Super Mario Brothers – Quest of the Bleak Realm

Disclaimer: Luigi, Mario and Bowser are copyright of Nintendo. I do not own them, but I do own the OCs. If you think that I am intending to infringe on any copyrights, then you're either mean or just stupid. XD

A/N: This will be a final warning to you readers; the angst in this story is extreme! If you do not like it, stay away. Otherwise, enjoy – sickos!

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Chapter one: Sometimes more, sometimes less

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He and his mother were looking down into the crib, it was the smallest living thing he had ever set eyes upon, his baby brother, soundly sleeping. The door opened, and then a familiar greeting. There was laughter, for he was home, and the young boy jumped into his father's arms. He was happy, innocent, and content with life, all up to that very night.

He awoke to his mother's screams, and was afraid for her, as he searched each room, and as he passed the baby's room, he saw the biggest monster he had ever seen: a fire, angry and destructive. The monster was raging, and it became hotter and the flames grew higher. Then he ran into his father, who gave him a small bundle, his brother, "TAKE YOUR BROTHER AND RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN! NOW! GO!" And so the boy ran, and in no time, the entire house was engulfed in snaky fang-like flames. Once outside, the boy stopped, holding his tiny brother in his arms, and stared in disbelief at what once was his house, and was now claimed by the unstoppable monster. Then his father dashed out, and wrapping his arms around his sons, he ran with them…

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"Hey Mario, I found it!"

Running down the stairs he almost tripped over himself.

"Whoa little brother, slow down before you hurt your yourself!" someone called out from the living room. And then he met with the other near the stairs. "Ah, my coat! Thanks Luigi, I was looking for that everywhere!" he said as he took the heavy winter apparel from his brother. Then he moved across the room and tended to a large red rucksack, as if making an effort to look busy.

"Well then you didn't look very far, it was in your wardrobe!" Luigi shook his head as he seated himself in an armchair. Quickly, he grabbed a slice of toast from the plate on the coffee table in front of him, of which appeared to be the last one.

"Hey, you could have left me more toast!"

Mario was knelt down looked over his shoulder, glancing at the crumbs, the last remnants of toast left on that plate, and smirked guiltily.

Luigi frowned at his brother, "Is this why you asked me to look for your coat?" he demanded, waving his toast through the air with the hand gestures he made.

"I'm sorry!" Mario said, in a failed attempt to sound apologetic, "I really did need that coat, though."

"I am so going to get you back for this!" the younger pointed a finger at him, before taking a bite out of his slice of toast. "And don't think I haven't forgotten about the time you made me help you with your project for school, and how you left me to do all of it. And after that I couldn't stop you eating it!"

Mario's face split into a grin, as he broke out into a nervous laugh, "That was years ago! And in my defence, I didn't eat all of it, just some of the decoration, which I almost choked on I might add!"

"Yes I know, that part was made of plastic fruit!"

Mario smiled, "Yeah well…don't talk with your mouth full!"

Luigi swallowed, "Don't eat plastic food!"

They each sighed and gazed up in silence, as they let their childhood memories wash over them. "…Those were the days…" breathed Mario.

Luigi was the first to end the moment, "So when are you leaving?" he asked, forwardly.

"…As soon as possible, but first I have to ask around for directions and advice if I can."

Luigi waited patiently to say his goodbyes, which he knew he was never good at, but his brother seemed to be in no rush. The younger sat and observed his older brother, who was still in deep thought.

Mario had prepared himself mentally; he still had trouble facing certain things, a part of him, which he hated and feared at the same time. He scanned the items on the mantelpiece, until one particular photograph caught his eye. Luigi followed his every move, and Mario paced toward the mantelpiece, and carefully picked up the picture that he had been focusing on. He held the frame in his two gloved hands and drew the small image closer to his eyes, until he could see each detail. In his mind, he was reliving the memory of that day. His mother and father were both smiling, caught in the midst of a joke, which Mario now couldn't remember. Next to them, himself, by their side, much too short for his age at the time, he was six years old. His mother, to the right of the picture, looked so happy, she brought a tear to his eye. In her arms was little Luigi, his baby brother.

The picture wasn't perfect, just an ordinary old family photograph. Whoever had taken the picture at the time, perhaps a neighbour or a friend, was being a little careless, laughing too much to take the job seriously. No one had to tell Mario now that the picture wasn't perfect.

"I can't believe it's been eighteen years since we lost dad." Mario finally said, not removing his eyes from the picture. "…And almost twenty-two years since mama's been gone."

He continued to talk, and Luigi faced him now, and listened intently, "…Somehow Bowser always comes back. I am his biggest threat, for I am his nemesis now that dad is gone."

A hint of a smile grew on Mario's face, as his eyes were once again drawn to the bundle in his mother's arms. Then he turned to his brother in the armchair, who was looking up at him, and placed the picture back it its place on the mantelpiece.

"You're going to save the princess, aren't you?" Said Luigi, the question was rhetorical.

"Yes." Mario replied. "Listen… I want you to come with me."

Luigi opened his mouth in a silent gasp, startled at what Mario had said. He was being asked something that he was not prepared to answer.

"I think this time, something more serious is going on… The words Bowser left, "Bleak realm" it seems more serious this time …without even daring me to rescue her, he's just told me to go there. It's as if he wants to challenge me...on a different level." He waited for his brother to reply, and looking up at his determined eyes, Luigi wanted to agree, but something inside him was still holding him back.

"I…I don't know, Mario…"

They both sat in silence, as Mario stared at something that was invisible to Luigi. It seemed as though he had become lost in his own thoughts, and Luigi was almost becoming impatient. Finally, Mario exhaled and placed a hand on Luigi's shoulder,

"I can't do this on my own."

"Yes you can." Replied Luigi, knowing that Mario had succeeded in several, if not the same mission many times.

"Yeah well I don't want to…" he said, half having known that he had to. "…And you know who else would have wanted you to come?"

Luigi swallowed the dry lump in his throat, and looked down."…Who?"

"Dad." Mario received eye contact from his brother again.

"Dad?" the younger brother's tone was like a small voice, coming from the back of his throat, as if these words were private, "Papa? …Really? …I don't really remember that much…" And in that moment, somehow they both felt proud.

And Mario started to stare into his deepest thoughts again. "Dad always wanted us both to be heroes, Luigi, right from the start. After mom died it was all he ever talked about. He always said…that I was to become a hero, and that I needed you too." He faced his little brother again. "Dad would have wanted us both to rescue the princess, and I know I've done this by myself, many times…but I've thought about this a lot and…I remember that dad also told me…to try to make you understand that you are a hero too."

Luigi stared at the ground and beyond; he found it difficult to imagine these words coming from his own father. But secretly, he liked to think that his father had high hopes in him and Mario, and he wanted his brother to be equally proud of him.

"Ok" Luigi said quietly with a smile, as he rose up out of the chair, resting a hand on Mario's shoulder at arm's length. "Ok I'll go with you."

"Great." Mario's face lit up, and he held Luigi by the upper arm firmly, looking his brother proudly in the eyes, and then released it. "Then you'd better go find your winter coat too!" Luigi started to make his way up the stairs,

"Nice try, Mario, but I've already eaten my toast!" Mario looked up, to catch Luigi disappearing up the stairs, before calling back,

"We're going into town first, to see if we can find anyone with answers."

"Okay." Came the reply. "I'm just packing my stuff now, so that I can be ready."