THE MYSTERIOUS SCENT: REDUX!
A Super Mario Bros. Fanfiction, by Mushroom Scribe
Most characters ©Nintendo, except one or two OCs that aren't very important. Story elements and other junk are © me, myself and I! Rated T (leaning toward M) for interspecies romance and some "sexy moments" in later chapters, but no outright porn. Current revision beginning June 15th, 2011.
MORE NOTES FOLLOWING THE CHAPTER.
The Mysterious Scent
Chapter 1: Friends In Low Places
Mario paced back and forth in the dark, musty cell. Why had he jumped? He knew the Donut Lift had looked kind of rickety, but he needed the Starman above it – a power-up like that could come in handy anytime, anywhere. Maybe he shouldn't have been so greedy. Of course, he had missed the star, crashed through the Donut Lift and the rotted boards on the ground below, down into a high-walled pit. Not even the master of the jump could make his way out, and after a few tries resigned himself to waiting for King Koopa to show up and gloat.
What a terrific way to start the work week.
Flash forward to him alone in the evil lizard's castle dungeon, going stir crazy. He tried to look out the tiny window near the ceiling, but all he could see was a tiny patch of cloudy sky. Oh boy. Pulling at the corners of his mustache, he sat down on the cold hard stool in despair. It looked like he'd have quite a wait. Oh, eventually Luigi or Princess Toadstool would figure out where he was and launch a rescue operation... but probably not tonight, and definitely not in the next ten minutes or so. Might as well rest his legs.
Time slipped by, maybe an hour or more, before an unexpected noise startled him from his reverie. It was a sort of a soft plodding, perhaps bare feet or in stockings, but there was a clicking, as well. He thought it could be Toad's soft little shoes, but that didn't explain the other sound. Maybe it was two people, or a person and their pet?
Presently, the noise stopped, and in the dim light he could make out a dark shape standing in front of his cell door. The visitor was roughly half a head shorter than Mario, but he couldn't make out much else. It bent forward, and he heard a tinkle of something metal dropping.
"Who's there?" he whispered, almost afraid of startling them away like a deer or a rabbit.
All movement halted like time had been frozen. Then the figure whirled and ran for the stairs, making the strange pad-click noise as it went, and was gone. Just like a deer.
Mario sat there for a minute, trying to figure out what had just happened. At a loss, he decided to investigate the metallic sound. There weren't many other options.
Frowning in concentration, he stood and walked over to the bars. He bent down and felt around for something, anything foreign. What if his mind was playing tricks on him and nothing was there? What if none of that had even happened? But while feeling around with his arm stuck through all the way to the shoulder, his hand finally grasped something flat and hard. It was disk-like on one end, and the rest was like a metal Popsicle stick. One side of the stick had jagged edges. A key! Hallelujah, salvation!
Then he noticed something else: a string was dangling from the round end. He felt down it and came upon a folded piece of paper. It was impossible to see what was on it in the low light of the dungeons, so he stuck it in his overalls' chest pocket for the time being. Then, almost giddy with excitement, he shoved the key into the lock and turned.
It opened like a dream. Mario had never thought the sound of scraping metal would make him so happy. He pocketed the key and fled the dank dungeon as fast as his legs would carry him.
The open air felt great on his face. He took a few deep breaths, gazing up at the night sky. The few clouds he had seen from the window were long gone, and there was a clear blanket of stars overhead. What a lovely night to be free!
Mario walked across the plains toward the Mushroom Village he called home. He put his hands in his pockets and started to whistle a little tune he had heard a lifetime ago, something fun and upbeat. Nothing could deflate his good mood now... or so he thought.
His right hand curled around the key absentmindedly, and the scrap of paper sprang to mind. In his haste to flee Bowser's castle, he had completely forgotten about it. He pulled it out of his pocket and unfolded it. It was an unsatisfyingly short letter:
I hope if you're reading this, you've escaped via the key. I'll be in touch soon.
Mario looked at the note in disbelief. Who could it be? He thought of his friends, but none of them would be so cryptic about a jail break; they'd just burst in and drag him out, knocking Troopas and Dry Bones out of their way left and right. Besides, that wouldn't explain the key rather than simply destroying the lock. Why go through the trouble of picking Koopa's pocket?
The plumber in the red cap analyzed the handwriting; he didn't recognize it. He sniffed the paper on impulse; it smelled of expensive perfume. What did it add up to so far? His savior was a woman; short, and probably well-off if she could afford imported stuff like that. But it didn't exactly end there. There was something else about it that enticed him, made his mind cloudy. That may have been due to over-smelling; he realized he was getting lightheaded and stopped, feeling a little silly.
The height factor ruled out the Princess. Even hunched over, she was too tall to have been his rescuer. He frowned at the paper, then put it away. He would just have to wait and find out.
"It's kinda funky," Luigi said to his brother. "This girl – or who you think is a girl – just left the key with this?" He waved the paper around in the air. "I dunno, Mario; I smell a rat. She didn't say anything at all?"
"Nope, just ran off," Mario replied while fiddling with a socket wrench. "Didn't leave a forwarding address or anything. Didn't even realize she was a girl then; not until I caught a whiff of the perfume."
Luigi stared hard at him. "You okay, Bro? You act like your mental pipes need a little Drain-O."
"Hmm?" Mario said, looking up. "Oh, yeah, I know. It's that smell... I wish I knew what it was. I've never smelled anything like it before, but at the same time I think I have. You know? It stirs up feelings..." He stood up, brushing off his knees as he tried to brush off his niggling doubts. "Well, I'm gonna go home and get some shuteye. See you tomorrow, paesano."
Luigi handed the paper to him. "Night, Mario. And don't keep yourself awake worrying about this; it'll sort itself out sooner or later, I bet."
Mario headed back to his hut. Putting aside the perfume for now, he thought about the sound she had made. What could make that sort of sound? Tap shoes? Steel-toed boots? They didn't even sell those in the Mushroom Kingdom. He hoped it would make more sense to him in the morning. It had to, because at the moment it didn't make any sense at all.
Our intrepid hero awoke to the sun's golden rays filtering through his window. He rolled over and looked at his clock; 10:25. Oh well, he didn't have anything to do this morning, but he usually didn't like to get up so late; the early bird catches the cacciatore. After a quick shower and a shave (he had to keep his mustache neatly groomed, didn't he?) Mario dressed and shoved on his scuffed-up work boots. Was that shoelace frayed? Time to buy a new one or it would probably snap at the least opportune time; he didn't want to be dangling over a pit of lava when the boot fell off, that was for sure. Nodding, he stood up and grabbed his cap. Maybe he would head over to Toad's for a cup of espresso before he went shopping for-
Something felt odd in his chapeau.
He doffed it and looked inside. There was an envelope there. How had he not noticed it to begin with? On a sudden impulse, he smelled it; it was the same perfume. He didn't know why, but he was instantly exhilarated. She'd returned! Not only hadn't he noticed the envelope, but she'd come and gone without him ever waking up. What a sneaky little minx.
The plumber was halfway out the door when he realized he hadn't even read his letter yet. Laughing at himself, he opened it up and did so:
I know my last correspondence was brief, but I was running low on time. Not that I have gobs of it now; any second could be the one in which I am discovered. I hope you can forgive my intrusion into your home, but I couldn't risk leaving this exposed in your mailbox.
We have much to discuss, if you're open to it. Meet me in the apartment by the Pipe Maze Treasury at 1 AM tonight (well, technically tomorrow, but you know what I mean). Please come!
Mario didn't know what to think. His mind was pulled in a thousand different directions. For instance, he didn't know if he should show up; it could be a trap. But if it was, why had she saved him in the first place? Was it a woman as he suspected, maybe somebody from back in his own world? Why all the skulking around – why couldn't she just come to him in the light of day? Not to mention how she'd confiscated the dungeon key, or why time was an unattainable luxury for her.
He couldn't resist finding out who it was; this person could be in real trouble. Still, he told himself he would at least bring along a power-up or two, just in case it was a trap after all.
That smell, now even fresher in his mind, consumed his thoughts like wildfire. As he slowly walked down the road toward Luigi's, he idly wondered if it could be incense instead of perfume; it was definitely headier. It made him feel alive, and it somehow reminded him of home a little. Something he'd experienced at a rock concert in his younger days, but not exactly that...
A new thought entered his mind. What would the Princess say? As the resident monarch, she should be aware of what he planned to do. He turned to the right and headed off toward the castle.
Mario tried to be quiet as he landed. The entry pipe was a far drop, but it was the quickest and easiest way to the Treasury, so it was either that or picking his way around blind corners for hours.
Rats squeaked through the dark green metallic tunnels. Pipe Maze – also known as the Waterworks – was the entire Mushroom Kingdom's supply of clean water (save Dark Land, which didn't get clean water at all). He knew every inch of it pretty well by now, especially the area near the Treasury. After all, he was the plumber extraordinaire.
He approached the door to the "apartment". In reality, it was a cramped, spartan room next to the Treasury that contained a bed and a table with a couple of chairs and a naked light bulb. That's it, no kitchenette, no rumpus room, not even a toilet. As far as he knew, nobody had ever lived there; it was basically a secret hideout. It just wasn't quite as secret anymore.
Mario patted the Fire Flower and Super Leaf that were in his pocket. Princess Peach (who surprisingly let him go without putting up any sort of fight) had given them to him, in case he ran into even more trouble, warning him to watch his back. The kind-hearted ruler wanted to help anybody in distress as much as he did, but she was practical and cautious. All commendable traits.
This was it; he was at the doorstep now. He knew his "friend" was on the other side, whether she meant to ask for help, or...
He held his breath and turned the knob.
The room was cold and dark. The smell of mold wasn't quite as prevalent in there as in the rest of Pipe Maze, as the builders had attempted to make it moisture-proof and had mostly succeeded. His hand felt the nearby wall for the light switch, and flipped it. Nothing. He had only a moment to wonder why the ceiling lamp wasn't working when he heard a young voice whisper to him.
"Close the door."
Mario jumped. He looked around, squinting, but his eyes still hadn't adjusted to the lack of light. The stranger was hiding in the shadows somewhere, away from the rectangle of harsh light cast by the open doorway. He didn't know what else to do, so he did as she asked.
"Okay, hold on," the quiet voice said. Suddenly there was a strike and a blinding flare as a match was lit. A gloved hand was holding it, which slowly moved to a candle on the table and transferred the flame to the wick, then threw the match on the floor where it quickly burned out against the stone. Now that he could see a little in the dim light, the plumber struggled to size up his company.
It was the same shape as in the cell, but he could now make out a few details he couldn't before. He could see the shape was due to the heavy traveling cloak she was wearing. It covered her entire body, and the hood shadowed her face too well to observe any features. She was sitting in the chair, facing him, and he still couldn't meet her eyes. He noticed the other chair was in the corner, broken. It had been a long time since he had been here.
"Sit," she commanded, gesturing to the bed. He supposed it would have to do, as he didn't feel like standing, so he sat across from her. Now all he could see was a black form, as the candle was directly behind her. Even so, he could tell she was fidgety. More than a few times, she glanced back at the door as if readying to bolt in terror.
"Are you alone?"
"Yes," he said slowly.
"Good. I need your help."
As he was now sitting very close to her, the scent from the first note and the envelope was overloading his olfactories, and he almost felt like he was on some kind of drug. Maybe it was something from a concert after all. He had unknowingly tuned his nose to be extremely sensitive to this particular smell, and now he was getting a real noseful of it. Because of this it took him a long time to find his voice and answer her. "Go on."
"I'm in so much danger even being here right now," she sighed in trembling tones. "Seriously, we'll both be lucky to survive with all our limbs still attached. What a ditz I am! This is probably a bonehead move, I know that like I know dirt is dirty, but still... I can't stay silent any longer." Again, she checked the door. "I need to know if you can protect me."
"From- from... oh, screw it, I can't do this! He'll kill us both!" She started to make a break for the exit, but Mario stood up with her and grabbed her arm in a vice-like grip.
"Who? Who's going to kill who?"
Her head turned to him. "I don't want to get you caught up in the insanity. It's not right. You seem like a nice guy, and I can't expect that from you. This was a mistake. I'm sorry." She once again turned to leave, but Mario wouldn't let go.
"No. I want to know. It's my nature to protect people, not to mention my secondary occupation is hero of the Mushroom Kingdom. Let me try."
Alas, she didn't say anything – just shook her head. He still couldn't see her, but knew she couldn't be lying. He just didn't know how he knew; it was innate.
"Please, dolce ragazza," he said, dipping into Italian to call her a 'sweet girl' and hoping it would win her over, "tell me what's going on. I'll see if I can help."
She then looked up at him, sucking in a nervous breath as she considered him for a minute or so. For the first time, he could see something, as small of a thing as it was, and he felt his pulse quicken: she had the clearest blue eyes.
"Okay," she gusted, letting out all her air. "If you're sure. I guess I can't stop you."
The azure-eyed shadow slowly returned to the little chair by the table. As Mario sat down across from her, she began, "I'm about to tell you some really horrible things. Nightmarish things. I still don't think I should tell you this-"
"Please, this suspense is making me nauseous," he interrupted. "I'd rather fast-forward and deal with the truth, whatever it is."
"Right," she said, her head hanging as she steadied herself to go through with it. "Well, I guess I should start by telling you that all my problems stem from my family. My brothers torment me constantly, and my father doesn't understand me." She paused a moment, then continued. "This all probably sounds like your average dysfunctional family unit, but it's worse. Way worse. I'm just... I've never talked with anybody about it before."
Mario placed a hand on hers. Through his own gloves he felt that hers were leather. He could hear in her voice that she was probably right – he didn't want to hear this. But he knew she had to be suffering, and couldn't let her do it alone. "It's okay, take your time."
"My brothers hate me. Well, most of them. Lee doesn't, but he sometimes acts like he does in front of the rest to save face. He's really the only friend I've ever had. Lug's done terrible things to me; horrible. The rest make my life a hell, too, but the youngest ones are just sheep, y'know? It's the older ones that I genuinely hate right back. It's probably because my father..." She trailed off, leaving the room in unearthly silence as she wiped at her eyes.
Mario could almost predict what came next, but was hesitant to ask. He could feel his anger rising already. "Your father?"
"He's an abusive alcoholic, Mario," she blurted. "It's been a huge strain on our whole family, it's why our mother left when I was only four... I barely remember her, I can't picture her face anymore. The youngest don't remember her period." There was a noisy swallow. "I can hardly believe I'm finally telling someone."
Mario patted her hand, even though his own felt numb. "I've heard it helps. So, did he ever... hit you?"
"No. Not much, anyway. Once. He was so far gone he couldn't even stand, just passed out in his own filth in the living room. What a mess. I tried to hoist him up, to carry him to bed so he could sleep it off... and he slapped me, saying he didn't need any help from fungus." She choked on the tears she was trying to hold off. "He didn't even know it was me. Then he was passed out for the rest of the night."
"I guess that means he hit your brothers most of the time."
"Yeah. Every other night, you can hear him beating them. Once a week, you might hear one of the little ones crying because they saw the older ones getting pummeled. Even though they don't like me, I still can't help but wish they weren't living there."
She looked up at him. He could no longer see her eyes because of the candle behind her, but he guessed they were gushing tears by now. "I've never actually been able to analyze my life. Now that I have, I know I could never go back to it. I... wow, I can't believe I'm saying all this, but I want out. I'd like to learn what it's like to feel safe for once." She squeezed his hand a bit. "My dad knows about this place, so I'm not very safe here, that's for sure. Do you know anywhere I can escape to? Maybe your world, um... Ert, or something? Sorry, I forgot what it's called."
Mario thought about it a moment. She could be a mushroom girl, couldn't she? Someone from the Village who was too afraid to blame her family because Mario might know them. If that was the case, she certainly wouldn't go unnoticed on Earth. Then again, she could be a human. But then, how did she get there? Either way, they needed to get out of Pipe Maze.
"Why don't you come back to Toadstool Castle with me? We can protect you there."
The girl seemed surprised by the offer. "To the- oh, no, I couldn't, I..."
"What? Why not?"
"Well, I don't really think I'd receive a very warm reception. Please, I just wanted your help in finding a good Warp Zone that can shoot me off somewhere where nobody can find me. Where he can't find me. Then I'll be out of your hair forever."
"Aw, don't be like that. Princess Toadstool really is a benevolent ruler. I don't understand how she could turn you away."
"My past," she hedged. "Nobody could forgive me that easy."
"Why? Who are you?"
Without hesitation or another word, she stood up and bolted for the door. Mario jumped up and reached out a pleading hand, shocked, but she was already out and away. He ran after her, but couldn't see any trace of a cloak disappearing around a corner. Gone.
You might think he lost her there, but don't forget that he's a plumber. Pipes were his life, and he could hear which way she went by listening to the echos. He heard the sound of footfalls heading for the north exit. And he knew a shortcut.
Mario turned down a dark pipe tunnel that smelled terrible. The walls were very close, but he could still run through it with no trouble. At the end, it opened over a huge sewage tank, and he ran across the catwalk to the other side, holding a oily rag over his mouth to blot out the stench. As he re-entered the brighter tunnels, he could only hope she was still heading in the same direction. She was, his ears stated, and was now behind him. He passed a few tunnels to the east, then stopped. The sound of her footwear hitting the metal was growing louder. He crouched in the adjacent tunnel.
Suddenly, she burst into view with her hand about the neck of her cloak. Her head was pointed over her shoulder, so she didn't notice him until he sprang at her. She screamed, then tried to dodge, but he caught her arm and took her down.
"No, please! It won't work, let me go!"
Mario had her pinned to the floor by her shoulders as he sat back, panting. "Sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you or anything, but I can't let you run off just because you think there's some reason for Peach not... not to... oh."
Now, there are a few things in life that you can prepare for. You can get ready for your first trip to Hawaii by packing swim trunks and booking the beachfront hotel in advance. You can get ready for a party by dressing in your sharpest threads and picking up a box of Tic Tacs (in the event you find yourself in the backseat of someone else's car later). You can get ready to commit suicide by praying, writing a note and amending your will to exclude that annoying uncle who drove you to do it in the first place.
This was not something quite so easy to prepare for... even if Mario could have tried.
The girl's hood had fallen back, and Mario was once again gazing into those fathomless blue eyes. But now, he could see more than that. Tanned scales. A pearl necklace. Full red lips. A pink hairbow with white polka dots.
As strange as it was, he was staring into the face of Wendy O. Koopa.
Mario jumped off of her like she were a poisonous breed of cactus. Sweating despite the cold, he backed up against the tunnel wall, watching as she sat up slowly, a sad expression on her reptilian face even as she glared coldly at him.
"Do you see now?"
Mario's head was spinning. He not only couldn't think of anything, but he forgot what thinking was. His mind could do nothing but compare. Compare the past several years of this girl at her family's side, tormenting the people of the Mushroom Kingdom and reveling in it... to the past few days, the rescue, the sadness of her tale, the...
The smell. More likely than not, that was the scent of the female Koopa.
It was the thought of her aroma that brought him back to the cloaked figure quietly sobbing on the floor of the tunnel. He had been so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he hadn't even noticed when she started crying, or when she'd pulled her hood back up to hide her "shame". Part of him knew he should comfort her, but she was a Koopa. His hatred for the family was at war with his newfound friendship with her.
"All I wanted was to disappear, you nosy bastard," she hiccuped, gloves disappearing into her hood to cover her face entirely. "Why couldn't you just point me toward a bus station or something?"
"You... you're a Koopa," he babbled. "But you rescued me, but... you're a Koopa. What are you trying to pull here?"
"I'm trying to pull away from this life! Not like you care, or anybody cares. Or like there's any hope, any chance I can escape this. I'm always going to be a Koopa, no matter where I go or how I try to hide it. Deluding myself. Stupid... I'm such a stupid bimbo..."
All at once, Mario realized it didn't matter who she was. To earn the right to call himself one of the good guys, he had to rescue anybody who asked for it – not just the mammals and fungi of the Kingdom. As one of his favorite cartoon superheroes used to say when he was a boy, 'If you're not an equal-opportunity hero, you're no hero at all.' It had been his credo since he stepped into the role of savior of the 'shrooms. Was he really willing to give it up now just because she didn't fit the shape of his usual customers?
Wendy heard his footsteps, and looked up in fear. A whimper issued from her throat as she scrabbled backwards along the floor.
"No, I... I'm okay," Mario said, not sure how to say he'd gotten over his brief bout with prejudice. "Are you?"
Her jaw dropped as she stared at him, her eyes glistening with tears. "Wh- yeah, I guess so."
When she tried to stand up, Mario offered her a hand. She looked at it a moment, still crouched on the floor. Now that he knew her identity, there was every chance she couldn't trust him not to hurt her, to pretend to be nice just long enough to throw her in the slammer. But she took it anyway, and he helped her to her feet.
Some things made sense to him now. The strange noise her footsteps had made in the dungeon were due to her claws; she must not have been wearing shoes then, as he hadn't heard it this time around. The high-dollar perfume: King Bowser could certainly afford it. The sad story-
He suddenly realized what family her stories were about.
This got Mario angrier than he had been in a long, long time. He couldn't believe Koopa, as evil as he was, would beat his own children! It was just so appalling, so...
Grimacing, he realized he must have been squeezing her hand and let go. "Whoops! Sorry, Wendy."
She turned to him with a strange look in her eyes. Mario caught it as well; he had probably never called her by name. Not that he could remember for sure, but he'd probably referred to her as "that brat" or "Kootie Pie" up to now. Was the reaction she was displaying... gratitude?
After another moment of fidgeting, she broke the silence. "It's okay. Y-you didn't mean to."
They looked away from each other quickly. Mario's senses were driving him insane, and he was already halfway there from trying to process the fact that he was trying to help a Koopa escape from another Koopa. He wished he could shut his brain off from this crap, but he was spared the effort when he remembered something that sharpened his focus.
"Mama Mia! King Bowser!" He ran a hand down his face. "He's gonna go into conniptions when he realizes I'm helping you drop out of Koopa Kollege!"
Her head jerked, and she looked at him agape. "You're right! We can't stand around here like statues, we gotta jet before he finds out I skipped curfew! Being grounded with six brothers is not the best time to be had. Especially not my brothers." They started down a tunnel, but Wendy stopped him. "Wait... where are we going?"
"Mushroom Village," Mario said, and started to pull her along. Again she stopped him.
"Mario, look at me," she growled, trying to talk some sense into the headstrong plumber. "How do you think your friends will react to me strolling past their front lawns? I'll be lynched on the spot!"
"Yeah, but- well, I can't think of anywhere else, and it's better than getting caught by your pops! Don't worry, we... I'll talk to Peach. If I can't make her understand, then... well, I don't know, but I'll figure something out, okay? Maybe the Koopahari Desert..."
Suddenly, from the tunnel behind them, came a deep-voiced bellow. "KOOTIE PIE! Where the hell are you?"
"Oh no, it's Daddy!"
Mario wordlessly grabbed her hand and started off in the opposite direction. They dodged through several different pipes, trying to lose the tyrant. Wendy realized that they were heading in a deliberate direction. "Where are we headed, Mario?" she hissed.
"The west entrance," he panted in reply. "It's the shortest route to the Mushroom Village."
"But I don't..." Then she seemed to give up. "Guess I don't have much choice here, do I? Dear God, please let this all be a hallucination..."
They wound through a few more passages, and doubled back once. Now very near the aforementioned west entrance, they stopped to listen.
"We lost him," Mario said, gasping for breath.
"Good," Wendy replied, sliding down the wall. "I was afraid he'd catch us. You'd be back in the dungeon, and I-"
Suddenly, they were blinded by light. They tried to look through it to figure out where it was coming from, but it was too dazzling. Then, a voice sounded from within the whiteness.
"Mario, what the fungus is going on here?"
Mario recognized that voice: Toad. He must be on guard duty; it was an easy access point to the Village, so they had long ago decided to post a watchman there. Mario knew it was a smart idea, but in that moment he wished Luigi had never had it.
He also knew he would have a much harder time getting Wendy's name cleared if she was caught fleeing in terror instead of presenting herself to the crown willingly. This was further reinforced once Toad's flashlight pointed toward the floor. Now they could see that in his other hand was a sturdy-looking pair of handcuffs.
"Guess what, Miss Ameri-Koop? That's right! You're going to enjoy an all-expenses-paid night in our dank, moldy prison. Hope you have a pleasant stay!"
*To Be Continued!*
NOTES: Welcome to The Mysterious Scent Tenth Anniversary Celebration Bonanza! This is a very, very old fic. It belongs in a nursing home eating applesauce and playing shuffleboard. Still... I love it so much. It's one of the first things I ever did, and ever worked so hard on that I sometimes cried. Yeah, I cried – cried like a baby. What about it?
Anyway, this will be the SECOND time I've gone back and torn it to shreds, trying to bring it up to the current level of my writing ability before continuing it. Spruced it up from stem to stern, and I got rid of that RIDICULOUS format I tried where every chapter... was three chapters...? I'm not sure what that was supposed to be, but I put it out of its misery. Please, please let me know if you readers from yesteryear miss the original version and I'll throw up a separate "Mysterious Scent Classic" - or try, if FFnet lets me.
This time I mean to bring it all to an end. Why? Because I can! Because this is a beautiful planet with limitless potential, where nerds can travel back in time to the previous decade and finish a story about a plumber and his lizard love! I noticed a little while ago that exactly ten years had passed since I first threw up Chapter One, and decided it was time to remind everybody why I picked the penname Mushroom Scribe by finishing my magnum opus. Or is that mushroom opus?
Uhhh... yeah. More notes in the next chapter. Back to your irregularly-scheduled program.