“I can’t believe we lost him,” Mallow unhappily said as they exited the Forest Maze. “He had no arms or legs and he still gave us the slip.”
“Don’t beat yourself up over it,” Geno said. “Smithy was bound to discover the importance of the Star Pieces eventually.”
“Besides, it’s going to take him a while to get back to Bowser’s Keep anyways, and we already have two Star Pieces,” Mario added. “With a little luck we’ll be hot on the trail of Star Piece number three by the time he even reports back to Smithy.”
“Yeah, maybe. Hey look, everybody’s back to normal,” Mallow said as they arrived back in Rose Town. Before them toad children played, adults worked outside, and even a few looked like they were preparing to go pick mushrooms in the forest. Mallow smiled. “I’m really glad the effects of Bowyer’s aeros wasn’t permanent.”
“Me too,” Geno said. “But before we hit the road we’d better stop by the inn first. Given the circumstances I think I owe Gaz an explanation.”
“Gaz is a little younger than me, though. I dunno if he’ll understand.”
“It’s worth a try, right?” Mario said as he walked into the inn, Geno and Mallow right behind him. Gaz saw Geno walk in and leapt to his feet.
“Geno! You’re back! Mom, this is the Geno I was talking about!”
“Yes dear, I hear you,” Gaz’s mother said as she poked her head out of the kitchen. “My, that’s a fabulous costume! It must be a bit hot for the toad wearing it on a day like this, though.”
“Aw, forget it, Mom. C’mon Geno, let’s play!”
“I wish I could,” Geno said. “But I have to leave with Mario and Mallow to search for the rest of the Star Pieces.”
“Star Pieces, like bits of shooting stars? How come?”
“How can I make this easy? It used to be shooting stars made wishes come true, and everybody was happy. But now there aren’t any more shooting stars, and everybody will be sad if we don’t do something,” Geno explained. Mario and Mallow acted out Geno’s explanation to help Gaz understand better.
“I don’t get it,” Gaz said.
“Well, then let’s just say if things stay this way, your wishes will never come true.”
“What?! You mean when I grow up I won’t be amazing and strong like you?!”
“Not until the Star Pieces are all found and the Star Road is repaired. That’s why the three of us are going to go look for them,” said Geno.
“Geno, I have lots of dreams, you gotta do whatever you can to make ‘em come true.”
“That’s a promise!” Geno said and smiled. Gaz smiled back before running off.
“Wait a minute!” Gaz called as he left the room. A few minutes later he returned with what looked like a handful of Geno’s fingers. “Tada, it’s your finger shot! Mom doesn’t like it around the house ‘cause she thinks something will break if you use it, but it’s better than your hand cannon.”
“Thank you, Gaz. I’ll be sure to put it to good use,” Geno said as he switched out the fingers on his right hand for the finger shot. As soon as he finished the trio left the inn.
“Well, we got that taken care of. But what next? I have no idea where the rest of the Star Pieces could be,” Mario said.
“I’m not real sure, but one looked like it landed somewhere near Moleville, or maybe south of there. There’s another one west of Moleville I think, but I couldn’t see where the other two went, maybe somewhere near or around Land’s End,” Mallow said thoughtfully. Mario and Geno stared at him.
“You saw the Star Pieces fall?”
“Yeah! When that sword smashed into Bowser’s Keep I saw seven big stars fall. One near the princess’ castle, one in the Forest Maze, two near Moleville, two around Land’s End, and the last one landed in Bowser’s Keep. And then a whole bunch of tiny shooting stars started falling in big clusters, but the other ones are them, right?”
“Oh no, Bowser’s Keep? Then one of them is already in Smithy’s possession, and there’s no way to get there with the bridge out,” Mario groaned.
“Let’s not worry about that one just yet. For now we’ll concentrate on the nearest one and head for Moleville, then go from there,” Geno said as they set on down the road to Moleville. Unlike Bandit’s Way and Rose Way, there were no monsters around.
“So Mallow, how come you’re traveling with Mario?” Geno asked as they walked.
“Well, first Mario helped me get back my Frog Coin so I could run an errand for my Grandpa, and then I helped him rid the Mushroom Kingdom town of Smithy’s minions. That’s when we found the first Star Piece. After that I took him home to see Grandpa for advice and he told us about Smithy.
“But, well, after that he told me I was adopted and should join Mario on his journey to stop Smithy and find my real family, wherever they are. So that’s why we’re traveling together.”
“I’m glad that you are, you have powerful magical abilities. And I’m just sure you’ll find your family someday. If not soon, then we’ll definitely arrange it in Star Haven once we repair the Star Road,” Geno said.
Up ahead there was a pipe off the side of the path. Mallow walked over to it.
“Hey, it’s the Pipe Vault. Why don’t we check out Yo’ster Island first?” Mallow said. “It’s south of Moleville so maybe the Star Piece landed there. And it’s the only way to get there,” he quickly added.
“I suppose it couldn’t hurt. Let’s go,” Mario said as he hopped down the pipe, followed by Mallow and then Geno. Inside the path was narrow and there were more pipes all over the place. “Huh, how do we know which one it is?”
“Grandpa says it’s the last one at the end. First pipe, last pipe, easy to remember, right?”
“Yeah, that’s not bad at all. Pipe Land was a lot worse than this,” Mario said as they started forward.
As they approached piranha plants started poking their heads out of the pipes and snapped at the trio. Mario started kicking his noknok shell into them while Mallow smacked them with the froggie stick before they could get too close. Geno used his new finger shot to shoot the piranha plants from afar. Slowly they made their way to the end of the tunnel to the very last pipe.
“See you guys on the other side,” Mario said as he hopped down the pipe. Geno went next and Mallow last. Back on the surface they found themselves among a lush, tropical landscape with many yoshis and some vacationing toads as well.
“Only way to get here, huh?” Mario said as he noticed the ferry and private boats docked in the harbor. Mallow blushed a little.
“Yeah, well, we’re here aren’t we? So who should we ask first?”
“Mario!” one of the green yoshis exclaimed and rushed over to the trio. Mario grinned and shook his hand.
“Yoshi! It’s great to see you again.”
“It’s great to see you again. So what brings you and your friends out this way?”
“I was going to ask you that! I thought you lived on Yoshi’s Island.”
“I moved here a few months ago to start working for the Mushroom Derby. It pays well and I get to be closer to my friends in the Mushroom Kingdom,” Yoshi explained.
“Sounds like fun. Anyways, this is Mallow and Geno. We came here looking for Star Pieces, did you see any large stars land around here yesterday?”
“Nothing at all, sorry,” Yoshi said and frowned. “Actually, we have a problem here and don’t know what to do about it.”
“Really, what’s wrong?” Mario asked.
“You see that blue yoshi over by the racetrack?” The four of them looked and saw a blue yoshi wearing spiked bracelets and pointy sunglasses.
“Sure, what about him?”
“That’s Boshi. Normally he thinks he’s too cool to participate in the Mushroom Derby, but a few weeks ago he did, and won. According to the rules that makes him the boss of all the other racers, and the first thing he did was make a new rule: all races have to be one-on-one now.
“But the tourists don’t like one-on-one races: they’re not as fun to bet on or watch. So now people are starting to travel here less. If we don’t do something and beat Boshi the Mushroom Derby will shut down and everybody will be out of a job.”
“That shouldn’t be too hard, I always said you were the fastest dinosaur around, remember? You and me and Luigi were an unstoppable team then,” said Mario.
“But I can’t beat Boshi either, no one can,” Yoshi said.
“You just need a little confidence, that’s all. How about I ride you again, it’ll be just like old times.”
“Well, I suppose, I mean it’s not against the rules. I guess we have nothing to lose, right?”
“If anyone can help you, Mario can. And me and Geno can cheer you on, too,” Mallow piped up.
“It’s the least we can do,” Geno added. “So what do you say?”
“You guys are way too generous, thank you. Come on Mario, let’s get the race arranged right away,” Yoshi said. Mario hopped onto Yoshi’s back and they sped off for the race trace while Mallow and Geno headed for the stands.
“Look, shaved ice,” Mallow said, noticing a shaved ice stall at the stands. “I’ve always wanted to try some.”
“Me too. How about we get some?”
“Yeah!” Mallow said eagerly as they walked up to the stall.
“Welcome to Shiver City Shaved Ice, Yo’ster Island location. What can I get for you today?” the shaved ice penguin asked them.
“I’ll take a coconut shaved ice, please,” Mallow said.
“The Keel mango shaved ice sounds good, I’ll take that please,” said Geno.
“That’ll be ten Coins,” the penguin said as he made their treats. Mallow handed him the Coins. Once they had their shaved ice they found some seats in the stands among the tourists. Mallow saw mostly toads, but also other yoshis, lakitus, and few bob-ombs that appeared to be quite wealthy.
“Mmmm, it’s delicious!” Mallow said as he tried his shaved ice.
“It absolutely is,” Geno agreed. “I’m glad I finally got to try it.”
“Me too. Maybe you should open a shaved ice place back in Star Haven once we find all the Star Pieces,” Mallow suggested. Geno laughed.
“No, no, our work is with wishes, but that would be something, wouldn’t it? Ah, it looks like they’re about to start,” Geno said as Yoshi and Boshi lined up at the starting line with Mario still riding Yoshi. The whistle blew and they took off running.
“Come on, Yoshi, beat that punk!” Mallow yelled.
“Go Yoshi, you can do it!” Geno shouted.
Around the track they went, Boshi in the lead by a nose. As they went around the second curve Yoshi and Boshi were neck and neck, then Yoshi pulled ahead. Down the final straightaway the gap between them widened and Yoshi crossed the finish line more than a body length ahead.
Mallow and Geno cheered the loudest in the stands alongside the yoshis. As some of the fuss subsided they went down to the track where a small crowd had gathered around the racers.
“But we don’t need a boss,” Yoshi said as they walked up. “That’s why not only are group races back on again, from now on there won’t be any more race bosses.”
“Hmmph, if you want to be lame about racing then, go ahead. But don’t expect me to race much,” Boshi grumbled before walking away.
“You did a great job, Yoshi,” Geno said.
“Yeah, you were super fast, it was awesome,” Mallow added.
“Why don’t you come with us?” Mario asked as he hopped off his back. “You’d be a great help in our search for the Star Pieces,”
“Thanks, but I can’t. Now that group racing is back I’m needed here at the race track for now. But someday we’ll team up again for sure,”
“Yeah, definitely. We need to get going now, but if you ever need anything just ask,” Mario said.
“Goodbye Mario, Mallow, Geno. It was nice meeting you. Good luck finding the Star Pieces!” Yoshi said as he waved goodbye. The trio waved before heading back down into the Pipe Vault.
“So I guess the Star Piece must be somewhere near Moleville, then,” Mallow said as they walked back through the Pipe Vault. “I hope you don’t think we wasted time going to Yo’ster Island.
“Naw, just seeing Yoshi again was worth it, not to mention the Mushroom Derby is obviously important to the island. I’m glad we got to help them out.”
“Helping others is always worth it,” Geno said as they exited the pipe and arrived back at the road to Moleville. “Even if Smithy wasn’t involved, even if we didn’t get a Star Piece, it was still worth it. It’s what granting wishes is all about.”
“I didn’t mean to make it seem helping Yoshi was unimportant. I’m just worried about the rest of the Star Pieces. What if Smithy gets them first?”
“We already plan on taking him out, right? And we know he has one of them already, too. The way I see it it’s not too different from rescuing Toadstool from Bowser.”
“But you’re used to fighting Bowser, though,” Mallow pointed out. “You know what to expect from him. We don’t know anything about Smithy.”
“Yeah, but there was a first time I had to fight Bowser, too. I didn’t know what to expect then, and still won, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, I guess so, huh?”
“Just focus on one thing at a time,” Geno said. “And right now that’s just getting to Moleville and finding out where the Star Piece landed.”
As they talked the land got more rugged and the vegetation grew sparse the closer they got to Moleville Mountain until at last they reached the foothills, and arrived in Moleville. Mallow looked around as they stepped into town. There was not a single mole to be seen among the low built houses.
“That’s weird, there’s nobody here. Even on a workday there’s still moles working in town. I wonder where everyone went.”
“I wouldn’t say there’s nobody around, look over there,” Geno said and pointed near the entrance to the coal mines. Bowser was standing there surrounded by a few of his minions. That’s strange, he looks worried, Mallow thought.
“C’mon, let’s hear what they’re saying,” Mario said as he ducked behind a building close to the mine entrance. Geno and Mallow joined him as well and listened.
“Bowser, most of the troops have deserted us. What’ll we do?” one minion asked.
“We’ve only had experience fighting Mario! These new guys are too much for us!” another minion said.
“Everybody just shut up!” Bowser stamped the ground. “I’m the biggest, baddest boss around and don’t you forget it! But if Mario hears I’ve been kicked out of my own castle, my reputation will be ruined! And if you think only my kids are in trouble for letting Smithy take it over, just you wait for what I have in mind for everybody that doesn’t help me take it back! So let’s go show ‘em who’s the real boss of the Mushroom Kingdom! Move out!”
Bowser snapped his fingers and he and his dwindling troops marched out of Moleville. Once they were gone Mario turned to the others.
“So they’re having trouble fighting the Smithy Gang. I can’t say that doesn’t surprise me.”
“Do you think that means the rest of them are a lot tougher than Mack and Bowyer?” Mallow asked.
“Hard to say, Bowser and the Koopa Troop aren’t nearly as strong as they think. Come on, let’s see if there’s at least someone in the item shop.”
The trio headed into the item shop, where there was one mole woman behind the counter, as well as the town’s children.
“C’mon in, don’t be shy,” the mole woman said. “Everyone’s up on the mountain, but I’m stuck mindin’ the store and the kids.”
“Why, what’s going on? Where is everyone?” Geno asked.
“It’s an emergency! A shootin’ star crashed into the mountain and Dyna ‘n little Mite are trapped in the mines!” one of the mole children said.
“Oh no! Are they okay?” Mallow asked.
“We dunno yet, nobody can get in ‘cause the entrance collapsed,” the mole woman explained. “What, what can I getcha?”
“Three mushrooms and six maple syrups to start. What do you have for gear?”
The group examined what the shop had to offer. Mario selected a new glove for punching while Mallow picked out a set of cymbals. Geno decided not to get another set of finger shot fingers but did agree to a new cape, as Mario and Mallow got new clothes as well. Once Mario paid for everything and everybody changed into their new gear they set off for the entrance to the coal mines.
“So the Star Piece crashed into Moleville Mountain,” Geno said. “If the moles can’t get in, then Smithy’s followers can’t either: it’s still in there.”
“But if nobody can get in, how will we?” Mallow asked. Before either of them could answer a couple of mole women came down from farther up the mountain.
“If I’d kept diggin’ another minute my claws woulda fallen off,” one of the mole women said.
“Me too, I just can’t keep up with any of ‘em. But they’re still goin’ strong up there.”
The trio walked past the mole women and into the mines. Just inside the entrance the path ended, blocked by a partial cave-in. A mole woman paced around while two mole men were digging through the fallen rocks.
“Oh dear, I sure hope my kids are okay…,” she said worriedly.
“I know you’re mighty worried, but mopin’ ‘round here ain’t gonna help a thing. Why doncha wait at home for some news?” one of the mole men suggested.
“I suppose I should…. Please, come get me the moment you find ‘em,” Ma Mole said as she left the mines.
“I know it’s what I told her, but I don’t think I’d be feelin’ any different if I was in her shoes,” the mole man said after Ma Mole had left.
“And we ain’t makin’ much progress either,” the other mole said. “If only we could reach the old entrance up there. Then we could get to the kids and get ‘em out.”
“I wish that Mario fellow were here. He could jump up there in a heartbeat.”
“Wish granted!” Mario said as he hopped forward. “My friends and I heard the news and came to save Dyna and Mite.”
“Well, I’ll be a goomba’s uncle! Mario, you’re a lifesaver!” one of the mole men said.
“But, how can we get up there?” Mallow asked. “Geno and I can’t jump like you can.”
“We’ll lift ya up,” the other mole said. “Mario can pull you up the rest of the way.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Mario said as he jumped on the ledge. The two mole men lifted Mallow and Geno as high as they could, allowing Mario to pull them up to the ledge as well. “Keep on digging through the rock fall,” Mario called down to the moles once everyone was safely up there. “We’ll need a way back through here once we find Dyna and Mite.”
“Send Pa Mole back this way once you find him,” one of the moles called back. “If he starts diggin’ on the other end we’ll break through faster.”
Mario nodded and the trio dropped down the other side of the rock fall. Fortunately there were lanterns hanging from the walls that illuminated the mine tunnels. Nobody else seemed to be around as they started down the tunnel.
As Mallow walked into a new room a pile of rocks fell onto his head, knocking him out. As he came to a familiar pair of clawed feet were standing in front of him.
“C’mon, we got all their crap and their Coins, let’s get outta here!” Croco said to his three underlings. Together the four of them sped off deeper into the mines.
“No! Get back here you no-good thief!” Mario yelled after them.
“We have to get back our things!” Mallow said as he got up, rubbing his head a little. “If we beat Croco once we can do it again.”
“You guys know that reptile?” Geno asked.
“Croco’s the jerk who stole my Frog Coin yesterday,” Mallow explained as they took off down the tunnel after Croco.
“He’d stolen a lot of things from the toads in Mushroom Kingdom town too,” Mario added. “Mallow and I chased him down and got everything back. With you here now as well taking him on again should be a snap.”
Up ahead one of Croco’s three underlings was getting up after tripping. Seeing the trio approach he flung a punch at Mario who countered with one of his own. The junior crook dropped his bag and ran off crying. The group checked the bag, but it only contained rocks.
“Come on,” Mario said. “Croco isn’t nearly as fast as he thinks he is. We can still stop him.”
Setting off down the tunnel again they soon found Croco setting a bomb in front of another rockfall, ignoring the tunnel branching off to the right.
“Heh heh, I always carry a bomb,” he told the two remaining underlings as he lit and stood back. “Never leave home without ‘em!”
The bomb went off, clearing away the rockfall without further damage to the tunnel. Croco took off through the smoke and dust just before the trio could reach them, but the two underlings were slower. Mallow smashed one on the head with his cymbals while Geno used his finger shot on the other. Like the third crook, they too dropped their bags and fled in tears.
“Just rocks,” Mallow said as he checked one of the bags.
“Same here,” Geno said as he looked into the other one. “Croco must not have trusted them with our goods or Coins.”
They set off down the tunnel again, but didn’t get very far before suddenly finding themselves back in the same room Croco and his underlings knocked them out in.
“WHOA!” Croco suddenly said from behind and crashed into the group. Without hesitating Mario punched Croco while Geno used finger shot to shoot him. Mallow meanwhile began to quickly charge up a thunderbolt. “How did they manage to catch me like that?” flowed into Mallow’s head in Croco’s voice just as he unleashed thunderbolt.
H-huh? What was that? I didn’t think that, Mallow thought to himself as he smashed his cymbals on Croco’s head while he was stunned from the electrical attack.
Mario used the opportunity to start shooting fireballs at Croco, but that wasn’t enough to stop him from clawing Geno. Croco then started slashing at Mario, who got in another punch. Croco retaliated by smacking him with his tail.
“I might’ve underestimated ya last time, but you won’t beat me twice-yeoch!” Geno shot Croco again while Mallow smashed his cymbals on Croco’s head. Croco snarled and bit Mallow, but let go with a yelp when Mario started jumping repeatedly on his head.
“Okayokayokay FINE! You can keep your stupid crap, just let me go!” Croco yelled and dumped the contents of his bag out. Mario jumped off of his head and Croco immediately took off for the entrance of the mines. As he ran by Mallow swore he was crying.
“Alright, we got everything back!” Mallow cheered while jumping up and down.
“Plus extra, look,” Mario said and held up a bomb. “Croco must’ve forgotten he still had it when he emptied his bag. If we encounter any other cave-ins we can use this to blast our way through.”
“Let’s head back to the fork in the tunnels and see where that leads. Maybe Dyna and the Star Piece are down that way,” Geno suggested.
“Wait,” Mallow said. “Let me heal us first, in case there are monsters back there.” Mallow concentrated and used healing rain on the group. This time Mallow didn’t hear anything. That’s weird. Maybe I just imagined I heard Croco’s voice before.
Once the last rain drop had fallen the group backtracked to the fork and took the tunnel on the right, entering a new room. A cave in blocked the exit, with a mole man trying to dig his way through.
“Huh?” he said as he realized the group had entered the room. “Oh! Aren’t you Mario? How did you get here?”
“We came in to rescue the kids using the old entrance. Are you Pa Mole?”
“Sure am. My kids are somewhere behind this rock fall, but I can’t seem to dig through. Maybe if the three of you helped we’ll get through yet.”
“Why don’t we do something better than that?” Mario suggested as he handed Pa Mole the bomb Croco dropped.
“Why, that’s perfect! Stand back and I’ll get this thing lit.”
Mallow took several steps back with the others while Pa Mole carefully lit the bomb. Pa Mole quickly stepped back with the others and the bomb went off. When the dust cleared Mallow could see they’d blasted their way through the rocks.
“If we follow the tunnel we’ll find Dyna and Mite eventually. Let’s mosey along now.”
“Why don’t you leave this to us? The moles at the entrance specifically asked me to tell you to go back and help them dig through on this side,” Mario told Pa Mole.
“Well, if that’s the case I’d better get goin’ then. I’ll tell Ma you’re lookin’ for the kids when I get through.”
Pa turned and headed back toward the entrance while the trio went deeper into the mines. Up ahead a couple of bob-ombs marched towards them.
“Yikes! Get them before they explode,” Geno said as he quickly shot one. Mario punched the other; fortunately both of them were defeated before they could explode.
“There’s another one!” Mallow said when a third one appeared. As fast as he could he smashed his cymbals on it, defeating it as well. “I hope there aren’t any more, this could get really dangerous.”
“If that’s the case, we have a problem,” Geno said as he peered into the next room. “Look!”
Inside the room dozens of bob-ombs wandered around under the direction of a large, purple bomb with arms and legs. Mallow gulped.
“All those bob-ombs could bring down half the mountain if they explode,” Mallow whispered.
“We don’t have a choice, we have to rescue Dyna and Mite and find the Star Piece,” Geno whispered back. “If he wants a confrontation, then we’ll just have to fight carefully. Come on.”
Mario and Geno walked into the room with Mallow nervously following behind them. The purple bomb turned to them as they approached and smirked.
“Good day, the name’s Nello…Punchinello!”
“Punchinello? Can’t say I’ve ever heard of you,” Mallow said.
“They say I’m a hothead, but I’ll show them!”
“Who says you’re a hothead?” Mario asked.
“You! You three will make me famous! So long!” Punchinello exclaimed and snapped his fingers. At his cue micro bob-ombs started marching toward the trio.
“We’ll see about that!” Geno said as he used his finger shot on the micro bob-ombs, safely taking them out in one go.
“Not bad, not bad. But let’s up the ante!” Punchinello snapped his fingers. This time regular bob-ombs started marching into battle.
Mario jumped over and carefully started punching the bob-ombs while Mallow used his cymbals on them. “Yikes!” Mallow exclaimed when the fuse of one of them lit up. Mallow kicked it away from the others and fortunately it didn’t set off the others when it exploded. Geno finished up the last of them using finger shot.
“Grrr…all right! Now it’s clobbering time!” Punchinello snapped his fingers and the last three bob-ombs, large mezzo bob-ombs, marched over.
“One for each of us. We can do it!” Geno said as he started shooting at one. Mallow ran up to one of the others and smashed it with his cymbals, but the mezzo bob-omb didn’t seem affected. No good…I’ll have to use thunderbolt, but carefully, Mallow thought and began to charge up energy. “I’ll beat ‘em for the boss!” flowed into his mind as he did so.
I didn’t imagine it! Mallow realized as he used thunderbolt on the mezzo bob-omb. I’m reading minds! As long as I’m directing my power at someone when I’m charging up, I can read their mind! Mallow smashed the mezzo bob-omb with his cymbals a second time, defeating it. Mallow looked around; Mario and Geno had defeated their mezzo bob-ombs as well.
“Argh!” Punchinello yelled. “I can’t believe I have to use it on these worthless nobodies!”
“You’re bluffing,” Mallow said. “There aren’t any more bob-ombs left.”
“Quiet, fluffy! You guys aren’t worth wasting it on!”
“Then why don’t you take your best shot?” Geno said.
“We can handle anything you throw at us,” Mario added.
“Then you leave me no choice!” Punchinello said, and then jumped. Nothing happened. “Huh? What the heck?” Punchinello started jumping up and down. “Why isn’t this work-ACK!” A massive bob-omb, bigger than all the others combined, fell through the ceiling and onto Punchinello.
“Oh no!” Mallow exclaimed. “If this thing blows up we’re history!”
“This is a fine mess we wound up in!” Geno said. “Maybe if no one touches it-” Before Geno could finish a small rock fell onto the massive bob-omb, lighting it’s wick.
“Oh crap!” Mario yelled. “Take cover, QUICK!” The three of them dove behind a nearby boulder just before it exploded. No, we’re dead, we’re all dead! Huh…? All three of them survived, though covered in soot.
“Thank the stars! I thought we were dead for sure,” Mallow sighed with relief.
“Speaking of stars, where are Dyna and the Star Piece?” Geno asked. Something in the ceiling cracked, and seconds later an orange Star Piece fell through the ceiling and landed right before them. “…Well. I guess that answers one question,” Geno smiled.
Like the previous two, this one circled around them as well, though not only did Mallow feel his injuries heal but the soot disappeared as well. With one final spin it fell into Mario’s hands, and the third Star Piece was theirs.
“Come on,” Mario said. “Dyna and Mite have to be around here somewhere.” They walked into the room Punchinello was guarding and saw a mole girl with a mole baby strapped to her back trying to push a mine cart.
“Ugh, stupid cart, move already!” she said as she gave it a shove, but it didn’t budge an inch.
“Dyna!” Mallow exclaimed and ran over. “Are you okay?”
“Hiya Mallow! Did you get trapped in here, too? I didn’t know your Grandpa took you to Moleville yesterday,” Dyna said. Mallow shook his head.
“No, I came to rescue you with Mario and Geno,” Mallow said, gesturing to the other two.
“Really? Neat! If we can get this mine cart goin’ we can get out in a jiffy!”
“You kids get in the cart,” Mario told them. “Geno and I will get this thing moving and then hop in with you.”
Mallow and Dyna climbed into the cart and stood in the front while Mario and Geno started pushing on the cart. Slowly it began moving, and once it picked up enough speed Mario and Geno jumped in, Mario standing in the front with the kids while Geno stood in the back, gripping the sides of the cart. A sharp slope down in the track appeared up ahead.
“Alright kids,” Mario said. “When we go over the drop, be sure to throw your hands in the air and scream!”
“Yeah!” Mallow and Dyna exclaimed together. Oh my gosh this is going to be awesome!
“What? No, Mario, we need to hold on tight at all times!” Geno nervously said just before the cart hit the slope and dropped.
Mallow, Dyna, and Mario ignored Geno and flung their arms in the air while screaming with delight. The mine cart increased its speed significantly as it went down the twisting track, left, right, right, left again, straight, down another drop, right again. This is so much fun, I love it! We have to do it again!
On the crazy mine track went, a small dot of light indicating the exit appearing up ahead. Gradually the light got bigger and brighter until quite suddenly they burst out of the mountain…and right off the track!
“Oh no! Everybody hold on!” Geno yelled from the back. This time Mallow did grab onto the cart and held on tight, bracing himself for impact. The mine cart smashed through a roof and landed in the middle of a mole living room.
“We’re home!” Dyna announced as she hopped out of the cart.
“Gracious! They really did drop in on us!” Ma Mole exclaimed and rushed over. “Oh, my poor babies! Are you okay? Is little Mite hurt?”
“Naw, we’re fine, we had fun! Right Mallow?”
“Right!” Mallow said as he climbed out of the cart with Mario and Geno. Mite laughed in agreement with the other two.
“He’s been knocked senseless! My poor baby, you’re safe now,” Ma Mole said as she lifted him out of the carrier before turning her attention to Dyna. “Dyna! Haven’t I told you a million times to never go in the mines?! Look how dangerous it is!”
“That’s enough now, Ma,” Pa Mole said, stepping in. “Just be happy to have ‘em back.” He turned to the trio and shook everyone’s hands. “Thank you so much, you three. You did a fine job at rescuing them!”
“I’m so embarrassed. We can’t thank you enough for everythin’!” Ma Mole said.
“Listen, about the roof-” Mario started to say but Ma Mole shook her head.
“Naw, that don’t matter none, right?”
“It ain’t nothin’ at all! You just leave the repairs to me. If any of you need repairs, just give me a holler sometime. Thanks again for bringing home our babies.” Mallow smiled at his kind words, but couldn’t help from feeling a sad pang in his chest. I wonder…will I ever get to hear my parents thank Mario for bringing me home too?
“It was no trouble at all. Be sure to take care.”
“Bye Mallow!” Dyna waved. “Come back and play sometime, okay? We’ll go on another mine cart ride!”
“You bet!” Mallow waved back. “That sounds like a ton of fun!”
The trio exited the mole house and into a brilliant sunset. Mario stretched and sighed.
“What a long day! Come on; let’s go check in at the inn and rest.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” Geno agreed. “Maybe somebody there saw where one of the other three Star Pieces fell.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Mallow said. “Sooo, before we go to the inn, how about we go on another mine cart ride? It was so much fun!”
“Ah, no,” Geno said. “Once was more than enough.”
“That was a lot of fun, yeah,” Mario said. “But I agree with Geno, once was enough.”
“Aw, c’mon!” Mallow followed the others. “You guys are no fun!”
“Nine hundred ninety-seven! Nine hundred ninety-eight! Nine hundred ninety-nine! One thousand aeros! Nya ha ha ha! For cover they run, tears they cry, fun this is!”
“Woo-hoo! They’re standing just like statues!” the aero flunkies laughed and hopped with their boss. “Bowyer is the best, better than all the rest!”
“H-holy-! What is that?!”
Mallow watched in horror as the sword directly struck Bowser’s Keep with a powerful crash. The ground beneath his feet shook strongly enough that Mallow actually fell over. Then, something else started to fall from the sky.
They were stars, actual shooting stars. One of them, Mallow saw, looked like it fell somewhere near the town. The others fell to the west, one in the forest, two in the vicinity of Moleville and Booster’s Tower. The others fell farther to the west and Mallow couldn’t see where they landed. The final one crashed into Bowser’s Keep. Other smaller stars began to fall in large clusters behind them as well.
Grandpa is going to be so happy with this cricket pie Mallow thought as he walked out of the item shop, carrying it in a box. I just hope he’ll understand about it took so long.
“Ready to go?” Mario asked him.
“Yup,” he said while putting the box in a pocket. “Did you finish returning everything Croco stole?”
“Every last one. Come on, let’s get going.”
It was still a beautiful day as they set off down the path towards Tadpole Pond. A light breeze moderated the warm air, making it much more bearable for travel. Just going by the weather it’s hard to believe anything bad has happened today, let alone three times. I really hope nothing else happens.
“Wait,” Mallow stopped Mario after they’d traveled for a while. “I know a shortcut near here that we can take. It’ll save us a lot of time, come on,”
Mallow led Mario off the path and pushed his way through some bushes. In the center of this small clearing was one of the Mushroom Kingdom’s famous pipes.
“This is the entrance to Kero Sewers. It’s dark and a bit smelly, but it’s pretty safe down there. Grandpa always says to watch out for someone named ‘Belome’, though.”
“Belome is probably just some shady salesman, I wouldn’t worry. We’ll be just fine; places like this are my specialty you know.”
Mario jumped onto the pipe and disappeared down it. Mallow climbed on top and followed suit. Down below it was much cooler and quieter. Mario was looking around.
“I dunno, we might have to look out for monsters here, too.”
“I’ve only ever seen a few, and they were just little rat funks. They ran when they saw me, too.”
“Even so, we’d better keep our guard up.”
They started to trek through the dank tunnels alongside the water. Mallow couldn’t hear anything except the gurgle of water and their own footsteps. Mario is just a little paranoid. There isn’t anyone else down here except maybe a couple of rat-
A boo swooped low over their heads, cackling loudly. It turned around and flew right at them, this time joined by a shadow creature.
“Oh no, I don’t think physical attacks work on ghosts!” Mallow said as he braced himself for their attack.
“Then I’ll just use my fire orb on them,” Mario cracked his knuckles and blasted them with the same fireballs he used on Croco. Both ghosts dissolved back into nothingness.
“Boy, I thought they had us for sure.”
“You don’t need an invitation to attack, you know,” Mario said as they started down the tunnels again. “Just go for it. The worst that’ll happen is you miss.”
“But it’s all wet down here. If I use my thunderbolt I might shock both of us.”
“Mallow, you don’t give yourself enough credit,” Mario laughed and used another fire orb on another boo that had just appeared. “I saw you use it on the shysters and not that toad family earlier. And you didn’t think you could use it and dodge Mack’s attacks at the same time either, but you did.”
“But that’s different. The toads weren’t standing in puddles of water.”
“So? Just use your healing rain and we’ll be as good as new.”
Around the corner a small pack of rat funks charged at the duo. Mario whacked two of them into the water using his hammer. Mallow managed to punch a third although he got nipped in the process. The rest of the pack turned and fled back down the tunnel, disappearing into the darkness.
“Yeah, no big deal. I don’t understand why there are so many monsters, though. This has never been a problem before.”
“I blame that sword,” Mario’s eyes narrowed as he spoke. “You did see it sticking out of Bowser’s Keep, I assume,”
“It’s kinda hard to miss. It’s really scary, too. I got a really bad feeling from that sword.”
“Tell me about it.”
Out of the darkness a strange object loomed. Cautiously approaching it they found it was a large green floor switch.
“That’s weird, I’ve never seen this thing before,” Mallow said as he inspected the switch. “I wonder what it’s for.”
“Only one way to find out,” Mario stepped onto the switch and at once all of the water drained from the tunnels. Down where the water used to run was a very slimy pipe.
“Wow, I never noticed that pipe down there before. Do you think we should try it out?”
“Absolutely, let’s go.”
Mallow and Mario jumped into the empty channel and down the previously-hidden pipe. The other end dropped them into a very long tunnel. Before them, in front of a great metal gate an odd yellow creature slept. It looked like a bipedal dog with red runes.
“I bet this thing is Belome,” Mallow whispered to Mario.
“Are you sure?” Mario whispered back.
“No, but who else could it be?” Mallow stifled a giggle and pointed at Belome’s face. “Wow, is that a fire hose or his tongue?” Mario started to chuckle as well, until Belome’s four eyes shot open. Oh shoot! We woke him up!
“So hungry…. I need a snack. And you look very tasty,” Belome started to move towards them.
“Why don’t you eat this?” Mario used fire orb and blasted Belome with several fireballs. Mallow rushed forward and pummeled Belome with several punches, but he didn’t even seem fazed. Rather, he focused on Mallow and started to drool.
“Oh my, room service is so kind. Giant marshmallow for lunch. Where’s my bib?” Belome started to lick Mallow. Mallow yelled and ran.
“I’m not anybody’s lunch, you jerk!”
Mario jumped into the air and whacked Belome on the head using his hammer. Belome turned and slapped Mario with his tongue.
“Get your own food,” Belome snarled and slapped him again. Mario started to shoot more fireballs, however Belome didn’t seem to even notice them. Mallow ran forward charging and unleashed thunderbolt on him. Belome paused and turned back to Mallow again.
“Oh, I can’t stand it anymore,” he moaned. “The hunger, the hunger!” Belome’s tongue lashed out and wrapped around Mallow. Mallow screamed as Belome then withdrew his tongue and sucked Mallow into his mouth!
“NOOOO!” Mallow yelled and thrashed around, but Belome didn’t seem to react. This is it, I’m gonna die! He’s going to eat me and there’s nothing I can do and Grandpa will- Mallow suddenly collided with the ground, free from Belome’s mouth.
“Mallow, are you alright?” Mario asked as he jumped off of Belome’s head.
“I think so, but that was really scary!”
“Even though you defeated me, you still haven’t beaten me,” Belome said. “Beware the flood.” With a large poof Belome vanished. The large gate before them immediately began to rise; all the water they had drained earlier was released and the duo was swept away.
Mallow struggled but managed to reach the surface. Mario popped up beside him a few seconds later.
“Mario, we gotta get out of here before we go over Midas Falls!”
“I think it’s already too late!” Mario pointed at the growing bright light ahead of them. Moments later they went flying out of the tunnel and down Midas Falls. This feels…familiar.
After what seemed liked minutes of falling Mallow landed in the water with a small splash. He swam away from the turbulent waters of the waterfall and surfaced in calmer waters. As Mallow started to head for the shore Mario swam up beside him.
“Mallow, remind me to never take one of your shortcuts ever again,” Mario said as he pulled himself onto dry land carrying a green koopa shell. Mallow laughed and climbed ashore too.
“I thought that was kinda fun, actually. So what’s with the shell?”
“Something I found in the water. It seems to be full of Coins,” Mario shook the shell and a large handful of coins fell out.
“Wow, that’s really lucky! Great find, Mario.”
“Thanks,” Mario smiled and pocketed the Coins. When he finished he studied the shell and kicked it into a tree trunk with a nok. “I can use this ‘noknok’ shell too. It’ll make a good weapon. So, how much farther do we have to go?”
“Mario, we’re already there,” Mallow laughed. “Come on, its right over here.”
Mallow led Mario around the edge of the pond to a small clearing at the shore’s edge. Just as they stepped up a tadpole poked its head out of the water.
“Mallow, you’re back! We’ve heard about all your adventures with Super Mario. You guys just beat up Belome, didn’t you?”
“You already know about that?” Mallow asked. The tadpole nodded and Mallow turned to Mario. “You see Mario? The waterways of the world bring news to us here. That’s why Grandpa will know how to help you.”
“Wait, you’re the Super Mario?” the tadpole asked Mario.
“You bet I am, little guy. Nice to meet you.”
“Oh my gosh! Hey everybody!” the tadpole called out. “You’ll never believe who’s here!”
Seven more tadpoles surfaced and started to chatter when they saw Mario.
“Wow, it really is Mario!”
“He doesn’t look anything like I thought he would,”
“Mallow always says about how he jumps better than a froggie. Do you suppose it’s true?”
“Of course it is,” Mallow said. “Why don’t you show them?”
“Heh, no problem,” Mario jumped high in the air and landed with a dramatic pose. The tadpoles cheered and even Mallow couldn’t help but to grin.
“Well young grasshopper, what’s new?” Frogfucius called out from the island.
“Grandpa!” Mallow waved as the tadpoles dove back underwater. “I met Mario and he helped me, then I helped him!”
“Yes, child, I know. That rainstorm we had earlier was you, wasn’t it?”
Mallow bowed his head in shame just as he heard muttering over on the island. Even Grandpa is fed up with my crying all the time.
“Mario,” Mallow whispered. “Grandpa is going to pretend to float, so act like he really is okay?”
“Sure,” Mario whispered back just as Frogfucius started to “float” over to them, thanks to a little help from Lakitu.
“Welcome to Tadpole Pond! You are Mario, yes? I am young Mallow’s grandfather, Frogfucius. So you’ve come to seek my wisdom and knowledge. It is true that many things reach me out here. Come along to our little island sanctuary and we’ll talk there.
“Tadpoles!” Frogfucius called out as he floated away. “Make yourselves useful and form a bridge for Mario and Mallow so they don’t have to get any wetter.”
At his words the tadpoles lined up between the shore and the island, allowing Mario as well as Mallow to hop across. Frogfucius was already sitting at the table and beckoned them to join him.
“Please, feel free to make yourself at home and enjoy a cold drink. You too, Mallow. You have definitely earned this after everything you accomplished today.”
While they sat down Frogfucius pulled out two cans of Kerokero Cola that had been chilled in the cool pond waters, handing one to Mario and the other to Mallow. Mallow gulped down most of his at once and then kicked back.
“Hmmm, let’s see, where should I start…? That Smithy creature that just showed up at Bowser’s Keep is quite formidable, yes? And you want to rescue the fair princess from him, do you not?”
“Of course,” Mario replied. “I won’t allow anybody to hold Princess Toadstool captive.”
“Ah, but the thing is, the princess is no longer there.”
“But, how can that be? Bowser kidnapped her just this morning, I saw her there myself.”
“Allow me to explain,” Frogfucius said. “Just as you defeated Bowser, just as you were about to rescue Princess Toadstool, that massive sword split the sky and slammed into Bower’s Keep!” Frogfucius leapt onto the table as he spoke. “Well, you weren’t the only one sent flying; Princess Toadstool and even Bowser were ejected as well. Both of them landed here, in the western reaches of the Mushroom Kingdom, but at this time I don’t know where they are.”
Frogfucius jumped off the table and paced around a little. “I can tell you wish to search for the princess right away, but stopping Smithy should be your top priority. Already his underlings are wreaking havoc in our peaceful world. You both already defeated one of them, the vile Mack. Unfortunately, more are certain to come. Some have already arrived.”
“Grandpa!” Mallow interrupted. “I almost forgot. Right after we beat Mack we found a great big star in the princess’ castle. Do you know what it was, and where it came from?”
“A star? Most interesting,” Frogfucius stroke his beard for a minute before speaking again. “This may seem like an illogical fairytale, but I am certain that the stars play a vital role in granting our wishes. They will be very important in the fight against Smithy for our world.”
“Everything sounds so dire and serious, Mario,” Mallow drained the rest of his can before speaking again. “If Mack was just the first of many I bet some of them will make Bowser seem kind and caring.”
“Mallow, how can you speak as though none of this concerns you?” Frogfucius scolded Mallow. “You will be accompanying Mario on his journey to stop Smithy. Your powerful abilities will be most useful in saving our world.”
“Grandpa, you can’t be serious! I’m just a simple little frog. This quest isn’t for me. How can a frog possibly help a famous hero like Mario?”
Frogfucius sighed and looked down, a pained expression on his face. When he spoke again he avoided looking directly at Mallow.
“Mallow, my boy, I’ve kept this from you until now, but you’re…not a frog of any sort!”
“Say what?!” all of the pond’s inhabitants exclaimed, though none as loud as Mallow. If he hadn’t been already sitting he’d have surely fallen over. N-no! How can this possibly be?!
“It was a rainy summer day nearly ten years ago,” Frogfucius began. “I was eating a cricket snack when a basket came down Midas Falls. I was shocked to find a baby inside and pulled him out of the water. I was relieved to see the baby was alive, though I had never seen anything like him before. Nor could I understand why he had been sent down the river as he had otherwise been clearly well cared for.
“Not knowing what else to do I decided to raise him as my own grandchild and called him ‘Mallow’, for that was the name that was engraved on his belt. Every year we celebrate that day as your birthday. I told you that you were a frog so you would fit in here, despite your unusual power over the weather.”
“I-I-I was a-adopted? N-now I know why you h-hate me and w-want me g-gone…. M-my whole life here is a lie!” Mallow’s face crumpled as his eye’s welled up; overhead clouds rapidly gathered and grew dark. But before he could fully break down crying Frogfucius stamped the ground, snatching back Mallow’s attention and shooing away the rest of the pond’s inhabitants.
“Mallow!” he said angrily. “Now is not the time to cry. I most certainly don’t hate you. Why, I couldn’t love you any more if you really were my grandson. I’m telling you all of this because I want you to find your mother and father. They’re out there, somewhere, but you’ll never find them if you stay here at Tadpole Pond. Nor will you be happy here forever. Surely you must have noticed your struggle to fit in as of late. That is why I want you to accompany Mario.”
Mallow wiped his eyes and sniffed. “O-okay. I’ll do my best to stop being a crybaby and I’ll go with Mario, if he’ll have me.”
“Of course I will,” Mario smiled. “You were very good at fighting Croco, and Mack and the shysters. I think we make a great team. Smithy won’t stand a chance against the two of us.”
“Then it’s settled,” Frogfucius said. “Your first stop is Rose Town. The townsfolk are in trouble thanks to Smithy’s underlings. You must help them.”
Mallow nodded and stood up. “Before I forget, I brought back the cricket pie you wanted Grandpa. I’m sure it’s still alright even after that encounter with Belome,” Mallow pulled out the box containing the cricket pie and set it on the table.
“Ah, I had forgotten all about why you had gone out in the first place, Mallow,” Frogfucius rummaged through his dresser until he pulled out a hand carved staff. “This is my old froggie stick. I made and used this when I was your age. Please take it with you,” Frogfucius handed Mallow the staff.
“Thanks Grandpa. I promise I won’t let you down.”
“I know you won’t. Farewell Mallow, Mario. May the stars be with you!”
“Goodbye Frogfucius, thanks for all your advice,” Mario shook the old frog’s hand before jumping back across the tadpole bridge. Mallow quickly hugged Frogfucius and followed Mario, successfully blinking back tears.
“Bye Grandpa! Take care!”
“So how are you doing?” Mario asked as they set off down Rose Way.
“Um, okay, I guess.” How do you think I’m doing?! “But, well, even though what Grandpa said was true about fitting in lately, this is all I’ve known my whole life. But now I feel lost. I don’t know who I am or where I come from anymore.” Mallow looked down; it was hard to keep from crying.
“You’re still a good fighter and the same kind boy that I left the castle with. And don’t worry too much about finding your family. I’ll help you find them no matter, what, okay?” Mallow nodded and managed to smile, feeling a little better. Up above the clouds began to break up, the sunny day returning once more. “So, how far is it to Rose Town?”
“It’s not far; we’ll be there in no time.”
Out of the bushes up ahead a trio of shy guys popped out and started firing their slingshots at them. Ignoring the pebbles bopping him on the head Mallow whacked one using the froggie stick while Mario jumped on one and kicked the noknok shell into the other. With both of his companions unconscious the third one fled back into the bushes.
“That’s interesting; this one feels a lot softer than the shyster did.”
“Those weren’t shy guys, not real shy guys anyways. They were made out of metal, just like Mack was,” said Mario.
“Metal?” Mallow said as he took out a group of star slaps with thunderbolt. “That’s pretty creepy. I wonder who made them.”
“Smithy’s contractor, I guess. If he can make as many minions as he wants I can understand why Frogfucius wants taking out Smithy our top priority. They could easily conquer the entire Mushroom World through sheer numbers if we don’t do something right away.”
“That won’t happen. I mean, you’re super!”
Mario smiled, but quickly pulled Mallow back from a bend in the path up ahead.
“Shh!” Mario whispered and Mallow realized a gruff sounding person was speaking up ahead.
“Attention, koopa warriors, magikoopa sorcerers, and last but certainly not least, groundling goombas! The Koopa Troop is invincible, we will be victorious. They might have taken down the bridge, but I don’t care that we have to go the long way; we’ll find a way back into my keep no matter what! Move out, on the double! And I mean step on it!”
Mallow heard marching fade into the distance and turned back to Mario. “Was that-”
“Bowser, yeah. So Smithy really did kick him out of his keep. If they’re not working together that’s good for us. Smithy and all these monsters running about are bad enough.”
Mallow led Mario past the clearing and into Rose Town, but something was wrong: everybody was just standing still. And arrows were falling around town.
“Excuse me sir,” Mallow walked up to the nearest toad. “Is everything okay? What’s going on?”
“It’s these arrows that have been coming out of the forest all afternoon. When you get hit you freeze up and can’t move a muscle,” the toad man sadly explained to the duo.
“It happened shortly after that star fell into the forest,” another toad piped up. “Please help me. I have to go chop wood in the forest.”
“Yeah, I wanted to play outside. Standing here is sooo boring!” a toad child added.
“This must be what Grandpa meant when he said Rose Town is in trouble. We’re going to help them, right?” Mallow quietly asked Mario.
“Absolutely; we’ll head out into the forest first thing in the morning.”
“Huh? Why can’t we help them right now?”
“Because that looks like a pretty big forest, and there’s only a few good hours of sunlight left. It’s going to get dark in the forest real quick and believe me; we don’t want to be wandering around in there after dark. Not to mention there’s been a pretty big storm brewing in the west since that sword fell,” Mario nodded at the thunderhead towering over what Mallow guessed to be the Land’s End area. “If that comes this way we definitely don’t want to be outside when it hits.”
“I guess that makes sense. I just hope everyone will be okay until morning,” Mallow said as Mario led them to the inn. As they walked inside Mallow saw a younger toad boy playing with Mario, Bowser, and Princess Toadstool toys while his mom tended to the pot on the stove nearby.
“Oh no, Mario, save me!” the boy said as he held Toadstool in one hand. “Bwa ha ha! I have the princess, Mario, and you can’t stop me!” he said as he held Bowser in his other hand. The boy set Toadstool down and grabbed the Mario toy.
“Don’t worry princess, I’ll save you! Super Duper Mega Jump!” The boy simulated Mario jumping on Bowser’s head. Then he hit the Mario toy with Bowser and threw it across the room afterwards. “Bwa ha ha, you can’t hurt me with your lame moves. Toadstool is mine and nobody can do anything!” the toad boy picked up Toadstool again.
“Oh no! Somebody please save me! Help, hel-” the toad boy turned and finally noticed Mario and Mallow watching him play. “Oh my gosh! It’s Ma-Ma-Ma…mooooom! We have a VIP guest!”
“Yes, I hear you, dear,” his mother said as she walked to the front of the inn. “Oh my, aren’t you Mario?”
“The one and only,” Mario smiled. “And this is my friend Mallow,” Mallow smiled and waved as Mario introduced him. “We’d like to stay here tonight if that’s possible.”
“You have to prove it first,” the toad boy piped up again. “You gotta do one of your jumps.”
“What, you mean this little hop?” Mario said as he leaped high into the air.
“All right! Come play with me, it’ll be fun! It’s called ‘Geno saves the world’.”
“Gaz, Mario and his friend came here to rest, not play. I think its best you let them be,” Gaz’s mother said to him.
“Awww, c’mon. You’re always too busy to play ‘Geno’ games with me. Playing alone is boring.”
“It’s okay ma’am, Mallow and I don’t mind playing, do we?”
“Sure, it’ll be fun,” Mallow agreed.
“Yes! ‘Mario’ just got a game over so you can be ‘Bowser’, okay?”
“No problem,” Mario said as he picked up the Bowser toy and imitated his laugh.
“What about me?” Mallow asked.
“I forgot about you. Uh, you can be Toadstool; she just says ‘help’ and stuff.” Gaz handed Mallow the Toadstool doll and grinned. “That leaves the best part for me: Geno!” Gaz pulled out a wooden puppet-like toy wearing just a blue hat and matching cape. “Stop right there, Bowser. I’m here to save the princess!”
“Not a chance,” Mario said as ‘Bowser’ and tapped the Geno doll. Gaz hit the Bowser toy with the Geno one several times, and Mario tapped Geno again.
“You can’t stop me, I’m going to use my super-duper customized, patented, one and only Shooting Star Shot!” Gaz fired one of Geno’s arms, but instead of hitting the Bowser toy it whacked Mario between the eyes. Mario’s eyes rolled into his head and he crumped onto the floor.
“Oops…I missed,” Gaz nervously said.
“Oh no, Mario!” Mallow yelled, horrified. Gaz’s mom rushed over and gently examined Mario.
“He’s knocked out, but I think he’ll be okay. Mallow, was it? Please help me carry him upstairs and into bed.”
Mallow nodded and grabbed Mario’s feet while Gaz’s mom held him up by the armpits. Together they carefully hauled him upstairs and into one of the beds. Gaz’s mom returned downstairs once they’d finished, but Mallow sat and quietly waited on one of the other beds for Mario to wake up.
“Mario, you’re okay!” Mallow happily said through a mouthful of Sugar Mushroom cereal the next morning as Mario came down the stairs.
“Aside from the bump on the head, yeah. So, are you ready to head out into the forest?” Mario asked as he poured himself a cup of coffee. Mallow nodded and ate faster.
“Yeah, almost done. Too bad you missed dinner last night though, we had cream of mushroom soup.”
“Aw! I’ll have to make myself a big pot once we take care of Smithy. But maybe I’ll make mushroom pasta first. Best way to celebrate a hard earned victory, after cake of course.”
“Good morning, Mario,” Gaz’s mother said as she came over. “I hope you slept well.”
“Given the circumstances, yeah. Now, how much do I owe you for one night?”
“Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly accept any Coins after what happened with Gaz-”
“Mooom!” Gaz yelled as he came rushing down the stairs. “I just saw the most amazing thing: Geno walking into the forest! Isn’t that awesome?!”
“Yes, dear,” Gaz’s mom was clearly annoyed as she collected the dirty breakfast dishes. “And isn’t ‘Geno’ the one who broke my lamp the other day?”
“That was just, well, you know. But this is real, honest!”
Gaz’s mother took him aside to give him the second scolding in as many days. Mario and Mallow turned to each other, shrugged, and headed outside. Still looks stormy in the west, Mallow noted. But the skies are clear here, thankfully.
“So what do you think he saw?” Mallow asked as they carefully made their way across Rose Town. Mario shrugged.
“Who knows, you know how some kids are. They don’t know how to turn off their imagination. He probably just wishes Geno was heading into the forest to stop these arrows instead of us.”
“I don’t know if he knows about that, though,” Mallow said as they started following the path into forest. “This is so cool though. I’ve always wanted to come in here.”
“Your grandpa never let you, I take it?” Mario asked.
“It’s not just that, all kids are forbidden from entering the Forest Maze,” Mallow explained. “The grown-ups say it’s really dangerous in here, full of wigglers and gorillas-”
“Gorillas?” Mario shook his head. “I think you need to turn off your imagination, too, Mallow. I need you to focus on the real monsters, not imaginary ones-”
From the bushes ahead a guerilla leapt out and charged at the duo. Mallow quickly zapped it with a thunderbolt while Mario followed it up with some fireballs. The guerilla screeched and ran back into the bushes.
“…Okay then. Let’s be prepared for anything from here on out,” Mario said as the continued down the path.
Several ordinary mushrooms suddenly sprang to life as they came near. Mallow whacked a few with his froggie stick while Mario kicked the noknok shell into the others, knocking them all out. Up ahead the path seemed to end, but then a pair of wigglers came out of the bushes and headed straight for Mario and Mallow.
This time Mario started bouncing on one of the wigglers while Mallow tried to smack the other one with the froggie stick. Unfortunately that didn’t stop the wiggler and it crashed into Mallow, hurting a little.
“Ouch! Have some of this instead!” Mallow said as he used thunderbolt on the wiggler. This time it ran away in tears.
The one Mario started bouncing on, however, became very enraged and managed to buck Mario right off. However instead of coming back to attack again it ran back the way it came, smashing through the bushes and revealing the path continued on from there.
“Are you okay? Should I use my healing rain?” Mallow asked. Mario shook his head.
“No, better save it for later. Looks like nobody usually comes this deep into the forest, though,” Mario noted as the path became more difficult to follow. As they continued walking another cluster of ordinary mushrooms revealed themselves to be a group of amanita.
Mallow batted them away with his froggie stick while Mario flung fireballs at them until all had been defeated. The duo continued on but there was no sign of whoever was shooting arrows into Rose Town.
“C’mon, let’s take a short rest,” Mario said after they had been walking for a while. Sitting down next to a tree Mario handed Mallow a couple of mushrooms and a honey syrup to wash them down with.
“This arrow-shooting jerk is hard to find. Do you think we’ll have to leave the path to find him?” Mallow asked as he munched on the mushrooms.
“I don’t know. I’d really prefer not to because we could get lost in here that way,” Mario said between sips of honey syrup. “But if we don’t see any sign of him soon we might not have any choice, though.”
Mallow nodded and drank his own honey syrup. As he was finishing however Mallow saw what appeared to be a strange man in a blue hat and cape up ahead. “Mario, look!” he said as he jumped to his feet. Mario looked up and got up as well.
“Hey, you there!” Mario called over to him, but the strange man didn’t stop. Instead he quickened his pace down the path instead. “Wait, stop!” Mario called out as he ran after him, Mallow struggling to keep up. But the mysterious man was fast as he moved through the forest and eventually they lost sight of him.
“Aw, he’s gone, whoever he was,” Mallow sighed. “What do we do now?”
“Listen,” Mario said. “Do you hear something?” Mallow strained his ears and thought maybe he heard someone laughing.
“Is that the wind, or…?”
“Let’s keep going, but next to the path. And keep as quiet as you can.”
They set off again, slowly and quietly. Mallow heard the laughing grow louder: it sounded like an entire group was nearby. When they grew close they stopped and quietly, carefully, peered through the bushes.
The path had led them to a large clearing somewhere near the center of the forest, and hopping around the clearing were dozens of living arrows and one large, crazed-looking bow.
“Nine hundred ninety-seven! Nine hundred ninety-eight! Nine hundred ninety-nine! One thousand aeros! Nya ha ha ha! For cover they run, tears they cry, fun this is!”
“Woo-hoo! They’re standing just like statues!” the aero flunkies laughed and hopped with their boss. “Bowyer is the best, better than all the rest!”
“Nya! More practice I need,” Bowyer declared. “Another thousand I will shoot!”
“Oh no, he’s not stopping! What are we going to do?” Mallow urgently whispered to Mario.
“The only thing we can do, give ‘em the old one-two!” Mario whispered back as he cracked his knuckles. But before he could move forward Mallow yanked him back.
“Who do you think you are, Bruce Lee? There are way too many bad guys there. We need a plan.”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right. If only we had more help-whoa!” Mario and Mallow heard someone noisily coming down the path and Mario yanked Mallow deeper in the bushes. Moments later an aero arrived in the clearing, shoving a large green star ahead as he did so. That looks like the star we found after beating Mack, except this one’s green.
“Look what I found, Bowyer!” the aero announced to his boss. “Neat, huh? What do you suppose it’s for?”
“Target practice,” Bowyer declared. “Watch and see, a bullseye will it be!” Bowyer said as he grabbed one of the aeros and prepared to fire it at the star. But before he could someone charged out of a different bush and put himself between Bowyer and the star. It’s the man in blue!
“Stop! You don’t know what you’re doing. Return that star to me,” the mysterious man in blue told Bowyer.
“Nya? A stranger you are…and strange looking at that. Who might you be?”
“I serve a…higher authority,” the man in blue answered. “That Star Piece belongs to us, to the citizens of this world. You can’t keep it.”
“Nya! Teach you I will, in charge I am!” Bowyer growled and starting shooting aeros wildly all over the place.
“Hey, chill out!” the strange man said, but Bowyer just ignored him.
“What should we do?” Mallow asked Mario from the safety of the bushes.
“What else? I’m going to help that man, and save Rose Town. If he’s an enemy of Smithy than he has to be a friend of ours,” Mario said as he readied himself for battle.
“Me too! I’ll do whatever I can to help. …From over here!” Mallow said. Mario facefaulted at his words but quickly got up again.
“Mallow! Now is the time to have courage!” Mario said as an aero landed near them and took off running towards Bowyer. Mallow started running behind him, froggie stick ready.
“I am not afraid! And I’m not going to cry!” Mallow declared as he followed after him. Mallow tripped and fell but Mario didn’t notice and kept on going. “Ack, hey, Mario, wait for me, yikes!” A large amount of aeros came flying at Mallow. Fortunately they fell short and pierced the front of his froggie stick instead. Mallow nervously gulped.
“That could’ve been me! Mariooo, wait up!” Mallow yelled as he took off running again, dodging aeros as he went. He reached Bowyer several seconds after Mario did. “Mario! You just ditched me back there! Look at what he almost did to me!” Mallow said as he pulled the aeros out of his staff and flung them to the ground.
“So, you’re the Mario!” the strange man interrupted them. “We know all about you!” Huh? This guy, he looks just like Gaz’s doll, except life size and real!
“But, who are you-”
“Knock-knock!” Bowyer yelled. “Nya! Ignored I am, insulted I be, finish you will I”
“You’re the one who’s finished,” Mario said as he kicked his noknok shell into Bowyer. Mallow smacked Bowyer with his froggie stick, but Bowyer didn’t seem to be very affected by either attack.
“Nya! Three against one! Nyat fair!” Bowyer grabbed three aeros and took aim. “Fix it I will! Shoot aeros I shall! Attack you can’t!” he said as he fired the aeros at the group. The aero stuck his froggie stick and it fell to ground as stone. Mallow looked over and saw the same thing had happened to Mario’s noknok shell and, strangely enough, the doll-man’s arms.
“Oh no, he did something to our weapons,” Mallow said as he tried to pick up his staff, but unsuccessfully.
“Then we’ll just have to use our special attacks,” Mario said and fired off several fireballs at Bowyer. Mallow charged and unleashed a strong thunderbolt, but Bowyer just laughed at that.
“Nya ha ha, that too I do, watch!” Bowyer said and unleashed his own electrical attack, zapping all three of them.
“Is that all you got? Try and imitate this,” Mario said as he leapt forward and start bouncing on Bowyer like he did the wiggler earlier. After ten jumps he leapt back again.
“I have something I can do, too,” the mysterious man said as he stepped forward and pointed one of his guns at Bowyer. He charged for several seconds before shooting a powerful beam into Bowyer, causing him to stumble back a little.
“Nya, try and fight like this,” Bowyer growled and fired more aeros at them. This time when Mallow was struck he felt oddly drained of the energy powering his abilities, but at the same moment his froggie stick turned back to normal.
“So you can drain our special abilities too,” the mysterious man said. “But you can’t stop us from attacking completely,” he said as reattached his arms before firing one into Bowyer. Just like when we played with Gaz yesterday! Mallow thought as he started smacking Bowyer with his froggie stick. Mario kicked his noknok shell into Bowyer’s head.
“Nyat! Fair!” Bowyer screamed and used another electrical attack as he fired more aeros, turning their weapons back to stone again.
“I think we almost got him,” Mario said. “If I use my fireballs, and you use your beam, we might finish him off.”
“I’ll do what I can, too,” Mallow piped up. When the strange doll-man fired his beam Mario shot some fireballs at Bowyer as well while Mallow unleashed thunderbolt on him.
“N-no! Defeated I cannot be! Waaaah!” And Bowyer exploded just as Mack had before him.
“Yes! We did it!” Mallow exclaimed as he held up the peace sign with Mario. The mysterious stranger smiled at them.
“Thanks for the help; you got me out of a real jam there. I know that my appearance must be startling, but I’m a visitor from above and this is a form I need to borrow for a while.”
“Do mean, like, from the sky or something?” Mallow asked. The mysterious stranger laughed and shook his head.
“Much, much higher than that, I’m afraid. Tell me, have either of you heard about Star Road, or Star Haven?”
“I can’t say that I have, no,” Mario answered.
“I’ve never heard of them either,” Mallow added.
“Completely in the dark, eh? It’s a big mess up there and it concerns not just you two, but all the inhabitants of the Mushroom World. Let me explain. You’ve heard of wishing on a star, yes?”
“I do it all the time.”
“Well, high above your world is my home, Star Haven. Star Haven is where the stars live, and we work to grant the wishes of those down below. When our leaders, the seven honorable Star Spirits choose to grant a wish, they do using a powerful artifact called the Star Rod.
“Now the Star Rod is actually a small but extremely concentrated, and portably, piece of the Star Road. It’s powered directly by the Star Road, which plays its own part by sending out the magical part of a wish in the form of a shooting star whenever a wish is granted.
“But yesterday all of this came to a halt when a massive sword destroyed the Star Road and robbed the Star Rod of its power. Not only that, but magical abilities of my leaders has vanished as well, leaving them unable to do anything about this situation. Right now, this is a world where wishes can’t come true anymore.”
“Whoa, are you saying this star is one of the pieces of Starway?” Mallow asked as he pointed at the green star the aero found in the forest.
“That’s Star ‘Road’, my young friend. Yes, that star is a broken piece of Star Road.”
“Mario! That star we found in the castle yesterday-”
“It must be a piece of the Star Road, too!”
“So you’ve found another Star Piece, then? There are seven altogether. Although I am not a Star Spirit, and normally am not an especially powerful star, borrowing the form of this doll will allow me to find the Star Pieces, repair the Star Road, and stop that vile Smithy from taking over this world.
“My name is-” the star went on to say something Mallow couldn’t even begin to pronounce correctly. “But I can see that’s hard for non-stars to pronounce so you can just call me ‘Geno’, after the doll. Now, how about we grab that Star Piece and head out of the Forest Maze?”
“Yeah, you bet,” Mario nodded and approached the Star Piece. Just like the one in the princess’ castle, as it circled around them Mallow felt his injuries from the fight heal as Mario grabbed the second Star Piece.
“Oh man, who would’ve thought that star was so important?” a fourth voice spoke up. The trio looked around and found a single aero that Bowyer never fired. “I’ve got to inform Smithy right away,” it said as it hopped away.
“Oh no! We can’t let Smithy find out about this, we have to stop him!” Mario said as he took off after the lone aero, Mallow and Geno following right behind him.
|Just a chick that probably plays too many Nintendo games (among other things). I've had this account since my teenage years, and I've improved (and matured!) a lot since 2003. Hope you enjoy what you see!|