I daresay that writing fan-fiction brings out the slightly sadistic side in me, as I've noticed while checking over my works. And darkness. I seem to relish bringing out the deep, psychological state of mind in characters and their relationships. Ahem! Anyway, here is the fourth part that would have been way too long for this story if joined together with the third part. Thank you for reading as always and also thank you for all of your patience if you're amongst the readers who have been waiting ages for an update. :)
"You ought to be proud of yourself, my boy. You've captured all of these ghosts in just a single night! I am glad you caught Uncle Grimmly before you turned the lights back on, I must say. You've only got Vincent Van Gore to collect now, and of course, that room's Boo, and then you'll just have to deal with King Boo. Come now, sonny, you look like you've been caught in a thunderstorm without an umbrella."
"I'm… just worried about Mario, Gadd," Luigi sighed, staring down at the Game Boy Horror that had served him so well. "And I know that King Boo's a really powerful ghost. I can't stop thinking about what will happen if I fail to defeat him…"
"Nonsense, my boy!" E. Gadd chuckled, even though he had been having similar thoughts. "I know you'll trounce that nefarious King Boo since your brother's counting on you to do so. You might well surprise yourself."
"I've been surprising myself quite a bit already." Indeed, Luigi was surprised that he had managed to go through the Mansion, surrounded by so many violent ghosts, without completely breaking down when all had gone dark. That he had managed to take down Uncle Grimmly so easily was a pleasant surprise as well. But as far as the Toads were concerned, they were just pleased Luigi had managed to turn the lights back on. Never had electric lighting been such a pleasure to behold.
"Well, there you go!" E. Gadd laughed jovially. "You don't know what you can do until you put your mind to it. Believe that you can do it, Luigi, and you will do it or my name isn't Professor Elvin Gadd! And look, if you can defeat Boolossus despite being utterly terrified of Boos as you have told me on several occasions, then you can definitely defeat King Boo. OK, I won't keep you any longer. Keep your wits about you and good luck, Luigi."
E. Gadd disappeared from the Game Boy Horror screen leaving Luigi on his own once again. The green-hatted plumber turned his attention to the Artist's Studio; the one which he surmised contained the key that would lead him to where Mario was trapped. Giving his cap a tug, Luigi entered the room and saw Vincent Van Gore the Ghost Artist busy at his work.
So that's where all the ghosts came from! Luigi realised. They're just paintings that have been brought to life. But... why did they have to hurt so much?
Van Gore must have heard his gasp of surprise as he said: "Eet eez you, no? You interfere with my life's work!"
Your life? You're not alive anyway, if you were ever alive. You're a ghost and your works keep threatening to turn me into a ghost too.
"You filthy swine! You're blind to zee life I give my creations!"
Luigi gripped the Poltergust 3000 tightly and glanced at where he knew bruises and cuts to be. Somehow, I don't think so. I'm certainly not blind to their actual force.
"Zen very well… I will show you zee mastery of my art!" Van Gore cried out.
I won't let these ghosts scare me, Luigi thought as three Gold Ghosts popped into existence, conjured up from the canvas. At least, as he flinched from their devilish grinning, not too much.
Fortunately for Luigi, having spent an awful lot of time tackling these rogue ghosts in the Mansion grounds, the ones that Van Gore had brought to life for him now, did not prove to be too problematic. In fact, it was as if the ghosts were already aware of what fate their painted brethren had met and that they had decided there was little point in resisting the relentless suction of the Poltergust 3000 that the young man was wielding. Luigi quickly avoided the spectral grasp of the grabbing ghosts and blinded them with a quick flash of his torch, rendering them weak to the power of his machine. The Purple Bombers and the Garbage Can Ghosts soon went the same way with Luigi slowly getting more confident with each ghost he disposed of.
I guess that's why I never seemed to empty any common ghosts out of this thing, Luigi wondered as he vacuumed up the last wailing ghost. They're only made up of paint and I can't get scared of paint. At least, it sounded good when he put it that way.
"My… my creations!" Van Gore groaned when he saw that the studio was bereft of ghosts. He shot a glare at Luigi. "But even if I disappear, my work will live on… Zat eez right, n'est-ce pas? Art eez eternal!"
"Oh, really?" said Luigi quietly. Even if ghosts weren't the subject of the art, Luigi would have disagreed with that statement since he was quite the art critic. "Then how come only one of your creations is left?"
"Zut alors!" Van Gore cursed. "Eet eez true!" The Portrait Ghost threw down a paintbrush in frustration. "Zat King Boo made moi believe zat vous were leetle more zan a pushover, a weakling. He commissioned moi to paint all of zese ghosts to life, to fill zis mansion and forestall vous on your way, for a leetle bit of fun. But he did not tell moi how you have been going through my creations like a hot knife through butter! Sacre bleu! I would chop off my ear if I could in frustration! You were supposed to fall and perish like ze mortal you are! You were supposed to be a joke!"
"Is that so? Well, if I'm the joke, here's the punchline."
Vincent Van Gore howled with fury as Luigi began dragging him towards the Poltergust 3000. The Portrait Ghost was putting up a good struggle though the only thing Luigi needed to watch out for was the occasional Poison Mushroom that would shrink and weaken him if it happened to hit him. Soon enough, with little to hinder him, Luigi had vacuumed Vincent Van Gore down into the seemingly-limitless bowels of the Poltergust 3000.
"Mamma mia," he whispered as he wiped his sweating brow. "That was the last Portrait Ghost." The Boo Radar started flashing forcing Luigi to wield the Poltergust 3000 again. "And here's the last Boo…"
Sure enough, when Luigi inspected the shelves, the last remaining Boo popped out declaring, "Bootique, c'est chic! Hey! Hey! Hey! What are you doing!" it shrieked as Luigi immediately began wearing down its health. "Oh, hey! You're Luigi! Magnifique! I'll just call for my buddies to take you down like we did to Mario!"
"Actually, you're the last Boo still left in this mansion apart from King Boo himself," Luigi explained. He could not help but smirk as the Boo's mouth comically dropped open. "But don't worry about it; you can join your friends or you can go back to King Boo and explain why everybody else failed to stop one measly mortal." The Boo paled if that was possible.
"I think I'll take the former option, thanks. So… everyone's in there?"
"A few are now; the others have been transferred when this was emptied of Portrait Ghosts."
"Wow, OK. Well, at least I'll get to talk to someone. But what about those Portrait Ghosts? Won't they be frozen and stuff?"
Luigi had raised this question with E. Gadd, wondering if it was right to keep ghosts trapped in paintings forever. Sure, most of them had attacked him for no reason but the others were just continuing activities that they had done in their lifetime. And some of them were just kids… they couldn't just be trapped like that. But while the ghosts couldn't move out of their frames, they weren't petrified forever per se. E. Gadd had taken Luigi to see how the portraits changed with each new ghost that he collected. As the frames filled up, the earlier ghosts seemed to treat Luigi with more respect, as a living being that could somehow overpower the dead. The canvas world was a rich one for ghosts; it was not just limited to the area that the living could see. It was the perfect place for those in the afterlife, there was sweet happiness in oils as Madame Clairvoya had told Luigi. Luigi explained this to the Boo who seemed much more reassured and more or less willingly left himself be taken by the Poltergust 3000.
He picked up the key that was thrown out of the canvas chest and curled his fingers around it. This would allow him access to the last room; the room in which he knew Mario to be trapped. And in that room… King Boo was waiting for him.
"Just a little longer, big bro," Luigi whispered. "I'll get you out of there. Just you wait and see."
The Toads that Luigi had met in various parts of the Mansion had now all congregated in the foyer, warming themselves next to a few of the lanterns they had taken from their respective rooms. Some flinched and some yelped and jumped to their feet when Luigi entered the room, not by means of the door, but rather, through the uncovered mirror.
"Stars above! How on earth did you do that, Luigi?" one of the Toads gasped. Luigi picked himself up and ignored the question. On closer inspection, the Toads saw how Luigi was looking worse for wear, with dried blood marking his face and his clothing scuffed and torn in several places. He was still damp from his earlier drenched battle though he still managed to carry himself upright hiding how exhausted he truly felt.
"Why are you guys still here?" Luigi asked with concern. "For all I know, there might be some ghosts that like hanging about in lit rooms. You should go to the Professor's hideout before you get placed in any danger."
The Toads gave each other wary glances.
"Well…" one of the Toads piped up. "We haven't seen anything like that and we've all come together for safety so it shouldn't be too bad. We thought that we would just wait here for Mario, you know, just in case…"
"That Mario somehow escapes? He's been trapped in a painting, Toad. Tell me how you escape from a painting."
"It's true," one of the others pointed out, the one who had been talking with Mario. "He's been trying for ages but there's no way for Mario to escape."
"Well, we were also waiting here just in case you…" The spokesman of the group trailed off to a mumble.
"In case I?" Luigi said in a low voice yet loud enough for everybody to hear him. "No, don't stop there. You've piqued my curiosity now."
"That… maybe… you… you know… didn't make it… or couldn't do it… and we had… to go and help say… and…"
"You believed that at the final step, I would chicken out and abandon my own brother," Luigi said icily, dropping the room's temperature by several degrees. "You think that I would run like a coward even though I have captured every Boo and every Portrait Ghost. You think that I am so weak that there's no way I'd be able to do this. I suppose if it was the other way around, Mario would already have saved me by now. He wouldn't have even needed this machine, eh? And you would all jump for joy and tell Peach the good news and congratulate Mario on his latest triumph. Yeah, I can see that. And what about me? I suppose it would be a case of how did you manage to get yourself captured in the first place. It's just as well Mario was here to save you because there's nobody else. But since it was Mario who was captured, who'll save him? His brother? Oh, no, there's no way that Luigi will be able to do anything because he's petrified of ghosts! We'll find someone else to save Mario. We don't know but we'll find somebody! But who would you find, eh? Who would you find while my brother languishes in that canvas cage? It would have to be someone else because you don't think I'm up to the job! You don't believe in me! Nobody believes in me! WHO, IN THIS GREAT, BIG WORLD, ACTUALLY BELIEVES IN ME?!"
"Mario does…" said a quiet voice.
Luigi turned his attention to the only Toad that hadn't scuttled backwards for safety. Luigi breathed heavily, trying to calm down.
"He knows that you'll save him," the Toad continued. "Because nobody else can. He might not say it much; he might never have said it if I didn't see what King Boo did earlier, but… Mario would be lost without you, Luigi. And… you have to believe in each other just so that you have some hope because without it, then you might as well give up. But you're really close now, Luigi, so you can't give up. And for that reason… I believe in you too. And there isn't much that we can do I suppose but we can offer you our support. So… er… good luck, Luigi."
Luigi glanced at the others who nodded their approval. He looked at himself in the mirror and thought about what he had been through, what he had faced, to get to this moment. His was a mixture of feelings as he stared at his grim reflection. There was exhaustion and terror; they went hand in hand for him. There was anger; anger over the capture of his brother, towards King Boo and towards those who had felt Luigi incapable of the daunting task before him. And yet there was hope that he could do it, that he could defeat King Boo, and there was the expectation of joy when the brothers were once again reunited.
Luigi tugged at his cap and placed a hand on the door handle. His heart hammered with fear. Luigi knew that he would never get over his fear of ghosts but when he put his mind to it, there was no stopping him from standing up to that fear.
"Thank you," he said quietly.
Luigi wrenched the doors open and was soon lost to sight whilst the lanterns that the Toads carried slowly died out.
"Mario…" Luigi whispered. He was now by the door that stood between him and his brother. The wandering path was strangely quiet without the ghosts pestering him on the way. "I hope I didn't take too long. I hope King Boo hasn't been tormenting you. Mario… I don't care what King Boo does to me but I promise I will get you out of there." Luigi shivered with apprehension and knowing what was to happen next, he unlocked the door with that final, heavy key.
The Secret Altar. This was where Mario had been kept all this time, alone but for King Boo's visits. Luigi gripped the Poltergust 3000 tightly and trembled with fear. King Boo was there, appearing to have an animated, one-sided conversation with Mario. Neither had noticed Luigi's presence. Luigi crept forwards all the while thinking: How am I supposed to fight King Boo in this tiny room?
"Aahh, I could just stare at my Mario painting for hours," King Boo sighed happily. Luigi froze on the spot, wondering what King Boo was going to say or do next. "It's true what they say about fine art… it takes utterly refined sensibilities to truly appreciate it."
"So I'm fine art, eh?" Mario muttered. "I suppose I make a far painting than you do."
"The way you plead for help, Mario…" King Boo continued, completely ignoring the red plumber. "I find it so… satisfying." King Boo smiled and spoke with relish over that particular part. "Perhaps that is merely because I remember how much trouble you've caused me in the past. Seriously though, who would actually believe that mansions get given away in contests?! Talk about stupid! What do they feed you Mario brothers on anyway… gullible soup?"
Luigi felt himself overwhelmed with guilt once again. King Boo was right. Talk about stupid and gullible. Luigi wondered if he would ever forgive himself for it.
"Your brother came all this way just to get turned into a painting… It's just terrific. However…"
Luigi gripped the Poltergust 3000 so hard he feared it might break when King Boo turned around suddenly, not appearing surprised by Luigi at all, and treated the green plumber to his most menacing grin. Mario pressed his hands against the glass, utterly relieved to see his brother standing before him.
"This Mario painting looks lonely…" King Boo remarked. "I must have a Luigi painting as well! Then my gallery will truly be complete!" Luigi shuddered at King Boo's maniacal laughter and was unable to say a word. "I am not afraid of you fool! I fear only that infernal Poltergust 3000 you carry on your back! Stupid machine!"
At least you fear something, Luigi thought. It's got me this far and it will take me to the very end, King Boo.
"But I am a KING amongst Boos. I swear it… I shall fear no mere house-cleaning device! I must say… I despise the way you SHWEEERRRPP-SHLOOOP-WHOOORP-SHLEEEOOORG-vacuumed up all my friends!"
Both Luigi and Mario inwardly snorted at that. Friends? King Boo? Those Boos that he regularly referred to as minions? Since when were they ever his friends? King Boo had followers, minions… he did not have friends.
"Don't imagine that I'll flee… I'll fight you like a true Boo!" King Boo declared. "Now join your brother… inside the painting!"
Luigi and Mario could only watch each other with horror as both disappeared from each other's sight. Whilst Mario was forced to a different part of the canvas, Luigi saw his brother's image be replaced by that of Bowser. So Madame Clairvoya was right after all! Luigi thought, now utterly terrified. King Boo zipped inside the painting and before Luigi knew what was happening, Bowser's cavernous mouth opened and began creating a vacuum that Luigi could not escape from.
Luigi yelled in terror as he was sucked into the painting with the Secret Altar dissolving before his very eyes. Luigi assumed that he must have temporarily blacked out because the next thing he knew, he was standing on the Mansion rooftop with his surroundings a fiery inferno.
"Where are you, King Boo? Come out and fight me, you coward!" Luigi yelled as he whipped out the Poltergust 3000. How did I end up here? he thought desperately. Mario. Bro. Where are you? Am I… in the canvas?
"Coward?" a voice called out although it did not sound like King Boo at all. "Look who's calling who a coward."
Luigi barely had enough time to scrabble out of the way before something heavy crashed onto the roof behind him, breaking tiles beneath its crushing weight. Bowser! Luigi shuddered on the spot with realisation of what he was about to fight. Bowser snarled and breathed fire, presenting himself as a formidable challenge to anyone stupid enough to try and take him on, or indeed mock the Koopa King. Bowser grinned and made a show out of each one of his powerful, striking claws. A Poltergust 3000 would be no use against those sorts of weapons.
And yet something was not quite right about him. It was as if his head did not fit upon him properly, requiring a tighter screw when jarred upon impact with the roof. Luigi did not have the chance to figure it out any further though as Bowser launched a violent stream of fire against the plumber, causing Luigi to throw himself behind the relative safety of a pillar. He had to dodge again when Bowser charged into him, crushing several pillars as if they were children's sandcastles.
Luigi looked around. That was definitely Mario's voice but he was nowhere to be seen. "Bro!" Luigi called out. "Where are you, Mario? Waah!" Luigi was suddenly caught by Bowser's suction power although where he was supposed to have got that skill from, he had no idea, but all was dark. Luigi's cry of pain went unheard, trapped as he was between Bowser's large set of sharp fangs. It was also unbearably hot due to the flames that usually erupted from his insides. Luigi was spat out after what seemed like an eternity but before he could make a single move, Bowser roared and set him alight with another terrible blast of red fire. Luigi quickly put himself and his cap out and increased the distance between himself and his foe.
Luigi! That isn't Bowser. He's not real. King Boo is only using a machine. You just need to figure out how to bring King Boo out of there. Come on, bro! You can do this!
"Mario…" Luigi groaned. He had already been injured in earlier battles and now that pain had flared up again. He desperately looked for an opening but was forced to hide behind a pillar once again when the Boo-controlled Bowser threw several iron balls in his direction. Wait. An idea suddenly came to mind. If King Boo tries to breathe fire at me again or suck me in, he can take one of these balls instead! Despite everything, Luigi gave a confident smile. Villains often provided the means for their own defeat and here was the solution staring right at him. Luigi thought back to the words he had read from the Book of Riddles: Instead of turning away, turn to the side and look at the mystery from a different angle. A way will surely open.
"Are you just going to keep running away?!" King Boo laughed mockingly. "Is this how you defeated all those Portrait Ghosts and all my Boos? I can only assume that they wanted to give me the pleasure of dealing you with you myself. How pathetic. You've only lasted longer than Mario because you've been given the chance to run away. But I shall content myself with tearing you down once piece at a time!"
Luigi placed the nozzle of the Poltergust 3000 near the iron ball and sucked it up; it was too heavy to be picked up any further anyway and Luigi did not want to risk finding out if they exploded when handled carelessly. He urged himself to stay in his position even when Mecha Bowser came lumbering up towards him.
"A plumber like you should be all washed out not all burned out but I think I shall enjoy this spectacle anyway." Mecha Bowser prepared to breathe fire once again but this time, Luigi was ready for him and blasted the mecha with the iron ball which unsurprisingly exploded on contact. The result was… quite disturbing.
What Luigi did not expect was for the Bowser head to come flying off. He was suddenly brought to mind of a real-life decapitated Bowser and nearly threw up before reminding himself that it was just a machine. Here's my chance! he told himself when King Boo came floating out somewhat dazed. As was his method when dealing with all the other Boos, Luigi began to drain King Boo's energy with the Poltergust 3000. As was expected, King Boo had a lot of energy but Luigi gritted his teeth with determination and kept the ghostly monarch within the vacuuming path.
Luigi! Watch out!
"Mamma mia!" Luigi yelped when Bowser's glaring head floated upwards and began shooting balls of ice at him. One chunk of ice hit Luigi sending an almost paralysing wave of coldness through his body, as if he hadn't already had enough to deal with by being set on fire and so forth. Clearly, King Boo had thought this one through. As a result, Luigi could not drain all of King Boo's energy in one fell swoop and the ghostly monarch retreated back into the safety of the machine's body.
"Don't think you can best me just like that!" King Boo hissed with the mecha Bowser's voice. "Remember, I am a King amongst Boos! A lord of ghosts! As a ghost, I am more powerful than a mere mortal like yourself. And ghosts… don't… DIE!"
"We'll see about that," Luigi muttered as he avoided Bowser's attempt of crushing him and picked up another one of the iron balls that King Boo obviously hoped to injure or even kill him with. If it was able to do so, Mecha Bowser's eyes would have widened as Luigi launched his next attack, straight into its open mouth, forcing King Boo back into the open.
"No! It shall not end this way! It won't end this way!" King Boo howled. Mecha Bowser's head wasn't doing enough to protect him he thought since the green plumber seemed to have worked out its attack patterns by now. The drain on his energy was startlingly fast. It was humiliating, succumbing to the power of a house-cleaning device wielded by none other than a lowly plumber! Had all his Boos felt this way, defeated by a being obviously lesser than themselves? King Boo tore himself from Luigi's grasp once again and fled into Mecha Bowser's innards.
Luigi swore when Mecha Bowser put its head on backwards and began charging in all random directions, crushing all in its path. Its tail swung at Luigi from nowhere, slamming into his body and flinging him onto the hard surface. Luigi picked himself up unsteadily and pressed a hand against where blood started seeping through his overalls again. He realised that one of Bowser's spikes must have dug into him and he was lucky for it not to have penetrated any further.
"I'm not going to be defeated now," Luigi growled. "No way! No chance! This ends here, King Boo!"
That's my bro.
"It only ends when I say so!" King Boo snapped. "And this shall end when I place you on the wall next to your brother! But do not think that you two shall have the chance to converse since you need two to have a conversation. Two living beings I might add." Mecha Bowser bared his teeth at Luigi. "You shall have the honour of residing on my mansion walls for all eternity. In fact, perhaps I should leave you alive so that the two of you shall know the true meaning of your failure for the rest of your lives. You will be forgotten by all those that you cared for. Your very names shall be reviled by every person living in every kingdom. You shall be cursed, loathed, feared and hated by every single being. And you shall spend every single day knowing that. You'll know of all the evil and darkness out there and you'll know that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that you can do about it. I shall make sure of that."
"No," Luigi said softly, even as the fires left behind by Mecha Bowser blazed behind him. "You're wrong, King Boo. You're wrong."
King Boo screamed, or rather, Mecha Bowser let off a ferocious roar that nearly deafened Luigi. It stormed forwards, claws outstretched, threatening to rip into its long-time foe. Luigi hissed when one claw found its mark, slicing into his shoulder. In the back of his mind, he could hear Mario's cry of concern. Trying to ignore his pain, Luigi nevertheless grimaced as he pulled up his Poltergust 3000 and kept the nozzle at a steady level. He just needed one more chance to finish King Boo off for good. Three times the charm, he thought. It often took three chances to finish off villains like King Boo for good.
All of the pillars had crumbled now. Luigi quickly increased the distance between himself and Mecha Bowser as it threw another barrage of red-hot iron balls. Realising what Luigi was about to do and cursing himself for his atrocious error, King Boo forced Mecha Bowser into a forwards charge. Luigi stood his ground, waiting for the right moment, his eyes narrowed with determination.
King Boo suddenly realised that his momentum in his lumbering Bowser suit meant that he couldn't suddenly turn to the side to avoid the iron ball retaliation. He yelled as Mecha Bowser's head was blasted off and was immediately caught in the Poltergust 3000's powerful suction. He struggled wildly against it but Luigi struggled even harder if that was possible. The look that King Boo gave Luigi was one of pure hatred.
Before either of them knew what was happening, King Boo was sucked down into the bowels of the machine without even the opportunity to curse Luigi for his actions. His crown clinked heavily as it fell to the ground.
Luigi sank to his knees and panted for breath. Both Mecha Bowser's head and body collapsed onto the ground with a resounding thud. Luigi noticed the shining crown beside him and picked it up, staring into its depths.
"See, King Boo?" Luigi whispered. "Did you think I was just going to give up? Did you think my other wins were just down to luck?" Luigi shrugged. "Maybe they were and I somehow got through them. And you know, I was scared to death through pretty much all of them. But I still carried on. No matter how terrified I was, I still carried on because I wanted to save Mario. Mario would do the same for me. And there was no chance that I was going to give up on my brother, King Boo. Never…"
Well done, Luigi…
Luigi winced as he stood up and held his throbbing head. A flash of bright light nearly blinded him. When his vision cleared, he was surprised to find himself back in the Secret Altar. And there, on the wall, was Mario's painting. Luigi reached out for his brother…
Luigi flinched at the sudden sound crackling from his Game Boy Horror and wondered how the Professor knew the exact moment he had defeated a boss ghost or when something had happened to forestall Luigi such as when the lighting went out. He saw E. Gadd jumping about excitedly as he answered his handheld device.
"Luigi! You did it! Truly remarkable, my boy!" E. Gadd cheered. "I supplied the Poltergust 3000 but you ran with it all the way to the top, sonny! You made me so…" Here E. Gadd sniffed. "Proud!" Luigi could not help but grin as E. Gadd told himself to get a grip. He then informed the good professor about his battle with King Boo and how he jumped into a painting of Bowser. Luigi hoped that the real Bowser would forestall his usual kidnapping of Peach for a good while yet and at least give him some time to recover from the whole event.
"Well, well…" E. Gadd remarked once Luigi had finished his explanation. "In all my years of ghost research, I've never heard such a fantastical tale. And let me tell you, my boy, that career has expanded an awfully long time. Why, I was still recall starting out as a young whelp who trembled at the mere thought of a ghost, TREMBLED I say!" Luigi stifled a yawn as E. Gadd began recollecting some old tale about ghosts or whatever and turned his attention to Mario who seemed to have fallen asleep. He must have kept trying to escape, Luigi thought, seeing signs that this was most certainly the case.
"… And that is why you should never approach a Slimer at its front," E. Gadd finished. "Oh, here I go again, an old man waffling on about things from years ago. Anyhoo, grab your brother's painting and bring him to the lab!" E. Gadd then chuckled on seeing Mario asleep. "He must have collapsed with relief and exhaustion when he saw you arrive," E. Gadd remarked. "Anyway, I'll get the machine set up and ready. I'll be expecting you both!" E. Gadd then cut the connection leaving Luigi on his own.
Feeling a huge sense of relief and somewhat unusually, pride, Luigi gently lifted Mario's painting off the wall and tucked in under his spare arm whilst pointing the Game Boy Horror at the mirror in the Secret Altar so he could simply transport himself back to the Atrium. He couldn't wait to see the looks on the Toad's faces once he got there.
"I did it…" he mumbled to nobody in particular. "See, bro? I got you. You're safe now. We're both safe now."
Luigi gave his reflection a smile of satisfaction before pressing the button on the Game Boy Horror that allowed him to warp through the mirror and leave the Secret Altar behind for good.
Though Professor E. Gadd knew of Mario's obvious importance, he made it clear that the ghosts Luigi had captured needed to be turned back into paintings first since the Poltergust 3000 was near fit to bursting and he did not want to risk the chance of the ghosts somehow escaping, especially with King Boo in there. Luigi watched King Boo and his Mecha Bowser's head get turned into a beautiful, striking canvas without expression. All he wanted to do was put this whole escapade behind him now. What he also wanted to do was rest his weary body to his heart's content.
"It's quite amazing that you managed to do all of this in a single night," E. Gadd mentioned conversationally as the machine performed its usual functions. "That mansion those Boos built seems to have disappeared into the night although that treasure seems to be real. I've no interest in those baubles so you might as well keep it, use it however you like!"
"Mm." Luigi didn't have much interest in those baubles either so he decided to do what he and his brother normally did when they went on a long adventure together and accumulated a lot of cash and that was give most of it away. He was just glad to have his brother back more than anything.
The Toads seemed to have found a new respect for him when Luigi suddenly turned up clutching Mario's painting in one arm. They would have pestered him with all sorts of questions about his battle with King Boo had Luigi given them the chance to do so; he had dashed off to E. Gadd's lab as soon as he had arrived. Luigi presumed that they all then went off to tell Peach the good news once they saw Mario with their own eyes. At least they now knew that he was capable of doing such things as rescuing his brother, as Mario would have done for him.
By now E. Gadd had reversed the controls on his Ghost Portrificationizer and placed Mario's frame at its very end. Luigi winced at his brother's every yelp and cry as he was put through all sorts to turn him back to normal. "It would have been worse being turned into a painting in the first place," E. Gadd remarked. "Why, this is like a gentle scrubbing in a bathtub compared to that."
Great. Being zapped, flattened, and put through the washing machine was apparently gentle, huh? At least the process was relatively quick. Still protesting, Mario was suddenly taken up the pipe connecting the washing tank to the compartment that Luigi normally connected the Poltergust 3000 with and landed with a heavy thump.
"Er… Mario?" Luigi called out, cautiously approaching the machine. He got his answer by way of Mario suddenly bursting out and crash-landing into Luigi with the machine's frame hanging around his neck.
"Mamma mia…" Mario murmured, understandably disorientated by his ordeal. He tried to stand up and promptly fell backwards again.
Luigi couldn't help it. He laughed. He laughed with relief, he laughed at seeing Mario on the floor looking as if he had touched several Fuzzies, he laughed at seeing his big brother look so ridiculous with that frame around his head. He also cried with relief at knowing Mario was safe and knowing, in the dark part of his mind, what the alternative would have been if Luigi had not managed to save him.
Finally, Mario managed to pull himself together and got to his feet. Luigi then found himself being grabbed by Mario into a tight hug and winced at the sudden flash of pain that coursed through him.
"Luigi…" Mario whispered. "I don't know what to say other than… thank you. Thank you for coming to get me, little bro."
"Heh… you would have done the same for me, Mario," Luigi murmured, somewhat embarrassed considering that E. Gadd could hear them talking and was only pretending to be suddenly interested in the paintings that he had restored with the Portrificationizer.
"That doesn't make what you did for me any less significant, Luigi," said Mario quietly. "And I'll admit it to you… I was scared. I was scared about what would happen to you… what was happening to myself. That King Boo… I wouldn't want to go through that again for the whole world. And I just thought about you and wished that… we went on more adventures together."
"Well, bro," said Luigi, trying not to well up. "The next time you get a call for adventure, I'm coming too. And even if you forget, I'll follow you. I'll always be there for you. Just remember… We're all here for you, bro. Always."
"I'll remember…" Mario said softly.
The brothers held each other for some time, happy to be in each other's presence one more, before E. Gadd announced whether they would like to stay for tea and rest before heading back home or to Princess Peach's castle as was the likely option. Luigi couldn't agree more to having some rest although this came at the price of E. Gadd almost force-feeding him a bottle of remedial potion made from Super Mushrooms and the like considering what Luigi had been through as well as slapping on the bandages and plasters wherever they needed to go.
Luigi hadn't told Mario what had happened to him whilst going through the Mansion as he dropped off with sheer exhaustion before E. Gadd could even bring the diesel marinade to boil. Even so, Mario recognised that something had changed in Luigi; he was stronger perhaps, and more courageous than ever before. I guess something's changed with me too, Mario thought as he tousled his brother's hair. His imprisonment had seen to that…
Mario glanced at King Boo's painting which E. Gadd hadn't had chance to put away yet and shivered. He wasn't convinced that King Boo would be kept like that for as long as Mario and Luigi lived. There was no doubt that King Boo was a powerful ghost and he could already be plotting on how to escape his painting prison and take revenge on the brothers, especially Luigi, seeing how he had humiliated him so. But… there was little point in worrying about that now. Luigi had been through hell to save him he gathered and King Boo was not about to terrorise them so soon, even if he freed himself the next day.
Mario knew with more powerful certainty than before that he could count on his brother even if others were slow to come to the same conclusion. They counted on each other because their lives depended on it. And more than just that, they were family. It didn't matter that both were considered superheroes by the general populace, Mario even more so.
Because sometimes… being a brother is even better than being a superhero.
It took me ages to figure out how to defeat King Boo first time round, and then I saw the solution in my usual video game magazine a week after I did it. I'm glad I managed to complete it before then. And also, I bet many of you recognise a particular line of King Boo's and where it came from. :D
Also, for those of you who have played Mario and Luigi: Dream Team Bros, you might recognise one of Luigi's lines, his last line in fact. That game is so heart-warming and brilliant... I had to include that part in, I had to. Oh, yes, and that very last line? A quote from a chap called Marc Brown. It seemed very apt for this sort of story.
So, hey, thanks to all you readers out there and ciao for now!