Level 8: Woods Within The Dark

The sun was setting, and filling the woods with an ethereal glow as the dusk's light bounced off of the leaves and rocks. And through it all went the team of Mario, Chun-Li, Chris Redfield, and Fox McCloud. A silence had settled on the group, broken by the occasional snaps of sticks being stepped on.

"It's getting dark out," Chris said, looking around, "Maybe we should find a place to set up camp."

"Out here?" Fox asked, "That's crazy!"

"And stumbling around in the dark is stupid," Chris retorted, "I've got a flashlight, but there's still a chance we could step into something we can't handle."

"I don't like it," Fox said, "There's something about this place that's giving me the creeps. The sooner we get through it, the better. And we're still being chased, remember?"

"They'll have just as much trouble moving through the dark as we would." Chris replied.

"There's still plenty of daylight left," Chun-Li cut in, "Let's see how far we can go before night falls completely. Then we decide whether to stop or keep going."

That seemed as good an idea as any. Up in the lead, Mario knew that the constant moving was starting to wear down on his companions. None of them were used to this platformer-style of adventuring. He hoped they found a place to stop and rest soon. Even he was starting to grow edgy.

Up in the treetop above, a lone bird called.

Stage 1: Will O' Wisp Willows

As the group went onward, they found themselves dealing with an entirely new kind of problem; covered pitfalls. The leaves had been falling in that neck of the woods, so much that they covered up any holes in the ground. This made for several awkward moments when the terra firma proved to be less-than firm and someone found themselves dropping out of sight. This wasn't too much of a problem for Mario or Chun-Li- Mario was an old pro when it came to jumping, and Chun-Li's well-toned gams weren't just for show- but poor Fox and Chris needed extra help when they needed to overcome such a downturn in their journey.

"Augh!" Fox cried for the umpteenth time as the ground he was on sank. Before he could go completely down, Chun-Li and Chris grabbed him by each arm.

"I'm starting to get tired of this," Chris said as they helped Fox back up, "Who dug all of these traps?"

"They don't seem that sophisticated," Fox noted, "Maybe some hunter made them long ago."

As they walked on, none of them noticed a periscope popping out of the ground behind them. The eyes looking through the lens narrowed at the group before the periscope sank back underground.

Stage 1 complete

ELSEWHERE

Luigi was starting to think he had made a mistake. At first, a camping trip seemed like the best way to deal with all of the craziness from the worlds merging, get out of the cities and inter-cultural conflicts, and so on, and so forth, maybe he had chosen the wrong place to do it in. The forest seemed quite lovely during the day, and the skies above it didn't inexplicably turn dark upon entering, which was a plus. However, once night had actually fallen, things had turned for the worst. The trees seemed to grow grotesque faces, bats flew ominously against the full (but cloudy) moon, and owls hooted in rhythm. Every now and then a wolf in the distance howled, and something within the darkness made crackling noises. Luigi soon realized that the final sound was actually coming from the campfire.

I shoulda stayed in the city with Mario, the green-clad plumber thought, trying to block out the feeling of his beating heart. Any more of this 'relaxation' and I'll crack!

As if the forces of fate could hear his thoughts, a loud noise erupted in the distance. Luigi let out a slight shriek and stood up, brandishing a stick with a roasted marshmallow skewered on like a flimsy, tasty club. Whatever had made that noise had been a lot bigger than a twig being stepped on. Luigi realized that he had two choices. He could he stay and spend the rest of the night shivering in abject terror, or he could investigate. Neither option appealed to him.

What would Mario do? Luigi thought, and after a moment of consideration, downed the marshmallow. Picking up a flashlight, he made his way into the woods, trembling with each step.

Stage 2: Petrified Pines

Luigi walked along cautiously. The beam of his flashlight wasn't very strong, so he couldn't see very far ahead of him. This sense of trepidation would prove to be completely necessary, as the path was pocketed with pitfalls and other natural traps. Nipper plants lay in wait, prepared to bite at the lean, green plumber's ankles, and small fox-like predators were poised to leap out and pounce. Several times Luigi had to pick and throw a rock or stick in order to fake out his would-be hunters. However, not all enemies were willing to just wait for easy pickings. Small snakes would slither out and attack Luigi from the back, and spiders would lower down on their threads directly from above the mustached man.

"Cu-cut that out!" Luigi yelled nervously, brushing a spider from his cap and kicking at an approaching snake. He thought, Next time I hear a weird noise in the dark and spooky woods, I'll wait until morning to investigate!

Stage 2 complete

But Luigi wasn't paying too much attention to where he was going at this time, and tripped. Groaning, Luigi looked to what had caught his foot and turned white.

IT

WAS
A
HAND!

Luigi's terrified shriek sent birds flying from the forest. He watched in abject horror as the hand flexed, and then began to dig at the ground. A few seconds later the hand started to push itself further out, revealing a forearm, and even a whole body attached!

Zero dug himself out of the earth, his other arm firmly gripped on Arthur and Link. Once he was free, he laid the two of them on the ground. Ever since the caverns collapsed in on themselves, Zero had been forced to literally save the other two single-handedly. While Link's sword had been useful in finding a way out (That "Dousing" was quite good in that regard), the lack of oxygen had their effect, and the two humans had passed out in short time. Even with the Z-saber to cut the rocks away with, the climb up and out had been slow, and Zero hoped beyond hope that he wasn't too late.

"Luh…Link?"

Zero turned and saw that they weren't alone. A short little mustachioed man in green had been watching them, sitting against a tree. He seemed very much like Arthur, actually.

"Is…is that you, Link?" Luigi asked again. He shone his flashlight on the comatose two. While the taller of the two certainly had a green hat and pointy ears, this wasn't one of the Links Luigi knew.

"Excuse me," Zero said, drawing Luigi's attention. "Do you know any first-aid? My friends and I were caught in a cave-in, and they were injured."

Luigi nodded slowly, "Sure, I've got something."

Creeping over to Link and Arthur, Luigi pulled out two 1-Up Mushrooms from his pocket and forced each one down a throat. There was a noise like a bell ringing and both swordsmen woke up.

"Oh… What happened?" Arthur asked, scratching himself. His armor fell to pieces as he sat up.

Link didn't answer. Instead, he looked around at his new surroundings with a small amount of wonder and a larger amount of trepidation. When he saw Luigi, he raised an eyebrow. Immediately, he thought of two things; first, the overalls-wearing man looked slightly familiar, and second, the plumber's nose was one of the largest Link had ever seen on a man.

…Not that he would say so. Politeness counted for something, after all.

Zero gave his organic friends the run-down on what had happened after they fell unconscious, and introductions were made. Luigi was about to suggest he take them back to his campsite for the rest of the night when Zero yelled, "GET DOWN!" and shot forward, his Z-Saber ignited. Luigi shrieked and flattened himself against the dirt as the reploid made several slashing motions. Doing his best impression of an earthworm, Luigi put some distance between him and Zero.

"Zero, what do you think you are doing?" Arthur demanded as he helped Luigi up.

Zero didn't answer, at first. He kept glaring into the darkness, as if daring something to come out. What was that? It almost looked like a hand about to grab Luigi…

Meanwhile, Link felt a tingling and realized that the Triforce symbol on his hand was glowing. Taking out his sword, he began to douse, hoping to find what was causing the reaction. After figuring out what direction to go in, he motioned for the others to follow him. After pushing through several bushes, they came upon a large mansion. The structure was just sitting there, surrounded by a rusty iron fence, the gate of which was ajar. A bolt of lightning struck in the distance, illuminating the place.

"Ah, a shelter. Excellent," Arthur said, and began to march towards the building. "The light's are not on, but that does not mean no one is home."

Link checked his dousing. It seemed that what his Triforce symbol was reacting to was in that mansion. Nodding at Zero, the two of them went after Arthur.

Only Luigi was unhappy with this decision. He had been around long enough to know that spooky-looking houses in the middle of nowhere were nothing but trouble. He would bet his favorite hammer that the place was full of monsters. However, the idea of wandering around the woods all on his lonesome was equally unappealing. The rain wasn't helping either. A second bolt of lightning- one that struck a bit closer than Luigi would have liked- made up his mind.

"I'm gonna regret this." Luigi muttered, and went after the swordsmen.

Stage 3: Holy Nightmare Hall

The four, henceforth dubbed, Team Zero, approached the mansion's front door. Because he was the only one with a working flashlight, Luigi was forced into the front. As he walked, Luigi shone his light every which way, hoping not to be caught off guard by anything lurking in the shadows. The light revealed that the front yard had several tombstones. The nearest one said, "Your Hopes and Dreams"

After they reached the front door, Arthur wrapped his fist on the wood several times, hitting as loudly as he could.

"Hello? HELLO?" The little knight called out, "Is anyone home?"

There came no reply.

"Gosh, looks like there's no one home," Luigi said a bit too eagerly. "Oh well, I guess we're gonna have to go someplace else…"

Link shook his head. There was something unusual in the house, and he was planning to find it. Stepping forward, he grasped the door knob. Much to surprise, the door was unlocked. Link began to push, but before he could put in some sufficient force, the door swung open. A barely-lit hall beckoned them. Team Zero entered, with Luigi bringing up the rear. Inside, Zero picked up a candelabra from a small dress table. With a match lying conveniently nearby, he lit the wicks, bringing more light to the hall. Upon further inspection, the hall…looked quite normal. It had the traditional, classic decor, though the rug and paintings lying on the wall were clearly showing signs of age and decay.

"My, what a pleasant house." Arthur noted, positioning himself in the center, so he could see all around him.

It was at that moment that the chandelier, hanging directly above Arthur, suddenly dropped. Zero dove at Arthur, pushing the knight away from becoming glass and metal pizza. But instead of crashing into the floor, the chandelier stopped- it was still connected to the ceiling by a long chain that led into the ceiling. After dangling inches from the floor, it was pulled back up. Somewhere out of sight, something chuckled evilly.

"Still think it's pleasant?" Luigi asked, clutching his flashlight with a death grip. "We should get outta here before something worse happens. The chandelier was just the beginning…" Luigi turned back to the entrance and let out a yelp. The door was gone!

"What is it now?" Zero asked, and saw the severe lack of door. "…What?"

Zero and Arthur went over to inspect the scene of the crime. Arthur began to feel around the now-blank wall while Zero stared, almost trying to will the entrance back into existence. Behind them, Link and Luigi were busy looking around; the former was trying to figure out which direction to go from the dousing, and the latter just trying to intercept whatever demon lurked within the shadows.

"I can barely believe it," Arthur muttered, "It's almost as if the door was never here."

"But that shouldn't be possible," Zero protested softly, "Even a holograph can't hide the entrance that easily."

"Get used to it," Luigi gulped, "Stuff like this happens all the time in big, spooky houses built in the middle of big, spooky forests."

A creaking sound caught their attention, and the three saw that Link was making his way towards the door at the end of the hall. According to his dousing, there was something in that direction.

"Hey, don't go off like that on your own." Zero said, and went after him, with Arthur and Luigi close behind. Team Zero entered the door, only vaguely aware of something chuckling malevolently in the background.

As the four of them ventured throughout the mansion, any resemblance to reality quickly went out the window. figures within paintings seemed to move of their own accord, they encountered stairs that went up, down, sideways, and diagonally, sometimes at the same time. Parts of the floor would vanish just as they were a step away, almost causing someone to fall.

"Wah!" Luigi cried as he clung to the edge of another hidden pitfall.

"I've got you, hold on." Zero said, picking Luigi up.

"Behind you, behind youbehindyou!" Luigi shrieked from Zero's grip.

The three swordsmen whirled about, but there was nothing there.

"Will you stop that?" Zero asked, annoyed. "You've been telling us 'Look behind!' every five minutes. It's starting to get on my nerves."

"Trust me, it's better this way," Luigi explained, "There's always a ghost lurking behind in these haunted houses. One time I- Ahh!"

This time, Zero saw it. Well, more specifically, he saw something. It looked almost looked like a set of fangs floating above Link's head, but more importantly, it looked a pair of fangs about to bite Link! Without saying a word Zero brought out his Z-buster and fired. He wasn't sure if he hit anything, but at least there weren't any fangs floating above Link. The Hylian in question had thrown himself on the floor when he heard the buster fire, and after getting up gave the Reploid a look. His eyes expressed both shock and irritation, demanding an explanation.

"Sorry," Zero apologized, feeling a bit foolish. Not too foolish, because he knew that he knew that he just saved Link from danger, but that it happened just after he berated Luigi was slightly embarassing. "You aren't hurt, are you?"

After this little incident, the rest of Team Zero became a bit more cautious in their trek, and for good reason; the spooky inhabitants were starting to grow less subtle in their attempts on the heroes. Spiders would leap from their excessive cobwebs and try to attach themselves to someone's face, bits of liter would be thrown by invisible hands, and ghoulish apparitions would appear and attack.

FInally, they reached the end of the hall, whereupon they now had a selection of three doors. Each door looked exactly the same, and there were no signs, not even a faint trail of dust, of which door was the right one.

"Now where do we go?" Luigi asked, staring at the doors. He knew one of them- maybe two, or even all three- was booby-trapped.

"Choose your destiny…"A thin, raspy voice echoed from everywhere. This ominous statement was followed by a shrill laughter that sent chills up everyone's spines.

Link checked his dousing. According to the Master Sword, the right course to take was…below. That couldn't be right. Link checked again, but it told him that the target was straight down through the floor.

Arthur, meanwhile, had his own method of selection- wild guessing. He marched right towards the door in the center, reached for the doorknob-

WHAM!

The door suddenly swung open, slamming the poor knight against the wall, smashing his armor to pieces. That same voice giggled nefariously as the door closed itself. Arthur fell back onto the floor, his armor scattering around him.

"I may have…chosen poorly." Arthur mumbled as Luigi and Link came to his aid.

The doors then did something odd- they peeled off of the wall, as if they were paper, and dissolved. Rather than showing the way out, this showed a totally blank wall. But Team Zero had no time to take this in as the floor opened up beneath them, and all four fell down the world's largest trapdoor.

BELOW

Arthur hit the ground with a 'WHAMANGANG, his armor once again falling to pieces. Almost automatically, he began to reassemble the bits of metal. Whatever relief he had at being unhurt by the fall was superseded by the irritation of having to put his armor back on. If he didn't know any better, he would think it was becoming more fragile by the day.

Mayhaps I should consider a change to chain mail… Arthur thought as he finished 'suiting up' by slamming his helmet down on his head. He then noticed that he was completely alone. "Hello? Fellows?" No answer came. At least, none that he recognized. Instead of Luigi's cautious- possibly cowardly- groans, or Zero's direct commands, or even Link's grunts, Arthur's ears detected the growling of some beast.

Then, out from the shadows of the dimly-lit room, a wild Pikachu appeared!

Arthur had no idea what a Pikachu was, of course. Not being native to the world of Pokemon, or even the Nintendo Universe, all he saw was a large, yellow mouse with a tail in the shape of a lightning bolt.

"Hello, there, little fellow," Arthur greeted, regarding the creature. "And where did you come from?"

The Pikachu glared at Arthur. It had never seen a knight in armor, or any other kind of knight, so it didn't know what to make of it. But what it did know that this human had appeared in its territory!

"I…I don't suppose you talk…?" Arthur asked cautiously. He was never entirely sure what to expect whenever the world's merged. Amaterasu's talking bug had certainly taken him by surprise. Arthur reached out with his hand, in what he believed was a peaceful gesture.

But all the Pikachu saw was a human coming for it. With little sparks crackling at its red-spotted cheeks, the Pikachu used Tackle!

Arthur vs Pikachu

Arthur was not expecting the Pikachu to attack him, so he was ill-prepared for the electric-type's assault. Luckily, his armor allowed him some protection, so when the Pikachu rammed into his chest, Arthur was not so much as damaged but merely shoved back a few paces.

"What the!" Arthur grunted, and took out his lance. If this little mouse wanted a fight, he was going to give it one!

The Pikachu, upon seeing that Tackle was ineffective, decided to use Tail Whip instead. Anyone watching would have been treated to the comical scene of a Pikachu flailing its tail against Arthur's head.

"Ow, ow! Stop that!" Arthur yelled, throwing a punch at the mouse Pokemon. His fist connected, knocking the Pikachu back. Arthur began throwing lances at the Pikachu, putting the electric-type on the defensive. The Pikachu zipped here and there avoiding the projectiles. However, one lance actually hit it. Now really incensed, the Pikachu used Thundershock.

KRA-KOOM!

It was super effective! Arthur's armor was blasted to pieces, leaving the plucky knight clad in his boxers. Again.

At this point, the battle began to heat up, as Arthur became more intense in his attacks. Partly it was to end the fight quickly before he received critical damage in his nearly-bare state, but it was also out of irritation over having said armor knocked off at what may have been every opportunity. Even the most chivilarous knights can throw a right tantrum now and then, and Arthur threw it along with multiple torches at the Pikachu. The wild Pokemon did its best to avoid the torches, and tried to unleash another powerful attack. However, because it was not properly trained, it's stamina levels were low and its stratagems were largely unpolished. Arthur was able to hit the Pikachu with a lance or torch whenever it tried to charge up an electric attack, and was able to dodge whenever the Pikachu managed to unleash something. Eventually, the Pikachu fainted.

End Battle

"Hey, Arthur!"

Arthur turned around and saw Link, Luigi, and Zero running towards him. Luigi and his flashlight out, while Link had a lantern hanging at his waist. When they got close enough to get a good look at the knight, they gaped.

"What happened to you?" Luigi asked, as not only was Arthur stuck in boxers, but every hair on his body was sticking out. The overall effect made it look like someone had glued brown needles to around his face.

"Never mind that," Arthur grumbled, "Just help me with my armor."

As they aided Arthur reassemble and re-dress, Zero quickly explained they're separation.

"There are these bouncy parts no the floor," He said, "We must have landed on some and gotten bounced in different directions. I was with Luigi and we found Link. We heard some noises in this direction and came looking."

"Bit of trouble with the local wildlife," Arthur said shortly, and fitted his helmet on. "Now, where do we go from here?"

Thanks to the dousing Link did with the Master Sword, they knew which way to go, though none had any idea where that would take them. The entire basement (Or what they assumed the dark expanse was) was cast in a shadow that hide anything that wasn't close enough. Even Luigi's flashlight cut off after a short distance. Every now and then Zero would fire a warning shot in front, but there came no reply. Out of the corners of their eyes they would see a faint figure within the gloom, but would be gone the minute anyone tried to get a better look.

Eventually, though, they saw a bright dot in the distance. It didn't take long to close that gap, and upon doing so they found whatever Link's sword had been locked onto.

It was a glowing white ball, very much like the one Link and Zero found in Agnus' lair. It was floating above a pedestal that seemed to have grown directly from the floor, it's edges both gnarled and jagged.

That's when the floor behind began to give away. The four, desperate not to experience another fall, raced towards the pedestal. They heard clattering noises all around and realized that all around them the ground was collapsing. However, at a certain radius of the ball the floor remained firm. And once everything settled, the ball-

-it rose up-

And a monstrous hand enveloped it, its fingers more like giant spikes. And looking down at the heroes, was a face with a long, cleft at the end of its jaw. It had no body, but somehow wore blue a star-patterned cape held up blue shoulder pads. On its head was a yellow, metal helmet with horns, and a mirror-visor for the eyes. the faces of Luigi, Zero, Arthur and Link reflected off of the glass, only barely in the low light.

"Hey, I've heard of you…" Luigi gasped, pointing. "You're that guy Kirby fought…Nightmare!"

Boss battle: Nightmare

Nightmare laughed, his shrill voice echoing in the heroes' ears. Then, without further ado, he swiped his giant hand at them. Team Zero jumped, narrowly avoiding being caught in his fingers. They barely had time to relax when they landed, as Nightmare swiped at them again.

"Did you enjoy my little house of wonders?" Nightmare cackled as he swept his hands across the platform. "I put in such hard work making it!"

"Your house?" Zero, aiming with his Z Buster. "What are you talking about?"

Nightmare sneered, "A mansion like this, propped up in the middle of nowhere… Surely you must have realized how unnatural that was!"

As one, the four thought of Luigi's earlier warnings. The plumber was too busy dodging to gloat, however. In response to Nightmare's gloating, Zero, Link, and Arthur fired and threw Buster shots, arrows, and lances at the ghoulish being, but he easily avoided them, his demonic head flying across to the other side of the darkness. Raising his hands, Nightmare unleashed purple and black star-shaped bursts of energy from his fingertips, sending Team Zero frantically zipping around to avoid them.

"But I needed to get your attention somehow," Nightmare went on, "If I hadn't you would have been wandering around that forest forever."

"Why would you want our attention?" Luigi asked, pulling his hat down as he ducked a dark star.

Nightmare's head began to circle the space above the platform. As he did, it multiplied until there were at least twenty Nightmare heads circling.

"You have something that I want," The Nightmares said, with a diabolical stereo effect. "Or should I say, another thing I want!"

The Nightmare heads scattered, going every which-way, but of them only one flew down at Team Zero. The horns on Nightmare's helmet knocked down Link and Arthur, while Luigi and Zero were able to jump and avoid them in time. Zero fired another shot from his Z Buster, but Nightmare only grunted in response.

Another…what is he… Zero then remembered the orb he and Link found in Agnus' lair, and the orb that Nightmare just took. "So, you mean that ball? Like the one we found?"

"Naturally," Nightmare replied, preparing to unleash another slew of stars. "With all the power just one gave me, of course I would want a second!" (Off to the side, Luigi asked Arthur what they were talking about)

Nightmare shot stars again, but things did not happen as before. With one swing of the Master Sword, he batted the first star back at the ghoulish wizard. The star hit Nightmare right in the jaw (Not an easy target to miss), causing him to cry out in pain. Furious, Nightmare clawed at the heroes again, but they were ready this time. Making sure to stay out of the way, Arthur, Link, and Zero swung there swords down at the left, while Luigi did a ground pound on on Nightmare's right hand.

"Erragh!" Nightmare hissed, retracting his hands.

"Why do you want these balls, anyway?" Luigi asked, having gotten no decent answer from Arthur. "What are they, magic?"

"More than just magic," Nightmare replied, "These balls are the sum total of the worlds!"

Zero and Link exchanged brief looks. Those words were too similar to Agnus' to be coincidence.

"Haven't you noticed that whenever the worlds merge, some parts are missing?" Nightmare asked, duplicating. As he swooped down, he said, "The orbs are those parts! The leftover pieces of the universe, condensed into spherical package! And once I eliminate you, I'll have to draw power from. Then nothing will stop me!"

"If you can do it." Zero pointed out, firing another Z-Buster shot at Nightmare.

Nightmare smiled maliciously. "Just watch."

The fight went on, with Nightmare shooting stars and swooping at the four whenever he could. The wizard mostly kept his distance, while the heroes attempted to get at him with arrows, lances, torches and energy shots. Luigi mostly kept to himself, stomping down on one of Nightmare's hands when the wizard felt confident enough to make a grab. Once or twice this would result in Luigi actually getting caught, only to be freed when Link slashed at the massive wrist with his Master Sword. All four of them noticed that Link's sword seemed to affect Nightmare more than any other attack or weapon. Once again Zero wondered about the Master Sword, and how it seemed to harm beings like Agnus and Nightmare more than his Z-Saber.

After he received another slash from the Master Sword, Nightmare shouted, "Enough! It's time I showed you the true power the World Orbs can give!"

Luigi gulped, "I don't the like the sound of that. 'True power' never means anything good."

Arthur scoffed. "The knave is bluffing. Had he power to destroy us, it would have been called upon earlier!"

Nightmare sneered. "Oh, I'm bluffing, am I?"

Nightmare took one end of his cape, morphed himself into a black and purple ball. Purple will-o-wisps appeared from it, dropping down onto the platform. The will-o-wisps then grew into larger shapes, becoming various creatures. And one of those creatures-

-Was Iris.

Zero froze in shock as his dead beloved suddenly appeared before him. Iris…the reploid woman he loved, the one he killed…before him again. It was a like something out of a dream…or a nightmare. This Iris was clearly an enemy. She lurched towards him, eyes hollow, hands raised aggressively. But try as he might, Zero could not bring himself to move. Some force had taken hold of his body. In a moment Iris was on top of him, a jagged dagger in her hands… and while Zero was being pinned down, Luigi was crouched down, shivering, and Arthur and Link, the only ones still fighting, were quickly becoming overwhelmed.

"AH HAHAHAHAHAHA!" Nightmare cackled, his voice echoing from everywhere. "This is my true power! Thanks to these Orbs, I can bring them back to life! The things you fear, the terrors that visit you in your sleep…I know them all, thanks to the Orb!"

That's when a loud BOING comically echoed throughout the chamber, cutting the tension like a hot knife through butter. Something green rocketed up from the floor, crashing into the Nightmare-ball like a missile. Nightmare reverted to wizard-mode as the things he made vanished like smoke. Zero pushed himself up in shock as Link and Arthur watched in amazement as Luigi landed on his feet.

"Errrrgh…you!" Nightmare snarled, rubbing his chin. "What do you think you're doing?!"

Luigi adjusted his hat and gave Nightmare a determined look. "I think I'm tired of letting ghouls like you push me around!"

Zero was impressed. Luigi had cowered and shivered his way throughout the entire walk since they met in the forest, but now the plumber was standing his ground against the nightmares. Watching him do so helped Zero push away the old sadness he felt whenever he thought of Iris, and the terror of seeing her appear again.

Nightmare wasn't quite as roused. Hissing, he swooped down, hands glowing with dark power. Zero ignited his Z-Saber and speared it down, sending the blade right through Nightmare's right hand and into the floor. On the led Arthur revealed his own sword, and with Luigi's help used it to pin down the left hand. Nightmare howled in pain, but stopped when he saw Link coming, Master Sword raised. Nightmare began to struggle, trying to free his hands, but Zero, Luigi, and Arthur held their swords down firm. Link jammed the tip of the Master Sword directly into Nightmare's forehead. the ghoul began to shriek as his body began to shudder and dematerialize. In a fantastic display of lights it exploded, leaving only the World Orb behind. The lights were then sucked into the Orb. Curious, and more than a little uneasy, Luigi cautious came over and picked it up.

Orb GET!

After Luigi pocketed the Orb, a lighten began to shine into the room. Team Zero looked around as the dark walls dissolved around them. Before long they were standing out in the middle of the forest as the sun began to rise. As Nightmare had said, he created the entire mansion, and without his power it could no longer exist.

"What do we do now?" Zero asked, putting away the Z-Saber.

Luigi laid himself down. "I dunno about you, but I'm gonna get some sleep. I feel like I've been up all night!"

Up in the nearby treetops, birds began to sing. Link held up the Master Sword began to douse. The strongest signal seemed to point towards the horizon.

Level 8 complete