The entire Mushroom Kingdom had been buzzing with excitement for the past week, and this night was the most exciting of all. Tonight marked the annual Mushroom Ball and everyone who would be attending was as happy as could be. Toads pranced in the streets happily chatting with their friends and imagining the events that the night would bring. Everyone in the kingdom was lively and happy. The castle was beautifully decorated and the ball would begin very soon. The hostess of the night's occasion, Princess Peach, and her best friend, Princess Daisy sat in Peach's dressing room preparing themselves for the festivities.

"I can't wait!" Daisy gushed, as she adjusted the strap on her yellow evening gown. "Tonight is going to be great."

Peach beamed. She knew it would be; much greater than any before it. She had gone to the ball with Mario before, but this year was different. This time, they were a real couple, very much in love. The same could be said for Daisy and her date, Mario's brother Luigi, but they had been a couple for quite some time already. "I think you're right," Peach answered with a smile. She then paused for a moment. "I just hope nothing goes wrong."

Daisy walked over to Peach and helped her with her hair. "Don't even think about stuff like that. Just think about how much fun we're going to have!"

"You're probably right," Peach said, with a sigh. "Maybe I shouldn't worry so much."

Meanwhile, Mario and Luigi began making their way to the castle to meet the princesses. The trip there was rather quiet, as both brothers were feeling quite nervous, and didn't talk much. This, of course, was normal for Luigi, but not so for Mario. He was feeling uneasy about something, but could not seem to tell what. He decided, however, not to say anything about his thoughts. He hated admitting that he was scared and didn't want to worry Luigi. Instead, he decided to concentrate on enjoying a wonderful night with his dear princess.

The two reached the castle just as many other guests were arriving as well, and immediately sought out Peach and Daisy. The princesses were waiting patiently outside of the doors of the ballroom for Mario and Luigi as Princess Peach greeted her guests.

"Good evening," she said, smiling sweetly. "I hope you enjoy the ball."

"Look!" Mario said to his brother, grinning, when he saw them. "There they are!"

Luigi smiled too and they approached the princesses at the doors.

"Hi!" Daisy said loudly and kissed Luigi, showing her bubbly personality.

Mario looked at Princess Peach in awe. He always thought she looked pretty, but tonight she was breathtakingly beautiful. She wore a light pink strapless ball gown with a full tulle skirt and a satin ribbon around her waist. The bodice of the dress was accented with elaborate beading that sparkled in the light and her golden hair was softly curled and put up.

"You—you look beautiful," he told her, still amazed.

Peach smiled. "Thank you so much. You are so sweet. I think the ball is about to start. Let's go inside."

Mario nodded and held out his arm to escort her inside the beautifully decorated ballroom. Daisy and Luigi followed them. Princess Peach welcomed everyone to the ball, and the orchestra began playing. The entire room was bursting with happy chatter and colorful, swirling ball gowns. Peach, Daisy, Mario, and Luigi simply chatted amongst themselves for a few minutes. Most of them found themselves rather reluctant to dance, except Princess Daisy.

"Come on, let's go dance!" she said to Luigi, and took him by the hand.

"Well, er—okay," Luigi replied nervously.

Daisy walked him across the ballroom and they began dancing. Mario and Peach remained where they were standing, still speaking to each other. Mario was still feeling nervous and anxiously looked around the room.

"What am I so worried about? Nothing's wrong," he thought to himself. "We're alone now… maybe I should ask her to dance…"

Mario hesitated at first, but pushed his nervousness aside long enough to ask Peach, "Maybe… you'd like to dance now?"

Peach grinned. She had been waiting for him to ask. "Of course I would," she replied happily.

He smiled at her and put his arm carefully around her waist. They began doing a waltz to the beautiful song the orchestra played—it was one of Peach's favorites.

"You really do look amazing tonight," he told her again.

"Thank you," Peach said, blushing. "You look lovely as well."

The two talked and danced together for quite some time. They were greatly enjoying the evening and each others' company. "I'm so happy to be here with you tonight," Mario said to Peach after a moment of silence, looking into her sapphire eyes. "I love you."

Princess Peach was ecstatic. "I love you too," she said, and they kissed.

Daisy watched them from across the room. She was paying more attention to them than she was to Luigi. When she saw this, she grinned.

"Look at them!" she cried to Luigi, with a giggle.

Luigi looked at them and smiled, too. He was happy knowing that his brother was happy.

Peach looked up from her kiss and saw Daisy and Luigi looking at her and Mario.

"I think we're being watched," she whispered to Mario with a smile.

Daisy and Luigi quickly looked away when they realized that Peach had seen them, and laughed.

Mario looked to the other side of the ballroom, knowing who Peach was talking about, even though they were no longer watching. Mario and Peach didn't care, however, and smiled at each other before kissing each other again. The moment was wonderful and romantic.

Suddenly, the double doors of the ballroom flung open with a loud crash and the excitement abruptly ended. The happy chatter turned to screams. All of the frightened guests stared at the doorway, trying to find out what had just happened. It was Bowser standing in the entrance of the room, along with an army of koopa troopas. The koopas forced all of the guests to the sides of the room, except for Mario and Princess Peach, who were left standing in the center. Mario held his princess tightly to protect her as Bowser slowly approached them.

"What a beautiful ball," he said with a sly grin. "Just why wasn't I invited?"

The entire room turned to complete silence. Everyone was too shocked to even make a sound.

"My queen, you look simply beautiful tonight," Bowser continued. He took Peach's hand in his and began to kiss it, until Mario stopped him.

"Leave her alone," Mario said with an angry look on his face, standing in front of the princess.

Bowser laughed wickedly. He stomped the floor, causing a tremor that hurled Mario across the ballroom, and then held Peach tightly in his arm.

He looked at her and said, "You belong to me," and kissed her.

She desperately tried to escape his grasp but found herself unable to. Bowser picked her up and began walking out of the room.

"No, Mario!" Peach cried as they left the room. She looked over at him lying on the floor as tears rolled down her face.

Mario was a bit stunned from the blow, but managed to look back at Peach. He knew he had to help her. The koopas filed out of the room behind their king, preventing Mario or anyone else from reaching Princess Peach and rescuing her. After they had gone, Mario regained his strength and immediately ran outside to begin his new journey to reclaim Peach. The ballroom remained quiet. Daisy and Luigi looked at each other, terrified. They had been holding each other firmly throughout the entire ordeal, scared not only for themselves, but more so for their friends.

"We have to help," Daisy stammered, and Luigi nodded.

They followed Mario out of the room and found him running out of the castle. Finally, they managed to catch up to him.

"We're coming too," Daisy told him.

Mario wasn't sure what to say at first. He wasn't entirely sure if he wanted them to come along. He didn't want them to get hurt, and he didn't want them to slow him down. Daisy had never gone on one of these quests before, and Mario didn't know if she would be able to handle one, not to mention he wasn't particularly fond of her.

"Well, I… I don't know," Mario said.

"Come on, we'll rescue Peach faster if there are three of us," Daisy answered.

Mario thought about what Daisy had just said. Maybe she was right. Whether she was or not, Mario didn't want to waste any more time. He wanted to reunite with Peach as soon as was possible. "All right, fine," he sighed.

Daisy smiled, and after a quick change of clothes and gathering some supplies, the three set off on their journey.

Upon the arrival at his castle, Bowser stood Peach on the floor and told her, "Welcome home, Peach."

Peach looked down at her feet. After a minute of silence, she said, "I can't believe you are doing this to me again," still crying.

Bowser ignored what she said. He took her by the hand and led her through the dim corridors of the castle and into a small bedroom.

"Good night, my love," he said. "I will see you again tomorrow."

The moment after he left the room, Peach broke down. She noticed that this wasn't the room she usually stayed in, but she didn't care then. She lay down on the bed and buried her face in the pillows, weeping now. She was devastated that this had happened to her, especially because of how wonderful the night had been just before.

It was very late, however, and it was not long until Princess Peach cried herself to sleep.