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The Temple of the Sun
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The room was the shape of an enormous sphere, with a round, vaulted ceiling high above them and a curving floor far below them. The wall – the whole thing was only one big wall – was somehow gold and silver at the same time, as though it couldn't decide what it wanted to be.

The group slowly passed through the doors and entered the large chamber. After they had all made it through, they spun around in shock at the sound of the doors slamming shut behind them, then slowly and reluctantly turned back around to face what was in front of them.

There was a large, round platform in the very center of the room, somehow hovering clear off the ground. The only way onto it was by another glowing light walkway that was right in front of the entrance. Floating several feet above the round platform was a semi-transparent black sphere... and there was someone inside of it.

"Mario?" Peach cried the instant she saw him enter the room. She immediately started pounding on the inside of the sphere, desperate for him to hear her. "Mario! Up here! It's me!"

Mario looked up at where Peach was imprisoned far above their heads and felt a thrill of panic. "Peach! Hold on, we're coming!" he cried and raced across the glowing walkway without a second thought, though all the while he couldn't stop thinking She's still okay, she's okay!

"Mario, wait!" came Hanner's voice from behind him as all his partners followed after him. The group ran across the walkway and onto the platform in the center of the room...

And it was only then that Mario noticed who was waiting for them.

"Well, well, well... about time you showed yourself, Mario. I was starting to think you'd gotten lost."

King Shroude was standing there, facing away from them, but as soon as he finished talking he turned around to face them. He looked irritated to see them, but not surprised. In fact, the first thing he did was casually hold out his hand, and then suddenly the glowing walkway disintegrated behind them. The partners whipped around in panic at the sight of their only means of escape disappearing before their eyes. They were trapped.

"From the very beginning you and your friends have done nothing but get in my way, Mario... you just had to interfere with my plans at every turn. And now you've even followed me here, to the Temple of the Sun." He took a step towards Mario's group, and they all automatically stepped back. "I must admit, I've actually gotten used to it by now. I didn't really expect you to lose against the Darkstriders just now... at this point they're just buying me time."

Mario and Goomblaine were glaring at him, and the others were all staring warily; they'd never seen King Shroude before. Mario himself was starting to feel uneasy, remembering what the Master of Night had done the last time he'd seen him...

"You're right. We've beaten everything you've thrown at us," the plumber finally spoke up. "And we can beat you too. So why don't you just give up right now?"

Shroude only responded with a chuckle, as cool and charismatic as always. "You really think you can beat me? Need I remind you, Mario, that you stand before the supreme Master of Night? I don't care if your little friends are all Guardians; only the Master of Day can defeat me!"

With a cruel grin, he gestured up to the dark sphere above their heads. "And she's not in much position to help you right now."

"Mario!" Peach cried frantically, still pounding on the inside of her prison. "Mario, don't listen to him! You have to beat him! You're our only chance!"

Mario looked longingly up at Peach, then turned to glare at Shroude. "What are you doing with Peach? You let her go now! She's not even – "

"Oh please. You think I'm going to listen to your pathetic little pleas?" Shroude cut him off. "Once I've taken care of you and your friends, Mario, I'm going to complete the ritual that will eradicate her and banish her from this world for all time! Once that's happened, the world of Day will finally cease to exist - and the new world will be one of eternal Night, with me as its rightful ruler!"

Mario sighed deeply. He still didn't know the truth about Peach... and if Mario tried to tell it to him, he'd just dismiss it as a lie. They didn't have much of a reason to be honest with each other...

"Why are you doin' all this?" Goomblaine cut in angrily. "Why do you think you gotta get rid of Day? That's the stupidest evil plan I ever heard! Why don't you just go back to your world instead of takin' over ours?"

Shroude looked at him impatiently. "You know as well as I do that's not possible anymore. I know you have the seventh Sun Soul, which means you must have seen my home. A dying world where there is only suffering." He spread his arms. "No one deserves to live in a place like that... all I want is to make a new world where my minions and I can live. Why would you deny me that?"

Mario glowered at him. He certainly was a smooth talker, not just a cackling maniac like some of the villains he'd fought before... did this mean he could be reasoned with?

"You're welcome to live in our world, Shroude... but not like this," he said firmly. "You just don't get it. You think the only way you can live in this world is by destroying Day... but you need Night and Day! You can't just get rid of one because you don't like it! It's not natural! It disrupts everything!"

And he wasn't done yet. "And how can you justify all the pain you've caused to make all this happen? First you destroyed the Guardians of Day and now you want to destroy Peach? How can this new world of yours possibly be worth it if so many people have to suffer?"

"I don't have to justify myself to you, Mario," Shroude snarled at him. "And we obviously can't see eye to eye on this, which means the only thing left for me to do is end your games."

"Yeah right!" Hanner scoffed as the whole team got into battle stances. "I don't care if you are the Master of Night! There's eight of us and one of you!"

In response to that, Shroude just lowered his head and chuckled again... and Mario suddenly got the suspicion that something was very, very wrong.

"You silly little girl... have you forgotten you're not the only Guardians in existence?"

And then, before anyone had time to react to his words, the air around him began to grow dark. Mario's team stepped backwards and watched with widened eyes, as did Peach from inside the black sphere, as the darkness surrounding Shroude coalesced into six points floating behind him. Now there was a group of amorphous black blobs hanging in the air, their only distinguishable features being their sinister glowing eyes...

Six of Mario's partners suddenly knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what they were staring at.

"It can't be..." Maizee whispered. "But it's... they're..."

"The Guardians of Night?" Dulia cried, shaking all over. "But what's wrong with them?"

Mario looked at Shroude incredulously. "You enslaved them!" he accused. "Just like you did to everything else in this temple!"

"Very good, Mario," Shroude said listlessly. "I think it's quite appropriate, don't you? The Guardians of Day versus the Guardians of Night to determine the fate of this world? Anyway, I don't imagine your friends will be able to help you much when they have this on their hands."

And just like that, the shapeless black blobs started floating toward the group and lowering to the ground... and as they did, they weren't shapeless anymore. Mario and Goomblaine stared in confusion as the Guardians of Night floated past them, but the other partners were all watching in horror as they began to grow solid, taking on forms...

The first Guardian of Night landed in front of Hanner, and she couldn't believe what she was seeing.

"H-hey! What's going on here?" she cried, staggering away from it in fear. "Why... why does it look like... like..."

Hanner was staring at a pitch black copy of herself. It seemed to be glaring back at her, but it was impossible to say for sure, for apart from having her form it still had no features except for its narrowed, glowing eyes.

One by one, the other Guardians of Night landed in front of Mario's partners, each one taking the shape of the person they were confronting. Within moments, all of them were staring at shadowy, featureless doppelgangers of themselves.

"M-Mario?" Stubba whimpered, gripping his club as his dark counterpart started advancing on him menacingly.

Mario could only stare at this before turning back to Shroude. "Why?" he cried desperately. "Why are you doing this to them? This isn't right!"

"And who are you to judge me?" Shroude demanded, his voice filling up the whole room. "I am the ruler of this world! Fate is my only judge!"

He opened up his hand, and a mass of darkness materialized inside of it, taking the shape of his deadly, pitch-black sword. He held it high above his head as the entire room seemed to grow dark.

"Whichever of us be wrong... may fate now strike them down!"

Mario and Goomblaine gasped and drew together, realizing they were the only ones left to fight him. As the Master of Night advanced on them with sword in hand, Goomblaine frantically grabbed his phone and Tattled on him.

"Okay, this is the one and only King Shroude! Ruler of the Darkstriders and Master of Night! He's a real pro with that sword, and he can use it to attack both of us at once or even block our attacks! He's also got that wicked black lightning he can shoot at us, and man does that stuff hurt! Basically the only way we can land a hit on this guy is if we make him lower his guard!"

"Great... a sword... he's got a sword..." Mario groaned as they both braced themselves. "I have to be honest... I'm not good at fighting against swords. They're not exactly the weapon of choice in the Mushroom Kingdom..."

Shroude flashed him a toothy grin before letting out a shout, charging at him and thrusting his sword. Mario staggered out of the way just in time and desperately swung his hammer in retaliation, but Shroude deftly held up his sword in front of himself and deflected the blow.

"That little toy of yours won't work against me, Mario," he sneered, slicing his sword in an upward arc. This time Mario couldn't get out of the way in time, crying out as he was sent tumbling across the floor.

"Just what're you tryin' to pull?" Goomblaine snapped as he ran up from the other side and threw himself into a Headbonk. In response, Shroude just spun around and blocked his attack as well, sending Goomblaine dropping to the ground in a stunned heap.

"He's strong... and smart," Mario groaned as he got back to his feet. As long as he had that sword, what was going to stop him from blocking everything they threw at him?

"Is that really the best you can pull off? I'm disappointed in you, Mario," Shroude laughed before opening his hand. Mario had just enough time to panic before the Master of Night shot a black lightning bolt out of his palm and hit him right in the chest.

"Mario!" Peach cried, forced to watch the fight from her vantage point and helpless to do a thing about it.

In the meantime, Mario's other partners weren't having any easier a time against their opponents. They were fighting desperately, knowing they had to help Mario as soon as possible... but how could they possibly win when they were fighting themselves?

"You're really starting to get on my nerves," Hanner muttered through gritted teeth as she and her shadow swung their hammers at each other, then finally rushed up and locked weapons. "And whoever told you that hairstyle was a good idea must have been blind."

"Tee hee hee... there you go, making jokes again," the dark Hanner laughed mischievously. Her voice sounded cheerful like the real Hanner's, but at the same time, much more sinister. "That's all you ever do, isn't it? Are you really that insecure?"

Hanner blinked, loosening her grip on her hammer. "What?"

"Oh please, don't play dumb. You can't hide anything from me! I'm you, after all!" the dark Hanner cackled again in her impish voice. "You only make people laugh to distract them! You're afraid of what they'll see when they stop laughing! They'll see right through you... and they'll realize how useless you really are!"

Hanner's eyes flooded with horror. "You... you... stop it! Stop it! You're lying!"

But she wasn't lying, and they both knew it. Yes, Hanner loved making her friends laugh... but sometimes she really thought that was all she was good for... heck, she'd only joined Mario in the first place because of how incompetent she was... maybe it was better to make light of her faults instead of facing them head on...

"Ha ha ha! Not so funny now, are you?" the dark Hanner giggled. "What are you without your little jokes? Nothing!"

And she threw herself at the real Hanner, who was too shaken to get out of the way.

"Go... away!" shouted Stubba as he angrily pounded on his dark counterpart. "I have to... go help Mario!"

"Yeah, right! You can't help anybody!" the dark Stubba taunted him with a cruel, wicked voice – the fact that it was also a child's voice just made it scarier. "You can't even beat me! You're so little you can't do anything right!"

Stubba stared at him, immediately getting upset. "Shut up! It doesn't matter if I'm little! Mario doesn't care!"

"Yeah he does! Everybody does! They just don't wanna hurt your feelings!" the dark Stubba jeered. "Everybody on Mario's team is big and strong and smart – except you! You're just a dumb baby an' everybody has to take care of you! They'd be way better off without you!"

Now Stubba had tears in his eyes. "Stop it! Stop lying!" he yelled, rushing at his dark self and desperately clubbing him, but he was so upset that he couldn't focus. The dark Stubba just laughed again and effortlessly forced him back.

Mario was groaning and trying to shake off the effects of Shroude's lightning, but already he felt like his strength was running low. Luckily Shroude had been so distracted with launching the attack that Goomblaine finally got the chance to throw in a good Headbonk, throwing him off balance and sending him staggering off to the side.

"Hmph! You're stronger than a Goomba should be," he growled suspiciously, giving Goomblaine a glare. "But it makes no difference. You will fall to my strength!"

Drawing his sword again, he started advancing on Goomblaine while slicing and swinging in every direction. Goomblaine grew a panicked look and frantically started backflipping out of the way, but he quickly ran out of room to maneuver. Before long Shroude had driven him to the edge of the platform, and he yelped and scrambled to avoid falling to his doom.

"Hey! Get away from him!" Mario shouted as he came charging at Shroude, but the Master of Night just whipped around and deflected his hammer swing yet again, nearly causing him to lose his balance and fall over.

"Haven't you learned, Mario? You can't possibly defeat me the way you're going!" he taunted. Mario could only stand there panting, grimly realizing he was right...

Snatchel was locked in a fistfight with his dark self. "Look, partner, I reckon you don't know who it is you're dealin' with, so lemme spell it out for you," he growled, grabbing his opponent by the vest and slugging him in the face.

But the dark Snatchel didn't look fazed at all by the blow; he just let out a dry chuckle. "Oh, I know who you are all right," he said. "Yer that one Bandit who just had to be different from everybody else, ain't ya? You got it in yer head that just because you're different from the rest a' yer kind, that makes you better!"

Snatchel narrowed his eyes warily. "What're you gettin' at?"

"Don't you lie to me! Everybody knows how high an' mighty you think of yerself!" his dark self said accusingly. "Well I got news for ya, partner! Bein' proud ain't no better than bein' a criminal! What kinda Guardian are you when all you can think about is yerself?"

"HEY! You shut your yap, that ain't true!" Snatchel shouted at him, but there was a very clear note of desperation in his voice. In fact, when his dark counterpart let out another laugh and advanced on him again, he found himself strangely unable to fight back.

The two Dulias were zooming around the arena like a couple of airplanes, repeatedly slamming into each other in midair. Finally the dark Dulia managed to knock the real one out of the air, sending them both crashing to the ground and tumbling across the floor.

"Ha ha... just like I thought," the dark Dulia laughed mirthfully as the real one struggled to her feet. "You're just a scrawny little weakling after all, aren't you? You can't even beat yourself!"

"You are not me!" Dulia snapped back. "And I can beat you and I will!"

"Oh yeah? When was the last time you beat anything by yourself?" her dark self jeered at her. "You couldn't even beat one sorry little ringmaster before Mario came along! And even before that, you were always just hiding behind your friends! Let's face it, you're just a wimp and a coward! You can't do anything on your own and you never will!"

Dulia's heart sank as she realized her dark self was right. "No... no, stop it! I'm not listening to you!" she cried, but the damage was already done. The dark Dulia floated into the air and came careening down at her, and suddenly she was so scared and disheartened that all she could do was run away.

Shroude had forced Mario and Goomblaine together again, striking them with a barrage of black lightning from his hand. All they could do was grimace and Guard against the attack, but their opponent was so powerful it barely made a difference.

"Goomblaine, we have to attack him now!" Mario hissed at his partner as the ground around them crackled with residual lightning. "He's only vulnerable when he's not using that sword!"

"It's not gonna work... that's not enough to beat him with," Goomblaine said hopelessly. "He's gonna take us out first."

Mario sighed. "I know he is..."

Still, they knew they had no other option. Shroude prepared to thrust his opposite hand forward and continue the assault, but this time Mario and Goomblaine jumped away from the lightning and threw themselves into the air. Shroude looked up in shock as they both came down on him, pummeling him with a Power Bounce and Multibonk.

Just as Mario had feared, he responded in kind. As Mario and Goomblaine broke off their attack and tried to retreat to safety, Shroude roared in anger and he came charging after Mario, thrusting his sword forward. Mario dodged it only partially, wincing in pain as he was sliced by the blade.

"Why on earth am I wasting my time fighting you?" the dark Maizee sighed as the real one confronted her. "I might as well just let you live. No doubt you'll cause more damage than I ever could!"

"Whatever you're trying, it won't work," Maizee said firmly. "I know I've made mistakes in the past, but I've moved on from that."

The dark Maizee just gave her a wicked sneer. "You've moved on? How can you possibly be so dense? You honestly think you can move on from what you've done? You think your friends will ever completely forgive you? That they trust you?"

"Of course I do! Mario is a good person! They all are!" Maizee shot back, quickly losing her temper.

"Maybe they are, but you certainly aren't," her dark self scoffed. "You think that just because of your sad little attempts to do good, you can just forget all the suffering you caused? You can never undo what you did! If you really loved your son, you would have found a way to save him yourself, instead of trying to destroy his only chance!"

"I had no choice! It was the only way!" Maizee cried desperately, but her words sounded feeble and pathetic. Her dark self just laughed and effortlessly shoved her to the ground, assaulting her with a painful song as she fought back tears.

"Listen, dude, I've got no beef with you," said Ferdinand, raising up his flippers and backing away from his opponent. "Can't we just chill instead of duking it out like this?"

"Aw, what's wrong, dude? You scared?" the dark Ferdinand taunted him. "No wait, let me guess – you just don't feel like fighting, do you? Because it's not fun enough for you, is it, man?"

Ferdinand glared at him. "Hey man, that's a low blow. I'll fight you if I have to!"

"Sure you will, dude – right after you throw a beach party right here in the Temple!" his dark self laughed. "I dunno if you noticed, man, but you're still a total joke in your little group! Even when you're fighting to save the whole world, the best advice you can give Mario-dude is to chill out and not worry?" He scoffed. "Dude, look where you are! Are you ever gonna start taking stuff seriously? It's time to get your head out of the clouds!"

Ferdinand quickly felt his confidence start to falter. "Hey! I don't have to listen to this, man!" he protested, but his dark self just kept on laughing at him, which just shot him down even more. Then the dark Ferdinand leapt into the air, and the real one found that all he could do was wince as he was knocked to the ground.

Mario and Goomblaine were ready to collapse. They had given it their all, but Shroude was an utterly relentless fighter. He was toying with them now, slowly approaching them as he laughed, knowing they couldn't get away, then striking them with another lightning blast.

If only they could use Shine Down... but they were so weak, it would hurt them more than it would him...

"So you see, Mario," he said smugly. "No power can overcome mine. I am the strongest there has ever been; I was meant to rule over your world."

He looked at something behind Mario and chuckled. "It seems even your friends understand that now."

Despite almost toppling over in exhaustion, Mario gasped and spun around.

All of his partners were lying defeated under their dark selves, who were grinning down at them with glints in their eyes. Mario stared in disbelief. His friends didn't even look badly beaten up, but they all looked miserable... as though they'd given up.

"Guys!" he cried. "What's going on?"

Hanner lifted up her head. "Mario – " she began, but her dark self immediately smacked her across the face with her hammer, making her flinch and fall silent.

Mario was horrified, but more than that, he was confused. He'd never seen his partners like this before!

"What did you do to them?!" he shouted at Shroude.

"I didn't do anything," Shroude replied, sounding very satisfied with himself. "They were the tools to their own destruction, Mario. All they did was hear the truth."

He drew his sword and stalked toward Mario. "However, I'll be more than happy to finish you off myself."

And without warning, he surged toward Mario and started hacking at him with his sword. Mario cried out and tried to defend himself, but Shroude was moving so quickly that Mario had no time to react. He couldn't even get away.

Peach was watching the whole thing with a look of horror. "Mario!" she screamed, tears springing to her eyes. "Stop it, stop it, you monster!"

Goomblaine grew a furious look and tried to Headbonk Shroude out of the way, but he just deflected the Goomba's attack with ease before continuing to slash at Mario. The plumber had collapsed to the ground, too weak and disoriented to get back up. Anyway, Shroude was attacking him too fiercely to even let him try.

He started to panic. No... I can't go out like this... not now... not when we were so close...

"You and your friends have fallen, Mario," Shroude's voice came from above him. "Now you will know the punishment... for defying my power!"

From where she was lying on the floor, Hanner suddenly felt a surge of terror. "MARIO!"

And before she knew what she was doing, she'd jumped to her feet, grabbed her hammer, and smacked her shadowy self so hard that she spun around a hundred and eighty degrees and collapsed to the ground.

Everyone was so shocked that even Shroude stopped what he was doing and stared, leaving Mario curled up on the ground and groaning.

"H-hey! What gives?" the dark Hanner cried from on the floor, trying to shuffle away from the real Hanner. "You're not supposed to fight back! I just took all the fight out of you, you dummy!"

"Get real! I don't care what you think about me!" Hanner snarled. She certainly wasn't joking around now; she was angry. "You're not my friend! But Mario is, and HE NEEDS US!"

The other partners stared at her as she started wailing on her dark self, who was suddenly so shocked she could barely fight back, and gradually the scales seemed to fall from their eyes.

"Yeah! Mario needs us!" Stubba shouted, swinging his club and whacking his dark self right out of the way. One by one, the others grew determined looks on their faces and rose up against their opponents. Suddenly they were fighting with an incredible blaze of fury, and their shadowy selves started to panic.

"What are you trying to pull?" the dark Dulia gasped as the real one headbutted her in the stomach. "You can't just ignore me! Everything I said is true! You know it!"

"Maybe it is," said Dulia, "but that doesn't mean I can just abandon Mario when he needs me!"

"All of us have made mistakes, but Mario always had faith in us, and now we must do the same for him!" Maizee shouted as she threw her dark self to the ground.

"What they said, man!" Ferdinand cheered as he flapped over to his opponent and started unleashing a barrage of Beak Jabs.

Mario was still lying on the floor as he watched all this, his eyes wide. They were doing all this for him? He had no idea he'd inspired them that much...

"Guys... you're all... fighting back... for me..."

"So we'd better make sure it's not for nothin'!" Goomblaine snapped, nudging him in the side. Alerted, Mario glanced over his shoulder and yelped, rolling out of the way just as an enraged Shroude fired another bolt of lightning at him.

"This is sickening," the Master of Night snarled. "Just what is it going to take to make you all go down and stay down? What do I have to do?!"

"I think it's time we found out," Mario said as he got back to his feet. "Goomblaine, I have an idea. He can guard against one of us, but I'll bet you anything he can't guard against both of us together."

"Yeah? This plan of yours better work!" Goomblaine shot back as Shroude drew his sword and charged them again, bellowing out a horrible war cry. Goomblaine responded by flipping into the air and delivering a Headbonk, which Shroude blocked effortlessly... but he was so busy doing that, his guard was lowered against Mario, who ran up right behind Goomblaine and whacked Shroude with a mighty Power Smash.

"AAAARGH!" Shroude roared in rage, spinning around and hacking at Mario with his sword. Mario grimaced in pain, but inwardly grinned in triumph as he countered Shroude's attack with another blow from his hammer. Just as he'd expected, Shroude threw up his sword and blocked it, but in doing so lowered his guard against Goomblaine, who delivered a Headbonk so powerful it knocked the wind out of him and drove him to the ground.

"And stay down, ya freak!" Goomblaine spat at him.

Shroude wearily lifted his head up and stared at him. How could one Goomba possibly be so strong?

"What are you...?"

The other partners were laying a beatdown on their dark counterparts. Their opponents had kept trying to force them back by taunting them, much more desperately now, but they refused to let it work on them again. Mario was fighting for them, and they couldn't let him down.

"Looks like I just beat you – all by myself!" Dulia snapped as she delivered the deciding blow against her dark self. The dark Dulia let out a wail of pain as she fell to the ground, and then her shape seemed to collapse right before Dulia's eyes. Her shadowy body lost its form and she reverted back to a shapeless, nondescript blob of darkness.

Dulia stared at it and shuddered. "That was creepy..."

Once he saw that had happened, Snatchel broke into a grin and punched his dark self square in the face, causing him to stagger backwards and fall to the ground, splattering into a shadowy blob as he hit.

"Yee-haw! Why don't ya bring yer A-Game next time, partner?"

Slowly but surely, working together, Mario and Goomblaine turned the tide against Shroude. Just like Mario had guessed, Shroude couldn't defend against both of them in a row, and when he blocked one of their attacks it just left him completely defenseless against the other person.

"Still think this thing is a toy?" Mario taunted him as he whacked him again with his hammer, landing a heavy blow. Finally Shroude seemed to realize his tactic wasn't working and just resorted to shooting lightning at them, but when he did that, he had no way of blocking their attacks at all. As Mario and Goomblaine deftly dodged one of his lightning strikes and then came charging at him, he grew a horrified look as he seemed to realize he was done for.

"Now take your stupid hair and get outta our world!" Goomblaine shouted as he threw himself into the air, pummeling Shroude with a Multibonk. The Master of Night was too weak to shake off his attacker, and then finally he was too weak to support his own weight. Letting out a loud moan of despair, his sword dropped from his hands and he collapsed to his knees.

Mario and Goomblaine watched as he sat there panting heavily, gradually realizing that he wasn't getting back up.

"That's it... we did it," Mario said quietly. "We won."

"Eh, that wasn't so hard," Goomblaine said gruffly.

Peach sighed and leaned against the inside of the sphere. "Thank goodness..."

"Mario! We're here to save you!" Hanner declared valiantly as she and the other partners all suddenly came running up next to him. Mario looked at them in surprise, then looked behind them and realized they had all just finished defeating the Guardians of Night, leaving them as weak and flickering balls of darkness on the other side of the platform.

"Oh... well, thanks guys, but we just beat him."

Hanner turned to look at Shroude and seemed to grow a disappointed look. "Oh... well, that's good, I guess."

Everyone on Mario's team cautiously drew up and gazed at Shroude. He was still panting and clutching at himself, but his eyes were blazing with fury.

"This... this is impossible," he hissed. "How... how could the likes of you possibly defeat me? It can't be done! It can't!" His voice was rising. "I am the Master of Night! Only the Master of Day can defeat me!"

Mario raised an eyebrow at him. "And how do you know that's not exactly what happened?"

Shroude looked at him as though he were an idiot. "The Master of Day is here! She has no power over me without her Sun Soul!" he snarled. "I joined her halves together myself, and I imprisoned her here! She can't do a thing!"

Despite the gravity of the situation, Mario couldn't help but break into a sly grin.

"You joined her halves together?" he repeated. "Now why would you need to do that? You know not even the Guardians can be split in half, right? Don't you think, if she really were the Master of Day, she would have joined together all by herself?"

A wary looked suddenly crossed Shroude's face and his eyes widened. "What... what are you saying?"

"I'm saying you've got the wrong person," Mario said smugly, relishing this moment quite a bit. He stepped to the side and looked at Goomblaine, who gave the wide-eyed Shroude an innocent smile and shrugged.

Shroude stared back at him. "Wait a minute – what?" he cried, suddenly losing his composure even more. "You – you're lying! You have to be!" He started looking frantic. "A Goomba? The Master of Day, the one true equal to my power... is a GOOMBA?!"

Goomblaine snickered. "Yeah, funny how life works out, i'n't it?"

Shroude leapt to his feet, a desperate look in his eyes. "But this – it can't be! You're telling me that Princess Peach, the legendary maiden of purity – was just some random girl with no bearing on my plans whatsoever?!"

"Certainly looks that way, doesn't it?" Mario said with a very amused grin.

Peach had been listening to all of this. "Really? You mean the villain didn't even need me at all this time?" she said, looking thrilled. "I feel so liberated!"

"What made you think it was Peach anyway?" asked Hanner.

Shroude was coming more undone by the second. "Well I – I – why wouldn't I think that?" he demanded, sounding defensive. "I mean, you always need a fair and pure maiden for this sort of thing! ALWAYS!"

"I guess that has been true the last few times," Mario admitted.

"Well, I say traditions like that were meant to be broken!" Maizee said with a chuckle.

Shroude's eyes were bulging. This couldn't be happening to him! It couldn't! He'd planned it all so carefully, so thoroughly... his plan was flawless! How could he have been wrong all along? Wrong about everything? He'd been so sure... and yet now all he could do was watch as his entire life's work came unraveled before him...

Finally he bowed his head and started laughing. It was a low laugh and hard to hear, but Mario and his friends immediately tensed up as they heard it. Something wasn't right...

"Fine then. If you are the Master of Day, then I'll just end your game instead! Better yet – I'll end all of your games in one fell swoop! You've humiliated me... for the last time!"

He raised up his hand, and suddenly the black sphere that held Peach vanished into thin air, leaving her hovering above his head. Peach screamed as, without touching her, Shroude hurled her through the air with some invisible force, disgusted with her uselessness, intent on sending her over the edge and out of his sight for good...

"WOAH! Hang on, Princess!" Ferdinand cried, throwing himself off the platform and catching her in midair. Peach gasped and scrabbled to cling onto his foot as he frantically flapped his arms, trying to carry them up to the others.

"Peach!" Mario cried, but his attention was suddenly drawn away from her and onto the Guardians of Night... or what remained of them. Some tangible but invisible force was pulling them across the floor and over to Shroude, like a magnet. Shroude was still laughing like a maniac as the ground around him crackled with black lightning; it seemed like he had lost all control over it.

"Mario? What's he doing?" Stubba whimpered, edging behind the plumber. The other partners were backing away as well, watching as the bodiless Guardians of Night were drawn inexorably toward their Master...

And then shadowy tendrils came shooting out from his body, each one latching onto one of the Guardians of Night, who were nothing more than little round balls now. The tendrils pulled them into him so that there were three on either side of him, the ones on each side lined up on top of each other. Then the tendrils formed together to create the illusion that Shroude suddenly had a pair of enormous black butterfly wings, each one tipped with three balls of darkness...

Mario and the others had no words for what they were witnessing. They could only stare silently, mouths hanging open, drawing together in complete terror as Shroude flapped his wings and rose into the air, still laughing madly as he absorbed the Guardians' power into himself, an aura of black fire blazing up around him.

"I will have my world of Night... and I'll destroy you all before I let you get in my way!"
Paper Mario: TTotS - Chapter 8, Part V
Well it has been a long time coming indeed, but here at last is this most important update of Paper Mario: The Temple of the Sun, wherein Mario beats the Stage 1 of the final boss, only to royally screw up and instigate Stage 2.  Oops.

Fun Facts: So, I will be the first to admit that SPM has way better villains than this fic. *weeps forever over Count Bleck* I didn't have much of Shroude's specific motivations in mind when I first started writing, and it wasn't until later that I came up with the idea that his home world was destroyed and he needed to find a new one.  I probably will go back and fix the story proper (I keep telling myself that) to establish this little tidbit much earlier on, when he's first talking to Peach.  I have him in mind as sort of a Social Darwinist; he's pissed off that his own world is destroyed, but since he considers himself the strongest person in both worlds, there's no reason why he shouldn't take over this one; he's just taking what's owed to him.

On the other hand, his character as it is sort of works for the purposes of the story, since he's an overly generic Mario villain who assumes he's in an equally generic Mario game where Princess Peach is of course the one necessary for his plans.  Oh, how wrong he is.

So how would this scene play out in a real game?  Probably much differently.  For one, you (Mario) would fight all six Guardians of Night in succession (though they'd still be impersonating your partners and have the same stats as their Ultra Ranked selves) and then fight Shroude.  Much more of a boss gauntlet that way, isn't it?  Though for the story to make any sense, Goomblaine would probably be the only one of your partners who could damage him.
    
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The Temple of the Sun
00:00


The group was irritated to find yet another hallway full of Mini-Suns and Mini-Moons just beyond the door, identical to the previous one. Judging by the way the strange enemies were patrolling back and forth, there was no way to sneak past all of them.

"Ugh... not more of these things," Mario groaned. "We really don't have time to fight them all off again..."

"You're right, dude... so I say we take another option!" said Ferdinand as he stepped forward. Mario and the others watched in surprise as he suddenly jumped into the air and started crazily flapping his arms, and just like that, he summoned an enormous Tsunami from out of nowhere. It surged up underneath him, and he cheered as he rode it straight toward the enemies and it came crashing down on them, sweeping every last one of them out of the fight.

When it was over, he found himself standing in the middle of the dripping-wet hallway with the others all staring at him. "Heh heh... hope this carpet is waterproof, man," he said sheepishly.

The only one who didn't look completely awed was Snatchel. "Now hang on a minute! Why the heck didn't ya just do that the first time?!" he demanded, looking exasperated yet again.

Ferdinand just shrugged unconcernedly. "Well hey man, it'd be way cheap if I just did that every time, now wouldn't it?"

"Hey Mario..." Hanner cut in before Snatchel could say anything else, "is it just me, or is the glow around here getting brighter?"

"Hmm?" Mario paused and suddenly realized she was right. All the rooms they'd been in so far had at least a faint golden glow to them, but in this part of the Temple, he noticed that the glow seemed to be getting gradually brighter the farther along they went. Not only that, but there seemed to be a faint feeling of power in the air... and the farther they went, the stronger it became.

"You're right, Hanner... that can only mean one thing. We're getting close."

With that in mind, the group found themselves growing in anticipation as they opened the door and entered the next room... but they weren't too happy at what they found.

"Hang on... haven't we already done this puzzle?" said Mario. Sure enough, the room they were currently in appeared to be an exact replica of the previous room that had contained the warping block puzzle. Just like before, there was an upper and lower pathway, and the upper one was cut off by a dark-colored block.

"Do I have to break it again, Mario?" asked Stubba.

"I don't think so... this block looks different from before. I don't think we can break it."

Mario walked up the stairs and examined the block curiously. Finally he gave it an experimental push and was surprised to find it gave easily. Deciding to roll with it, he kept pushing it down the hallway until he suddenly noticed a glowing tile on the floor near the door.

"Huh... what happens if I..."

He pushed the block onto the tile, and suddenly it vanished into thin air.

"Woah! What just – "

"It's down here, Mario!" came Dulia's voice from below him. "We don't know what you did up there, but you moved the block down here somehow!"

"Huh?" Mario peered over the railing and saw that there was now a light-colored block down in the lower hallway, right next to the door.

"Huh. Well, that was simple enough..."

He walked through the now-open door on the top floor, and just like before, found only a small room with a chest containing a Temple Key. Now the group had to get through the door on the lower level, but the block was in the way.

"Well, great. How do we move it back up there?" asked Goomblaine.

"Well, there's another glowing tile back there," said Mario, looking back at the very beginning of the lower hallway. "I'll just have to get it back there somehow... except there's not enough room for me to get behind it and push..."

He suddenly grew a not amused look. "I'll just have to pull it."

After spending several minutes struggling and grumbling loudly to himself, Mario finally managed to pull the large block onto the second glowing tile, warping it back up to the upper floor and allowing the group to progress through the door on the bottom.

The next room was a very strange one indeed. There were more Mini-Suns and Mini-Moons floating around, which irritated the group, but more notable was that the floor seemed to resemble a checkerboard, laid out in a grid of square tiles. On one of these tiles was a metal statue of a Mini-Sun with glowing red eyes, and on another one further across the room was a similar statue of a Mini-Moon.

"Whaddaya reckon them statue things are for?" asked Snatchel, scratching his head.

"I dunno... but I don't like 'em. They're really creepy looking," Hanner said with a light shudder.

"Well, we just won't bother with them then," Mario decided as he set off across the room... but just as he was about to walk past the first statue, it came zooming sideways and jerked to a stop right in front of him.

"WAAAUGH!" Mario cried in shock, flailing his arms and falling over backwards.

"Mario? Are you okay? What just happened?" Dulia cried as the others came running up.

"Uh, that statue thing just moved all by itself, that's what happened," Ferdinand said uneasily. "That's... just not right, man."

Mario glared up at the statue as he stood up, never taking his eyes off it. He tried to walk around it, but whenever he moved, the statue mimicked his movement and shifted in front of him again, making it impossible for him to go any further.

"It won't let us go through!" he complained. "What do we do now?"

"Oh Mario, there's something written down here!" said Stubba, who happened to be near eye level with the lower portion of the statue, a pedestal that the Mini-Sun was resting on. He crouched down and slowly tried to read what was written there. "'As Day...' uh... what's that word, Mario?"

Mario got down next to him. "'As Day spurns Night and Night spurns Day, only its self may pass this way.'" He groaned. "Ugh, more rhyming puzzles. Well, what do you suppose that means?"

"It sounds like this statue will only let itself pass through here... hmm..." Dulia looked thoughtful, and then her eyes lit up. "I got it!"

She grabbed a shocked Mario by the wrist and pulled him over to where one of the Mini-Suns was floating around. Before it could attack them, she closed her eyes in deep concentration and put a hand on Mario.

"Dulia, what are you – "

"I'm making you like that statue!" she said as Mario's body suddenly started tingling all over. The next thing he knew, he was enveloped by purple smoke and he'd been transformed into a Mini-Sun.

"Ugh... this is not comfortable at all," Mario sighed as he tried to look down at himself. "But... I think I see what you mean, Dulia... this might just work!"

"Heh heh... looking good, Mario," Hanner joked as he floated back over to the statue. As soon as it saw Mario, it suddenly made a noise like a machine powering down and its eyes went dark.

"Hah... you were right, Dulia!" Mario cheered as he turned back to normal and they all raced around the inert statue. "Of course, now we have to do that again..."

So Dulia next turned Mario into a copy of one of the Mini-Moons, and they did the same thing to the second statue, causing it to shut down like the first before they all raced out of the room.

"We're getting really close now... I can feel it..." Dulia said nervously. And Mario had a feeling she was right; the tension was just getting stronger and stronger. The room they were in now was similar to the version of the clock room that lead to Garudawn; there were only sun decorations on the walls, which gave Mario an inkling of what they'd have to do next. There were three platforms rising out of a bottomless pit that led over to the next door, and they were bridged by more of the glowing light-pathways.

"Well, we can't just go over to that door. It's locked again," Maizee sighed. "So there must be a key hidden in here somewhere, but where?"

Goomblaine had the answer. "There's a doorway right over there," he said, gesturing at the left wall halfway across the room. Sure enough, there was a doorway there they could reach from the middle platform.

"All right, let's head over there," Mario said as he prepared to step onto the glowing walkway... but just as he did, the whole thing vanished from underneath him, leaving him to step out onto thin air. He cried out and started flailing, and Hanner and Stubba gasped and scrambled over to him, grabbing him by either arm and pulling him back onto the platform before he could go falling off.

"Be careful, Mario!" Stubba cried.

"Phew... thanks, guys," Mario sighed, looking out as the walkway suddenly reappeared. "...I guess that thing appears and disappears at an interval. We have to make it all the way across before it fades away."

So the next time the pathway reappeared, everyone raced across it to the middle platform as fast as they could, barely making it before it vanished behind them. From there they walked through the doorway on the left into an adjacent room, but all they found was a short stairway up to another platform cut off by a huge metal block, along with two gold-colored Chain Chomps on either side of the room.

"Those things're called Golden Chomps. Yeah, real original," said Goomblaine as he Tattled on them. "Like you probably guessed, they're stronger than regular Chain Chomps."

"Y'know, gold is one of the softest metals there are. Why would a golden version of an enemy be stronger?" asked Hanner, looking confused.

Goomblaine just glared at her. "You wanna take over this job?"

Whatever the case, the party took care of both Golden Chomps in quick succession, and as soon as they did, a bright glow came from the top of the staircase as a chest magically materialized.

"Well, that's fine and dandy, but how do we get up there with that dang ol' block in the way?" asked Snatchel.

Mario grinned. "Oh, come on. This is no problem for Super Mario!" he said, walking up to the metal block and smashing it with one good wound-up strike from his Ultra Hammer. Then he raced up the stairs and opened the chest, finding a Badge inside of it.

"Heh heh... check it out, everybody. Looks like this is our Lucky Day!" he joked, holding up the Badge for his partners. Unfortunately for him, they all just groaned at his attempt at humor.

"I'm sorry Mario, but that wasn't even a pun, that was just lazy," Dulia sighed, shaking her head.

Mario frowned. "Well, fine then..."

"Anyway, what we're lookin' for is a key, and we don't got one of those yet," Goomblaine reminded him.

"Hey, look over here!" came Stubba's voice, and everyone turned to find him gazing at a crack in the right wall. "Ooh, I know what to do here!"

He eagerly wound up his club and bashed the wall, causing a huge hole to open up that seemed to lead to another room.

"Good job, Stubba! I would've missed that completely," said Mario as they all walked into the newly-revealed room. It actually looked exactly the same as the last one, with another metal block in front of a short staircase, although the enemies in this room were more Light and Dark Magiblots. At any rate, once the party took care of them, another chest appeared at the top of the stairs, and inside this one was a Silver Key.

"Sweet! That'll get us out of here for sure, man!" Ferdinand cheered.

But Mario found himself frowning unsurely as he held the key, remembering the room they had come from. "I hope it does... but I'm not quite sure..."

Back in the main hallway, the group raced across the second glowing path before it disappeared, heading right up to the padlocked door. But as Mario tried to fit the key in the lock, his heart sank as he realized his suspicions were confirmed. The key didn't fit.

"What? Come on! That's the only key we could find!" Hanner complained. "What else are we supposed to do?"

"I've got a pretty good idea," said Mario, turning to look back over at the shining golden walls. "This place looks just like the room before we fought Garudawn, doesn't it? It's so bright and sunny..."

He pulled out the Aeon Hourglass. "So there must be another one."

He flipped the hourglass over, and everyone vanished.

––

The Temple of the Sun
00:00


As they emerged in the new room, they saw that this version of it looked just like the room before Garudark. The walls in here were dark blue and covered with stars, and although the door directly in front of them was still locked, the padlock here was silver, not gold.

"Perfect," Mario said with a smile, fitting the Silver Key into the silver padlock and opening the door. Beyond it was only a tiny anteroom with a single chest, but inside of it was a Golden Key, which could only have one possible use.

"I still don't really understand how the hourglass can possibly work in a place where there is no time... but I suppose that's something else to worry about another day," said Maizee as they returned to the main hallway.

"Yeah, once we're not racing to save the whole world, I'd really like to know more about this place," Dulia agreed with an eager nod.

"Unfortunately, I would be very hard-pressed to find a time like that," Mario sighed as he pulled out the hourglass again. "In fact, at this point, if I weren't constantly saving the world, I'd have no idea what to do with myself."

"Just wonderin', partner, but how exactly does a plumber get roped into bein' the constant savior of the world and all that?" Snatchel asked curiously.

Mario rolled his eyes. "Your guess is as good as mine."

He turned the hourglass over again, and they were engulfed in yet another flash.

––

The Temple of the Sun
00:00


Back in the bright version of the hallway, Mario instantly unlocked the golden padlock in front of them with the Golden Key and led the group into the next room. By now they were growing exasperated; the room was impossibly huge, the puzzles looked the most complex of all, and they were all certain that they were now right at King Shroude's doorstep.

This gauntlet of a final room looked largely the same as the last one, except now there were four main platforms leading across the room instead of three. Like before, the second one had a doorway on the left wall that led to another room. Unlike before, there were now Mini-Sun and Mini-Moon enemies floating around to cause even more trouble.

Worst of all, this time there weren't even any pathways connecting the platforms. They were stranded on their side of the room.

"Well, now whaddawe do?" Goomblaine griped. "We got no way across the room this time."

"Calm down, guys," said Mario, who was looking intently out at the room. "There has to be some way over there. We just don't see it..."

Suddenly he paused and grew a strange look, echoing his last words. "We don't see it..."

Ever so slowly, he lifted his foot out over the edge of the platform and put it down... and it landed on something solid as a glowing square of light suddenly appeared underneath it.

"Aha!" he cheered, stepping onto the glowing square. "I knew it! There is a pathway here! It's just invisible."

"Invisible?" Hanner said with a gulp.

"But how do we go across it if we can't see it?" asked Stubba.

"...Very, very carefully," Mario decided.

So the party very cautiously edged out in single file across the walkway. Mario led the way, always very carefully looking for the next section of the path by sticking his foot out. Whenever he found it, another glowing square would appear under his foot and he'd step onto it. Unfortunately the path wasn't straight and ended up zigzagging back and forth numerous times before they finally made it all the way across.

On the second platform, they walked through the doorway to the left and found themselves in a largely empty room. After eliminating the Golden Chomp enemies, they saw that there was a staircase in the corner that seemingly led up to nothing. Apart from that, the only noteworthy thing was that the ground floor had for large tiles all lined up in a row.

"What's up with these things, I wonder?" said Mario as he walked up to the tiles, looking down at them. To his surprise, each one of them had a number inscribed in them. From left to right, they were numbered 2, 4, 3, 1.

He frowned. "Really? That's the best they could come up with?"

He finally shrugged resignedly, walked underneath the tile marked "1" and performed a Spin Jump, slamming down onto it with all his might. As soon as he did, it lit up underneath him and started to glow. He walked over and did the same thing with the other three, Spin Jumping on them in numerical order, and they all began to glow as well.

As soon as he'd lit up the last one, he and his partners all gasped as a narrow walkway suddenly came unfolding from the wall above their heads like the paper it was. They could reach the walkway from the stairs in the corner, and as they raced up the stairs and across the path Mario saw there was yet another Temple Key up there... only trouble was, the ceiling suddenly dropped down right in front of it and prevented them from being able to reach it.

"We can't exactly squeeze under there," Mario griped, examining the wall that came down from the ceiling and stopped just a few feet above the walkway.

"Maybe we can't, but I know somethin' that can!" Snatchel declared, looking eager to spring into action. He grabbed his lariat and threw it under the wall, grabbing the key and yanking it back with no trouble at all.

Back in the main hallway, they crossed over to the third platform via another disappearing pathway, scrambling across it in a big hurry, and then made it over to the door by having Ferdinand carry them across a group of smaller, hovering platforms. Knowing they were about to face something big, Mario took a deep breath before unlocking the door and leading them all into the next room.

As it turned out, there was nothing in there. It was a pretty small, circular room with the same elegant decorations on the walls that were in the rest of the Temple. The group looked around warily, but they seemed to be alone.

But they weren't alone for long.

"So, you finally made it, Mario. We were getting impatient."

"Oh no..." Mario groaned at the sound of the voice. He and the others all stepped backwards as three very familiar clouds of smoke suddenly rose out of the floor and three very familiar Darkstriders came stepping out.

"Hmph. Long time no see, you guys," Hanner grumbled.

"Well, Mario, our lord is quite impressed that you've all made it this far," Jaff said casually, dusting himself off and standing directly between them and the door. "But he's also told us to make sure you all never get past this room. I'm afraid your little adventure is now over."

The entire party was glaring at them, and Goomblaine gave them a contemptuous scoff. "You freaks stupid or somethin'? We made it all the way through this place and you think you're gonna slow us down?"

"If I were you, I'd retreat right now and save yourselves a beating," Maizee said in a very serious voice.

"Sounds like a smart idea to me," Mario agreed, pulling out his hammer.

Jaff just gave a low chuckle in response, shaking his head. "Oh, Mario... I expected you and your little team would be smarter than that by now. We may have had trouble against you in the past, but do you honestly think our lord would send us out here without... leveling the playing field?"

And without any warning, he generated a huge ball of shadow in his hands and hurled it at Mario. The plumber's eyes bulged, but he was too late to move before it slammed into him, sending him flying across the room.

"Mario!" came several panicked cries.

Mario crashed onto the floor, wincing in pain and with his clothing singed and smoking. He struggled to lift his head up and stared at Jaff. "What... what was that?"

"Our lord was kind enough to give us a share of his power for this fight, that's what," the Darkstrider cackled. "He really wants you out of the way, doesn't he? You should consider it an honor that he's devoted so much to destroying you."

"This won't be like last time! You punks are going down! We're makin' sure of that!" Pell laughed, jumping up and down and looking eager for a fight.

"Nobody messes with our lord's plans and gets away with it," Nobb chuckled dangerously. "Get ready for a one-way ride on the pain train, Mario!"

Everyone looked at him. "The what?" asked Dulia.

Jaff growled and smacked Nobb. "Enough with your stupid metaphors, Nobb! Save it for when we've ended Mario's game once and for all!"

"You got it!" Pell and Nobb both shouted, and all three of them leapt into battle.

"All right, you're asking for it," grumbled Mario, who'd managed to get back to his feet. He pulled out his hammer and swung it at Jaff, but the Darkstrider jumped out of the way before he'd even gotten close, then sprang up behind Mario and slashed at him with his claws.

"YEOWCH!" Mario cried, staggering backwards and starting to worry for the first time. No doubt about it, they were much stronger than they'd been before...

"Hey! Slow down already!" Hanner shouted as she tried to throw her hammers at Pell, but he was moving far too quickly for her, racing around her in circles and taunting her all the while. Luckily he was so distracted with that that he didn't notice Stubba racing up behind him and clonking him on the head with his club.

"Why you – " he snarled, spinning around to face the Clubba, but Stubba just gave him a fearless look and used Shock Wave. He curled up and slammed into the ground, throwing Pell on his back and leaving his head spinning in confusion.

"Guess it's time to see who's got the bigger muscle, huh?" Snatchel said as he glared at Nobb, crackling his knuckles. The oversized Darkstrider grinned and came charging at him, and within seconds an all-out fist fight broke out between the two of them.

Mario was growing exasperated. He tried again and again to swing his hammer at Jaff, but his opponent was just too fast and too strong. Goomblaine was standing back-to-back with him and trying to fight him off as well, but he wasn't having any better luck.

"What a shame, Mario," Jaff laughed cruelly. "I thought you'd give me a little challenge here, just before the end. But it seems you've finally met your better!"

He opened his hands and generated another ball of dark energy, launching it right at Mario. The plumber winced and braced himself, only to then yelp in surprise as Ferdinand hauled him clear off the ground with Flutter Lift, causing the attack to fly right underneath him.

"That's bogus, man!" the Bumpty shouted at Jaff. "Nobody's better than Mario-dude as long as we got his back!"

Hanner, Stubba and Dulia were all ganging up on Pell. Though he was the fastest of the three Darkstriders and was flinging dark energy balls at them like there was no tomorrow, he couldn't possibly pick off all three of them at once.

Hanner winced as one of his attacks struck her right in the shell, causing her to skid backwards, but at the same time Stubba and Dulia shouted in fury and rushed at him. Stubba knocked him to one side with his Club attack, and then Dulia sent him staggering in the other direction with a Head Missile.

"You're just a bunch of kids!" Pell spat at them. "How the heck can you stand up to our lord's power?"

"We're not just kids, we're Guardians!" Stubba taunted him. Pell gave a furious shriek and hurled an oversized ball of dark energy at them.

"Get behind me!" Dulia shouted at her friends, and as they scrambled behind her back she threw up a Plasma Shield just before it was too late, the dark energy ball splattering against it.

Snatchel had finally managed to out-muscle Nobb, and with one full-blown body check he sent the large Darkstrider flipping over and crumpling to the ground.

"And that's why you don't mess with the sheriff of Golden Spur Ranch! It don't end well," he said with a grin. He was prepared to turn around and leave Nobb there, but with a sudden burst of resolve, the Darkstrider let out a roar and slashed at him, knocking he feet out from under him and sending him crashing to the floor.

"Hey! What the - " Snatchel cried, but Nobb had already gotten to his feet and looked ready to finish him off... when suddenly his eyes rolled back in his head and he dropped to the ground again, sound asleep.

Snatchel stared in surprise as Maizee came out from behind him. "I think you'll find we work better together, wouldn't you say?"

The sheriff broke out in a grin. "That's the best idea I've heard all day!"

Mario and Goomblaine had finally managed to get the edge on Jaff, with Ferdinand throwing in a Beak Jab whenever he got the chance. The lead Darkstrider was strong indeed, but he wasn't tireless, and at the moment he was hopelessly outnumbered... so he went for a different tactic.

"You do realize you've already lost, don't you Mario?" he taunted the plumber as he ducked and dodged Goomblaine's Headbonks. "While you're wasting your time down here, our lord has no doubt finished off your precious princess already! Your world is doomed to darkness, all because you just weren't fast enough!"

Mario felt a familiar twinge of anger... but he forced it back. He knew better than that by now.

"We'll see about that," was all he said before he started smacking Jaff around with his hammer again. The two of them dived into a mano-a-mano fight, claws against hammer, but Mario was so determined by now that Jaff just didn't have a chance.

He seemed to realize that. "Darkstriders, regroup!" he shouted at the top of his lungs. Nobb was all too eager to scramble away from Snatchel and Maizee, who had teamed up and beaten him into the ground with very little effort, and Pell crawled away equally quickly from his three young adversaries.

"You will not get past us, Mario!" Jaff declared as the three of them stood staunchly between him and the door... all together in one place.

Hanner just laughed. "That was a bad idea," she told them before generating an electric ball and knocking it at them with her Volt Hammer, striking them all with blasts of lightning. Snatchel immediately followed up with a Double Dash, plowing into all three of them in quick succession. They were all sent sprawling on the ground and groaning in pain... but even then, to Mario's shock, they still got back up.

"You'll have to do better than that," Jaff panted, exhausted but with more resolve than ever. "We've come too far to be done in by all of you!"

"Geez, they're still not goin' down? We don't got time for any more of this!" Goomblaine cried. Feeling worried, Mario gave him a glance... and then got an idea.

"We have to wrap this up now," he said to Goomblaine. "And I think I know exactly how. You up for it?"

Goomblaine looked back up at him... and then grinned and nodded.

Hanner suddenly looked nervous. "Uh oh... get ready, guys. I think we're gonna see some fireworks."

Mario and Goomblaine stood together and shouted "Shine Down!"

All three Darkstriders looked up in shock as a huge, shining ball of light appeared above their heads... and then an entire volley of beams of light came crashing down from all directions. The three of them screamed and tried to scramble away, but they couldn't possibly evade the shining destruction raining down on them from every which way. One by one they were struck by one of the beams of light, and one by one they collapsed to the ground, very soundly defeated.

The ball of light died away, and the room returned to normal.

"That... that..." Hanner stammered after a moment of silence.

"That... was... SO COOL!" Stubba cheered, jumping up and down and looking completely hyper.

"That was the strongest attack I've ever seen!" Dulia cried. "How'd you guys do that?"

Mario turned and gave her a weak grin. "Well... it does take a lot out of you," he panted, looking ready to fall over. "I have a feeling it's for emergencies only."

"Let's not do that again," Goomblaine groaned, sitting down.

However bad they looked, though, the Darkstriders were far worse. Jaff finally managed to lift up his head and glare at Mario, though he knew it was futile.

"Fine, then," he groaned. "So you won, Mario. But no matter what, you've still done nothing but waste your time. Our lord will defeat you with his own hands... and this world will be his!"

He and the others struggled and stood up, looking furious, and then a cloud of black smoke enveloped them all and they vanished out of the room.

"Heh. That was no problemo," Ferdinand laughed casually.

"Is everyone all right?" Maizee asked as she came walking up to the others. "He was right, you know, Mario. While we were fighting, Shroude's had all this time to do whatever he needs."

"I know," Mario sighed, still aching. "All right, then, let's hurry up. We've almost made it."

After spending a quick moment healing up, feeling more anxious than ever, the group walked through the door on the other side of the room.

Beyond it was an enormous, pure white, spiral staircase leading up and up. Every several feet, the staircase had pairs of unlit torches attached to the banisters on either side. The walls of the stairwell were the palest gold, covered in the same intricate sun-and-moon decorations they were used to by now. There were no enemies, no puzzles, and the glow that had begun to fill the Temple was now shining brighter than ever before.

Silently, listening to the echo of their footsteps, the group approached the staircase, staring up and trying to see all the way to the top.

"He's up there," Mario finally said, breaking the silence, positive beyond a doubt that he was right. "Right at the top. And so is Peach."

"It's not too late, Mario," Hanner reluctantly spoke up. "Peach... she's still okay. We'd know if she weren't."

Mario nodded slowly, never taking his eyes off the stairs. "Okay everybody... let's get up there."

Slowly, almost reverently, the group walked up to the staircase and began the long trek to the top. Mario was in the lead, and as soon as he walked between the first pair of torches, he jumped back in surprise as they suddenly burst into flame on either side of him.

He stared back at his partners, but nobody said a word, and so he steadied himself and turned back around, continuing to lead the others up. There was no sound except for the crackling of the flames as they went. The staircase wound around and around, leading higher and higher. Every time they passed between a pair of torches, the flames would spontaneously flicker into life, lighting up two by two as the group drew ever closer to the top.

Finally they made it. They stepped off the stairs and reached the narrow landing, finding themselves in front of a towering set of white double doors covered in intricate gold filigree.

They stared at the doors, not daring to move. By now it was so bright it was as though the sun were shining right down on them.

Mario sighed shakily, feeling his heart start to pound. "This is it, everyone," he said. "I mean... I know I've said that a lot lately, but... this really is it."

Goomblaine gave a smirk as he stepped up next to him. "You're not scared, are ya?" he asked. "C'mon, we got this far, right? Nobody else coulda done that."

Hanner snickered. "Yeah, he's right. After all the crazy stuff we just did, what's one little insane overlord of Night compared to that?"

"I know we won't lose, Mario!" Stubba said fearlessly, standing up straight. "We always win when you're here! 'Cause you can do anything!"

"Shoot, are we gonna rescue Peach or are we just gonna stand here?" Snatchel chuckled. "C'mon, partner, I know you wanna get in there and bust some heads just as bad as I do."

Dulia smiled confidently. "We'll follow you wherever you go, Mario. No matter what happens after this, you know you can always count on us."

"I wouldn't dream of giving up at a time like this," Maizee agreed. "The rest is all behind us, Mario. The only way to go now is forward."

"It's like the Bumpty Boarders always say, man. Just go with the flow and don't sweat the small stuff!" Ferdinand said enthusiastically. "Whatever happens has just gotta happen."

Mario found himself beaming at his partners. He started to wonder why he'd ever been worried. Why had it taken him so long to realize it? As long as all of them were together, nothing was impossible.

"You guys really are the greatest," he said, then turned back to face the doors. "All right then... let's do it. Let's make history."

Knowing his friends were behind him, he stepped up to the doors and gave them a hard push. With a loud, ancient creak, they strained and then finally edged open, light spilling into the room on the other side.
Paper Mario: TTotS - Chapter 8, Part IV
Well I've just about run out of witty intros, but here is the most recent installment of Paper Mario: The Temple of the Sun, wherein the gang completes the final dungeon, fights one more miniboss and prepares for the decisive confrontation to determine the fate of the world.  No pressure!

Fun Facts: I would say one thing I regret about this story upon looking back is that the Darkstriders didn't get much of a plot resolution.  This fight was more of a resolution for Mario than anything, since we see he's gotten his tendency to lash out over Peach under control.  The end of the fight is pretty much the equivalent of Crump blasting off in TTYD, since that's the last we see of them.  Hmm...

I'm debating whether Shine Down should come with a penalty to your own health or not, or whether the high SP cost would be enough.

The last scene is another one of my favorites.  I just like showing Mario being teammates with my stupid fan characters.  Shut up, I love them. 
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HOLY FLURKING SCHNIT KORRASAMIIIIIIIII

THEY DID IT THEY ACTUALLY ****ING DID IT

WHAT UP BITCHESSSSSSS

BUT OH JESUS NO ASAMI LOST BOTH HER PARENTS WHY DO HORRIBLE THINGS KEEP HAPPENING TO THIS GIRL GDI BRYKE

AND AHHHHHH VARRICK X ZHU LI

BEST PROPOSAL EVARRRRR

I AM ROLLING AROUND IN FEELS RIGHT NOW I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THIS
  • Mood: Anguish
  • Reading: Tumblr posts about Korra
  • Watching: Korra for the last time ever DAMMIT
  • Eating: Cookie Dough
  • Drinking: Smoothies

deviantID

SlargTheGnome
Sarah
United States
Well let's see... I am a generally odd individual who likes teh video games. I pride myself on my snarkiness and sense of humor :D I also love playing the piano! Apart from writing it's one of the things I'm best at. Not much of an athlete, but I swam competitively throughout school and now I'm learning taekwondo, which automatically makes me awesome. I am in grad school studying psychology.

I don't upload a lot of art due to my general suckiness, but y'know, you can have a look anyway :P

GET THAT THING AWAY FROM ME by Dametora Felicitations, malefactors by MarmadukeOvermind Wishful Thinking by whispwill I love crack pairings by Kirichan-Inuyasha you heard me by Sombolia I SUPPORT BROMANCE by Cartinia stamp - patrick and mayonnaise by betsyamparan why hasnt this stamp been made by mariofan323 OC's Are My Babies by Foxxie-Chan 2D Support Stamp by Trounced Spelling - stamp by SerenaVerdeArt Because it's Awesome by Kaxen6 :thumb317396954: I Love Explosions Stamp by Adreos Never Too Old Stamp by Worldincoffee Hitmontop Stamp by Kezzi-Rose Rhydon Stamp by Kezzi-Rose Wartortle Stamp by MChilz Mareep Stamp. by livinladolcevita Ken Stamp by Stamp221 BP_Ken and Wormmon Stamp by Stamp221 Hylian Crest by skinnyveestamp stamp :: toon link by kinies Majora's Mask is Better Stamp by SandraThePorcupine i love majora mask stamp by crazysistahs Ghirahim victory by crazyfreak Skyward Sword: Link and Groose stamp by TiuanaRui ..:I Support Evil Jesters:.. by VenomousViper3o Brawl Stamp 12 by Frobie-Mangaka Dedede and Queen fairy stamp by Evanatt Marx stamp 2 by CinsaTalXenoMaker Paper Mario Stamp by LK92 Parakarry Fan Stamp by Cubivore10 Bow Stamp by NateFox Paper Mario Stamp: Koops by Araiko405 Paper Mario Stamp: Bobbery by Araiko405 Sliiickk by MarmadukeOvermind Count Bleck Stamp by PyroStorm Koops x Koopie Koo by Araiko405 Stamp: Avatar Fan by avatar-fan The Quenchiest Stamp by CubieJ I :heart: Naga Stamp by juanito316ss Dork Zuko over Emo Zuko Stamp by DaydreamingCow :thumb92864509: EB Tokka Stamp 1 by EASTERNBORDER Maiko Stamp by 3VAD127 Legend Of Korra: Avatar state by Dbzbabe :icontblt1plz::icontblt2plz: Chrono Trigger Stamp by Lightning5trike Queen Zeal Stamp by CallMeMarle Lucca Stamp by CallMeMarle LOST Stamp by dammitxsara LOST STAMP - CHARLIE by Echizen-Ryoma Once Upon a Time Stamp by TwilightProwler
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:iconthe-demihuman:
You seem like a nice person.
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:iconslargthegnome:
SlargTheGnome Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2015
Thank you.
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:iconthe-demihuman:
The-Demihuman Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2015
I see you also like Digimon a lot. Do you have any favorites?
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:iconslargthegnome:
SlargTheGnome Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2015
Ken owns my heart.  Or do you mean actual Digimon?
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:iconwillow-san:
Willow-San Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you very much for the fav :love:
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:iconslargthegnome:
SlargTheGnome Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2014
You're quite welcome~
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:iconhoshi-no-jay:
Hoshi-No-Jay Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Heyo, friend! How goes it?
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:iconslargthegnome:
SlargTheGnome Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014
Hiya there, what have you been up to?
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:iconhoshi-no-jay:
Hoshi-No-Jay Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Trying to get back into the swing of things. you?
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:iconslargthegnome:
SlargTheGnome Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2014
Ehh I still have school to worry about unfortunately.
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