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 Hey! Creatures! Leave Them Kids Alone! 

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Kids do stupid things. 

Well, adults do stupid things too—and they don’t usually have ignorance as an excuse—but that’s beside the point. 

Luigi didn’t exactly have a...normal childhood. Honestly, he doesn’t know if anyone in the Mushroom Kingdom has, or what constitutes a normal childhood, for that matter. Still, he doubts time-traveling or fighting monsters is covered in any parenting handbook.  

With all this in mind, Luigi can pretty comfortably say he doesn’t have the vaguest idea what your average youth does for fun. He likes to think it’s reading a good book, but something tells him he’s pretty far off the mark. 

Tonight, he finds that he is...partially correct. 

It’s around midnight when the plumber hears his phone buzzing on the nightstand. He frowns, setting aside his own book to answer; no one calls this late unless it is an emergency (or a prank). 

“Luigi’s Spectral Services, how—" 

“MY FRIENDS ARE BEING EATEN BY GHOSTS!" 

Luigi fumbles his phone at the horribly loud shrieking on the other end of the line, nearly ending the call in the midst of his hasty recovery. 

“I’m sorry, your friends are what now?" 

“They’re being eaten!" the teen wails, voice cracking. “They’re trapped in the house and I’m out here all alone and I don’t know what to do and I think I might have wet myself—" 

“Okay! Slow down!" Luigi interjects. “Take a deep breath, kid. Then tell me what happened." 

There’s a pause as the teenager complies. A heavy exhale hisses through the receiver.  

“A-alright. So, m-my friends and I found this old spell book at an antique shop—" 

Oh boy, here we go. 

“—and, well, Dane’s parents are gone for the weekend so we thought we’d try it out at his house and—" 

“You summoned ghosts," Luigi finishes, sounding tired, “and they’re angry." 

“Dude, you have no idea." 

Oh, but he does. Luigi may have never summoned ghosts personally (why in Stars name would you want to?), but he’s done his fair share of research regarding magic that pierces the veil. The plumber  has  collaborated with wizards and psychics many times during his paranormal career, finding their knowledge and expertise to be invaluable to his work. One of the many things he’s learned, is contacting entities on another plane of existence is extremely delicate work. The slightest error can bring the whole operation crashing down. At best, nothing will happen—the séance will fail. At worst...well, you won’t get the chance to make another mistake. 

Luigi gets the kid’s address and ends the call, already making a mental list of what he will need. He looks to Pepper—the ghostly canine having been watching him during the entirety of the conversation. 

“What do you say, boy? Want to tag along?" 

The wagging tail is the only answer he needs. 

 


 

“A Victorian home,” Luigi sighs, looking between Pepper and the massive house looming before them, “of course it is."   

It isn’t so much the ‘look' of the structure that bothers Luigi, but the age. The older a property, the more power a ghost can draw from it. In other words, if the plumber can't find a peaceful resolution, he’s in for quite a fight. 

Luigi prepares himself for the latter. 

“There you are!" 

A Koopa in a black hoodie leaps out of some nearby bushes and rushes to Luigi’s side. He’s shaking like mad, but otherwise appears to be unharmed. 

“Thank Grambi  you’re here!" He gulps, glancing nervously back at the house. “I was starting to think you wouldn’t come." 

“It’s been five minutes." 

“That’s a long time when you’re scared!" 

Eh, can’t argue with him there.  

“Right, well, I’m here now. Just take another deep breath and...uh, I don’t believe I got your name." 

“K-Koojo," he stutters. 

“Okay, Koojo, take a deep breath, and then tell me how many of your friends are still in the house." 

Koojo obeys. Sure enough, their shaking has lessened somewhat. 

“Five," he says. “Koorina, Nolem, Koopil, Sweet T., and Dane." 

Luigi nods, mentally jotting down the names. 

“What do these ghosts look like? How many are there?" 

“Shadowy? I guess? And... I think there were six." 

Ah. One for each of them. How quaint. 

“Anything else you can tell me?" 

“Man, I don’t know—! After those...things  appeared, we ran downstairs as fast as we could. I got out the front door first, but before anyone else could follow, it slammed shut and locked behind me!" Koojo shudders, hugging himself. “I guess I got lucky." 

Luck had nothing to do with it. These ghosts intentionally let this kid escape. Just another, albeit indirect, way of tormenting him. 

Luigi glances up at the second story windows; he thought he saw movement, but there’s nothing there.  

“Why are we standing around here talking, anyway?" the teen snaps. “While you’re playing twenty questions, my friends are becoming ghost chow!" 

“Ghosts don’t eat people." Usually. “And me going in there blind won’t do your friends any favors." 

Koojo gives Luigi a sheepish look, muttering an apology under their breath. 

“It’s okay. I know you’re just worried," the plumber says patiently, placing a hand on the teen’s shoulder. “I promise I’ll do everything I can to get your friends out of there safely." 

Luigi steps around Koojo and moves toward the front porch. He looks over his shoulder. 

“You coming Pepper?" 

The Polterpup yaps happily, barreling past the startled teenager, whom apparently hadn’t taken notice of the ghostly canine. 

“Whoa! You have a ghost dog that hunts evil spirits with you?!" 

“Uh...yes?" 

“...bro. That’s the most metal thing I’ve ever heard."* 

Luigi looks down at the happy, slobbering face of his four-legged companion.  

Metal...sure. 

“I think I’m getting old, buddy," he whispers to Pepper as they approach the front door. The canine pants neutrally in reply. 

An arm’s length away from the entrance, Luigi feels a dark, forbidding energy. It pulsates in warning when he lays a hand on the mullion—he doesn’t dare try the handle.  

“So...are you gonna bust the door down?" Koojo calls curiously. 

“Not if I want to keep my shoulder intact," Luigi says absently. “Brute force won’t work on magic this strong." 

The plumber reaches into one of his pockets and produces an innocuous looking key. As he directs it to the keyhole, the key begins to glow and change shape. The lock turns with a click and the supernatural seal on the door dissipates like a fine mist. Luigi tests the handle, and it gives with no resistance. 

Enchanted skeleton keys; you gotta love ‘em. 

“Dude," the teen whispers. “Where can I get one of those?" 

“A wizard. But in exchange you have to give up your first-born child." 

“...I don’t know if you’re messing with me or not, but that still sounds like a good deal." 

Luigi casts the youth a perturbed look as he opens the door. 

“Just...stay put, okay?” He pauses in the threshold. “Also, please don’t make questionable deals with wizards." 

“Aye-aye, captain." 

 


 

When the door closes behind Luigi, the shift in the air is palpable. It suddenly feels heavy, pressing—like someone turned the gravity up a notch—and the energy crackling around him is almost suffocating in its intensity. If the plumber had any doubts before, they’re certainly gone now. Whatever these entities are, they’re definitely malevolent. Mischievous pranks are the best-case scenario.  

Luigi takes a deep breath, trying to hasten his adaptation to the oppressive atmosphere. He needs to get moving before the ghosts become aware of his presence; if his trick with the door hasn’t already alerted them, anyway.  

“Alright, Pepper," he whispers. “Where to first?" 

The Polterpup quietly takes the lead, snout to the ground. Luigi can’t help but notice how unusually tense the canine is.  

Well, that certainly is concerning. 

Pepper pads down a narrow hallway, Luigi cautiously trailing behind him. Every creak and moan of the old house sets the duo further on edge.  

The Polterpup perks after a moment, and that’s when Luigi hears distant laughter. Not just laughter...other voices too. As they draw closer to the source of the noise, Luigi notices that the other voices and sounds seem to change frequently; abruptly, even. Is that a TV he’s hearing? 

Luigi soon gets his answer when they arrive at a slightly ajar door. Slowly, quietly, he peers through the crack.  

It’s a media room, if the plumber had to guess. There’s a plush couch settled along the adjacent wall, and seated comfortable in the center is the shadowy figure of a Toad. A remote-control levitates beside them, buttons occasionally illuminating as the entity uses it to cycle through the channels. They giggle mirthfully, at what, Luigi can’t see from this angle. He can’t imagine it’s a particular program as they never seem to stay on any one station for more than a few seconds.  

It all looks very innocent, and any other time Luigi wouldn’t be concerned. But this...this wasn’t just some adorable little Toad ghost (and oh, how he wishes they were). When a ghost stays in the mortal realm, they need to periodically feed on positive and negative energy to remain on our plane of existence. But, like living beings, their diets must be balanced. Too much positive energy will override a ghost’s sense of unfinished business and cast them back beyond the veil (not a bad fate, honestly). Too much negative energy...is transformative. The ghost slowly forgets who/what they once were and becomes a vile imitation of themselves. Vitiates, they’re called. 

If all the ghosts these kids summoned are Vitiates, Luigi’s going to have a long night. 

Luigi looks down at his four-legged companion and gestures for them to stay put. He steps forward and silently pushes open the door. The ghost doesn’t immediately notice him. Then, probably against better judgement, Luigi decides to announce his presence with a belated knock on the door frame. 

The Toad’s head snaps over to the plumber, and Luigi tries not to flinch at their sudden, piercing gaze. 

“Hello. Sorry to interrupt your, ah, channel surfing." 

He risks a glance at the television, somewhat curious of what had the Vitiate so enraptured. His stomach drops at what he sees. It’s a black and white horror film, one he recalls watching with Mario a few movie nights back—a period piece about a werewolf terrorizing some old village. The movie itself isn’t what unnerves Luigi, but the fact that something is definitely off about it. At the moment, the werewolf is chasing a Koopa girl through a dark, overgrown forest. 

He doesn’t remember this scene. 

He doesn’t remember there being a teenager dressed in modern clothes.  

“This...wouldn’t happen to be a director’s cut edition, would it?" Luigi asks rhetorically.  

The Toad smiles, but otherwise doesn’t reply. 

A distant scream from the TV reminds Luigi what is at stake. He decides to cut to the chase. 

“Specter, I mean you no harm," he begins, raising his hands in a placating gesture. “I’ve only come to ask that you let these kids go free. Their summoning of you was not an intended slight. They’re young, and naïve—ignorant to the world of spirits. You have made your point, please be merciful to them. Do so, and I will safely guide you back to your haunt." 

Luigi is met with silence.  

The Vitiate stares at him with those vacant, glowing eyes. Their grin widens. 

And widens

Luigi watches in mute horror as the once-cute little smile becomes a gaping maw filled with serrated teeth. The entity’s eyes seem to sink into their head as they gradually rise from the couch. Its body stretches as it moves—a lengthy, serpentine tail sprouting from the torso in place of feet. The ghost slowly reaches out toward the plumber, arms extending until they become nightmarishly long things tipped with razor sharp claws. 

Luigi leaps to the side with a yelp when the Vitiate suddenly launches the remote-control at his head. He tucks and rolls, coming up into a crouch with Poltergust nozzle in hand. He stares back at the twisted specter with wide eyes. 

So much for diplomacy. 

The Vitiate slashes at the plumber with a blood curdling shriek. A talon catches on Luigi’s overalls as he dodges, causing him to stumble back into the television. He gasps as the screen ripples and nearly swallows him up like a pond of tar. Luigi pushes off the frame and hastily puts distance between himself and the entertainment center. Another fearful cry draws his eye back to the movie/prison. 

"Pepper! Help the kid!” 

The Polterpup darts into the room without missing a beat and launches himself through the TV, disappearing with a ghostly pop. Luigi turns his attention back to the Vitiate just in time to avoid another swipe. The dark entity hisses angrily at the plumber before attempting to pounce on him—spindly arms outstretched and claws splayed with intent. Luigi barely manages to step out of the way, but when the ghost goes sailing past him, he makes his move. 

The Vitiate howls with rage as they’re suddenly caught up in the Poltergust's powerful vortex. They dig their claws into the plush carpet and frantically pull themselves along the ground in an attempt to escape. Luigi is dragged several meters before he can finally find his footing. He activates the Poltergust’s Power Surge, shocking the ghost and weakening its hold on the ground. Before the Vitiate can recover, Luigi pulls on the nozzle with all his might and slams the entity into a nearby wall. He repeats the action several times—bashing the ghost into walls, the floor, and finally the coffee table. The latter crumples under the force of the strike, throwing Luigi off balance and providing the Vitiate an opportunity to break free. It whirls around and back hands the plumber into an adjacent wall. 

The blow briefly knocks the wind from Luigi’s lungs. He gasps, clawing for the Poltergust nozzle that was thrown from his grasp. A warped, spine tingling giggle draws his gaze back to the looming Vitiate. It grabs the plumber by the front of his overalls and hoists them up so they are now face-to-horrifying-face. The ghost laughs harder when Luigi closes his eyes, interpreting it to be out of fear. 

They don’t notice the charged-up Strobulb until it’s too late. 

The Vitiate shrieks at the sudden, blinding light. It drops Luigi and fruitlessly scrubs at its eyes with the heels of their palms. Luigi wastes no time in restarting the Poltergust. The dark entity snarls at the return of the familiar tug, swiping blindly around it as the plumber slowly draws it in. A few seconds later, the ghost is drained of enough energy that it can no longer resist the Poltergust’s pull. It bellows a final, furious cry before vanishing into the nozzle with a satisfying pop

Luigi heaves a weary sigh. 

One down… 

He's barely returned the Poltergust’s nozzle to its hook when a surprised yelp and dull thud draws his attention to the TV. Pepper is there, sitting obliviously on the back of the sprawled Koopa teenager. He has the girl’s scarf in his mouth, as if he’d scruffed her like a kitten and dragged her to freedom (that’s probably exactly what happened). The Polterpup looks at Luigi and greets the man with a happy bark and wagging tail. Luigi’s shoulders slump with relief. 

Thank the Stars, they made it. 

Luigi rushes over, Pepper leaping off the Koopa as she shakily pushes herself up into a sit. The plumber kneels at her side and gives her a quick once-over. She’s shaking, and her clothes are torn in a few places, but otherwise seems okay. 

“Are you alright?” he asks anyway. 

“Physically? Not too bad.” She laughs nervously, rubbing at her head. “Mentally? I’m going to need some serious therapy.” 

“Heh, well, I have a few therapists I can recommend.” 

“Thanks, man, I appreciate—” The teen pauses, finally looking up and identifying her other savior. She blinks. “You’re Luigi.” 

“The one and only,” he chuckles. “Would your name happen to be Koorina?”*

The Koopa blinks again, looking increasingly surprised. 

“Yeah. But how did you…?” 

“Your friend, Koojo, called me here. Told me everything.” 

“Oh. Smart.” She frowns to herself. “Probably the smartest thing any of us has done today.” 

Luigi shrugs. 

“We all make mistakes. Just be sure to learn from them.” 

“Yeah, don’t read from mysterious spell books and provoke a bunch of ghosts.” The Koopa mimes writing with a pen in the air. “Duly noted.” 

“You might want to pin that somewhere it won’t get lost.” 

The teen snorts. 

“I’ll make a note of that, too.”  

Luigi smiles, getting to his feet and offering the Koopa a hand. 

“Let’s get you out of here. I still need to help the rest of your friends.” 

Koorina accepts his help and rises on shaky legs. 

“Am I the first one you found?” 

Luigi nods. 

“Do you have any idea where the rest of them might be?” 

“I, uh…I’m not sure. That creepy Toad ghost got me pretty quick.” She frowns, looking thoughtful. “I think I saw Koopil and Sweet T. run towards the dining room. It all happened so fast though…” 

“It’s a start. Thank you, Koorina, I know it can’t be easy to think about.” 

Luigi looks to the Polterpup, leaning over and giving the spirit an appreciative pat on the head. 

“You did great Pepper. Do you think you can lead your new friend back outside?” 

Pepper yaps happily in the affirmative. Koorina does a double take. 

“Wait, you’re not coming?” 

“I have to keep moving for your friend’s sake. But there’s no need to worry, Pepper will keep you safe.” 

“Stars yeah he will . He chased off a werewolf. Pepper's the ultimate good boy.” 

“That he is.” 

And with that, they depart. Luigi watches as Pepper trots ahead, herding his charge out the door. Once the two vacate the room, he pulls out his phone and brings up E. Gadd’s number. 

He needs back-up. 

Luigi has cleared numerous mansions of ghosts all on his own, so it’s not that he feels incapable of doing this alone. Those situations, however, didn’t involve kids. Sure, his brother, Peach, and several Toads were held prisoner, but they were sealed away in paintings, not actively tormented. Luigi isn’t willing to risk the lives of minors.  

The plumber paces anxiously as the phone rings. A couple of seconds later, there is a click on the other end of the line. 

“Hey professor, sorry for calling so late.” 

He glances around the room, grimacing at the damage.  

“I’m on a case that requires a little…teamwork.”

Chapter Text

Luigi creeps down the empty hallway, Poltergust at the ready. He is tense, hands subconsciously squeezing the capturing device's nozzle at the tiniest sound. The plumber’s anxiety is only partially quelled by the knowledge that help is on the way. Still, he can’t afford to wait until they arrive. Every second that these children are left with the Vitiates is a second too long.  

As Luigi progresses, his mind keeps wandering back to the Toad ghost he fought only minutes prior. The extent of its deterioration was one of the furthest he's ever seen in a Vitiate. In person, at least. The strength of its magic was highly concerning as well. Turning a television into a prison? Manipulating the movie into its own reality? That required a significant amount of power. Luigi shudders to think how much negative energy the Vitiate must have consumed to become so formidable.

Luigi halts mid-step at a loud crash echoing down the adjacent hallway. He sidesteps until he is flush with the wall and peers warily around the corner. About halfway down the hall lies a broken plate; several, to be precise. Numerous dents in the drywall reveal the dishware had been thrown, not dropped. As if to confirm this, another plate smashes into the marred surface, creating yet another abrasion before its remains rain down into the growing pile of ceramic shards. Luigi cranes his neck to see the impromptu projectiles are coming from beyond an archway.

Looks like Koorina had been right about the dining room.

The plumber slowly rounds the corner and slinks down the hall, taking care to avoid stepping on the broken plates. He hugs the wall by the archway as he draws closer. Cautiously, he peeks his head out to get a better look of the room. 

It is indeed the dining area, as expected, but the room is so thoroughly trashed it’s barely recognizable. Dishware and cutlery litter the floors (some are even embedded in the walls), and the main dining table is caved inward, completely broken in half. What’s left of the china cabinets lay crumpled in varying states of disrepair. There doesn’t appear to be any surface in the whole room that is free from splintered wood or broken plates and glass. But worse than the condition of the room are the two ghostly occupants.

On the far side of the dining area is a Snifit floating amidst an arsenal of knives and forks. Every now and again they lazily flick an arm toward the wall they are facing, sending one of the utensils at a target that has Luigi’s blood running cold. The Vitiate has cleanly torn a perfect circle out of the wall, and pinned to that cut of drywall is a trembling Paratroopa. The teen is surrounded by embedded cutlery, but as far as the plumber can tell, none have hit their mark. Not from a lack of skill, Luigi grimly notes. A nearly complete outline of silverware encompasses the Paratroopa. With each throw, the border grows, and all while the target is gently rotating.

Toward the center of the room drifts a Lakitu reclining leisurely on its cloud. One hand props up its head while the other loosely clutches a fishing pole construct. Plates orbit around the Vitiate like ceramic moons, a few occasionally launching free from the rotation to target the final occupant of the room. A Toad with a single braid down their back darts frantically around the trashed dining area. Much like the Snifit, Luigi suspects the Lakitu is intentionally missing the teenager. With every-near hit, the poor Toad cries out in alarm and runs in the opposite direction of the strike. When they get too close to one of the other two exits, the Vitiate languidly casts the line of their fishing rod and snags the Toad’s foot. The terrified teen shrieks as they are reeled away from potential freedom and dangled off the ground like a particularly lively piñata.

Luigi has seen enough.

“Stop!"

Surprisingly enough, they do. The plates and silverware suddenly still as if frozen in time. All eyes turn to the plumber standing at the ready in the archway.

“Please, let the kids go," Luigi says, taking a cautious step forward with slightly raised hands. “I don’t want to fight you, but if I have to, I will and—"

The plates abruptly drop from the air. Luigi flinches, anticipating a cacophony of ceramic destruction, but just before the dishware hits the ground, they melt into a dark, gooey substance. The sludge lands on the floor with a wet splat and seeps through the cracks in the wooden boards until it is completely out of sight. 

“...uh...okay." Luigi blinks, looking perplexed. “Now, as I was saying—"

“S h h h..." the Lakitu ghost whispers, finger raised to their lips. “Y o u ’ l l   e   e   f h."

Luigi does a double take. He isn’t sure what bemuses him more, that the ghost bothered to speak or what the entity said.

“...fish?"

Odd movement suddenly draws the plumber’s eyes to the floor. Something flits in his peripheral, but when he turns his head, there’s nothing there. Was it Luigi’s imagination, or did the ground just...ripple?

Luigi unconsciously takes another step, but instead of solid ground, his foot sinks through the wood like it’s a liquid. He yelps in surprise, arms pinwheeling in an effort to reverse his momentum. The plumber manages to pull back just in time before something leaps from the floor and snaps at where his foot had just been. Luigi is shocked to see it is a construct of a Porcupuffer—one with uncharacteristically sharp teeth.  

So that’s what the nonsense with the plates had been about.

The Lakitu howls with eerie laughter, waving their mortal prisoner tauntingly so they swing like a pendulum. The Porcupuffer construct turns away from Luigi, drawn by the tantalizing movement, and Luigi gapes in horror as several more materialize behind it and swim toward the shrieking Toad. The plumber’s eyes frantically dart around the room, looking for something he can use—a platform, anything! His gaze lands on one of the broken halves of the table that had “drifted” closer following the floor's transformation. It would have to do.

Luigi takes a couple steps back before leaping through the archway's threshold. He easily clears the wood-turned-water and lands on the table. It wobbles dangerously beneath his feet, but he manages to keep his balance. Once Luigi is certain of his stance, he draws his eyes up from his feet only to find the Snifit staring at him. He freezes.

Oh, right, he'd forgotten there were two.

The Vitiate continues to stare at the vulnerable plumber. Luigi slowly reaches back for the Poltergust’s nozzle, but to his surprise, the entity makes no move to attack. The Vitiate sighs—actually sighs—and even though it’s wearing a mask, Luigi swears it rolls its eyes at him. With a wave of an arm, the Snifit floats away, cutlery and pinned Paratroopa drifting after it. The plumber watches in bewilderment as the ghost exits into the adjacent room.

…okay then.

Threat temporarily averted, Luigi turns his attention back to his current foe. The Porcupuffer are beneath the dangling Toad now, leaping in mad arcs in a fervent attempt to get a taste of their master's bait. To the wailing Toad's credit, they do a remarkable job of swatting the toothy constructs away. One is smacked an impressive distance off, the flailing construct sailing toward the marooned plumber. Luigi wastes no time in vacuuming the sludgy Porcupuffer up. He then puts the flow in reverse, pointing the nozzle in the opposite direction of the Vitiate and pushing his platform into closer range.  

The Lakitu ghost languidly turns its head at Luigi’s approach. They lock eyes, and a chill shoots down the plumber’s spine when the entity suddenly grins. His unease turns to terror as the ghost reels back the fishing rod in an unmistakable gesture, and before Luigi can act, the Lakitu casts its hostage across the room. The Toad lands in the liquidized flooring with a splash, and Luigi can’t help but feel a little nauseated by the sight of the mushroom folk half-submerged in what was supposed to be wooden planks. The Porcupuffer, however, find the sight very appealing. Luigi desperately tries to capture the constructs as they swim after their defenseless prey, but a handful manage to evade the Poltergust’s pull. The plumber reverses the flow once more and rushes to intervene. A Porcupuffer leaps at the Toad with snapping jaws—

—and is caught by another vortex.

Luigi watches as the construct goes flying over the teen's head and disappears down the nozzle of another Poltergust.

green Poltergust.

Standing in the archway, is none other than Luigi’s gooey doppelgänger.  

“Gooigi!”

The plumber's partner nods in silent acknowledgement as they continue to capture the remaining constructs. To Luigi’s growing relief, he finds that the ghost hunter is accompanied by Pepper. Without waiting for any prompting, the Polterpup leaps into the warped flooring and swims to the Toad's aid.  

The Lakitu scowls at their interference. It rises from its lounging position and stabs the base of the fishing rod into its cloud. No longer encumbered, the ghost lifts both of its hands palms-up and forms two new constructs: a pair of very large Spiny Eggs.  

Luigi and Gooigi exchange a glance.

The entity throws both projectiles at Gooigi's party, but neither strike true. Luigi captures the first on the end of his Poltergust’s nozzle while his partner snags the other. The Vitiate gapes between the two, alarmed by the turn of events, and is too surprised to dodge when the Spiny Eggs are simultaneously launched back. It shrieks as the attack sends it flying into the back wall. When the ghost doesn’t immediately recover, Luigi uses the brief lull to check on the others.  

Pepper has successfully pulled the Toad from the paranormal hazard and Gooigi is helping to remove the fishing line from the teen's foot. The ghost hunter looks up when they feel a tug on Luigi’s end of their mental connection.

“Thanks for the save, buddy, I’ll handle this guy from here. But there’s another kid that needs help in that room.” He points where the Snifit disappeared to. “I’ll meet you there as soon as I can.”

Gooigi offers a two-finger salute and dashes down the hall to find another entrance.  

“Pepper, can you get the kid out of here?”

The spirit yaps in the positive. He takes the hem of the teen's shirt in his mouth and gently coaxes them to follow. The two are almost to the hall when a giant Spiny Egg suddenly bowls by and blocks the exit. Luigi whirls back to the illy-ignored ghost.

Where there once was a normal—albeit shadowy—looking Lakitu, now floats a twisted abomination. The iconic safety goggles have sunken into the entity’s head and rounded to mimic a singular eye, complete with glowing sclera and slitted pupil. The pitiful patch of hairs protruding from its scalp have lengthened into long, rope-like appendages that thrash and spark in the air like live wires. Claws have sprouted from the Vitiate’s stubby fingers and their blunted teeth now gleam with fine points. Lightning arcs around their darkened cloud as it slowly expands into a miniature thunderstorm.

Maybe Luigi shouldn’t have been so hasty in sending away his backup.

The Vitiate conjures another pair of Spiny Eggs and throws them at the plumber with a furious roar. Luigi catches the first with the Poltergust and barely avoids the second, nearly falling off the table in the process. He launches the spiky projectile back, but the ghost is expecting it this time and easily evades it. The Vitiate decides to add an addition Spiny Egg to his usual two and pitches each one with great vigor. The speed at which they’re thrown knocks Luigi off balance when he nabs the first, the second nearly grazes him, and the third strikes the table, causing Luigi to lose his hold on the nozzle and accidentally step partially off his platform. Nary a second after his foot submerges, the floor suddenly returns to normal, effectively trapping Luigi in place. The plumber grabs his leg and pulls in an attempt to free himself, to no avail. The board creaks under the strain of his struggle, and the nails seem to be loosening, but Luigi doubts it will dislodge in time to avoid another attack.

The dark entity cackles mirthfully at Luigi’s plight. The plumber scrabbles for his Poltergust’s nozzle, fully expecting the ghost to conjure more Spiny Eggs, but halts when he sees electricity starting to dance along the Lakitu's claws. Luigi can feel his hairs standing on end as the energy builds, and the air suddenly reeks of ozone. The Vitiate laughs uproariously when Luigi drops to a knee and braces himself, finding the plumber’s action to be foolish and hilariously futile. With a final guffaw, the ghost fires the gathered electricity at their target—

—and Luigi catches it.

The Vitiate recoils, gawking with open shock at the plumber’s seemingly impossible feat. Luigi meets the stupefied ghost's eye and offers the slightest smirk.

“You picked the wrong element, my friend.”

Then, adding an extra charge of his own, Luigi fires the lightning right back at it. The blast is so intense, the entity’s corporeal form briefly scatters on impact like a corrupted, digital image. It reforms as the energy passes through it and collapses to the ground in a twitching mass of ectoplasm. Not willing to make the same mistake twice, Luigi fervently tugs at his leg until the board tears free from the floor and awkwardly hobbles over to the stunned ghost, wasting no time in capturing it in the Poltergust. Luigi heaves a weary breath, removing his hat and drawing the back of his hand across his forehead.

Two down…

“Dude.”

Luigi startles, forgetting that he still has an audience. He turns to find the Toad staring at him with open awe.

“That was…the most metal thing I’ve ever seen.”*

There’s that word again. Was it just the default adjective nowadays? Luigi supposes it’s more applicable to the current situation than in the context Koojo used it. Pepper is many things, but metal is not one of them.

As if summoned by the thought of their name, the happy, slobbering canine bounds over to Luigi and latches onto the wooden plank encompassing the plumber’s leg. They gnaw on it like a chew toy, growling playfully. Luigi sighs and drags his additional burden along as he makes his way to the gawking teenager. 

“You alright?” he asks.

They blink slowly back at him.

“…physically?” he ventures.

“Oh! Yeah. Though I now have an irrational fear of hard wood floors.”

Luigi glances down at his trapped foot.

“I…think I do too.” He wiggles his leg, getting Pepper's attention. “Hey Pepper, you can have the…uh, stick if you get it off my foot.”

The Polterpup perks, like the idea never occurred to him. With a muffled bark, they turn the plank intangible and pull it free from the plumber. Luigi sighs gratefully.

“Thanks buddy. Now, will you take…Sweet T., right?”

The teen blinks, offering a numb nod.

“Right. Can you take Sweet T. back outside to their other friends?”  

Pepper garbles an affirmative around their new toy and nudges the Toad toward the now cleared hallway (the construct must have vanished when Luigi defeated the Lakitu). Sweet. T. stumbles after the spectral canine, tossing a hurried “thank you” over their shoulder as the duo disappear around the corner. Luigi takes a composing breath upon their departure and dashes off in the opposite direction.

Gooigi might be needing some back up of their own.

 


 

Gooigi, in fact, does not need back up.

Luigi is standing in the doorway of the adjacent room—the kitchen, as it were—with both arms dangling limply at his side. He had expected to stumble into the chaos of flying utensils and warped realities, not…this.

Gooigi and the Snifit are standing before the now complete silverware outline of the Paratroopa, the model of which is off to the side vomiting into a waste basket. The inside of the cutlery border is splattered with a dark, inky substance, similar to what the Lakitu had been using for its constructs. Both paranormal beings are looking up at the macabre creation, hands on their chin, contemplating it like an art piece at an exhibit.

“…Gooigi, what in Stars name are you doing?”

The plumber’s partner turns to Luigi with a little wave and signs a response.

“Appreciating art?”

He nods, beckoning Luigi over. The plumber cautiously complies, subtly keeping an eye on the Vitiate as he draws near. The Snifit turns its head slightly at his approach, regarding him, but not hostilely so. It slowly gestures to the “art piece”.

“Uh…it’s…nice?” Luigi ventures.

The Vitiate tilts its head. Gooigi taps the plumber on the shoulder and signs a question.

“How does it make me feel?” he parrots. Luigi looks back at the arrangement of silverware and ectoplasm. “…tired.”

“That’s valid. It kinda makes me feel melancholy,” a new voice offers.

Luigi turns to find the Paratroopa behind him, also examining the Vitiate’s handy work. They look a little green, but there doesn’t appear to be a scratch on them.

“I think the ink represents inner turmoil, while the silverware is a metaphor for the tools we use to try and keep it contained.”

The Snifit nods approvingly. Luigi stares blankly.

“What do you see green guy?” the teen inquires.

Gooigi signs a brief reply.  

“Man, that’s deep.”

Luigi rubs at his temples. He doesn’t get modern art.

“You, uh, wouldn’t happen to know of the artist Vincent Van Gore, would you?” he asks the Vitiate.

The Snifit tilts its head curiously. Luigi takes that as encouragement to elaborate.

“I think the two of you would get along great. He owns an art studio downtown that offers all sorts of mediums to explore.” Luigi reaches into his pocket and procures a business card. “You should check it out sometime. Oh! And here’s mine if you need help getting back to your haunt, or anything, really.”

The Vitiate accepts the slips of paper, examining them with interest. It offers Luigi a slow nod.  

“Dude, how many business cards are you carrying?” the teen asks.

“I have a lot of pockets, and a lot of contacts, that’s all you need to know.”

The Vitiate suddenly beckons the Paratroopa forward, gesturing to a blank part of the drywall. The teen stares back uncomprehendingly. Luigi flinches when the ghost calls forth a spare knife, but relaxes when the entity only uses it to crudely sign its name in illegible loopy cursive. Once finished, it offers the utensil handle-first to the Paratroopa.

“You…want me to sign?”

The Snifit nods.

“Sweet.”

The Paratroopa accepts the knife (all the while Luigi feels like an irresponsible adult) and carves their name just as crudely near the ghost's signature.  

“K-o-o-p-i-l,” he sounds out, somewhat redundantly.

The Vitiate nods, pleased, and slowly levitates the macabre artwork toward the wide window of the breakfast nook. With a wave of an arm, the entire wall explodes outward in a hail of glass and splintered wood. It waves again, this time as a goodbye, and flies off through the hole, art piece in tow. The trio wave numbly after it, mouths agape.  

Three down...

Sort of.

“…Dane is so dead when his parents come home.”

Luigi buries his face in his hands. The property damage just keeps piling up.

“So, nausea and trauma aside, are you okay, Koopil?”

Koopil offers a thumbs up.  

“Yup. I may cry later, but overall, I’m golden. Believe it or not, this isn’t the craziest thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“If you say so.” Luigi grimaces. He looks to his partner. “Gooigi, would you mind escorting Koopil back outside?”

“No need my green amigos. I’ll just, uh…exit through the new gaping hole in the wall.”

The ghost hunters exchange a glance.

“That…works too.”

And with that, Koopil takes off, calling his belated gratitude as he zooms out into the night.

Luigi turns to find his doppelgänger staring at him, arms folded and chest puffed up. He frowns.

“You don’t have to look so smug about it. I could have solved that peacefully too, you know.”

Gooigi turns on his heel, proudly placing his fists on his hips as he struts away. Luigi follows with a grumble.

“Yeah, well, they still blew a hole in the wall. So there.”

Gooigi waves a hand through the air. Semantics.

Luigi rolls his eyes, but smiles good naturedly. His expression abruptly falls with a sudden realization.

“Stars above, we should have asked Koopil if he had any idea where the other kids could be.”

Gooigi halts mid-step. At first, the plumber thinks it’s because of what he said, but when the ghost hunter turns around, he is pointing at something down the hall.

A narrow trickle of water is snaking out of a nearby bathroom, flowing unnaturally along the level ground. The little stream continues down the hall and under the door leading to the back yard.

Gooigi meets the plumber’s gaze.

“I think we found our first clue,” he signs.

Chapter Text

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. 

Oh. Duh.  

“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—” 

“Shh!” 

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—”  

“WHAT?!” 

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, thghost 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. 

Of course

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… 

Oh. 

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." 

Luigi blinks. 

“Uh..." 

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.  

“Pepper?!" 

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. 

Four down... 

“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." 

“Fair enough." 

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."  

“Roger that." 

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." 

Nolem grimaces. 

“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."