The Temple of the Sun
Ferdinand was gasping and panting as he managed to haul himself and Peach back up onto the platform. Unfortunately, they got there just in time to see Shroude in the middle of what looked like a total mental breakdown, losing all pretense of collectiveness and cackling insanely as he floated several inches off the ground, spewing black lightning in every direction.
"...Woah. That dude does not react well to having flaws in his plans pointed out, does he?"
"Mario! Be careful!" Peach gasped and tried to hurry over to him, but he heard her and turned around with a panicked look.
"Peach! Stay back! It's not safe!" he shouted, desperate to protect her now that he'd finally found her. "Don't worry about me, we'll take care of him!"
"Uhhh, how are we doing that exactly?" Hanner asked awkwardly.
"You and your silly little friends can't hope to beat me now, Mario," Shroude laughed as he continued beating his huge wings. "With the power of the Guardians of Night, I am unstoppable!"
As he continued laughing in triumph, Mario slowly felt himself overcome with dread and hopelessness. He was still exhausted from their first fight against him; how were they ever going to beat him now?
"Now might be a good time for a Tattle, Goomblaine," he said weakly, and Goomblaine reluctantly complied and pulled out his phone.
"Okay, this is King Shroude all juiced up on the power of the Guardians of Night. Now he's Omega Shroude! He's got a load of new attacks he can use on us, like suffocating us with that black smoke or sending out some kinda sonic wave that can confuse us... he's even got a more powerful version of that Lunar Burst move! Plus when his health gets low he can just use the Guardians' power to heal himself! He's gonna be pulling out all the stops on us, and I dunno if you realized, but this is our last fight! We'd better do the same thing!"
Mario's heart just sank even more as he listened. He had no idea how they could face Omega Shroude in their condition... but he knew they had to try...
"All right, here goes nothing!" he shouted to his friends, racing up to Shroude and throwing himself into a Power Bounce... only to break off as Shroude just laughed in response, not even flinching under his attack.
"Was that supposed to hurt, Mario?" the Master of Night taunted him. "I'll tell you right now, I didn't feel a thing!"
Before Mario could make another move, Shroude thrust his hand forward and hit Mario in the chest with a burst of black lightning, sending the plumber flying back with a scream.
"Mario!" cried all the partners as he skidded across the floor.
"You're gonna regret that, pal!" Hanner snarled, throwing a volley of hammers at Omega Shroude with all her strength, but he barely seemed to notice the attack. The hammers bounced harmlessly off him, and Hanner quickly grew a nervous look. "Uh oh..."
As she faltered, Goomblaine came racing up from behind her and tried to Multibonk Omega Shroude... and that seemed to get his attention.
"You," he snarled at the Master of Day, opening his wings and generating a sonic burst that sent Goomblaine flying away just as Mario had done. Goomblaine crashed to the ground, groaning and feebly trying to lift up his head, but suddenly the whole room was spinning.
"Ugh... why is everybody purple...?"
"He's been confused," Dulia cried. "And we haven't even landed a hit on Shroude yet!"
"So maybe we oughta quit beatin' our gums and keep tryin'!" Snatchel shouted, barging forward and ramming into Omega Shroude. But for all his strength, his attack didn't do a thing, and he ended up staggering backwards with a dazed look as Shroude continued to laugh.
"You haven't been listening, have you? The power of the Guardians of Night has made me invincible! Not one of you is strong enough to do me in... not this time!"
Snatchel was staring up at him, actually starting to feel afraid. "Well, that ain't a good sign..."
"Now! Take this!"
Shroude spread his wings wide and generated an almighty Lunar Burst attack, sending a blinding beam of moonlight crashing down from out of nowhere and striking Mario's whole party at once.
"Mario! No!" Peach screamed as they were all sent flying in different directions, tumbling across the floor and nearly falling off the edge of the platform.
Mario was curled up on the ground and groaning. He might have been able to shake off that attack if he hadn't already been so tired from their first round of fighting... but as it was, he was too weak to even move... and it seemed that his friends were feeling the same way.
"No... we can't... give up..." Hanner whispered, struggling and swaying on her feet. Poor Stubba was in tears from so much pain, but he clung to her as he desperately tried to stay standing.
"This can't be... no one could possibly be so strong..." Maizee said softly as she tried to help Snatchel up.
Omega Shroude watched them all with an amused look. "Really? You all still want to fight after that? You must be truly desperate to save your precious Daylight... how sad. Allow me to end your suffering!"
And with a flick of Shroude's wrist, Mario suddenly felt himself rising off the ground. He whipped his head around in fright and realized the same thing was happening to all his partners, who all cried out in alarm and struggled to free themselves.
"Hey! What are you – let me – ACK!"
Mario suddenly became enveloped in a cloud of chilling black smoke. He cried out and started thrashing around in midair, but the smoke was so thick he couldn't even breathe. He choked and gasped, flying into a panic, but he couldn't possibly free himself from the suffocating cloud. The smoke was so cold he thought he felt his body freezing over, or maybe he was just going numb from lack of air...
Then the smoke vanished and he collapsed to the floor. He heard numerous thuds coming from all around him, telling him the same thing had just happened to all his friends.
"Now you understand," said Shroude, struggling to keep his voice steady. "Now you understand that the power of Night must prevail. There's no place in this world for Daylight anymore. Your time is over, and my reign over this world has begun!"
Mario barely even heard him. He was so weak that he could hardly register anything around him. Everything was darkness and cold and silence, and he was all alone, feeling himself slipping away.
I never thought it would end this way... not like this... after all the adventures I made it through... not when so many people were counting on me...
And I let all of them down... my friends... and Peach...
His eyes flew open and he saw Peach holding onto him, her eyes brimming with frightened tears. Mario stared at her.
"Peach... what are you doing?"
"Mario, please!" she begged. "I know it's hard, but you can't give in, not now! I... I don't know what I would do if I lost you, Mario..." She smiled timidly. "Please, you have to keep trying... for me, at least..."
She looked away bashfully. "I... I know there's nothing I can do for you, but..."
Mario just kept staring at her. Her shaking breath, the flush rising up on her face, the way she was clinging to him so tightly, probably tighter than she even realized...
Peach... how could I have been so stupid? I'm not going out yet... not as long as she still needs me!
"That's not true, Peach. You just did everything."
"Pardon me, Princess, but you're in the way of my victim at the moment," Omega Shroude sneered at her, stalking over to Mario and opening his hand to deliver the finishing blast of lightning.
But Mario wasn't afraid anymore. He sat up and glared at him, too weak to get to his feet but not too weak to say what he was about to say.
"You know why they're called Guardians, don't you Shroude?" he said. "Because they protect people. They watch over people. That's their job... to watch over the whole world and make sure everyone is at peace. Even you."
Shroude snarled at him. "You dare lecture me at a time like this?"
"That's the real power of the Guardians," Mario went on, his voice getting louder. "You think you have the power of the Guardians of Night on your side... but you're not using it to protect anyone. You're using it to hurt people. You're using it in anger, out of vengeance for your lost world. As long as you keep following that path, you'll never have true power."
Everyone in the room was staring at him. His partners were all wearily lifting their heads off the ground to gaze at him in disbelief.
"But my friends... the Guardians of Day... they know what it really means to have that power," Mario continued. "They all have loved ones waiting for them back there. They have friends and family... they have people to protect."
Shroude just continued to stare at him, completely dumbfounded, with no idea what to say.
His partners did not have that problem.
"Yeah... he's right," Hanner chuckled weakly, trying to drag herself over to Mario. "I'll never let you lay a finger on Sarge. He taught me everything I know." She managed a faint grin. "I owe him so much... you think a dumb bully like you can stand up to that?"
"I'll never let you hurt my mom an' dad," Stubba said in an uncharacteristically serious voice, and he was every bit as dangerous as he sounded. "Never ever! You already tried to hurt them an' I'll never let you do it again!"
"Shoot, I got a whole town full a' folks waitin' on me," Snatchel said as he got up on one knee, suddenly growing a very dangerous smirk on his face. "What kinda sheriff would I be if I couldn't protect 'em from the likes of you?"
"Benny and Gen were always looking after me... no matter what happened to them," said Dulia, frowning and glaring at Shroude with determination. "And now it's my turn to look after them!"
"I've gone through worse that you can imagine for my son," Maizee said in a low and frightening voice. "And I'll do it all again if I have to. If you even think of hurting him... I'll destroy you."
"The Bumpty Boarders always look out for each other, man," said Ferdinand, and now even he sounded serious. "I'd be nothing without my bros! There's no way I'm letting you wail on them!"
As though by silent agreement, all the partners suddenly turned to look at Goomblaine, and he just shrugged and snickered. "Well, that means somebody's gotta look after you freaks, right? That's what the Master of Day is for, I guess."
"And even if I'm no Guardian," said Mario, well aware of how the feeling in the room had slowly begun to change, "I still know what it means to have people you need to protect. Somehow, I don't think you've ever known what that's like."
Shroude was getting exasperated. "You think your bleeding heart sympathy makes any difference?" he demanded, though there was a strange edge to his voice... was it panic?
"Yes I do!" Mario shouted triumphantly, gathering up what little strength he had and struggling to his feet. "Because that's the power that we have! That's the reason we're going to defeat you!"
And somehow, all of them knew what to say.
"Break of Day!"
The entire chamber became flooded in a blinding sunlight. Omega Shroude shrieked as he was suddenly seized up by a brilliant white aura, binding him in place. He tried futilely to break free, and as the aura finally vanished from around him he dropped to his knees, panting and ragged.
Mario and his friends were surrounded by the same aura. Just like in the Soluna Temple, they all suddenly rose off the ground, looking confused and shocked as they began to glow and the pain from all their injuries slowly vanished.
As they stopped glowing and landed on the ground again, Mario grinned. They had been restored to full strength... and it seemed Omega Shroude wasn't so lucky.
"What... what did you do?!" he spat, glaring at Mario in contempt. "I... I'm not invincible anymore!"
"Well duh. How else could we beat you?" Stubba taunted him, sticking out his tongue and giggling.
Shroude's face screwed up in fury, and then he unleashed another sonic burst as he flapped into the air again. "No! Invincible or not, I'm not going down to all of you! I've come too far!"
"Yeah? Well so have we!" Hanner shouted as they all charged forward, and the true final battle began.
Mario led the charge, leaping into the air and Power Bouncing Omega Shroude with all his might. The Master of Night responded by trapping him in another cloud of suffocating smoke, attempting to choke the life out of him. When he was finally released, Mario dropped to the ground and collapsed to his knees, freezing and gasping for breath.
"Don't you dare hurt Mario anymore!" Stubba shouted as he and Hanner ran up, tag teaming Omega Shroude. They zigzagged back and forth and evaded his lightning blasts, Hanner attacking him at long range with her hammers while Stubba scurried up close and gave him a good whack with his club.
"Away with you!" Shroude snarled, generating a sonic burst that sent both Hanner and Stubba flying backwards and rolling across the floor. He tried to pick them off with lightning blasts while they were down, but Dulia threw up a Plasma Shield around them just in time.
"Get up, you guys!" she cried.
Hanner weakly lifted her head up. "...Look at the pretty Cheep-Cheeps..." she said faintly.
"Great... he confused them both," Mario groaned while Goomblaine kept Shroude at bay with a Multibonk. "He could take us all out like that if we're not careful."
"Not if I have something to say about it!" Maizee declared, spinning around and scattering a thick cloud of Hay Fever pollen over all her friends. Surprised, Mario immediately let out a sneeze as it landed on him, but sighed in relief once he realized they she'd made them all Allergic and immune to confusion.
"Thanks, Maizee. Now let's get back to work."
Once Hanner and Stubba managed to clear their heads, Dulia nodded in satisfaction and flew into the air, careening down on Omega Shroude and striking him with a Head Missile. Shroude countered her attack by surging forward and delivering a good old-fashioned uppercut, knocking her off her feet and sending her dropping to the floor with a cry of pain.
"That guy hit a girl! He's so going down!" Hanner snarled, leaping to her feet and charging back into the fray, but the others were already ahead of her.
"The blonde chick is off limits, dude!" Ferdinand angrily shouted at Omega Shroude as he flapped around his head like a horsefly, pelting him with Beak Jabs. He didn't get too far before Shroude knocked him back with another sonic burst, but thanks to Maizee, he didn't wind up confused from the assault. Unfortunately Shroude immediately came after him with the intent of punching him as well, only for one of Hanner's Shrink Hammers to come flying from out of nowhere and strike him in the head, instantly shrinking him down to toy size.
"What in the – " It took him a long moment to realize what had happened, and he was not amused. "You fools! You dare mock me like this?!"
"Aww, he's so cute!" Stubba giggled as he looked down at him.
"Yeah, adorable. Now let's beat him up!" Goomblaine snapped, Multibonking the miniaturized Shroude with all his might. The Master of Night was so small that his counterattacks against Goomblaine were completely ineffectual... but unfortunately for Goomblaine, he didn't stay that size for long.
"HIYAAA!" he roared as he shot back up to his full height, sending Goomblaine staggering back. "I'll teach you to show me the proper respect, my fellow Master!"
He started launching an entire volley of black lightning bolts at Goomblaine, knocking him across the floor as he yelped in pain. Omega Shroude kept on laughing wickedly, getting his revenge against the one who had humiliated him the most, and he would have gone even further but was cut off as Snatchel came running up and tackled him in the side, sending him flying off balance as his lightning went off in an odd direction.
"HOO-WEE! I can do this all night if yer up to it!" Snatchel laughed at him.
Omega Shroude clutched his side in pain and glared at him. "That sounds like a fine idea!" he declared, suddenly stretching his wings out to their full span as they began to glow.
Mario stared, and within the dark wings he thought he could see the Guardians of Night writhing in pain.
"No – ! He's absorbing their energy to heal himself!"
Shroude whipped around and grinned at Mario, looking none the worse for wear. "Very astute of you, Mario." He then blasted Mario with another lightning bolt before he could get out of the way, leaving him wincing in pain again.
"I can't believe that monster... will he stop at nothing?" Maizee said softly as she ran over to help him. "Mario, how can we stop him if he heals himself every time we hurt him?"
Mario suddenly felt a horrible knot in his stomach. "I hate to say it," he muttered, "but we have to take out the Guardians before he can use them like that again. Everybody has to focus their attacks on his wings. It's the only way."
Maizee looked horrified, but momentarily she nodded reluctantly. "Did you hear that, everyone? We have to attack his wings!"
"And what makes you think I'll let you do that?" Omega Shroude sneered as he came soaring at her. She stared him down fearlessly, stopping him in his tracks with a very potent Lullaby. He swayed where he was as his eyelids dropped, momentarily defenseless.
"Now, everyone!" Mario shouted, busting out his Multibounce on each of the Guardians on the right. The other partners dutifully came rushing over to him, and as she ran Hanner unleashed her Volt Hammer attack without even slowing down. Her electric attack tore through the wing on the left, striking all three Guardians and leaving them inert and useless.
"...That felt extremely blasphemous," she muttered uneasily.
"That effect won't last forever, Mario. Those Guardians will regain their strength before long," Maizee told Mario. He just nodded.
"I know. But until then..."
In the meantime, Omega Shroude had shaken off his drowsiness and realized what had happened. Both his wings were now drooping uselessly at his side; not only could he not summon the Guardians' power, he couldn't fly.
"You'll pay for that!" he shouted in almighty rage, raising up his arms. "Lunar Burst!"
Nobody could get out of the way in time before another devastating moonbeam came crashing down, striking them all with a terrible fury and leaving most of them gasping and on their knees. But they weren't about to go down so easily a second time.
"That's a nice trick... but how about this?" Mario shouted, racing forward and whacking him with a Power Smash. Astonished at his foe's resilience, Shroude glowered at Mario before striking him with his fist. Ferdinand was quick to come to Mario's rescue, carrying him into the air with a Flutter Lift before Shroude could hit him a second time.
"HIYAAAAA!" Stubba screamed as he blindly charged Shroude, swinging his club around and bashing anything that got in his way. Shroude was completely unprepared for this and fell to Stubba's furious assault, vainly shielding himself against the ferocious volley of blows.
"I've had enough of these games!" he finally shouted, unfurling his wings with such force that Stubba was knocked backwards. Everyone froze in terror as they saw his wings were already back in full functioning order.
"That wasn't enough time at all... now what?" Mario said quietly.
With a malicious grin, Omega Shroude turned to gaze down at Stubba, who quickly grew very afraid. "Uh oh..."
"Don't you even think about it!" Snatchel bellowed, ramming into Omega Shroude with the force of a train before he could hurt Stubba. Shroude hissed in frustration and tried to take to the air, but Snatchel was prepared for that too, roping him around the waist and pulling him down with Roundup before he could get away.
"You've just made a terrible mistake," Shroude growled at him before raising up his hand, enveloping Snatchel in a deadly smoke cloud. Mario shouted in anger and tried to run to his aid, but Shroude just sent him flying back with another sonic burst.
When the smoke finally disappeared around Snatchel, his teeth were chattering and his face was somehow even whiter than usual. "And this is why I live in the desert," he groaned.
"Let that be a lesson to you all – I'll destroy every one of you before I go down!" Omega Shroude roared, flapping back into the air. "My new world is upon us! No one can stop it!"
"Maizee, hurry! Take out his wings before he heals himself again!" Mario shouted, as Shroude had begun to do just that.
"It will be my pleasure!" she shouted back, belting out a deafening Showstopper that left Shroude recoiling in pain and temporarily took out the Guardians of Night once more. His wings flopped to his sides again and he was forced to land, seething in fury that he'd been unable to heal himself completely.
"You idiots can't keep this up forever!"
"Wanna bet?" Goomblaine jeered, flipping into the air and repeatedly bashing him in the skull with a Multibonk. Mario grinned eagerly and ran up to join him, and the two of them began bouncing up and down on Omega Shroude as though he were a trampoline. He screamed in fury and tried to shake them off, but without the use of his wings he couldn't knock them back.
"I will not be made a fool of!" he bellowed, throwing up both of his arms. Mario and Goomblaine both gasped as they were lifted into the air against their will and imprisoned inside an enormous cloud of smoke. Omega Shroude cackled gleefully as he held them up in the air and they thrashed around desperately, this time intent on not releasing them until they were gone for good. He was finishing this right here and right now, and no one was going to stop him...
"You let go of them, RIGHT NOW!" came Dulia's voice, and suddenly she came zooming down and Head Missiled him right in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him and forcing him to release his hold on Mario and Goomblaine. The smoke dissipated and the two of them dropped to the ground, and Mario looked up just in time to see Dulia charging at him again, the other partners loyally following behind her.
"You think after all we've been though, we'd let you get away with that?" Maizee demanded as all the partners started attacking him at once. "Well think again!"
"I like the way she talks, man!" Ferdinand cheered as he jumped into the fray.
"Mario, come on!" Stubba alerted him, and Mario quickly nodded his head and raced over to join them, Goomblaine following after him.
Omega Shroude was roaring in total denial, in rebellion, refusing to be outdone. He was desperate to regain his strength, but his foes were weakening him far too rapidly for his wings to regenerate. Without his sonic burst, all he could do was launch lightning at one of his opponents, attempting to pick them off one at a time, but each time they would just shake it off and dive back into their assault.
Mario was in front again, swinging his hammer time and time again and beating back Omega Shroude before he could get in a move. On either side of him, his partners were attacking him with the same lack of restraint, clubbing him, tackling him, floating and fluttering around his head as they dived at him. Omega Shroude continued desperately assaulting them with lightning, until he became too weak to do even that and resorted to knocking the nearest one of them to the side with a powerful punch, but the others would always leap in to fill the gap, redoubling their efforts to take him out.
There was no force in the world they couldn't overcome. Against the Guardians of Day, the Master of Day, and the great Super Mario himself, no one could hope to stand a chance.
"Mario... I knew you could do it..." Peach whispered from where she had been watching in safety.
"No... no... no!" Omega Shroude cried out, lightning spewing erratically from his body as he lost all control over his powers. "This wasn't supposed to happen! No one can defeat me! No one!" Out of pure desperation he swung his fist at Mario, punching him in the face and sending him staggering back. Mario briefly grimaced in pain, only to shake it off without another thought. Anything Shroude tried against them was pointless now. It was time.
"You can't do this to me! You can't!" Omega Shroude shrieked at them, clutching at his arm, his wings flapping languidly and uselessly. "Don't you even realize who I am?!"
"Of course we do... you're the guy who got beaten by us," Mario said simply. "Goodbye now, Shroude."
And he leapt into the air and drove Shroude into the ground. One Jump attack was all it took.
Omega Shroude let out a horrible scream, both in pain and in agony of being defeated. Mario stood watching stoically until Shroude suddenly began to glow, at which point the plumber's eyes widened and he quickly stepped back.
"What's happening to him?" Hanner asked nervously, though she quickly got her answer as Shroude's wings began to disintegrate before their eyes. They dissolved into particles of darkness that flew up and out of sight, until all that remained of them were six dark balls floating in the air, suddenly starting to glow dangerously...
"It's the Guardians of Night – they're being released!" Maizee gasped. "Everyone get back!"
"No... no... my power!" Shroude moaned, still lying on his side as the entire room began to violently shake and Mario and the others ran away screaming. "I can't lose it now... I can't!"
"Mario!" Peach cried as she ran up to meet him, but Mario wordlessly grabbed her by the wrist and hauled her as far away from Shroude as they could get before it was too late –
The shaking of the room abruptly stopped –
And then the Guardians of Night exploded out from underneath Shroude, careening into the air and meeting each other in a terrible crash that shook the entire Temple to its foundation, throwing everyone off their feet, deafening them and blinding them with a brilliant flash that lit everything up, drowning out the rest of the room until there was only white...
In every land all throughout Chronoside, in both the Day and Night worlds, the sky began to glow yellow. In all corners of the country, people lifted their heads up and looked around in fright as the very world itself began to rumble and shake, consumed by flashes of light. Everyone cried out in fear as a deafening boom filled their ears, as the world around them seemed to pick up speed and streak by their eyes, Dayside and Nightside rushing to meet each other, finally moving so quickly that everything blurred together and then there was nothing...
There was only white, and Mario and his friends were standing in a featureless void. Whether they were even in the Temple anymore Mario didn't know. He and the others looked around in confusion, wondering how they had gotten here, suddenly beginning to fear that maybe Shroude had beaten them after all...
"What... what just happened? Where are we, Mario?" Peach asked nervously, but he had no idea how to answer. Shroude was nowhere to be seen, at the very least...
But someone else was.
"Thank you, Mario."
He spun around at his name, and his eyes widened as he found himself staring up at the six Guardians of Night... the way they were supposed to be. They had been restored to the forms Mario had first seen them as, vaguely humanoid beings with wispy tendrils in place of legs, each one a different dark but beautiful color.
"Woah..." Hanner said quietly.
"They're... they're beautiful..." Dulia whispered.
"You have done well, Mario," one of the Guardians said in a distant, echoing voice. "You have led the six Guardians of Day here, and the Master of Day as well. And you have defeated the intruder who would have destroyed Day for all time. We owe you a great deal."
Mario suddenly started blushing. "Oh, well... ah, it was nothing. You're welcome," he muttered, rubbing his neck.
"So we really beat Shroude then?" asked Goomblaine. "Does that mean he's... he's..."
"His game is not yet over," said another Guardian. "We do not believe in ending games in such a manner, even one such as his. But he is safely within our power now... once we have finished here, we will remove the power granted to him as Master of Night, and all will be as it should be again."
"And I'll bet he never tries to pull a stunt like that again," Mario chuckled. "Well... thanks, you guys. Does this mean... we can go home now?"
His partners' faces lit up at the sound of this... but the Guardians of Night merely looked confused.
"You may return home whenever you like, Mario," one of them said. "But the Guardians of Day must remain here."
There was a moment of stunned silence.
"Wait – what?" Mario protested. "Stay here? With you guys? You mean, forever?"
"Of course. That is the purpose of the Twelve Guardians. To remain in the Temple of the Sun for all of time, maintaining the balance of Night and Day," said the last Guardian who'd spoken. "You seem surprised. Did you not realize this? How could you not? Surely you knew this was how it would end."
Mario was horrified. His partners were far more so.
"No – no, we didn't!" Hanner sputtered out. "Nobody told us we'd have to stay here forever! We thought we'd beat Shroude and then – and then – "
"You'd go free?" another Guardian finished for her. "Your job as Guardians is never done. There may come a time when another such as King Shroude appears. You must be there to protect the world. You must remain at the Temple always."
Stubba had tears in his eyes. "No! No! We can't do that!" he cried. "What about my mom an' dad?"
"You don't understand – we're not like you!" Dulia said to the Guardians. "We were born in that other world! We have people waiting back there for us - people who need us!"
"We have friends and family – we have responsibilities back there!" Maizee went on. "We can't just leave them behind! I'm sorry, but we can't accept this."
The Guardians seemed to be at a complete loss.
"You do not have a choice," one finally said. "There is no other option."
"Sure there is, man. Just bring those first Guardian-dudes back!" said Ferdinand.
"The original Guardians of Day were destroyed," another Guardian reminded him irritably. "To restore them to life would require the Sun Souls... and more power than we Guardians can ever hope to possess."
Everyone was silent as this sank in, looking devastated and hopeless. Mario couldn't believe it. After all he and his friends had been through together... he had to leave them behind? He had to leave them here forever, never to see them again? There must be another way...
"Well... what about the Master of Day?"
Everyone turned to look at Goomblaine as he spoke.
"What about the Master of Day?" asked Mario.
"Those guys said they'd need a whole lotta power to bring the first Guardians back, right? More than they've got?" Goomblaine said simply. "Well, I'm the Master of Day. I bet I've got enough."
Mario stared at him. "Goomblaine, what... what are you saying?"
The Guardians of Night all regarded him strangely as well. "You would do this for the others?" one of them asked.
"Well, yeah, duh. There's not even s'posed to be a Master of Day, is there? Just like there never shoulda been a Master of Night." He shrugged, trying to hide any emotion from his face. "Just use my power. Mine and Shroude's. We're not s'posed to exist anyway."
Everyone stared at him in horror. "Goomblaine!" Hanner cried. "What are you talking about? What are you doing?!"
Goomblaine gave her an irritated look. "What's it look like? I'm doin' my job! I'm looking after you guys! Ain't that what the Master of Day is s'posed to do?"
"But if you do this, you... you'll..." Dulia stammered.
Goomblaine just smiled sadly. "Yeah, well... better me than you guys, right? I mean, you said it yourself. You guys actually got people waitin' for you back there... me, all I got is a rap sheet."
"That ain't true, partner! You got us!" Snatchel said angrily. "And we ain't lettin' you take the fall for us like that!"
"Goomblaine... please..." Mario said quietly, suddenly flashing back to the rainbow butterfly all over again. "I said I wouldn't lose you... please..."
Goomblaine gave Mario a plaintive look. "If I do this, they won't be Guardians anymore... and they can all go free," he said. "I know I'm s'posed to do this. Maybe this way, I can..." He paused, then shook his head. "Ah, never mind. Look, I'm doin' this one way or another. You can't stop me."
Mario just stared after him, too shocked to protest. He wanted to cry out, he wanted to reach out and grab Goomblaine and pull him back, but all he could do was watch as the Goomba turned and faced the Guardians.
"Okay... you guys do whatever it is you gotta do. I'm ready."
The Guardians all stared down at him. "You are certain this is what you want?"
"Yeah, yeah, of course I am! Geez, quit stallin' already. Let's get this over with."
The Guardians nodded, and then as one they all closed their eyes and bowed their heads, circling around Goomblaine... and he started to glow.
Then Mario found his voice.
His other partners all gasped as their Sun Souls floated out and away from them, glowing furiously with a power they'd never seen before. They continued floating over to Goomblaine, surrounding him along with the Guardians of Night, and then his Sun Soul floated out to join them.
"Goomblaine! Goomblaine!" Mario cried, suddenly racing over to him before he knew what he was doing, but somehow he wasn't getting any closer. Goomblaine and the Guardians stayed the same distance away, and in fact, they were starting to fade from sight.
"No! No, you can't! Come back! GOOMBLAINE!"
He kept running and shouting, but nobody seemed to hear him. Then finally the glow of the Sun Souls grew so bright that it drowned Goomblaine out completely, drowned everything out, so that Mario was running into nothingness and everything, all of his friends were gone... and there was only light.