feet from the stronghold, two archers stationed in towers that were part of the building readied their bows and told the man in front of him to stay put, or else. Mario looked up at their position to get a look at the enormous height and architecture. Any attempt of intimidation in the design didn't work on him. He presented them with the tape and said his name. As they worked the door mechanisms to allow it to open, Mario saw an opportunity to trick them to allow his friends to enter unnoticed: he struck a conversation with them, poetically describing the comely sunset behind them, keeping their backs turned. Meanwhile, Toad, Luigi, and Hildy raced down into the gate.

Mario soon followed his friends inside. The guards turned around and dialed Boris on a walkie-talkie; "The man is in." "Good; it's about time." His partner whispered a request in his ear: "Ask him if we can watch the battle." Boris heard the sound and asked him what his colleague told him. "We want to see your amazing performances milord." "Absolutely not. Mario has his own acquaintances; you must watch for them. Understand?" "Aww." Boris hung up. "What'd he say?" He said that we have to find the dude's helpers." "Guess we have to do our job like he said." He pulled out a pair of binoculars and stared outside. He sighed. "But I don't even see anyone; you?" "No."

As the four heroes caught their breath inside an empty hallway, they removed their costumes, switched back into their original clothes once more and made plans for the attack. "...It's a' that simple: we all barge in and surprise them, sort of," "But Mario, there is a tiny flaw in that plan," Luigi pointed out, in an opportunity to poke fun at himself. "What?" He cracked the door open. "Oh, because we would crash into the wall. Thanks." Everyone now placed their hands on top of Mario's. "One, two, THREE!" They charged through and found themselves surrounded by the Bacterian army, king, queen, and attendant. Yoshi and Peach were there two, but she had changed since Mario last saw her. She was looking the other way and wearing a different dress. He put the crown on and struck a pose toward the king who removed his overcoat and pulled out a long sword. Luigi, Toad, and Hildy fought with the guards, taking them down. Mario, too, had an easy time with his fight. He jumped backwards, sending a beam towards him. Boris was pushed on his back. He looked up at Mario jumping towards him, and tried to fend Mario away in desperation. Mario merely tripped over the sword, but that fall was enough to make the crown fall off. He fell to the ground. As this happened, Peach became dizzy; then she looked at herself as if just coming out of a trance. "What...am I...doing here?"

The crown landed equal distance between the two. Everyone was silenced and stared at it. Hildy decided to take fate into her own hands; she pulled the vase out of her pocket and rushed toward them, but one of the soldiers grabbed her torso. She yelled and jerked, dropping her artifact. It shattered into pieces, broken. Large quantities of the blue-colored magic flowed towards them. "Remember what he said; don't look at it," she reminded to the others. "But It's broken; it must be more powerful. What if there's no way," Toad queried. Luigi disclosed them, "I'm taking this one step further-I'm getting out of here." Indeed Luigi ran. Toad grabbed his hand, but his strength too weak to make him stay. Hildy and Toad looked at each other before closing their eyes. Mario and Boris stood up about to initiate a duel. The king dragged Mario back to the ground, but Mario kicked the crown away from them. At the last moment, Peach and Yoshi took Hildy and Toad's cue, unfortunately, some of the bad guys stole it from them afterwards.

The spell wrapped around those who hadn't been warned. The room began to turn cold, very bitter. They heard voices of those in pain, mostly guards unfamiliar with the vase's power, but Toad had this feeling like he may or may not have been able to pick one of them out and identify it as a person in trouble. He didn't know what he was doing, yet his conscience led him back to that door. As time went on, he temptation to see the effect for oneself grew, but no one gave in. A few souls shielded their eyes too late, only reducing the suffering. The resonances of terror finally died down and the vapor went back to its origin site. Mario was the first to risk opening his eyes. The shards reassembled in a perfect form, as if it was never dropped.

The atmosphere, however, greatly changed; the room where combatants had once sparred in innocent practice matches was now an ice palace of death. Countless Bacterians frozen in place. Mario turned to his right. He found Boris in an ever frightening pose, killed in one last attempt to seize the Crown and Mario. He suddenly started shivering, whether from the temperature or a little bit of fear, but he eventually got over it and started walking toward his friends. Everyone was in pure shock over the catastrophe.

A few Bacterian survivors closed in on the Mushroom group, who were trying to free Hildy from the ice sculpture confining her. Mario started to realize that they were being trapped, so he and Toad fought through a couple of the weaker ones, until they heard the sounds of two bows being readied behind them-the sentinel men had taken the risk of disobeying the rules in order to please their now-deceased king. Toad pleaded that the two of them would "Fight to the END!" "Not dropping even for the miss," one of them threatened meandering toward Hildy. "Any civilized person, even if they must choose to fight, wouldn't hurt a girl," Mario stated. He cancelled his shot to mock Mario, "Oh please, what were you raised on: A book of old knights' tales?" All of the Bacterians started laughing until Mario admitted he was, "but moral values are no fake, at all!" The standoff continued, when Toad had another idea: "We know your weakness is cold, so we're just gonna stand here forever!" Antonina willed some fire into her wand, glowing like a torch. Mario grimaced at Toad who defended himself with, "What? They probably would've done it eventually."

The sentry finished his statement, leaning towards Hildy once more: "Besides, this is no ordinary girl." Hildy got Mario's attention, mouthing "Say it." Taking in the context, it didn't take long for Mario to realize that she meant "reveal my identity", but he couldn't. He asked her, "Are you sure?" She hesitated, but with a confident stride, "Yes." Mario gulped, then took a deep breath. "You're right; the woman before is extraordinary; she's sweet, filled with street and general smarts, and talented...Her name...is," He looked back at her, "...Hildy." Everyone gasped. "The Hildy?" She nodded gracefully. Antonina marched inches before her. "Well Hildy, I guess we're going to have to find a special way out for you, considering the rest of our royal troop can't stay much longer." "Our?" "Yes, darling fugitive, I have a son I'm conveniently willing to pair with you." "I wouldn't marry him unless we were the last two people on this planet!" "Oh, you will," she said using magic to free her, only for her to be put back in a live troop's arms.
The prince noticed the Crown on the floor and put it on his own head. Mario tried to run towards him, but he and Toad were threatened with spears. The young man stared at Mario with daggers. He calmly walked towards the heroes, but it was clear he was hiding something. "It's all your fault," he said pointing to his father's corpse. "I could just..." He collapsed. Antonina cried out for her son. "We must head back to the castle right now." "But what about me?" "I'll take care." "Guards, head out! We have a lot of plans." "Yes Ma'am." They made formation to escort Mario and Toad outside, carrying a passed out Prince Zeihlson and the vase. Just as they were about to leave, they heard screaming from the backroom. "We'll look into that too, pleeeaaaasee?" one of the sentinels asked Antonina. "I guess. In fact, I'll promote you guys and make sure you are able to attend all of the festivities." The cousin guards gave each other a high-five and dashed off.

At the giant royal carriage, Mario, Toad, Hildy, and Yoshi into a prison keep and found a doctor for those injured by the curse. The two sentinels crashed into the medical lounge, Zeihlson among the patients. "We have one more for you, our dear." They set Luigi down on one of the divans as Antonina left to drive the vehicle. He was dressed in Bacterian armor and his eyes were half-open, writhing and shrieking. The chief medical officer and one of his carriers held him down. The other stuck a thermometer in his mouth. "He's no doubt a victim of whatever's got the rest of 'em." "But he's got no signs of frostbite, no physical injury at all by the looks of it, and his temp's fine." He must be a freak!" "Wait, I heard someone ran, could've been him. What a scrawny little coward." "Don't dismiss him; I mean, look at what happened to the other fighters here, and they're the lucky ones. What's going on, bud?" "What do you see," removing his helmet. "Things that no human...should see, much less me."

The doctor examined Luigi's hat and then at the man. "Haven't I seen that face before?" Luigi shook his head out of a trance and as a negative gesture. "Well?" "No, sir." Where did you get this cap?" Luigi sat up. "It's just a popular style." "Wasn't Mario with five people-four guys and one girl?" "I thought it was three guys and two girls, including Peach and that thing." "No, it was not! I'm beginning to suspect suspicious activity from you." "Um...uh, I got him. You see, he chased me into this armory and he knocked me into the wall. It became clear that he would fight me to the death, so I knocked him out and got this affliction in the process. Wait, that exit-it must have had a hole in it." "Is that so? We will ask Mario about this in public." "Yes, I'm a good guy," he annoyingly told them as he attempted to get back up. "Better stay here kid, in case it comes back." Luigi just went along with the program, not wanting to cause any more trouble. He tried not to pay attention to the others bear their hypothermia, a few of them dying. He thought to himself, "This cot is comfy and I don't have much else to do. I think I'll just see where being totally silent gets me." He placed his hat halfway over his face and fell asleep.
 
7-1: Locked-in
    "Kid. Lancer. Hey, Kid. Wake up." Luigi was still dozing. "The missus, uh, miss is gonna be really disappointed if everything isn't timed just right and to find you slacking off like this, Kiddo." The Left Sentinel nudged him gently. Luigi placed his hat properly on his head, got up, and listened. "It's me, Garret. The greatest ceremony in all our lives is only a couple of hours away. I brought you an invitation." "Wow. So, why are you all excited and stuff?" "Because the three of us are gonna get promotions! The higher the rank, the more they trust us, the more they trust us, the more exciting jobs we get to do! Of course, we have to have the sentencing of the prisoners and re-coronation for the solo queen first. After those, there's the Victory/Bachelor Party, then in the morning, the execution of those in the back, unless, you know, and lastly Zeihlson and Hildy's wedding; would be sooner, but Zeihlson still isn't in the best shape and he can't get married if he can barely stand up." Antonina's voice rang throughout the room on speaker, summoning all able men. "Must be us, umm...I never did find your name." Oh, it's uh, Lanza. Yep, that's totally my name." "Fits your accent all right."

The carriage stopped. Antonina stepped out followed by some of her army who blew ceremonial horns. Zeihlson came assisted by two medical workers and was getting better. She chose to walk alongside the group surrounding Mario and his friends as they all entered the castle. They passed through a segment of the Great Hall before being led into a commission room arranged to look like a court. Hildy was separated from the rest. Antonina stood in the center. "Okay, let's get this over with. You confess to bringing the king, ruler of this country, to his all too unfair end in addition to many others, attempting to rescue our prisoners, and sympathizing with the Archaeans?" "Well, sort of. I mean, we didn't do it on purpose. I would never intentionally kill someone for no reason." Mario knew nothing he could say could change their minds because she wanted them dead just because, but there was something they wanted to know about Hildy. Why did she do it? The Bacterians allowed her to confess, but she could only reveal why she revealed herself as the princess in front of the whole crowd. "To save you." The mock jury and spectators laughed, Luigi and Peach being the only ones out. A guard playfully elbowed each of them and they gave some believably fake chuckles and claps. Toad tried to walk out, using the act as a distraction, but he still was threatened with a spear to the face. Antonina saw him and stated that they will die by hands of the crown, then shouting to the wielder, "Take them away!" before they could try any more tricks. "Yes ma'am!"

Mario, Yoshi, and Toad were hauled off to the dungeon. Even after the door slammed they were not submissive and tried to push out of the way before it was locked . The guards left, jeering at Toad for fruitlessly yelling at them. The trio looked for methods of accepting reality when they saw a man a little older than Mario and a woman who reminded him of his mother; both also bearing the royal Archaean way dress and resembling Hildy. She spoke. "They've caught you too." "Yeah. You bet we're trapped." "Have you seen Hildy?" "She came with us, but they incarcerated her again too." "What about your twin?" The man spoke up and tightened his fists. "Wait, wait, wait. You were hanging out with my sister. Why..." "Varick, calm down; Mario is very fine. You are 'Super,' aren't you?" "Hmm, yeah," She leaned over to and hugged him, crying on his shoulders. He patted her, "The four of us actually came back from the inside of one of your volcanoes and The Pit of No Return, alive." Yoshi, Varick, and Clair all became jaw-dropped. Clair was the first to speak. "You mean, you guys actually..." Yoshi interrupted. "I would've been with them if I wasn't holed up in here." "It was quite a time," pronounced Mario, "Say, you've been with them the whole time. Would you mind telling us what happened to Peach?" "No prob. You see, we spent most of our time planning to escape, until they got so annoyed with us, they separated us. I saw her once after, but she didn't care about me at all. I also heard rumors that they gave her chocolate for dinner, and he here was I, still locked in a room no bigger than this cell that got completely dark at night with no hope in sight." Varick seemed especially intrigued. "Wait, chocolate given to the princess?" "I know, talk about one sweet deal," Toad pointed out. "Doesn't opening up to the prisoner seem the slightest bit shady?" I never thought of it that way," Toad sighed. Mario defied Varick. "Well, whatever happened to her, when I saw her last in the hall, she appeared perfectly normal!" Toad made more efforts to clash the bars, before finally falling to the ground exhausted. They waited for hours, only seeing a guard who brought them dinner. Shortly after they finished eating, several clanking sounds could be heard; then a calm, feminine "Hel-llooo."
7-2: Sinister Sights
    Luigi and Peach had stayed on the sidelines, listening in on people setting up for the victory party while blending in seamlessly with those working, usually far apart. When the time came, they met up with the admitter.  "Ah, the fair maiden and umm,..." "It's Lanza," Luigi cleared up. "Are you two dating?" "Peach's face developed a pinkish hue. "No, we just met and I'm his performance escort." "I'm shocked by that." "What?" "That you two aren't going steady. Anyway, enjoy yourself!" They looked at each other then back at him. "Oh, I'm afraid that your friend cannot enter at this time. Our planned activities include a lot of dancing and I don't want any broken bones because they had to slam into you-An enforced "No-armor" policy!" Peach told Luigi to catch up with her later.

Luigi took another moment to relax in one of the rooms where the troops often stayed. He looked at himself once again in the garb used to fool an entire realm; the shirt and leggings fit nicely and looked decent and the green color somehow blended cohesively with his style. He also held his black box just so he could see the cute little leaf inside. His hair looked nice too. When he approached the Great Hall, there were already people from all over inside chattering away. It was only a matter of time before everyone was gawking at him. "It's Lanza-the guy who saved our souls from the Archaean Menace!" "Whaaaat? Where?" "I wanna see!" Luigi tried to act normal amidst the excitement, while edging his way behind a stage.

After some final preparations, a scene could be seen: Garret held the former king's crown and set it upon Antonina's head with great pleasure and to wonderful applause. His cousin, along with Luigi, could be seen on a pedestal beside him. He got up to his place an stood firmly with the rest of them. Antonina took Boris's sword and dubbed the trio, "I now officially declare you three royal servants of our great, soon to be-united grand Procarrian Empire!" The crowd roared with excitement, but one person was different; he clapped slower than the others and wore a black hood concealing his face. Even with it, Luigi got the eerie feeling that someone in there was giving him a dirty look. Also suspicious was that Zeihlson was still nowhere to be seen.
    He was relaxing in his room, on the top floor of the castle, alone and locked in with none other than Hildy. "C'mon Hildy, I bet you're exhausted pounding on that door." "I won't stop until I...hah..get out!...hah." "Would you accept a gift?" He opened a box containing a gown, made specially just for her. "It's..hah...beautiful." "There's more sweetums. Also in the package was a heart-shaped container. Zeihlson opened it-the chocolates. "Ooh, my favorite. Wait..." Zeihlson grasped Hildy's hands. "Hildy, please! I'm trying to be nice." She crosses her arms and turns away. "They could have poison." "Now why would I want to hurt my lovely bride to be?" He notices Hildy looking back at the cloak with longing eyes and decides to have it for herself. Her disposition suddenly changed to a sweet one. "I'll take the dress, thank you very much, give me some privacy?" "Take one, take all. Let me know what you think of the candy and I'll go." She saw through the trap she was caught in, yet then again, it was just bonbons. She took one and bit into it; it was fabulous. "I love it-just like Clair's personal handmaiden makes them!" "Oh, they are. Now I'll keep my promise and leave you alone with the presents." He left.

Hildy saw her opportunity as soon as the door closed. She ran towards the door, but she couldn't leave without another chocolate. She changed into the laced white dress, stuffed five of the foodstuffs into her mouth, and barged out of the room, crashing straight into Zeihlson, startling a young lady next to him. "Ow, Hildy why so quick..." "I'm so sorry!" She gasped at her own words and bit her lips. As she digested the chocolates, she lost some of her balance. Zeihlson grinned. "Gotcha, You, tend to her every need unless it's subversive and give her the sweets upon request unquestionably. Hildy, why don't your maidens doll you up a little? The world must know your true beauty." She fell into his arms and he escorted her back to her room, where her new servant was waiting. Zeihlson took pride in exit; now he could see what the rest of his guests were up to.
7-3: Reunion
    Luigi and Peach were soon able to reunite. "Alright, you know the plan?" "Got it!" Luigi presented her with a golden key. "That will get into the alchemy lab, right?" "Yeah." "How did you..., never mind. May I have that please?" He gave it to her and she vanished into the crowd, alone towards the dungeon. She sneaked past the cameras and hit the guards over their heads with her frying pan, then covered the remainder of cameras, unseen.

"Hel-llooo," she called. Mario and the others took notice instantaneously. and fought for space near the edge of the cell. "Guys, calm down; this is super risky. Listen, I have a plan: Luigi's going to rescue Hildy while I escape here with you and we'll meet up somewhere outside-faraway, where no one can find us." They smiled and she enjoyed seeing them. Peach then leaned toward the gaps between the bars. "I wish I could just leave with you now, towards...that place." Mario grabbed her hand and she turned toward his lips. "Are you not embarrassed?" "A little," Mario said lovingly, "but I'm just glad I get to see you two, um, normal and...brave." They kiss. Toad and Clair became mushy and hugged each other, yet Varick looked as if he were sick to his stomach. After their lovelock, Peach stood firmly, whispering "Goodbye. I'll see you soon." "Now hang on, why can't you both be here," Yoshi wondered. "It's part of the idea," Peach responded before tip-toeing away.

She returned to the Great Hall excusing herself past piles of people to find her companion waltzing with several of the more distinguished women, who were waiting in lines. They winked at each other before she disappeared back into the multitude. The two continued to pretend to enjoy the festivities through the dinner and further celebration. Late into the night, Zeihlson appeared on the stage to officially close the ceremonies so people could get plenty of sleep for justice was served and for the big wedding. The time to act was now.

After he left, Luigi waddled towards his bunk, but he tripped over a table that had been left out. Exhausted and disoriented from what seemed like an eternity at the party, he nodded off again, but he stood up a while later; he was a man with a mission. He raced to the castle's top floor and sneaked into Antonina's private quarters, where he waited for Peach. Upon her arrival, the two flipped through an enormous spell book, searching for the Spelleraser, a simple antidote for everything else in the book. Peach decided to be sweet and do the work herself. Luigi read off the instructions; "First, pre-fill enchanting substance with five gallons of water," Peach did just that. "Okay, Ingredients: Apply some rock powder, half a set of rat's ribs, and three doses of wand glitter (This can easily be achieved by smacking a wand against the cauldron, pot thing, or whatever, as long as it falls in as seen in the wizard's glossary at the beginning of this book and on page 492); three times, no more, no less. Three shall be the number of times you tap the wand on the catalyst, and the number of the measured quantities shall be three. Four will make it explode, neither you will perform this task two times, excepting that you then proceed to three. Once the number three, being the third number, you will cease and move to the third step, which..." Peach, wielding a spare wand and slightly annoyed, asked Luigi if he was making that stuff up. "Nope, it's all verbatim. An alchemy book's warnings are alchemy book's warnings; now I can see why this particular edition is-a written for children." "Then why do we have this one when we're clearly fully grown?" "Because I've-a never done this before." "Calm yourself down, it's just like cooking, except you just have to be more careful because the consequences are easily more profound. Now, what was the next part again?"  "Okay, umm, let's see...Ah! Wait at least two minutes, then using an 9L stirring tool, stir as recklessly as possible until the precise moment it turns white(Explanation on how why is covered in the Explanations Index), BUT YOU MUST NOT MAKE SURE ANY OF THE POTION IS-a DROPPED OR IT WILL TAKE LONGER TIME TO REVERSE EFFECTS OF SAID SPELL, but if you say the name, it's-a supposed to be good luck." "All right." She paused and turned to Luigi. "Say, don't you want to do this last step? I mean, odds are you are stronger than I am." The two switched positions and Luigi whispered "Spelleraser", putting all of his arm muscles into brewing the potion for the exact length of time necessary. Peach quietly applauded, "Wow, just goes to show, you are more than those put-downs say about you, not that I didn't believe in you! Now you go and find Hildy."  "Aren't you gonna leave?" "I just thought of something that might help my portion, I won't be here for more than a couple minutes." Luigi took a closed flask of Spelleraser and left, grabbing the confiscated items of Toad's and Hildy's too. Peach, meanwhile, made a mysterious mixture of her own, hid all evidence of her and Luigi's presence, and rushed towards the dungeon.
7-4: Are You Surprised? It's Me
    Luigi knocked on Hildy's door and examined through a peephole. Not much luck. He rapped a little more aggressively, still no response. He sighed and waited quietly, thinking of more sneaky ways to get in. Peach entered with the same procedure as before and woke up Mario and the others. She opened the gate and they ran toward her. They then tip-toed over towards a set of iron chains. Peach dumped the chemical she made onto them; it slowly began to turn them brown. They surreptitiously made their way to the castle's front hall, but then a loud horn sounded. The lights came and the man with a black hood otherwise in full armor stood before them. He spoke as other concerned castle dwellers arrived on the scene, "I know what you came here for Princess."

Mario shook at the voice, "...Axton." "You know why I'm here?" Peach blanked. Mario and Toad stepped up front to confront him. Axton smirked twiddling his fingers. "So now I can finish this fight as it should have been." "It ended the right way last time-score for the nice guys; besides, you don't even have a weapon," Toad said. "That's because I was DISCHARGED ya nitwit!" He removed the cloak over his face, just like before, only with the mark of a second-degree burn on his right cheek and several signs of extreme cold. Everyone, including all but the most stoic of Bacterians and Varick cried out in disgust. "You know how I got this, YOU, just when I had the mustachioed punks in my grasp and now I have to just wait around for some other, less deserving comrade to see you through, but I'm stronger than that, so when I saw the Peach here with whoever cares about you traitors enough to give me a second-degree burn, I knew I had my chance!!!" Zeihlson interrupted the altercation. "So, you're trying to say that any one of us here is a spy?" "Yes." "Mother, have the all palace guests over here and we'll see things that way, after we throw these prisoners back where they belong, including Peach." They wanted to fight, but even though most of the oppressors were unprepared, they had numbers on their sides.

In the meantime, Luigi had continued to wait for Hildy until Axton's alarm sounded; then he heard something else: Hildy's voice-she was waking up and planning to investigate. He tapped on her door one more time. "Who is it?" "It's me! I've got something for you!" "Lanza?" At that moment, Hildy came out of her room. She had a nightgown and the brown dye had went away and changed into a night-sky black; her lips were also more pronounced. "Have the prisoners escaped?" "Uh, sure. That's why we have to leave right now." He dragged her towards a way out. Hildy screamed "But I don't want to leave my beloved!" "Well, your kingdom needs you." "Excuse me sir, this is my realm and tomorrow, I shall share it with Prince Zeihlson." "Calm down Hildy, drink this and everything will be perfectly fine," Luigi heard rapid footsteps, "after we get out of here." "But my Zeihlson-the wedding!" "I'm saving you!" They ran towards a lower window and jumped. They got up. "Hildy, please have this!" "What is it?" "Tea." She drank it, then she saw and hugged her Luigi. The two got down and peered through a window; they saw the others being escorted out. Someone said inside, "Hey did I just see somebody?" Luigi and Hildy ran inside a hotel for the guests nearby. The clerk was vaguely confused why Hildy was staying with her, but not suspicious enough to report anything; besides that guy with her was so cute and think of all the revenue positive feedback of a willing royal guest would bring. "We have to save them somehow," Hildy brought up to her friend, "Hm-hm. What a way to spend our last moments together, bringing peace to an entire continent." She showed him her room key (Located right next to Luigi's room) and departed to refresh herself for the rescue. Inside the locked cubicle, Mario, Toad, Yoshi, Clair, and Varick tried their best to smile. Toad asked Peach if she was sure about her part of the plan. "Of course it will. You guys are going to be alright."
 
    "Antonia, I have a feeling Varick should join the Mushroom crew in the stadium tomorrow; I mean, he is with them-just an idea. "I wouldn't mind that at all, not at all."
The morning came and Mario, Yoshi, Toad, and Varick were hauled away to a stone dome in shackles. Peach and Clair were put in cages beside the throne and thousands of cheering Bacterians. Zeihlson rose up and spoke to his people, oblivious to the sounds of his guards at the entrance getting beaten up by two unwelcome visitors. Zeihlson prepared to fire a powerful beam at the heroes as Clair and Peach placed their hands near their eyes  when they suddenly broke away-Peach had turned the restraints to rust! The four removed their hand and leg cuffs and declared their move to fight. The crowd began to panic and scurry all about, causing problems for Zeihlson and Antonia's aiming.

Luigi (Regular outfit) and Hildy (Street Clothes) barged in, making things more hectic. The two trudged through, eventually finding themselves right next to the prince. They tackled Antonia, trying to learn how to free Peach and Clair; her wand flew up and dropped beneath the seats. She tried to find it, but had lost the energy needed to search. Zeihlson turned to them- they ducked from a red lightning bolt of his and retreated back into the frenzied horde. Zeihlson pushed and shoved through his own spectators, then he saw that Mario and the others were coming to get him. He jumped down to get their attention. They approached closer; Luigi and Hildy joined them.

Zeihlson looked towards the crew and charged up what appeared to be a red-colored variant of his previous attack. The group wondered what was going to happen and who was about to get hit; no clue was given. He finally launched his hex successfully at Hildy, causing her to drop. Everyone was caught off-guard. Both Varick and Luigi screamed her name and caught her as if they were the same person. Her feet began to ossify and turn grey. Neither her brother nor her lover could save her. Still, she urged Varick not to shove Luigi away because she liked him and he liked her. "What are you turning my sister to stone for," Varick yelled. "She'll have to sit out of this one, just so she doesn't try to get in the way as I destroy you in the most perfect way possible," Zeihlson said.  He then used his powers to destroy the stairs to the box, punched into the ground, and levitated back up. By this time the only people on top were him, a fairly strong fellow begging to Antonia to guide her to someplace safe, her, and Axton.

The floor began to crack, exposing a bubbling river of lava lying beneath the surface of the planet. Everyone backed away as it continued to grow. Mario and Yoshi were able to jump the gap with Toad on Yoshi's back. Luigi gave himself the abilities of the Super Leaf, giving him Kitsune ears and tail. Varick gasped in shock. Hildy told him about the leaf. Luigi kissed her and leaped to join the others. All four looked the bravest they could. Yoshi and Toad dash towards Axton to divert his attention from the Mario Brothers, but they are quickly defeated.

Luigi asked Mario how they were supposed to defeat someone they couldn't even attack, "He's got the power of the stars on his side. What are we gonna do," he said quavering. Mario stood still for a moment-he examined the Crown of Invincibility, then the lava below-it all made sense to him now; he had an idea. Mario shook his brother in delight and told him exactly what they were going to do. Luigi seemed doubtful, but he turned to Varick and Hildy, unharmed, the gap completely stopped feet from where they were. Mario told the first part aloud between the two of them: "All we gotta do is make him really mad." As they continued to evade, Zeihlson created two copies of himself. The Mario Bros. succeeded with a "You get that one, I'll go for this one" approach. He had to defeat them somehow- he looked toward the molten rock beneath and smiled. He rose it up and cast it towards the Mario Brothers; this is what they had been waiting for. They quietly waited for just the right time and sped behind Peach and Clair's cages. The flow didn't go that far. Axton cautioned Zeihlson to move out of the way, but the latter was caught up in his rampage and his invincibility; however, he felt the pain when the lava fell on top of him, but he remained physically unchanged and alive, as long as the crown remained on his head.

Zeihlson escaped the flames, but the crown had fallen onto an overhang five feet below the stadium's foundation. Axton decided to take fate into his own hands; he showed off his muscles in a failed effort to frighten the brothers. The three formidably fought, each had a lot taken out of them. They charged towards each other again, Luigi knocking Axton back with a whip of the tail. Mario took a vengeful fist in defense. When he pulled through, he kicked Axton. Having enough, Mario and Luigi were pushed apart, Mario hanging on the cliff. Axton walked over and planned to stop on his fingers when Luigi tackled him, rapidly punching him with fists, feet, and tail, screaming "Get off of him!" Axton threw Luigi aside into the stage seats, making him uneasy and losing his Tanooki powers. Feeling even more adrenalin inside, Mario raised himself up, kicking the enemy. They exchanged strikes, kicks, and other types of blows. Mario and Axton stared at each other, sweating, each anticipating each other's next move. They grabbed each other's shoulders and proceeded to push each other back near the crater.

Peach and Clair grew more enthusiastic in their cheering for Mario. Varick joined in, along with Toad and Yoshi. Mario brought all these reasons he was fighting together and put all effort into his arms and legs-Yes! He had the upper hand! He threw a sharp punch then heard someone telling him "Move." Mario jumped up. Attempting an uppercut, Axton felt a jab in his back and tumbled. Mario set his feet to Axton's head and ground-pounded his back.  Mario checked to see whether Axton was really done in-no way he could tell if he was still alive or not.

He saw Luigi standing behind Axton with his right foot forward, smiling. Mario hurried towards him and the two gave each other a congratulatory hug. Toad and Yoshi joined in too. Together, they freed Peach and Clair. Luigi long-jumped towards the Crown of Invincibility, crowned himself, and closed the hole in the planet, making it safe for Varick and Hildy. He then got down on his knees and awakened Hildy. He helped her up and looked at each other longingly. At that moment, something inside Varick had changed his mind about love and warmed his heart, something in his sister's eyes. Luigi gave Hildy the crown and the two exchanged warm smiles and a mutual kiss. Mario and Peach went ahead and did the same. Toad clapped in excitement.

The eight took one of the royal air machines (They painted it with Archaean colors and symbols) and flew to the Archaean Castle, where Woltan was waiting for them. After learning of the story and drying his tears relating to the safe return of his kin, he gathered his throne room he spoke to the five heroes of the Mushroom Kingdom who stood in front of him; "Our fair kingdom and its people can now live and thrive mostly thanks to the generosity and noble efforts of these five gallant heroes. He ceremoniously gave each of them five special coins, each with the Archaean crest on one side, their name on the other. Woltan whispered to each, "There'll be plenty more where that came from." The audience clapped and waved back at Mario and crew.

Hildy conversed with Woltan privately: "Father, do you think maybe Luigi and I can tie the knot after all?" "Were you telling me the truth about his exploits," he said glaring at Hildy sternly. She flinched and sighed, "No, he didn't single-handedly stun the spirits of the Pit of No Return or whatever we shall call it in the future with nothing but a flashlight and he did not not scream for his mom when being shot out of a volcano." "Then no."He turned back to Mario. "You have done lots for this kingdom, why don't you stay and have some good, harmless fun for a little while? We have more than a few attractions." All five agreed instantly and unanimously.

Five days later, Mario and the others decided to return home. Everyone who could come turned out to bid farewell. Woltan, Clair, Varick, and Hildy congratulated them one last time before they walked up the gangplank, first Yoshi, then Toad, then Peach. Mario decided to stay on to shake some more hands before going up. Then Luigi. Hildy gave him a small ruby, an unofficial heirloom of hers and the rarest gem in Archaea, as a reminder of their time together and for good-luck. They embraced and kissed longingly before the crowd  before Luigi went up to join his friends. At that moment, a barrage of special fireworks went off. Moments after Luigi boarded, the cruise ship started to sail away. They all said their last good-byes towards the Archaeans  and awed at the fireworks, the moon, and the pristine ocean as they sailed into the night, towards home.
The End
After a relaxing voyage home, they looked forward to nothing more than getting back into the swing of things. The cheering crowds and welcoming party rivaled the joyfulness at the Archaean docks. Mario stepped off first and the moment he set foot on solid ground, Bam! A thrown water balloon smacks the side of his head.
Everyone gasped and turned to the front; there stood Wario, smiling and with a full sack of balloons. "I told you I'd have our revenge," he gloated, preparing to throw another one. Mario guessed his direction, but Wario's second round of vengeance was meant for Yoshi instead and struck. Mario, Yoshi, and Toad took a string of balloons, filled them with ocean water, and began to throw them back at Wario! Toad started snickering; it got to where Peach told him not to laugh anymore because then she would start laughing. As Wario tried to get him, Luigi pulled out his pocket mirror and reflected the Sun's light in his eyes. Wario confusedly dropped  a balloon onto the ground, screaming "My eyes! My eyes!".  Peach,  the crowd, and Luigi started giggling at his turn at mischief. Donkey Kong showed up and threw one of his barrels at Luigi to keep things even, knocking him into the ocean. He reappeared from the sea, soaked and spitting out the salt water in his mouth, then after he pushed up his hat and made sure still had his mirror, he got back up and joined Mario's side in the water balloon fight. As the tone of the clash became more playful, Wario proclaimed to Mario, "So, I bet this means we'll get to go with you more often, huh?" "I'll have to see about that," Mario replied. Everyone continued to laugh; they were having such a swell time.    Sometime later, Hildy was relaxing in her room when a knock came at the door. "Who is it," she asked. "It's me," a female handmaiden cried out, "I have a gift for you and I pre-opened it for you.'" "What is it," Hildy inquired eagerly. The servant came inside and gave the package to Hildy. She opened it. They found a bag containing several small seeds with a photograph of the Tanooki Tree just outside of Peach's Castle taped onto it. "My own Tanooki Leaves. Who should I thank?" A short note was also inside labeled, "I remembered you wanted some of these for your kingdom. From: 'Your special friend'."
 
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