Mario Party – Part Five: Deja Vu

This is a fanfiction. The characters and world of the Mario universe belong to Nintendo. This story is also thematically based on the Zero Escape series by Aksys Games.

This is the final chapter in an ongoing story. I highly recommend that you read parts 1-4 before proceeding. You can find them by clicking on the “Mario Party” category in the sidebar on your right.

Reader discretion is advised. This story is rated M for Mature due to graphic violence.

Mario awoke to the harsh sound of static. He lifted a hand to his face and rubbed the red haze out of his eyes. He’d fallen asleep in front of the television, a bright red screen the last thing he saw before he nodded off. At least, that’s what he figured. He didn’t remember falling asleep in front of the television, but that static noise dominated his mind and made it difficult to focus. He gasped as his vision cleared, and he looked around wildly.


The mustachioed plumber was not on the couch in his living room. He was in some sort of long, narrow chamber, seated on a bicycle. His face felt sore from lying against the handlebars, and a quick check revealed that the flesh of his cheek had been pressed in by the cold frame. It’d take a minute for his face to return to normal. The narrow hall gave him little wiggle room on either side, but extended a few feet in front of him. It ended in a door with a ridiculously large keyhole in the center. The static noise that had woken Mario was coming from a monitor above the door.

Suddenly, the fuzz on the monitor cleared. Instead the image of a star against a dull, metallic background appeared on the screen. Black as night with glowing red eyes, the image was a perversion of a power star, the source of energy that kept Peach’s castle going. As he laid eyes on the star, a name popped into his head.


“Well look who’s the first one awake! Welcome to the party!”

Party? The AI that Mario thought of as Ztar spoke with a distinctly feminine voice, and sounded like an overbearing mother or a southern waitress.

“I’m your host, Ztar! I wanted to speak with you for a few minutes before we get this party started, hon. I’ve gotta make sure you understand the basics.”

Wait…how did I know her name? The thought popped into his head without warning. He’d looked at this computer-generated star and just immediately thought “oh, that’s Ztar.” But he’d never even seen this thing before! That certainly didn’t make any sense. Yet in a weird way, he felt like he was in familiar territory. The bike, the monitor, the door, the bracelet on his wrist-


“Oh, I see you’ve noticed your left wrist,” Ztar said. “That’s your DICE, the Digital Identity and Currency Engine. It keeps track of who you are and allows you to participate in the party. Everybody has one, sweetie!”

Everybody…that meant that Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Wario, Waluigi, E Gadd, and Captain Toad all had one of these as well. But that certainly didn’t explain what Ztar meant by “party.”

“What exactly is this party?” Mario questioned.

“It’s a Mario Party, silly!” Ztar answered. “It’s the best party in the Mushroom Kingdom! And I’m here to go over the rules with you. Can you press the left and right buttons on your DICE at the same time?”

Mario decided to comply and pressed the buttons as instructed. He waited as the display cycled rapidly through the numbers 0-9 before they finally settled on 8. Odd; he’d rolled a 5 the last time.

Last time?

“Well wasn’t that exciting?” Ztar cried. “What you just did is called ‘rolling the DICE.’ Every time you roll the DICE, you get a number from one to ten. The zero counts as ten in this case. During the party, time is measured in something called ‘turns.’ At the beginning of every turn, you’ll roll the DICE and get a number.”

The plumber had trouble focusing. He’d heard all this before, he knew how it went. At least, he felt like he did. Mario was overwhelmed with the feeling that he’d done all of this before. Rolling the DICE, going into rooms, playing party games with the others – none of this seemed odd to him. Yet he knew in his rational mind that he’d never experienced a Mario Party before. Had this been a dream? Did he see this on a television show? How did he know what was happening?

“What exactly is the point of this whole thing?” Mario asked.

Ztar chuckled at that. “The point is to get out alive, silly!”

Alive. That didn’t shock the plumber in the way it was meant to, he felt. Of course it was about getting out alive. That fit perfectly with everything else. The DICE, the COINS, the STARs, all of this was about getting out alive. It was a party, a game, and they’d all have to play by its rules if they wanted a chance of survival. Mario was vaguely aware of Ztar talking, her voice distant as he lived in his thoughts.

“To give you an idea of what to expect, I’ve rigged a little game here for you. If you win, you’ll get ten COINS to get you started. I’ll see you when you finish the game and the others have joined you. Have a good time, hon!”

The image on the screen went dark, and with it the entire room. As soon as the lights went off, Mario felt an overwhelming compulsion to pedal the bicycle. He put his legs to work, pedaling as hard as he could despite the fact that the bike was definitely too small for him. As his legs pumped the lights above began to shine, slowly but surely working up from a dim glow to a bright one. It hurt his legs to keep going, but he did so, urged on by an instinct he did not understand. When the lights reached their full brightness, there was a sudden screech.

“What the hell?!” Mario cried. He turned to see a Boo, a manifestation of ghostly energy, burning in the bright light. The plumber turned away as the body hissed and melted, only looking back again when he was sure the thing was really dead. He gagged as he saw the pile of steaming ectoplasm on the floor. Sticking out of the goop was something gold, so Mario reached down to grab ahold of it and see what it was.

“A key,” he said to himself. “This must go to the door.”

He quickly inserted the key and turned it in the lock. The door made an unusual grinding sound, and Mario immediately realized it was falling out of the frame. He jumped back as the metal door tipped forward, clanging down a long downward shaft. The plumber poked his head beyond the threshold, looking towards where the door had fallen. The shaft was pretty narrow, and he could easily slide his way down without getting hurt. He did so, and upon reaching the ground he took a look around.

He was standing in an open area in front of a large mural on the wall. The mural depicted Ztar above a series of bright yellow letters that spelled out “START!” To his left, there was a massive chamber with a dome in the center. The dome was ringed with doors, as was the outer wall of the chamber around it. On the floor someone had painted a large red arrow pointing left. Mario assumed this indicated the direction they were meant to travel as part of the game.

As he looked around, he suddenly heard another door crashing down the shaft. He turned to see the door clatter against the floor, and then stepped over to the shaft to see who was above. It was Princess Peach, dressed in pink pajamas rather than her usual flowing dress. She waved as she saw Mario.

“Hey, can you catch me if I jump down?” she called. Mario nodded and extended his arms. The princess hopped down the shaft and landed in the plumber’s arms. He carefully placed Peach on the ground.

“Are you alright?” Mario questioned. Peach brushed herself off and nodded hastily.

“Of course, of course. Just a little rattled by all of this. I don’t understand how this could have happened. Where in the world are we?”

“It’s a training facility developed by E Gadd,” Mario explained. “It was supposed to help Luigi and me against Bowser. But whoever captured us repurposed the whole thing.”

Peach looked rather surprised. “I see. How exactly do you know that, Mario?”

He thought about that for a moment. How did he know that? No one told him so. He’d certainly never been here. Yet as he looked around, he knew that he was right. Everything made sense. He knew this place, knew how it worked and what it was intended to be. The plumber knew he could trust Peach, so he decided to be honest with her.

“I honestly don’t know,” he answered. “I’ve never been here before, but I have this overwhelming feeling that I know this place. As if I really have been here. It’s like I have memories of it even though I know in my heart I’ve never seen it.”

“Sounds like you’re experiencing a touch of déjá vu,” Peach said. “Or rather, déjá vécu, if we’re being technical.”

“Dayja what?” Mario questioned.

“How long did we spend in Bean Bean Kingdom and you didn’t learn one word of the language?” the princess scolded. “Déjá vu means ‘already seen.’ Déjá vécu means ‘already lived through.’ Either way, it refers to the idea that you’re familiar with something that you haven’t actually experienced yet. Prince Peasley tried to impress me by telling me everything he knew about it.”

Mario furrowed his brow. “Peasley. I hated that guy.”

Peach chuckled at that. “Anyway, the interesting thing about déjá vu is that it’s a really common phenomenon that scientists don’t really understand yet. I mean, pretty much everyone has one every now and again. But what actually makes your brain think that it has already seen something that it actually has never seen before? There are a few theories about it, but nothing concrete has ever been proven about it.”

“So you’re saying I’m experiencing something that no one really knows the answers about?” Mario said.

“Exactly,” Peach confirmed. “Personally, I think it has something to do with brain misfires. I read about it in an article once. Basically, the electrical impulses in your body that allow you to see and process things happens twice in an instant. The first time happens so fast that it almost doesn’t register, so when the second time comes immediately after, it feels as if you have seen it before because, technically speaking, it’s the second time you’ve processed it.”

“I see,” Mario muttered, nodding. That didn’t quite feel right. “What are the other theories?”

“Um, I don’t remember all of them,” Peach replied, shrugging. “The only one I can really think of right now is that it has something to do with the B-theory of time. So you’re basically remembering the future. It’s really far-fetched.”

B-theory of time? As soon as the words left Peach’s lips, they were all Mario could think about. Just like he felt with the facility they were trapped in, he felt that he’d heard those words before.

Suddenly, vivid memories began to return to him. He remembered being in a room with E Gadd where gravity ran in two different directions. They were moving through a maze, one stepping on a pressure plate while the other progressed to the next layer. As they walked, they talked about many things: relativity, time dilation, all things related to the B-theory of time. He remembered the image of a sheet of paper with three points, and how a pencil slid along the paper would hit the points in a different order depending on how you turned the page.

You can go back to same spot in the river, but it won’t be the same river. In this way, all points of time are completely unique. They all exist simultaneously, and there is not past, present, and future – just whatever happened before, and what’s going to happen after.

Was it possible that he’d returned to point one? That he’d somehow looked at time from a new perspective and made the future “before” and the past “after?” If that was the case, it would certainly explain how he was remembering events that hadn’t happened yet. Unfortunately, as interesting as that was, it hadn’t given him a way out.

While Mario was lost in thought, a few more people had descended from the shaft above. The most recent arrival was Luigi, and upon seeing his older brother the man in green rushed over to wrap Mario in an embrace. The plumber returned his brother’s hug, a wave of emotion suddenly overcoming him. His eyes welled up with unexpected tears, a mix of grief and relief washing over him as he hugged his younger brother.

Luigi pulled away and looked at him quizzically. “Are you crying, bro? I mean, I’m glad we’re both here and we’re both okay, but you’re usually the one who’s composed.”

Mario wiped the tears from his eyes. “Sorry. I honestly have no idea what came over me.”

Two more doors crashed down, bringing the group’s count up to eight. Mario had been right about everyone present. Peach and Daisy, Wario and Waluigi, E Gadd and the Captain, and of course him and Luigi. With everyone now standing at the START mural, a hologram of Ztar suddenly appeared before them.

“I’m so glad you all made it to this part alive!” Ztar smiled. “Now let’s go over the rules of the Mario Party!”

Mario listened to the AI, taking in every familiar detail. Every twenty COINS equaled one STAR, and the person with the most STARs after ten turns would escape. Each turn lasted roughly one hour, with some time afterward for a group game. Different colored rooms gave different bonuses and also assigned teams for the game. Any rule breaking would be punished by a lethal injection from their DICE. The others had legitimate reactions of shock, indignation, confusion – for Mario, everything was familiar territory. Once Ztar finished her explanation, she flickered away, and the group’s attention turned to each other.

“Alright, Mario, give us one reason we shouldn’t beat you to a pulp right now,” Wario said, tightening his fists and stepping threateningly towards the plumber in red.

Mario simply lifted up his DICE and rolled. “Listen, Wario, we don’t have time for this. The turn timer is already going, and we all have challenges to overcome inside these rooms. If you waste too much time you’ll get punished, and that’s a pretty awful way to die.”

He began walking down the hallway, the others standing back and whispering for a moment before following suit. The group split off much as he remembered. Captain Toad and E Gadd weren’t together but both had early rooms. Peach and Daisy were a pair. Wario and Waluigi were a pair as well, and ran on ahead. He and Luigi were not a pair, but their rooms were adjacent. They arrived together and stood in front of their doors, Luigi still quite anxious about the whole ordeal.

“Don’t worry, bro,” Mario smiled. “It’s going to be okay. Ztar won’t leave these rooms empty. When you get in, just focus on the puzzles and challenges. With something to put your mind to, you’ll be able to stay in control.”

Luigi nodded and forced an uneasy smile. He stepped over to Mario and extended a hand, the two of them clasping wrists and then separating again. They each placed their left hand against a scanner panel beside the door, and with a beep their DICE acted as the keys and caused the metal doors to slide open. Each one stepped through, and when the plumber in red reached the other side of his door, it slammed shut behind him.

Just like the central chamber with the dome, this area looked very familiar. Although in here, Mario could attribute the déjá vu to a more traditional source: this room was modeled after somewhere he really had been before. There were four doors along the opposite wall, each one beautifully painted to look like one of the old paintings in Peach’s castle. He recognized Bob-Omb Battlefield, Cool Cool Mountain, Whomp’s Fortress, and Jolly Roger Bay, all in the order they’d been laid out in the rooms on the first floor of the castle. The room’s only other noticeable feature stood by the door. A pair of yellow cubes, one a bank and one a safe, stood on either side of the door. As Mario laid eyes upon the safe, details about this room came flooding back to him.

Did you know that your DICE is not indestructible? A concentrated blow from a strong hammer would likely break it.

You had many options to get yourself out of this game, and you didn’t take any one of them.

Now you’re stuck, Mario. Stuck playing my game, following my rules. Perhaps if you could have focused on the real world for one second, you might have been able to save everyone’s lives. But like always, you chose to play. You chose the game. And now, people will die for it.

With the memories came focus and a new purpose. His first time in this room he’d gotten so wrapped up in the game that he forgot the bigger picture. This time, he knew not to make that mistake. He headed for the fourth door, the one that led to Jolly Roger Bay. It opened before him to reveal a square pool of water with a treasure box by each face of the square. The boxes had keys protruding from the locks, but Mario knew from experience that they only opened when turned in the right order. He made his way about the room and opened the chests in the order south, west, east, and north. When the final chest popped open, there was a small but sturdy hammer inside of it.

“Now I just need to open the safe and take the hammer to the others,” he smiled. “I can’t believe it’s this simple. All that heartache and pain, all that risk and danger…I could have avoided it so easily all that time.”

Heading back to the main room, he knelt down by the safe and thought for a few moments. Was the code based on the room he found the items or where he used them? He decided to go with the first idea first, pressing the fire flower, the metal cap, the sleepy sheep, and then the hammer. With a click the safe opened, revealing a large key and a series of newspaper clippings.

“I forgot about these,” he muttered. The clippings were from legitimate newspapers, as far as he could tell. The front pages detailed Mario’s heroics, while their reverse side showed the political side-effects of Bowser’s schemes. All of the articles suggested that Mario was just as guilty as Bowser in ruining the Mushroom Kingdom’s foreign policy.

He folded up the papers and placed them in his pocket. With that done, he rose to his feet and inserted the key into the keyhole in the wall. The screen above it changed its display from “LOCK” to “OPEN,” and the metal door slid open to allow Mario out of the room. Stepping out into the hallway, he expected to be alone. After all, he’d used his knowledge of the past – or future, or something – to finish almost immediately. There was no way anyone else could beat him out. Yet when he entered the main chamber once again, there was someone waiting for him.

Mario’s brain processed the information quite slowly. He didn’t understand what he was seeing. Standing before him was a small figure in a tan vest with a red ascot. Most of the figure’s height came from the large mushroom hat he wore, the white hat decorated with red spots. Somehow, the Captain beat even Mario. Perhaps he simply hadn’t gone inside yet? But the plumber had watched him enter his door. And now he was here, outside before a man who knew the answers had even managed to escape. Did that mean what Mario thought it meant?

“Take all the time you need,” Toad said. “No one’s judging you for needing a minute to put two and two together. Well, maybe I’m judging you a little.” When he spoke, his voice sounded odd. Not as high pitched, not with the sort of raspy quality that toads normally spoke with. He sounded cold, and his words sent a chill down Mario’s spine.

“You?” Mario gasped. “Seriously? This whole time, you’ve been the mastermind behind everything? But you’re-”

“Helpless?” Toad suggested. “Small? Weak? Clumsy? Frightened? It’s time for me to tell you a little story, Mario.”

The Captain paced towards the central dome, looking up at it as he spoke. “I graduated with honors from Toad Town University when I was eighteen. Degrees in engineering, chemistry, biology, psychology, a doctorate in theoretical physics. Instead of joining a prestigious laboratory, though, I chose to become a soldier. I wanted to serve my country. My military career was equally successful. Top of my unit both physically and mentally. I ranked up quickly and I became the youngest Toad to ever be promoted to captain.”

“I had no idea,” Mario muttered. “I knew you were young, but I suppose I never attributed that to talent. No offense.”

“Oh, I’m offended,” Toad growled. “Do you know, Mario, that your position of honor in our society was supposed to be mine? I had been groomed for years to be the hero of the Mushroom Kingdom. Then the unthinkable happened. Bowser, the koopa king, actually got the moxie to come after Princess Toadstool. He arrived at the castle and happened to get the jump on me, knocking me out. It was my only failure, but it turned out to be the most catastrophic mistake I could have ever made. Bowser got away with Peach, his magikoopa allies used some hocus pocus to turn all of us into bricks, and the only person left to save the princess was you.”

“After that,” Toad continued, “no one looked at me as the best and brightest of the Mushroom Kingdom. All my education, all of my service up to that point was forgotten. I was bitter, to be sure, but what bothered me more than my fall from grace was your recklessness. Bowser continued to capture the princess, and every time you set off to save her you play games with him. He creates puzzles and challenges, scavenger hunts and duels, and you just go with it. You don’t think out of the box, you don’t find a way to work around the problem. Instead, you do things Bowser’s way, and when you do a lot of lives are lost or ruined in the process.”

“That’s not fair,” Mario retorted. “I’ve saved this kingdom-”

“Before you insist that you’ve saved this kingdom a dozen times,” Toad interrupted, “look at it this way. Yes, you have saved the princess. Yes, you have prevented some coups. But look at how the other nations of the world look at us. Everywhere you’ve been on your adventures has a bad opinion of you and of the work you do. Because in your efforts to save our princess, you ruin everyone else’s kingdoms. You and Bowser do battle on other people’s territory, and when the fight is over Mushroom Kingdom comes out clean while a land that shouldn’t have even been involved in the struggle has lost lives and had their infrastructure ruined.”

“So all this is about getting me out of the picture?” Mario asked. “Killing me so you can reclaim your rightful place as hero and improve our country’s reputation?”

“I’m not so petty as you think,” Toad replied. “I’ve arranged this Mario Party not to punish you, but to instruct you. To help you understand that following the rules of a madman’s game will only lead to suffering.”

“It took a lot of planning. I had to perfectly craft a scenario where you could learn this lesson, where you could watch your friends die, and still come out unscathed at the end. Luckily I am quite familiar with the B-theory of time, and with E Gadd’s unwitting help I was able to explain the concept to you. That way, if you failed, you would be able to make your way back to the turning point and make the right decision. That’s what has happened now.”

“So everything I witnessed before,” Mario said, “the death of E Gadd, of Wario, of Daisy…my brother died because of you, Toad.”

“All so you could understand what’s happening to other nations when you battle with Bowser on his terms,” Toad reminded. “I’ve made you suffer, yes. I’ve killed your brother, yes. But it was all for a purpose. You now understand the danger of following the rules of such a terrible game, yes? That you always have to be looking for a better way out, a way where no one gets hurt and where the villain meets his match before he has the opportunity to do any lasting damage?”

“You’re sick, Toad,” Mario spat. “Murdering people in cold blood – people who trust you – just so you can teach me a lesson? You’ll rot in a cell for this.”

“That is true,” Toad nodded. He gave something of a half smile. “I tried to arrange this in such a way that I would not be captured in the end, where I would never be incriminated. But the plan was too complicated, there were too many moving parts and things I couldn’t account for. I very briefly considered framing Bowser, but no one in their right minds would think him capable of such a sophisticated crime. In a way, I am proud to go down with my project. My imprisonment will be worth it when our kingdom returns to a place of respect.”

“So what happens now?” Mario questioned.

“It’s simple, really,” Toad began. “You’ll smash everyone’s DICE, which will tell Ztar that there are no more party guests. With no one else involved in the game, she’ll open door number 2, a room that no one explored that actually leads to the exit. We will leave this place and find ourselves at E Gadd’s laboratory, where there are plenty of vehicles to take us back to civilization.”

“And you don’t have some kind of escape plan?” Mario pressed.

“I’m afraid I won’t have the opportunity to enact such a plan,” Toad frowned. “For you, Mario, you know the future because in your perception of time, it came before the past. For me, I know what’s going to happen because I have a powerful understanding of everyone here. It’s how I was able to leave you letters that described exactly what actions you were going to take. I knew it would take something truly drastic to break your habits. My guess is that it was the bomb in the safe, in the room you and Luigi explored, is that correct?”

Mario didn’t give Toad the satisfaction of an answer. “Regardless,” the captain continued, “I can predict what you or anyone else in here will do before they even think of doing it. I have proven that to you. It is that intuition, that ability, which tells me that I won’t be escaping today.”

The plumber sighed and shrugged his shoulders. At this point, he honestly didn’t care. The fact that this whole thing was orchestrated to teach him a lesson…it was humiliating. He’d played exactly into the Captain’s hands at every turn, and now Toad would get the satisfaction of having every single event – even his incarceration – play out exactly the way he intended.

At this point some of the others were beginning to leave their rooms. E Gadd first, then Luigi, Peach and Daisy after that, and finally Wario and Waluigi. As they exited, Mario propped their arms against the cold metal walls of the facilities and positioned their DICE at an angle where he could safely hammer them. As promised, one good strike with the hammer shattered them, the bands falling to the floor in a shower of metal and glass. He saved Toad for last, the Captain’s identity as their captor a secret to everyone but Mario.

“Alright,” Toad said, his voice high-pitched and raspy again, “I guess I’m next, huh?” He walked over to the wall and placed his arm against it. Next to him was an open door, the door to the room Mario had been intended to explore. Suddenly, a thought came unbidden to Mario’s mind.

You see, those DICE on your arms have one other purpose. If you refuse to party with the rest of us, there’s a penalty. You see, each turn doesn’t wait to end when everyone is done. The turn ends after an hour, whether you’re ready or not. If, in that time, your DICE has not been scanned by any of the rooms here – or if has been scanned by multiple rooms – then you’ll be killed.

Captain Toad used his right hand to gesture towards the DICE on his left. “Well Mario, are you going to do it or not?”

Mario held the hammer up to Toad’s DICE, lining up the blow to smash the thing. He mocked a practice swing, and then lined up his blow one more time. With one smooth motion, he lifted the hammer up – and brought it down on Toad’s arm.

Everyone cried out in horror as Mario smashed the Captain’s arm, but the plumber knew he had to move quickly. He grabbed hold of the smaller man and shoved him through the doorway into the room with the painted doors. There was a small beep as Toad’s DICE was scanned. He’d now been scanned by two doorways, and the rules of his mad game would punish him for it. The metal door slammed shut as soon as Toad hit the floor. From the other side, they could hear banging and muffled screams. They lasted only for a moment before the hall became quiet again.

“Mario,” Peach whispered, “why did you just kill Captain Toad?”

The plumber turned to his princess. “Before you all made it out, he admitted to me that he was the one who brought us here.”

Everyone gasped at that. Their reactions mimicked Mario’s own. The Captain? Really? How was he capable of something like this? He explained how Toad wanted to teach Mario a lesson, and that he’d named the game a Mario Party for that very reason. He told them how he confronted Toad after finishing his room, and how the Captain had said he knew he would be incarcerated for his crimes.

“I know I shouldn’t have killed him,” Mario admitted, “but the idea of letting him win like that…of letting every single thing he said be right and go his way…I just couldn’t stand the thought of that.”

“Serves him right,” Wario spat. “So now that he’s dead and the rest of us don’t have DICE, the door out of here should open, right? That’s how he said it worked?”

As if on cue, Ztar’s voice began to speak over the intercom. “Well, sweethearts, looks like the party is finally over. Thank you all so much for coming to celebrate with me – it’s been a wonderful time! If you all will circle back to the second door, you’ll be able to get out of this facility and return home. I hope to see you all again soon!”

“Yeah right,” Waluigi spat. “I’ll see you in Hell.”

The second door in the series of doors around the hallway was the only one open to them. It led to a long hallway that ended in a staircase. Heading up the stairs took them to a vault door, the handle a heavy wheel that would take quite a bit of effort to turn. Wario and Mario had to work together to get it open, but they managed to succeed and push through to the other side.

As promised, the door opened into E Gadd’s laboratory. There were papers strewn everywhere, giant machines buzzing and blinking as they performed unknown tasks, and the computer screens around the room showed feed from the now-empty facility. Everyone rushed for the door, Luigi opening it quickly and leading everyone outside.

The sun felt so strange and new after everything that had happened. In an odd way, Mario realized that he was the only one who could appreciate it. Everyone else had been trapped in that facility for only a matter of hours, doing a couple of simple puzzles before being escorted out with all of their questions answered. Only Mario knew of a time where playing this Mario Party had been torture. Only he remembered a time with bloodshed.

“Look at this,” E Gadd said. “There’s a letter for you taped to my wall, Mario.”

The scientist handed the letter to the plumber, Mario’s hand trembling as he took it. The letter looked all-too-familiar, a single typed page with a block of black text. His heart beating faster as he took hold of the paper, Mario began to read.

“Today is March 5th, two days before I will kidnap you and place you in my facility to enjoy the Mario Party. I tell you this so that you can appreciate everything that I will say next.”

“Mario, you are going to fail on your first time playing my game. You’ll follow all the rules exactly, which is going to lead to heartbreak and suffering. E Gadd will probably die, Luigi will definitely die, and some other people might lose their lives as well. Luigi’s death will be the trigger that sends you to point one again. Point one will be different thanks to your new knowledge, and you’ll be able to escape your room immediately and find out that I, Toad, am the one who captured you and forced you to play this game.”

“I’ll explain to you that I did it as a lesson, that the reason for all of this is so that when you face Bowser, you won’t play by his rules. Doing so always leads to pain, something you will fully understand after losing your brother. I’ll also explain that there’s no hope for me escaping, because I know what everyone at the facility will do and I know their actions will prevent me from being able to escape with you all. You, Mario, will be so angry that I predicted everything, so frustrated that I embarrassed you and hurt you and that every single detail would work out the way I intended, that you will attempt to murder me. You’ll break everyone’s DICE but mine and then force me to be punished for breaking the rules.”

“If I’m being honest, telling you that I wouldn’t escape may have been a white lie. But in order to escape, I’ll need to tell you that lie. I’ll need you to think that the only way you can pull some small victory out of this is to kill me. Because when you do, you’ll just leave my body in the facility, not knowing that my DICE has no poison inside of it and therefore that making me break the rules will not kill me.”

“So thank you, Mario. Thanks to you, I’ll be able to live in freedom instead of rotting in a prison cell.”

“For a brief moment, I considered framing you for all of this. It’d be terribly easy. After all, there is surveillance footage of you mysteriously knowing all the rules of the game, of you murdering me in cold blood and then telling everyone else that I’m their kidnapper. In this timeline, all of the evil that I did to justify your actions did not happen. It would appear to onlookers that you simply wished for me to die, and acted upon that wish.”

“Obviously, the fact that you’re reading this letter means that I decided against that. And I did so for one very specific reason. If you were imprisoned for my crimes, that would be a sweet victory indeed. But much better is the thought of you looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life. Knowing that I am out there somewhere, perhaps plotting against you, with the power to kidnap or outright murder you any time I choose. Today, I chose to teach you a lesson, but you know I am capable of so much more. And with both of us free, you can never rest. Not really. And that, to me, is the ultimate victory. The fact that the hero of Mushroom Kingdom now has to live his life in fear of the helpless, clumsy Captain Toad.”

“You tried to kill me so that, in some small way, you’d win this game between us. What you did not know is that it plays right into my hand. You lose again, Mario. Better luck next time.”

“Thanks for playing my game with me.”

Mario let the letter go, a gentle breeze scooping up the page and carrying it away. Everyone else was laughing, smiling, enjoying the sunshine and their freedom. The plumber watched them for a moment and managed a half-smile of his own. Toad had won. There was no denying that now. But Mario was alive, and so was everyone he cared about. His brother was lying in the grass, enjoying the breeze and the sunshine. He may not have outwitted the Captain, but he had survived. Wasn’t living to enjoy another day with the ones he loved some kind of victory? Didn’t that count as winning?

Captain Toad would be a problem for another day. For now, Mario rushed forward to join the others, his half smile growing larger and more genuine as he embraced his freedom at last. The Mario Party was over, and all eight players had survived. And for the time being, that was good enough for him.

Golly, it’s finally over! I hope you enjoyed this fanfiction, adventurers. The month of May will bring a whole new story, probably a much lighter one. I still haven’t received any suggestions, so at this point I’m going to just choose my own concept and start working on it. I want to thank everyone who has been reading and supporting this story, and I hope you’ll be back next Friday for the beginning of a whole new adventure.

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