Mario and Bowser: Frenemies Forever 2 (Redux)

The Missing Piece (Chapter 15)

Disclaimer: Mario and co belong to Nintendo

Author note: Revisions below.


"Mario Mario, I will tolerate your bullheadedness no longer!" Ludwig refused to budge just outside the barn door, the first time they'd stopped scuttling through the village. "Have you forgotten all I have said? Now the sun has nearly set. I regret pleading my case to you, for I could have ventured across two kingdoms by now!"

Mario placed one hand on the door handle. "Sure you would have, or maybe you would have been arrested immediately just like you were for being a subject of Bowser," he replied exasperatedly.

Ludwig seemed as though he was about to strangle him but wisely reconsidered at the last moment. "You. Do. Not. Get it! I would not deceive, the Mushroom Flu plot bringing us to this present moment involved no deception. I would not be so foolish as to detach myself from my family, my support, and tread weaponless if my hands were laced with nasty tricks. Everyone I care about is in grave danger here!"

"You poisoned sodas that innocent people drank and had your Zoo Diddley freak pulling pranks no one found funny."

"-Well, that's not deception. That's called being a villain.. Besides, Zoo paid the price for his questionably comedic contributions undeservedly by the dark star that I spawned- essentially," Ludwig admitted, his voice missing the boom it normally had. A dark wave came over his features and his gaze frosted over. "-Plumber, I will beg no longer because you've forced my hand. Keep me imprisoned if you want. If the Dark Star targeted Sam and Slam thousands of miles away it will inevitably follow me right here! I will go down and so will you."

Mario settled one moment longer to rid himself of the palpitations that statement brought. No way he'd show weakness to a Bowser minion. "Let me go back for a second. I wasn't trying to be a douche, we had to tackle one issue at a time. I didn't realize all of that was going on with Bowser so I thought Peach would be okay until we took care of all of the sick people here literally dying before our eyes. You know, priorities."

The koopaling's eyebrows rose then dropped then settled in-between. "So you really cured it? How? I mean I am impressed but-"

"We had some smart folks from out of town people figure it out along with some notes from Dr. Mario. You might know about it. Luigi infiltrated your camp and beat your solders up! So, actually," he sighed deeply. "We need your koopa scales as the final ingredient and we're done. Then we'll cure the sick and while they're recovering think about that other stuff.."

Ludwig seemed to retreat within himself. "So ein Mist.. Very well."

The koopaling stepped inside where his nose was bluntly impacted by the smell of the barn turned mad laboratory. Typical for Special World doctors. Ludwig on occasion attended their workshops located near Star Road. As they refused repeatedly, even with enticement of ludicrous amounts of gold coins, to duplicate Dr. Prof. Koopa's teleportation potion Bowser made famous in Super Mario 64, his feelings were quite lukewarm and not just because of the over inflated travel costs. Only one narrow space didn't have buzzing equipment or chemical filled tables in the way.

Prof. X-Naut blocked his path. "Ludwig Von Koopa? Ha. I knew you were behind this with your unprecedented ability to reverse engineer virus samples for evil!"

Amused, Ludwig decked the smaller man then stepped right over the grumbling body, his least favorite to listen to during workshops. "I reverse engineered nothing this time, Morris. What I needed to do was plainly written out." The other two doctors, Dr. Topper and Dr. Goom he recognized in passing when he noticed them scribbling on whiteboards in the far corners. Last was Dr. Toad approaching from the opposite end of the corridor, wooden clipboard under his arm. Ludwig actually hit it off with him, well 'hit off' by his standards which meant they occasionally associated at some intellectual recreation space in neutral territory. No telecommunication however. He was.. not at that stage yet-

"We appreciate your cooperation, Ludwig," he said rather lively. "I will personally make sure you're much less uncomfortable than we keep our patients usually."

After a moments hesitation, Ludwig bent down to the toad and lowered his voice. "You must assist me, Drew. Well, first of all I've been meaning to tell you your last piece was splendid, I saw it at the art gallery last month-" He grabbed him. "But more presently I'm being held hostage!"

"You know that's exactly our style," Dr. Toad replied, easing out of his grasp. "Get the restraints!"

Before Ludwig was tackled and tied to a table where horrors would unfold, he tossed his Ex spatio obiecti specialem book to Mario guarding the door. The book, stiff and moldy from being wet recently, smacked him in the face. Grumbling he picked it up. The book naturally partitioned in the middle where a page was dogeared. It held this passage:

'Star beings mold the world with wonderful chaotic purpose or wonderfully without perceptible purpose. Dark Stars hold similar power and, aware of the greater forces, have been recorded as doing the same for their own sinister motivations..'

One island of a tropical hemisphere called Water Land glowed orange in the night from hundreds of burning palm branches, each individually engulfed in time for Bowser and Peach's wedding. The bride and groom stood on a sand mound altar with accessories of colorful flower necklaces and the remaining Koopa Troop were the audience on the beach. Peach faced her koopa tormentor and no one at all at the same time, so distressed she was in another world. This just couldn't be happening. Bowser had never gotten so far before, so close to winning. She had nothing left but to keep wishing fervently for something, anything, to end the nightmare.

"Finally I can see!" Kamek received a silver electronic torch from Iggy. Its blue beam when switched on illuminated their entire vicinity awesomely, swallowing up the amber lighting and assaulting many eyeballs. Peach then had to add blindness to her current predicament.

"This device is splendid, Lord Bowser. Ah, I had a vision of something this amazing. -Or maybe it was an as seen on TV commercial-"

Bowser shielded his face with one hand. "-Old man, are you alright? Calm down, shine that stupid light the other way, and start the ceremony!"

Kamek jut the Kingly Law book out. "Do you take Princess Peach as your- Ah, I forgot something. Any objections? Speak now or forever hold your peace."

Steam shot out of Bowser's nose. "I don't care what any of you think!"

"I have objections anyway, you brute!"

Bowser's teeth grinded against each other, inclined to snatch Toadsworth right out of the audience and pulverize him.

Rather predictably old mushroom wasn't the only would be wedding crasher. Morton rose up, "King Dad, I must object! We cannot settle here! I know you attempted to abate me this morning but I can not let it go, drop it, or forget it. We should be using this time to get to the other side of the globe, vacate, leave the premises just like Zheng Koopa does in my book!"

Lemmy glanced over his siblings in disappointment. "Not again!"

Roy stood around at the end of the front row with the zombie like demeanor he'd had all day until then, when Morton's grating speech opened the floodgates. "Alright! I agree with 'em. I'm missing home real bad, okay? Why can't we just go back? I'm tired of running all over da place and I miss all my old Koopa Ball buddies in Dark Land. I left my gal back there! Here we have nothing and I'm sick of waitin' for whatever else is gonna go wrong!"

"AAAHHHHHGG!" Bowser growled.

"-Daddy, he's right. We should have set up somewhere else," Wendy cut in. "This is the blandest island and the pictures are going to be fug! Also it's late, it's hot, so yeah, like, let's reschedule. Maybe even, I dunno, go see if we can go back to Dark Land?"

Lemmy seated closest to her had a double take. Running his hand through his rainbow hair, he couldn't understand why she'd say that genuinely. He glanced backwards at the wedding crowd for confirmation. Had no one else caught 'Miss Perfect' Wendy actually disagreeing with her father?

"I caught that," Iggy said to Lemmy uncannily, the first words they'd shared since the morning after the 'incident'. He was seated a row behind his brother. Lemmy spun to him as he continued, "Lemmy I need to tell you something." Iggy scratched the back of his neck nervously as his brother became more bewildered and concerned. "Actually uh, I don't know how to put this but-"

"Why ARE we sitting around on our tails? We'll just be picked off like fly guys!" a large mook next to Iggy roared. A murmur of agreement came from around them, increasing in volume by the second. No one could hear their selves talk or think.

"YOU'RE ALL RUINING MY WEDDING! AGAIN! Is there really a reason why I should not marry Peach?! Right! There isn't!" In rapid stomp mode Bowser made torches fall and leveled the sand props.

"Bowser, you forgot about the most important objection!" Peach yelled over the commotion.

Bowser stopped and looked her in the eyes earnestly, shaking in irritation. "What what what?!" he cried.

"Mine. If you really care for me, you will know why." She boldly spun on her heels and walked to the shore alone, leaving a vacuum in the area. Bowser witnessed her strutting farther way, immobilized by some abhorrent part of him that was intent to remind that he would always be a loser, the third wheel between Peach and-

"Mario.." Bowser's bitter anger mellowed into deep sadness. He remained planted in that spot, facing where Peach left.

Lemmy instantly left Iggy to rush up to the foot of the altar. "King Dad, don't worry! Everyone is going to apologize and then we'll get Peach back!" he sputtered. He tugged on the closest sibling.

Wendy turned bleached white seeing Bowser crumbling up there. All that defiance from somewhere unknown drained away. "Oh we HAVE to make this up to daddy or we'll be ultra grounded. Come on then!"

Far enough on the shore to not be deafened by the Koopa Troop's cacophony, Peach noticed a speck on the horizon. Attracted by the torch Kamek had shining far up into the sky was an unmarked white boat. With an enticing scent it sailed to the the short island dock.

Sentry 11 lurking in the shadows lowered his binoculars. "Boss! Food catering's here!"

"Who wants those hot wings?!" A speaker announced from inside the motor craft. Dozens of the Koopa Troop stopped their screaming matches and frantically waded over to the boat. They brushed beyond Peach to where an unseen person loaded up their plates, hands, napkins, empty shells, whatever, with wings, drumsticks, ribs, and barbecue.

While the Koopalings were standing around trying to figure out where everyone had went, an ice cold blue can labeled '3 Moons' materialized in Bowser's hand.

"It's on the House. Chug it, dad!" Larry winked. The fools, they'd not even noticed him stroll up at least until then. Roy promptly put him in a painful neck lock.

Lemmy gave a start. "King Dad, read the label!"

Bowser crushed the empty can woozily. "Three.. MOONs! Duh!... Urp. Excuse me… 100% alcohol. 100% sugaarr...!" His children kept drifting away but in actuality he was wandering around and stumbled into Peach at the shore. All he made out in the dark was the red and blue of her flower necklace and so inebriated he couldn't bat away another loathsome facet of himself coming to surface. "...Marrrio?"

"Excuse me?" she exclaimed.

"..You're looking... hot!"

Peach side stepped when he lunged for a kiss. Bowser tumbled forward and off the pier into the water. Peach slung off her high heels and sprinted down the dock. She hurled herself onboard into the boat. The interior was filled of high-tech radars, radios, and mounted weapons. A young red capped toad dressed in all black at the controls spun his chair around. Without a word passing between them he took action. Their ship drifted away from Bowser Island as Peach remembered something missing, as essential as a hand or foot. Toadsworth! Despite very much buoyant she felt herself sinking down the deepest depths of the ocean. It was too late to return to the island!

On Bowser Island, Roy tossed his brother before the others like a rag doll. Larry rolled to a stop on the raised altar area, his back smashing against the sand podium. The Troop had dispersed due to their surprise visitor and they were the only ones hanging around the wedding spot. Larry spat out some blood as he crawled back up under the furious glares of his brothers and sister. "...Heck YEEEAHH, I PUNKED all y'all! You notice me now?!" he screamed, voice breaking. They could see the ship shrinking on the horizon.

Lemmy tiny fists balled and shook, his face flushed over. He rushed up to him, though he reached Larry's chin only. "LARRY! WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?!"

"Because I've told you a million times and you don't freaking listen!" he screamed back into his face "I don't wanna be a Koopa Troop! Last month, after Mario came and beat us all up and we were aching and miserable, I'd flippin' had it with this crap. I was gonna puke if I had to sit around in World 1 and guard another fortress pretending I actually cared. My grades have been dropping from stress. Every professor notices and I can't tell them the real reason. I was gonna run away and live somewhere else under disguise or something and finish school and run an underground club- Don't ask me how that was supposed to flippin' work, I had to just get out of here!" He panted under their stunned silence. He felt lighter than air. A new wave came over him. "But then Ludwig had his latest new scheme. it seemed to be too much going on, so I thought I could pretend just a little longer. Now I don't need to do I? So, if you're expecting an apology I ain't got one. I'm happy we just failed." He smirked then. "Welcome to my world."

"...Larry?" Wendy, Roy, and Morton exclaimed at once, even Junior if to fit in.

Lemmy wearily stepped back. "Everyone, stop! Stop!... Let's find King Dad and then Larry we'll.. talk about that."

"Lemmy-sama," Iggy spoke up quietly. "Maybe Larry-chan won't apologize, but as I was trying to communicate to you before my eardrum was ruptured, really I think you should."

Lemmy's eyebrows furrowed. "This is a bad time to joke around. What?"

Iggy rubbed his tired overly worked eyes behind his glasses. No more beating around the bush or some other distraction would be around the corner. He'd seen this situation before in too many TV shows. "Nevermind. Behold my!-" he reached into his pocket and presented in their faces a completed supped up gold pocket watch. It opened to flashing circuitry that gleamed in the night. "-Way Awesome Intelligent Futuristic Utility! Is it familiar, Lemmy-sama? It came from a place that was creepy but also an epic place for an anime battle. A place where we-"

"-Yo, excuse me but I can't get over the fact that you made a W.A.I.F.U!" Larry gave a snort.

"Oh gosh darn it Larry-chan," Iggy went in a sudden fit, "now you're the plot device that's gonna stall me out before I can explain to the rest of them that Lemmy, Ludwig and I knew what was going on the entire time and I've been building this invention to go back and reset that Friday night where it started and we released the Dark Star that's been attacking us!"

Wendy gasped, hurt in her eyes, then searing anger. Lemmy shrunk a few inches. Morton, unnaturally silent, was shaking his head with a look that seemed half pitying half someone else.

Roy snatched Lemmy by edge of his shell behind his neck, dangling him. "I knew somethin' bout this situation stunk extra bad. Any more secrets, pipsqueak? "

Lemmy gulped. "N-no, I kept getting swamped by all of my responsibilities. I would trying to think about it but it got harder to accept the deeper we got into this. And then King Dad just kept pushing us forward so... Yeah, I'm guilty. "

"Wrong answer!... I mean, right answer! I mean-GAH! Get crushed!"

Lemmy then decided, not! He shot his legs up against Roy's hard abs, and kicked do an acrobatic flip backwards out of his grasp. Lemmy continued flipping off the alter and landed on his ball arms raised and eyes closed, almost involuntarily shouting 'tada' for the perfect landing. But then he opened his eyes and squealed. Roy was barreling at him mach speed. He rolled away. Wendy entered the fray cussing him out and Morton was running along as well. Lemmy fled to the beaches where the Koopa Troop were lounging around obliviously. He called for help and zig zagging around the soldiers for his life. He was practically invisible to them. He wasn't a worthy substitute for Ludwig all along. Maybe he should have taken a hint from Larry.

Iggy stood at the X spot that marked where Kamek was to stand behind the podium. It was as good a spot ever for his hail mary test run. All of this drama was nothing for him really to worry about. It was his least favorite genre, after 'western' and 'hurt/comfort', wait, wrong application. But anyway due to two days straight of diligence he held now in his palms another time machine! He was officially 'OP'. He wound up the crown and let it go, bracing himself. Spring retention slung the hands backwards, stopping time in the island's proximity for ten seconds before it ran out of power. Time spun in in turbo mode to catch up. The disturbance created a wave of water crashing over the shore. Iggy took in a gulp of air while he could and thanked himself for making the watch water resistant.

By then Larry had snuck away to the other half of the island when two mooks emerged from behind some tropical vegetation and onto his path, a koopatrol and toad. They were joking and laughing and eyelashes were batting. Both shuddered at him.

Tanner then saluted rigidly. "Larry, sir! I was just showing a fellow soldier all of the Prankster Comets known to circle in this hemisphere, sir! And nothing else, sir!"

Not knowing what else to do, Emery copied what he did. "Yep. No, seriously!" She turned then the Tanner. "Wait, isn't he on the traitor list? Shouldn't we like, do something?"

Larry folded his arms and laughed. "Heh heh, from you toady? Miss I'mma quit Peach's hospital and then join Bowser?"

Emery frowned slightly, but kept saluting. "I was fired, not the same thing. Besides, didn't betray the princess because I was ever really on her side."

Larry kept chuckling giddily. "Good point, toady. Guess I was never really on Bowser's either. Let's pretend we didn't see each other, 'aight?"

Larry kept on through shallow water and to the closest island where it was pitch black. This new independence was so fresh to him yet automatic. He was imagining somewhere cool he could live next as a refugee, like Neon Heights or Music Park. On reaching a new area he trampled fresh vegetation and island flowers. There was another dock with something waiting for him. Water Land's legendary canoe. He raced down and grabbed the edge, pinching himself. It was real. Climbing onboard he severed the rope keeping it tethered and drifted away, grabbing a set of oars get further into water. He paddled around for a while until he bumped something, his father's dazed body drifting around. He panicked until he saw his father breathing. He pulled Bowser's body on the legendary canoe and sighed. It was like Bowser still kept track of him, even unconsciously. A giant wave slammed the boat then, sweeping him right back towards Bowser Island, or what used to be. The land mass disappeared as if a hurricane hit it. Bodies flailed about everywhere, familiar ones. Larry snapped an oar in frustration. He just couldn't get away from these people!

"Help!" Lemmy yelped desperately from a few feet away. Some debris, an extra chain chomp chain caught his leg and was dragging him down.

Larry glared at him hard, breathing heavily. A second later he reached his arm out to help.

...

Mario caused such a stir in the area he had to confirm he didn't accidentally announce a new game. In spite of the hours growing later the South was hectic. He wondered if they'd be as enthused if they knew of the less than family friendly way it came to be, the countless translucent blue scales the doctors forcibly scrapped off of Ludwig's back. The screams of terror still echoed in his mind... Mario kept the unfortunate koopaling's involvement secret, even from his brother, explaining to others that he imported some at the last minute to stifle questioning. Now the work was complete and Sarasaland's young ruler was first to be cured. Daisy was laid into an invention designed to emit a vapor on the subject. Mario guarded the door again and only let a few in to watch this private and discreet event, yet he suspected Buckenberry of live-streaming it anyway...

"If this crazy thing launches into space or explodes, I'm gonna get you," Luigi threatened.

Prof. X-Naut calmed him with a thumbs up. There was a pop then a bang as the inside of the chamber clouded up. After a few agonizing seconds the doors were kicked open from the inside.

"Did you smoke bomb my bedroom? Again?" Daisy wailed, flinging on to Luigi, the nearest person, and rolling together to the ground.

"Daisy, yes you're okay!" He embraced her as Mario, Yoshi, Buckenberry, and Jr. Troopa gathered around.

"W-where am I? What happened to the tennis game?" the princess inquired.

Toad Toad was next, wheeled inside the chambers to get his steam treatment. Peach's loyal secretary stumbled right back out, fanning away the mist.

"Ha, ha, who burnt that pizza, homeboys? We won the game, right?"

More were cured one after the other. Those in coma like states would leave the machine walking and talking with no seriously ill effects other than losing track of the last three days.

"This is almost going too well.." Dr. Toad whispered to his crew. "Two days here and no health inspectors? We didn't even have the correct paper work so it would have been justified for once.."

"Drew, we've worked our butts off. Stop giving yourself grey hairs and celebrate." Dr. Topper pat him on the shoulder.

Dr. Goom in a rare moment nodded pleasantly for a shady goomba. "At last a favorable report might be obtained for our Special World Hospital."

"Ah you think? Even after that controversial surgery on Tubba Blubba?" Prof. X-Naut thought nostalgically.

"-Morris you were the one who screwed that up by swapping the wrong heart! And don't say that too loud!" Dr. Toad hissed.

"Hate to interrupt over there, but I think we're done doctors." Mario waved from the other side of the lab. All of the sick patients were taken care of and sent to the sea of spectators collecting their loved ones. The news was already on the Toad Town message boards. Mario then held up a select few, Luigi, Yoshi, Captain Toad, and fan Buckenberry (actually uninvited) to divert to a quiet corn field. Quickly he regretted that disserted location choice.

Luigi stepped forward. "Bro, what is going on? You've been weird since that package with the scales arrived.."

Mario shrugged. "There was something about that package."

"It got damaged in shipping? I told you to always pay the few coins more for insurance, especially the way Parakarry rushes," Yoshi lectured in jest.

A chuckle escaped the red plumber. "No no, not that. Yoshi! I'm serious! They came from Ludwig von Koopa. I took him out of jail and he has something to tell us about what's going on with Bowser. "

Mario whistled. Ludwig very slowly, movement hindered by the bandages all over his back, emerged from a row of the produce with a zombie like gait. His face was overly puffy due to anesthetics wearing off and eyes red. As he inched closer grimacing, Luigi, Yoshi, and Buckenberry had an expression as though he was the Underchomp seeking to take away all of their extra lives. The Captain on the other hand-

"Golly! A Koopaling!"

Ludwig muttered curses against Mario and scuttled back into the field. Deep in a mental fog from pain killers, the corn maze thwarted his mind utterly. He smacked against dead end after dead end. A light switched on and he could see his tall silhouette before his path. He spun to face the light.

Captain Toad then switched his headlamp on a lower setting. "What were you saying, sir?"

"Regarding what, little toad?"

"It's Captain Toad, and it's regarding your information on Bowser."

"That intel is for Mario."

"Fair, Mr. Koopa. What about your special objects lexicon then, the book you let Mr. Mario barrow? I had Hint Toad send me a complete PDF for my own enjoyment and I was reading it for the last hour."

Sobering up, Ludwig was intrigued of where this might go with the parvenu of Mario and company, but that meant showing his hand to someone he'd never met before. Still, the opportunity to converse with the only other person who had read his book was too strong for the koopaling to ignore. "Reluctantly, I will elucidate. My father is in danger of a threat called the Dark Star. Now that you have cured all those I afflicted with Mushroom Flu, we must communicate this to them and then hypnotize a way to mitigate its destructive and persistent force."

The Captain nodded. "But you know how already. It is in the very book we speak of."

The koopaling frowned. "Why do you speak as such? I have extracted all particulars from those beige crinkly pages. Surely you don't suggest I am a poor student!"

"I am afraid so, Mr. Koopa." He watched as The Captain fiddled with his tool belt. Ludwig then caught the moonlight glint off of a shiny blade. His mouth went dry as the toad added, "And don't call me Shirley."

"Captain!" Ludwig gasped, his tender shell smacked against the stalks. He was cornered.

"Let me quiz you. The star section of your book states this: 'Ownership [of a star endued item] can pass on through physical possession or..' What? What was the requirement?"

"I cannot recall," Ludwig mumbled defeatedly. He was certain he knew it all. However despite the book being on him for days, the last time he'd actually read it was that Friday night. Some sort of subconscious trauma made him shy to thumb through it since. Regardless he found this situation reprehensible. After his 'selfless' sacrifice of his back scales he was still being treated like low life dirty Bowser mook by this toad pest. No one had to like him but he could, deserved, be respected. Masking it under indifference, he was going to test him in return. To see if a Mushroomite raised under such speciest and nationalistic tyranny could grasp that truth. "I will say no more, little toad."

Something moved in a blur. Ludwig felt a painful sting on his left arm, accompanied by thin line of blood running down from the cut. His nostrils flared. "Cease this game already," he growled, clinching his arm. "-Eldstar, why do I keep meeting the insane ones?"

The Captain seemed shocked for a flash, the first piece of evidence he wasn't a sadistic toad shaped android. He then tried just as quickly to hide that under a neutral veil. "Perhaps I was in too jovial a mood." He strapped away the knife, trading it for his more signature pickaxe. "The answer was 'death'. Death was the alternate condition to rid oneself of any attachment, positive or negative, to the stars. Since, if I understand correctly, the owner of the Dark Star, or the item that spawned such is dead, that Dark Star has no attachment to any one and is thus in a position to be permanently conquered. This ends the cycle a dark star normally experiences, that of attaching itself to someone with a psionic link and influencing them for destruction until it is physically separated, typically by being buried deep somewhere underground."

"Where have I heard that before?" Ignoring his injuries, Ludwig grabbed him close. "This IS the missing piece! The steward, Zoo Diddley. I respected his privacy, but I always knew there was something about him that-"

"Break it up!" Mario shouted, shining a blinding light on them both. He was waving the other arm in the air like a maniac, but they could no longer hear the rest of what he said, voice buried by the obnoxious drone of a helicopter somewhere near.

...Just on the other side of the same field, "-Cut it out already," Dr. Toad groaned.

He and Jr. Troopa were entering the gates to the field that held the Special Hospital's ride. While Jr. Troopa disliking Dr. Drew Toad was no secret, the reason why was. Junior's colleagues assumed he had a good explanation but he knew himself he didn't. Junior typically had the endurance to annoy people indefinitely but this time he was drained. That's what he got for starting a bitter one-sided rivalry.

"Wake up, Junior," Dr. Toad stopped where there packed up supplies were held. Long propellers ahead were rapidly spinning up, flatting out corn in the maze and whipping about his oversized lab jacket. It became ear-splitting, so the toad doctor had to lean in towards his ear.

Snapping out of those thoughts, Jr. Troopa gave a curt nod and held on to his cowboy hat. "Yep, partner?"

"Ease it down some! You do an excellent job to be so young! I mean it! But stop being so clingy!"

Jr. Troopa blinked at him. "What?!"

"I mean it! Hey, sorry I denied your request the first time. I was going through things. I'll readd you if it makes you feel better!"

A smile grew on Jr's face before he could stop it. "Y-you will partner?!"

"Yeah! Soon as I'm back at my office computer... Assuming Morris hasn't unplugged the wireless routers again!. Okay, associate? Farwell!"

Jr. Troopa watched the helicopter take flight, shortly becoming invisible against a black sky speckled with stars. He fist pumped. He finally would have a instant messaging friend that was close to his age, in the medical field, and free of time wasting girlfriends! Not that he cared about- never mind.

...

"So, some 'historian' came to my castle one day and said he did free metal detecting crap. He picked up something in my backyard and I was like, yeah see what it is. That was a few weeks ago. Everyone I asked to help agreed at first but then like, dawg, they when treasure crazy over it, digging and digging!" Daisy explained, seated on the bed and hugged up in covers to suppress her constant chills, one of the milder side effects. She continued, "I felt so bad because they just went bonkers. I thought they'd dig through the planet until they stopped at a tomb. It took dynamite to blast the sucker open and what was inside vanished out of thin air. It was hard to see before going poof but I think it was an old rusty bell.."

Mario nodded. "I think our toads saw that item in the hands of Zoo Diddley." He stood at the door while Luigi, Yoshi, and Toad gravitated towards the back wall where the cowhide rug and seating was. "It gets worse, a mystery general of yours thought my line was Bowser."

Daisy slapped her head lightly. "That's another crazy thang. He invited himself around but I couldn't deal it because the tennis game was coming up and-"

"-I know, I know," Mario repeated. "I screwed this all up by scheduling that tennis game without thinking. All I cared about was getting back at Bowser, making you collateral damage and I'm sorry. Finally though, we've solved this mystery and this mess will be over."

"Really?" Luigi raised one eyebrow.

"Yeah! We know what to do, thanks to this." He revealed the Ex Spatio Obiecti. "But as if I know what I'm talking about. Let me get someone so who does." He then surprised them by turning around to the window in the room and sided it up with a loud creek. Someone was standing outside they noticed then, covered in outerwear that obscured their features.

"Don't freak out this time. It's Ludwig. He's wearing that so people don't notice him."

Yoshi stared at the figure. "In a neon yellow poncho?"

"And why is he here roaming around here? You never got to that, Mario," Luigi added, defensively standing near Daisy.

"Attention!" Ludwig spoke at last. His poncho rustled as he slid close to the cracked window pane. "I know I am gaudy right now, don't rub it in. Anyway-" He explained everything he knew laconically but it still look quite some time, concluding, one finger raised with, "So we need to combat a powerful force with an equal one. Crygor's Law of Relevancy!"

"...Can you run that through me again?" Toad asked with a burned out look.

"NO!" everyone went.

Luigi wearily plopped down in the room's standard issue La-Z-Boy. "It is a lot to take in though."

"Take your time," Ludwig said flatly. "We only have very little of it left..."

Mario slipped on his shoes and grabbed a travel bag. "We have to go go go!"

Luigi watched him dash out. "Mario! He's going jackrabbit again," he told Yoshi and Toad.

Yoshi sighed. "Let's get him.." He left with Toad.

Luigi got up when he remembered Daisy. "Daisy, you'll be okay? I'm not sure what's about to happen right now honestly. I thought we were near the other side of the tunnel honestly."

The desert princess gave a start. "OH, did I zone out? Yeah. I just- I know I'm supposed to be recovering but I'm worrying about my staff and generals at the castle, and I'm outta minutes."

He returned to her side. "Here, call home." He eagerly handed her his phone.

"Weegee, you're the best. Just stick around. It'll be a sec." She hugged him and then dialed her castle's front desk phone. Both of them leaned over the bright screen while it rung. She didn't want her mind to go there, but being alone in the room for the moment was intimate in a way she hadn't felt with him in a while. She wasn't sure if the heat on her face was from that or her low-grade fever. "Hey, this is your Princess Daisy."

"Oh, princess!?" the unfamiliar lady on the other end exclaimed. "I'm Nass your new in house nurse and assistant."

Daisy rolled her eyes. One would think she left the doors of her castle wide open with how many unwanted guests it was attracting these days. Actually maybe she did do that sometimes- "Just let me speak to whoever's your superior..."

The nurse switched the line. "HELLO? ARE YOU BACK FROM 'TENNIS' SO SOON, PRINCESS?" the English voice bellowed. "YOUR AFFAIRS HERE ARE AS SMOOTH AS A WELL OILED MACHINE. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT A THING."

Daisy flushed angrily. "What the heck is this? Freakin' jerk! Get out of my castle! Where is Ming? I'll only trust him at this point. Straight up. In fact slick, I don't care how crappy I feel! I'm about to fix a flight home right now and kick you out personally. How 'bout that?"

"HAHAHAHAHA. GET ON MY LEVEL, MORTAL. TA TA."

Luigi's violently emitted a black mist from the speaker holes. They jumped off the bed as it sizzled and the plastic melted into a charred lump, burning through the mattress and down into the wood flooring. A fire alarm blared. Daisy clung to Luigi, wrapping her arms around his back and watched over his shoulder.

"Oh gods! Sorry Luigi did I hit a wrong button or?.. I hope your private pictures of tropical beaches were.. 'backed up in the clouds'? Whatever that means."

Luigi turned around and pulled her close, drawing them away from the mess. "I'm just glad you're okay. What if whatever this was is connected to that Dark Star? We have to find everyone.. And apologize to the room service."

They sprinted outside, both very disoriented of where anything was in this Southern park of the Mushroom Kingdom. They split up to see who would find a phone booth or source of help first. Luigi went to the left where eventually along the road was a golf kart inexplicably parked there. "Yo, Green! Where's Mario? I wasn't snooping or anything but me and that ol' Mitch and I found out-"

Luigi swung into passenger seat with Kylie Koopa "You can tell me the scoop later. Get a fire wagon! My phone blew up!"

"Nice!"

Luigi gave the koopa a tired vexing look. "Not in popularity.."

...

Mario ducked under the hanging model airplanes in Jr. Troopa's private office. The head nurse healed up a mysterious cut on Ludwig here after they met in that corn field. Mario didn't know why, but Junior was in a mighty good mood and let him stay there, at least until Mario snuck him back out to talk with his friends. Mario approached the corner near Junior's computer where Ludwig had jot impressively for a few minutes. "Darn, it's in German." He flipped from page to page worriedly, comparing them to the Lexicon.

"Want me to get Toadette to translate it?" Buckenberry asked over his shoulder.

Mario jumped. "Cool Blue?! I thought you went back to the castle with the rest."

The young blue toad shrugged. "I was waiting for Yoshi cause he'll need a ride. So do ya? Wait, Mario that is in English, just neat cursive."

Mario pulled his hat down over his eyes some, blushing. "I knew that.. Then what does it say?"

He squint at it and then smiled apologetically. "Never mind. I still can't read it."

The Koopaling hobbled in at last, dropping that hideous poncho as he hit the door. He found amusing their buffoon like expressions sh he eased into Junior's La-Z-Boy. Again, those things littered the south.. "You would have never understood Mario fiends, it's in neat cursive German! There are star endued objects that can assist in the incorporeal warfare we find ourselves in, so cease disorganizing my journal please."

"Hey!" Buckenberry tugged on Mario. "Saturday when we were cleaning up the castle, Alagold told Toadette to salvage a jewel of Peach's. Today we put it in storage down here. That's totally it I mean it has star in the name, right? She studied this in college."

Ludwig spat out his hot tea. "We must possess that instantaneously!"

Mario visited a store building that had been rented to them, housing random things from the toads for convenience, clothes, valuables from the castle, some powerup items, the green Bowser racket Luigi added there, and more. Buckenberry pointed out the shoe box. They brought it back to Ludwig and together opened it up. It's light filled the dim little room and the pink hued diamond shaped gem had a magnetizing pull. Ludwig was leaning in, and then recoiled quickly, blue eyes sparking in some sudden realization.

"Plumber and little toad," he explained urgently. "We are not the 'owner' so it is important that we do not touch it." He watched them not react to his words, growing closer. With a shudder, he had to get up and stop them. The knocked back the blue toad but was too late for his greatest rival. "Mario!"

Mario's head snapped upwards. "What, Ludwig?" he asked, casually holding the gem.

Ludwig paused with bated breath. Maybe it didn't mean- Oh, never mind he corrected. It did, as Mario let the gem slip back into the box. The plumber's mouth hung open in horror.

...

The next wave hit the boat so hard Peach would have flipped out was she not already buried under all of the equipment that shook off their mounts and toppled over her. Agent Toad or Sonny as he casually introduced himself, fought to keep them on top of the waves. The down pour beat them down like a waterfall and she couldn't discern a direction they were trudging, only a light source behind thickened fog. Another splash shook her up again, bringing to the top of the pile a warp whistle. Immediately she tried to use such, but waterlogged it made no noise.

"Mayday!" Agent Toad yelled over the winds of the typhoon. He donned complete scuba gear in flash. "Mmm mm mm mm?" He lifted the snorkel up. "Sorry. Do you think you could swim to the nearest continent from here? No? I'll do what I can but uh I'm kind of new on the job and-"

There was another crash as the object following them with the light rammed them. Hull breached by the large canoe, the their spy boat fell apart in seconds. Peach grasped on to a paddle. It lifted her up and onboard to a sight worse than the storm.

"I found the princess!" Lemmy and a few others hurried to get the drenched and shivering princess and onboard. Iggy's flashlight was the only light in the night storm. In her extreme fatigue she couldn't make out any faces and fell unconscious.

"Row row row," koopas droned, a drilled in habit if they didn't want fire breathed on them, even doing so when their king wasn't actually conscious to force them to do anything. Bowser was just as motionless as Princess Peach as the legendary Water Land canoe rocked with the waves. None of the koopalings were making eye contact with each other and trying to stay alive remained a good excuse to not talk about much either.

Lemmy clambered to the edge of the bow. He caught one glimpse of land before getting pummeled by a wave with the force of K64 running late. He fell back into the puddle in the middle of the boat, continually growing in size as they took on more water. Facing upwards into the sky, Lemmy spotted with each flash of lightning a swirling vortex in the rain clouds. "Over there!"

Kamek nodded and directed a new course, clinging to the edge for support with his hood far down over his head. Suddenly Wendy O. the self proclaimed queen of the ocean tossed a sparkling gold ring in the water from the edge. For a moment the storm began to calm down, the waves moving more gently.

"Told you I had this under control," she murmured.

A steady but comparatively soothing rain pattered the boat. Larry grumbled something then. Toadsworth was next to him in the same position, but dissonantly relieved that the princess had survived shipwreck. Her wellbeing was all he hoped for anymore. Kammy leaned over the edge of the ship and mentioned seeing something just like time Bowser's shower got clogged. Lemmy got to the look out position again to investigate.

"Whirlpooooooooool!"

All one hundred of the Koopa Troop braced themselves as the strong outer currant listed the ship to its side, ejecting many into the water. The boat spun around until in the center of the eye it snapped in half. All remaining were dragged down by the tidal currents, unable to battle against it. Lemmy was a strong swimmer which he for once in his life hated. He witnessed himself become the last man above the water. He vowed if he survived he would never lie again. He never meant to hurt anyone and all he could wish for was a chance to fix this, as impossible as it seemed. The time came shortly when his strength ran out. He took deep breath and closed his eyes before the whirlpool devoured him.

"REWARD BESTOWED," boomed a satisfied voice from above.

...

To be continued..

Author note: No relation to Mario and Bowser: Frenemies Forever Epilogue 1: The missing piece

Created: 7/22, 7/23, 7/25, 7/26, 7/27, 7/28, 7/29, 7/31, 8/1, 8/11, 8/12, 8/13, 8/14, 8/25, 8/31, 9/2, 9/15, 9/18, 9/23, 10/2, 10/6, 10/7, 10/13

Edit: 12/30/20, 12/31

Just fixes mostly: 5/24/21. 5/25

2022 Revise changes and also 7777 words just so ya know: 1/9/22