It stood to reason that holding "Smash" events would bring forth disorder. Countless worlds had collided in that realm, forcing many to its space. All manner of events could occur, far beyond what existed in any one world. It was a great opportunity on its own, one the Smash fighters respected.
They'd been chosen by a greater force, one they dared not upset. In turn, they heeded the rules of order so demanded. All troubles the fighters had with one another could be settled in battle, "smashing" each other away. Outside of combat, their "best" behavior was expected. Through those guidelines, the fighters had grown to support one another.
Even considering ties within their worlds, they could act in kinship now. The only rules present were those imposed by the "smash" sponsors. All else depended on the fighters alone, how they chose to treat one another. Most had opted to be civil, taking one another's presence as it was. In turn, they sought out each other, even outside of battle.
All had gathered into the "Smash Facility" that afternoon, eager to speak of their own lives. While they'd just come together to battle recently, this was a more casual occasion. It was made to detail updates from their own worlds, as well to enjoy one another's company. All were seated at an enormous round table for the occasion.
Their meeting had begun well, with Mario announcing major "updates" to their given realm. They were to bring in even more fighters, with some hailing from wholly foreign lands. However, they wouldn't happen until later, leaving them time to themselves. Afterwards, all fell into casual discussion, with many speaking of their own "updates".
However, Princess Peach had been silent through their meeting, opting to stand. No one was sure why she was so, not even Mario. She'd come alone, keeping away from the other fighters. While they spoke of their own trials, she kept in place, her face sullen. Daisy couldn't stand for such a sight, trying to coax an answer from her companion.
"Please, Peach, we're just worried," Daisy called to her. "It's not like you to be so upset. Now, come on, you're in good company! You can tell us what's eatin' ya here!" As Peach met her gaze, their crowd murmured in approval. Their support softened her dismay, if only for a bit. However, she couldn't keep her troubles a secret from them either.
She paused, only to declare her father's return to the Mushroom Kingdom. Though applause filled the air, Peach remained uneasy. "What's-a wrong, Peach?" Luigi asked, picking up on her concern. "Shouldn't you be happy that your papa's back?" She peered at him, trying to nod back. However, dismay had gripped her being.
"You don't understand," she said on soft breath. "I haven't seen my father in ages. I, I haven't planned for this at all!" Peach tried to cover her face, only to see those of her companions. "No, no, it's nothing like that! He's a good man, but I don't want him to worry. I'm just afraid that he won't approve of what's happened to me all this time-"
Mario and Luigi peered at each other, only to glare at Bowser. As their companions followed suit, he huffed at them. "Fine, I'll back off, then!" Bowser shouted, throwing his hands up into the air. As he got up to leave, Peach shook her head. He sat back down, eying her over warily. "Come on, Peach! You don't want me after you now, I get it!"
"Please Bowser, you don't need to go," Peach said, trying to calm down the crowd. "That's not what I meant at all!" As their eyes bored into her, her heart pounded, making her shake. However, she sensed it was best they know of her true dilemma then. "The truth is that my father thinks I'm married, okay!" All fell silent, unsure of how to react.
Peach covered her face then, taking it in herself. Her father had inadvertently forced her into this position himself; Though Toad had hinted at her ties to Mario, her father had blown them out of proportion. Faced with his endless questions, Peach relented, leading her to her predicament then. She pulled her hands away, her eyes wide.
The eyes of all remained on her, now questioning her as well. Peach spoke on, detailing her father's demands. Given what he knew, he expected her to marry someone worthy of her presence. What suspicion the others held gave way to concern, as well as sympathy. Mario had approached her, offering her his shoulder to weep on.
Though she wasn't at that point yet, Peach appreciated it all the same. As she fell against him, Luigi spoke in turn. "So, what are ya gonna do?" he asked, mirroring their crowd's reaction. While Peach was aware of him, she kept silent against Mario. Even she wasn't sure how to answer it herself. "I mean, you can't just lie to your dad-"
"Well, why can't she?" Daisy chimed in, to the surprise of Peach and her companions. Peach pulled away from Mario, her sight set on Daisy. Though it burned forth, she knew her friend had a point then. "Trust me, I know King Toadstool. He's very particular, let's put it. It's like nothing's ever good enough for his precious little 'Peachy'-"
She paused, considering her youth alongside Peach. As Daisy discussed it, Peach thought back to such times. During their schooling, she'd taken interest in various things, including boys. However, her father kept his sights on her, unnerving anyone who dared date his daughter.
That, alongside her heightened status, was enough to keep most away from Peach's company. In turn, she knew such isolation until her own reign as Princess. As the Mushroom Kingdom's ruler, Peach had more to handle than she could've ever imagined. Through her position, she'd even found a lover out of her father's reach.
Despite their clear contrasts, she admired and adored Mario. Peach couldn't imagine a life without him, even if they weren't wed. However, her father expected at least that of her, even without Mario's presence. "I'm just saying," Daisy said, breaking Peach's focus. "King Toadstool expects a lot from Peach. Why not give him this at least?"
Peach could only shrug, still reasoning with the situation. Perhaps it could work out if her father remained in the Mushroom Kingdom. She could control the situation there alongside Mario. If she had to reason deceive him, she'd do best with those closest to her.
She hoped that her father would understand it before he departed again. Before she could dwell on it, a large mounted monitor activated suddenly. It was made to show updates from their "sponsors", as well as "outside" news. All turned to it, only to see an unfamiliar being on its screen.
He appeared to be an older human man with a dark moustache. Atop his head sat a black hat with golden spots, akin to a Toad's natural cap. He seemed underdressed, given that he only wore a fluffy robe. As he adjusted to sight of their space, Peach stared at him, her mouth slack.
"Father, what are you doing here?!" she shouted, unable to contain herself. Her eyes shot open, aware that her father could see all that transpired then. In turn, she could peer back into his own surroundings, where Toadsworth hopped up and down. He tried to apologize for King Toadstool's presence, saying he'd been forced into making it so.
He had demanded insight into the Smash Facility's ways. Unable to refuse him, Toadworth activated the connection between it and Peach's own quarters. As the other fighters stared at the monitor, Peach felt faint. "Darling, I wanted to see you and your little friends!" the king declared. "Seems like everyone's going on about them now!"
He took a moment to study those he could see, comparing them to his given standards. Though their group was rather varied, most were fine and fit. They seemed worthy enough of Peach's company, such as it was. However, when he saw Mario drawing close, he studied him warily. The man seemed so unlike all others he'd seen then.
He was of the common folk, his attire that of a "lowly" working man. In turn, his appearance was rather plain, almost comical. From what the king could see, he was shorter than most other fighters, with a stocky build. King Toadstool questioned his presence there at all, believing him a misplaced servant or other.
However, as Mario stood by the screen, the king's hopes faded. Despite his uncouth appearance, this man was of great importance to their event. He introduced himself as Mario, in turn introducing the king to his companions. Though King Toadstool tried to remain civil, Mario's very image appalled him to even consider in this realm.
He couldn't imagine why the smash sponsors had chosen Mario as their "mascot" to begin with. The man was hardly anyone to consider, especially paired with other fighters. Surely he must've come in as a fluke, one he'd manipulated to his benefit. To even consider it drew forth the king's disgust.
It emerged on his face, revealing itself to Mario. To see it brought a chill down his spine, even if Mario dared not admit it. With a final nod, he backed away, allowing Peach to face her father directly. Though all noticed his sullen face, Peach's father demanded her attention. His gaze bore into her own, even with the given distance between them.
"Papa, I'm glad to see you too," Peach said to him, feeling her companions' eyes upon her. "But this isn't the best time! We're in a meeting!" The other fighters chimed in, their voices painted with surprise and shock. "Please, you can meet everyone later! I'm just busy now!" Faced with her dismay, King Toadstool bowed, only to sever his connection.
As his image faded away, Daisy inhaled sharply, her mouth in a grimace. She glanced at Peach, who clutched her cheeks. "I knew this was gonna happen-" Daisy lamented as Mario stepped to her. She nodded to him, easing into their given tension. "It's how the king is!" Everything has to be 'perfect' for him, or he just blows his gaskets!"
"It's true," Peach said wearily. "But I thought he would at least try and like Mario!" She recoiled, still thinking of her father's reaction. "But with how he was-" Mario approached her, shaking his head. Even if he adored Peach, he couldn't ignore the disgust he'd seen in her father's eyes. He knew King Toadstool wouldn't approve of him being with her.
As much as it pained him, Mario forced himself out of the situation. "It's-a fine, Peach," he said, his voice shaky. "I don't want to come between you and your papa. You do what you need to, okay? It won't be for long, I hope." Peach held back her own tears, easing down to embrace him. Silence fell around them for a moment, softening their blow.
Faced with their truth, Peach thought through the matter. She'd hoped that Mario would be suitable, able to carry out her ruse. Her father tended to be ripped from his kingdom for stretches at a time. He'd missed Mario's presence through that, leaving him none the wiser. In turn, the king knew not of other realms, those housing her fellow fighters.
If her father remained in the Mushroom Kingdom, all could've gone smoothly. However, his reaction to Mario dashed what hopes she held. She was torn between the truth and deception, now more than ever. "Oh, now what?" Peach mused, unaware of her voice. "I'm so sorry for everything, Mario, but what choice do I have? What do I do?!"
She slumped into a seat, her gaze set below. Mario reached for her hand, silently supporting her. "I've never lied to him about anything like this!" Peach cried out. "If I tell him the truth, he'll never trust me again! But I can't just lie to him-" Daisy shook her head, urging her to stick to her guns. Given his nature, she could surely pull it off.
As Daisy argued on the matter, Peach breathed in, glancing around herself. If she were to deceive her father, she'd have to choose someone he'd favor. "But it'd be for a little while," she said to herself. "Just enough to make him believe, until he goes away again-" She nodded, causing Mario to follow suit. If she were to do it, he could try to help her.
"Who would he-a like, then?" Mario asked, forcing her gaze upon him. "Who'd your papa like for you?" Peach froze, having not thought that far, even for Mario. Her lips trembled, speaking of a fantasy she'd seen elsewhere. It had an "ideal" family, all of golden locks and shining eyes. There was a wife and husband, alongside two children and a dog.
It was a lovely thought, though not one Peach considered for herself. However, to dwell upon it brought her a strange relief. "He'd want that," she said softly. "The 'perfect' man for me, with the 'perfect' family." She clutched Mario's hand, relishing his support through her deception. "But, come on! Who among us could live up to that?!"
"Well, how about Ken?" Daisy asked, turning her attention to him. He hesitated, mentioning his own wife elsewhere. However, neither Daisy or Ryu could pass up the opportunity to tease him. "Oh, come on! We know you like blondes-" Daisy pointed to Zelda across the way, a prior target to his playful ways. "So why not Peach, then?"
Ken tried to defend himself, only for Ryu to burst out laughing. As he ran after his old friend, Daisy kept peering around their table. "Oh, and Shulk can be your son!" she said, breaking into a giddy grin. "I never realized, but he kinda looks like you guys, doesn't he?" As she laughed to herself, Shulk brushed it off, trying to console Peach in turn.
"She might have a point there-" he noted, pulling out his smartphone. Through its darkened screen, he peered at his reflection. However, he set it aside, only to peer at Peach. "But, why bother with the details, if you're not gonna do it?" Their eyes locked together, with his challenging her. "You've a choice to make. What do you want of this?"
Her eyes locked onto his, questioning herself within them. Though Shulk hadn't meant to alarm her, she knew he was right. Her unease remained, forcing itself to a head. Peach peered at Mario, asking if he could accept it. He merely nodded, forcing his own pain away. If it was for Peach's benefit, he'd live with it. As she smiled at him, Daisy spoke on.
She'd been looking about, suggesting Young Link as another "son". As all laughed among themselves, Isabelle got up, ready to offer her services again. She approached Peach, only to meet with Ken, Shulk and Young Link. They glanced at one another, entertaining the thought in their minds. As they gathered around Peach, she broke into a grin.
"She's having too much fun with this-" Peach lamented, peering at Daisy. "And you don't have to if you don't want, but-" Shulk shook his head, saying that he didn't mind at all. It was just in good fun, made to help a friend out. Ken nodded in turn, as did Isabelle and Young Link. If they could go the distance then, she had no reason not to herself.
"Oh, why not?" Peach said, clasping her hands together. In an instant, she jumped from her seat, calling her new "family" besides her. As they surrounded her, she fell into a strange triumph. Perhaps all could work out in the end. The support of many had aided her so, despite her deception. Even Mario was close by, albeit at the sidelines.
As strange as Peach thought it, she'd been forced into this hand. At the very least, she had her companions to help her. As it was temporary, they could all give into her ploy. Only then could her father accept her, his own needs sated. What followed afterwards would be its own issue. But for now, Peach grew calm, glad to have sorted out the issue.
Shortly after their meeting, Peach called her father to speak of her family. They'd been scattered about, keeping them from her castle. She hadn't wanted to bother him with their presence just yet, explaining their absence. King Toadstool accepted it readily, exhausted from his travels. He could see her family in time, allowing him to rest.
As he readjusted himself, the group set up their ploy. To cement their given ties, Peach planned a photo shoot for them the next day. They'd be clad in cheery outfits, suited to the holiday season. Within the Smash Facility, they went to a backlot, made to craft and preserve images for its "Vault". Peach strolled about, eying over their holiday themed setup.
"Father, you know how it is," she said aloud, clutching her smartphone. "We're so busy, especially around this time! I've hardly had time to see you myself!" Her heart pounded, hoping they all could pull it off. "But don't worry, you'll see the pics later! Then we can meet up tomorrow!" As she put her phone away, Peach sighed with relief.
It would work, if only all fell into place. The others were getting ready in a back room, save for Isabelle. All wore sweaters, befitting a festive image. Peach wore a sparkling pink one for the occasion, paired with jeans. Shulk and Ken followed suit, clad in simple red ones with black slacks. Young Link opted for one of green, also paired with jeans.
That left Isabelle to differ from them, as she donned her usual attire. However, she could change into her own outfit later. For now, she focused on getting their photo just right. She couldn't let royalty see her at her worst, even if it was "just" Peach. As Peach adjusted their setup, Isabelle approached her with a tablet in her paws.
"I've got some ideas for the picture," she said, glancing below. "I found some layouts, so we can test 'em out with everyone-" Peach peered at the tablet, smiling to herself. "For the first, you and Ken can be in the back, then Shulk and Link, then me! How's that sound?" Peach nodded to her, saying they'd do that one first.
Isabelle beamed at her, glad to have pleased her. As she dashed away, Rosalina arrived with some Lumas that Peach requested as decorations. Having seen her preparations, Rosalina wondered what more could be done. She and another fighter strolled by with her Lumas, calling for Peach. She stepped to them, only for her face to grow stiff.
"Rosalina, why is Lucas here?!" Peach asked sharply. Rosalina shrugged, saying that he'd fit into her little "family". Peach smacked her temple, nearing her wits' end. "Look, I appreciate the effort, but we don't need any more kids. He doesn't even look like the rest of us! It'll be-" She paused upon seeing Lucas' stunned face.
A surge of shame ran through her, causing her to drop down to the boy. "Lucas, I didn't mean anything by that," Peach said, patting his head. "You're a good kid, and you don't need to be caught up in this." He smiled at her, to which she nodded back. "Just go off with Ness and the other kids, all right?" He nodded to her, only to dash away.
As he faded into the distance, Rosalina turned to Peach, her own heart heavy. "Peach, if this is so troublesome for you," she asked of her. "Then why not call it off? I'm sure your father will like Mario once he gets to know him." Peach met her gaze, only to shake her head. Though she agreed with Rosalina, it didn't feel right to let her efforts go to waste.
She'd disappoint the others by doing so, having prepared themselves for her ruse. Peach tried to defend herself, only for Rosalina to shake her head. "No, I think I understand," she said somberly. "But I'm not one to judge. I'll just leave you with my Lumas. Please return them when you're done, okay?" Peach agreed, to which Rosalina walked away.
Despite her efforts, that shame remained upon her. Even though Mario agreed to her scheme, Peach hadn't seen him afterwards. He said his own work called to him, but it didn't feel right to her. Peach sighed to herself, trying to regain her focus. She couldn't afford to fail at any point then. Her father was counting on it, as well as her.
In the backroom, Shulk combed his hair while Ken eyed Young Link over. As he wiped his face, the boy squirmed about, breaking his focus. "Hey, quit it!" Ken warned him. "Peach won't have you lookin' a mess out there!" Though he knew that, Young Link thought himself clean enough. As he wriggled away, Shulk shook his head teasingly.
"So, what does Eliza think of this?" he asked of his new "father". Ken glanced at him, ready to bust out laughing. "Surely she must've approved, or you wouldn't be here!" A smile danced upon his lips to consider it. Within moments, Ken had dragged him close, saying that Eliza found it hilarious. She could trust him well enough, even in this case.
Shulk nodded to him, holding back a chuckle himself. Of all things possible, not even he could predict their state of affairs. However, so long as it was in good heart, he could go along with it. As Young Link passed him, he waved to the boy. He figured it wasn't worth asking for his opinion, given that his cheery nature remained.
Peach had approved of him herself, so he needn't worry there. All that was left were Isabelle's thoughts on the matter. Shulk hadn't been able to get a good read on her beforehand; She tended to scurry about, always occupied with some task or other. However, they'd been forced together, making it easier to interact with her.
His chance came by accident, following Ken's own departure. He sought out his Master Glasses when Isabelle stepped in to change. She froze, at a loss for words. "No, you're fine," Shulk said to her. "I'm just heading out. Oh, were you surprised?" She nodded, her gaze torn between him and the glasses. "Didn't think I had these, did you?"
"No, it's just that I've got 'em, too!" Isabelle said, clasping her paws together. "Since I'm nearsighted. I wear contacts most of the time." Shulk questioned her with a hint of wry intrigue. Isabelle grew cheerful, glad to speak of such things. "Well, it started during college. I couldn't focus, so I went in and they got 'em for me! What kind are yours?"
"Actually, these are more of a 'light' armor," Shulk said, pointing to his glasses. "For protection, not use." He slipped them on, imparting with an air of brilliance she'd never imagined before. She could only nod, entranced by his aura. "Well, it's another sort of use, but still. Anyway, you say you've been to college, Isabelle?"
"Oh, that!" Isabelle exclaimed, forcing her focus back. "Yes, for a few years. I majored in Regional Planning, with a minor in Architecture!" Shulk nodded to her, considering such a thing. In turn, her own brilliance revealed itself, drawing them closer. "That's how I got my job aiding Mayor Tortimer and my Mayor!" Shulk smiled, still curious about it all.
As he spoke up, a knock sounded at the room's door. Both turned to it, only hear Peach calling them outside. Isabelle's eyes snapped open, forcing her gaze away from Shulk. "Well, duty waits," she said, to his disappointment. "We can talk later! But I've gotta get dressed, and-" Shulk nodded, averting his gaze as she unbuttoned her vest.
He gave a quick shrug, only to leave her be. As Isabelle changed into a white sweater dress, Shulk remained on her mind. "He's such a nice boy," she mused. "I can't believe I've never chatted with him! There's so much I want to ask him-" Isabelle shook her head, smoothing out her dress. He was right, though; They could speak soon enough.
Peach's scheme had ensured that for them all. She left the backroom, the thought fresh on her mind. Once at their setup, Isabelle peered at her companions. Ken and Peach stood in the back together, their hands joined. Shulk and Young Link were in front of them, slouching a bit. Isabelle nodded in kind before activating the camera facing them.
As it sounded, she ran towards her spot in their picture. With a broad grin, Isabelle jumped up in the air. The first photo was complete, leaving all curious, yet intrigued. While Isabelle ran over to reset it, Peach eyed Shulk warily. "Oh, glasses, Shulk?" she asked of him. He hesitated, but she shook her head. "It's just a bit confusing, isn't it?"
She noted how decorative they were, rather than for proper use. "Ah, we'll say they're a prop," Peach suggested. "That way it'll make sense they're only in one picture!" Shulk just shrugged, popping his glasses off. As Isabelle returned to their group, her face fell. She'd wanted to see more of him with the glasses, accentuating his features just so.
However, it was but a minor issue of hers. Much more needed to be attended to then. "Okay, so let's try out a 'train'," Isabelle said, gesturing towards the others. "Tallest to shortest again!" At her call, all fell into place, with her rushing to the very end. As the camera flashed again, all burst out laughing, toying with one another.
Even it was an illusion, Peach could've readily fallen into its delightful promises. She already enjoyed the others' company, such as it was. Perhaps they were a family, in a loose sense. After all, they'd come together through "smash", settling their many differences. Despite them, they enjoyed themselves then, content with their spectacle.
She eased into the thought, choosing to take it as it was then. Afterwards, more sorts of photos were taken with various "family" members. Some were more imposing, like those of Young Link and Shulk with their swords. Others were more fanciful, like those of Ken and Shulk with dog noses alongside Isabelle. However, they all suited Peach's needs.
So long as they perpetuated the image she desired, they satisfied her so. In time, she'd gotten enough photos, calling Isabelle to stop. With a weary grin, she shut off the camera and went to print its photos. As Shulk followed her, Ken and Peach sat at a nearby table. Meanwhile, Young Link played with the Lumas, still hovering about their setup.
"He's so cute," Peach mused while watching the boy. "I can't believe he's gonna be the 'Hero of Time' someday-" She laughed, reaching for some bottled water. As she drank it, Ken peered at her. While he knew their ties false, he couldn't help but think of his own family elsewhere. Perhaps Peach did want something like that, just not with him.
He understood the appeal personally, trying to apply it to Peach herself. "Yeah, they grow like weeds-" Ken said with a grin. Peach met his gaze, considering his son. He'd mentioned Mel in passing, through photos from his homeland. He was also a spirited boy, taking after his father. From what she'd seen, his wife was stunning as well.
Theirs seemed like quite the family, one to admire and envy. Peach just shook her head, seemingly concerned. "But, about us," Ken noted. "I'm just playin' it up. Don't worry, I know what this means to ya. I won't mess it up, I'll be the best guy I can for ya!" Peach nodded, her gaze now blank. He was a good man to go this far, but it didn't feel quite right.
"I know, but-" Peach said, her voice shaky. "Please don't take this too seriously, Ken. I know have your own family." He nodded back, putting all into perspective. "I'm grateful for your help, but I don't want to betray myself further. This is for my father only. Otherwise, we're just friends, no more, no less." Ken gave her a knowing nod back.
"I get it, Peach," he replied with a soft grin. "I've got Eliza and you've got Mario!" She paused, only to laugh nervously. Ever since their agreement had been made, Peach hadn't seen Mario around. Though she'd called him before, Mario hadn't replied back. She took a quick breath, trying to ease her nerves.
"Hey, if this doesn't work out, maybe he will!" Ken said teasingly. Peach's breath hitched to consider the thought. Even among her new "family", it was all she wanted. She just wanted to let things fall to the wayside, reuniting her with Mario. Only then could she feel truly secure in herself. She shook her head, lamenting her father's ways.
Even if she'd forced all this, he'd brought it into being to begin with. "I hope so," Peach rasped out. "I love Mario, but if he nor Father can be civil, then-" Her great dread had returned, overwhelming all she'd felt earlier. "I just don't know!" She buried her face in her hands, feeling Ken's hand on her shoulder. Peach kept in place, relishing his comfort.
When she peered up, Isabelle had returned, alongside Shulk and Young Link. All eyed her with concern, making her heart heavy. "I just came with the pictures," Isabelle admitted. "But if it's a bad time, I can just-" Peach shook her head and got up to approach her. She forced her dismay away, reminding herself they all had a duty to perform.
"No, it's fine, Isabelle," Peach said to herself. "Just having some second thoughts." She peered at her companions, their faces still concerned. Though they cared for her unease, she pushed it down again. Even with how she felt about it, she'd already set up her ploy. It was up to them all to carry it out. She wouldn't let herself ruin what they'd formed then.
Peach took another breath, inviting Ken to stand besides her. As he followed suit, she studied the photos Isabelle set on the table. Their first one brought to mind the family she'd seen before, her given "fantasy". She smiled to gaze upon it, knowing her father would approve of them. It was a lovely photo, radiating a festive warmth and joy.
Her father wouldn't have suspected it came from mere kinship, rather than blood ties. Despite her unease, that strange triumph rose within her again. "This one's perfect, Isabelle!" Peach said, to Isabelle's glee. "I'll send it as a preview to my father!" As she got out her smartphone, her companions spoke among themselves with approval.
All was setting in place, as well as her own mindset. Peach convinced herself from within, smothering her last doubts. Even if it was all a ruse, at least they all could have fun with it. She held onto the thought as they looked over photos, picking the best for King Toadstool. Perhaps he could re-enter their lives soon enough, having been so approved of.
That evening, Peach sent copies of their photos to her father back home. She remained at the Smash Facility, caught up in her remaining work. All had to be in place tomorrow, befitting her father's visit. Though her fellow fighters knew of her scheme, Peach urged them to keep to its details.
It wouldn't help anyone to challenge them, even by accident. They followed her word, running through her ploy in their heads. Though most were tied to it by proxy, those closest to Peach's "family" held to it closely. The Villager vowed to keep Isabelle's work to himself; Meanwhile, the "other" Links kept to their silence, to Peach's great relief.
Ryu opted to help Ken personally, thinking to their youth training together. Ken was one to joke around, flubbing things here and there. Though he'd matured since then, Ryu felt that Ken's nature could weaken their illusion. As such, he sat alongside Peach and her "family", keeping his sights on Ken. All had opted to dine together in a private room.
"Once more, everyone," Peach said, setting her plate aside. "What's our story for Father?" The others peered at her, repeating what she'd told them earlier. She and Ken were married, with Shulk and Young Link as their sons. Shulk was from Ken's "first" marriage, while Young Link was their own son. Isabelle was their family's "pet".
Peach nodded to herself as they spoke in unison. They'd gotten that down perfectly, leaving their finer details. "Okay, that's great-" Peach said, easing away from the table. She approached Ken, her gaze piercing. "Now, what about us, Ken? What will you tell Father, if so asked?" He gave her a sharp nod, speaking once more.
If pressed, he'd claim that he married Peach ten years ago. He came in to guard Peach's Castle, only to fall in love with her. From there, they got married and had Young Link afterwards. Later on, he moved in his other son, Shulk, for support. Ken spoke on, muddling his own details in turn. Peach shot him a wary glance, now puzzled.
"No, Ken-" Ryu said, feeling his frustration rise. "You come from New Donk City, not America!" Though surprised, Peach nodded to Ryu, glad for his sense of order. "That's why you look so different! Same goes for Shulk!" She nodded again, to which Ken rolled his eyes. As he spoke in his favor, their companions felt their tensions rise up.
Peach shook her head, pleading for all to remain calm. "If you don't mind me asking," Shulk chimed in, easing his own food aside. "Why are you even here, Ryu? Why do you care so much about this?" Ryu paused, feeling a chill along his spine. Silly as it was, he knew greater consequences would come from their ruse.
"Because Ken is my closest friend," Ryu admitted, his voice now bittersweet. "Whatever befalls him also befalls me. I don't wish any harm on him from this." As he sat back, Peach paused with concern. Even knowing of Ken's family, she hadn't considered Ryu's feelings as well. She thought he'd just keep away from their little ploy.
However, he'd proven contrary to that, his concerns great. "Nothing against this, guys," Ryu said, easing Peach's unease slightly. "We just need to look out for one another. We're all 'family', in some sense." He peered at Ken, nodding to him knowingly. Ken followed suit, beholden to his words.
Even if Peach had advised him not to be serious, he couldn't betray her deeper desires. He shook his head, trying to control himself. "Okay, let's try something simpler," Ryu suggested, his brows furrowed. "What's your full name, Ken?" All peered at him, their eyes as expectant as Peach's were. He paused, only to speak in triumph.
"Noah Kathmandu!" Ken replied, to their frustration. As Ryu smacked his head, Ken smirked at his companions. "And Peach's name is Brigitte, Isabelle's is Fluffy, and-" He met Ryu's gaze, now burning with ire. Before Ryu could get up, Ken laughed to himself. "Guys, I get it! Don't worry, I won't whiff it when Peach's dad gets here!"
Peach sighed with relief, urging them all to focus again. As they discussed their ploy's finer details, more revealed themselves. "But what about Shulk's accent?" Peach asked, her sight set on Ryu. "Since you've brought it up-" He nodded, unsure of how to justify it within her given world. As they mulled it over, Isabelle glanced at Shulk, her mind astir.
"Let's say that he went to boarding school!" she said proudly. Ken and Peach gave her wary glances, leading her to continue. "Ken, your 'first' wife sent him there after the divorce! He was there for a while, so he just picked it up!" Ken grabbed his chin in thought, surprised by her suggestion. Peach froze as well, though glad for it.
It was rather reasonable, something she could give into readily. As Peach praised her, Shulk beamed with pride. "Quick thinking, Isabelle!" he said, to Isabelle's glee. "And maybe it was a 'fighting' school! That's where I learned to use the Monado!" Peach nodded again, glad he'd considered it at all. "Perhaps Link went there as well."
Shulk glanced at Young Link, who had his wooden shield and sword nearby. "That's where he learned to fight," Ken noted as all peered at him. "He goes in the summer, so that's why he doesn't have the accent yet." The others nodded back, leading him to continue. "It's a good school, but I had doubts at first. Since the ex sent 'em and all-"
Ken paused, trying to consider what his "ex-wife" would be like. What kind of woman was she to drive him into Peach's arms? As he discussed the matter, Ryu tried to help him out. "Maybe she's also from New Donk?" Ryu suggested to them. "Okay, not Pauline, but still-" All fell into talk then, running through all that could possibly come up.
Before any of them knew it, night had come. Peach peered at a nearby clock, knocked into shock. "Okay, everyone," she said, breaking their focus. "I think we've done enough for now. I'm sure we're ready for Father's visit tomorrow!" All nodded to her, glad for their efforts. With a quick breath, Peach shook her head, grinning at her friends.
"I'll let you go," she said eagerly. "But thanks for your hard work! I couldn't have done it with you guys!" As all beamed with pride, Ryu turned away, getting up from his seat. Peach caught sight of Ryu, drawing close to him. She reached for his arm, her hand slight against its muscle. "You too, Ryu. You're a good friend to help Ken out here."
As Ryu hesitantly thanked her, she shot him a tender smile. Likewise, Ken had reached him, glad for his aid. "Don't be so modest, man!" he exclaimed. "He's always like this, but he appreciates it all the same." Ryu eased away, only for Ken drag him to his side. "Same for me, guys! I'm sure the king'll love us! Come on, let's bring it in for luck!"
At his call, Peach gave Ryu a wary glance, only for him shrug it off. Peach followed suit, as did her companions. Soon enough, all were draped against one another, caught in tender embrace. It was still strange to consider, but all had gotten into their given roles. Only tomorrow would prove their skills to Peach's father, as well as themselves.
The next day, King Toadstool made his entrance into the Smash Facility alongside Peach. As they stepped inside it, many fighters had gathered to meet him. Though they'd seen him prior, they were curious to his true demeanor. Surely he wasn't typically as rash as he'd been then. As Peach stopped, her father followed suit, bowing to all present.
"Greetings, all," he announced to them. "I am King Maurice Toadstool of the Mushroom Kingdom. I believe you're familiar with my daughter, Princess Peach." He turned to her, to which she nodded back. The king's sight returned to their crowd, studying them closer. "She has invited me to your facility, witnessing all that occurs within it."
"I have accepted her offer," the king spoke on. "I'm eager to see all that she's told me about these events." Several fighters were within reach, ranging from fantastic beasts to humans like himself. "A great many have come from other worlds to partake in these tourneys, correct?" Peach and the other fighters nodded, curious to his thoughts then.
As he spoke on, Mario dashed by, clad in his white tuxedo. As he passed by Luigi and Daisy, the former paused in surprise. He asked what'd been, only for Mario to pause, shaking his head. "Oh, this was-a the only suit I had here!" he cried out. "That mongrel shredded up all the rest!" Luigi peered at the Duck Hunt dog, who sneered at him.
He held a dark sleeve in his mouth while the duck nipped at a red bowtie. Luigi shook his head, reminding himself to scold the dog later. As Mario stepped away, he shot Luigi a passing glance. "I hope I didn't miss the king!" he said, to which Luigi nodded back. "Now's-a my chance! Wish me luck!" Luigi waved to him, hoping for the very same.
Upon seeing Peach, he stopped suddenly. As his feet dragged along the floor, King Toadstool eyed him warily. "Greetings, your majesty," Mario said with a bow. "You've met me already, but I'm Mario Mario. Welcome to the 'Smash Facility'!" He swept his hands about, motioning to all within reach. Mario caught his breath, his heart pounding.
The king fell silent, allowing Mario to speak forth. "As its founder, I hope-a you enjoy it here!" he announced proudly. "Let's all settle it in smash!" Though applause broke out around him, the king's gaze remained. A familiar chill ran down Mario's spine, leaving him to refer to Peach. He bowed to her, to which she followed suit.
As Mario backed away, Luigi and Daisy caught up to him. Daisy paused to ask of his meeting, to which Luigi stopped her. He couldn't deny Mario's shattered expression, leaving him to slump away. As Daisy tried to console him, Peach forced her gaze from Mario. "Rest easy, Father," she said softly. "We've much to do, many others to meet."
Despite her cheery demeanor, Peach felt the same offense that Mario had. She forced it within herself, lest she ruin her ruse herself. "Anyway, there's Daisy," she said, moving forward. "She's with Mario's younger brother, Luigi." As Peach waved to their pair, they glanced at one another. Their own spirits had been shattered, also leaving them uneasy.
However, they shook it off, presenting themselves to the king. He ran to them, reaching for Daisy's hands. "Why, it's been ages since I've seen you!" he said. "You've grown into a lovely woman, Daisy!" She laughed it off, her cheeks flushed. The king pulled away, only to approach Luigi. "And greetings to you, Luigi! Nice to meet you, my boy!"
Luigi nodded to him, struck by his civility. He couldn't even offer it to Mario, considering his authority. As he glanced at Daisy, she shrugged. "Now, I wonder what's for dinner-" the king mused, walking ahead. As some other fighters greeted him, he waved back, now full of good cheer.
All felt wrong to him then, even if no one else would acknowledge it. Luigi could only wonder what Mario thought of it all. With a quick shake of his head, he left to find his brother. As Daisy stood by Peach, her eyes narrowed. "Yes, I know-" Peach said, aware of her disgust. "But Father brought this upon himself, as did I. We're to blame for all this!"
She sighed softly, shaking her head. Pity gripped Daisy's senses, as well as remorse. As she reached for Peach's arm, she drew away. "No, this is my issue alone, Daisy," Peach admitted. "Mine and the others." She peered across the way, seeking her "family" out. Though they couldn't be seen, her father could be, reinforcing her inner doubts.
"Whatever will be, will be," she mused to herself. "No point in stopping it now!" She'd have to return to her father soon, her ruse at play. Even with her friends' support, she remained uneasy. Peach breathed in deeply, her eyes strained. She stepped forward, forcing her doubts aside. "Until Father leaves, that's how it'll be. But I need to make it up to Mario somehow-"
Despite her troubled thoughts, Peach sought her father out in the crowd. She sensed he'd upset someone if left unattended. Their group was composed of such differing beings that it'd baffle him. He was already unaware of those from other worlds, being locked within his own. Her father had missed much of her own life, lost to her facade.
All had seemed so simple just a few days ago; Facing her reality now set Peach's mind astir, forcing her hand. Now that her father had come, it'd be easier for her "family" to meet him then. Peach shook her head, moving alongside the crowd. She asked of her father's whereabouts, leading them to point him out.
He stood among the many royal fighters, eyeing them over. Peach dashed towards him, only to bump into Marth. As she shook herself off, he and King Toadstool peered at her. "Oh, forgive me!" she exclaimed. "I'm just a mess with all this excitement!" She met her father's gaze, still on edge. "I hope that you're doing well with everyone here-"
"Have no concern, darling," the king replied. "Prince Marth was just introducing me to our fellow royals." To him, many seemed fit for such titles, their forms fine and fit. However, others were uncouth, even savage looking. His gaze shifted between them, curious to their true being. Peach stepped to her father, sensing the worst.
"But of course," she said, drawing his attention to her. "I see you've already met Marth." Peach gave him a curt nod, silently excusing him. Marth obliged her, leaving Roy and Ike to take his place. They spoke up, saying that they'd made the king's acquaintance. The pair's focus shifted to Corrin, Chrom, and Robin, who were still unattended to.
Peach eyed them over, wondering if her father had upset them beforehand. Neither seemed mad then, easing her nerves slightly. "Well, let's keep at it," she said, gesturing around herself. "We've much to do, many more to meet-" The king nodded back, waving to Roy and Ike. He trailed behind her, taking note of the various royals present.
Some were like Marth and his ilk, supremely strong and appealing. Others were their opposite, their forms comical. However, all bore the air of authority befitting royalty. King Toadstool was glad to be around them the most. They suited his tastes, as well as Peach's. As she introduced them all, the king smiled, greeting them merrily.
In his absence, his daughter had done well for herself, keeping their kingdom in shape. She straightened her ties with other worlds, ensuring her success. Even if he didn't know the finer details, King Toadstool regarded Peach with pride. She'd gotten all he desired for her, including a loving family. The thought struck him, overtaking his mind.
"On that note," the king said as Peach caught her breath. "I'll see your family tonight?" She glanced back to him, her eyes wide. He presumed nerves had gotten the better of her then. King Toadstool nodded to her, forcing the notion aside. "Even amidst all this hubbub, I want to see them, darling. Especially with the photos you sent me earlier-"
Before he could press the matter, King Dedede grabbed his arm. "Sire, you've plenty'a time to see those guys!" he exclaimed, to King Toadstool's surprise. "Come on, dinner's gettin' ready! Me and K. Rool would love to have you join us!" Despite King Dedede's lively nature, his offer intrigued him so.
King Toadstool threw his hands up and followed Dedede into the dining hall. As Peach watched them disappear, she bit her lip. "He's one of those, isn't he?" Ike noted snidely. Though he shrugged it off, she felt conflicted. While she couldn't disagree with Ike, he'd also slighted her father's name. Marth shook his head, scolding Ike under his breath.
Ike caught wind of his disapproval, causing him to glare at Marth. As he asked Ike to drop the matter, Peach stepped between them. "Well, he is," she told Ike as Marth watched them. "But you just don't know him-" Peach sighed, her heart aching again. "Oh, why bother now? I'm sure you've your own issues with family and such-"
None among them could argue with her then. Of them, the thought struck Ike personally. "Forgive me, Peach," he lamented. "I'm just familiar with those like your father. Those so demanding, so uncouth despite their nobility." Peach nodded back, aware of her father's unaware nature. "Being around someone as they are leaves me uneasy, you know?"
"I understand, Ike," Peach replied as Marth and Roy nodded in turn. "Sometimes he frustrates me so much!" She turned away, partially concealing her face. "But I can't abandon him! He's my father, after all! I love him dearly, but-" She now faced Lucina, who gave her a knowing nod. Roy followed suit, peering at Chrom and Marth.
Peach's heart remained heavy to consider their collective fate, as well as her own. "Well, if you like," Marth suggested to her. "I can show him around the grounds. He seems to favor me the most." Even among his companions, none could deny Marth's status within the "smash" events. He could readily charm her father, if so inclined.
"Thank you for the offer, Marth," Peach replied. "But I'd like to keep my eye on him myself, so-" However, her thoughts broke apart when a call to dinner rose in the air. Peach peered to the dining hall's entrance, wondering how her father fared with King Dedede. With a quick wave to her companions, she ran to the hall, hoping for the best.
During his daughter's absence, King Toadstool had met with more royal fighters. Though Kings Dedede and K. Rool, he'd encountered Ganondorf and Palutena. They couldn't be any more opposite, encompassing darkness and light themselves. However, both held the authority that their fellow royals did, glad to yield it over their subjects.
As such, Palutena had Pit serve their group during dinner, fetching them food and drink. Ganondorf took advantage of him, calling for bottles of Chateau Romani and Berry Juice. As their group dined on herbed pasta and roasted meat, they drank his offerings in turn. They served to soften the minds of all, making them feel fine and merry.
Unaware of the Chateau Romani's strength, King Toadstool drank it eagerly. He soon lost himself to its effects, laughing alongside his companions. Any thoughts of Peach's family gave way to his own joy. He kept by Dedede's side as the others told tales about themselves. All seemed to live such exciting lives, be they for "good" or "evil".
While he couldn't agree with Ganondorf's ways, King Toadstool relished his taste then. It'd brought him this much joy, free of his concerns. As K. Rool discussed his battles with Donkey Kong, King Toadstool sought out more Berry Juice. He couldn't find it, as well as Pit. Palutena offered to seek him out, to which the king shook his head.
He got up, trying to sober himself up in turn. His new companions would be waiting for him otherwise; With a shake of his head, King Toadstool walked the dining hall. Though countless faces distracted him, he kept on moving. Pit was nowhere to be found, or so it seemed. Unable to accept that, the king ventured forward, only to come upon Luigi.
Having encountered him again, the king approached Luigi. He called to him, causing the other man to turn around. "Oh, your majesty!" Luigi cried out as Daisy watched him. "Did you need something, or-" King Toadstool shook his head, asking if he could sit by their pair. Though doubt painted his mind, Luigi offered him the empty seat nearby.
King Toadstool eased into it, only to speak in turn. "You're Mario's brother, I take it?" he asked as Luigi nodded back. The king eyed him over again, taking in their differences. Luigi was more tall and slim, whereas Mario was short and stocky. Even the features that were comical on Mario seemed more in place on Luigi.
Though he was still a "common" man, Luigi seemed more earnest than Mario was. The king smiled at him, having "approved" him from within. "Come, come," he called out to Luigi. "I've met so many others today, I'd like your company now! Tell me of yourself, of your ties to my Peach!" Luigi paused, only to shrug and speak to the king.
Though he was aware of Daisy's gaze, he couldn't refuse the offer of royalty himself. "Not much to say, I suppose," Luigi replied humbly. "Peach is-a good friend of ours. We go around the kingdom having fun most of the time. Sometimes she needs help, so me and Mario go to save her, and-" He paused, aware of the king's distaste.
"Oh, your brother," King Toadstool said with a hint of disgust. "He's an ostentatious one, isn't he?" Luigi stared at him blankly, causing the king to shake his head. "Well, 'cocky', then. He's rather brash, is he not?" Luigi's eyes flashed open, to the king's surprise. "Come on, Luigi, you must know it! He's always stealing the acclaim of others, and-"
Luigi shook his head frantically, defending his brother. "Don't doubt me, Luigi," the king demanded of him. "I can see it in his eyes! He thinks only of himself, coasting off the successes of others!" He slammed his fist on their table, his eyes bleary. "He's so coarse, going about in a white 'wedding' suit!" He scoffed to himself, his voice raspy.
"But, screw that!" King Toadstool exclaimed, to Luigi and Daisy's shock. "Why let Mario spoil our fun?" He eyed their table, only to push aside their plates. "I feel like a jig, to get it going on like Donkey Kong-" As he got on the table, Luigi tried to grab him. Meanwhile, Peach had entered the dining hall, seeking out King Dedede.
Upon reaching him, Peach paused to find her father. "You're too late," King Dedede replied. "Ya Pop's gone after Pit." As Peach shook her head, she eyed over their table's contents. Bottles of Chateau Romani littered it, its strength legendary within Hyrule. Given the bleary gazes of all present, they must've been drinking it profusely.
At that moment, Pit returned, holding a bottle of Berry Juice. He cried out to Palutena, saying that Peach's father was acting out of bounds. Peach's eyes snapped open, forcing her to ask Pit about it. He pointed to a distance, where her father danced upon a table. Struck by dismay and fear, Peach ran off towards him.
As she approached him, her "family" drew close as well. They'd meant to meet the king earlier, caught in their own duties. However, he seemed nothing like Peach's description prior. King Toadstool was beside himself with drink, swaying about. As he stuck his rear out, Peach struggled to get him down. She called to him as Ken joined her.
Neither could get a good grasp on him, given how much he wiggled about. Peach got atop a chair, trying to grasp his arms. Despite his glee, King Toadstool's state got the better of him. He stepped onto a wet plate, losing his grip. As he fell backwards, Ken dashed to catch him. The king soon met Ken's front, caught in his firm grasp.
"Oh, thank you, good-" the king slurred out. He peered at his captor, only to grin back. "Hey, you're Peach's husband!" Ken's grip loosened, allowing the king to step away. He reached for Ken's hand, his palm moist. Peach had stepped down from her chair, surrounded by Shulk, Young Link and Isabelle.
They studied her father, gripped by concern. As Ken shook the king's hand, he noticed Peach and her companions. "And you're the rest!" the king shouted, pulling away from Ken. He waved to them, to which they followed suit uneasily. "Hello, it's great to meet you all!" As he laughed to himself, Peach took a deep breath, her faith growing fainter.
As the evening progressed, King Toadstool showed no efforts of sobering up; On the contrary, he'd grown even more raucous. Even if he didn't dance about, he was still erratic. While Ken had gotten him to sit down, the king revelled on, laughing loudly. Peach forced Ganondorf's drinks away from him, scolding him under her breath.
Though stunned, he couldn't deny her father's absurd behavior. It didn't suit a royal like himself, shaming Ganondorf as well. As he set his bottles aside, Peach tried to subdue her father. He remained adamant, easing her aside. The king scurried away, forcing Ken to chase him. Faced with the sight, their tension overwhelmed Peach.
Peach excused herself from dinner, gripped by a sickly shame. As she rushed away, her father seemed unaware of her dismay. He was still under the Chateau Romani's effects, swaying about. He'd returned to Dedede's side, slurring the words to Donkey Kong's rap alongside K. Rool. As they sang together, Peach slipped past them.
Her head was lowered, only making out bits and pieces of her companions. She passed by Marth's table, drawing his attention. As Ike stared at her, Marth sighed and got up. Within moments, he trailed behind Peach, joined by Luigi and Daisy in turn. Though aware of them, Peach was in no mood to face anyone then.
Their trio followed her, quelling the queries of anyone who questioned Peach. Marth lingered behind his companions, reminding all to respect Peach's privacy. He'd already offered his aid, his concerns present. He knew that Luigi and Daisy felt the same, given their close ties together. As King Toadstool kept singing, they left alongside Peach.
Soon enough, they'd reached Peach's chambers. She rose her head up, her eyes now reddened. Marth asked if he could aid her, to which she nodded back. "I appreciate your help," Peach replied shakily. "You're so kind to offer it, Marth. But you should attend to Father with Ken. Papa doesn't need to embarrass himself further!"
He nodded back, vowing to keep King Toadstool from any harm. As Peach watched Marth dash away, she felt Daisy's sight upon her. She shook herself off, motioning to Luigi and Daisy. "You might as well come in," Peach offered them. "Goodness knows I need some friends now." With a soft sigh, she opened her chambers to their pair.
As they went inside, Peach sat at her vanity. She slumped down a bit, her elbows on its table. "I just don't know what happened tonight!" Peach cried out. "What's gotten into Father? Has being in Subcon 'ruined' him so badly?" As she fell silent, Daisy set a hand on her back. Tears had begun to well in Peach's eyes, freeing themselves in anguish.
"Maybe Ike was right," Peach mused as they fell away. "What if Father's a bad man?!" She paused, trying to consider it from within. Though he'd been gone for a while, he'd never been this brash. He demanded much of her, but it was under good intentions. However, her father seemed so much more reckless now, disregarding even herself.
He'd even painted Mario in a bad light, given all he happened to come across. She couldn't blame it entirely on the Chateau Romani, given how he'd been prior. Peach's concerns towards her family had shifted then; Their ruse had worked, leaving the king none the wiser. However, it was that last part which troubled her the most.
If her father was in such a state, was it even worth it? Peach sensed a greater issue was afoot, one she hadn't imagined. She sobbed freely, her mouth agape. As Daisy consoled her, Luigi heard a knock at the door. He went to open it, only to see Mario standing by. "Can I come in?" he asked as Luigi stepped aside. Peach sat up, turning to see him.
Despite her sorrow, the sight of Mario forced it aside. She leaped up and rushed to his side. As Peach dragged him into a hug, Luigi shut the door after them. Mario held her in his arms for a moment, spinning her about. "It feels like forever since I've seen you!" she exclaimed. When Peach met the ground, she dabbed her eyes dry. "How've you been?"
"Ah, I'm-a holding up," Mario admitted. "I mean, it hasn't been that long!" Peach nodded to him, trying to calm herself yet again. "But, I saw what happened with your papa-" Her face fell again, her voice pleading. She dared not consider what chaos he brought then. Mario caught onto her worry, drawing Peach close to his side.
"Don't-a worry," he replied to her. "Your papa wore himself out, so Ken and Marth took him to his room." Relief washed upon Peach's face, glad for their aid. As she smiled at him, Mario pulled back and dug around his "inventory". He pulled out some plates of food, to the surprise of all. As he put them on her sitting table, Peach laughed aloud.
"Right, I haven't had dinner yet!" she remarked, glancing at the plates below. Mario nodded to her, moving some things away. Once the table was set, he invited her to it. Peach glanced to Daisy and Luigi, wondering if they'd stay then. Luigi shrugged it off, calling for their departure. They soon vanished, leaving Mario and Peach alone.
As Peach sat down to her herbed pasta, Mario offered her some Berry Juice. "Got it from Ganon," he said with a sly grin. "Figured he's not-a gonna need it!" She could only shrug, thirsting for its effects then. Anything was better than stewing in her given pain. Mario poured them both some, sitting besides her when he was done.
Soon enough, they ate their pasta, the Berry Juice cutting its richness. They faced an open window, the night's sky set within it. Both could see stars among it, gleaming like diamond shards. Though neither spoke then, both were glad for the other's company. Even with all that'd been earlier, they were grateful to be together at all.
All felt "perfect" then, just as Peach had desired for herself. She couldn't imagine a life without Mario, be it "false" or not. Despite her given facade, Peach fell against him, her touch tender. As she cradled his arm, Mario shut his eyes, wishing their moment would never end. Even if he had to leave her, they had this evening to treasure afterwards.
The next morning, King Toadstool had breakfast with his daughter, separate from the other fighters. He'd sobered up considerably, despite the Chateau Romani's residual effects. The king was aware of his mishaps, given what Marth had told him afterwards. Now gripped by shame, he vowed to maintain order, if only for Peach's sake.
He'd seen her weary gaze, the result of a restless night. King Toadstool couldn't impose on her and her clan further. He made a bad enough impression already, leading him to the day's mess. Peach was forced to introduce her family that morning, free from his chaos. He kept the thought in mind, even as they finished up their meal.
Afterwards, they ventured to the facility's courtyard, where her "family" had been gathered. It was a lush place that all could relax in, maintained by the fighters on a volunteer basis. As they passed by its collection of topiaries, Peach came upon the Mii Fighters trimming them into shape. She waved to them, to which they followed suit.
"Hi, Hannah!" Peach called out to the Gunner, who greeted her. Within moments, the Brawler and Swordfighter paused, drawn to her father's presence. Peach took notice of them, introducing them respectively. "Hello to you too! Papa, these two are Saul and Finn, who-" King Toadstool shook his head, assuring her that he knew their purpose.
"Ah, I understand, Peach," he said, eying the Mii Fighters over. "They maintain the grounds, correct?" They froze, with the Brawler and Swordfighter exchanging wary glances. Before Peach could correct him, King Toadstool spoke on. "You've done fine work out here! It must be quite the feat, caring for everyone about, and-"
His voice trailed off, leaving them unsure of how to react. The Mii Fighters were now as uneasy as Peach was, forcing her hand. "Father, no!" she exclaimed frantically. "They're not servants! They're fighters, like I am!" King Toadstool peered at her, only to study the Mii Fighters again. He apologized to them, softening their dismay a bit.
"Father, let's keep going," Peach suggested, dragging him away. "We don't want a repeat of yesterday, do we?" As King Toadstool stepped forward, she apologized to the Mii Fighters again. She couldn't help her father's ways, especially in such a setting. Their trio brushed it off, thinking it best they not get involved in the matter then.
Meanwhile, Peach and her father had gone on, surrounded by trimmed grass. The area was made for outdoor activities, of which some participated in. "And that's Pac-Man," Peach said, pointing across the way. "Oh, look, he's with Kirby!" The pair watched as Pac-Man tossed a baseball back and forth with Kirby, who jumped to catch it.
They were caught in a little game of sorts, one neither wanted to interrupt. However, Pac-Man noticed them, holding onto the ball. He waved to them with his free hand as Kirby ran to him. Kirby tried to capture it, only to see Peach and her father. He called cheerfully to them, waving in turn. Within moments, they ran up to Peach, greeting her.
Pac-Man spoke of his game, saying he did so with his son elsewhere. He enjoyed such moments, yearning for his family at their "smash" events. "Speaking of which," King Toadstool noted. "I wonder what yours is like, darling." Peach fell silent, cowed by his inquiry. She shot him a shaky smile, excusing herself from Pac-Man and Kirby.
"Ah yes, that-" Peach said, trying to regain her composure. She nodded to herself, only to see her companions within reach. As she waved to them, they followed suit, preparing themselves yet again. Peach brought her father to them, stopping sort of their group. Ken was the first to act, dashing to Peach and capturing her in his arms.
As he spun her about, she shut her eyes, laughing to herself. Once on the ground again, Peach shot Ken a playful grin. "Father, this is my family," she said, motioning to Ken and the others. "You've already met my husband, Ken." He reached for King Toadstool's hand, shaking it once more. When they pulled away, Peach spoke further.
"Yes, and these are our sons," she said as Shulk and Young Link drew closer. "Shulk is from Ken's first marriage, while Link is our own!" Shulk nodded politely to the king while Young Link waved at him. His gaze eased towards Isabelle, who grinned at him. "Oh, and that's our 'pet', Isabelle!" She waved as well, her eyes shut.
"Ah, splendid, splendid!" King Toadstool proclaimed, to their delight. "You've a lovely family, darling!" Peach smiled, setting her hand against her cheek. "I can't wait to spend more time with you all!" As he laughed to himself, Peach ushered her friends to her side. She spoke up, suggesting they take the afternoon to themselves.
"A fine idea, darling!" the king replied. He eyed her companions over, curious to their true personas. He thought them a "perfect' clan from Peach's pictures, but it could've been an illusion. Now that he stood among them, the king was sure of their loving devotion. He basked in their glory, glad for his daughter's good fortune and riches.
True to Peach's word, all spent the rest of the morning in one another's company. They mostly played around, chatting as they did so. In the process, King Toadstool learned of Peach's marriage to Ken, how it'd come about. He accepted it readily, despite how "abruptly" it'd come. The king mused on it, now acutely aware of his absence.
"Has it been a decade?" he asked himself while watching Young Link and Shulk spar playfully. So much of his daughter's life had passed, as well as his own. Though King Toadstool felt no much older than before, the thought now unsettled him. Despite her youthful aura, Peach had become a mother. She'd already raised a son into childhood.
In turn, Peach had cared for Ken's other son as well. Shulk had grown into a fine young man, capable of anything. The king could only wonder what would become of him afterwards. Perhaps he'd take after Ken, defending the Mushroom Kingdom with the Monado. Perhaps not, but such matters could be dealt with in time.
For the moment, King Toadstool was content to be with his newfound "family". He didn't want to spoil the moment further for Peach. Though she seemed happier, a hint of pain remained in her eyes. She kept by Ken's side, seeking out his comfort. As they watched their "sons" spar, Isabelle and the king cheered them on.
"Let's take a break, boys," Peach said after their match. "It's time for lunch! Let's have it out here!" As Young Link groaned with jest, Ken approached him, shaking his head. He ordered him to obey his "mother", ensuring Young Link's silence. He and Shulk ran to one of the courtyard's washrooms to clean up before then.
Meanwhile, Isabelle got out some hand sanitizer. "Ah, a grand idea," the king said as she handed it to him. "Peach has trained you well, I see!" Though surprised, Isabelle shook it off. She'd kept silent during their meeting, unsure of the king's reaction otherwise. Peach said that dogs in her land didn't speak, forcing Isabelle's silence.
Despite her discomfort, she thought it easier to spare the king's feelings. Isabelle just passed the sanitizer around to Peach and Ken. As they rubbed their hands clean, a yawn escaped the king's mouth. "Oh, pardon me," he said. "I'm a bit weary from last night. Mind if I take a quick nap?"
Peach nodded, pointing at a tree he could rest under. The king grinned at them before walking to it. As he fell asleep, Peach peered at Ken. "Should I leave him here?" she asked him. "I don't want to bother him. Besides, what trouble can he get into now?" Before she could ponder it further, Ken and Isabelle offered their assistance.
"Don't worry, hon," Ken replied. "We'll keep an eye on the old man. Just take a breather, okay?" Peach nodded to him, thanking them for their help. As she stepped away, Young Link ran up to their pair. Ken ruffled the boy's hair, asking where Shulk was. He'd gone inside for a quick rest as well. Ken supposed he couldn't fault Shulk for that.
Their little spar had been quite the fight, silly as it was. He could just call Shulk back, if needed. With that in mind, Ken invited the others to sit on the grass besides him. They joined him, chatting leisurely among themselves. However, their talk was cut short as Isabelle grew aware of something. She eased up, causing the others to follow suit.
"Oh, dear," Isabelle said, glancing at her tablet. "The dining hall says lunch is ready! Everyone's expecting it out here!" She peered at the king, who was still asleep. "But we can't just leave him behind!" As she thought on the matter, Ken glanced at Young Link. He grabbed the boy, dragging him over to Isabelle. Though puzzled, he kept in place.
"Hey, here's something you can do," Ken said to the boy. "Watch over 'Gramps', okay?" Young Link's wary expression remained, forcing Ken's hand. "Come on, just make sure no one bugs him! I've gotta grab lunch with Isabelle, okay?" Though hesitant, the boy nodded. He'd seen worse elsewhere, having been tasked with more pressing issues than this.
Young Link figured he could handle this well enough. As Ken and Isabelle ran back to the facility, he stepped to King Toadstool. He remained in slumber, where time seemed to stall. The longer Young Link watched him, the more weary he grew. He slumped beside him, only to see some others nearby. His face lit up, glad for his other friends then.
As her "family" attended to other matters, Peach walked on to ease her nerves. Her ruse was going to plan, just as she desired. However, it couldn't shake her greater concerns. She went back to the topiaries and slumped onto a nearby bench. Having finished their work, the Mii Fighters approached her. As they stood by, Peach forced her gaze to them.
She apologized for her father again, but the Gunner shook it off. "Hey, no problem," she replied. "Happens to the best of us! But you look beat! What happened to you?" Their eyes locked, with Peach's dull and weary. As the Mii Fighters peered at her, her heart began to pound. She couldn't deny their curious gazes in turn.
"It's just my father," Peach admitted, her resolve wearing thin. "Ever since he came, everything's been a mess!" The Mii Fighters nodded to one another, recalling his visit. They'd only heard of his mishaps through others, their claims ludicrous. Their trio thought them too absurd to believe. However, Peach's weary gaze spoke to her truth.
"But we never got a chance to meet him!" the Brawler said. "Everyone else just told us afterwards! Is it true that he twerked?!" Peach's eyes shot open, to which she shook her head. As she reiterated the night's events, their trio listened with intrigue. They learned of his run in with Ganondorf's "poison" of choice, leading his to misdeeds.
"Oh, he's one of those, isn't he?" the Swordfighter remarked. As he made a drinking motion, Peach's jaw clenched. Aware of her unease, the Gunner jabbed him in the side. While he shook it off, the Brawler stepped to Peach. He tried to console her, only for her to turn away. As they watched over her, she balled her right hand into a fist.
"No, no, it's not that," Peach said somberly. "He's just been acting so absurd lately! I'm starting to doubt him-" Her breath hitched, her heart heavy. "I'm sick of making excuses for him! He should know better, even with how he is! He's a grown man!" She felt her skin grow hot, as though it'd burst. Peach faced the Mii Fighters, trying to calm herself.
"But enough about that," she said to them. "I just need something to distract myself with." The Mii Fighters agreed, their welcoming faces comfort enough to her. A smile crept onto Peach's face to consider it. "So, how are you all? How has 'online' battling suited you?" As their trio spoke of their tourneys, Peach sat back, glad for their company.
Meanwhile, Young Link ran with Ness, Lucas and the Inkling girl near Peach's father. He remained asleep, unaware of their play. Upon seeing him, the Inkling paused, taking in his sight. Like many others, she hadn't met him at dinner yesterday; She'd been caught in her own work, though she knew of the king's visit.
As the Inkling peered at him, Ness, Lucas and Young Link stepped to her. She felt their presence, backing away from him. She motioned to her friends, dragging them out of the way. Once sure the king couldn't hear her, she grinned mischievously. "So that's Peach's dad?" the girl asked Young Link. He nodded, to which she shook her head.
"Man, I don't get the big deal over him!" the Inkling groused. "Seems like everyone's goin' gaga over this dingus!" Though Young Link gave her a wary glance, he couldn't help but agree with her. All he'd seen the king do was bring Peach and his "family" anguish. It was all confusing, despite Peach's claims to the contrary.
"Hey, let's draw on him!" the Inkling said, to his surprise. Young Link shook his head, causing her to follow suit. "Why not, Link? He won't notice if we're quick with it! I can scrub it off!" She peered at Ness and Lucas, egging them on. They grinned, glad to join in. As their pair met Young Link's gaze, a strange thrill rose within him.
While the children adorned him with inky images, the Duck Hunt duo approached them. They'd been out for their daily walk alongside the Wii Fit Trainer. Though she'd left for a break, their pair continued to wander about. As they saw King Toadstool being painted on, the dog broke out laughing. He fell on his side, unable to contain himself.
Young Link heard him, now gripped by panic. He rushed to quiet the dog, only for Mario and Shulk to near the tree. Both sought out the dog, taking offense to his past misdeeds. While Mario voiced his concerns earlier, Shulk discussed his own then. "He's always had it out for me," he admitted to Mario. "After seeing me battle in my trunks, and-"
Mario paused to stare at him, his gaze blank. "But it's not important now," Shulk said, spotting Young Link nearby. "What would be is that blasted dog, as well as Link!" He pointed forward, drawing Mario's attention. They ran to the tree, where Young Link restrained the dog. The duck honked at him, trying defend her partner.
As she pecked at Young Link, Shulk grabbed her. The dog escaped Young Link's grasp, eager to attack Shulk. While the dog bit his legs, the duck wriggled away. She flew by King Toadstool, honking all the while. Their commotion was finally enough to shake him from his slumber. The king awoke, only to see Mario lunge at the dog and grab his ears.
The dog howled in shock, his face pained. "What is the meaning of this?!" the king roared. "What are you doing to that dog?!" Though the dog bit at him, Mario paused, struck by fear and shame. Given what the king's opinion, this would only lessen his reputation in his eyes. He eased off of the dog, releasing his ears.
"Your Majesty, it's not what it looks like!" Mario pleaded to the king. "I would never! I mean, he was, and they were-" Shulk stepped in, saying the dog had bitten him. Young Link nodded, calling for his friends. Neither of them answered him, to his ire. In their chaos, they'd left him. He peered at the king, wondering if he felt the ink on his face.
King Toadstool's rage seemed set on Mario alone, unaware of the images on him. He sighed with relief for himself, though their tension remained. Even with Shulk's pleas, the king remained furious. He stepped in front of Mario, screaming at him. The dog stood next to him, taunting them all. He laughed, drawing Young Link's own ire.
Meanwhile, the duck reached the Mii Fighters and Peach. As she quacked with frenzy, Peach stuck out her right arm. The duck landed on it, meeting her gaze. "What's wrong?" Peach asked her. "Is Hunter in trouble?" The duck motioned towards the tree, only to fly towards it. With a quick shrug, Peach got up and headed towards it.
The Mii Fighters trailed behind her, sensing the worst. Once there, she saw Mario standing by, trying to shield his face. Her father glared at him, sharply demanding answers of him. The Brawler smacked his head, his frustration all too familiar. "Not again, Hunter!" he scolded the dog. "How many times do I have to tell you?!"
As he peered at the creature, he sneered at the Brawler. Young Link stepped in, explaining their situation. The Brawler shook his head and reached for the dog's collar. As the duck quacked at him, the Gunner caught her. "You're not off the hook, either!" she said. "If you guys can't stop messing with people, you'll have to stay inside!"
Despite their efforts, King Toadstool's rage carried on. As the Mii Fighters carried the Duck Hunt duo away, their tension rose to its peak. The king was ready to attack Mario, poking his chest. "Father, just hear Mario out!" Peach cried out. "He only did it to save Link! That dog is nothing but trouble, getting into everyone's things!"
Shulk and Young Link stepped into the fray, affirming all she'd said. They showed off their bite marks, gained from the dog and duck prior. Though Mario tried to follow suit, the king knocked him away. As he rubbed his nose, Peach ran after her father. She was in tears now, making Mario's heart ache. Every impulse within him called for his aid.
However, he couldn't step in without risking Peach's safety or his own. Forced into submission, Mario could only watch her alongside his companions. "Father, just behave yourself!" Peach shouted to him. "We can sort this out later! Please don't ruin another day for everyone!" At that, the king paused, distraught by his daughter's teary face.
As he tried to console Peach, Ken and Isabelle returned bearing several food boxes. "Can ya believe it?" he asked to her. "Heaps of pasta again! I think I lucked out here-" Isabelle grinned at him, hinting that it was Mario's doing. As she spoke on the matter, Ken grew aware of the scene unfolding near them.
He drew Isabelle's attention to it, causing her to fall silent. With their boxes in hand, they rushed to to the tree. "Hey, what's going on?" Ken asked, peering at the king. "Why's everyone all shook up? And what's with your face?!" The king paused, now feeling the sticky fluid on him. He reached up to his cheek, lifting away some ink.
"Oh, you missed it," Shulk said to them. "But trust me, it was a real mess-" As he told them what'd been, the king tried to scrub his face. Peach handed him a handkerchief and turned away from him. Her own face was still wet, her eyes puffy. However, she couldn't let him "triumph" over her. He'd already caused enough trouble for them all.
She stepped to Ken, trying to dry herself against his top. As he held onto her, Isabelle fished out some tissues. Ken gave them to Peach, who wiped her eyes. She eased off of him, thanking Isabelle softly. All seemed too absurd to believe for them, leading Isabelle to seek out Mario. He couldn't be found, drawing her concern.
As she waved to Peach, Ken tried to lessen their tension. "Look, just forget this right now," he suggested to everyone. "Let's have some lunch, okay?" At his call, Isabelle fumbled around for some other items she'd pocketed. Within moments, she laid out a picnic cloth, where Ken set down their food. He called them down once more.
Peach obliged, despite her now drained appetite. She couldn't retreat from another meal with her father again. Even if he remained oblivious, she'd have to handle him herself. It was as she'd told herself before: She and her father were to blame for this, albeit in different ways. All was Peach's burden to bear, to see to whatever end came about.
Following lunch, King Toadstool excused himself to his room. Though Peach trailed behind him, he refused her aid. "No, darling," the king told her. "I need a moment to myself. I'll leave you to rest after today's spectacle." She nodded back, silently jabbing Ken's arm. As the king departed, Peach told Ken to have Marth watch over her father.
"I'm sorry, but I trust Marth more than Papa now," she admitted softly. "If he won't listen to reason, he'll need supervision. I can't be with him at every moment!" Ken nodded to her and got out his smartphone. As he called Marth, Peach felt Young Link tug at her dress. As he apologized for earlier, she smiled at him. "Oh, it's fine, sweetie!"
The boy beamed at her, lessening Peach's tension a bit. "Aw, you're fine, everyone!" she said to her companions. "You can't really control fate, after all. Whatever will be, will be." Shulk nodded, well aware of such limitations. Even with his granted might, certain things were out of his reach. All he could do was his best whenever he could.
It was all either of them could do, given their circumstances. "Peach is right, everyone," Shulk noted. "Even if it's unexpected, we need to make do with what we're given." All agreed with him, as unsure of the situation as they were. As their group tossed out ideas, Peach's dismay rose. Her father's demands rang clear, pounding within her.
"It just won't work!" Peach said, breaking away from her "family". "Guys, it's not this I'm bothered by! It's my father!" She kept in place, her heart pounding. Peach was through crying about their situation, as much as it pained her. "We have to do something about him! If he keeps this up, he'll ruin his own name and mine!"
"So, what are we gonna do about it?" Ken asked her. "What's his deal, anyway?" Peach stared at him, unsure of how to answer the question. The control he wielded before had given way to unruliness and chaos. She wanted to believe in his ways, even if they were demanding. "Seems like something's always under his skin, like he's one of those-"
"That's enough, Ken!" Peach cried out, heightening his tension. "It's not like you're the first to say it! I'm sorry, but perhaps this was too much for him." To admit it brought a strange sense to her. While her father had imposed upon her, she followed his whims without question. Even if he couldn't admit it, this must have strained his limits.
"I suppose it must be alarming," she mused aloud. "To go into a new world, where you hardly know anyone else-" Ken couldn't help but nod, thinking of Ryu's invitation to their "smash" events. Though he'd refused by way of his family, Ryu's insistence wore him down. Ken presumed him wanting while in this realm.
Be it for battle or companionship, Ryu longed for his presence once more. Despite his hesitation, Ken joined their forces for his friend's sake. Though he enjoyed his fellow fighters' company, Ryu remained closest to him. "Yeah, but even so," Ken admitted. "Doesn't mean he can go around like he owns the place! I sure didn't, and I-"
"I understand, Ken," Peach replied. "But my father's so particular! He means well, but at what cost? I just-" She saw the concerned faces of her "family", pleading for her being. Even if their ties remained false, what she felt from them did not. She hadn't wanted to hurt anyone going into this. But most of all, she feared losing herself, all she embodied.
"Ah, you know what, everyone?" Peach asked of her companions. "I'm sick of worrying. For now, let's do something fun. What would you all like?" As their group tossed out ideas again, she smiled to herself. It really was the best she could do for her nerves then. Only in her best state of mind could she combat her father's reckless ways.
In his room, the king lay in bed, breathing heavily. He'd only distanced himself from Peach since his arrival. All he wanted to do was become one with her family. However, his anger had gotten the better of him, bringing shame upon them all. He recoiled with disgust, chastising himself. Before he could carry on, a knock rose through the air.
The king got up and answered the door, only to see Marth there. "Your Majesty, Princess Peach sent me," he remarked. "She's rather concerned for you. Might I come inside?" The king nodded, allowing Marth to step into his chambers. As he slumped back on his bed, Marth watched him from its side. "Is there anything you'd like right now?"
"My daughter's respect, I suppose-" the king said absentmindedly. He froze, sensing Marth's own discomfort. "But that's besides the point, Prince Marth. How's my Peach doing?" Marth shook it off, saying that he wasn't sure. King Toadstool peered at him, leading Marth to explain himself. He'd come on her behalf, called by Ken personally.
He hadn't seen Peach since last night. "Ah, he's a good man," the king said with a slight grin. "My Peach picked well with that one. He has fine boys, too. They're fit for royalty, just as you are." Marth smiled a bit, flattered despite his concern. However, he knew that wasn't their main focus then. "Oh, I've been a fool all this time!"
King Toadstool turned away from Marth, turning his back to him. "Perhaps I shouldn't have come here," he lamented. "I just wanted to see Peach and her family! If I'd known that this would be, I-" He breathed heavily again, feeling tears rise in his eyes. All had gone on long enough. Perhaps he'd been too harsh on Peach's companions, even Mario.
Even with his temperament, he had no reason to impose on the other fighters. Shame gripped his body, making him grow faint. As the king wept openly, Marth sat down on the bed. He stroked the king's back, trying to ease his pain. "Oh, it's no use," King Toadstool said. "What good am I here? None of you can understand my pain!"
"Your Majesty, if I may," Marth suggested. "Our facility has someone for such concerns." The king turned to Marth, his bleary gaze now curious. He grinned and reached for King Toadstool's hand. As he held it, Marth's eyes gleamed on. They radiated majesty, as well as comfort and control. Marth embodied the best of royalty, all that he desired.
Faced with his own shortcomings, he couldn't refuse the other man. "Is that so?" the king asked. As Marth nodded back, the king sat up fully. He asked Marth about their "specialist" in detail, hoping they could aid him. Marth spoke in turn, discussing how he'd helped his friends. Even Ike spent time with him, easing off of his own troubles.
"If you like," Marth pressed on. "We can visit him right now. He shouldn't be too busy, since no 'major' matches are planned." The king shot him a shaky smile, trying to calm himself down. "Now, would you like to wash up beforehand?" He nodded to Marth and eased out of the bed. Within moments, the king left his chambers alongside Marth.
As they walked the facility's halls, he wondered what their "specialist" was like. Marth had praised him a fair bit, his skills second to none. However, the king had his doubts. Perhaps his reputation had been built up from weary patients. After all, any relief would be good after a long battle. Nevertheless, he couldn't refuse Marth then.
The other man had gone to far too much trouble on his behalf already. As he apologized to Marth, he just shook his head. "Your Majesty, it's no trouble," he said. "I just want to ensure your safety while here. That's all I wish for anyone who enters our 'realm'." The king nodded back, grateful for Marth's aid. Perhaps he could regain his true self soon.
"Ah, we're here-" Marth said as he stopped in front of a door. He knocked at it, to which it opened up. Little Mac staggered outside, dazed from combat. "Oh, is the Doctor 'open' now, Mac?" Little Mac nodded, allowing Marth to step aside. He followed suit as the king peered at them. "Your Majesty, go on in. The Doctor's waiting for you!"
King Toadstool nodded to Marth, thanking him for his aid. As he went inside, Little Mac left alongside Marth. Neither were quite sure what would come of the king's meeting, hoping for the best. Meanwhile, King Toadstool walked about the office, its scope oddly comforting. As he studied its bright space, he caught another's attention.
A nearby figure turned to him, his eyes bright. There stood a man just as Mario was, albeit in medical garb. The king shook his head, trying to make his image fade away. However, the other man approached him. "Good afternoon!" he said with good cheer. "I'm-a Dr. Mario! How can I-a help you today?"
"Has Marth screwed me over?" the king thought to himself uneasily. As he stood about, Dr. Mario reached out to shake his hand. Though he accepted it, his mind was on edge. King Toadstool wasn't sure this wasn't just Mario in a new guise. If it were so, his suspicions would be confirmed. Mario would be pure scum for tricking him so.
However, the king released Dr. Mario's hand and bowed to him. "Ah yes, Doctor," he said warily. "Prince Marth sent me for your services. What he didn't tell me was your uncanny resemblance to-" Dr. Mario gave him a knowing grin, nodding back. The king studied him, seeking out any differences from the Mario he knew.
"But of course," Dr. Mario replied back. "Everyone and their mother says that!" As he laughed to himself, the king eyed him on. "But I also see how you're lookin' at me. Be assured, I'm not-a Mario! Well, not exactly-" The king's eyes narrowed, his face even more stern. "You see, I come from another world where Mario's a doctor."
"Really, there was such a world?" King Toadstool asked. Even with his limited knowledge of other realms, parallel worlds seemed too absurd to bear. The Mario he knew hardly seemed qualified for brutal combat. To imagine him as a doctor was too far out of bounds. As he shook his head, Dr. Mario glanced upward with a grin.
"Well, of course!" he said, his voice now lyrical. "In it, I am Dr. Mario and I am 'saving' lives! Brightly colored pills! They'll cure all your ills-" He paused and shook his head. "Couldn't help myself there! Anyway, what've you come for?" Dr. Mario eyed the king over, noting his sullen face. "You seem tense! Has anything been of concern lately?"
He eyed over Dr. Mario in turn, wondering if he knew of his past mishaps. The doctor's eyes hinted not at his knowledge, only compassion. Even if he resembled Mario, he was willing to help him out. "Doctor, it's like this," the king admitted. "Ever since my arrival to here, I've been a mess! I keep getting myself into trouble and upsetting my Peach!"
Dr. Mario nodded to him, mulling it over. "So, I decided to come to you," King Toadstool pressed on. "Of all present, you're suited for such things! So, what of it, Doctor? Can you help an old man out?" He nodded to the king again and sent him to his lengthened sofa. As he got onto it, Dr. Mario sat at a nearby chair and picked up a clipboard.
"Just-a make yourself cozy," he said to the king. "Then we can begin!" Dr. Mario offered him some water or pillows, which King Toadstool declined. He'd gotten himself at ease in the sofa, ready for their session. The king nodded to Dr. Mario, spurring him on. He asked King Toadstool to speak candidly, revealing what bothered him so.
"Again, it's like this," the king said, his voice strained. "I've caused nothing but trouble for Peach since I got here!" He took a quick breath, trying to calm himself. Dr. Mario sat by, watching him carefully. Despite his uncanny resemblance, the doctor's eyes were earnest and kind. King Toadstool began to feel at ease, ready to speak honestly.
"I don't know what's the matter with me!" he admitted. "I just wanted to see her family. I wanted to know about my heirs, holders to our legacy-" Dr. Mario nodded to him, urging him to speak on. "But now that I have, it all feels so strange! As though I'm not worthy of them! I don't mean to be so coarse, but something feels off about it all!"
From within, Dr. Mario paused with concern. He wondered if the king could sense their collective ruse, leading to his erratic ways. However, he shook it off, opting to speak on. "I understand," he replied back. "It's-a lot to take in, I take it?" The king couldn't help but chuckle, despite his dismay. "But, just-a why do you think that, your Majesty?"
His face fell, unsure of himself. "I can't quite say," the king admitted. "Well, they're a wonderful family. Anyone would praise them as their own!" He paused then. "Perhaps that's the matter here. I don't feel like they're my own." Dr. Mario fell silent, mulling over his concerns again. Before he could act upon them, the king spoke again.
"I suppose it makes sense," he said, grasping his chin. "After all, I've been gone for so long! I've missed so much of her life already-" The king sighed, shutting his eyes. "They might as well be strangers to me." Through his darkness, he pictured his own wife, how she'd react to Peach's clan. Though his daughter was glad, all seemed so fragile then.
It was like a grand illusion pulled on him, one which pained his heart. The king opened his eyes, aware of Dr. Mario's gaze once more. "You know, I recall something now," he admitted. "It's about my Peach. It may be silly, but-" The doctor nodded once more, allowing him to speak. With a quick breath, King Toadstool followed suit.
"I'm not sure if you know," he said with a grin. "But she used to dye her hair red! Said it wasn't a 'phase', but we know that turned out!" As he laughed to himself, Dr. Mario got his clipboard and wrote on it. Despite his own concerns, the king's troubles intrigued him so. He'd heard of a redheaded Peach before, but knew not of her origins.
Dr. Mario presumed the king knew about it, given his ties to her. As he questioned King Toadstool about it, his gaze fell. "See, I bring it up for a reason," the king replied. "I think she did it because of her mother." Dr. Mario stopped writing, his focus set on the king. He nodded to the doctor, now gripped by a deep, aching sorrow.
"Peach never really knew her," the king said. "Cherise passed when she was just a baby. Besides, it was an awful time for all of my kingdom!" He paused, only to ease up. As his gaze locked onto the doctor's, an ache rose through King Toadstool's heart. "What with her abduction by Kamek's hand and all! We were all worried sick about our Peach!"
As Dr. Mario considered it, the king pressed on. "Thank heavens the Yoshi clan saved her!" he said, holding back his tears. "I don't know what we would've done otherwise! Even my men had no means to rescue all those children! I wish them well, even after this long-" Dr. Mario paused, having recalled what he knew of that time.
Years ago, Kamek had stolen the Mushroom Kingdom's babies, seeking out seven "star children". It'd been a monumental tragedy back then, sweeping Mario and his comrades within it. While all the children were recovered, it set a precedent for the kingdom. Vast measures were taken to ensure nothing of that scale happened again.
Dr. Mario hailed from a different world than the king knew, distancing himself from the incident. However, he could understand the Mushroom Kingdom's pain, especially at the time. "I am forever indebted to the Yoshi clan," King Toadstool admitted. "They brought us to this point, after all. Well, they and a 'grand' child, but I never believed that talk."
"After all, what sense does it make?" the king pondered. "You expect me to believe tales of a 'super' baby fighting alongside the Yoshis?!" His grief gave way to distaste, like that he held for Mario. All Dr. Mario could do was listen, scribbling notes on his clipboard in turn. Any concerns he had for the king had answered themselves through his talk.
As Dr. Mario kept silent, King Toadstool took a breath to calm himself. "Anyway, I've gotten off topic," the king said. "What was I-" Dr. Mario's gaze remained, as comforting as ever. The past's wounds were upon him again, threatening his being. However, King Toadstool held them close, yearning to subdue them, once and for all.
"I believe you were discussing Peach's mama-" Dr. Mario noted. He held onto his clipboard, watching the king carefully. King Toadstool nodded back, trying to cast his troubles aside. "How she never really knew her." The king gritted his teeth, reeling with a flood of memories. Even with its issues, the past held a familiar allure, one he craved.
"If it's not too much-a trouble," Dr. Mario suggested. "Why don't you tell me about her?" King Toadstool peered at him, torn between his desires. The doctor seemed aware of his turmoil, leaning in close. "Tell me about the good things you had. You really loved her, didn't you?" The king nodded once more. "Well, tell me for her sake, then."
Spurred into action, the king dug out his smartphone. Peach had set it up for him back him back home; In turn, she'd also transferred several cherished photos of his onto it. As King Toadstool swiped its screen, Dr. Mario glanced down at it. Having found an image, the king showed it to him. It pictured him in his youth, alongside a woman.
She held a striking beauty, her form voluptuous. Rich auburn locks framed her fair face, set in layers. Her eyes were like the sea itself, beckoning to all. "Oh, she's as pretty as a-" Dr. Mario said, his voice trailing off. The king nodded to him, saying that she evoked Peach's glamour. "She seems like quite a woman. What was she like, your Majesty?"
"My Cherise was a wonderful woman," the king said wistfully. "She was so fair and kind, befitting royalty itself. She made an excellent Queen for my kingdom." A smile rose on his face, softening it. "She adored our Peach as well. Always hoped she'd be a ruler of the people, like she was-" The sorrow in his gaze flickered, his chest now tight.
"I suppose Cherise got her wish," King Toadstool murmured. "As have I. But it just feels so strange-" He peered down at the smartphone, with his wife's image gazing back. She was as cheery as ever, fixed in time. Though he cherished her memory, the king knew it was just that. Time had passed for them all, even if he didn't feel as such personally.
With it came change, reflecting life's shifting ways. However, the king had to reconcile them, alongside his whims. Very little in life matched up with one's desires, even for those like himself. "But perhaps that's my own issue here," King Toadstool said. "I insisted this upon my Peach, after all! I know it was wrong to push her, but-"
"I understand, your Majesty," Dr. Mario chimed in. "It's a lot to take in, especially with your absence-" The king nodded back, speaking of his time in Subcon. He'd been forced there by Wart's hand, as part of a compromise. To prevent intrusion from Subcon's folk, he'd gone to negotiate with Wart. However, their talks dragged on for an eternity.
Subcon's space reacted to time differently than the other kingdoms present; What felt like a year there translated to a decade in the Mushroom Kingdom. Though the king had gained Wart's support, it'd come at a great loss. As Dr. Mario wrote in on his clipboard again, the king sighed. "I'm so sorry," the doctor replied. "I hope it's worked out, but-"
He paused, trying to consider such a thing. Perhaps that was the root of King Toadstool's issues; It wasn't that Peach's "family" were strangers, but that he felt like one himself. "Tell me, your majesty," Dr. Mario urged him. "What do you really think about all this?" He set his clipboard down, meeting the king's gaze directly. "Can you accept it fully?"
"After all, a lot has happened for everyone here," Dr. Mario said. "Not just your own family." The king nodded back, lost to his thoughts. Perhaps they'd been amplified because of Subcon's ways. He knew of the rumors, how its space toyed with the conscious and subconscious being. Perhaps his own being had been warped by it.
Having spent so much time in its altered reality must've affected him in turn. Though the king knew not its truth, his feelings remained. All he wanted was Peach's safety, as well as her joy. "I understand, Doctor," King Toadstool confessed. "It is a lot to take in, but I do accept it. There's no use in concealing such things. My issues are mine alone here."
As Dr. Mario nodded to him, the king continued. "I've no right to drag Peach or her family into them," he said. "I've behaved foolishly. My emotions have gotten the better of me, I feel-" He paused, feeling Dr. Mario's hand against his own. Their eyes met, the doctor's brimming with concern. "And I apologize for that, Doctor. I'm sorry for all I've done-"
"Don't-a tell me, your Majesty-" Dr. Mario noted, to the king's surprise. As his eyes snapped open, the doctor grasped his hand. "Tell your daughter, tell her family. They need to know how you feel!" The king nodded with vigor, springing up from his seat. Though surprised, Dr. Mario held onto him, offering support as he got onto his feet.
Soon, he stood by the doctor, embracing him tightly. "Thank you, Doctor!" the king said. "Thank you so much! I know what to do now-" Dr. Mario grinned, patting his back. King Toadstool felt his tears rise again, despite his conflicted feelings. Though his doubts lingered, they'd given way to glee. As they pulled away, he grinned at Dr. Mario.
"I've more to speak about," the king admitted. "But that can wait! You'll be seeing me again." Dr. Mario nodded back, preparing himself for the occasion. "But for now, I need to see Peach, tell her I've been a fool." He took a quick breath before stepping to the office's door. Dr. Mario followed him, keeping watch over the now joyous king.
As the king prepared to leave Dr. Mario's office, a knock sounded at its door. The doctor opened it, only to see Corrin there. King Toadstool eyed her over as she was ushered in. "Ah, you're just-a on time!" Dr. Mario said cheerfully. "Forgive me, I was-a talking to the king. We ran a bit late-" As the king studied her, Corrin gave him a quick wave.
"I won't intrude on you two," she said with a coy grin. "I'm just here for my acupuncture session!" Corrin pointed to her bare feet, wiggling her toes a bit. The king nodded to her, turning back to Dr. Mario. He wrapped the doctor in his arms, thanking him again. As he pulled back, he saw Corrin's appreciative gaze. "He got you too, didn't he?"
The king nodded again, glad for Dr. Mario's aid. Even if some of his tension remained, he felt more at ease. "I'm glad, King Toadstool!" Corrin exclaimed. "I hope the rest of your visit goes well!" He peered at her, nodding in kind. With a spry grin, he left Dr. Mario's office. As he stood alongside Corrin, Dr. Mario shook his head.
"So, what were you talking about?" Corrin asked the doctor. As he discussed what the king had earlier, she nodded knowingly. "Ah, I see. Peach was in the midst of a great turmoil, too?" Dr. Mario nodded back as Corrin dwelled on the matter. "I never would have guessed! I suppose she doesn't like speaking of such things-"
Dr. Mario shrugged, opting to usher Corrin to the sofa. "What about the king, though?" Corrin mused out loud. "What was ailing him? Do you think he suspects anythi-" The doctor shook his head frantically. Corrin eased away, allowing him to seat her. As he prepared her feet, Dr. Mario dove into the heart of their situation.
Despite his boisterous nature, the king's mind was rather tormented. He had a great deal to reason with, only compounded by Peach's ruse. "It must be hard to hold such doubts," Corrin said. "I can't imagine-" She paused, considering her own upbringing. Corrin could admit she and Peach shared aspects of it, though her fate had differed.
However, a chill ran down her spine to dwell on the matter. Where King Toadstool had acted out of love, her adopted father had in greed. She had difficulty imagining it from the parents' side, given her own. It stood to reason that King Toadstool would be brash with his concerns. Even so, Corrin couldn't fault his intent, one born out of desperation.
As she fell silent, Dr. Mario peered at her. "It's-a lot to take in, Corrin," he said. "Even for me, it's quite the doozy! But he really does care about Peach. He wouldn't have been in Subcon so long otherwise!" Corrin gasped, her eyes now wide. "Trust me, it's a long story. But I can tell you if you'd-a like during our session-"
She nodded back, allowing the doctor to speak once more. He pulled away, only to take off his gloves. After a quick drink and application of sanitizer, he returned to Corrin. "It's like this," Dr. Mario said as he fetched his needles. "After the kingdom's babies were returned-" Corrin listened with intrigue, losing herself to thoughts not quite so alone.
Following his time with Dr. Mario, King Toadstool roamed the Smash Facility, seeking Peach. His thought felt much clearer, allowing some peace of mind. Even if what he'd seen alarmed him, he had to accept it eventually. He had no use in denying such things, as strange as they were. He'd done so before, following his wife's death and its turmoil.
In time, he and his kingdom recovered from their shared tragedies. He'd remained long enough to see its aftermath and effects. While the Mushroom Kingdom did recover, all served as a reminder of its grim past. The king hoped that Peach's leadership paved the way for better times. He'd gotten glimpses of it prior, alongside Toadsworth's reports.
He'd informed King Toadstool of their kingdom's status back home; Despite her run-ins with King Bowser of the Koopa Kingdom, Peach had stayed strong. She'd even united their kingdoms through massive charity events. The king recalled that much, given what Toadsworth told him. However, he knew some revolved around racing and party games.
From what he'd seen, Mario's influence was present in some of the featured tracks and "boards". The king shook it off, believing it more a favor to him than anything. Even if he didn't agree with it, he'd acted out of line. He needed to apologize for himself to Mario, as well as Peach. King Toadstool walked about, seeking refuge from his own troubles.
However, he learned that the facility's fighters were in a meeting. The king accepted it, having glimpsed such events prior. He knew the fighters had important matters to deal with, those he had no say in. The king shrugged it off, opting to walk about the facility. Until the time was right, he could give his own "updates" to his staff back home.
Back at the facility's round table, all sat to discuss their usual "updates" and the like. However, Mario had been silent through their meeting, his focus elsewhere. He only nodded vacantly, agreeing with some unseen force. No one was sure why she was so, not even Peach. She couldn't stand such a sight, seeking answers from her beloved.
"Mario, what's wrong?" Peach asked, calling out to him. As she waved to Mario, he remained unaware. He only nodded and smiled, his face stiff. Peach shook her head, gripped by her father's distaste. She could only imagine how it made him feel to be so villized. Within moments, Peach stepped to him, her gaze locked on his own.
Before she could speak, Mario peered at her and grinned back. "Okey-dokey, I'll-a call you back!" he said, setting his hands down. His focus returned to Peach, who fretted over him. He laughed, only to pluck some plastic buds from his ears. Relief fell upon Peach's face, now aware he chatted through his new phone system.
"I see how you're lookin' at me!" Mario said for all to listen. "See, I got these-a 'pods' from our sponsors. I've been testing them out, to see if they're good." He held up the devices, allowing all to study them. "It's-a two birds with one stone, too! The sponsors called about something they wanna try." The crowd's focus shifted back to him.
"But it's not the pods, though!" he announced. "I've-a got some news, everyone! Our sponsors wanna try out a new mode for 'Smash'!" The crowd spoke among themselves, wondering what it could be. Some speculated the return of the "Stadium" mode, with games like the "Home Run Contest". However, Mario shook his head sternly.
"No, it's-a nothing like that!" he called to them. "This is something we've never done before!" Mario took a quick breath to ease his nerves. He faced their crowd, speaking once more. "They wanna try a 'racing' mode! Fighters will go against each other in a star-studded kart race! Now, they want-a the first in a few weeks, to test it out-"
Upon hearing his news, Sonic's eyes lit up, joined by a broad smile. He was besides himself with joy, to Mario's teasing disgust. As he shook his head, Sonic dashed to him and grabbed Mario's right arm. "You're finally on my level now!" Sonic shouted with a boisterous laugh. "I can't wait to see you bustin' your butt out there!"
He dragged Mario close to him, laughing all the while. "Don't-a push it, Sonic," Mario said, eyeing him over. "Just you see when this blows up in our faces!" With a quick grin, Sonic pulled away from him, opting to stand nearby. Mario peered at their crowd, now dismayed by his admission. "I'm not-a bluffing him, that's just it!"
Their crowd spoke among themselves, questioning such a thing. "I don't think there's enough time to do this!" Mario said, his eyes wide. "Not-a safely, at least! Even if our sponsors want it, we have to look out for ourselves!" He unrolled a nearby scroll, setting it down. Prototypes for the proposed racing track lay on the table, silently taunting him.
"I can't imagine what we'll-a do if something happens," Mario admitted wearily. "I just can't-a let that happen to you guys. Even Sonic-" As Sonic shrugged, the other fighters agreed with Mario. They could only speculate who among them would take part in it. Some had participated such tournaments before, like Isabelle and the Inklings.
To most, the concept was foreign to them, outside of their given realms. As the crowd stared at him, Mario detailed their sponsors' demands. The race was to take place on the facility's own grounds; Its surrounding area boasted a vast canyon, previously used for promotional films and such. It would be refitted to support a track like Mario's own.
Mario showed the prototypes to all, who marveled at its grand scale. Their own "Titan Canyon" would be transformed in full. The crowd studied them, now aware of Mario's concerns. Even with their sponsors' aid, it seemed too sudden. Peach nodded to her beloved, recalling their own issues with "Mario Kart" tournaments of old.
"Yeah, she's right," Sonic noted. "If this blows up, we'll be in a world of trouble! And that's no good!" As his pointer finger rose up, the crowd's chatter resumed. "Besides, it's not like Mario knows anything about speed-" His voice broke off as he met Mario's burning gaze. As his eyes narrowed, a raucous spark rose within them, their target clear.
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Mario shot back. "I may not be-a flashy like you, but I know my sports!" He scoffed, getting out of his seat. Sonic sneered at him, ready for another "spar" of theirs. "I know what-a works here! All our-a 'Nintendon'ts', we learned from your sponsors-" Sonic stood by him again, his gaze fierce.
"Yeah, stick to your guns, 'old man'," Sonic teased him. "Just-a do what you always do, again and again-" Mario glared back, pulling him closer. As they stood together, that racuous energy smothered them. Though Sonic had spurred it into being, either could stop it. However, neither felt the need to, readying their own brand of insults.
As Mario and Sonic taunted each other, Peach took Mario's seat. The crowd turned to her, aware of Mario's new distraction. "Actually, I've an announcement, too-" she said, drawing their intrigue. She grinned back, waving at them. "I'd like to do something for everyone! For all your help, I'd like to treat everyone to a special dinner!"
Their crowd broke into wild applause; Though Mario and Sonic's battle continued, she carried on. "I was thinking of a potluck," she suggested. "So everyone can bring things from their homelands. I'm not sure of the theme, though. Perhaps a weenie roast, or a fish fry-" She stopped short, having spotted the Inkling girl enter their space.
As she took her seat, Young Link glared at her. Though Peach ordered him to behave himself, her voice faltered. "Father?!" she asked of him. "Why are you here again?! This is the second-" As Peach's eyes went wide, her "family" readied themselves to step in. The king stepped to her, his gaze purposeful. He grasped her hands, his touch tender.
She kept in her seat, questioning him once more. "Fear not, darling!" he said. "Dear Inez invited me, alongside herself-" Peach turned to the Inkling girl, who sheepishly nodded back. She shook her head, reasoning that it was an apology for earlier. Peach nodded to her, silently urging her to keep put. She followed suit, ignoring Young Link's own ire.
However, he refused to let it go. Within moments, he stood by her, still glaring. As they tried to sort it out, the king spoke up. "All said, I've much to confess," he said. "I spoke with Dr. Mario earlier, and he helped sort out some concerns of mine." Peach nodded back, feeling her tension return. However, she sat up, entranced by his gleaming gaze.
It seemed tender then, full of concern and love. She knew it by heart, how it rose from his dismay. The king was besides himself with grief, now ashamed of himself. Peach smiled at him, glad for Dr. Mario's help. "I'm sorry for how I've been, darling," he said, prying his hands away. "I know I was out of line before. Can you forgive me, Peachy?"
"I suppose so-" Peach mused. "After all, we've no use for such worries." As her heart raced, she saw Young Link and the Inkling girl fighting. They shoved each other around, hollering in turn. Though those nearby tried to break them up, they resisted their efforts. With a weary sigh, Peach stepped to them. She yanked Young Link away, her gaze cold.
"Like I was saying," she said to the boy. "There's no use for regrets or petty fighting here! Let's try and fix this like adults-" Before Peach could continue, Mario and Sonic barreled towards her. Their own battle had carried on, forcing them to the table below. As they rolled on it, King Toadstool watched them with awe and surprise.
He ran up to his daughter, stunned by their brazen display. Even with his joyful mood, he wasn't sure what to make of Mario. Perhaps he hadn't meant to attack that dog earlier in ill will. Shulk and Young Link had been wounded by his own attacks. The king couldn't fault Mario for stepping in then. However, his current battle was one of pure pride.
He'd caught wind of their taunts earlier, with Mario tongue-lashing Sonic. Of what he'd heard, they were rather cutting jabs. The king could only wonder how Sonic saw it all, given Mario's claims. He seemed to hold his own ground, fighting against Mario. His thoughts were cut short as Mario and Sonic pulled back for breath.
They lay on the table, with all watching them carefully. However, Sonic was the first to notice King Toadstool's questioning gaze. He sat back, his eyes wide as Mario adjusted himself. Sonic reached for Mario's arm, drawing his attention. He brushed it off, only to hear Peach call to him. Mario turned to her, only to turn red at the king's sight.
Silence swept their space as Mario studied the king. Though he remained wary, his wasn't a face of anger. It was one of disappointment, chiding him from within. With a sheepish smile, Mario got off of their table. "I'm-a sorry, your Majesty," he apologized. "Things just got out of-a hand with Sonic here-" As he got onto his feet, Sonic nodded.
"Don't worry, it's all-a good!" Mario said to all. He brushed himself off, easing their room's tension. "Anyway, today's meeting is adjourned! We can discuss the big race later on-" Their crowd broke into polite applause, excusing themselves. As they exited, Peach and her father followed suit. Only Mario and Sonic were left to stand in their space.
As Mario shook his head, defeat washed upon him. He'd only lowered himself in the king's eyes again. "Every time, man!" Sonic lamented, to his rival's surprise. He met Mario's gaze, his eyes bright with concern. "Every freakin' time, man!" As Mario sighed somberly, Sonic drew him close. Mario fell against his side, silently glad for his support.
"Ya just can't win with him, can ya?" Sonic mused aloud. "Geez, what are you gonna do, man?" Mario eased away, meeting his rival's gaze again. At that point, all he wished for was a bit of luck. Only then could the king see him as he truly was. Though his attitude had softened, all seemed to conspire against him. "I'm sorry for pushing ya, though-"
"I appreciate that, Sonic," Mario replied back. "You're a big man for admitting it-" He patted Sonic's back, playfully ruffling his spikes. "But I just-a don't know!" He peered in the distance, mulling over it all. Peach had left with her father, still fretting over him. Though they had matters to discuss, Mario wasn't sure how he tied into them at all.
He could only hope for a chance to defend himself once all had settled down. However, he wasn't sure if the time would ever come. Between his work and their upcoming race, his time was scant. As Mario voiced his concerns, Sonic nodded in kind. "Hey, you're the big man here-" Sonic said, poking at Mario's belly. "But I'm sure you'll get outta this!"
While Mario eased him away, Sonic grinned at him. "You always do, man," he admitted, his voice growing soft. "You're always here for us, Mario. Even me-" Mario peered at his rival, cowed by his appreciation. Even with their past history, he knew Sonic could come through in dire times. They'd helped one another before, with threats large and small.
Even if the future remained uncertain, they had the other's support now. It was a far cry from the days of old, but were glad for it. "Thank you, Sonic," Mario replied. "I'm glad for your help. But we'll just have to-a see." Sonic nodded back, ushering him to the door. With a nod back, Mario walked alongside him, leaving their day's strife behind.
Once they'd left their roundtable, Peach and her father retired to his quarters. His joyful demeanor remained, albeit more subdued. His concern had clouded it, heavy upon his heart. However, King Toadstool needed to confess all that he felt to Peach. It was the least he could do to make up for his reckless behavior.
As Peach made herself comfortable, she peered around her father's room. It was a standard space, made to house any unexpected guests or "newcomers". Despite its plain, pale walls, her father brought his own touches to his space. Several items from back home littered the shelves, alongside images plastered on the very walls.
Peach's gaze fell upon the pictures, featuring many she knew from her homeland. She grinned to see them, feeling so distant from them already. She forced the thought aside, surveying them further. However, her heart ached when she saw her own photos. They were the very ones she'd taken with her "family" days ago, so festive and free.
To gaze upon them furthered their illusion in her mind; If she hadn't known better, Peach would've thought them her own kin. Given their tremendous aid, she felt it was so in a strange way. Her "family" had been so thoughtful the last couple of days, making her heart flutter. It seemed like they were all in it for the long haul, no matter the cost.
Peach beamed at the thought, glad for their support. Her heart skipped a beat as she considered it for her companions; All had been so generous, aiding her through their collective ruse. Even if they weren't her blood, they felt like true family to her. Peach sighed with relief, grateful for their aid. The least she could do was help them in turn.
Such was the thought as she and the king sat at his table; He'd poured them some of Peach's favorite tea. As he offered a cup to her, his eyes held the same concern they had earlier. "I'm glad we can talk, darling," King Toadstool admitted. "There's so much I need to tell you." Peach nodded, setting the cup down and sweetening its contents.
The king watched her, feeling a jolt in his heart. Once she'd gotten her tea ready, Peach urged him to speak up. "But of course, sweetie!" he said, teasing her. Peach sipped at her tea, choking back a scoffing laugh. In his more jovial moods, her father was one to joke around. Sometimes he went too far, but she knew it was in good fun.
That was what she hoped for from him, that return to form. Even with all his mishaps, Peach knew her father meant well enough. He was just out of his element in their world of "Smash", it seemed. She drank her tea, hoping he'd gotten the help he needed. "As I said earlier," the king noted. "I've spoken with Dr. Mario, who has aided me greatly."
Peach nodded again, encouraging him to continue. "He talked me through all I've felt lately," he said. "Including my concerns with our state of affairs." Peach motioned to him, urging him on. "Yes, about that. It's been a long decade, Peach. Honestly, when I returned, I wasn't sure what to expect." The king paused, only to drink his own tea.
Its honeyed warmth soothed his senses, easing his inner tension. As he set his cup down, Peach's eyes bore into him. "All I knew was that the kingdom was yours to rule," the king said. "And you've done a fine job of that, darling!" Peach grinned, feeling her skin grow warm. "You've formed your own alliances, protecting our land from harm!"
Though Peach shied away a bit, the king shook his head. "Don't be so modest, darling!" he teased her. As Peach scoffed it off, he pressed on. "You're just like your mother!" She froze, struck by his claims. Though she knew of her mother, Peach had no true memories of her. All her life, Queen Cherise had been more of a notion to her, rather than a parent.
Peach couldn't fault her for that, given her untimely demise. However, her presence seemed to linger within her own castle. Memories of a past she barely knew danced on, vivid in her father's mind. She shut her eyes, imagining him with the queen and their subjects. Even with their past troubles, all seemed so glad and cheerful then.
It was all one could want of life, making her heart ache. Even her father's own troubles hadn't worn him down, striking as they were. Peach mused on the matter, recalling her childhood. Though it'd been a happy one, restraint also marked it. She knew it well from the king's demands, protecting her so. However, the same applied for him as well.
Peach opened her eyes, only to study her father. She wondered if he felt any regrets for life, free of the queen's support. Even if he accepted his fate, he must've longed for her sometimes. "Thank you, Father," Peach said on short breath. "That means a lot to me. Mother was a good woman, wasn't she?" As the king nodded, his gaze grew misty.
"Father, do you miss her?" she asked, her voice quaking. He nodded again, gritting his teeth a bit. The sight forced her own tears, but she kept them at bay. "I wish I could've known her, too. It seems like everyone loved her. Makes me wonder if I live up to what she wanted." As she sighed, her lips began to quake, her breath shallow.
"Darling, all we ever wanted was your happiness," the king said. "You've pleased us by having found it already. But I can't help but imagine-" He eased back to wipe his tears away. "How proud she'd be of you, Peach. If only she could be here to see you now-" Peach's mouth fell open, her mind flooded by pride and a strange relief.
"Peach, I'm sorry for how I acted before," the king admitted. "Perhaps this was too much to take in for me. But it was no excuse to make you so unhappy, darling." He reached for Peach's right hand, his gaze somber. "I've disgraced myself in doing so, as well as our kingdom. It's not what Cherise would've wanted either. I guess my mind's still a jumble-"
"I understand, Father," Peach replied softly. "You've been gone so long, and in Subcon, at that! But, do you need to be so-" She paused, biting her lip as her breath hitched. Her father's eyes locked onto her own, rife with concern. "Obtrusive about it?" As the king shook his head, she found the courage to speak further. "You know you get, after all."
"Well, I don't mean to be, darling!" he said. The king held onto her hand, his eyes growing bright. "I just need to accept this myself. But you've done so much for yourself, it's like you don't need me!" Though Peach shook her head, he spoke on. "But I'll always want to protect you, Peachy. I only wish the best for you, for your happiness-"
"Oh, I know, Father-" Peach said, mulling over the thought. Even outside of Subcon, King Toadstool frequently left his kingdom, defending it elsewhere. While Toadsworth kept it running properly, Peach was left with his absence. In her youth, she was captive to his rule, as uneven as it was. But given all he'd admitted, his ways became clearer to her.
The king sought not to oppress her, but only to keep her safe and content. Peach took a quick breath, sipping her tea to settle herself. While most parents sought for that goal, her father had gone to greater lengths. Even at the cost of his body and mind, he wished the best for her. As absurd as he could be, he fought for what he loved with conviction.
Even Peach could understand such sacrifice within her situation. "But what's done is done now," she admitted to herself. "You can't change the past, only the present." King Toadstool nodded, easing back to drink his tea. "Let's consider this a new start, Father. I'd love to have you back home, here with all of us." At that, she got up, stepping to him.
Within moments, he'd followed suit, wrapping his daughter in his arms. As they stood together, both felt a great security about them. Even if she had to abide by her ruse, the king had renewed himself. Perhaps he could play along with her, as she'd done with his demands in childhood. Nevertheless, both were glad to have the other's approval again.
They left the king's chambers, only to see Young Link and the Inkling girl dash about. Though they were armed with a bomb and some ink, neither acted then. They seemed hesitant, seeking out an unseen threat. Peach and the king ran to them, while Ness and Lucas followed suit. Unbeknownst to their group, Ken had been pursuing them.
Within moments, all stood in a hallway, its lights softly illuminating their forms. Young Link stopped short of the Inkling, glaring at her. He held onto a bomb, ready to ignite it. "Link, you wouldn't dare!" the Inkling shouted, her gaze narrowed. The boy huffed at her, provoking her rage. "Two can play at this game! What do you want? I said I was sorry!"
Young Link shook his head, saying it wasn't enough for being abandoned earlier. The Inkling rolled her eyes, scoffing in turn. "Hey, it wasn't my deal, man!" she shouted. "I could've stayed, but Ness dragged me away! Said he didn't wanna get bit by that dog!" Young Link just glared at her, chiding the Inkling for fighting him at their meeting.
"You started it, Link!" she said. "I'm sorry you got stuck with that mess, but it's old news now! Just let it go!" Driven by rage, Young Link activated his bomb and lunged at her. As she recoiled, Ness and Lucas stepped in to separate them. In their jostling, the bomb fell into Lucas' arms. He tossed it to Ness, only for it to explode, coating them in gunpowder.
All fell silent, stunned by the bomb's aftermath. Young Link grimaced, hoping his friends hadn't been badly harmed. Meanwhile, the Inkling stood uneasily as Peach stepped to the boys. While Lucas wiped his forehead, Ness peered at a nearby mirror on the wall. "Wow, Lucas, we look like cartoons!" he said, causing Lucas to stare at himself in awe.
As they studied their charred forms, Peach offered to clean them up. "That is it!" Ken shouted, drawing the attention of all. Peach readied herself to wipe Ness' face, pausing in turn. She met Ken's gaze, asking what he was to do. With a quick nod, he ran to Young Link and the Inkling girl. "That's no way to treat your friends, Link! Tell Inez you're sorry!"
The boy paused, only to peer at the Inkling uneasily. He apologized for his misbehavior towards her, as well as Ness and Lucas. Their pair nodded to him, saying it was no big deal. As Ken's focus shifted to the Inkling, Peach shook her head teasingly. She wiped the soot from Ness and Lucas' faces, ordering them to wash up.
They nodded back, only to dash down the hall. As Young Link watched them vanish, Ken's voice rose forth. "Your Majesty, he's sorry for paintin' ya earlier," he said to the king. "He was just playin' around, and things got outta hand-" King Toadstool nodded to him, excusing the boy's behavior. "But as for you, young lady-"
He drew closer to the Inkling girl, who froze with shock. "Why'd you wanna ink up the king, anyway?" Ken asked of her. Though the Inkling tried to defend herself, her pleas fell short. Even if Young Link had pushed her, she'd been the one to start it all. On soft breath, the girl apologized to young Link. Ken was unfazed, demanding more from her.
"Hey, lay off of me, man!" the Inkling screeched. She swatted Ken away, huffing all the while. "You're not my dad! You're not Link's eithe-" Upon seeing the king's stunned face, she fell silent. The girl grinned uneasily, feeling the eyes of all bore into her. "I mean, I'm sorry. I didn't mean for things to get outta hand! I'm sorry, Mr. Masters!"
Though Ken's gaze struck her, tension ran down Peach's spine again. She stepped between them, ordering Ken to behave himself. He peered at her, aware of her gritted teeth. He nodded curtly, stepping away. "I'm sorry you saw all that, Papa," Peach said to the king. "But with so many about, things are bound to happen! Even with good friends-"
"It's no matter, darling," King Toadstool replied. "Tensions have been high for everyone, it seems." All nodded to him, mulling over the day's events. From the afternoon on, it felt like all were on edge. The king kept calm, aware his presence had set it all into motion. If he were to redeem himself, he'd have to keep to his own standards.
"But as for you, lad," he said to the boy. "Where on earth did you get that bomb?" All froze, trying to find a reasonable solution. However, their dismay was broken as Young Link defended himself. He claimed it was one of the Mushroom Kingdom's "Bob-omb" fireworks. Bowser had sent them as a gift during one of their "Mario Party" games.
He'd been toying around with them, testing their viability as a "weapon". Despite the boy's uneasy gaze, King Toadstool merely nodded to him. "Is that so?" he asked, leading Young Link to nod back. His eyes narrowed, drawing the boy's unease. As Peach and Ken rushed to his side, the king shook his head. "That won't be necessary, you two."
"Just tell the lad to be more careful next time!" he suggested. "I know it's fun to play make-believe, but there's a time and place for that!" The king eyed Young Link over, confirming his suspicions. He seemed to emulate the "other" Link, one so dubbed the "Hero Of The Wild." The boy had his mannerisms and look, as well as his aura.
"I get that, sir," Ken chimed in, to the king's surprise. "And I know he's wrong now-" Though Young Link glared at him, he couldn't deny Ken's authority. "But it's a 'phase' of his. He picked it up at his fighting academy and all! They practically worship Link over there!" Peach nodded, leading Young Link to follow suit.
"Speaking of, there's been a lot of fighting today," Peach noted. "I suppose it's to be expected-" She set a hand on her cheek, mulling it over. "But even then, can't we just settle it in 'Smash'?" The king peered at her, as did her family. Faced with her gentle demeanor, none could refuse her. "Now, would anyone like a snack? I'm starved!"
As Peach and her companions entered the dining hall, they saw the rest of her "family". Shulk and Isabelle were at a table, laughing it up. Both donned their glasses, drawing the king's surprise. Upon seeing him, they fell silent. "Oh, your Majesty!" Shulk said, glancing at Isabelle's face. "What brings you here? We were goofing around, and-"
With a shaky smile, Isabelle pulled off her glasses, setting them aside. As she adjusted her sight, Shulk's sight remained on her. Even within their ruse's limits, he wanted to make Isabelle feel comfortable. While he guided her forward, the king nodded to them. "Ah, I've been speaking with your mother," he said. "Fear not, we've settled it for now."
"I'm so glad, sir," Shulk replied. "We were starting to get worried about you being here-" The king set his hand out, shaking his head in turn. Peach stepped forward, saying that they'd come for some food. Isabelle peered at her, squinting as she shook her own head. Dinner wasn't ready quite yet, but there was some food prepared elsewhere.
"Yeah, Mario made it," Shulk said, motioning across the way. "I wasn't hungry, but it looked pretty good!" Peach nodded, thanking him before she stepped away. Within moments, she and her family reached Mario, who sat with Sonic and Marth. While his companions' plates were mostly clean, Mario just picked at his food.
"Ah, I'm glad to see you about," Peach said, eyeing them over. "All of my favorite men-" As she clasped her hands together, Marth shook it off. In spite of his silence, her praise flattered him. He was just glad to help Peach out, having worked with her for ages. It was the least he could do, a sentiment he felt the others shared.
He peered at Mario, who remained sullen. There seemed to be no use in pressing the matter either way; As Marth reached for the spice basket, Sonic noticed the king. He waved to the man, who followed suit. "Ah, you're back," Marth greeted him. "How was your visit with the Doctor?" As the king's face lit up, he spoke in excitement.
Peach turned to Mario, who peered at her. "What are you eating, anyway?" she asked, pointing to his plate. Some spaghetti lay on it, topped with a rich, meaty sauce, onions and shredded cheese. Mario set his plate aside, explaining it was a sort of chili dish. It hailed from a land unknown to her, so dubbed "Cincinnati".
He spoke on, noting he ate it while in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, the king had fallen silent, intrigued by Mario's dish. He caught the other's attention, drawing his unease. "Your Majesty, try some, if you'd-a like," Mario offered. "I made plenty! Ol' Sonic can't get enough of it-" Sonic nodded eagerly, while Marth suggested topping it with nutmeg.
"Oh, Marth!" Peach exclaimed. "What is it with you and nutmeg?" Before Marth could explain himself, the clatter of dishes interrupted him. Peach's family had stepped in, helping themselves to Mario's food. As they dug into it, the king rejoiced with delight, proclaiming it a fabulous dish. Though weary, Mario's spirits instantly lit up.
He shot Peach a slight smile, glad to have earned the king's favor. She nodded back, just as glad. As Shulk and Isabelle stepped to her, Peach gazed upon their table. All had come together, united by good food and good spirits. As they laughed and chatted it up, Peach took her place with her "family". Relief finally washed upon her, glad for their reprieve.