Taking a short break (SHORT, I said; don't rush me.) from the Pokémon and doing this.

This is my theory about a particular mask owned by a particular man; a very happy man. Mostly, I'm writing it because I couldn't put the idea down and wanted to experiment with writing in full third-person POV, instead of switching between different first-person views.

In the heart of the Dark Land of the Mushroom Kingdom; deep, deep within the castle of the King of the Koopas, two figures stood.

One, a man, by all appearances, was exhausted. He sported several burns all over his body from battling against his opponent. He clenched his fists and tried to push back his exhaustion. Losing was not an option! This was for the future of his family, for the good of the kingdom; his foe must finally be slain!

The other, a large, green-skinned turtle-dragon with a crop of red hair atop his head, growled at the man before him, refusing to lose as well. So what if he had one of his horns broken off? That's just a proud scar to show. Okay, so he had a few scratches also, since the jumpy human used his horn as a weapon, but those could be patched up by his Magikoopas later. So what if his vision was getting a little fuzzy from fighting so long? It wouldn't be much longer; he was a mighty Koopa - The prime of the entire race! - and the other was only human. How could he possibly lose?

Snapping back to attention, he got ready to breathe more fire as the man charged forward, horn brandished and red cap seeming to glow in the light of the magma. Deep, brown eyes full of conviction and resolve met the Koopa Kings own slit-pupil red ones. Spitting a jet of flame, the King of Koopas wanted to break that resolve; wanted to see his rival fall and beg for his life.

As the flames got closer, he was surprised when the man charged straight through the fire, and even more so when his flames suddenly died out. Feeling something run down his chest, he put a finger to it, following it up until he felt something protruding from his neck. His vision clearing, he saw the man with burns all over his body, his clothes little more than tatters, and half of his face severely burnt. But those same eyes were still looking at him, the eyes of Marco del Mario.

Falling over, the Koopa King, Rornak Bowser Koopa, had one last fleeting thought before slipping into total darkness. The royal lineage would be upheld.

After the King fell, Marco fell to his knees as well. It was finally over. The kingdom would be safe. As he fell forward to the ground, he was ready to close his eyes for the last time until a shout roused him.

"Daddy!" Forcing his head to look up, despite the pain, he heard footfalls and saw a tiny Koopaling run to the fallen King. Did he just say "daddy," Marco thought with horror. There were slight resemblances, the red hair, the green skin around his head, even though the rest was yellow, and they had the same spiked shell. Once the Koopaling turned towards Marco on the ground, he saw another resemblance. Beady red eyes stared at him with pure hatred, "The red man killed Daddy!"

As the Koopaling, Marco supposed he was the prince then, stepped forward, Marco tried to pull himself up. He didn't like the thought of killing a child, but he had to ensure that the same cycle wouldn't repeat itself once the prince grew up to be like his father or worse.

"Prince Bowser!" Once Marco forced himself to one knee, a blue-cloaked figure came and swept the prince up into his arms atop his broom.

Bowser started kicking at the Magikoopa and screaming, "Lemme go, Kamek! I'm gonna kill him! He- He killed my daddy!"

Wincing at the force of the kicks, Kamek said, "What matters most is preserving the royal lineage until you come of age. Please, allow me to handle this garbage." Holding the slightly calmer prince in one arm, a magic wand appeared from the Magikoopa's other sleeve.

Marco could only watch despairingly as Kamek circled in the air, magic charging up in the gem. "You survived toppling the throne, for now. But let's see how you survive a toppling castle, shall we?"

A massive ball of energy was shot from the wand to the ceiling of the castle, and Kamek flew away with the prince in tow. Marco didn't have the energy to give chase, or even flee. All he could do was stand in the same spot.

As the castle started crumbling and falling all around, Marco only had one thought as the ceiling caved and was falling towards him.

He had failed.

As he was surrounded by darkness, Marco wondered what would happen to his family. And the kingdom; the king and queen, both good friends of his, had just been blessed with a baby girl. Would she have to deal with the Koopaling that he had let get away? His sons… Would they wind up being forced into the same role that he had? Being the defenders of the kingdom?

At least they'll have each other, he thought. But at the thought of them having to fight against the Koopaling that he should have been able to kill, dark thoughts plagued Marco's mind.

He should've been able to stop Kamek.

He shouldn't have been as tired as he was from his fight against Rornak.

His wife and sons should've been able to live lives of peace after his actions today. All he had managed to do was inflict the same cycle he had gone through on the next generation!

As he was ruminating, a laugh echoed all around him. He almost didn't notice it until another laugh sounded right beside him before six quick notes played, sounding like they came from a piano. The area started lighting up with the glow of several feathers swirling around him. Soon, Marco found himself above ground again.

He looked around and saw that it was nighttime now, his family would be asleep. Right in front of him was a strange looking man. With red hair, pointed ears and purple travelling clothes, he stood by a massive pipe organ, his hands withdrawing as if he just finished playing.

Turning around, Marco was slightly unnerved by the man's seemingly permanent large smile, so wide that his eyes were squinted shut, as he clasped his hands and said, "You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?"

Taken aback, Marco said, "What?"

The man just tilted his head, as if curious about Marco himself. Unnerved by the man's squinted gaze, Marco started moving to the side, "Well, I thank you, sir, for getting me out of that rubble, but I have somewhere to be."

His smile falling slightly, allowing his eyes to open a little, the man said, "Oh my, it's always so tragic to deal with these kinds… I'd best get straight to the point." He gestured down towards Marco's legs. When he looked down, Marco gasped as he saw nothing where his legs should be.

"I-I'm- No! I can't be-"

"You're a restless spirit. You can go anywhere you like; nobody will be able to see you. I can help you rest in peace, if you like."

Marco looked at the strange man again, "How are you supposed to do that? Besides, I need to get to my children. I have to warn them that there's still one out there."

The man sighed, "As I said, they'll be unable to see or hear you. If you like, I can ensure that your wish gets carried on by someone worthy to carry it, should your children expire."

At Marco's horrified expression, the man went on, "It's dangerous to travel across this kingdom. You almost died several times. And while there are the strange, green mushrooms which bring you back to life, what if they don't have one? Who would protect the kingdom then? Would your spirit rest easier if you assisted generations of heroes to come?"

Marco thought hard about it, while he didn't even want to conceive the notion that both his children would die, it was very possible. If allowing this strange man to do as he wished meant that the kingdom would be protected, even if not by his family, then that seemed to be the best he would get.

Marco looked at the man and nodded.

Nodding back, the strange man turned around and positioned his hands on the organ's keys. Playing a slower melody, Marco was completely enraptured by the soothing tune, subconsciously swaying in time to it. He felt his mind clear and his heart lighten. He closed his eyes, feeling as though a burden was lifted off his shoulders.

When he opened his eyes again, the man and the organ were gone, and he was back in front of his house, the sun rising. Unsure, he walked up to the front door gingerly and, instead of using his key, he knocked on the door. The door opened, and his wife's beautiful blue eyes looked out through the opening in confusion before recognizing him and lighting up with joy.

Smiling back, he walked into his home.

Back with the strange man, a mass of light formed into a mask in the likeness of Marco, a smiling face with a bushy mustache and red cap adorned with an "M".

Catching the mask as gravity took effect on it, the red-headed man looked at it curiously. "Such a good man. Showing much bravery and care for his family and kingdom. I shall name this mask… the Mask of Valor."