Here's the next chapter. I'm excited that I'm hearing from some old friends. It's awesome being back!
In response to longtime reader L. Damarik Laizare's responses...hey, dude! Nice to hear from you, and I'm sorry that the "epic comeback" wasn't longer. The two most recent chapters were originally one big chapter, but I decided to split them up for reasons I can't explain.
Anyways, thank you everyone for still reading. As I said before, the ending is in sight, so just stick with me a little while longer.
"Missy!" Erph shouted as he waddled after her. "The castle is in ruin. There's a war goin' on right outside! We don't even know where the student army is, or even if they're still alive!"
Kamilia took large, quick steps and she marched to one of the many exits of the school. She had a determination about her, adrenaline pulsing through her entire body. She just killed her old professor, and she was not above killing anyone else for answers. She was no longer a student here. She was a soldier.
She kicked one of the heavy wooden doors wide open, knocking a guard on the other side hard to the ground. Standing there, in heavy armor, were five…no, six soldiers. Kamilia was unable to identify their species due to their armor, but each was equipped with a broadsword, a bow, and a large quiver of arrows. She could see a tiny insignia adorning their armor: the crest of the Crystal King.
Kammy stood there, right in front of them, frozen. Erph didn't move. Finally, Kammy broke the silence.
"Hello," she started. "Can you tell me where the-"
Suddenly, swords were drawn. Arrows were swiftly removed from quivers and fired Kammy and Erph. One flew right past Kammy's head, slicing through a few strands of her silver hair.
She didn't have time for this.
She fired two red bolts from her wand, which made contact with two of the arrow-firing soldiers, knocking them to the ground. She tackled a soldier up against the wall and placed her wand up against his helmet.
Kamilia sensed a strong, heavy body behind her, and ducked out of the way just in time to see a soldier accidentally slice through his own comrade. She then kicked him hard on the knee, popping it out of place, forcing him to the ground. Kammy stood up and blasted another red bolt into his face.
Another soldier had an arrow in his bow, strung back, ready to fire. Kamilia readied her wand, ready to fire another deadly attack, when suddenly she felt a powerful blow to her back. Another soldier, unarmed, had just punched her. Hard.
She staggered for a millisecond, giving the archer just enough time to fire. Kammy had been trained in this, however, and threw herself to the ground just in time to see the arrow fly over her head and into the chest of the unarmed soldier.
The archer, now visibly worried even through his helmet, started quickly trying to arm his bow again. However, before he could, Kammy ran up to him and forced him up against a wall, her wand to the side of his head. She ripped his helmet off to reveal the terrified face of a young Clubba.
"Please!" he screamed, as if he was going to cry at any moment. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"
"I don't give a Mouser's ass if you're sorry." Kammy replied. "The student army. Where is it?"
The Clubba was turning a sickly shade of green before Kammy's eyes.
"Who…who are you?" he stammered.
"I'm the one who killed your entire infantry without breaking a sweat," she said through clenched teeth. "And trust me when I say that I'm not afraid to kill again."
She forced her wand harder against his temple, drawing tears.
"Now I'm going to ask you one more time, and one more time only," she continued. "Where is the student army?"
The Clubba, nearly sobbing now, pointed toward a large building off on the other side of the campus.
"T-T-They've been r-relocated to the g-g-gymnasium!" he cried.
Kammy glared at him for a moment, to make sure that this information was correct, before casting a memory-erasing spell on the trembling Clubba. If anyone were to ask him who killed all of his fellow soldiers, she didn't want him to know. In fact, she didn't want anybody to know she was here except for her former peers.
As she briskly walked to the gymnasium building, stepping over the wounded and the dead, Erph kept a safe distance.
"M…Missy?" he said softly. Kamilia was barely able to hear him over the sounds of war in the distance, but she turned her head to look at him.
"You're actin' a bit…strange," he continued. "Cold. Ye alright?"
Kammy clenched her fists, but kept her cool. She breathed in slowly through her nose.
"I just killed someone, Erph," she spit out. "I just killed six people. I'm a little on edge right now, but that's what will keep me alive. I need to think, act like a soldier. I can't hesitate, I can't compromise. I need to fight in order to win this thing."
"But," Erph shifted his weight uncomfortably. "You don't want to lose yourself either."
Kammy stormed up to Erph, towering over him like a monster, her violet cape blowing in the warm wind.
"It's my destiny to do this, Erph!" she exclaimed. "I need to win this war! I do! It's myjob! I need to win it by any means necessary or else I'll…"
Erph saw a tear build up in her eye.
"Or else I'll…I don't know! I don't know how fate works! I don't know what I'm supposed to do!"
The tear then slid down her cheek as her voice started to shake, her lower lip quivering.
"I don't know…what I'm supposed to do…"
Kamilia then dropped to her knees, the gravel and dirt digging into her legs, and she started to bawl. Erph stared at her for a moment, unsure of what to do. In all these years, he had never seen Kamilia cry. But there she was, smack dab in the middle of a battleground, shaking like a child, sobbing.
Erph finally walked over to her and rested his head on her shaky shoulder.
"Kammy," he said. "You don't have to do anything. No one is expecting you to do something you cannot handle. But I've seen you grow from a girl to a woman, and there is one thing about you that's never changed: your bravery."
Kamilia tried to stop her crying, but there was a lump in her throat and tears in her eyes that wouldn't quit. She rubbed her eyes with one claw and sniffled a tiny bit.
"You've trained with the strongest wizard in the world," Erph continued. "You left everything you knew and jumped onto a boat headed towards God knows where. You fought off pirates, you returned to a castle that wrongfully accused you of murder…hell, the very fact that you attended Bycaster University in the first place is an act of bravery."
Kammy stared at Erph, listening to his every word, tears still dripping down her face.
"War is…well, it's hard," he said. "But it's here. It's something you need to face now. And after years of watching you fight with every ounce of strength you have inside of you, I refuse to believe that you cannot overcome this. As you surely know by now, pain is inevitable. But suffering? That's your choice."
The last tear fell from her cheek into her robes. She wiped her nose and sighed, giving Erph a big smile.
"You're good at those," she chuckled.
Erph looked at the ground, frowning, but Kamilia could see him blush.
"Yeah, well," he muttered. "Someone needed to get you back in the fighting spirit."
Kammy finally stood up and faced the gymnasium building again. This was doable. Possible. She could win this.
The entrance to the gymnasium was blocked by two heavily armed soldiers, who Kammy could only assume were Clubbas. As she and Erph hid behind a dying tree, she knew that she needed a way past them. It would've been easy to kill them, but that was unnecessary. A stun spell could've worked, or even an invisibility spell. She needed to plan this carefully, however, for each of the soldiers was holding a battle horn. She wanted to attract as little attention as possible. She needed to talk to the student army and prepare them for battle, completely in private.
"OK, here's my plan," she finally whispered. "I'm going to turn us invisible and…"
Her voice trailed off as her heart stopped. Erph wasn't next to her. He wasn't anywhere.
"Erph!" she whispered loudly. Her breathing started getting faster and choppy, her eyes darting every which way looking for the old Goomba. Where was he? Taken prisoner? Did he die? Abducted by the Ashamed? The horrible possibilities were endless, and Kammy really wouldn't be able to handle any of them.
As she panicked behind the tree, she heard the faint sound of crashing armor. She quickly turned her attention back to the entrance of the gymnasium, where the two soldiers were laying on the ground, completely out cold, Erph standing next to them, slightly out of breath. She sighed with relief as she ran over to him.
"You scared me to death, you crazy old Goomba!" she shouted at him. He glared at her.
"You were doing too much talkin'," he replied. "I used to be a man of action myself, ya know."
They slowly opened the door to the gym, which let out an ear-piercing creak that echoed throughout the entire building. If there were any guards inside, they would've automatically known about their entrance.
Fortunately, there were no guards, but what Kammy and Erph did see caused their jaws to drop. The entire gym was filled to the brim with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of Koopas. Most of them were young, their faces dirty and covered in blood and fear. Some were even younger than Kammy was during her first year at Bycaster; they looked as if they were primary school Koopalings. There were others who looked old enough to be members of the faculty, and others still who Kammy even recognized from some of her old classes. So many Koopas…not a single Raven, Goomba, Blooper, or even Lakitu in sight.
They were all murmuring to each other, questioning their future and the war, until Kammy opened the door. Then they all stopped and stared at her, each and every one, their eyes wide with curiosity and fear.
"Great stars…" Erph muttered. Kammy stared back at her species, caged up like animals to be led to the slaughter. After a moment, she cleared her throat.
"Hello, everyone," she began, her loud voice trembling somewhat. "My name is-"
"Kamilia?" someone shouted from the crowd. Kammy blinked, confused as to who could've possibly remembered her…and then she remembered Korallis. She scanned the crowd, looking for the source of the voice, hoping beyond hope it was him. Instead, her eyes landed on a Koopa around her age.
And one of Ivy's old friends.
Kammy gulped quietly.
"You dare show your face here?" the girl yelled. "After what you did to Ivy?"
"'Ey!" Erph shouted. "This young missy here didn't do what she's been accused of! So you better keep your mouth shut and listen to what she has to say!"
"Why should we listen to a murderer?"
Suddenly, the gymnasium exploded with whispers and murmurs again. Koopalings hid behind the older Koopas, the men reaching for their bows. Kammy became terrified. She was losing the audience she was trying to protect.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please!" she begged. "Please just calm down for a moment and listen to me!"
But they didn't. The audience started getting louder until Kammy feared a riot would start. Suddenly, there was a loud BANG that exploded from the back of the audience. Everyone was instantly silent.
"Everyone shut up and listen to her!"
Everyone turned their attention to a dashing Koopa with blue hair and muscles that would've made any woman swoon. He wore a cloak around his armor. He looked a tiny bit like Korallis, but Kammy could instantly tell that he wasn't. He walked up to Kammy, stared at her for a moment, and then turned to face the audience.
"My name is Koopley," he announced boldly. "You may know me as the Wizard's former assistant."
Kammy's eyes widened.
"I've heard the old man say things about this Kammy Koopa," he continued. "About how she's dangerous, how she must be stopped."
Erph groaned. This guy clearly wasn't helping them win over the audience.
"However," he continued. "That sorry old man abandoned us! Threw in his allegiance to the new King. Is that a man we can really trust?"
Kammy and Erph exchanged confused glances. 'New king?'
"I say we hear this young woman out!" Koopley finished, resulting in a small round of applause from the audience. Koopley stepped back and looked at Kammy.
"They're all yours, kid," he said. His muscles were huge, his face strong and handsome. Was this really Korallis in disguise? Kammy tried to clear those thoughts from her head and she faced the audience yet again.
"Thank you," she said awkwardly, before clearing her throat for the second time. "As I was saying, my name is Kamilia Koopa. I have been training with the great, wise wizard Merlon for three years and I have come to aid the Crystal Kingdom in this war."
This piqued the audiences interest, and Kammy took the opportunity and ran with it.
"I first need to know…why are there only Koopas here?"
There was a long pause, no Koopa wishing to speak out of fear. Finally, Koopley spoke.
"Our fellow students have all fallen," he responded grimly. Kammy's eyes widened as she stared at him in awe.
"All of them?" she questioned. "The Goombas, the Lakitus…?"
Koopley nodded his head. Kammy turned to the thousands of Koopas in the gym, who were now staring at the floor in sadness. Even Erph was starting to grow very uncomfortable. Kammy felt a lump in her throat, but she swallowed it before continuing.
"W-Well…" she started. "We are a resilient people. Our shells can't be penetrated easily. This is our advantage in this war."
"That's what the Wizard said," a small, anonymous voice responded from the crowd. Kammy furrowed her brows.
"Forget about the Wizard!" she shouted. "This is not his war! This is a war for all of Het Naamkaartje! A war for our land, not his!"
Erph and Koopley nodded their heads.
"So we will fight until our last breath to keep our home safe from these invaders!" Kammy continued. "And we won't hide in our shells until the very last Ashamed soldier is gone forever!"
The audience burst into cheers, clapping and shouting. Erph nudged her leg encouragingly as Koopley grinned at her courage.
"Now what kind of artillery do we have?" she asked the crowd.
"Only swords, hammers, and bows, Miss!" a voice shouted. Kammy frowned and shook her head.
"Our enemies have advanced weapons," she said. "Handhelds cannons that fire bursts of energy and light."
"Weapons," Koopley continued. "That are fueled by incredibly-powerful artifacts called The Stars. I've never seen anything like them. There is nothing in this entire nation that can even rival that power. As lon as they have those Stars, we don't stand a chance."
Kammy didn't know about these "Stars." This news changed her entire strategy. She couldn't just defeat the Ashamed anymore. She needed to separate them from their power source.
"We need something explosive," she announced. "Something that can damage their weapons and force them away from their Stars. Does anyone have any ideas?"
Again, the audience was silent, but this time not out of fear. Instead, they were deep in thought. Finally, Koopley ran to a room at the back of the gymnasium and, a few moments later, reemerged with a large wagon. Inside the wagon were black spheres the size of their shells. He wheeled the wagon up to the front of the building and looked at Kammy.
"We have these," he said. "They're a special type of bomb that can be reused over and over again. Their casings are almost impenetrable, and they're filled with gunpowder and gigaformoparacine, which allows them to emit an explosion over and over without actually exploding. The only problem with that is, once we throw them at the Ashamed, there is nothing stopping those bastards from throwing them back."
Kammy thought back to that chemical: gigaformoparacine. Merlon had told her about it. He referred to it as "Giga." He said there was barely enough on the entire planet, much less available to her. Yet, there it was, right in front of her…hidden inside an impenetrable bomb.
"Koopley," she said excitedly. "Is there any more Giga in the school?" Koopley rubbed his chin.
"There's a small vial in the school lab…but it would be impossible to get to it at this point. There are soldiers everywhere, and some people even claim to have seen ghosts in the school."
Kammy chuckled under her breath.
"OK, you need to stay here and start training these Koopas with their swords," she ordered. "You're a strong Koopa, I'm sure you know how to use one. Erph and I are going to get that Giga."
"OK, but…why?" he asked. Kammy grabbed his shoulder and pulled his ear close to her mouth.
"Because Giga isn't just a never-ending fuse used in bombs," she whispered. "It can also grant temporary immortality."
Koopley's eyes widened, as did Erph's. Knowing that every single Goomba on campus had been wiped out, he needed all the reassurance he could get.
"For how long?" Erph asked anxiously.
"It depends on the person," Kammy replied. "A few hours to an entire day. But it only takes a drop. Any more and the results, according to Merlon, could be monstrous. That one vial alone should cover everyone in this gymnasium. With it, we should be able to tip this war over in our favor."
Koopley and Erph smiled.
"OK," Koopley said, his blood pumping faster. "You go do what you gotta do. I'll train these guys."
Kammy nodded at her new ally and dashed for the door, Erph by her side. Suddenly, however, she stopped dead in her tracks and stared back at Koopley.
"Hey," she said, causing the muscular Koopa to turn around and face her. "You said you were the Wizard's assistant?"
"Yeah," he responded. "Well, I was. For the past three years."
Kammy's heart sank.
"Um…what about Korallis?"
Koopley's face dropped as he stared at Kammy's sad face.
"Kamilia," he said slowly. "I haven't heard that name in years. Honestly, I don't think anybody knows what happened to him."
Kammy looked deep into his eyes, hoping to see that he was lying or maybe even telling a sick joke. But the truth was right there on Koopley's face. Korallis was gone. Koopley walked over to Kamilia and put a claw on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I know what it's like to lose someone. I have a Koopaling and two eggs at home and no wife to care for them. I have no clue how I'm going to cope."
He wiped a tear from Kammy's face.
"But maybe that's why we're here," he said, sending goose bumps along Kammy's arm, taking her breath away. "To tackle that sort of thing together?"
Kammy blushed. She hadn't felt this way in years. It had been so long since she'd seen a man like Koopley, a man so handsome and strong, yet respectable and kind. He reminded her so much of Korallis, the dashing Koopa who had sent her away. Only this man was different: he was a handsome Koopa who was welcoming her. Her heart was torn.
Koopley looked down at the golden mushroom talisman hanging from her robes. He tapped it with his claw.
"I've heard the Wizard claiming he was looking for something similar to that," the young Koopa said. "Said the new king needs it for something. Do you know if they're talking about yours?"
Kammy finally looked away from the man's face and down at the golden mushroom. She smiled.
"All I know is that it's supposed to bring me luck," she replied, looking back at him. "And I think it already has."
"Come on, you, we've got a potion to find!" he shouted as he tugged at her robed with his mouth.
Cockblocked by an old Goomba. Haven't we all been there?
Anyways, after the mysterious and out-of-left-field introduction to the infamous "Giga" in this chapter, the next couple of chapters will include plenty of other origins and revelations. If you're a Mario fan, or just curious, you'll want to stick around.
Also, I'm very sorry if some of these chapters are lacking in quality. I'm making a short film, working, running a blog, and going to school. I'm trying my best to deliver some awesome stuff, but at the same time I just want to get this story done, you know? I'll continue to try my best to write the best chapters I can, but if I end up writing one or two that just absolutely suck...well, that's why.
Read and respond, friends! Expect the next chapter soon(ish)!