"I'm sorry, I havn't seen anyone like that..."
"No, there is no one in this town like that..."
"NOPE! BUT HOW ABOUT A KA-WIIIZZ?"
"Freaky little midget…" Luigi walked away with Parch in tow, cracking his knuckles as he shivered. Behind him lay an unconscious worm-looking thing, its head sticking out of the top of its top-hat. "The way he said that just gives me chills." Luigi suddenly stopped, his eyes wide. He snapped his head around to look behind him, having felt a gaze on the duo since they first got to town. Finding nothing, Luigi turned around, quickly catching back up with the laughing Dry Bones.
"For a friendly person, you can actually be pretty scary Luigi." Parch cackled as the Keyblade Wielder caught up to him.
"He just gave me a weird vibe." Luigi sighed, continuing their search for Todd. He kept stealing glances behind him, a strange presence having been following them since they entered Dry Dry Outpost. He couldn't find out who it was however, and after a while the presence disappeared. Asking around for a bit longer, Luigi and Parch found themselves in the plaza, a fountain roaring behind them. "I can't believe we still can't find any traces on Todd…" Luigi sighed as he took a gulp from his canteen before handing it to Parch. Water trickled down from the skeleton's skull to his stomach, but for some reason, it stopped at his stomach before disappearing.
'Huh. I figured it would just go right through him...'
"You sir..." A voice said to Luigi's left, interrupting his train of thought. Turning, Luigi noticed a small Mouser in a dessert cloak. "You are looking for a small mushroom lad...yes?"
"Yes." Luigi nodded. "He's a small Toad with an orange-dotted cap and an orange shirt with blue trim. We got separated, and I'm trying to find him."
"A friend of Moustafa was seen with him." Luigi stood up quickly, a smile on his face. "But where he is now, I, Sheik, do not know." And just like that, the smile turned into a sigh.
"Does this, Moustafa, know where he went? Can I meet with him?" Luigi asked. Sheik turned around.
"Very few see Moustafa. He is the leader of Dry Dry Outpost and knows the city well, but to see him is very difficult."
"Then tell me how." Sheik turned around to see Luigi clench his fist. "I can't leave Todd alone out there." The Mouser watched Luigi for a moment before speaking.
"This...Todd...what is he to you?"
"He's my friend, I can't just leave him out there!" Luigi looked down. "We may have only met a few days ago, but he's a good kid, and I don't want anything bad to happen to him." Luigi looked back to the Mouser. "Just like my bro, I won't let something bad happen to any friend of mine."
Parch smiled at Luigi and Sheik nodded.
"Very well, I will tell you the secret to finding Moustafa. He is in the town's highest place, but there is only one entrance. To find the entrance, you must bring to me that which Moustafa likes most."
"'That which Moustafa likes most?'" Luigi repeated, raising an eyebrow. "What's that?"
"He's kidding...right?" Luigi turned to Parch, who just shrugged. "We need to get him a lemon?"
"Yeah, I guess that's what he's referring to. After all, there isn't a whole lot of fruit that fits his description."
"Unless you want to count an oddly colored bob-omb..." Luigi thought, remembering a trick that Bowser had once played on them. Granted, it just blew up the bridge they were trying to cross, but hey, at least there was a river below them. Parch looked oddly at Luigi, wondering what in the world could have made him say something like that. Luigi just laughed nervously and waved his hand dismissively. "Don't worry about it. Just rambling."
Having filled up their canteens and heading towards the desert once more, Luigi noticed the INN next to the entrance to the town. Looking at the sign, Luigi hoped that he was close to meeting up with Todd. After all, apparently he had already stopped at the INN since the bag he tossed into the alcove with Todd was there, as well as the mushroom's pack itself. Setting the water canteen next to his Adventurer's Pouch, Luigi turned to Parch and nodded.
"And this time we have lots of water. Plus, we're looking for an oasis." Luigi's smile faded however. "Surprisingly enough, he even gave us directions to it." Luigi put a hand to his chin, wondering about that information. If this Moustafa guy was so hard to see, then why in the world did he give them directions to find EXACTLY what he wanted? Not only that, but how did he know what Moustafa even liked? "Maybe he's a lackey or something..." Luigi mumbled.
"What?" Parch asked, confused as Luigi just suddenly started mumbling out of nowhere. Luigi turned to Parch.
"It's nothing, I'm just rambling again, I have a tendency to do that every now and again." He laughed nervously, scratching the back of his head. "Actually, I've been doing that a lot lately..." The plumber said, downtrodden of the fact.
"Hey Luigi? Can I ask you a question?" The Dry Bones asked as the two set off into the bright, hot desert.
"Sure, what's up?" Luigi turned to Parch, the duo continuing on to their destination. The Dry Bones pointed to Luigi's Keyblade, the plumber turning towards it.
"You used that when you healed me...is it a magical wand or something?"
"Heheh, no...it's not. Well...at least, I don't think so." Luigi laughed lightly. Parch stared at him for a moment.
"You mean you don't know?"
"Well, I only just got it recently...I don't even really know how to use it. I'm used to working with hammers and pipes and wrenches and stuff like that, but a Keyblade? That's a whole other story." Luigi laughed, pulling out the Keyblade and examining it.
"A Keyblade? What's that?" Luigi turned to Parch, wondering if he could even tell him about the special weapon. Looking back to the weapon, Luigi pondered the question himself.
"Actually, I'd like to find out myself. I woke up after Toad Town's disaster with it apparently in my hand."
"What? Toad Town was attacked?" Parch gasped.
"Oh? You didn't know? Word must not have spread this far yet..." Luigi was quiet for a moment before sighing. "It was less than a week ago...so it's not really surprising it hasn't gotten way out here just yet...but Toad Town was attacked by some strange black creatures...Princess Peach is missing and my older brother, Mario, is nowhere to be found."
"Wait...so you're..." Parch started, Luigi smiling lightly.
"Yeah, but it's not all that great. People only refer to me through my brother, so it's kind of depressing. But I don't really let it get me down much these days." Luigi's smile brightened.
"I was going to say a friend of the princess..." Parch quirked an eyebrow as Luigi blushed.
"O-oh...sorry. It's just that I'm so used to people saying that I'm related to the famous Mario...so I guess I just assumed..." Luigi blushed in embarrassment for a moment, Parch glaring at him before busting out in a fit of laughter.
"Don't worry about it. You're you, so I'm not going to judge you. Besides, I said I'd stick with you until we find your friend...and look!" Luigi turned to find what seemed like an oasis in the nearby distance. "AWESOME! LET'S GO!" Parch shouted in excitement as he took off.
"W-wait!" Luigi shouted running after the Dry Bones. As the two got closer to the Oasis, a cold chill suddenly shot down Luigi's spine, causing the plumber to stop in his tracks.
'Wait a minute...something's not right...' Luigi shivered.
"Luigi! I found the Lemon!" Parch shouted pointing up to a tree, the yellow fruit hanging peacefully on a branch. Beneath it you could see a simple shadow of the tree.
'Not only were we pretty much told what Moustafa wanted, we were also told WHERE to find it...'
"Don't worry, I got it!" Parch cackled as he started climbing the tree, not noticing that the tree's shadow had suddenly gained a spear-tipped tail.
'He knew we were looking for Todd, yet why would he send us out here if Todd had already been at the INN? And what about Toad Town's problems? Surely Todd would have told someone of the danger...' Luigi's eyes suddenly went wide, the mystery finally clicking into place.
"PARCH! GET AWAY FROM THE TREE!" Luigi shouted running towards the skeleton, drawing his Keyblade.
"Huh?" Parch turned towards Luigi, unaware of the tall black creature that suddenly appeared behind him. Turning around, the skeleton felt his jaw fall out of its socket. "WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?" He screamed as he fell to the ground, exploding into a few pieces before pulling himself back together.
Luigi glared at the creature, his adrenaline rush sending Electricity coursing through the weapon of light. Luigi jumped at the giant black creature, slamming the weapon into the Heartless' weapon. Being flung back, Luigi began to skid across the sand but quickly came to a halt. Spinning the Keyblade, Luigi glared at the monster, snapping the mystical weapon into a tight grip.
The Heartless was almost completely black, but had tinges of red enveloping small areas of the monster's body. It had two sets of wings; one set on its arms and the other on its back and held a strange flat, yet long sword with even stranger engravings on it. The horns on its head connected as it went further up and a curled tail whipped in the wind behind it. The most predominant feature on it being a large, heart-shaped hole that went through the monster's chest. Another cold chill ran along the back of Luigi's spine and, turning around, Luigi found a number of strange swordsmen in robes flipping swords in their hands, the symbol of a scarred black and red heart imprinted on their chests. Luigi's odds of getting out in once piece were quickly going downhill, but suddenly a hammer smashed into one of the Bandits' face, the Heartless disappearing in a puff of black smoke. Luigi watched in awe as the hammer bounced back towards its owner's hand.
"PARCH!" Luigi gasped. The Dry Bones grinned as he smashed his two hammers together, spinning them around before throwing his other hammer at another Bandit who blocked the hammer with his sword. Unfortunately for the Bandit, the impact of the blow shattered his weapon, making it useless. A quick boot to the stomach and the Heartless disappeared, all of the other Bandits jumping back from the Skeleton. "Parch, where did you get those hammers? I thought you were a Koopa Troopa!"
"What? Where did you get that idea? I'm a Hammer Bro!" The cursed Hammer Bro grinned as he smashed the hammers together again. "Don't worry about these small fries; you just worry about the boss!" Luigi swallowed heavily as he turned back towards the Orcus.
"That's what I was afraid of..." Mustering up all the courage he had, Luigi glared at the flying Heartless, noticing it was almost grinning. It had this pompous air about it, making Luigi uneasy. Deciding that standing around wasn't going to do anything, Luigi charged at the creature, but feinted to the left when the Heartless swung its blade down at Luigi. The Orcus quickly pulled its sword back up in time to block Luigi's follow-up. The two warriors fended off against each other, Luigi quickly finding himself on the losing end of the fight as he continued to receive shallow nicks and cuts, small trails of blood rolling down his arms and his left cheek. "Time to use some magic..." Luigi inhaled before channeling electricity into his hand. The Orcus seemed to have that same pompous grin on its face from before, almost daring Luigi to attack it. Glaring at the Heartless in irritation, Luigi rushed at the monster, cocking back his fist before throwing it at the monster.
A wicked smile erupted from the Monster's face, causing Luigi's eyes to go wide. The energy in his hand quickly fizzled out before Luigi spun around and smashed the monster with the Keyblade. The screech of pain that erupted from the Heartless made Luigi flinch, but it didn't stop the smirk that appeared on his face.
"You're a lightning elemental...and you probably absorb electricity, don't you?" Luigi's grin widened as he noticed the Orcus hide underneath the tree before he glanced down at his now clenched hand. Looking back up, Luigi's eyes went wide. "EEP!" The plumber ducked as the Orcus' sword sliced through the space his head was a mere moment ago, Luigi's hat floating in the air for a moment. Luigi turned around, his hat plopping back down on his head at an odd angle as he saw the blade spinning around and coming back at him for round two. Dodging the supersonic blade, Luigi noticed that the Heartless had suddenly disappeared. He dodged one last attempt to be skewered before watching a ring of flames appear around the sword, the Orcus reappearing. Luigi's eyebrows furrowed in confusion at the sight of the black flames.
"And here I thought you'd be weak against fire...but, if you're still a lightning elemental..." Luigi ran at the Heartless, charging electricity into his Keyblade as the Orcus began to show a wicked smile once more. Luigi jumped high into the air, dodging the blade that the Orcus threw at him before falling towards the monster, pulling back his Keyblade. The monster seemed anxious to get close to the plumber, and Luigi was more than happy to oblige.
The Keyblade Wielder slammed the weapon into the ground, missing the Heartless and discharging the electricity while wiping the grin from the monster's face. Its face turned to a look of horror as Luigi was suddenly in its face, a bright green fireball in his left hand.
The monster screamed in pain, but before it could call back its sword, Luigi had already grabbed the Keyblade and slashed straight through the Orcus, causing the creature to vanish into a cloud of black smoke. A gleaming shard fell to the ground, Luigi barely noticing it. Picking it up, Luigi's eyes widened.
"It's a shard!" The plumber exclaimed as his legs suddenly gave out, causing Luigi to land on his rump. Pulling out his piece, Luigi watched in amazement as the two shards fused together, creating a slightly bigger shard. A shadow suddenly covered Luigi, and looking up, the plumber grinned gratefully to the cursed Hammer Bro.
"Nice shot there! Thought you were a goner for a second."
"Thanks for the comment." Luigi laughed painfully. Looking up at the tree, Luigi grinned. "Let's get back to town." The two slowly made their way back towards the outpost, not noticing a silhouette hiding just out of sight. The figure waited until the two had gone before rushing off into the desert.
"LUIGI!" The little Toad dove towards Luigi, the plumber catching and spinning him around before giving him a noogie. Sheik smiled as he closed the door to the town's highest building, having led Luigi and Parch here after they had returned.
"You're okay!" Luigi laughed as he set the orange-capped Toad down.
"ME? I'd be more worried about YOU! YOU FELL FROM A MOUNTAIN! What happened to you?" Todd looked down to notice Luigi had sandals instead of his shoes. "And where did your shoes go?" Luigi laughed nervously.
"It's a long story...I'll tell it to you later. But for now..." Luigi stood up before glaring at the other person in the room they now stood in. The plumber angrily threw the lemon at Sheik, the desert Mouser catching it swiftly, though not without shaking his hand afterwards. "I oughta kick your ass..." Luigi's fist clenched tightly. "You told us that we needed to find Moustafa, but the only thing that bastard did was try to kill us!" Electricity crackled around Luigi's fist, the plumber glaring fiercely at the Mouser. Grinding his teeth in rage, Luigi closed his eyes before breathing deeply. "But in the end, we still found Todd, so I guess I owe you for that at the very least...Moustafa." Todd and Parch turned to Sheik, shocked looks on their faces.
"What? Luigi, this is Sheik, not Moustafa! Moustafa is the leader of Dry Dry Outpost! Sheik said it's very hard to meet him!" Todd laughed nervously towards Parch. He didn't know who the skeleton was, but Luigi didn't show any signs of hostility towards him, so he guessed that he was a friend of Luigi's. The Keyblade Wielder's glare only increased.
"But if Moustafa was so hard to reach, how would he be able to know what was going on in the streets of his outpost? And how would Sheik here know exactly what Moustafa likes the most, as well as where to find it? Of course, if he was just a lackey, he would want to bring the lemon to his boss for personal gain. But Sheik asked some strange questions when we were looking for you. It wasn't until we found the Heartless at the Oasis that I figured it out." Luigi turned towards Todd, his glare relaxing. "I've been with you for only a day or two, but I can already tell that you're a bit talkative, and that if there was danger coming this way, you'd let people know. Dry Dry Dessert hasn't been affected by the Heartless invasion, so how could they know what was going on hundreds of miles away?" Luigi glared back at the Mouser. "Moustafa had kept a constant watch on us since we entered the city...I could feel it. And the Keyblade kept pulsing in my hand the entire time, meaning that someone had to have told him about my arrival."
Sheik was quite for a moment, throwing off his robe and revealing the leader of Dry Dry Outpost, Moustafa. "Well done, Keyblade Wielder Luigi. It seems my contact's information was correct." The mouser smiled proudly at Luigi's detective skills.
"Your contact? You mean it wasn't Todd?" Luigi's eyes widened slightly, surprised at the information. Moustafa shook his head.
"No. I had a meeting with my contact not long ago. He warned me of an incoming danger. He said that there was a strange presence by the Oasis, and that someone holding a Mushroom-like Key was coming to my Outpost. He told me to direct the Keyblade Wielder to the Oasis and asked me to look after this young Toad until you returned from the Oasis. So I informed all of my followers to say that they had never seen your friend."
"So that's why you made us get you a lemon? To direct us to the oasis?" Luigi prompted the Mouser. the small rodent smiled as he tossed the Lemon into the air and into his open, happily awaiting mouth.
"That, and Lemon's ARE my favorite snack!" The mouse squeaked happily. "OOH! That's sour!" He laughed.
"Who was your contact?" Luigi asked, confused as to who could have known about not only the Heartless, but about Luigi having received the Keyblade. Moustafa shook his head.
"I'm sorry, but I cannot reveal the identity of my contact. If someone outside this room were to find out who he was, then they would use him to get to me. I must keep my list of contacts hidden. I'm sure you understand." Luigi nodded, knowing that he would get nowhere. At least he had gotten a decent explanation of the situation.
"All right...but I have another question. I talked to an old Koopa by the name of Gregory in a town called Newsong. He originally sent me and Todd to the Desert Flower Inn to find information about a special item called the 'Crystal Key', but the Innkeeper was really quiet. Not to mention I heard him mumble something about 'Moustafa'. I'm guessing YOU know where it is?" Luigi crossed his arms expectantly. In truth, he thought that the man had just sneezed, but when he heard Sheik speak of Moustafa, he knew he was talking about the leader of the desert outpost. The Mouser nodded.
"Yes, I know Gregory. He is a good man."
"You know the mayor?" Todd gasped. The Mouser smiled cheekily, pointing his nose to the air.
"Young man, I know many people, and many people know me. But finding me is another matter altogether. I am not like the Princess of the Mushroom Kingdom. I am a very hard to reach person of power." Luigi twitched at the small remark about Peach's tendency to get kidnapped. Moustafa noticed the small spark of electricity that crackled around Luigi's shoulders and the glare he was receiving from said plumber. Coughing nervously, Moustafa turned to Luigi. "In any case, I owe you an apology for tricking you. As such, I will tell you the location of the Crystal Key of Stone."
"I'm really glad you helped me find Todd, Parch, but you don't really have to come with..." Luigi rubbed the back of his head as the group returned to the Desert Flower Inn. The cursed Koopa laughed nervously as the group checked into the hotel, Luigi notifying the owner, a Goomba named Charles, that there would be another person staying with them.
"I know, but I'll explain once we get behind closed doors." Parch said as the group walked to their room. Luigi shrugged, understanding that the cursed Koopa was probably nervous about talking about it, and would rather do it with people he's familiar with. But what could have made him so nervous suddenly? Since Luigi had met him, Parch seemed like a happy-go-lucky, yet somewhat serious fighter. The plumber was actually quite interested to hear the rest of his story. Walking into their room, Luigi marveled once again at how nice the room looked. A television set rested on a clay table while two large beds lay next to each other. A few potted plants decorated the corners of the room, and there were two large windows giving a wonderful view of the city. Making themselves comfy, Luigi plopped on the bed closest to the door while his two smaller companions shared the bed by the window. After calling Room Service to deliver some food, Luigi turned to Parch, who was beginning to get nervous again.
"So what's got you so spooked Parch? You seemed like you were more of the serious type." Luigi asked, crossing his legs and leaning forward slightly. Todd, still not knowing much about Parch, listened intently to his newest friend. The Dry Bones shifted a bit more before taking a deep breath.
"This Crystal Key of Earth that Moustafa told us about..."
"The one in the desert temple? What about it?" Parch sighed, pinching the bridge between his eyes and his nose.
"There's a group of bandits there...I think they stole the key from somewhere else, but...that's the bandit group I've been chasing..."
"WHAT!?" Luigi shouted, shocked. The group of bandits that caused Parch to be cursed were in the desert temple? And they had to go there? "You're not kidding...are you..." Parch shook his head.
"The leader of the bandits is a Pokey that they call 'King Pokey'. He's caused trouble all over my hometown near Riverside, but his base is in this desert..."
"Woah..."Todd exclaimed quietly. "I've heard of Riverside...It's near Poshley Heights...the best way to get there is to take a stop while on the Excess Express! That's one of the fanciest trains in the world!" Luigi nodded, remembering hearing of Mario's mystery novel-like adventure with a penguin named...Panini? No, that wasn't right. Ignoring the matter, Luigi noticed Parch shaking.
"Parch? You okay?" Luigi asked, placing a hand on the troubled Dry Bones' shoulder.
"I've been searching for them for so long...they've stolen so much from my parent's shop...but every time I've tried to confront them, I get beaten...now I've been cursed and am nothing more than a skeleton!" He held his head in misery. "How can I beat them now!?"
"What are you talking about?" Luigi snorted, glaring at Parch. The cursed Hammer Bro looked up to see Luigi with an evil grin on his face. "Now you've got me and Todd with you! And besides, we have an advantage! You've fought them before, so you can tell us what we're up against!" Luigi smiled clenching his hand into a fist. "How about this? While we eat, we can come up with a strategy to help us fight them! If they're cheating villains, we'll have to outsmart them! And besides, if any of us get hurt too badly, I can be the healer!" Luigi grinned.
"YEAH! I mean, I havn't really been much help since I started...so I want to be able to give you guys a hand!"
"Then it's settled!" Luigi smiled, holding out a hand. "We're in this together!"
"YEAH!" Todd shouted as he put his hand on Luigi's. Parch smiled as he too put his hand on the others'.
"Let's save the world, starting by fixing King Pokey and his gang!"