BowserxPeach, Peach's point of view. "Everyone is always making sacrifices for my sake, always protecting me. I can't take it anymore..."

Undying

Chapter 1: A New Project

I sigh and try to calm the frustration that lingers in the back of my mind. Though my father has given me several chances to speak during the group discussions I've been disregarded. It seems that only my father and Toadsworth acknowledge my presence in the meeting room and it is quite frustrating.

Now we have come to the part of the meeting where each person is given a set amount of time to take the spotlight, bringing forward their ideas and concerns. "So you see ladies and gentlemen," Toadallius, one of the members of the council is currently speaking. He pauses at this point and looks at each person in the room save for me. "The problem lies in the lack of innovation. The Mushroom Kingdom has stayed with its traditional ways for too long and we are falling well behind in the market."

I like to look at people when they speak, even if I can hear and listen just as easily if I do not see their face. However, I like to see their body language, but that becomes hard when the speaker is pretending I'm not there. I'm always getting kidnapped, I'm too nice, too soft, and though those closest to me make me feel proud of who I am, I worry that I may not be the best to rule over this kingdom.

None the less, I smile and carry on with life, but since Toadallius won't look at me, I suppose he won't mind if I discreetly take one of the folders that has been placed on the table in front of my father, and start reading instead of showing my interest in his repetition of what has already been said by several other council members.

The folder contains information about research conducted by a group of scientists in an under funded laboratory. My interest is taken and I speed read through the report devouring every bit of information. Why has this not been approved, or even brought to light during this meeting? However, I politely wait for my turn before bringing this up.

Those of higher standing the council are granted the last turns to speak, the final words after having heard what everyone else has to say. Some time later, Toadsworth was finished with his speech and the only ones left are my father and I.

"Now Princess Peach will discuss her ideas with us," Toadsworth announced me with a tone demanding of everyone's attention.

I stood from my seat, folder in hand, and began the discussion. "Distinguished members of the council, I agree that we must indeed advance, but the question is how? While I acknowledge the importance of the tourist industry as mentioned before, and agree that it should be maintained, the truth is we have little room to grow. Nearly every inch of our kingdom after its recent expansions has become living space or commercial."

It was those expansions that desperately tried to save the economy, and those same expansions that had made it sink with too little or too slow revenues. "Do you propose that we overtake more land?" Toadallius looks horrified and the rest of the council begins to mutter.

"Order!" My father calls, and the council settles.

"No, that is not what I propose at all." I continue my speech. "Rather, I propose that we properly develop what we have. If we take a close look at the structure of our kingdom, we will find that we are lacking on the field of science. Technology has become the force that moves the world, people await and expect new advancements day by day, and those who cannot keep up are inevitably left behind." I should know; having switched my cell phone for one produced in Sarasaland instead of my old Mushroom Kingdom made cellphone with the terrible reception. My computer was made by the Koopa Kingdom, and only after letting go of my locally built PC did I finally learned that getting the blue screen every hour or so is not as normal as I thought.

The council is filled with murmurs and protests, that would have been withheld until I the end of the speech if my father was the one speaking in my place. "Order!" he calls, and once again the council settles.

"I understand that entering the world of electronics would be extremely hard right now. However, there is one industry that has not been receiving the needed attention in the last few years from the Mushroom Kingdom or from the neighboring lands, bioengineering." I wish the plush carpet beneath me would swallow me up right now. I have never been afraid to speak in front of a crowd, but most of these people are looking at me as if I were insane.

My father recognizes the folder I'm holding, glancing at the place it used to occupy on the table to confirm its identity. Toadsworth then clears his throat and attempts to save me, "a wonderful suggestion your highness." He begins to stand as if telling me that I should allow him to elaborate on the subject.

But I continue, "thank you," and hint that I am not done yet, and I will not stop talking until my time is over. "I believe it will be beneficial to invest in research and development. It may be true that funding is required, but if we do not invest, we will never sow the fruits of labor. Simple products are no longer in high demand. The Mushroom Kingdom's exports focus of food; and the prices of food cannot compete with the investments in the technology that is imported, despite the volume of our production. We must take part in these advancements as well."

The room is quiet and all eyes are on me. But I do not know if this is good or bad. "In the past, the Mushroom Kingdom was known for its medical resources, but mixing mushrooms and herbs is no longer good enough. We must invest in research and come up with better products. It is not that we lack resources, but rather that we're not getting the most out of them. I will personally look further into the matter and bring forward a full plan of action to discuss in our next meeting. Thank you for your attention."

I take my seat once more and feel satisfied with myself. My father lets out a breath I didn't realize he was holding, and Toadsworth recovers the color in his face.

xoxox xox xoxox

The meeting is over and the members of the council have left. Only my father, Toadsworth and I remain. "Marvelous speech!" Toadsworth congratulates me.

"Yes, it was wonderful, I'm proud of you," my father joins in the praise.

"Thank you, but I did notice you both looked a little nervous." I wish to know why.

My father looks at the folder I had held on to. "I admit I was relived you didn't mention this petition directly and instead spoke of research in general terms. That operation has already been shut down."

I see now where their concerns were coming from. What kind of princess would I be if I didn't know that? "That's all the more reason to open a new research facility if we have none. Why was it shut down? Is the building still in good conditions?"

My father makes a long pause, as if he's thinking rather than remembering, and Toadsworth fidgets uncomfortably. "There was an accident," my father finally speaks.

"I see," I know he made that up; he does this when he's trying to protect me. "Was anyone injured?" Perhaps the only way to show that I am a capable and responsible adult is to find out the details on my own.

"Fortunately, there were only a few people with minor injuries. They were treated right away and have already fully recovered. But we decided to shut down the facility for security reasons, to prevent a bigger accident." My father has calmed down, thinking that I believe his explanation. I can see the guilt mixed with protective love reflected in his eyes.

"In that case, I will arrange for a team of experts to examine the facilities and determine what kinds of changes need to be made before it becomes operational. It will be a whole new project." Both my father and Toadsworth seem pleased with the way things are going. They are clearly relieved that I have not inquired further details about the laboratory's past; instead aiming for a fresh start.

xoxox xox xoxox

Bright and early the next morning, I went to research center along with a team. My team includes scientists, an architect, an electricity expect and a plumber, Mario. While the scientists inspect the left over research equipment, and the electricity and plumbing experts each focus in their fields, I wander around the laboratory. There isn't supposed to be anyone else here except us, but I hear a faint echo.

I think about disregarding the echo as being only a normal echo thanks to the tall ceilings and spacious halls, but my instinct tells me otherwise. I continue down the large white hall and turn right at the end of the corridor. The echo becomes stronger until I reach the room at the end of the hall.

The room is empty, completely empty, save for one table, unlike the others which hold some kind of equipment. I notice the strange shadows on the floor as if the white tiles have been eaten away by acid. I wonder if this is where the accident happened and if it was bigger than I was told.

As I walk around the room my footsteps sound off differently. Then, unexpectedly, a brittle tile breaks under my weight and I lose my balance falling backwards. I feel a sharp pain in the back of my head when it collides against the edge of the table, and my world is effulged in darkness.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Peach, Peach!" I slowly open my eyes to find Mario and the mushroom people I brought to the laboratory hovering over me. "Are you alright?"

"Yes, I just slipped," I smile, reassuring Mario and the group. But the truth is that my head really hurts. After Mario helps me to my feet, I take a moment to feel the back of my head, I was sure there would be blood but the area is thankfully dry. The table is also perfectly clean.

I glance at the floor where I expect to see a broken tile, but curiously all the tiles are whole. Strangely, one of them seems newer than the others, and a cold chill runs down my spine. I push the worries away; maybe I imagined that the tile breaking but I only slipped. That newer tile must have been there the whole time; I just didn't notice it before.

xoxox xox xoxox

After we left the laboratory I was very pleased with the results. The facility only needed some minor maintenance and it would be in working order. Some scientists heard about it and requested an audience. It went very well and I'm exited for this project. Maybe this is what it's really about; this is what the future ruler of a kingdom should feel like. For once I'm not just a decoration, I'm making a difference.

The day has been very fulfilling, but it has left me exhausted. I long for a nice warm bath and a soft bed, but a sudden explosion hints that I won't be sleeping in my own bed tonight. Panicked guards run by and usher me to my room, where I am instructed to lock the door and hide. Bowser is invading Mushroom Castle again.

I bolt and lock my door, then run to close and secure the windows. I hate hiding like this. Just who does Bowser think he is, taking me away from my home all the time? Maybe it's about time I gave him a piece of my mind.

I know being locked in my room will not stop Bowser, only delay the inevitable, so I decide to go out and face him. I'm sure Mario will be informed, if he hasn't already, but Bowser's troops will be there to slow him down, enough for the Koopa King to make his get away.

This is all quite troublesome and it has to stop. How can I be thinking about helping my kingdom if I am not here to see the plans through? Reluctantly I open my door and find myself looking at Bowser, hand extended as if he was about to rip the door off.

"Your hero is here Peach. Let's go home," my glare is so piecing that Bowser stops in the middle of the process of picking me up. His arm rests around my waist but I do not look at it, instead keeping my icy glare on his red eyes.

Bowser seems hurt by how I looked at him. I blink, my eyes feel irritated, but I don't understand why, and the headache that had faded away a few hours after leaving the laboratory is returning.

Without wasting any more time, Bowser takes me in his arms and runs back to his clown-copter; then we fly off to one of his castles. The cool night air feels refreshing on my warm face. I might have a fever, but I cannot explain why. I have not done anything that would expose me to a cold, but it feels as if I'm coming down with one.

"Peach are you alright?" Bowser's voice is filled with concern. He's looking at me differently, with so much worry.

It makes me wonder if I really look that sickly. I was fine before, I don't understand how a cold could develop so fast, assuming that's what it is. "I'm fine." The cool night air is probably not the best for my developing cold, but my face still feels a little warm so the breeze is nice.

"I'll take you to see a doctor as soon as we arrive." I give Bowser a surprised look. I didn't expect him to suggest seeing a doctor, I'm not that sick.

"I'm alright," I insist. "Really, it's just a cold." I smile, even if he is my kidnapper, I can't help it but to appreciate his concern. I don't know why, but when I look at his eyes all the anger I might have felt for him fades away. I feel better, my face isn't warm anymore, and Bowser seems relieved.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Hmm..." I've been listening to Dr. Kooheal make that same sound for the past twenty-three minutes. Bowser insisted that I took a basic medical test. I had the chance to see my reflection and I didn't look too sickly, so I'm not sure what worried him so much.

None the less I complied and I've been sitting in the examination table for the last twenty-four minutes. "Doctor?"

"You're pulse is a little fast for a human," Dr. Kooheal reveals. He glances at Bowser, then looks back at me with a smile. "But it is nothing to worry about, I'm sure it's due to the excitement. Your heart will slow to a normal rate soon, now say ah!"

I open my mouth big and Kooheal shines a light observing my throat. "Everything is normal here, now let me examine your eyes." He has already examined my eyes before.

"You already did that," I remind him.

He took a very long time examining my eyes while making that "hmm" sound. "Yes, I know... Do you usually wear contact lenses?"

"No, I don't," I reply starting to feel sick again. My patience is running out, I am tired and I wish to sleep. My head is starting to hurt and my face feels warm again.

"Could you cover your left eye and read the letters on that poster?" Kooheal points at a poster on the opposite wall.

I place my hand over my left eye and read "I'll read the last line, E, F, M, N, P, B, O, Q." Then before Kooheal can ask, I cover my right eye and recite the same letters again. My eyes feel irritated, I can see clearly but my eyes feel uncomfortable, yet not watery. I glance at Bowser who looks like he saw a ghost. "What's wrong? Did I read it wrong?" I'm certain that I read the letters correctly.

"No, it's just that your eyes look a little red," Bowser gives me that same concerned look from before. That caring look that tells me he truly worries about me.

"It's been a long day, I'm sure I'll be fine if I rest." I really believe my own words, and without further ado I am taken to the guest room.

"Good night, if you need anything just call. Someone will be at your door the entire night." Bowser gently closes the guest room door and I sigh deeply. It' been a very long day.

I glance at the bed, it looks very inviting but I better change first, because my dress isn't the most comfortable thing to wear to sleep. Thankfully I have an entire wardrobe ready for me in each of Bowser's castles.

I walk into the bathroom attached to the bedroom and settle for a warm shower instead of a bath since it's faster. Then I change into a nightgown and lay down on the soft bed, pulling the covers over my body.

Maybe tomorrow Mario will come for me, and if not, then the day after. Then I'll be able to continue the project to open that research facility. I should make a schedule and appoint a director so that it can continue even in my absence; then I will be informed of their progress when I return. With those thoughts I fall asleep and dream.

xoxox xox xoxox

I wake up after what feels like an instant, even if several hours have passed. I'm still tired and I don't feel like getting up, but I can't fall asleep again. I get out of bed and walk over to an open window. The sun is shining in Grass Land and the atmosphere is peaceful. There are no signs of battle which means that Mario isn't here yet. He must be being held back by Bowser's troops, but I know they won't be able to stop him.

I head over to the bathroom and look at my reflection in the mirror. Other than my hair being far messier than it usually is in the morning, I'm fine; though I must admit the hair surprised me. I remember having an odd dream, in which I seemed to become the protagonist of a martial arts movie. I guess I must have moved in my sleep more than usual. I take a morning shower to finish waking up, and change into a new dress. It is of course pink, my favorite color.

When I open my room's door, Bowser falls on his side, waking up instantly. "Bowser? You were sleeping leaning on the door?" Needless to say I am quite surprised by my finding.

Bowser smiles somewhat sheepishly. "I just wanted to keep you company, but you probably didn't want me inside the room, so I just slept in front of it."

In his own special way, Bowser can be sweet sometimes. Then I take note of his right arm and gasp. "Bowser! What happened to your arm?"

Bowser's arm is bandaged, and I know he wouldn't agree to wear bandages unless it was something really serious. But it's just like him to say, "it's nothing. Let's go have some breakfast."

I nod and follow him to the dinning room. The castle feels strangely empty. We sit at the table and the food is brought in. Bowser starts eating right away, but I don't touch my breakfast regardless of how deliciously appetizing the buttery toast looks. "Shouldn't we wait?"

"For who?"

"The koopalings."

Bowser makes a long pause before answering, "they're in another castle."

"Why?" Truthfully, I wanted to see them.

"Because," Bowser looks like he's uncomfortable with the subject.

"Is something going on? There are less people in the castle than there were yesterday." I can't help it but to suspect.

"Everything is fine," Bowser forces himself to smile and speaks in a supportive tone as if I needed reassurance. But the worry his eyes hold, reveal that everything is not fine.

"Tell me the truth."

"Your breakfast is getting cold."

"The truth, Bowser."

"If you don't feel like having toast you can ask for something else."

"Answer my question, please."

"Would you like some pancakes?"

"Answer me!" I raise my voice more than I intended and my head starts to hurt again. I place a hand on my forehead and can feel the heat through my glove.

"It's okay Peach, calm down. You're going to be alright." Bowser holds up my glass of juice with his uninjured arm, encouraging me to take small sips.

After I calm down, the pain in my head fades away and I let out a deep breath. "What's happening to me?" I have a feeling that Dr. Kooheal wasn't very honest in his diagnosis, but he must have told Bowser more than he told me.

"How do you feel?"

"Fine, but I had a sudden headache a second ago, and I snapped at you. I'm not sure why I'm so moody all of a sudden." It's a bit early for PMS and it doesn't feel like a regular cold.

"I love you, no matter what." I don't know why Bowser feels the sudden need to remind me.

"I know," maybe I'm just having an off day or "maybe it's stress."

"Do you want to go to a spa?" The question feels as if it came out of nowhere.

"A spa?" I repeat.

"Yes, there's a warp pipe in this castle that can get us there in no time. I'm sure you'll feel better after a day of relaxing. I'll have it reserved just for us. Say yes, I know you'll like it!"

Honestly, I could use some relaxation time at a spa. I'm eager to get back to work in the Mushroom Kingdom, but I know that I won't be able to do much if I fall ill because of excessive stress. "That sounds very pleasant."

"Good, then finish your breakfast and we can be on our way." I nod and Bowser returns to the task of devouring his breakfast. The tension in the air seems to have melted away.

I start on my toast and immediately stop, it tastes strange. I force myself to swallow the bite, since it would be rude to spit it into a napkin, but my face inadvertently reveals my displeasure.

"Would you like something else?" Bowser asks again.

I shake my head, "I'm alright; I just didn't chew well enough." Once again I try to eat the toast but it tastes awful, which is strange because it looks and smells delicious.

"If you don't like it just say so, chef!" A koopa with a chef's hat came rushing over at Bowser's call and vowed. "Bring Peach a proper breakfast."

I immediately feel guilty, I don't want to insult the chef's cooking. "It's alright; I just don't have much of an appetite this morning." My stomach growls revealing that I'm lying.

"What would you like to have for breakfast, Princess Peach?" The chef asks.

I sigh, there's no use in trying to hide it anymore. "Some pancakes please."

"Right away, Princess!" After the chef left, I gave Bowser a look of disapproval.

"What? When you don't like something you have to say it!" He makes it sound as if it were so simple.

"I don't want to offend anyone," I try to explain.

"I'm not offended."

"Not you, the chef."

The next few minutes pass in silence, until the chef arrives with the pancakes. "Here are your pancakes, Princess. I hope they are to your liking."

"Thank you, I'm sorry for having you prepare something else." I feel a little ashamed with the situation.

"There is no need to apologize! If you want anything else, please say so and I will be happy to prepare it!" The chef stayed, as if waiting to see if I liked the pancakes.

Once again I tried to eat my breakfast; but it didn't taste how is should and even if I tried to smile, my face wouldn't cooperate.

"The pancakes are not to your liking?" The chef looked hurt.

"What did you put in Peach's breakfast?" Bowser glared daggers at the frightened chef.

"Nothing unusual, only the best quality ingredients!" The chef started to shake in fear.

"Let me taste it." But instead of just tasting the pancakes himself, Bowser opened his mouth as if waiting for me to feed him.

As embarrassed as I am I don't feel like arguing, so I'll just feed him a bite and get it over with. "It tastes fine to me." Bowser sounds as if it were a bad thing that the pancake tastes fine to him.

Could it be that stress can reach a point where it even affects the sense of taste? Or is this somehow linked to something Dr. Kooheal found but didn't tell me about? Is it something more than just stress? I push the thoughts away; I'm just going to stress myself even more this way.

"Try this," Bowser holds out a fork with some kind of greasy bacon. It doesn't look appetizing at all, but it was also made by the same chef so for his sake I try it.

"It's good!" I'm surprised at myself for liking it. I do eat meat, and there's nothing like a delicious stake every now and then, but it has never been my favorite food as I prefer sweets and fruits. Yet strangely, I suddenly feel like eating meat.

"Bring some more bacon!" Bowser orders, and the chef rushes back to the kitchen to prepare it.

xoxox xox xoxox

I ate more greasy meat than I thought I was capable of. I'm not sure what's wrong with my appetite and sense of taste, but I'm trying not to worry about that right now, I'm looking forward to the spa.

As we walk down the near empty halls, passing a few goombas and koopas every now and then, I hear a pleading voice. "I want to see her!" We're passing the area near the infirmary.

"I'm sorry but you can't see her right now," that sounds like Dr. Kooheal.

"Is it that bad?" The man inquiring about the patient sounds very worried.

"No, her condition is stable and she is conscious but..." Dr. Kooheal pauses and takes a deep breath. "She told me she doesn't want to see anyone right now."

"Not even me? But I'm her fianc?"

"Especially not you, the battle left her... scarred," Kooheal's voice is filled with pity.

"I don't care about that; just let me see her, let me talk to her!" My heart goes out to that couple and before I know it, I'm rushing to the infirmary, ignoring Bowser's calls.

I find Keres, a koopa troopa; he has guarded my door in the past when I had stayed in Bowser's castle. His shell is a rare yellow and his hair is blond, his eyes are a deep violet blurred with tears. I know his girlfriend too, but I had not heard they were engaged. Skyri is a paratroopa with cyan hair, a sky blue shell, warm brown eyes and beautiful white wings.

When Keres heard me arrive he immediately became quiet. His look of worry still remained but additionally, there was a deep pity as if he felt sorry for me, but why? I feel that everyone knows something I don't.

"Peach, let's go." Bowser led me away from the infirmary and I followed without words.

I feel a knot in my throat, I feel my eyes begin to water, and I feel sheltered and deceived. "While I was sleeping, something happened," I conclude. "You weren't just keeping me company, you were guarding my door. For the same reason the koopalings were sent away, and Skyri was injured."

"Who?"

"Keres' girlfriend, I mean fianc? The koopa we saw back there was Keres, you often tell him to guard my door and don't even remember his name?" This upsets me even more than I already am.

"Yellow shell... yeah he's a reliable guard and blue hair is a good spy. But Peach, they're both soldiers and things happen in the army, they knew that when they joined. Come on, the warp pipe is in this room." Bowser opens the double doors adorned with carvings of his face, and reveals a large green pipe in the center of the room. "The spa is in Desert Land."

"I don't want to talk about the spa; I want to know what happened. It doesn't make any sense. Something happened that injured your soldiers and made you send the koopalings away. But I was allowed to stay in the castle. What is going on?" My head starts pounding again and my entire body feels feverish.

"Peach, calm down," Bowser speaks as gently as possible. "I'll tell you what happened last night. I'll tell you everything, just calm down." He looks so worried.

I take a deep breath and try to calm down, but my headache doesn't stop and the fever doesn't cease. "I'm listening."

Chapter 2: Princess, Princess

I take a deep breath and try to calm down, but my headache doesn't stop and the fever doesn't cease. "I'm listening."

"There was a..." Bowser is thinking, not remembering. This is something I am sadly very used to, but I wouldn't expect it from him. "Situation, last night," his reply is so vague it might as well not have been spoken.

"I know, but what was that situation?" I don't want to be taken in circles around the obvious. My head continues to pound and my eyes burn.

"Excuse me," Keres vows at the door. "Princess Peach, I brought a message for you from Skyri."

The blond koopa hands me a small sheet of paper and I manage to mutter a "thanks" as I take a long look at his face. He knows something I don't, everyone around me does.

Keres nods and I'm not sure if it's meant as an acknowledgment to my thanks or a reassurance for Bowser that his interruption was well warranted. Perhaps it's both.

'Dear Peach, I heard you found out that some of us were injured last night and you were worried. What happened was nothing for you to worry about. King Bowser took care of you and kept you safe the entire time, as did we. The intruder will be dealt with so please don't worry. I'm fine too, I was just being a big dramatic, and so was Keres. Try to relax and enjoy your stay.' The note is signed by Skyri.

While I read, I occasionally glanced at Bowser, who gave Keres questioning looks. I know Keres must be a good soldier in Bowser's eyes, otherwise he wouldn't be appointed to guard my door when Bowser's presence is required elsewhere. It's obvious Bowser must be thinking that Keres is not the type to interrupt for no reason, and the familiar feeling of being overprotected makes me doubt the validity of this note, but for the moment being I will trust it until proven otherwise. "I'm glad Skyri is alright, could I see her?"

"She's resting, the doctor said she needed plenty of sleep, but maybe you can visit her later. I'm sure you have plans so I'll be leaving now." Keres vows and runs off, he doesn't look back, not once.

I find this very suspicious. It's odd that Keres would tell me to leave the visit to Skyri for another time, and the way he left in such a hurry is also unusual. My guess with the little information I have now; is that they are on the search for whoever invaded the castle last night. They want to make my stay so perfect that they don't want me to think about it, it wouldn't be the first time someone tried to paint my world pink. I look at my dress, tinted in my favorite color and sigh at the irony.

"Peach, shall we go?" It's clear that Bowser is eager to change the subject, and he's also relived that I calmed down after reading Skyri's note. Making me calm down must have been the purpose of the note, and it worked, Bowser must have understood that since he didn't yell at Keres for the interruption.

"Bowser, if something happens, you don't need to go to the extremes for me. Don't let your army get hurt just so I can have a good night's sleep." I feel as if my words are falling on deaf ears, because I know Bowser would do anything for me. I cannot precise for how long I've known this, but I know.

Bowser paused in thought; then tried to use my words to his advantage. "You don't want people to go out of their way for you, right? In that case, we shouldn't keep the spa staff waiting."

He got me there, "alright let's go, but just what do you mean waiting? Are we expected?" And I got him too.

"Last night before going to sleep, I ordered that the spa be reserved for you today. I thought you might want to relax." Bowser extends his hand to help me climb into the pipe.

"I knew that question couldn't have come out of nowhere in breakfast. You had it all planned out." I take his hand and climb onto the edge of the pipe, holding my skirt with my other hand. Then I let myself fall in, a current of air encompassing my entire body. It feels like a mixture of flying, floating and falling. For a moment I lose all notion of which way is up, and the next thing I know I'm thrown out of an identical green pipe, surrounded by a very different scenery.

I step back from the pipe and seconds later, Bowser jumps out of it. This room is colored a lot brighter than the usual gray tones of Bowser's castles. The pastel walls are mostly covered by artistically arranged decorated fabrics for an elegant yet relaxed feel. The carpet is soft and plush, and the air conditioner is set so that the room isn't desert-hot, but warm enough for the change in temperature to be felt.

Bowser and I walk towards the only door in the pipe room, which is decorated with a detailed carving of a funny dancing cactus. As soon as Bowser opens the door, a multitude of shy guys and shy aways bellow "welcome!" in a mismatching chorus.

There is a small pause, as one of the shy guys steps forwards. He looks ready to speak, but Bowser's cell phone rings, the electric guitar calling all eyes towards him. The shy guy's short arm is left raised, and under his mask, I suspect his mouth was left open.

Bowser glared at his cell phone, then, as if suddenly recognizing the number, he answered it immediately. "What happened?" I am only able to hear Bowser's side of the conversation, and he's doing most of the listening so I can't tell what this is about. "Do I have to be there in person? What? Be there in a few minutes."

"Is this about the intruder?"

Bowser nods at my question and before I can say anything else, he takes me in his arms. "I'll be back as soon as I can, just relax."

"You need to rest too," it's clear as day that Bowser is stressed, very stressed. "If there's anything I can do, tell me right away."

"You can enjoy your time here. I like seeing you smile." I tried to smile for Bowser, even if on the inside I felt frustrated that I could only smile.

After Bowser left, the male shy guy wearing dark red, apparently the manager of the spa, continued his interrupted speech. While he listed off the things I could do in the spa, instead of paying attention as I should, my mind focused on the last few words I spoke with Bowser. I told him to let me know if there's anything I could do, but truthfully I can come up with no possible actions to take.

That is something I wish to improve, because in reality it's not just about being willing to help, but also about knowing how to help. I have a lot to learn before becoming a real princess, let alone eventually a queen. Suddenly, the doubt of the Mushroom council feels justified.

"Princess, please!" The loud pleading voice brings me out of my thoughts.

I automatically search for the source, but soon realize that the insistence is not directed at me, but at a different princess. "This is like my favorite spa and you can't keep me out. Besides, my dad totally owns this land!" Wendy O. Koopa pushed her way past the shy guy guards and strolled down the hall. "Peach!" She sounds surprised that I'm here.

"Hi," I'm not sure what to say. I want to ask Wendy if she knows anything about last night's incident, but it looks like her biggest worry is getting into the spa, so I suspect she doesn't have the whole story about last night's happenings; or maybe I'm blowing things out of proportion with my suspicions.

"I thought you like had a terrible cold and couldn't get out of bed. King Dad didn't want us anywhere near you. Like when one of us gets a cold, we all totally end up getting it." It's not a rare problem in families with many children for colds to spread that quickly, but I don't think that's the entire story. "Like where is he?"

I glance at the spa staff; then back at Wendy. I need to talk to her in private. Even if she doesn't have the full details about what happened last night, if we put our small clues together we might figure something out. "Bowser had to go take care of some business," that alone is suspicious; it has to be extremely important if he chose to leave instead of staying with me.

"That's like totally unexpected," it goes without saying that Wendy finds it suspicious as well.

I give a small, hard to catch nod, then discreetly glance around. "Do you come here often? What do you recommend?"

Wendy catches on right away, "definitely the sand baths, they're like totally relaxing," and after we're covered in sand, we'll be left alone; perfect.

xoxox xox xoxox

This is nothing like being covered in sand at the beach. Normally sand can be annoying, but this is great. The blanket of warm sand absorbs away my stress so well, that I wonder if it is only the effect of laying down in a pleasant temperature with relaxing music in the background, or if the sand is actually magically enhanced.

Once we are left alone, Wendy starts the conversation, "like about last night. Something totally happened and King Dad is hiding it."

"He's hiding it from me too," Wendy looks surprised when I say this. "I was hoping we could come up with an idea by putting our clues together."

"That would be easier if I like saw anything. I was like listening to music in my sleep, relaxing music is totally good for beauty sleep; so I slept through whatever happened until a maid came running in to wake me up. Then we were all like sent off to Neon Castle in the middle of the night! I knew it was too much for something like getting away from a cold."

"Did you hear anything else?"

"Nothing, we like had to leave to get away from the cold, that's all. But you don't look like you have a cold."

I did have some symptoms but they were so unusual it makes me conclude that "I don't have a cold," but there is something wrong. "Bowser was injured last night."

"I like didn't know that," sounds like Wendy was kept in the dark more so than I was. "Who did it?"

"I don't know," the Mario brothers have been the only ones who truly stood up to Bowser; and it know it wasn't them. The thought of someone strong enough to injure him worries me.

"Then we're like both confused." Wendy sounds frustrated to be kept out of the information circle.

Bowser won't tell me what's going on, Wendy doesn't know, Keres and Skyri are not being completely honest either, and the other koopalings might not know, except for maybe Ludwig. The oldest koopaling has always been very perceptive, but he might not be willing to reveal any information if he does know anything.

"Let's just forget about it. I was in like the worse mood because of last night and I'm here to relax. If it's that important we'll like have to find out." Wendy has a point, but by then it might be too late.

Even so, the fact remains that if the truth is hidden from me, there's not much I can do. I'm tired of being the sheltered damsel and as nice as a day at the spa sounds, I don't want to lay around without accomplishing anything. "I'm going investigate."

"Like how?" Wendy sounds unsure if she likes the idea of leaving the spa or not.

"I'm going to Neon Castle."

"I'm staying here; I think you should totally stay too. The massages are like the best! Besides, I already asked around and no one knows what's going on except Ludwig and he's like totally stubborn about telling."

It's just as I suspected. I sight and sit up, letting the sand slip off my body. I brush some of it off; this is so very different from the beach where sand getting in my bathing suit would be annoying. But this sand is very soft. I'm tempted to lay down again but I can't relax with my mind going a thousand miles a minute.

"You like totally need to relax, badly!" Wendy gets up as well, "let's go to the hot springs." Before I can reply, the koopa girl is dragging off to a different area of the spa.

xoxox xox xoxox

After showering off the leftover sand, Wendy and I went into the hot springs. I make my way to the deepest area and allow myself to sink neck deep in the warm waters. "I always come like to come to the hot springs after the sand bath, and then get a massage, and a manicure, and then go to my favorite ice-cream shop at noon."

Though she's not directly saying it, Wendy is extending an invitation. "Do you usually do that by yourself?"

"Totally, my brothers don't like any of this stuff; it's not like a guy thing anyway." Wendy has no sisters to accompany her, and I know from experience that princesses are treated differently.

When I go out it's always with Mario or Daisy, sometimes with Mario, Daisy and Luigi. When it comes to doing things such as getting my hair done, going clothes shopping and similar things, I always invite Daisy, and we sneak out to pretend we're regular women who are not closely guarded most of the time. Daisy is a princess too, so she understands this better than anyone, but who would Wendy ask to go with her. She has a lot of siblings but they're all boys.

"Mind if I come along?" I feel that I'll be accomplishing more if I spend the day with Wendy than if I try to investigate something that everyone is set on hiding from me. I will still look into that matter, but for now I'll stay with Wendy.

Wendy's face brightens though she tries to act natural. "Sure! I mean, if you like want to," and with that, my plans for the day have been decided.

xoxox xox xoxox

I must admit the massage was simply heavenly, and the luxury treatment of having my nails done was wonderful as well. The sun is at its highest point and so is Desert Land's temperature, but the air conditioner has automatically been set higher so we don't feel the change.

Wendy wanted barbecue for lunch; then we'll go to her favorite ice-cream shop in Sky Land, via a warp pipe. With my recent unexplained liking for meat, I cleaned my plate of barbecue in no time and even had seconds. I'm not sure why my appetite has grown all of a sudden. It's as if I need to replenish energy I don't remember using up.

At noon Wendy and I headed off to Sky Land. The spa staff wasn't pleased that I was leaving, but they dared not say anything to provoke Wendy's anger. The trip through the warp pipe felt the same as before, I was falling, floating and flying all at once. I lost the notion of which way was up, and then I had already arrived in Bowser's Sky Land territory.

Wendy soon followed through the pipe and led the way towards the ice-cream shop, chatting about the handsome actors and singers she liked. She must have really been wishing to spend some time with another girl. Next time I go out with Daisy, I'll invite Wendy to come because we're getting along quite well.

We finally arrive at the ice-cream shop, receiving a few curious glances from the other customers. "I like have a private table over there." We go towards the back and sit down.

A few seconds later, a female shy away wearing pink comes to take our order. We look through the menu and reply at the same time, "strawberry special," then laugh at the coincidence.

The waitress leaves with our order and I smile remembering my never ending disagreement with Daisy about ice-cream, and how we always play-argue about it. "Next time you should come have ice-cream with Daisy and me. Then you can give strawberries the winning vote to break the tie with bananas, they're Daisy's favorite, but I think strawberries are the best."

Wendy laughs at the scenario, "strawberries are totally the best!" Then she realizes what I said about inviting her, "you mean like go to the Mushroom Kingdom?"

"Of course, you and your siblings are always welcome there."

"But not King Dad?"

"As long as he's not kidnapping me..."

"That's like hard." We both laugh at this.

Truthfully, I'm having fun. Soon the same pink shy away waitress arrives with the strawberry sundaes known as the 'strawberry specials'. A tall glass is filled with strawberry ice-cream and white cream, with several strawberries cut in half to be arranged as flower petals reminiscent of a desert flower, and strawberry syrup all over the delicious frozen treat.

I take a spoon full of ice-cream and bright it to my mouth, ready to enjoy it, but the sensation is not what I expected. The cold substance makes my throat feel as if it were on fire, which is a contradiction in itself. My distress is evident on my expression and watery eyes.

"Are you like choking or did you just get a really bad brain freeze?"

I close my eyes tightly and try to resist the unpleasant sensation without causing too much trouble.

"Peach?"

I force myself to smile to ease the worried Wendy who must have really through I was choking on ice-cream, of all things. "Brain freeze," I manage to choke out the words and Wendy shakes her head.

"I like never get that, because I can breathe fire and ice-cream melts in my mouth like right away." I convinced Wendy that there was nothing to worry about for now. But she will find it suspicious if I stop eating my ice-cream.

The little bells on the door softly rung as another customer came inside the shop. Mario had just arrived, completely oblivious to my presence at the shop as he headed to the counter to replenish his energy. I imagine he must have recently visited the Sky Land Castle, only to find I wasn't there.

"Like get down!" Wendy insisted.

But I would feel silly hiding from Mario. "It's just Mario, there's no need to hide."

"He's interrupting," Wendy crossed her arms over her chest and pouted.

"Why don't we all eat together?" I suggest.

"Wouldn't that like make me a traitor?"

"Don't you love being mean?"

Wendy grins mischievously, "good point," maybe my convincing argument wasn't such a good idea after all.

"Peach!" Mario has finally noticed my presence, he comes over and his stomach growls. "What are you doing here?" Mario glanced at Wendy, "with her," then his stomach growled again. "Let's go home and eat."

"Actually I was thinking we could eat something while we're here; the three of us together." Mario gives me a surprised look, but his stomach protests again and he sits down next to me, across from Wendy. "Here, you can eat this while you wait for your order." At least I found a way to get rid of the ice-cream I can no longer enjoy, without causing unnecessary worries. I'll have to see a doctor when I got home, a doctor who is honest with me, and that might be hard to find.

Mario accepts the strawberry special, which comes as no surprise because he never denies food, and starts eating it while casting suspicious glances at Wendy. I can tell that Wendy is playing with her pink cell phone under the table, but I don't know who she's texting or why.

The same pink shy away came by to take Mario's order, and a few minutes later, a large bowl of ice-cream, big enough to occupy half the table, was brought over carried by three shy away. By then Mario had finished the strawberry special and started on his 'super multi-flavor' right away.

The large bowl included ice-cream in a variety of flavors such as chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, cookies and cream, mint, cake, cookie dough, and many others. The toppings were also varied, everything from syrup and cream, to bananas and strawberries, to peanuts and rainbow sprinkles. While Mario looked like he had fallen in love with the ice-cream, Wendy held a mischievous gaze.

Mario began to devour the ice-cream; then suddenly stopped. "Hot... hot!" He threw his head into the bowl.

"Wendy what's going on?" I take it this is different from the burning sensation the ice-cream gave me. That was just me, but clearly this time the problem lies with the ice-cream, not with Mario.

"Those red chilies look just like strawberries if they're hidden well enough." Wendy grins at Mario, whose face is covered in ice-cream, and laughs victoriously. "I love being mean!"

"You ruined my meal," Mario sounds terribly offended.

Wendy continues to grin mischievously, "not yet," and she snaps her claws, "now your meal is ruined!"

A gray mouse wearing sunglasses, despite being indoors, hops onto his table next to ours and grabs a handful of banana split, "food fight!" Several other mice, shy guys, shy away, koopas, goombas and paratroopas join the first mouse in throwing a variety of frozen treats at Mario.

"Wendy, tell them to stop!" I regret not being able to stop them myself, but this is Bowser's territory, so it makes sense that they would listen to the Koopa Princess instead of me.

"Why would I do that?" A strawberry covered in cream come flying towards Wendy and hit her on the side of her head. "Who threw that?" She roars grabbing one of her own strawberries and throwing it in the direction from where the attack came.

While the ice-cream shop's employees desperately try to calm the crowds, the food fight continues to escalate as more customers join in. The little bell on the door, that signals the arrival of a new customer, is hardly audible over the angry shouts and amused laughter that fill the ice-cream shop.

"Peach?" I know that voice. Bowser must have returned from whatever business he needed to take care of, only to find that I was no longer at the spa in Desert Land. He must have interrogated a few people and tracked me here.

A banana goes flying and hits Bowser right on the nose. He roars loudly as he spots Mario, who is actually not to blame for the banana, but I'm not sure who threw it in the middle of this chaos. "Take this you pesky plumber!" Bowser takes a forgotten ice-cream cone that was abandoned to melt on a nearby table, and throws it at Mario.

Mario accepts the challenge and starts throwing ice-cream back, while Bowser orders more frozen ammunition to be brought. Surprisingly, Bowser isn't using his fire breath. It's as if there's an unspoken agreement that ice-cream will be the only weapon of this battle.

"This is like totally out of control!" Wendy finally admits.

"That's what I thought from the start. Let's get out of here." I feel guilty for leaving Mario and Bowser like this, but when they're locked in a fight, however childish it may be, there's no talking them out of it.

Wendy and I snuck out of the ice-cream shop by the back door. My hair and dress are covered in ice-cream and Wendy's funny little dance hints at what she soon announced, "I got ice-cream inside my shell! I need something else to wear like now. I know a place that sells shells and dresses. Let's go!"

I follow Wendy towards an elegant boutique, unable to ignore the strange looks we're getting as we walk down the street. The boutique has shells, dresses, bows and ribbons displayed behind glass in the front entrance. A female koopa wearing a shiny red shell and matching bow tied to her brunette hair, greets us at the door as we enter. "Princess Wendy, and what a surprise Princess Peach is here as well. Welcome!"

I smile and nod, a little too aware of the chocolate ice-cream stains on my dress. Wendy looks around while asking, "got anything new and like worth it?"

"Oh yes, we received a new shipment yesterday, this way." The koopa in the red shell leads us towards another room, which seems to be exclusive to certain customers.

While Wendy is looking at some shiny new shells, my attention has been captured by a lovely pink fabric, but it is not like my usual dresses at all, save for the color. It is a kimono of soft pink, slightly paler than my dress, adorned with red rose petals that accumulate at the bottom of the skirt and long sleeves, and a red waist bow.

"Would you like to try it on?" The boutique's owner asked.

"Yes but..." I look at my stained dress.

"You can get cleaned upstairs," the red shelled koopa offers.

"That would be great, thanks." I dare not touch that delicate fabric unless I'm clean and in no danger of staining it.

The owner takes the kimono and leads the way upstairs and down a hall past a living room. This must be her house above the store. "Here's the bathroom," she gently sets the Kimono inside. "Fell free to use anything here, princess. I'll be downstairs."

xoxox xox xoxox

I'm wrapped in a towel, in the process of drying my hair after taking a quick shower, when there's a knock on the door. "Are you like going to stay in there forever? Good thing there's like a billion bathrooms at home."

"I'm almost done!" I quickly dress and exit the bathroom, leaving it free for Wendy to use.

Forty-five minutes later, and she thought I was slow; Wendy finally emerged out of the bathroom in her new shell. It was hard to tell if it was pink, red or in-between, the color changed with the light holding every iridescent shade of pink and red. Wendy also changed her bow, from pink with white dots, to pink with red dots.

By now my hair, though still a bit damp; has dried sufficiently to be pulled back and held with a hair stick that looks like a realistic rose. "Aren't we a little too dressed up?"

"It fits the occasion, but it's like too early so we should wear something else until later," Wendy's reply makes me curious.

"What occasion?"

"Counting yesterday King Dad has ki-er... I mean, he has like brought you over for the hundredth time. I wasn't supposed to tell you, but you like almost left with Mario. You have to stay for the celebration. King Dad doesn't even know it's the hundredth time; Kamek was like the only one who remembered and wanted to do something special. Everyone is getting things ready in Neon Castle," Wendy revealed.

"It's been a hundred times..." I shouldn't be so surprised since Bowser has been, as Wendy put it, bringing me over about every three months or so during all my life. I just didn't think anyone was keeping count, but if anyone did, it would be Kamek. "Well, since everyone made an effort prepare the celebrating, I'll go too," even if I'm not sure this is something I should be celebrating.

Wendy and I choose some less fancy clothes and shell to wear until then, and the kimono and shiny shell are wrapped and placed in boxes to be taken to Neon Castle by Cloud Delivery Service, the shy away delivery service that usually delivers Wendy's purchases from this store.

We're leaving the store when a familiar voice calls. "I found you!" And Bowser rushes down the street towards us.

"Bowser, what happened? Where's Mario?"

He frowned at my question, "we ran out of ice-cream to throw at each other because it melted, then we couldn't find you anywhere and raced out to search for you. I found you first." Bowser's mood seemed to improve again as he smiled proudly of his accomplishment.

"I'll like leave the two of you alone now; then we can all have dinner together at the Neon Castle at like seven thirty." Wendy made her escape, after giving me a clear hint that I was expected to keep Bowser busy until the time of the party.

To be Continued

Disclaimer, I don't own the Nintendo games or characters. I own my original characters Keres and Skyri but not the Nintendo concepts. I'm using Wendy's cool "like" speech in this story too. I first saw it in Razzi's "Change of Heart" and later in several other stories from different authors so I might as well join them.

About Chapter 2, in case you didn't catch the reference, which was admittedly a little vague, those were cactuars decorating the spa doors. You know; the cactus things from Final Fantasy, because slipping in little references here and there is fun. Peach and Wendy's ice-cream was designed to look like the strawberry sundaes Dante often eats in the Devil May Cry anime series. Most of the references hidden in this chapter were a little hard to catch so congratulations if you caught any of them. The last reference was the only easy one; Cloud Delivery Service is a reference to Strife Delivery Service from Final Fantasy VII, which is super easy to catch since his full name is 'Cloud Strife'.

xoxox xox xoxox

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