The two ghost hunters cautiously approach the back door, Gooigi taking extra care not to step in the tiny streams of water trickling under the threshold. Luigi tries the doorknob and is pleased to find it unlocked. He slowly cracks the door and peeks inside. A simple mud room lays beyond. It is mostly empty save for a few pairs of shoes tucked under a bench and a sun hat perched on a hook hammered into the far wall. Another door opposite theirs leads outside.
Luigi pushes open the door and waves his partner inside. The green-clad plumber creeps over to the back door and peers through its glass panels. He expects to find a veranda, but is surprised to see a slightly more modern addition to the home. It is a pool enclosure—a lean-to glass sunroom, specifically, that has been modified so that it isn’t a glaring contrast to the original architecture. Beach balls, pool noodles, and other floaties are strewn about the tile and concrete floor. Exotic plants line the glass walls and hang from special hooks embedded in the ceiling's framing. Trickles of water snake along the ground, some even defy gravity and creep up the walls like reverse rain. Most of the streams, however, are drawn to the pool. The water within is unnaturally still, and without the pool light on, appears almost black in the darkness. In the middle of the pool drifts a single, purple lounge float, and on that stretch of plastic—most certainly not lounging—is a terrified, bright yellow Yoshi.
Luigi frowns. The teen appears to be alone, but the paranormal activity indicates otherwise.
“Alright,” he whispers, turning to his partner, “so this is what we’re—”
Gooigi isn’t there.
Luigi whirls completely around, scanning the room frantically. He halts, spying his green doppelgänger staring back at him from beyond the threshold and back down the hall. Gooigi offers a little wave.
“What are you doing?!” Luigi hisses.
The gooey ghost hunter points past the plumber and makes an “X” with his arms.
“What do you mean you’re not coming?!”
“I’m not a great swimmer,” they sign.
“Cute,” Luigi deadpans. “Just stay away from the pool.”
“I’ll still get wet. The ghost controls water.”
“What makes you so sure?”
Gooigi gestures pointedly to the unnaturally flowing water.
“Sorry, I’m not really thinking straight,” Luigi sighs tiredly. “You go ahead and find the last kid. I’ll take care of this one.”
He really rather them not separate, but the ectomorph had a point. If Gooigi stayed, they wouldn’t be able to do much but watch.
The ghost hunter offers a thumbs-up and trudges back down the hall. Luigi watches them go until they disappear around the corner. He turns back to the sunroom door and takes a deep breath.
Here goes nothing.
Luigi slowly opens the door and steps outside. He performs another visual sweep of the enclosure, making sure there aren’t any ghosts lying in wait to ambush him. His brief scan comes up clean. If there are any ghosts in the room, they are either well-hidden or concealed on the invisible spectrum. Satisfied for the moment, Luigi’s focus hones in on the marooned Yoshi. The teen seems not to have taken notice of his presence.
Luigi takes a step toward the pool, but comes to an abrupt halt when his foot lands in a puddle with a rather loud splash. The Yoshi’s head snaps up at the sound, eyes wide with fear. Luigi raises his hands placatingly.
“It’s alright,” he calls, “I’m here to—”
The yellow Yoshi swiftly cuts the plumber off, looking frantic. They both look down into the water at the sight of movement. A large tentacle rises from the murk and lightly grazes along the water's surface in a languid, sweeping arc. It disappears back into the pool's depths with gentle swish.
Ah. So the ghost is hiding in the pool. Pretty obvious in hindsight, Luigi muses.
The duo wait with baited breath to see if the entity will re-emerge. A beat passes. Two. Nothing stirs. They silently let out twin sighs of relief. The Yoshi gestures to the water, shooting Luigi a desperate, pleading look. Luigi only just keeps himself from offering reassurances aloud. He bites his lip, considering how to proceed.
“Do you know sign language?” he signs.
The Yoshi perks up, looking relieved.
“Sure do!” they sign back.*
Luigi mirrors their relief. This is going to make collaborating much easier.
“What’s your name? And are you hurt in anyway?”
“My name is Nolem. I’m okay, but…” They cast a fearful look downward. “I’m… kinda hydrophobic.”
Luigi winces. That certainly explains why the ghost chose Nolem as their victim, and why they weren’t doing much to try to scare them. The poor kid was already terrified. Why waste energy when the mere presence of water already instilled so much fear?
“Alright, Nolem, I’m going to get you out of here, but we need to work together, okay?”
The Yoshi nods, puffing up with determination.
“Okay,” Luigi continues. “First, I’m going to need you to jump over here—”
Luigi flinches at the loud outburst. Nolem swiftly covers their mouth, eyes going impossibly wider at their slip. Both of them stare into the dark depths of the pool with paralyzing anticipation. There isn’t so much as a ripple.
“It’s alright, take a deep breath, Nolem,” Luigi soothes. “I know this isn’t going to be easy, but I promise I won’t let anything happen to you, okay?”
Nolem slowly pulls their hands away from their mouth and follows Luigi’s prompting. One shaky inhale and exhale later, they nod in acknowledgement.
“Okay. What do I do after I jump?”
Luigi glances around, spying a door leading out of the sunroom and into the backyard proper. He points to it.
“Do you know if that door is locked?” he asks.
“Yeah, the ghost did something to it. I tried to get out that way when this whole mess started, but when I touched the handle it shocked me. That’s how I got cornered.”
So the back entrance is sealed too. Figures. Luigi can break the spell with his key like he did out front, but that will definitely spur the ghost into attacking. He needs to get the kid out of the line of fire first.
“Alright, in that case, I need you to run to the house and hide in the mudroom. I’ll take care of the ghost.”
Nolem glances uncertainly between Luigi and the pool’s edge.
“Just keep your eyes on me. You can do it, Nolem.”
The yellow Yoshi nods absently, rising on unsteady legs. Despite their shaking, they have remarkable balance, Luigi notes. The teen braces themself, Luigi adopting a similar stance, and leaps from their plastic island. With an extra kick from their flutter-jump, they easily clear the water and land soundly on the concrete by the plumber.
Nary a second after they touch the ground does a massive tentacle breach the water’s surface and shoot out to reclaim its prize. Luigi swiftly steps into the appendage's path and repels it with a jolt of lightning. The limb recoils violently, twitching and thrashing as it retreats back into the safety of the pool. But it doesn’t end there. Water explodes upward like an erupting geyser, the burst accompanied by a furious roar that rattles the glass panels and shakes the very room. The potted plants hanging from the ceiling crash to floor, the clatter of pottery nearly lost in the deafening din. As the spray settles, Luigi is finally given his first look of the raging Vitiate.
It is a Blooper. Was a Blooper, at some point. Now the creature looks more like something out of mythology. Better yet, a nightmare. The squid is gigantic, nearly the length of a bus—and that’s not including its arms. Instead of two eyes, they possess six; three in a vertical line on opposite sides of its head. A spiked ridge runs down the middle of its mantle, and its stabilizing fin resembles a pair of membranous wings. But perhaps the most frightening features are the hooked suckers of its tentacles and the massive, snapping beak at the center of it all.
All six eyes zero in on Luigi.
“Uh...” the plumber gapes, “there wouldn’t happen to be a chance that we could talk this out, would there?"
A pillar of water rises from the pool and cracks through the air like a whip, striking Luigi and sending him flying across the room. The plumber collides with the glass wall, cracking, but not shattering it. He falls to his knees, soaked and winded.
“Get away from me!"
Luigi’s head snaps up. The yellow Yoshi is frantically dodging the Vitiate’s sweeping arms as they rush back to the house. Just before Nolem reaches the mudroom door, it slams shut with a clear finality. Sure enough, when the teen tries the knob, it doesn’t budge.
The plumber shakes off his daze and leaps to his feet. He curls a fist, preparing to deliver another strike from his Thunderhand technique, but hastily dismisses the charge when it tries to creep up his arm. Ah, right, the water. Drenched as he is, Luigi's become a walking conductor. There's a chance he could still keep the lightning under control, but it feels far too risky a wager.
Luigi dashes across the puddle-spotted concrete, making a beeline for the cornered Yoshi. He arrives just in time for Nolem to get snatched up, but before the teen is dragged too far, he manages to grab a hold of the offending tentacle. The plumber abruptly finds himself in a high stakes game of tug-o-war.
Something about this feels…familiar. In a strange, vicarious way. Luigi suddenly remembers a story Mario had told him about his adventures on Delfino Island. The red-clad plumber had been attacked by a giant Blooper, and he defeated it by…
Luigi isn’t sure if the method will translate well to a ghost Blooper, but it couldn’t hurt to try.
The plumber digs in his heels and re-doubles his effort. Slowly, he gains ground, and with a final, brutal tug, the tentacle snaps free from the entity’s body. Opposing force now absent, Luigi and Nolem fall backward in a heap with startled yelps. The detached limb flops erratically around them like a worm caught in the beak of a bird. Nolem kicks the appendage away, suddenly looking more green than yellow.
“I think I’m gonna be sick," they groan.
Luigi grimaces in silent agreement. How did his brother manage to do this without losing his lunch?
The Vitiate bellows with open fury, thrashing about with unkempt rage. Its detached arm clumsily inches its way back to the ghost, but Luigi has the foresight to intervene and swiftly vacuums it up. Unsurprisingly, this only enrages the dark entity further. The Blooper raises its remaining limbs with purpose, and suddenly all the water begins to drift upwards like gravity had been set in reverse. The suspended liquid may have been a beautiful sight in other circumstances, but the notion is quickly lost as the water starts to speed through the air, spinning faster and faster with the Vitiate at its center like the eye of a tropical storm. Nolem and Luigi hastily move to put distance between themselves and the raging vortex, but the retreat ultimately proves to be futile as the growing whirlpool inevitably swallows them up.
Gooigi had been wise to go on without him.
Around and around the mortal duo go, breaching the swirling waters only to be sucked back under. They’re tossed about like living laundry in a massive washing machine. Finally, the Blooper plucks its victims from their paranormal rinse cycle and holds them aloft, taking odd care not to pierce them with the hooked suckers of its tentacles. The Vitiate gives Luigi a subtle, rib-bruising squeeze, lifting him higher with an air of triumph.
“Hey, Luigi—!" Nolem shouts, trying to be heard over the roar of rushing water, “I don’t mean to sound pushy, but we could really use another plan right about now!"
No kidding, Luigi thinks. The Thunderhand is even less viable now that everything is soaked (Luigi distantly wonders if this had been the dark entity’s intent). He’ll have to find some other way to weaken the Blooper. The plumber frantically scans his surroundings, looking for something he can use. Luigi and Nolem weren’t the only one’s swept up in the raging waters; floaties, potted plants, and pool-side furniture have also been subjected to the Blooper’s torrential torment. A beach ball swirls into view, and Luigi finds himself seized by a memory and thrust back in time. He’s in a giant crib (or maybe he’s just small?), dodging rocking horses and toys hurled at him by a ghostly infant.
Well. It would seem the past was quite the source of inspiration today.
Luigi wiggles and writhes until he manages to free an arm as well as the Poltergust’s hose. When the beach ball comes back around, the plumber switches on the device and captures the wayward pool toy. It’s an awkward feat to do one-handed, but he manages. Slowly, carefully, Luigi takes aim at the Vitiate’s face and throws the intake into reverse.
The ball strikes the squid's head with a gentle pap and bounces harmlessly back into the whirlpool. All three of the room’s occupants stare quietly, blankly, as the plastic sphere is swept away.
“Dude. What was that? ”
“I don’t know! It worked when I fought a baby!”
“You fought a baby? ”
The Blooper hisses a quiet laugh, bringing Luigi closer to its snapping beak. Luigi’s eyes widen. Does the Vitiate really intend to eat him? Surely, this is just a fear tactic?
He can’t take that chance.
Again, Luigi searches through the whirlpool’s debris, hoping for something more useful this time. He spies a closed beach umbrella and quickly formulates a plan. The plumber vacuums up the umbrella just before it passes by. Instead of immediately launching it at the ghost, he waits until the entity brings him within arms-length of its beak. When the bill widens as if to take a bite, Luigi jams the umbrella in the Blooper’s maw and triggers the opening mechanism.
The Vitiate gags on the apparatus and drops the two mortals in surprise. Luigi and Nolem are joined in their rapid descent by the collapsing whirlpool and plethora of pool-side furniture. They land with varying degrees of grace and quickly move out of the way of the falling projectiles. Once the hazards have all fallen, Luigi leaps into action, finding opportunity in the Blooper’s struggle to remove the umbrella. He whips out the Poltergust’s nozzle and catches one of the ghost’s arms in its vortex, pulling with all his might until the appendage finally detaches. Just like the first, he vacuums it up before it can return to the Blooper’s body.
Looks like Mario’s method is the way to go after all.
Luigi manages to remove another tentacle before the dark entity seems to remember it can just phase the obstruction out of its mouth (apparently, it’s not as smart as he thought). Umbrella now gone, the ghost redirects its attention back on the plumber. Luigi easily dodges the ghost’s first swipe, the second very nearly hits its mark, and he manages to catch the third with the Poltergust. Too late does the plumber realize his mistake—he's left himself wide open. The Vitiate reels back for a fourth attempt, but just before it swings, a lifesaver strikes it in one of its many eyes. It recoils with an angry yowl, turning to locate its attacker—the yellow Yoshi.
“Hey, ghost! How does it feel to literally be hit by irony?" Nolem yells mockingly. They pause, suddenly looking uncertain, and turn to Luigi. “Wait, is that irony? I never know if I’m using that word right."
A tentacle slams down by the teen, who barely leaps out of the way in time with a startled yelp.
“You know what? We’ll find a dictionary later. Keep doing that maiming stuff and I’ll distract the big guy!"
The teen runs off before Luigi can object. He’d rather the Yoshi not get involved, but with nowhere to run or hide, there weren’t many other options. Luigi returns his focus to the macabre task at hand.
The two work surprisingly well together. When the plumber accosts another limb, Nolem is quick to draw the ghost’s attention while he removes it. When the ghost gets too close to catching the Yoshi, Luigi swiftly intervenes with a diversion of his own. In a remarkably short amount of time, their teamwork has reduced the number of tentacles down to two.
“We’re almost there, Nolem!" Luigi shouts, grabbing the second-to-last appendage. “Just hold on for a little longer!"
“Can do!" they call back, ducking under the remaining free tentacle’s swipe. “This is actually pretty easy—!"
The teen trips over a wayward pool noodle, flinging themselves into a pile of floaties with a squawk. They become lodged in an inflatable donut.
“I jinxed it!"
Luigi stares in horror as the tangled teen struggles to upright themselves. The final tentacle rears back like a snake poised to strike. It lashes out—
—and is intercepted by a white blur.
The Polterpup wags his tail excitedly in acknowledgement, mouth currently occupied by the Blooper’s arm. Pepper tugs on the appendage with a playful growl, seemingly not understanding the severity of the situation. Then, with an unprecedented display of strength, the spectral canine leaps backward and tears away the final limb.
The Vitiate shrieks with fury and propels itself at the Polterpup like a torpedo. Luigi quickly snags the ghost in the Poltergust’s powerful gale and strains to reel it in. The dark entity drags the plumber quite a distance before Luigi is able to stun it with a shock from the Poltergust’s Power Surge. He takes advantage of the Vitiate’s brief stupor and slams it into the ground. Already greatly weakened from its dismemberment, the Blooper isn’t able to resist the Poltergust’s pull for much longer before it finally disappears down the nozzle with a defiant shriek.
“Wow. How did all that even fit in there?"
Luigi looks over to find Nolem (sans donut) staring at the ghost catching device with awe. The plumber shrugs, removing his hat and wringing it out over the half-empty pool.
“I don’t really understand the science behind it, honestly. I’d tell you to ask its inventor, but...you’ll have to be willing to sacrifice your afternoon—he tends to ramble."
“Yikes. Hard pass on the lecture. I’ll stay in blissful ignorance."
Pepper bounds over to the plumber, giant tentacle clamped firmly in their maw. The Polterpup sits at Luigi’s feet, tail wagging proudly as they give their prize a hearty shake.
“Heh. That’s adorable and horrifying." Nolem smiles. “Is he yours?"
“Yes and no. Pepper’s a bit of a free spirit." Luigi winces. “Pun unintended."
“Pun away, dude, pun away.” They take a knee by the Polterpup and gently pat him on the head. “Thank you for saving me, little Deus ex Machina."*
Pepper drops the tentacle and offers a happy bark in reply.
“And thank you, Luigi. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t shown up."
“It’s no problem, but I think I owe you thanks as well. You were very brave to help the way you did."
“Heh, I kinda was, wasn’t I?" Nolem puffs up at the praise. “Maybe I could be an adventurer someday!”
“You certainly have the potential,” Luigi affirms. He falters, realizing what he said, and quickly back-tracks. “But, uh, stay in school—and if anyone asks, I told you to become a lawyer."
Luigi ushers the Yoshi to the pool enclosure’s back entrance. With the ghost defeated, the spell keeping the door sealed has dissipated, allowing the plumber to open the door unhindered.
“Your friends are waiting for you out front. I need to help my partner wrap things up here, so I can’t leave just yet. Do you want Pepper to come with you?"
Nolem shakes his head.
“Nah, I’ll be fine. Something tells me you’ll need him more." They hesitate at the door. “Who all is left anyway?"
Luigi does a quick role count in his head.
“Just one. Dane, I believe. If my partner hasn’t saved him already, anyway."
“Not to doubt your partner’s abilities—I don’t even know who they are after all—but I don’t think he’s going to have an easy time with the ghost that got Dane."
“You saw it? What did it look like?"
“Shadowy, like the Blooper, but it was wearing a hood so I didn’t get a good look at its face. Doesn’t matter though, it was what it felt like that worries me. I’m no ghost expert, but something was wrong with that thing. Makes the Blooper seem cuddly by comparison." They shudder involuntarily. “You’re going to need all the help you can get."
Luigi absorbs the new details with no small amount of dread and unease. As per the wont of his adventures, it would appear he was about to fight the big boss.
“Thank you for the warning. If it’s as bad as you say, I better get moving."
The Yoshi nods grimly.
“Good luck, man."
And with that, they’re gone.
Luigi sighs and turns back to the Polterpup.
“Alright buddy, let’s go—"
The plumber blanches. Pepper is rolling on the Vitiate’s detached limb, panting happily and looking quite pleased with himself.*
“Pepper no! Bad doggie! That’s disgusting!"
Pepper leaps up at his master’s call and barks excitedly at the plumber. Luigi groans, striding over and quickly vacuuming up the stray appendage. He scowls down at the canine; someone was getting a bath when they got home (Stars, they both needed to bathe).
“Gross dog," he grumbles.
Pepper pants up at Luigi with a dopey smile. Luigi rolls his eyes and trudges back to the mudroom door.
“Come on Pepper. We still have work to do."