Notes: So, here is the first chapter of the sequel to my fic "The Devil's in the Details." There will be a few references to that fic (the main takeaway being that the events of the Belmont trailer has left Mario's confidence shaken due to his failure to help Luigi when he needed it), and, as with that one, the main focus of this fic will be the Mushroom Kingdom characters, but the other fighters will have supporting roles. There will also eventually be major spoilers for World of Light, but I will try to warn in author notes at what points those will be starting. I hope to update this fic on a weekly basis.
Lastly, I'd like to thank everyone who sent me lovely notes of support for when I announced this sequel; I certainly hope this fic meets your expectations!
Luigi stared out at the cliff, out at the… thing that filled the sky. He didn't know what to call it; it was a bright core of light surrounded by large, glowing, multicolored wings—surrounded by a squad of Master Hands.
Their Master Hand, the one they knew as the organizer of the Smash tournaments, hadn't been seen since before last night—was he one among the Hands present now? If so, he was clearly no longer on their side (whether by choice or not remained to be seen), for Mewtwo had relayed a warning from an Absol the night before about them being attacked by an unknown, powerful monstrosity at the cliffside at dawn—and, lo and behold, here was this thing, which fit the description perfectly.
They couldn't worry about which of those Master Hands was theirs; they couldn't let this thing succeed. Indeed, Fox was already issuing orders not to let any of them get away, and Marth had estimated that the Hands outnumbered them ten to one—there simply was no feasible way to determine if any of the Hands was the one they knew.
Luigi prepared himself for battle alongside the others; Zelda and Pit seemed confident, but Luigi certainly wasn't. And as he cast a glance at his brother, he could see that Mario's usual confidence had failed him, as well; oh, Mario was staring down the Hands and the thing, of course, but the fire in his eyes that Luigi usually saw when his brother faced a challenge was completely absent.
Mario was afraid, though he was making a valiant effort to hide it. His confidence had been shattered ever since he had failed to save Luigi in time from the denizens of Dracula's Castle. Even though Luigi tried to convince him that it wasn't his fault—that Ganondorf and Dracula had set this up to happen, it did little to bring any relief to Mario. He couldn't blame Mario; Luigi had felt the same way about Ganondorf putting Ridley up to killing Mario prior to that, after all.
This wasn't the time to dwell on that, however; they had to deal with their current foe—as bleak as things seemed.
But before Luigi or any of his fellow fighters could make a move, the thing moved first, suddenly absorbing the numerous Hands into a void around it; the younger plumber's stomach gave an unpleasant jolt—if their Master Hand had been among them, then they had just watched him get assimilated—likely killed—before their eyes. But why was this thing doing this? Why…?
Luigi was jolted from his thoughts by a horrified yell from Shulk.
He had foreseen something, but his warning had been cut off as numerous beams of light erupted from the void where the Hands had been absorbed.
Luigi's initial thought of What in the world are those light beams supposed to do? was horrifically answered almost instantly when he saw Link, and then Samus, Zelda, and Mewtwo, get vaporized by the beams as they were struck by them. Behind him, he suddenly heard Peach cry out-
Luigi paled; the only reason for Peach to cry out like that was if Daisy had fallen to the light beams as well.
Lucina was struck down next in a failed attempt to counter one of the beams; Chrom's anguished cry tore through the battle zone as he fell to his knees, picking up her mask—the only trace left of his daughter. He did not move as the next beam came for him—as far as he was concerned, his world had ended already.
"We can't fight this!" Dedede bellowed, as more fighters fell around them. "We've got to retreat!"
And they fled; but even retreating, they were not shown any mercy—not even the children. Young Link tried to fall back on the last resort he had used to save Termina; he had just managed to get the first four notes of the Song of Time out on the ocarina before he was taken out, the song dying along with him. The Inklings were obliterated even as they tried to hide. Red and Leaf went next alongside their Pokémon—followed by Bowser, who, like them, had been the last ones trying to fight back…
…And then Junior had started bawling for his father as Ludwig frantically attempted to carry him to safety as he fled with the other Koopalings. The monstrosity in the sky vaporized them next, leaving nothing left of the royal Koopa line.
All around them, rivals and allies, some who had been known to them as friends for years, were falling left and right—Sonic, Pikachu, Falco, Pit and Dark Pit… even the goddess Palutena herself…
And then Luigi saw Ness and Lucas, trying to work together to absorb one of the light beams by combining their PSI Magnet.
"No!" he and Dedede both yelled out, knowing it wouldn't work; but their warning had come too late; the beam tore through the combined PSI Magnet like it wasn't even there, snuffing them out in the process.
Dedede seemed to be the most devastated by this; he had come to consider Ness and Luigi as very close friends since they had been thrown together during the Subspace fiasco years ago. Luigi, stunned by the horrible sight, only snapped out of it when he heard his brother's frantic cry-
Mario had retreated along with the others—something he hated to do-dodging beams, just to try to find him, praying that he hadn't fallen to the light, too…
Relief filled his brother's face as he heard his voice; Mario glanced in his direction, but his relief was replaced with sheer horror. Realizing what was happening, Luigi glanced behind him, freezing as he saw the monstrosity staring at him, aiming at him…
Dedede's mallet slammed into him, the king's sole intent being to knock him out of the way of the incoming beam. It worked—too well; Luigi went flying and the beam missed him—but Dedede fell to the beam instead.
Luigi cried out as Mario now grabbed his hands as he flew past, swinging him around and letting him land on his feet.
"Dedede's gone!" the younger plumber cried.
"I know, but we have to keep running…!" Mario said, practically dragging him along by one hand. He glanced to his other side, reaching out to Peach, who had also been running. "Peach! Over here!"
She had tears slipping down her face as she took Mario's other hand, mourning the loss of Daisy, whom she had treated as a sister since her youngest days. They could hear the screams of the other fighters around them, still being struck down.
"There! That boulder!" Mario exclaimed, indicating the spot a few yards ahead. "We can catch our breath there…!"
He had glanced back for a moment and trailed off as he saw another beam being readied right at them. He had a split-second to decide what to do—but, true to his nature, he needed even less than that to make that decision.
He gave Luigi and Peach's hands a quick squeeze with his own before letting go, and then shoved the both of them ahead, out of the beam's path.
"Keep going!" he pleaded, as the beam enveloped him. "Please-!"
Peach screamed and Luigi cried out, as well, as Mario, like the others, was obliterated by the light. Somehow, they made to the spot behind the boulder; Peach stared blankly ahead as Luigi broke down, choking out words in Italian that, while she didn't know, could understand all the same, for his grief was just as tangible as hers.
Around them, the screams began to cease as the last remaining fighters fell, but even then, the thing didn't stop; the light beams shot past them, in all directions.
"Mewtwo said this thing would reach throughout time and space," Peach realized, her voice quivering. "There's nowhere we can go…"
"There has to be. There has to be somewhere we can go—and try to find a way to bring them back… to bring Mario and Daisy back… And the others…" Luigi said, sounding absolutely broken. "If we can't, then it means Mario sacrificed himself for nothing…!"
"The only way we could escape is if we could temporarily leave the space-time continuum—and the only way I know of is…"
Peach trailed off as two of them heard a familiar sound—the sound of exactly what she had been thinking of.
"…The Warp Star," she and Luigi said, in unison.
Looking out from behind the boulder, they saw Kirby—the only other fighter remaining besides the two of them, trying to evade the light beams with the Warp Star. The creature was focused on him, trying to strike him down; poor Kirby wouldn't be able to get enough speed to escape…
"I can distract the thing," Luigi said, realizing that they had to act. "Kirby can pick you up and the two of you can-"
"I'd slow him down; we'd never be able to reach max speed," Peach replied. "We only just barely escape the stadium when the Subspace Army destroyed it during the Brawl tournament—and we weren't dodging light beams back then, either."
"But Mario said-"
"Mario wanted us to have the best chance to get out of this," Peach said, now fully stepping into the mantle of the leader she was. "The only way is if we can ensure that Kirby can build up enough speed to get the Warp Star out of space-time long enough. If there is a way save Mario—and all of us—Kirby can find it."
Luigi shut his eyes; he didn't want to die again—not after having done so in Dracula's Castle earlier. And he knew his brother had been desperate to save him and Peach. And yet… perhaps Peach was right—perhaps the best way to honor Mario's sacrifice was for them to make a sacrifice, as well, that would give them all their best chance.
"I'll go first," he said, and Peach nodded.
He paused, clutching the Poltergust for a moment. He couldn't sense his brother's presence with the usual psychic link that they had shared since infancy—not that he expected to, given how it was undeniable that Mario was gone. Nevertheless, he had to mentally relay a message and hope his brother's spirit could, somehow, receive it-
Perdonami, fratello mio.
He then leaped out from behind the boulder and aimed the vacuum at the giant thing in the sky. Peach's plan seemed to be working; temporarily forgetting about Kirby, the thing focused on Luigi again—sending a beam of light right at him.
Luigi tried to be defiant—tried to stand bravely against what he knew was certain doom, but his mask cracked, and, at the last moment, he turned his face away with a cringe. There was the briefest sensation of searing heat enveloping him, and then, nothing.
Luigi expected to return to awareness as a spirit, just as he had in Dracula's Castle. But as he felt something binding tightly around him, he quickly realized that, had he actually been a spirit, he wouldn't have been tied down by anything.
He opened his eyes, glancing down in alarm. Thick cords of… something, glowing bright blue, were wrapped around him. But even more alarming was the sight of piles and piles of empty shells resembling him, lying motionless beneath him. His heart hammered in his chest—the final confirmation that he was in his body, or, at least, had gotten it back after death. But why?
"Luigi…?" he heard Peach whisper.
Luigi turned to the sound of her voice, gasping slightly as he saw her bound in the same glowing cords, also with a pile of empty shells resembling her beneath her.
"Peach…?" he whispered back. "What happened back there?"
Wordlessly, she glanced away, tears in her eyes. Following her gaze, Luigi froze as he saw the other fighters, unconscious, but also bound and suspended over a pile of lifeless clones—and at the far end were Daisy and-
"Mario…!" Luigi cried. "Big Bro, wake up-!"
"Luigi, no!" Peach chided him, softly. "You can't speak too loudly! That thing… The thing that attacked us, it's been in and out of here since we got here, seeing to the creation of these clones of ours." She shuddered. "Luigi, everyone's dead—everyone except Kirby. Our plan worked, and he got away, but… He was the only one. Even people who weren't even fighting him… That thing didn't spare anyone."
"But, we're not spirits…" Luigi pointed out.
"Only because he gave us back our bodies to use as templates for these clones—everyone else who died… their spirits are being forced into these clone bodies…" Her eyes flared in anger. "I saw him use one of my clones for Pauline's spirit; even as a spirit, he's taken away her free will…" She looked back at Mario and gasped.
Luigi looked, and his heart gave a twist as a strange, golden liquid engulfed his brother for a moment, before flowing away and forming into another empty shell of a clone, which fell to the pile of others. The real Mario didn't look hurt by it, but it was still more than Luigi could stand.
"They can't do that to him! They can't…!" Luigi struggled against the cords in anger, and then blinked. "Huh…?"
The light around the cords dimmed as he struggled, loosening slightly.
"…That was a lot easier than I thought…"
"How are you doing that?" Peach whispered. "I've been trying to break free from these since I woke up!"
"I… I don't know…" Luigi said. "Lean over."
She did so; Luigi slipped an arm out of the bindings and touched the bindings around her. Like his own, they loosened. As Peach loosened the rest of the cords around her, Luigi stared at his hand in confusion.
"How come I'm able to do that…?"
"I wonder…" Peach said. "The thing… I heard him say his name was Galeem, the Lord of Light. These cords must be made from light energy. But you have both light and darkness in you, Luigi; maybe it's giving you some resistance against this light!"
"Then I can save Mario!" Luigi realized, for once grateful for the darkness that he had considered to be a curse all this time. He closed his eyes, trying to reinitiate the psychic link he shared with his brother. Mario! Big Bro! Wake up!
But, to his disappointment, he could feel something blocking the psychic signal.
"…I can't reach him!" he said, his heart sinking again. "He's right across the room, but our psychic link isn't working! Is it because he's not awake?"
Peach froze at this.
"Say that again…"
"That our psychic link isn't working because he's not awake? But, that's the thing-it doesn't make sense; we communicated all the time on Pi'llo Island, and I was asleep for a lot of it-"
"Luigi, have you noticed that you and I are the only ones awake?"
"…Well, I do now," he said, slightly unnerved by this. "Is it because of my darkness again?"
"No, not this time—if it was, I wouldn't be awake, and Ganondorf, Greninja, Incineror, and all of the other dark fighters would be," Peach said. She glanced at the unconscious Mario again. "Mario's sacrifice must have given us some sort of resistance—you've said yourself that you've activated your magic with him during times you were desperate to save each other." Her expression softened. "His sacrifice wasn't for nothing after all—we can get out of here and help Kirby save everyone. Perhaps together, we can form a plan to surprise Galeem and take him down before he can use that attack again."
Luigi glanced at her, and then back at his brother.
"…I can't leave him, Peach," he said. "I can't… Besides, we should have someone working from the inside, too—and it might as well be me."
"I understand," she said glancing at Daisy, for she, too, didn't want to leave her friends. "Then you'd better tighten those bonds again so that they don't suspect anything."
"Oh, right…" Luigi said, and he removed the slack from the light cords by looping them around his arms.
Peach was just about to remove her bonds when, suddenly, Galeem approached, flanked by Master Hand. Both Luigi and Peach froze, pretending to be unconscious, but opening their eyes slightly to watch.
"My army of puppet fighters is ready to spread across my glorious new world," Galeem said. "I thank you, my servant, for spending the last several years finding these splendid specimens to use as templates."
"Your wish was my command, Lord Galeem," Master Hand replied.
Luigi and Peach recognized his voice—this was their Master Hand. But his voice was flat and monotone—suggesting that Galeem had him under his control, unwillingly. But what did this mean? How long had Master Hand been under Galeem's control? Had all of these tournaments been nothing more than a way for Galeem to get them together in one place?
"Now…" Galeem said. "All that remains is making sure that the originals are fully under my control, and worthy of guarding a place in my new world. I want warriors of light, ones that will not falter or resist me." He turned towards Greninja and Incineror. "Those ones… I sense darkness from them."
"They are dark-type Pokémon, Lord Galeem."
"No, that will never do!" Galeem hissed. "Send them to the deepest abyss of my world! They are the lowest lifeforms, and deserve only that!" He turned to Ganondorf and Bayonetta. "Them, as well—the darkness I sense from them is hideous!"
Luigi and Peach watched in stunned silence as Master Hand obediently opened a rift—one that, presumably, led to the depths of Galeem's world, and tossed the four bound fighters into it. Luigi held no sympathy for Ganondorf—especially after everything he had done to him and his brother, but Greninja and Incineror had shown him nothing but kindness, and even though Bayonetta scared him at times, she had also treated him decently, as well.
Galeem turned to Mewtwo next.
"The psychic Pokémon, Mewtwo," Master Hand intoned.
"…Potentially dangerous; psychic abilities might allow him to resist my control and recover his true memories. I need fighters who believe that they have known nothing in their lives other than me. Into the abyss!"
"No…!" Peach whispered, as Master Hand tossed Mewtwo in. Mewtwo had been one of their strongest allies—admittedly for the exact same reason why Galeem wanted him locked away, with his psychic abilities coming to their aid more than once.
Both she and Luigi froze as Galeem turned to Mario next.
"And this one…?"
"Mario," Master Hand said. "A plumber."
"What does he do? Keep an eye on the water pressure in that mansion you host them in?"
"Well… yes. But he is one of the most competent fighters, as well."
"Any psychic abilities?" Galeem asked.
There was a long pause; did Master Hand know about the brothers' mental connection?
"No," Master Hand said, at last, and Luigi sighed inwardly in relief.
Galeem seemed satisfied.
"Wake," he ordered Mario.
Mario's eyes opened, and Luigi gasped quietly to see his brother's eyes glowing red.
"Who are you?" Galeem asked.
"I am your servant, Lord Galeem," Mario replied, in a monotone voice, as he dropped to one knee and bowed.
Peach quietly gasped now as Luigi stared on in a mix of anger and horror—one thing his brother had was pride, and a lot of it; it was what allowed him to go toe-to-toe with royalty, seasoned warriors, and Chosen Ones without being intimidated by the fact that he was just a maintenance man. He barely ever even bowed to Peach, treating her instead as an equal and a loved one. And now, Galeem had brainwashed him into subservience—turned him into someone so unlike his usual self, and that, Luigi realized in despair, must have been why their psychic link had failed. This brainwashed version of Mario probably didn't know that Luigi even existed.
Galeem was satisfied with his work, at any rate; he passed a wing over Mario's face, and Mario fell back into unconsciousness.
"There was another one like this one, wasn't there?" Galeem asked.
"Luigi," Master Hand said. "Mario's brother—also a plumber… and sometimes, a reluctant ghost-hunter."
Luigi shut his eyes now as Galeem approached him, forcing himself not to tremble.
"Pick him up—bring him closer to me."
It was a good thing Luigi was frozen in fear; he didn't betray his awakened state as Master Hand grasped him. But he wasn't sure for how much longer he could keep up the ruse.
"What is it, Lord Galeem?" Master Hand asked, after a while.
"I cannot tell if he is of light or dark," Galeem said; if he'd had a face, he would have been frowning. "Something about him feels… off." Galeem then turned to the abyss where his rejects had been cast. "Very well, he can be cast into the-"
It had been a shot in the dark—none of the fighters had ever thought to try using their Final Smash on Master Hand before, and Galeem had blasted through Triple Finish like it had been nothing. But she had to try, and so she had thrown off the light cords and used her Final Smash. Master Hand did, indeed, crash to the ground, sound asleep, still carrying Luigi in his grip.
Galeem was not affected by Peach's attack, however—nor was he pleased.
"You! How did you escape the memory wipe!? How did you escape my bonds of light!?"
Peach didn't reply; the priority now was getting Galeem to forget about Luigi's darkness, and pulling off her escape was the way to do it. She was using her hover ability to float away, much to Galeem's ire.
"You will not escape my memory wipe this time!" he vowed.
His wings shot out in her direction; she dodged several of them, but one of them came into contact with her head. Her eyes widened, and a blank expression crossed her face.
"No…!" Luigi whispered.
But as she tumbled to the ground, she looked back up at Galeem, and her blank expression changed to one of fear; even with her memories wiped, she knew not to trust Galeem.
"Master Hand, bring her to me so that I can put her back under my control!"
But Master Hand was still asleep, and as Galeem turned to stare at him in vexation, Peach had seized the moment to disappear. Luigi had to wonder and hope if she could somehow cross paths with Kirby, and if he could help bring back her memory.
Of course, that was no guarantee; they didn't know where Kirby was, and without her memories, even if she did find Kirby, there was no guarantee she would trust him.
A shadow of gloom began to descend upon the younger plumber as the realization set in—with Peach out of the action until her memories returned, it would be up to him to help Kirby free the others—even if it meant leaving his captive brother behind for a while… and no matter how much it would hurt to do so.
His thoughts were halted by Galeem approaching him and Master Hand now.
"Wake. We have more work to do."
Master Hand woke up, still clutching Luigi.
"We'll decide what to do with him later," Galeem said, reaching a wing out to Luigi. "We'll go over the others in the meantime."
There was no way to escape—no way to dodge the wing. The only thing Luigi could do was struggle to hold on to his true identity and memories as the touch of the wing sent him into unconsciousness.