Kingdom Minus Hero (Part 2)
Mario slides down the Special Pipe, wasting no time getting to the other end. But to his great disappointment, he only ends up in an empty underground cavern. The ceiling is tiled with brick blocks, and on the other side of the cavern is a green pipe heading up through the ceiling.
“Did Luigi come through here?” Mario thinks to himself as he heads toward the Warp Pipe.
“No” responds an omnipresent voice.
Startled, he stops where he is and looks around. “Who’s-a there? Who are-a you?”
“How would one describe me? I am…the voice of reason. I am unbound, and above all things.”
“How…do you know my brother?”
“He is not here, and he is not above.”
“You mean the Warp Pipe ahead? But, then where is-a he?”
“He is beyond the pipe. He is in a place long forbidden.”
“So…how can I find him.”
“Your brotherly bond is powerful and beautiful. This is a rare thing. So rare that I will help you.” A darkened blotch appears on the upper end of the green pipe. “You must jump here precisely. You must crouch here tightly. You must do both these things exactly.”
“Alright…” Mario leans in, then sprints toward the Warp Pipe. Just before the entrance to the pipe, he leaps toward the spot and crouches just before impact. He shuts his eyes and prays, “Please let this work!” Then his feet touch solid ground. He opens his eyes and gets out of his crouching position. He finds himself in a much smaller version of the cavern he was just in, and a green pipe sticks out in the middle of the floor.
“Huh. So my brother went this way, right?”
“He is in grave danger. As to all who enter the Minus World. If you, too, must follow this path, stay the course. Do not turn back. Do not stray the path. Do not let the negatives get the best of you. Keep peace of mind, and you will succeed. I see many trials ahead for you. And now I go.”
For a few seconds, absolute silence. Mario looks down the green pipe. “Hang tight, Weegee. I’m-a coming for you!” He takes a deep breath and jumps down the Warp Pipe.
Before anyone can react, Bowser scoops up all seven of the Toads present in both his giant claws. “Bwahaha! This is almost too easy!”
Princess Peach momentarily topples over to avoid the Koopa King’s grasp. “How…” she mutters as she gets back up.
“Come on, princess. You think two super-humans are all it takes to take me out?”
“No. I mean, Mario took you out, but…”
“Like hell he didn’t!” He nearly flings the Toads out of his right hand in a fling of rage, consisting of Toadiko, Toadbert, and Shmarr T.
“Aieeeee!” screams Toadiko.
“You let me go this instant!” blathers Shmarr T.
“By boogity, whatever you do, don’t let us go!” says Toadbert.
Peach waves her hands to get Bowser’s attention. “Please, calm down! How about we just talk…”
“Setbacks! Just another setback is all that that will give me. But if you really want to talk…” he gestures toward the balcony. A blocky platform with wings is parked right outside. “…how about you step outside and I’ll give you a ride to my camp quarters.”
She frowns, “Subtle, but that doesn’t sound like a good negotiation. How about right here? Just, put them down, nicely, and we can discuss whatever you want.”
A crooked smile spreads across his face. “Tempting. If you don’t like my first offer, how about a new one? You get on that platform and cooperate as I tell you…” He raises both his fists full of Toads. “…or perhaps I might drop them somewhere unpleasant!” With that, he bears all his teeth, a fire crackling at the back of his throat.
Peach’s eyes widen as she witnesses the seven Toads squirming and yelping in the Koopa King’s hands to no avail. “You wouldn’t!”
“Have I ever not kept my word?”
She raises a shimmering-pink hand in protest, but stops short. Although her mind races furiously, her expression slowly morphs into a grimace at the thought of what she has to say. “Fine. I’ll come.”
“Good! Now come along, and don’t you dare utter a peep while we ride.” He steps onto the platform, the exhausted Toads still in his fists. Peach begrudgingly steps on as well. With that, the wings on the platform lift them all high into the sky before flying toward the Mushroom Plains.
Just as they disappear out of sight, General Toad knocks on the princess’ bedroom door. “Princess? Russ T left one of his notes at home, and has been brought for the meeting. Hello?” Silence…for over a minute. A breeze blows from the balcony.
The general slams the door open, one hand holding the spear in its hilt. “Princess?” he bellows. In no time, he notices huge gashes on the carpet, like claw scrapes. He drops the notes he was to deliver. “Oh no, not again!”
Mario swims through the Minus World. But the water isn’t even like the lakes in the Mushroom Plains. He can breathe it like air. His vision is cut to a hazy blur. Any noise that meets his ears feels like nippy static. However, the ‘sea bottom’ looks like scenery from the Mushroom Plains he had passed through earlier.
While slightly unsettling, the plumber focuses on one direction: forward. “I must find Luigi!”
After a long swim, Mario finds himself slowly sinking to the ‘floor’. Gravity begins to take more effect, and he runs along the ground. The static noises clear up, but the new noises turn into irritating whispers.
“What gives you the right to step into foreign affairs?”
“Look at all the carnage you caused to the kingdom. Do you think it will ever get better?”
“Turn back now; all you care about is yourself”
Mario winces as the whispers persist. But he hardly slows his running pace. “I don’t care what others tell me. I have been alone with my brother for most of my life, and laughed off for experimenting with different things. But I’m still trying. I’m still listening. And I’ll always be there for those I care about when it counts! The odds will never strike me out!”
With each step, the scenery shimmers away until it vanishes all together. Soon, the red plumber finds himself weightlessly moving through an endless void. Absolutely nothing all around him. “Come on, Weegee…where are you?”
Right on cue, he spots a green splotch in the distance. Without even thinking where he is, he runs toward the spot. The green spot gets larger and larger, until Mario can clearly see the green mass as a lively swirl of fog. “Luigi?” Mario gets an even closer look, and through the fog is a curled up figure. It is in fact Luigi, shivering and muttering profusely. “Luigi!” He reaches over and grabs hold of his shoulder. As he pulls his brother out of his fetal position, a shot of pain spreads to him. Mario winces again, still stirred by the stinging whispers. “Argh, what the…?!”
Luigi stirs a bit as he moans, “Not a monster…not a monster…”
Mario glances worryingly toward his brother as he looks around for a way out. “Hang in there, Luigi! I’m-a here!”
“…m…ma…Mario?” Luigi moans.
“Yes! Please, stay with me! I’ll get us out of here…” Mario hoists Luigi up so he slumps on his back, with a green-clad arm over his shoulders. He then aimlessly trudges them both through the void.
Inside Luigi’s head, the voices of the green fog keep pestering him as they mentally eat away at his sanity. “You are a weak and pathetic fool.”
“You will drag down everyone around you.”
“Can’t do anything without your brother. Why can’t you be more like your brother?”
That last remark, combined with his brother’s voice calling him periodically, strikes a different cord in his very fiber. Luigi begins to regain a little consciousness. “More like…my brother…” he murmurs.
Unfortunately, as Luigi slowly stirs awake, the green essence that seeped into his body tries to spread to his brother. The whispers become more audible and distracting to Mario. “Who’s ever going to take you seriously?”
“If you can’t fit in in Brooklyn, where is left for you to go?”
“You have the most ridiculous accent, and you know it!”
Mario bites his lip and continues to drag his brother through the Minus World. “Geez, not helping! I need to find a way out of this place!”
A split-second migraine pulses through his head, which stops Mario in his tracks. But as soon as it stops, the voices cease. At the same time, he spots the entrance to the Special Pipe a short distance ahead. “Wa-hoo! Finally!” He gentle jostles his brother. “Hey, Luigi, I don’t know how, but we’re going to make it out!”
Although partly unconscious, a small smile appears on the green plumber’s face. “Home…”
The voices still persist in his head, albeit diminished in intensity. “Clumsy…aloof…scaredy-cat…”
The brothers begin to enter the Special Pipe. Mario links his right arm with Luigi’s left as he takes the lead. The pull of the pipe takes them out of the Minus World.
Mario sweatdrops as he feels the combined weight of he and his brother increase as they get further and further from the Minus World. “Almost home…”
Bowser lands his winged platform by the Koopa Troop base camp. A Hammer Brother and a few other soldiers help apprehend Princess Peach and the Toad Council by tying them up. The Koopa King and the princess glare at each other hard.
“What are your orders, King Bowser?” says the Hammer Bro.
He grunts, maintaining his contact with Peach. “I want you to mobilize. The Mushroom Kingdom has done enough to delay our efforts. Now...we will attack and reclaim what is rightfully mine!”
The Toads gasp, while Peach sweatdrops.
Toadsworth and Captain Toad pace around the Special Pipe, which fortunately still hasn’t moved yet.
“Do you think they’ll come back…ever?” gulps Toad.
“I hope so,” replies the old Toad, “At this rate, our messenger might come back to us before they do…”
Just then, General Toad comes running up to them. A Goomba tries to catch up to him, but he simply swats it away with his spear. “Red alert! Dire emergency!”
“Oh my, what’s the trouble?” says Toadsworth as the general catches up to them.
“The princess…and the council…the Koopa King has kidnapped them…again!” he gasps furiously.
“Oh no!” cries Captain Toad hysterically.
Toadsworth’s eyes grow wide as he stands there petrified. “No…” he curses under his breath. “Why ? Why now?!” he blathers as he drops his cane.
“Get it together, steward!” spits the general, almost losing it himself. “We need all the man power we can get! Where are those Mario brothers?”
Captain Toad stutters, “They…they…”
Suddenly, Mario and Luigi shoot out of the Special Pipe. The red plumber barely lands on his feet, trying to keep his brother from further harm.
“Mario!” the three Toads exclaim simultaneously. Toadsworth immediately leaps upon Mario and grovels at his feet. “Oh thank heavens you’ve returned in one piece! We need your help immediately. Please, the princess is in danger!”
Mario shakes his head. “Hold on…my brother…” They all look at Luigi, who is still half-conscious and muttering to himself.
“This man need medical attention” says General Toad. “This ain’t the time to go mad dashing into another battle! Come on, let’s head back to Toad Town; the folks will need some guidance and structure with the leading heads out of the picture.” He and Captain Toad take Luigi off Mario’s shoulders and help the green plumber walk back toward the capitol.
Mario walks alongside Toadsworth as they follow. He turns to the old Toad. “The princess...what happened?”
“In the Koopa King’s clutches…” Toadsworth’s mind trails off into space.
He puts a hand on the old Toad’s shoulder. “Don’t worry; we’ll help get her back again.” Toadsworth beams and is about to spew a bajillion praises, but Mario holds a hand up to stop him. “But this time, I want my brother and I to be prepared. So…tell me everything about the Koopa Troop I need to know…”
As the group heads back to Toad Town, they fail to notice the green splotchy fog spewing out of the Special Pipe…