To Unite Day and Night
The Temple of the Sun
One by one, Mario and his partners stepped through to the other side of the purple veil. Mario and Goomblaine were the last of all, and as they reached the other side they quickly walked over and joined their friends, who were all standing in the middle of the room and staring up in awe at the sight before them.
"Wooooooah," Stubba said quietly, craning his neck as he looked up. "Look at this place. It's so pretty in here."
Mario glanced around. They were in the same room he and Goomblaine had been in before, the room with the Aeon Clock inlaid in the floor. As he looked at the golden walls and the windows shining with light, he remembered how awestruck he'd been in here before and felt that feeling start to creep back. This time, though, the room was empty; there were no Guardians to be found, which wasn't much of a surprise.
"…You know… it's weird," Hanner spoke up after a moment. "I mean, I've never been in here before, but it still feels… familiar, somehow. Like I'm home after being away for a long time."
"Actually, I feel the same way," Maizee admitted.
"Yeah! Me too!" Stubba agreed eagerly, rapidly nodding his head. "I bet it's 'cause we're Guardians, right Mario?"
"I'm sure it is," Mario said with a smile, then turned back to observe the room some more. "Well… there's nothing in here. What do we do now?"
"You know, dudes, this joint is a little, uh, smaller than I expected," said Ferdinand, looking around in confusion. "I was thinking the Guardians would have a radder hangout than this."
"Huh… actually, you have a point, Ferdinand," said Mario. "This can't really be the whole Temple, can it?"
Deciding he would have to think about this, Mario walked over to the Aeon Clock and sat down on it… only to yelp and flail his arms as part of it suddenly lurched out from underneath him and sent him collapsing to the floor.
"Uh, you okay Mario?" asked Goomblaine.
Mario was about to answer when he heard a loud clicking noise coming from the clock's inner mechanisms. Rubbing his back and sitting up, he watched in surprise with his partners as the two halves detached and rotated away from each other, revealing the staircase that Peach had taken so many times before.
"…Well, that answers that," said Hanner.
"Okay guys, I think we know what to do from here," said Mario as he stood back up. Without hesitating, they all formed a line and set off down the long staircase, taking care not to stumble or trip in the darkness.
As they reached the bottom, they stepped into the golden hallway with the green carpet, another sight which would have been familiar to Peach. They noticed the doors lining the walls on either side of them, but the one that really caught their attention was at the very end of the hallway, directly across from them. It was locked fast with a padlock that looked like it was solid gold.
"Just as I expected… this place is probably huge," Mario sighed. "It may take us a long time to find Peach… come on, guys, we'd better check all these doors."
So they split up and opened all the doors, but they all led to simple rooms. Inside the large room with the altar, though, they did find a few chests containing a Jammin' Jelly and a Shooting Star.
"We haven't found any way out of here, Mario," Dulia reported a few minutes later once they were all back together.
"Neither have we," Mario sighed. "I wonder what we're supposed to – WAAAUGH!"
He spun around, grabbing his shoulder as it was struck with a sudden searing pain. As he saw his attacker, he realized he'd just been burned by one of the bright green Phantom Embers who had been patrolling the hallway.
"Uh oh…" He and his partners suddenly realized they were surrounded by a whole group of them, rapidly circling around the heroes. The team found themselves nervously herded together in a circle, and Dulia let out a yelp as the Embers started spitting out flames at them.
"Hey, what do these fellers think they're doin'? We're the good guys!" Snatchel cried, frantically waving his hat at them and trying to keep them at bay.
"These things are Phantom Embers, one of the species who're supposed to be protecting the Temple. Like sentinels or something," Goomblaine announced as he used Tattle. "But since King Shroude took this place over, he's controlling everybody in here and making 'em do whatever he wants."
"What? Oh come on! But we're the Guardians!" Hanner cried as she tried to throw hammers at the invading flames, only to find they were circling around much too quickly for her to land a hit. "Doesn't what we want override what he wants?"
Maizee suddenly stepped forward impatiently. "I'm sorry, all of you, but we really don't have time for this," she said to the Phantom Embers before closing her eyes and belting out a powerful Showstopper. Mario and the other partners winced and covered their ears to protect themselves against the noise, but the Embers weren't so lucky; Maizee's attack was enough to knock them all out in one hit.
"…Wow. Nice work," Mario said to Maizee as the green flames all whimpered and died away.
"Aww, yeah! Ain't she the greatest?" Snatchel said with a lovestruck grin, grabbing her hands. She just rolled her eyes and tried not to blush.
Dulia didn't look so happy. "Ohhh, this isn't good… King Shroude is controlling all the things in here who are supposed to be protecting the Temple?" she said, fidgeting nervously. "And those Embers were just the start, weren't they? This isn't going to be easy…"
"Hey, don't sweat it, most cutest of dudettes," Ferdinand said reassuringly. "We're the Guardians, right? There's nothing in here too gnarly for us!" He flapped his arms for emphasis. "Oh, speaking of… check it out, Mario-dude."
"Huh?" Mario turned and was surprised to find a golden Temple Key lying on the ground. He realized one of the Phantom Embers must have dropped it after being defeated.
"Hah. Perfect! Now we have a way to get through this door," he said, picking it up and walking over to the door. "See, everyone? We're off to a good start already."
"If you say so, Mario," Dulia sighed.
After unlocking the door, the group saw that the next hallway consisted of three elevated platforms lying side to side with each other, rising up out of what appeared to be a bottomless pit (Mario didn't think too hard about how that was possible). Those platforms occasionally broke off before continuing on further down the room, and they were joined together in some places by shorter platforms running perpendicular to the main ones, making the whole thing look somewhat like a maze.
"Well, this won't be so hard. Just trial and error," Mario decided, setting off down the middle platform. Naturally, he was wrong.
"YEOWCH!" he cried out as an electric force field suddenly sprang up out of nowhere just as he walked into it. The impact sent him flying back to where he'd started, crashing in front of his partners and wincing in pain.
"Poor Mario… that's the third time you've gotten hurt already," Hanner sighed as he partners all looked down at him. "This just isn't your day, is it?"
"Good thing I'm used to this," Mario grumbled from on the floor.
Goomblaine picked up his phone. "Well, it says here this is part of the security that's s'posed to guard the Temple… it's kind of magic electricity," he said. "And it's motion-activated, so it turns on when you start walkin' up to it."
Hanner gave him a look. "Goomblaine, I've always wondered… how the heck does your phone have all that info in it already?"
Goomblaine just shrugged. "I don't think about it…"
"Well, fine. We just have to be extra careful where we walk, then," Mario sighed, standing up and straightening out his clothes.
So they set off very slowly down the middle platform (in single file since it was so narrow), coming to a stop as they felt the electric force field about to spring up. From there they turned to the left and continued down the left platform instead. If they went slowly enough, they managed to stop right in front of the force fields before they appeared and zapped them, and they crossed from platform to platform and gradually made their way across the room this way.
Unfortunately, there were Phantom Embers in this room as well.
"This is ridiculous," Mario muttered as he swung his hammer at the Embers floating around his head, teetering on the platform and trying not to fall off.
"Whoever decided on the defense for this place did a good job," Maizee wearily agreed.
Finally, they made it all the way across the room and entered the next one. This room was also quite long and narrow, and the door leading out was high up on a ledge. Between it and them was a bunch of floating platforms, some moving up and down, others side to side.
"Well, I wonder how we're going to do…" Mario abruptly fell silent as he suddenly saw a ball of dark energy flying right at him from out of the corner of his eye.
"Oh no you don't!" he shouted, spinning around and whacking it with his hammer and narrowly avoiding being sneak attacked for the third time in ten minutes. The whole group turned around and gasped as they saw they were being accosted by a group of four Magiblots. To Mario's surprise, though, two of them were white, not black like he was used to.
"Those're Dark Magiblots and Light Magiblots. Same stats, same moves, same everything… really the only difference is the kind of magic they use," Goomblaine announced. "Though it says here they're both weak to the other kind of magic."
"Oh, really?" said Dulia, suddenly growing a knowing smile. She rose up her arms and instantly transformed into a copy of the Light Magiblots, then proceeded to hurl a volley of pure white energy balls at the Dark Magiblots and completely obliterate them. Mario and Goomblaine ganged up on the remaining two and took them out with Power Smashes and Headbonks, though it took them a lot longer than Dulia.
"If we're going to have to fight everything in here, this is going to get old fast," Mario sighed once the fight was over. "All right, now how do we get up to that door?"
Snatchel was looking up at all the floating platforms moving around above their heads. "Well I would say we just go from platform to platform, but… I reckon they're too far apart to jump."
"Well hey, no problemo, brohams! That's where I come in!" Ferdinand cheered, looking ready for action.
Snatchel suddenly looked mortified. "Oh, just terrific…"
Maizee gave him a smirk. "You're not afraid of flying, are you sweetheart?"
"N-no! What the heck gave ya that idea?"
"Well, sorry guys, but I think Ferdinand's right. He's the only one who can get us across those things," said Mario. "We might as well get it over with."
So they jumped on the nearest platform as it reached the ground and rode it up, and from there Ferdinand had to fly them all across the room, timing himself perfectly as he reached each platform as it was moving in the direction they wanted to go. Hanner and Stubba were cheering throughout the whole thing, whereas Snatchel had to will himself not to look down. By the time they made it over to the door, he was looking green in the face and followed after the others much more slowly.
"All right, now what?" Mario sighed as they entered the next room, but not before hitting the Block in the air next to the door and claiming the Ultra Shroom that came flying out. "This puzzle looks even worse than the last one."
On the left side of the room was a short staircase that led up to a hallway, meaning there were two paths, one high and one low, leading across the room, each one ending at a different door. Unfortunately, the upper path was blocked off almost immediately by a large, dark-colored square block.
"Well, I would say we should take the lower path…" said Mario, noticing the large padlock over the lower door. "But the door's locked."
"Don't worry, Mario! I bet I can break that thing!" Stubba said confidently, walking up to the dark block and whacking it with his club.
Mario did a double take. "Wait – Stubba, I don't think you should – "
He was too late, though, as the block had already burst apart into pieces around Stubba, vanishing in a strange aura of dark energy. Stubba turned around and beamed at him.
"See, Mario? I told you!"
Mario sighed and smiled. "You're right. I should stop doubting you."
"Woah. Dudes, when that block broke, some other block just came out of nowhere," said Ferdinand, pointing at the lower path. Mario turned around and saw he was right; now there was a light colored block cutting off that pathway, though it was farther down than the dark block had been.
"Hmm…" Mario said thoughtfully. "Stubba, can you come break this one too?"
"You bet!" Stubba cheered, racing down the stairs and bashing the light block to pieces. Just as Mario had thought, this instantly caused the dark block to rematerialize up on the higher path, though this time it was farther down than the light one had been.
"All right, I guess we just have to go back and forth and break those things until we get all the way across," Mario decided, and he turned out to be right. Every time Stubba broke a block, the other one would reappear on the other hallway farther down than it had been before, so they slowly crossed the room by way of two different pathways. When they finally made it to the upper door, they opened it and found themselves in a tiny little anteroom that held nothing but a chest containing the Temple Key needed to unlock the lower door. So they backtracked down the upper path and then went down the lower one, unlocking the door and plowing on through.
The next room was just a regular old hallway, similar to the first one they'd been in, though this one was instead lined with glowing windows that, strangely enough, seemed to have ivy growing on their sills. There were more Phantom Embers floating around here too, but Mario was surprised to also find dark purple versions of the same enemy, which, according to Goomblaine, were Shadow Embers.
"More light and dark versions of the same thing…" he grumbled as he looked into his phone. "Don't ya hate it when video games get lazy and start pallet swappin' things?"
Everyone in the group gave him a long, awkward stare. "…What did you say?" asked Maizee.
"What does pallet swap mean?" asked Stubba.
Goomblaine shrugged. "I haven't broken the fourth wall yet… I thought it was time."
"Well, I guess it would make sense that there are an equal amount of light and dark enemies in this place," Mario decided. "This is where the balance between Night and Day is maintained, right?"
"But it won't be much longer if King Shroude has his way," Dulia sighed.
So they walked down the hallway, defeating all the enemies that got in their way; as Mario explained to his friends, they were weak to ice for some strange reason, meaning Ferdinand's Ice Block move worked miracles on them. It normally wasn't a strong move, since the Bumpty was more about speed than power, but as he generated large blocks of ice and batted them at the fiery enemies, it was enough to take them all out with little effort.
Then they reached the golden double doors that led to the next room and pushed them open…
…and as they walked through, they stopped dead in their tracks.
"Oh… my… goodness…" said Maizee.
"Woah," said Mario. "Now this… now I think I see why this place is so legendary."
It was only now that Mario and his partners realized how huge and magnificent the Temple of the Sun really was. The room they were in looked for all the world like an enormous palace ballroom. It was two stories high with a wide open, carpeted space in the middle of the room, and the floors were joined on either side of the room by two magnificent curving staircases, so huge that the top floor was at least thirty feet above their heads.
The top floor itself was really just a narrow walkway circling the periphery of the room, meaning the group could see all the way up to the ceiling, which was massive, vaulted, and, like the walls, pure white and covered in intricate gold designs. In contrast, the staircases were bright, shining gold. The floor and the stairs were still covered with the beautiful green carpet, which led off to one door on the opposite side of the room on the bottom floor and two other doors on the top floor.
Maybe Mario was imagining things, but the room itself seemed to be filled with a bright, warm glow.
"Sweeeeet," Ferdinand said quietly.
"It's gorgeous in here…" Dulia whispered.
Strangely enough, the first thought that occurred to Mario was how different this place was from the castles he usually had to go through just before a final fight. Those places were usually full of darkness and shadow, whereas the Temple of the Sun must have been one of the brightest and most brilliant places he'd ever been in… but then, it wasn't supposed to be a place of evil. King Shroude had only made it that way…
"Well, which way do we go first?" asked Hanner.
"Not to the top floor," said Goomblaine, gesturing over at one of the staircases. Mario looked and saw he was right; both staircases were cut off by an electric force field right at the bottom, the same kind they'd had to contend with in the previous hallway.
"Well, no doubt we'll have to get up there eventually," Maizee sighed, gazing up at the top floor and the ceiling beyond that. "But I suppose the only way to go now is forward."
"Maybe somewhere through that door is some way to shut off the electricity," Mario agreed, looking over at the door across the room from them. "Let's hurry and go, everyone… Peach is still waiting."
So they set off across the massive room, every one of them looking around in silent awe as they did so. Mario in particular was almost overcome by the sanctity of it all… after all, he realized vaguely, this temple must have been as old as time itself. He had no right to be in a place like this…
And neither does Shroude, he reminded himself. There's no room for doubt anymore. It's time to put an end to this.
The group walked through the door, and the last leg of their journey continued.