Stepping into the grand entrance hall of the dark "abandoned" mansion, James began to scan the area cautiously. It was quite an impressive place, a curtained staircase to his left and a worn but pricey-looking sofa to his right. The sofa had its own square rug in front of it, as it bent at an angle to extend its seats, green like a caterpillar. A display case of ornate quality stood at the far left back of the room, a small desk with quill to its right with a door even further right.
Looking up above, he saw a beautifully pristine chandelier hang delicately above, avoiding its shadow with mistrust as he headed towards the door. The room only had a few crates, a large pot to his left, and a rocking chair straight in front of him before a beautiful row of four large windows in a half-circle. He temptingly walked towards the chair, feeling the floor creak dangerously underneath him and sidestepping around a strangely-discoloured section of the floor.
"Hahaha, nice try."
Moving over the obvious trap, he sat down in the rocking chair, letting himself rest awhile and experience the soothing creak of its swaying motion. Back and forth he went, gazing outside of the window as he saw the twilight sky, blood red beneath a sombre purple. It soothed him somewhat, as he rocked back and forth more and more. He almost felt himself turn drowsy, mumbling to himself as his eyes started to droop. The moment his head dropped, he heard the door close, waking him up fast.
Leaping off of the chair, he hurried back to the front entrance of the mansion, just in time to hear a strange springing noise followed by a shriek of surprise. There was nobody inside the room but him. He cautiously looked around himself, hearing nothing but the strangest creaking noise. The sofa looked a little different somehow, as if the cushion had been rearranged slightly.
Just when he was about to head up the stairs to continue his search, something snapped from above, a rushing sound coming down hard from the top of his head. Without even thinking of looking up, he dodge-rolled out of the way just in time to prevent the chandelier from crushing him. The huge bronze-and-glass ornament however did not completely fall to the floor, but instead creaked mightily so before slowly moving back up, as if being cranked by a weight.
"Okay, THAT was dickish. You wanna kill me or somethin', the fuck's wrong with you guys?!"
He heard a door slam shut from above, as the raptor hurried up the stairs towards the source of the noise. He also heard a noise from downstairs of a mighty grinding of gears, but he ignored it for now. A small bannister-guarded passage of the second floor had just two doors, as well as another small writing desk between them. The door furthest from the stairs was warmest to the touch.
A rather sparse bedroom was within, with a very rigid-looking bed of yellow frame and solid mattress in the far right corner. This room also had four windows in a row of a half-circle, with a row of three wardrobes along the left wall. Two of the wardrobes were simple brown. But the one in the middle was of a more golden look. He knew if someone was hiding here, there was only one place they would be.
To tease them out a little longer, he opened the two boring normal wardrobes first. Nothing inside apart from old tattered clothes and moths.
"Hmmm nothing in heeeeeere...wonder what's inside THIS one?"
The moment he opened the golden wardrobe however, he immediately regretted it as fear gripped him tight. A sneering scaled raptor's face, white as a skull and exactly like his, with ghostly trails wispily floating off of him. For the moment he could not speak, the creature shrieked and flew at his face, barrelling past him with a vile cackle before it stood before him, its body bent low like an axe-wielding psycho.
"A-a-a-aaaaaAAAAAAAH! WH-WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE!?!?!"
"Hhhhhhhehehehehehahahahaaaaa! What's the matter, shell-less? You SCARED?!"
"I-I-i'm not afraid! I'M NOT! I beat you once, you shouldn't even be here! You're not...whatever! I-i can beat you again!"
"Ooooh aren't you braaaave, khhhhe he he he ha ha haaaaa. Come on then! Show me whatcha got!"
At first he was absolutely terrified by the sudden reappearance of his own ghost challenging him to a duel. But then he realised something was off about its voice. Something that was just too different. No longer was his ghost a snivelling panicky coward. This time it was confident, cocky, and not having a care in the world. This very change in attitude made him suspicious, and after realising what he had overcome before, he raised his scissorblades with the intent to fight.
The ghostly raptor started to run in a circle around him, sprinting with an absurd speed that made James nearly spin round with confusion. But he kept his focus strong, readying for the first hit before countering with a spinning strike. The spirit dodged towards him, taking the hit to its head hard somehow which gave James confidence that it was somewhat solid, despite being a ghost.
"HAH, you're not the same guy are ya?!"
"You sure about that?! Cuz I forgot to get ya a present for yer birthday!"
The raptor's feet curled with panic at how the spirit could have known that, which was enough opportunity for it to come close and brutally beat James' face in with a rapid-fire combo. Pounding his skull like a boxer, with two straight jabs followed by a hookpunch and an uppercut, the ghost quickly backed off before running around him once more.
James however was not down and out, shaking his head clear of dulling blows before roaring his fury, swinging his blades around him as he created a powerful arcing fire. The fire soon attached itself to his scissors, swinging with him, leaving trails of flames in their wake as he shot out a few fire blasts. One two three, blasting across the wall as he tried to hit his foe, who dodged all but one.
"OW! Hehe, you play rough dontcha?!"
"You should know, if you really ARE me!"
"Pffft, enough talk, go time!"
Coming in to strike once more, the ghost launched forwards with amazing speed, pounding repeatedly into the raptor's face. He had never encountered anything with such swiftness before, as he desperately tried to cover his face and back off hastily, stumbling backwards from the repeated blows. He hit against the wardrobe behind him, opening his eyes to see a terrifying close-up of his own ghostly face.
"Haaahaaaa, scaredy scaly scaredy scaly, can't even hit me good!"
With a furious roar, he charged up his fists with balls of flame, shooting them out rapidly across the room as he tried desperately to hit his foe. The creature was undauntingly swift, ducking, dodging and even floating sometimes with incredible agility beyond even FG's own capacity. Then he saw it come towards him for another beatdown. Just as he expected. He bent down low, readying himself for a move he had been wanting to do for a long time.
Burning rage coursed through his fist as he made a mighty uppercut, smashing his fire-laden claws straight into the ghostly jaw, the nano-elemental power striking hard into the spirit itself. It soon fell back, cracking its jaw back into place with a rather exaggerated noise as it said:
"OW! NNGH, nice punch, so ya got ONE hit on me, betcha can't do it again!"
"Come on, try me again, I dare ya!"
"Hah, you asked fer it buster!"
Then the spirit did something not even James could expect. With a mighty wind surging around the room, it started to make the wardrobes and bed rattle violently. He could feel danger emanating strongly in the back of his mind, as he felt the wardrobe behind him suddenly uplift and hurl itself. Dodging into a stumbling roll, the raptor quickly got out of the way as the dresser slammed into the opposite wall, a squeak of pain coming from inside unheard during the furore of the battle.
However James was more concerned by the dust that was sweeping up from the ghostly gale, blinding his eyes briefly. When he re-opened them once more, the spirit's face of himself grinned deviously close to him, making him flinch and fall back with hands over his eyes to avoid another beating. Naturally the ghost started to mock him even moreso.
"Awwww come on scaly boy, yer too scared to look at me?! Why dontcha take a picture, it'll last longer!"
His eyes lit up with an idea, as he hastily dug into his satchel. He thought he had seen it before when he was checking his supplies before Kolorado's expedition, but it was there. He still had the camera.
"Yanno what dude?"
"That's a good idea."
He whipped out the camera and quickly focused it to the best of his memory, flashing a grin before flashing the light.
"Smile you son of a bitch!"
The moment the light went off, the spirit shrieked with agony, covering its eyes and shaking its head with a newfound pain.
"AAAAAAAAGH! IT HURTS! WH-WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?!"
"Just a li'l something for the memory, hold still!"
Another flash of the camera, but this time not as effective due to the spirit covering its eyes. He remembered something about the eyes being the window to the soul, or some bullshit like that. Regardless, he readily blasted at the hands with a few fireballs to pull them away from his eyes, before following up with another camera shot. It worked like a charm, the spirit shrieking with newfound agony as it hurried off with its head in its hands.
"S-STOP IT ALREADY! Fine! You wanna be a bully then get outta here, JERK!"
The creature ran straight through the walls with a pop and a pained whimper, leaving James to tend to his own bruises at last. Other than a few beatings across the face and a slightly shaken constitution, he was no worse for wear, finally realising two things.
"Welp, definitely not the same one from the mansion...maybe the boos who were there wanna mess around with me. Bet they didn't expect my camera though."
At that point however, he heard a whimper from the wardrobe that had been flung across the room. Uncertain at what could be causing it, he decided to play it safe and swiftly tapped the doors open with his scissors. Something fell out of it with a panicky scream.
Tumbling out of the wardrobe, was a green-shelled koopa quickly retracting into its shell to protect itself. James could easily recognise him by the arrow-like marks on his shell. James was at first surprised to see him once again, but also rather frustrated by such an encounter.
"...K-koopin? The fuck you doing here?!"
"...you followed me again, didn't you?"
Koopin gently poked his head out of the shell, smiling bashfully as he admitted the truth.
"I just...I got worried, I-"
"Okay, look, it's real sweet of you and all to worry about me, but seriously, if you wanna come, just come okay?! Stop doing this whole 'oh I might not go but I'll do it anyway' shit okay, it's gonna get real annoying!"
"I didn't have to come you know!"
"Then why did you?"
"Because...d-darn it I like you too much okay!? I told you I loved you, and I don't care if you can't return that love to me, I just wanna make sure you're okay!"
"...well...I appreciate it. But next time, just come with me, alright?"
"I'm surprised you managed to handle the forest though, after those cloaked guys were there."
"Hehehe, yeah, they ran off pretty scared over a bunch of bees right?"
"Right, I-...wait, how do you know that?"
"Um...I'm the one who...broke their beehive and threw a honey-covered stick at those guys."
The koopa blushed bashfully at such a naughty trick, to which James chuckled with approval.
"Not bad Koopin...not bad at all."
"I didn't know you could be such a devious li'l guy."
"W-well it's...was just a li'l distraction was all. Did you find that missing mailman?"
"Not yet. Just saw this mansion and thought maybe the boos might know something."
"I hope so...the one that was scaring you wasn't that nice."
"Woah woah woah he was NOT scaring me okay?"
"Really? Cuz...you were kinda yelping a bit back there."
"I WAS JUST SURPRISED OKAY!?"
Koopin smirked and closed his eyes, not accepting such words before they heard a strange moaning come from downstairs. Koopin yelped and shook on the spot.
"A-AH! Wh-what was that?"
"Who's yelping now?"
"Sh-sh-shut up, what was that?!"
"Uhhh I dunno, maybe a ghost? ...let's go."
"W-wait! You sure you can handle-"
James turned with an incredulous look towards Koopin, raising a glowing hand that started to burn with fire.
"...point taken, off you go!"
"You not coming?"
"Course I am! ...just...I'll be behind you."
"Didn't you say you knew martial arts?"
"I-i'm just a beginner! Besides, martial arts don't work on ghosts, or boos for that matter! They can just go invisible and whoop your fist flies STRAIGHT through them!"
"Heh, good point. Alright then stick behind me and don't wander off."
Exiting the small bedroom, James and Koopin headed back down the stairs towards the source of the noise. The terrible almost female moans clicked in the back of James' mind somehow, making him ponder on something. He wasn't quite sure what until he was back on the first floor, hearing the moans come from the first room he went into. Upon hearing them turn louder, his eyes started to glimmer at recognising certain words.
Koopin quivered in his boots, knocking his knees together slightly until James patted his shoulder calmly. The wailing spirit soon appeared, appearing from the door of the room where the rocking horse was. A human spirit, with the bedraggled hair of a female and long thin arms blindly reaching out in front of it. The raptor chuckled and strided forwards cautiously.
"You know you still gotta work on that moaning of yours."
The unearthly spectre turned its head towards the sound of James' voice, seeming to recognise him the moment its sockets were in sight. Hollow eyeless holes bleeding ethereal wisps, before speaking with a far more ordinary voice.
"Yeah, that you Boona?!"
The spirit swirled away into a small puff of smoke, re-emerging as an ordinary little boo marked only by the strange burn upon one of its soft black eyes. The boo waggled its wispy tail like a puppy as it fluttered towards James, who hugged him like he was a ball. Koopin was bewildered by the strange reunion taking place.
"James! Wha-what are you doin' here?!"
"I just arrived a few weeks ago! Well maybe a month, not sure at this point, kinda hard to keep track in a place like this."
"Heheh, yeah?! But, I can't believe you're here, in my home even! How didya get out of that mansio-"
"Mansion, right!" interrupted James. "The mansion back on my island...right?"
James' face was turned away from Koopin, allowing him to wink softly at Boona to help keep up a pretence. The boo caught on quickly and nodded quickly.
"Ohhhhhh OH OH yeah the mansion!"
The raptor turned and faced Koopin's approaching question.
"Do you two...know each other?"
"Yep!" said FG. "This li'l guy here was a big help for me in my research. There was this haunted mansion back where I came from, went in to try and investigate its unusual activities and wouldnt'cha know it, I met Boona here."
"Ohhhh cool! I didn't know boos were out on the islands too!"
"I dunno if we are or not," replied Boona, "but I'm from here originally. I was being taken along for a hazing ritual to give up my first scare on someone, yanno, really mark ya out as a spooky boo! Didn't work out TOO well but James here helped me out! ...things got pretty bad."
"I...can tell. Is that mark on your...eye from that?"
"Spirit fire," said FG studiously, "from the original owners of the mansion, Boona was unlucky enough to get hit by it, not that it really hurt him that much right pal?"
"Heheh nope!" said Boona cheerfully. "And I been working on my act!"
"Well Koopin WAS a little scared-"
"No I wasn't!"
"-so you must be doing something right dude. Are your pals okay?"
"They're all fine yeah," said the boo with assertion.
"You think you can get 'em to leave us alone? One of your pals beat the shit out of me with one of their 'tricks' going on, pretended to be like a spirit of me!"
"Really?! ...musta been one of the guys back at the mansion then. As for leaving you two alone...that might be a problem. Especially when Boohoven's run amuck."
The boo gently rubbed his flippers together nervously, not entirely sure on how to say his next words.
"Heeeee...kinda went a bit mad. Like...super-mad."
"Mad-angry, or mad-insane?"
"Um...insane, maybe? He's been strange ever since he found this weird record, he LOVES music an' always loves to use this phonograph we have but...this song kept playing for him on this record and it...it kinda made him go weird. He went all obsessive, made us get all up in anyone's face if you or anybody tried to come in, but MEANER than usual. We just like to prank people harmlessly, not like actually HURT anyone like they did with you. He really wanted us to keep everyone away from his music."
"Where did he find this record?" asked Koopin.
"Yanno, I got no idea, he never told anyone where he found it."
"Is he the owner of the house?"
"Nah that's Lady Bow, but she's away for a loooong vacation over at Poshley Heights far away. So we're kinda on our own and she SPECIFICALLY said not to bother her with anything."
"Why don't I just talk to this guy?" offered FG.
"What?!" said Boona and Koopin, before the boo said:
"Woah woah woah you can't just go up and ASK Boohoven, he's a maniac!"
"I think I can handle him, what's he gonna do, wave a stick at me?"
"Well YEAH, and use it to kick yer butt! He's gonna make you feel flat AND sharp!"
"...I...I don't know what you-"
"It's a musical reference," said Koopin tersely.
"Ohhhhh...well whatever, I'll kick his ass until he's back to normal, where is he?"
"He's upstairs," said Boona, "first door you come to. Play the phonograph an' he'll come out."
"Alright, let's go!"
"J-james!" said Koopin.
"...don't you think you should let someone else handle this?"
"Yeah sure," said the raptor sarcastically, "they're gonna be REAL helpful after getting lost in the forest."
"Well, Mario then?!"
"Oh yeah sure, phone up the famous hero of the Mushroom Kingdom about this li'l hiccup we got going on!"
"I can do that, I can send a letter!"
"Ohhhhhh a letter, woooooow...seriously, I'm here now, I'm gonna handle this, deal with it."
"But what about the cloaked guys?!"
"What cloaked guys?!" asked Boona.
"The cloaked guys that were wandering the forest," explained Koopin, "they kidnapped a mailman from Toad Town so James went off to find them an-"
"Wait wait wait! ...black cloaks...did they float?"
"...yanno...I DO remember seein' 'em floating around here like a week ago...about two days before Boohoven went crazy."
"Calling it now," said FG with his hand up, "the cloaks and the record are connected."
"Well what else is it gonna be?! These guys seem the sort of guys who wanna stir shit up, get everyone all messed up so they can fuck around with their own plans...right?"
Koopin and Boona looked at each other, before looking back at James. The boo soon asked:
"...does he say weird words like that often?"
"Only when he's excited," said Koopin, "...or if he's angry...or happy...or frustrated...or-"
The raptor's frustrated outcry brought both of their attention back to him.
"Can we PLEASE just go upstairs and kick this guy's ass?!"
"Alright alright fine!" said Koopin. "I...maybe I can calm him down before you try anything."
"I'd rather try anything first before he does."
"Well let's give him a chance to explain himself."
"You gonna be okay Boona?"
"No worries," said Boona, "I'll just hang down here an' practice on my blind woman routine."
"Heh, alright then, later."
"Later! Be careful!"
With no other path open at this point in time, James and Koopin ascended up towards the second floor, heading towards the door closest to the stairway. It was deathly cold to the touch, but that did not deter James from turning the dusty knob and opening the door. He hoped that whatever was inside would be the end of his little journey through the Forever Forest. Koopin hoped it was the same thing, if only to return to his own thoughts in a less hostile environment.