"Come on Peach, let your hair down and go out on the town for just one night! It'll be good for you!"
"Oh, I don't know. I have a lot of things to do around the castle."
"Let Toadsworth worry about it! Come oooooon, you know you want to!"
"Well...alright, what the heck."
"That's my girl!"
That was the simple exchange between Daisy and Peach that urged them to go out and explore Toad Town that night. For the first time in what felt like ages, Peach dressed up in a bright pink T-shirt and a pair of blue jeans that showed off her figure, something she'd forgotten she even possessed after so much time of wearing her usual dress. Daisy accompanied her in similar apparel, only her shirt was yellow and she sported a pair of orange shorts as opposed to jeans.
Who would have guessed that Toad Town had such a vibrant night life? The streets were filled with the happy-go-lucky citizens, walking in and out of stores and visiting each other on the street, sharing casual conversation with smiles on their faces. It seemed like nobody had a care in the world, and, for that night, Peach was able to join them. Daisy convinced her to see that life was more than setting appointments and worrying about what kind of scheme Bowser was cooking up next. She showed Peach just what made Toad Town such a beloved and charming city.
The pair eventually met up with their beaus, Mario and Luigi, who were also dressed casually, ditching their overalls for loose jeans and ridding themselves of their gloves and long sleeved shirts in favor of tees. They also wore their caps a little off to the side, hoping it would help them look more hip, for they rarely seemed to get out themselves. Peach didn't know what to say, but Daisy quickly reassured them with a giggle that they looked just as fashionable as the rest.
The group visited a local outdoor restaurant that overlooked the nearby sea and shared in, for the first time in years, conversation that actually didn't revolve around Bowser's antics and Peach's safety. It was nice. Peach always thought about what it would be like to hold a chat without ever once worrying about the Koopa King, and now it was finally happening. Accompanied by the moon looming brightly over the beautiful silver sea, the night felt perfect. As it continued, she actually didn't want it to end.
Hours later though, as the group finally stood after loitering at their table to continue their talk, everyone had to say their goodbyes and head home. It was late, nearing midnight, and Mario and Luigi rarely stayed up that far into the night as it was. They headed home, and Peach told Daisy to go back to the castle ahead of her, for she wanted to take her time going back to enjoy her last few minutes in the streets of the town. Daisy went ahead and left, allowing Peach to wander as slowly as she pleased.
She looked around with a smile, seeing a few groups of Toads still chatting each other up as they lingered around benches or walked off towards their homes. Even though she lived just a stone's throw away from the town, Peach had no idea that it was so lively. She decided right then and there that she definitely needed to visit it more often from that moment on.
That's when she found her.
As she wandered past an alleyway, she heard something. She didn't know what it was, but it sounded like a voice. She stopped in front of the alley and listened closely. Several seconds of silence passed and the only thing she heard was the distant chatting of a group of Toad friends walking by. She shrugged off the noise and began to continue on her way when she heard it again. And this time, she understood what it was saying.
"Someone...help...me..." a very faint and weak voice muttered. Peach stepped back and looked into it once more. Despite the light illuminating the alleyway a fair distance, Peach could see nothing especially remarkable within.
"Who's there?" Peach called before listening closely, awaiting an answer. A few seconds passed before the voice muttered again.
"...Please..." it said. Peach was now certain she was hearing someone call out and began to step forward nervously. She entered the darkness slowly, looking down at the ground as she went.
She suddenly felt frightened, afraid to find what would be awaiting her. The voice continued to mutter, but it grew incoherent as Peach stepped forward. The alley was much longer than it let on in the beginning and Peach soon found herself edging forward for a full minute in complete silence. It was unnerving, and she soon asked for the voice to speak again.
"Keep talking to me," she said with a slightly shaky voice. When no response came, she tried again. "Please, say something so I can find you."
Peach eventually realized that her breathing was growing heavy as she made her way further and further. She was on the edge of turning away and fleeing the alley, but she couldn't bear leaving behind the owner of the voice. Another minute of walking and steady silence and still, she found nothing.
"H-Hello?" Peach called, her will starting to break. Along the way, she felt around with her feet to see if she could find something, anything along the edges of the walls. But there was nothing at all.
Just when she was about to conclude that she truly was hearing things and leave the alley, she finally kicked something, causing her heart to jump. She looked down towards her right foot, trying to see what was there.
Before she could make it out though, she heard a hideously wicked and haunting laugh, almost as if some otherworldly spirit was mocking her. Her pulse quickened rapidly as she looked around feverishly to spot what it was that let out the cackle.
Before she knew it, she felt something bump into her chest before a blinding white light flashed out, illuminating the area for a quick second. Peach fell backward, partly due to the force of the strike to her chest and partly due to the sudden shock of the light. She also heard the sound that was previously laughing at her let out a high pitched squeal as if it were dying.
Peach quickly tried to adjust her eyes and managed to spot a Boo disappearing into the ground, apparently defeated by the light that Peach somehow produced from her chest.
Utterly confused by what was going on, Peach began to try to piece things together. Before she could even begin to wonder what a Boo was doing there though, she heard something groan in pain. The noise was very nearby, sounding as if it were coming from whatever she nudged earlier. Feeling awash with relief, Peach tried to speak to the voice's holder again.
"Are you okay?" Peach asked rhetorically. All she needed was anything for an answer, and fortunately, an answer she received.
"Please...help me..." the voice said. Now that she was closer, Peach figured that the voice belonged to a woman, possibly human, since it was silky and deeper than the average Toad's. Peach concluded she had no time to lose and quickly knelt down to lift the woman up into her arms. She had some trouble carrying the woman, for Peach was never one for lifting much of anything. She toughed it out though and managed to eventually get the distressed individual to the nearby hospital within a matter of minutes.
"Hm, this is odd," the Toad doctor muttered as he scanned his clipboard at the foot of the woman's bed with a hand on his chin. His completely white cap seemed a little unusual to Peach, and his long white coat dragged on the ground behind him. The Toad certainly looked a bit odd, but wondering about him would do nothing to help the situation.
The two were in a resting room at the hospital at three in the morning, discussing the woman's health. Peach knew that everyone back at the castle was worried sick about her by now if they weren't already sleeping, but she couldn't just leave the woman behind.
Now that they were in the light, Peach could see that the woman had blood red hair. She was wearing a slightly dirty red blouse and a long white skirt underneath the bed's sheets.
"What's wrong?" Peach asked from a chair on the opposite side of the room. The doctor looked up at her with a slightly confused expression on his face.
"Well, we found nothing wrong with her exactly," the Toad answered. "But...apparently there's some kind of strange...aura of some sort being emitted from her body."
"An aura?" Peach said, equally confused.
"Yes," the doctor muttered. "It's outside of the ordinary, but it looks like an exorcism is in order for her."
"An...exorcism?" Peach said. "She has evil spirits inside of her or something?"
"I'm not entirely sure, but it would seem so," the doctor said, approaching the unconscious woman and lifting up one of her eyelids softly. He recoiled slightly upon seeing a white film over her otherwise red irises. The film seemed to be alive as it moved similarly to a disturbed pool of water. He let her eyelid close once more.
"It certainly wouldn't hurt to try, I suppose," he admitted as he replaced the clipboard to the attachment at the foot of the bed. "Maybe we can convince ol' Merlon to perform it for us. He's likely asleep right-."
Just before the doctor could finish his sentence, a whooshing noise could be heard as the old Shaman appeared through a burst of clouds. With his blue cloak shading all parts of his body save his large white mustache and his glowing yellow eyes, Merlon turned to face the doctor immediately, who, along with Peach, was staring at him in complete shock.
"Someone called?" Merlon asked casually. A few silent, awkward moments passed before the doctor gathered himself and cleared his throat.
"Um, yes, we were just talking about you, Merlon," he said. The doctor turned to the woman in the bed, causing Merlon to look over as well. "It's this lady. We've concluded that we might need to perform an exorcism on her."
"An exorcism you say?" Merlon asked as he came to the woman's side to look her over a bit more closely. He nodded after a while, but soon shook his head. "I can feel the ill energies coming from her, but I doubt an exorcism is within my realm of possibilities."
"Well, you just appeared out of thin air," Peach muttered without meaning for Merlon to actually hear her. He did however, and soon turned to her.
"Ah, Princess Peach, it's an honor," he said with a bow. Peach quickly stood up and gave a small curtsy in return.
"I don't mean to be rude, Mr. Merlon, but if you can teleport like that, it wouldn't seem very farfetched that you could perform an exorcism," Peach explained. Merlon nodded to her.
"Ah, yes, that's quite true," Merlon began. "But you see...I forgot my holy water at home. So, as you can imagine, an exorcism truly cannot be done at this time."
"Can't it be done without the water though?" the doctor asked, causing Merlon to turn back to him.
"Ah, yes, it could," Merlon began again. "But you see...I've yet to learn how to do it without the water. So, if you want to get technical, exorcism is possible, but not if you want me to perform it."
"Ah," both the doctor and Peach said at once. There was another awkward silence as Merlon simply stood there, looking back and forth between the two.
"So...you gonna teleport back to your place for the water?" the doctor asked eventually.
"I would be lucky if I could," Merlon answered. "The fact I managed to make it here on the first try astounds me as it is. A two-fer would be great."
"Well, good luck," the doctor said, growing slightly impatient as Merlon dawdled. Still, Merlon stood, receiving stares from the doctor and Peach. He suddenly seemed to come to the realization though.
"Oh, you would like me to fetch it now?" he asked, surprising both of the others with how dull he was acting at the moment. They figured he must have been incredibly tired and not in his right mind though. They were awake at an odd hour after all.
"It would be nice," Peach said, trying to keep herself from sounding exasperated. Merlon nodded once more and soon disappeared, leaving behind a small cloud of dust. Just after he left, Peach walked over to where he was previously standing, next to the woman lying in the bed.
The woman's eyebrows were furrowed and she was frowning slightly. Peach lightly moved a finger over the woman's forehead and could feel sweat erupting.
"Where did you find her?" the doctor asked as he watched Peach. She quickly looked up at him, almost forgetting he was even there.
"I don't remember where exactly," Peach said, looking back down at the woman. "But it was deep in an alleyway. She was hunched over on the ground against a wall."
"Did you see anything odd while you were there?" the doctor asked, trying to figure out if anything at the scene could indicate the cause of her condition. Upon first thought, Peach didn't remember finding anything of particular interest, but the strange image soon popped back into her mind.
"I did see a Boo," she said, looking over at the doctor, whose eyes widened at the mention. "At least, I think I did. It disappeared before-"
The whoosh was heard once more and Merlon popped up in the exact same spot that Peach was standing in. Somehow, Peach was knocked backward rather violently, pushing her into the bed behind her and causing her to trip, roll over it, and fall flat on the floor on the other side.
"I have the holy water," Merlon announced as he turned to the unconscious woman. The doctor quickly rushed to Peach's side as the Shaman placed a hand on the woman's forehead, closed his eyes, and began to chant words that neither of the others could understand. As the doctor helped Peach up to her feet, Merlon lifted his hand and sprinkled a drop of the holy water onto the center of the woman's forehead.
The moment the water made contact, the woman jolted into consciousness, exposing her ghostly eyes. The white film over them glowed brightly, sending strong beams out as her mouth opened wide, sending out a beam of light as well. Her chest jutted upward and her entire body began to shake erratically. Peach and the doctor looked on in horror while Merlon stood and observed without seeming fazed in the slightest.
The intense movement persisted for several seconds and the room filled with screams similar to the one Peach heard in the alleyway just before seeing the defeated Boo. Although it was unseen, it was apparent that the woman was possessed by dozens of Boos that were now being erased all at once.
The scene finally ended and she fell limp once more. Slowly, her eyes and mouth closed at the same time, and now she appeared to be sleeping in peace. The doctor and Peach were stunned for several moments afterward.
"Well, I guess the exorcism worked," Peach said finally. The doctor nodded.
"When you mentioned that you saw a Boo in the alleyway near her, it became pretty clear that that was the problem," the doctor explained. "They don't often come into town on their own, but if one of them possesses someone who commutes into the city, it's likely that more will follow. And apparently, this lady attracted a bit more than her fair share of them."
"What usually happens to people who are possessed by Boos?" Peach asked as she followed the doctor to the woman's bedside, standing opposite of Merlon.
"Usually just one Boo has the power to consume someone's spirit on their own," the doctor began. "Normally, if a Boo was to possess you and stay inside long enough, you would eventually become emotionless since you'd no longer have a spirit. And that is why this surprises me so much. This woman's spirit must be incredibly strong if she managed to hold that many Boos at once. Given a bit more time, the amount of Boos could have done much worse than consumed her spirit. They could have killed her." Peach silently placed a hand over her mouth in shock. She then recalled the light once more.
"Well, that Boo I saw tried to possess me, but it couldn't," Peach said. "It ended up bumping off of me and some kind of light shot out and erased it." The doctor smiled instantly at Peach.
"That, Your Highness, is due to the purity of your spirit," the doctor explained, causing Peach to blush slightly in embarrassment. "Boos can't possess a person such as yourself because your spirit has no dark spots in it for them to access."
Despite her embarrassment of the praise, Peach couldn't help but smile. She already had the position of princess of the Mushroom Kingdom and her boyfriend was the most beloved person in the entire world, but hearing this made her feel especially unique, even more so than she already did.
As she silently basked in the feeling, she and the doctor could hear snoring. They both looked at the woman, expecting her to be the source, but it was soon revealed that Merlon had fallen asleep as he stood there. He appeared to be in a deep slumber too, for he wavered back and forth, threatening to fall over, but always managing to even himself out before he went too far to one extreme.
The doctor and Peach soon turned their attention away from him as the woman stirred and let out a small moan. Her eyelids slowly peeled open, revealing her normal red irises, the film having been removed. Her gaze seemed tender as her eyes met with Peach's. Peach smiled down at her.
"Are you the one who helped me?" the woman asked with a soft, monotone voice. Peach simply nodded in response. The woman then gave a small smile. "Thank you."
"It was no problem," Peach said happily.
"If you don't mind me asking, what's your name?" the doctor asked. The woman never took her gaze off Peach as she answered.
"Cherry," she said. The doctor nodded.
"How do you feel, Cherry?" the doctor asked. "Can you move?"
Cherry finally broke her gaze from Peach and appeared to move around a bit underneath the covers. Soon, she pulled the covers off of her, sat up, and brought her legs over to hang off the edge of the bed. She smiled brightly and giggled as she swung her shoeless feet back and forth.
"Looks like I'm pretty okay," she answered. Both Peach and the doctor were relieved as the doctor grabbed the clipboard once more.
"Good, good," he said happily. He scribbled a few things onto the paper attached to the board before speaking again. "Just hang tight then. I need to report your status to the office. Nevertheless, feel free to get comfortable. You're welcome to stay the night if you need to."
With that, the doctor left the room, prompting Cherry to stand up and step over to Peach, holding her smile.
"I'm glad you're okay," Peach said as Cherry looked into her eyes once again.
"All because of you," Cherry said softly. "Thanks again."
"It was no problem, really," Peach replied. "You know, you may stay at the castle tonight if you want to. I have plenty of guest rooms ready."
"Wow, a castle?" Cherry said, cocking her head slightly to the left, holding her smile. Her eyes suddenly widened as she realized just who Peach was. "Princess Toadstool?" she asked, shocked. Peach giggled.
"You're as kind as they say you are," Cherry said, leaning back against the bed and placing her hands on it to either side of her. "I couldn't impose though; you've already helped me so much."
"Don't be silly, it'd be no trouble at all," Peach insisted. Cherry looked away for a moment and appeared to blush slightly for whatever reason before facing Peach again.
"I'd be honored, Your Majesty," she said. Peach chuckled.
"You don't have to be so formal with me," Peach said. "Just call me Peach."
"Wow, I'm on a first-name basis with the princess," Cherry said wistfully, looking away again. Peach chuckled once more. Moments later, the doctor re-entered the room and placed the now-empty clipboard back at the foot of the bed.
"Well, Cherry, you're clear," the doctor said with a smile. "Will you be staying with us tonight then?"
Cherry looked over at Peach for a moment, who looked back, and shook her head at the doctor.
"Peach was kind enough to offer me a room at the castle," she explained. "Thank you very much though, doctor. I appreciate your help."
"Thank Her Majesty," the doctor said. "If it wasn't for her, you could be dead by now."
"I know," Cherry said as she smiled at Peach. "I'm a very lucky girl." Peach waved off the compliments, but appreciated them nonetheless. The doctor clapped his hands together before speaking.
"Well, Your Majesty, Cherry, if that's all, then I wish you two a good night," he said. "I'm sorry to leave in such a rush, but I have another patient waiting for me down the hall. Be safe on your way back to the castle."
Finishing his farewells, the doctor left the room in a hurry. Peach and Cherry decided to follow suit and soon departed as well. Merlon promptly fell down soon after they exited and continued to sleep on the floor.
"I feel disgusting," Cherry said as she and Peach entered the castle together. As Peach expected, the Toad guards in charge of the night shift were worried about her and even sent a sentry out to find her while she was gone. They seemed to take a sigh of relief as they saw her enter though. "I really need a shower and some fresh clothes."
"All of the guest rooms have a full bathroom and a closet with fresh nightwear," Peach informed as she opened a door to one of the rooms. "Here, I'll show you around."
The room was much larger than Cherry expected. And much pinker as well. The plush carpet, the king size bed, the vanity next to the bathroom and the closet, all pink. But she liked it. It all seemed very cute and charming as Peach opened up the closet for her.
"See?" Peach said, indicating the ten nightgowns and ten pajama suits hanging up on the bar. Pairs of the outfits were different colors: two red nightgowns and pajama suits, two blue sets, two pink sets, two green sets, and two orange sets. "So you can just pick out whatever color you like best."
As expected, Cherry grabbed one of the red nightgowns. She held it up to her body and looked down at it admirably. The gown was a shimmering silk and came down to just above her knees.
"Cute," Cherry said as she imagined how it would look on her. She then threw it over her arm and followed Peach as she led the way to the bathroom.
The bathroom turned out to be almost as large as the bedroom, containing a rather long shelf area with a sink and an accommodating mirror that equaled its length, a toilet on the far side of the room, and a bathtub directly across from it, where the shelves ended. As expected, this room was also awash with pink, with some areas of white.
"Towels and wash cloths are in the cabinet right over here," Peach said, indicating an entire wall of cabinets directly across from the sink. Cherry had no clue what could possibly occupy so much space, but she didn't question it as Peach went to leave the room.
"I hope you enjoy your stay here," she said. Cherry smiled back at her.
"I'm sure I will," she said. Peach now smiled as well.
"Breakfast is at eight," Peach continued. "We won't have very much time to sleep before then, but I'll be by to come get you if you'd like to join in."
"I'd love to," Cherry confirmed. Peach nodded.
"I'll see you tomorr...well, in a few hours then," Peach said with a chuckle before waving goodbye. Cherry waved back and Peach closed the bathroom door. She left the room and headed for her own to finally retire for the night.