He didn't know what to think.
Trembling, Luigi instinctively dropped the letter to the floor, cupping his hands over his mouth. He breathed unevenly. His desperate attempts to try and ease his mind and compose his thoughts proved useless as he began pacing around the kitchen, paranoid out of his mind. He buried his face in his hands, rubbing at his eyes. The questions in his brain came in imperfect clumps, plaguing his thoughts and ruining any sense of composure he'd been fighting to hold onto.
Who sent that letter? Were they going to hurt him? Were they going to hurt his friends? Was this all some sick prank? Was this a test? Was someone stalking him? Was someone watching him right now?
His breathing hitched as he tried to straighten his back, releasing a quivering inhale.
Maybe… Maybe this was all a nightmare! Maybe he was still asleep right now. Maybe he'd never woken up. Maybe nothing was wrong. Maybe Toad wasn't missing. Maybe he wasn't dealing with some deranged weirdo writing him letters.
Maybe, just maybe, everything was okay.
He shivered as he felt his eyes trailing away from his hands and turning back to the kitchen floor. The letter was still lying there, as though to taunt him, reminding him of his reality.
He abruptly made his way to the letter, bending over and snatching it off the ground. He stared at it before crumpling it in his hands and burying it under the mountain of unread letters he had obtained from over the past week. He felt his chest rise and fall, his hands quivering as he backed away, not wanting to be in the same room as the note.
He tried to seek refuge in the living room, falling back in a heap on the couch. He hugged his sides, bouncing his leg nervously until he eventually brought both of his legs up against his chest, burying his head in his knees.
He didn't know what to do.
He sat there for hours, it seemed, his anxiety and paranoia only getting worse with every ticking second that passed. His questions multiplied and festered, his mind growing numb from all the swirling, intrusive thoughts.
He jolted, nearly falling off the couch, at the sound of the front door unlocking.
His stomach lurched. He was trembling, wanting to run off and hide, but he was frozen in fear.
His fears were momentarily calmed as the person entering called out.
"Luigi, I'm back!"
A few moments passed before a blonde figure poked his head into the living room, turning to face Luigi with a bright shining smile.
"There you are!"
Prince Peasley, Luigi's newly-wed spouse, waltzed into the living room, a leather suitcase held loosely in his hands. He tossed it aside into a nearby chair before enveloping Luigi in a tight hug.
"Oh, how I missed you!" Peasley pulled back, standing up tall and reaching towards his suitcase with a huff. "I can't tell you how boring these trips have become! It's just advisor after advisor talking about foreign policies and political negotiations and whatnot…" Peasley complained, groaning dramatically. "Mother had an entire conversation about taxes with some stuffy old advisor for nearly an hour…!"
Luigi nodded weakly, trying to at least smile. He felt numb.
"All I could think about was coming home to see you." Peasley laughed, lifting a hand. "That's what kept me from falling asleep during all those meetings… and the fact that Lady Lima kept nudging me whenever I was nodding off…
"And getting out of there was no easy feat! The Queen just kept hugging me and saying her goodbyes and telling me to stay safe… and Lima is still skeptical of me living all the way out here… but I assured her this was for the best.
"You wouldn't believe the tripe I had to deal with at the Beanbean Airport… I guess that's what I get for trying to avoid the paparazzi… Your disguise idea worked like a charm."
Luigi continued to nod, murmuring sounds of acknowledgement from time to time.
"Thanks for letting me borrow this…" Peasley dug through his suitcase, pulling out a white t-shirt with an 'L' emblem on it. "It really is quite comfortable."
He tossed the shirt to Luigi. Luigi hardly flinched as the fabric fell into his lap.
Peasley smiled. "And I think you'd appreciate the fact that someone at the airport, the lady at the help desk, recognized your emblem! She asked me if I was a fan-"
Peasley suddenly stopped, his voice softening as his tone turned concerned.
"…Luigi?" Peasley ventured, moving to sit down beside his husband, reaching out to touch his shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"I'm…" Luigi didn't want to tell him. He didn't want to worry him. "I'm okay. Just… tired is all."
"Luigi, it's still the afternoon." Peasley frowned. "Have you been getting enough sleep?"
"Yes, Peasley, I'm okay." Luigi insisted, moving away from the beanish prince. "I…"
He froze, feeling his heart beating painfully in his chest. The same thoughts from before rattled his brain, his face paling as he bit his lip and gulped down saliva.
He couldn't breathe.
He couldn't take it anymore. He caved, bursting into tears, loudly sobbing as he buried his face in his hands.
Peasley flinched, recoiling as he sat back. He was confused, and frankly, extremely concerned. Had he provoked Luigi? Did he say something wrong? What was going on?
Peasley yelped as Luigi stood up fast and dashed out of the living room. Peasley chased after him hastily, following his husband into the kitchen. He didn't have much time to react before Luigi shoved a piece of parchment in his hands. Luigi didn't say anything. He just wanted Peasley to read it for himself.
Peasley got the message, reading through the lines written on the crumpled paper. He read it over a few times before looking up at Luigi, who was biting at his nails anxiously.
"Well… whoever wrote this certainly has a keen knack for theatrics."
"This was most likely written by some ruffian trying to get under your skin. Like that… lanky purple figure who so seemingly despises you."
"I-I don't think Waluigi would do s-something like this…"
"I've gotten plenty of letters like this before. Threatening letters, claiming to end my game, or steal the Beanstar, and whatnot. They're just trying to get a reaction out of you. It's best if you leave it alone."
"But… W-What if…" Luigi ran his fingers through his hair anxiously, breathing hastily. "What if someone's after me? What if they're going to end my game? I-I don't even know who-…"
"Hey. Hey." Peasley hugged Luigi close, trying to be as gentle as possible. "It's alright. I promise. Nothing is out to harm you, and even if there is… I promise I'll protect you."
Luigi whimpered, sniffling. "Y-You promise…?"
Luigi paused before finally nodding. Peasley smiled reassuringly. He ripped the letter in half, tearing the rest to shreds before dropping the remains into a nearby wastebasket.
"Let's take our minds off of it. I know you must be positively shaken…" Peasley surveyed the kitchen. "I could help you make dinner. You know I'm not very good at cooking, but I'd be happy to help!"
Luigi sniffled, avoiding glancing back at the shreds of the letter.
He turned to face Peasley, straightening his back and smiling.
The week eventually came to pass.
After spending nights upon nights awake in bed, thinking about mysterious stalkers and threatening killers hiding under his bed and in his closet, Luigi had finally managed to calm down. He distracted himself from the thoughts whenever he could, happy to be rid of anxiety.
He met up with Toadette throughout the week to ask about Toad to try and calm her worries as well. He was still trying to work on cooking recipes Peach had given him. He and Daisy had spent most of the week playing tennis games together. And even though Peasley's schedule was busy, whenever he was home, he got Luigi out of the house to get some fresh air and walk around Toad Town.
The only thing that really bothered him now was the fact that Toadette hadn't been home in a couple of days.
He and Daisy had gone over to her house after tennis one day to check on her, but she wasn't there. She HAD kept saying she was going to go out to look for her brother, but Luigi didn't expect her to go alone. Daisy assured Luigi she could handle herself, and though he agreed at the time, the thought still made Luigi nervous. As if he didn't have enough to worry about…!
But, enough time had passed since the initial receival of the darkly-worded letter. Luigi had finally gotten over the threatening message. It was still in the back of his mind, yes, but Peasley reassured him constantly that all was well.
He just wished he didn't have to be home alone so often. Polterpup was good company, but he didn't know if the spectral dog could fend off any intruders, and Peasley had work to do.
And today was no different, due to the princess's meeting. He had been thinking about the big royal get-together for days, ever since Parakarry reminded him.
It was nice that Peasley wouldn't be too far, only a little more than a walk to Toad Town away. Maybe, if he felt like it, he'd even drop by to say hello to the guests. He was sure the princess wouldn't mind.
Luigi stood in the kitchen, leaning over the stove as he listened to Peasley getting himself ready in the nearby bathroom. He'd been in there for awhile, checking to ensure his hair looked okay for possibly the hundredth time tonight.
When the prince finally emerged, well-dressed in his tunic and crimson cape, he walked into the kitchen to announce he would be off. Luigi dusted his flour-coated hands off on his apron, following Peasley to the door.
"It won't be too long at all, I promise. I'll be back before dark." Peasley had already assumed his formal voice, speaking articulately as he spun around, fixing his cape. He tried to sound a bit more casual, facing Luigi with a smile. "And you're sure you don't want to join me? Diplomatic meetings are always so fun."
Luigi chuckled, leaning on the doorframe. "I'm sure they are. But I think I'll pass this time around. Tell the others I say hi."
"Well, it's only so often I get to see the fair Princess Peach and discuss the fantastical world of economics with her." Peasley added, leaning towards Luigi and making a showy motion with his hands. Luigi chuckled.
Peasley quickly pressed a kiss on his husband's cheek, waving goodbye as he turned. "I'll see you in a few hours. Do be safe, my darling."
The night passed slowly.
Luigi stood in the kitchen, humming as he placed even lumps of dough down on the cookie sheet before him. He jolted as Polterpup playfully nipped at the bottom of his overalls, panting as Luigi looked up from his batch of unmade cookies.
"What is it, doggy? Do you want some?" Luigi bent down, petting Polterpup. "I don't know if you can eat these cookies… I do have some treats for you, though-"
There was a knock at the front door.
Luigi stopped, glancing up. He waited for a moment before the knocking persisted, harder this time.
He waited, and then slowly walked towards the window, pulling back the curtains to look outside. He exhaled upon realizing that no one was at the door.
After mustering up enough courage, he walked and opened the front door, glancing around as he made sure to be cautious. When he was sure no one was out there waiting to ambush him, he breathed a sigh of relief before looking down towards his feet.
Dropped on the doorstep was a small box.
Luigi felt his chest instinctively drop and twist. This felt all too familiar. He hated that feeling of unease. He took a breath, trying to steady his breathing as he reached forward and picked up the box. He turned it this way and that, trying to locate an address or anything to identify who had left it.
No, this wasn't like last time. This was a normal package. He just had to calm down. Breathe.
His rampant reassuring only made him more anxious.
He closed the door and locked it behind him, drawing the curtains before walking over to the counter. Polterpup whimpered, noticing his owner's sudden shift in mood, mirroring it as he rubbed at Luigi's legs. Luigi ignored him, trailing a trembling hand over the rough cardboard of the parcel.
Luigi opened the box slowly, ripping off the duct tape keeping it shut, to reveal nothing more than a video cassette tape inside. It was labelled with the number one.
Luigi, confused, looked the tape over, trying to see if he'd missed anything. No sign of threatening letters was a good start, he supposed…
Curiosity got the better of him as he walked into the living room, bending down by the various electrical equipment. He blew dust off the old video cassette player, the machine whirring to life as he placed the tape into the player. He exhaled, turning on the television. He sat on his knees in front of the screen, waiting for something to appear.
The screen flickered, showing an almost pitch-black grainy recording. The quality was horrendous, struggling to keep a still image. Eventually the image made itself out to be a small room, containing only a single occupant. Luigi squinted, trying to make out the barely moving figure lying on their side on the ground.
Luigi nearly jumped out of his skin when someone began talking. It wasn't the figure on the ground, judging by their own panicked jolt as the voice called out. When the figure finally tried to get up, though, Luigi recognized them.
He felt a flutter of fear fill his chest, his face paling.
"Hello, and welcome! Tonight, and tonight only, my little assistant and I are going to be putting on a show for our dearest audience members!"
Toad started to panic, calling out for help over the mysterious speaker. Whoever was talking, their voice was horrifically distorted and grotesque. They refused to answer to Toad's pleas or objections, continuing.
"Now, I know you all must be dying to know what's going on, and what this little tape entails for you. It's nothing too special, no, not at all… not yet. You see, my show will start small, but will soon fester into a magnificent production, like a mushroom spore undergoing a mutation in a field of fertile soil!"
Luigi was even more confused and anxious than before, watching cautiously and waiting to see what the tape had in store. It was out of necessity rather than curiosity. He wanted answers.
But he really didn't like how uneasy he felt.
"My little assistant has been ever so kind to come and help me out tonight." The voice was almost sickeningly sweet, lethal poison lacing every honey-like word that rolled off their tongue. "Haven't you, Toad?"
"W-Who are you?!" Toad screamed, his voice as familiar as ever to Luigi despite the crackly audio of the recording. "S-Someone, help!"
Toad squealed in horror, shrieking for someone's aid over the speaker's chilling laughter. Luigi's gut was twisting, already feeling the need to throw up as questions began to form in his head.
Where was this being recorded? Where was Toad? Why wasn't he home with his sister in the Mushroom Kingdom?
What was going on?
"Now! Let us begin our production! We mustn't waste another second!"
The video distorted, the screen flickering and showing pure static. When the image finally returned, a new blackened figure stood behind Toad, looming over him. A wide smile could be seen on their face despite the recording's low quality and their blurred set of features.
Luigi's pounding heart dropped as he watched the figure slowly raise something in their hands, metal glinting.
With a dramatic lunge forward, a blade cut into Toad's flesh. Toad screeched as the unknown attacker stabbed him in the back, the mushroom-capped boy stumbling forward as blood slipped from his lips. Hysterical laughter followed each chilling scream that followed, Toad's screeches increasing as he was stabbed again, and again, and again.
Luigi held a hand up to his face instinctively, frozen in horror as he fought back the urge to vomit at the sight displayed before him. His eyes widened in terror, feeling his whole body shriveling inside and out.
The attacker stopped for a moment, chuckles subsiding as they left the blade deep in Toad's back. Toad sobbed and squealed in pain, falling and writhing on the ground. There was a moment's pause before the mysterious assailant reached forward, pressing their weight against Toad. They bent over and twisted the knife around in his back, before roughly tugging it out.
Toad released a blood-curdling screech.
"Louder!" The attacker laughed as they continued to drive the knife into Toad's back. "Ahahaha! Watching the light fade from your eyes, like a dying lantern held up by a lost soul attempting survival in deep wood… It's show-stopping to see yet again! What a spectacle!"
Toad was slashed all over his back, from his head to his legs, the marks of red making puddles on the floor. Toad inhaled to scream once more, but he instead choked, coughing up dark blood. Little red dots lined the hard floor at his feet.
Toad coughed and hacked up blood, his vest and clothes stained with dark crimson.
"SCREAM! The audience will not be satisfied with your weak whimpers!"
Toad released one final deafening screech before his body went limp and hit the ground, the pool of blood underneath him only growing in size.
Luigi was petrified.
"…This… isn't r-real…" He tried to assure himself, his words hushed, gripping his sides as tears stung his eyes. "N-No… this c-can't be real…"
"How disappointing." The unknown murderer tsk-ed. The blackened figure reached forward, lifting Toad's body, littered with stab wounds and slashes, off of the ground. "I expected him to be a bit more resilient, based on that squishy exterior… It's rather lucky I have one more thing in mind to finish off our first show." The figure made extravagant motions with their hands, smiling. "The grand finale, if you will! I want to keep the audience desiring more, don't I?"
Luigi's hand twitched, but he couldn't move to turn off the television. He wanted to. He wanted it to be over.
But he couldn't move at all. He was numb.
The dark-clad figure gripped their hand around Toad's head, holding his neck with the other.
"It's time for your final trick, my assistant!"
And with a strong heave accompanied with the sickeningly clear sound of tearing flesh, they effortlessly ripped Toad's head right off of his body.
Luigi couldn't see anything past that point.
The screen flickered once.
He passed out.