The Toll of Adventures
Chapter 1: One Pixel From Death
Another wave of molten bits of lava shot out of the plant. Luigi managed to dodge it, but he felt the sting of the incredible heat as it grazed his face, and he yelled out in pain.
"Luigi, focus!" Mario yelled "Our P balloons won't last much longer, we need to make some more appear!"
"Mario, can we please just go back? We found Bowser's castle days ago, do we really have to go through these extra areas?"
"Come on Luigi, it's fun! What's the point of having an adventure if you don't do everything?"
Luigi doesn't have any time to argue, he steers his inflated body towards another question mark block. But just as he's about to reach it, a fireball hits him. The searing pain is immense, and made more so by his body rapidly deflating and compacting itself into half its original size.
But Mario can't do anything, and doesn't seem that concerned anyway. Luigi just falls and falls, victim to a bottomless pit. He has nothing to look forward to but a slow, painful death from dehydration.
Everything goes black. Luigi opens his eyes, and sees that he is in his bedroom.
Luigi sighs, despite having one almost every night, he can't get used to his nightmares. Luigi had suppressed his memories of his repeated mortal danger when he was a baby, but on that horrible day when an inexplicably bald Bowser had first captured the adult Princess Peach, everything had come flooding back to Luigi and his brother. Due to the complete absence of the Mushroom King and Queen, who most people by now doubted the existence of, the Mushroom Kingdom had had little recourse against Bowser's attack. Possessing the ability to jump really high, Mario and Luigi were asked to defeat Bowser's army and rescue peach.
Mario and Luigi set out on their quest, and nearly died again and again. Acid coated koopas and goombas that were fatal to touch with anything except shoes, an infinite supply of sneering bullets flying through the air, lava filled castles where it was difficult just to stay conscious in the heat. Running hundreds of yards through levels while constantly jumping five times their own height, holding their breath underwater for minutes on end, castle sections repeating in ways that made no sense eating away at their sanity, every second of the quest was physical and mental torture for Luigi. And again and again, just when he thought his horrible ordeal was over, they would find a normal Toad at the end of a castle instead of the princess. Not only was it a crushing disappointment, Luigi was also tormented by the guilt of his half wishing that they had found Peach first and left the Toads to be tortured to death.
Despite it all, Mario and Luigi finally reached Princess Peach. After a rather shallow sentence or two thanking them, it was over. Life in the Mushroom Kingdom returned to normal, and Mario had no trouble going right back to his normal life. The Toads and Peach didn't seem at all frightened by their capture. Only Luigi seemed to have been affected by his hundreds of near death experiences. Still, his mind eventually started to heal, and Luigi was for the most part able to cope with his memories. If things had stopped there, he wouldn't have had that much of a problem.
But things didn't stop there. Princess Peach was kidnapped again and again and again. Bowser kept coming back, Peach kept refusing to use her impressive combat abilities to resist capture, and Mario and Luigi kept being sent to fight Bowser's army over death courses. By the time the third quest was over, Luigi had been reduced to a nervous wreck constantly living in dread of the next horrible day when Bowser would capture Peach. And of course, that day came. Luigi had now been directly involved in four major campaigns to rescue Princess Peach, and there was no end in sight.
What made things even worse was how everyone reacted. The Toads never seemed to feel the least bit guilty about asking Mario and Luigi to risk their lives against insane odds, and Peach never seemed to feel it warranted anything more than a verbal thank you. But worst of all was Mario, who seemed to get nothing but enjoyment from all of it. Not only was he always excited to talk about all their close calls, not only did he never complain about Bowser kidnapping Peach, he seemed to want it to keep happening. He had excitedly recounted a very elaborate dream he had about another adventure, and actually asked Bowser and one of his minions to join them in a go-kart race, through the same fatal environments.
Luigi just couldn't understand it, everyone besides him seemed to be crazy. He had tried to talk about it a few times, but no one seemed to understand. It had been years since Luigi had had a moment of mental peace, or felt like he knew his friends at all.
Mario opened the door to Luigi's room.
"Come on Luigi, we're all going kart racing. They finally captured the thwomp in Bowser's castle that killed Koopa Troopa, we can race there again!"
Mario excitedly runs outside and drives away in his kart. Luigi just lies in bed, shaking, wishing he could go back to the days where all he had to worry about were crabs coming out of pipes.
Luigi just couldn't face another close encounter with death. He decided to fake being sick, like he had when Smithy attacked. He spent the day consumed by his war memories, occasionally hearing Mario and the others laughing as they were thrown off their karts by 50MPH collisions with spiked shells and fell into bottomless pits only to be pulled out by lakitu. Luigi was at the end of his rope, he had to make Mario understand how traumatized he was by the fights against Bowser. Mario came home late at night, cheerfully recounting how he had nearly been crushed by an electrified thwomp. Luigi wasn't able to start the conversation he needed to have, and vowed that he would the next morning.
Luigi was on a raft made of human skulls, about to be devoured by the fire dragon Blarrgh, which Mario insisted they not kill because it was an endangered species. Just as the stomach acids were about to dissolve his skin, Luigi woke up. He went into Mario's room, but he wasn't there. Luigi went to the kitchen and found a letter on the table. It was an invitation to Peach's castle addressed to Mario, which it had long been understood also meant Luigi. The letter mentioned something about cake, but Mario had written on the letter.
"Luigi, I went to the castle and heard Bowser declare he had captured Peach. Looks like we've got another adventure on our hands! I couldn't wait to get started, sorry, but you should hurry up and come to the castle, you don't want to miss the fun. See you there, hurry up, the lakitu that saved me yesterday has gotten really clingy, and he's acting like this is the first time he's ever used a camera.
P.S. If you're still feeling sick, come anyway, there's something great in the water here, just put your head under it then resurface, it will heal anything!"
Luigi went numb. Here it was, another "adventure" filled with an infinite amount of ways to die. Luigi couldn't take it anymore, he had to leave, get away from Mario and Peach and Bowser and every other insane person who treated war like a game you just wanted more of. Luigi left his house, turned towards the one place Mario would never go, the horizon, and ran as fast as he could.
Luigi's self-imposed exile had begun.