Chapter 19: The Last Pure Heart
Making their way through the Underwhere Road and up to the heavenly skies above had been…interesting, to say the least. The voyage consisted of answering riddles from three sentient doors, doing favors for old hags, and battling a three-headed Underchomp. They even discovered that the fiery beast that Jaydes was worried about had been Bowser himself.
Later, while passing through the Overthere Stair, they found Peach in a deep slumber. The princess bit into the cursed Golden Apple, doomed to stay asleep for the next hundred years. Thankfully, through some trial and error, they were able to wake her with the help of the magical (albeit disgusting) taboo fruit.
Reunited at last, the four heroes reached the Overthere. Upon arrival, they were greeted by bright blue skies and fluffy white clouds as far as the eye could see. Luvbi turned to the rest of the group with a soft smile. "Soon, we shall meet with my father, Grambi. Be thou on thy best behavior."
"So…Grambi is your father?" Tippi asked.
"Thou art correct. Grambi is my father and Jaydes is my mother. Pray, listen…I fell ill once, and my father never left my bedside." Closing her eyes as if visualizing the memory, she added, "They hath an overprotective side, verily, and I grow annoyed of it at times. But mayhap it is mine own fault for being so cute. They cannot help it!"
"Uh, yes, surely…" The Pixl replied. "In any case, perhaps we'd better go meet that Grambi."
It turned out that meeting the king of the Overthere wouldn't be so simple. Friends from the Underwhere had broken in with the intent on taking the Pure Heart for themselves. They destroyed the bridge to his shrine and the heroes needed the magical orbs of the three Nimbis-Rebbi, Blubi, and Yebbi-to restore it.
Luigi glanced at the enormous Void in the sky as the group searched for the sages. Even in this ethereal place, the dark reminder of what Count Bleck was planning followed them. As he thought of the count, the man in green grew bitter. This was all that evil man's fault. None of this would have happened if he hadn't interfered with their lives. Luigi would be at his humble home in the Mushroom Kingdom, sipping tea and boiling a pot of water for dinner. Sure, Bowser may have been obsessed with Peach, but at least he was planning on keeping the world intact.
Suddenly, an image flashed through his mind. Somehow, the man in green was in the same room as Count Bleck, but the latter wasn't hostile. In fact, he was quite the opposite, smiling back at him with a look of understanding. Calm yourself…Count Bleck knew you would fail all along…
Luigi stumbled and fell flat on his face. The blow had no impact, as if he had landed face-first into a pile of pillows, but Peach still turned around. "Are you okay, Luigi?"
He stood, dusting himself off. "Of course! It didn't hurt at all, princess!"
She nodded and quickly caught up with Mario and Bowser, who were leading the charge. (This was the longest any of them had seen the two rivals getting along.) Luigi followed, trying to pull himself together. Why did he imagine the count like that? He wasn't a nice person…was he?
He needed to talk to someone about this. Still, would the others understand? What if they judged him or assumed he was weak for sympathizing with the enemy, even for a moment? Then, his eyes landed on Tippi. He remembered how she acted back in Flopside when he placed the seventh Pure Heart. Even if he didn't know the exact reason Tippi had been out of sorts, she of all people had to know what he was going through. Maybe he should get her attention.
"Hey, Tippi! I need your help!" The man in green called out to her.
Upon hearing that, the butterfly Pixl floated over to his side. "What is it, Luigi? Do you need my abilities for something?"
"Well, um…I don't actually need anything like that…" Luigi confessed, rubbing the back of his neck. "That is to say, I don't need to use your abilities right now but I just wanted to talk to you about something that's been bugging me for a while. I mean, it's not all that relevant in the grand scheme of things, but…"
"It's ok, Luigi," Tippi said. "Just…make it quick."
"Well, back in Flopside, I remember you mentioned someone named Blumiere. Who is that?"
Tippi hesitated before replying, "I'm…not sure. He had to be someone I cared for deeply if I remembered his name, but my memory is so vague. I hardly remember anything from before Merlon saved me. Why?"
"Well…I've been having trouble remembering things too. I can't remember anything after Count Bleck took us away from Bowser's castle…except maybe snippets of the wedding? I remember meeting Mario again in the Underwhere, but everything that led up to that is gone."
"What? But that fraud wedding was several weeks ago. You really don't remember anything after that?"
"I know. Crazy, right?" The man in green said with a shrug. "But, Tippi…For some reason, I feel like I know Count Bleck somehow. I don't know how, but I had this memory just now where he didn't appear evil. He almost seemed like a good guy. I know that's not the case, and yet…" He trailed off, finishing that thought with a sigh. "What should I do, Tippi?"
Tippi was silent for another lengthy period. "I would try not to dwell on it. There's a lot at stake here…too much to put fleeting moments over doing what's right."
As much as Luigi disliked that answer, he knew there wasn't much else she could say. So, he nodded. "Ok…"
Without another word, the Pixl joined Mario's side again. Luigi noticed that her mood had shifted in the short time they spoke. She's probably just scared that we won't save the world in time. It was a very real fear, one that Luigi had been trying to not think about in order to stay sane. So, he put his head down and helped his fellow heroes find the missing orbs.
After meeting each of the sages individually and claiming their respective orbs, the heroes were able to restore the bridge. Although creatures of the Underwhere tried to stop them from going any further, fate was on their side; Rebbi quickly arrived with his army to hold off the threat. The four ran to the shrine as fast their legs would carry them as friends and foes alike rained down from the sky.
The group entered the temple as soon as they could. Grambi was only a few feet away, looking exhausted. Luvbi gasped as soon as she saw him. "Oh…no!" Immediately, she flew over to his side. "Father! Father! Art thou alright?" Hearing this, Luigi and the others went to join them.
Still shaking, Grambi whispered, "Luvbi…Thou should not…have come. Flee from here…"
Suddenly, they heard laughter that sent chills down Luigi's spine. The man in green looked up and his eyes widened. A tall blue dragon with six feathered wings, a skeletal frame, and a gold canon for a lower body stood not too far away. "A touching thing, to be sure…" The dragon whispered, his voice just as unsettling as his laugh. With that, he let out a mighty roar.
Determined to hide his fear, Luigi clenched his fists and glared at the beast. "Hey! You're the boss of all those crazy guys who escaped the Underwhere, aren't you?"
"A pleasure to make your acquaintance, I assure you. My name is Bonechill. I am something of an evil celebrity in certain circles of the Underwhere."
"That may be, but my father shall never give you the Pure Heart!" Luvbi said. "So givest up!"
Bonechill sneered. "Oh, you dear, ignorant child. You really don't know a thing, do you? How charming."
Luvbi hesitated for a moment, taken back. "Wh-What dost thou mean?"
"I speak of the Pure Heart…And I speak of you, Luvbi. IT IS YOU!"
The Nimbi gasped. "What…sayest thou?"
"The Pure Heart was hidden ingeniously to keep it away from evil sorts like me," The dragon explained. "Grambi changed the Pure Heart into a Nimbi…that he called his own daughter!"
Luigi stared in shock. The Pure Heart had been with them this whole time? Not only that, but the Pure Heart…was Luvbi? Upon hearing this, even the headstrong Nimbi herself was unsure. She gave a nervous laugh. "Ha, ha…Th-That is just silly…My mother and father…"
"Oh, priceless! You really think Grambi pays an ounce of attention to you out of love?"
"Th-That's…No…Thou liest! Father, sayest something!" She said, turning to her father.
The monster chuckled. "The old fool can weigh the sins of others, but not his own…"
The girl whispered, "It cannot be…"
Since they wouldn't leave on their own, Tippi intervened. "Luvbi, we can talk later. Right now, just take Grambi to safety…" Luvbi didn't move, as if the Pixl hadn't spoken at all. "QUICKLY!"
Finally, she said, "O-Okay…" With that, Luvbi and Grambi exited the shrine.
"Many thanks for delivering the Pure Heart," Bonechill remarked. "Once I deal with you, none can stop me…I SHALL BE INVINCIBLE! Please, as your game ends, remember it is an honor to have it ended by my talons!"
As the demon released an icy breath, the battle began. Immediately, Bonechill launched icicles from his lower half, which the heroes dodged skillfully. After leaping over a stray icicle, Luigi scowled at the beast. They made it this far. They couldn't give up now. Using his super jump, the man in green sprung from the ground and stomped on Bonechill's head. The dragon screeched, a few scales falling right off his face.
The other three heroes cheered from below. "Keep at it, Luigi!" Peach said.
"Yeah, that's right, Greenie!" Bowser cried. "Show that frosted freak who's boss!"
Luigi looked down at them with a grin. He didn't expect recognition from the koopa king of all people. He pounced on Bonechill's head a second time and the latter shed even more scales as a result, the skin on his face becoming transparent. The dragon moaned in pain before letting out another roar. That time caught Luigi off guard and he stumbled before slipping off. The heart-pounding fall only lasted a few seconds before Mario rushed forward and caught Luigi in his arms, the impact of the landing knocking both brothers off of their feet.
Dusting himself off, Mario offered a hand. "You okay, bro?"
Luigi was about to reply when suddenly, he remembered a man in a mask, smiling at him with two different-colored eyes. The younger man stuttered. "I-I, um…"
Just then, sharp icicles fell from the ceiling, heading straight toward them. "Look out!" Mario cried, pushing his brother out of the way, before the ice shattered to the ground.
As the others put their all into the battle, Luigi was still in a state of shock. Who was that jester? Dimentio. His name was Dimentio. He was one of Count Bleck's minions. But wait…How did Luigi know that?
More memories like that one began flooding his mind. He remembered sparring with a warrior and chatting casually with a girl who had green skin. He also recalled a woman with glasses. Her image brought to mind the few memories he had in Castle Bleck. He tried to escape with a couple of goombas. She and her converted minions had them surrounded. And then…What happened after that? He couldn't remember…
The rest of the battle went by so fast that it took even Luigi by surprise. Bonechill cried out, his entire body trembling. "How…Impossible…How could you puny worms…destroy...a master of the cold dark!?" Those were his last words before the fiend fell to pieces, quite literally.
The moment the battle was over, Luvbi walked back into the shrine with Grambi. "Thou…hast done a fine job," The latter whispered. "Thou hast saved our realm…"
Luvbi, on the other hand, looked just as doubtful as before. "Father…The words of that thing…were lies, yea? Thou and Mother art my parents?"
Grambi hesitated. "Well…Luvbi…"
Before he could answer, the group heard a familiar voice. "Luvbi!" To Luigi's surprise, Jaydes herself had entered the shrine.
"Mother!" Luvbi said.
"I had not received word of your safe arrival, so I came looking…Are you well?"
Instead of answering, the girl frowned. "Speakest to me now, Mother. Father and thee…Art thou verily my parents?"
Jaydes' eyes grew impossibly wide. "Wait a minute…Why do you…WHAAAT?"
"Prithee, Mother," Luvbi said, growing irritated. "Speakest the truth to me."
Jaydes sighed. She turned away, too ashamed to face her daughter. "Luvbi…You…You are not really our child."
The girl gasped. "So it is…true…"
Turning back to face her, Jaydes replied, "The Pure Heart was always in danger of falling into the hands of evil, darling. So Grams and I decided to transform it into a shape no one would suspect."
Luvbi stared down at the floor. "And that was…me?"
Suddenly, there was a flash of light. Luvbi cried out in both shock and pain. Then, they saw the remaining Pure Heart in the Nimbi's place briefly before she appeared before them once again. Luigi expected Grambi and Jaydes to know what this meant, but they appeared to be just as shocked as the others. "What…was that?" The latter asked.
"The Pure Heart doth struggle against the Luvbi identity…" Grambi surmised. "It seeketh its true form. It doth sense someone nearby worthy of possessing it. It must be these fair folk…"
The Nimbi turned to her father with a mournful expression. "So, uh…Ha ha…Thou sayest I am meant to be with him...He verily is…my prince? This doth stink! He is completely wrong for me! I speak seriously to you…This hath no humor to it!" Luvbi floated closer to the heroes. Luigi saw a pleading look in her eyes; she was clearly hoping one of them would object to what Grambi was suggesting. When none of them did, she glared and turned back to her parents. "Fine. I shall return to my Pure Heart form…and I shall go with Mario and his friends…"
"Thou art certain?" Grambi asked. "If thou turnest back into the Pure Heart, the Nimbi known as Luvbi…will cease to exist."
She looked away. "Nay, perhaps I already have…I remember being the Pure Heart now, in truth. And the world would end if I did not do it, is this not so? So I should just…Wait. Why do I explain myself to thee!? Thou art not my real father, so QUIET!"
Jaydes' eyes widened. Meanwhile, Grambi gasped. "Wh-What?"
"To think of all the times thou hast scolded me! Thou didst know I was not long for this world! Why didst thou not let me have fun!? Nay! Instead, I suffered an angry fake father and a nagging fake mother! I had no life! How dost thou plan to make that up to me?"
"Luvbi!" Jaydes said with an authoritative tone.
"Sayest thou what thou wilt to me, but talketh not to thy mother that way!" Grambi added. "Perhaps thy sass shall end once thou changeth forms! What dost thou wait for?"
"Oh, giveth me a break! I must do it whether thou wish or not! It shall be a RELIEF!"
"Thou art an ungrateful brat! Dost thou not recall when I lingered by thy ill bedside?"
"I scoff at thy lingering! Why dost thou not giveth me back the present I bought with my saved allowance!?"
"What madness doth spew from thy lips!? Who GAVETH thee that allowance!? And thou didst lie to get the money, too! Thou didst pretend to buy schoolbooks!"
Luvbi turned away. "How dost thou DARE to lecture on lying! And why dost thou think I lied!? I thought that Mother and thee…I thought…Thou wouldst…be happy…" Hearing this, Grambi grew silent. "The pair of thee…Thou art not real parents…" Luvbi whispered, tears in her eyes. "I…I…I hate thee…"
There was a moment of silence. As Luigi watched this unfold, he felt this familiar ache. He had never experienced anything like this, yet something inside of him knew exactly what Luvbi was going through.
"That is enough, Luvbi," Jaydes said, softly this time. When the girl didn't respond, she added, "It is true that we created you as a means of protecting the Pure Heart, but Grams and I came to love you as a true daughter. We wanted to be with you for all time, to protect you. You became a part of us. Perhaps we were wrong to create you…and if we only caused pain, we apologize."
Luvbi turned back around, sniffling. "Oh, Mother…Thou needst not apologize…My dear mother…Thank thee…" The Pure Heart appeared for a second time only for Luvbi to return once more. "The Pure Heart doth wish to assume its original form…"
Shaking, Grambi whispered his daughter's name. "Luvbi…"
The Nimbi wiped her eyes and put on a brave face. She looked to Tippi with the sweetest smile that she had ever given them. "Tippi…Takest good care of the real me. And…savest the world, yea? Such is my final wish, so if thou dost not do it, thou art most unkind!"
"I understand…" Tippi replied.
Still smiling, Luvbi turned back to face her parents for the last time. "Mother…Father…Fare thee well."
"Luvbi…" Grambi whispered.
Jaydes' eyes were already watering. "Oh, my darling…"
Luvbi swallowed hard. When she spoke, she fought to keep her voice steady. "I am sorry…for lying earlier. Because in truth, I…I love thee both…"
Those were the last words the girl ever spoke. For the next few seconds, Luvbi's form quickly alternated between the Nimbi form that they all knew and her true form. The third time, she finally let go. With a blinding flash of light, the final Pure Heart fell where Luvbi had been standing a moment ago.
Jaydes couldn't hold it in anymore and she began to sob. "Luvbi…"
Grambi said his last message to the heroes grimly. "Now, ye prophesied ones…Destined heroes…Takest our dear daughter…Takest the Pure Heart…"
The four of them nodded. Peach added, "Her sacrifice will not be in vain. We swear it."
"And swearest this to me…Thou must prevail! Let no one else in the universe feel this sadness!"
"We promise!" The princess said.
"Very well. Then I am satisfied…Now, Luvbi, thou must go…"
"Oh, Grams…" Jaydes whimpered.
With that, the king of the Overthere lifted the Pure Heart from the ground and into Mario's arms. "Heroes...My daughter wanted thee to save all worlds. 'Twas her final wish."
As they prepared to use the Return Pipe, Luigi couldn't help but look back at Grambi and Jaydes. The king stared at the ground as he quietly wept. Jaydes left the palace, heading back to her own realm. It was clear that the last Pure Heart came at a heavy price. Luvbi had sacrificed herself so that the world would keep on turning. Grambi and Jaydes made them swear to honor her last wishes. Luigi should have been more determined than ever to honor the fallen Nimbi. So, why did he feel even more unsure?