A/N: Hi all, something quick I wanted to mention. On my profile page, I have a link to the story's compiled soundtrack on YouTube called "Sounds From Beyond The Rift." I hope it adds to some of what I'm going for, since they often say in film, the music is 51% of experiencing a story. That's my exact intention here, so I hope you find it worthwhile.









Sometimes we lose ourselves in a thought.

Yes, give a simple thought perhaps.

That single moment of time goes largely unnoticed; never to be seen or heard from again other than in the form of a delicate memory for someone, someplace.

But what's in this moment? What's in this brief thought with all the things that might happen across the universe in such a quick blink of an eye?

The only possible answer would be far too many things to even begin comprehending.

Days pass into nights, and nights into days again. An eternal dance goes between the sun, moon, and stars which all watch over our little celestial home we call Earth.

Soon it's the months which come to an end. Seasons slip away with the gentle gusts of chilled wind. Rains become snow, their frail counterpart, and cover up the thick layers of withered leaves from last autumn's cleaning to start anew. Another whole year arrives before we know it.

The very notions of time and existence become forlorn amid this increasingly rapid pace of everything in the world today, but then again, maybe there's simply too little time to ponder that idea in the first place.

Everyone was once a young child as well, eventually coming to a stop on the path they walk in an attempt to look back and remember just how wondrous and opened the world around them was. It almost seemed as though it could've been a surreal dream the entire time, without a clear beginning nor end.

What all lie forgotten somewhere in that transition called growing up?

They saw everything in a different light back then; felt everything with a different heart. Life wasn't as it appeared. There must have been something much greater out there. Perhaps something beyond anything in reality.

Only now, years later, can certain intimations of this elusive feeling finally revisit some of them again.

How the children wondered about each minute detail. They'd gaze up at the clouds longingly, high above their shoulders in a weightless drift off to distant places. They'd see how their shadows danced on the ground and upon wooden fences in that amber sunlight of a summer's evening.

It was how they laughed and played together with their friends outside on untold counts of beautiful days. Even a soft sound of their bare feet running upon moist morning grass in the yard is still often heard through frail echoes, beckoning from somewhere beyond.

During the nights, every twinkling star both large and small, close and far, watched over them from the dark skies so far above.

The children's eyes would often stare upward with a yearning; a certain aching desire to journey somewhere else amongst the cosmos. Yet, the heavens answered back down to each and every one of them, smiling just the same while a wisp of the night's breeze caressed through their hair.

Moments like these are engraved forever; euphoric senses somewhere deep in the mind but moreover in the heart, like little photographs marking an exact time and place years ago.

All the things which go by unseen, yet were still felt so powerfully. It just recalls something special. Of course, such curiosities and memories differ between each individual child, but they hardly ever take a stray path from their core of youthful innocence whence they occurred.

It was those indefinite fascinations they let percolate deeply over the passing years, whenever something new got perceived.

A person...

A place...

A story...

All of it felt alive with endless possibilities; what might have been the most fleeting of moments could grow into lifelong memories which would never be forgotten.

Can it properly be articulated, this little feeling? Are we meant to understand what this echoing nostalgia from childhood could imply?

Perhaps it might be a fragment of a much greater understanding, but even so, there's something else. Another elusive quality lingers which makes it this indescribable when we try to look back on it all. It's as though it were the warm, fading embers of a type of energy left within our younger selves.

How and why nevertheless, it might not matter so much in the end. After all, what is there but time itself which doesn't ever think to stop and take a glance back on its own course, no matter how much we sometimes want it to?

It may very well be that and that reason alone, for it is the most fundamental law of this universe.

Everything simply goes on...

There are some people who do finally turn to witness the beautiful sight of the fiery evening sun, as it descends below the horizon in a sunset fit for eternity.

Misty streaks of jet trails from airplanes become illuminated and crisscross the waning sky ever so slowly. Then, from far beyond the vibrant purple and red-tinted light rays protruding through distant clouds, the first strands of stars quietly unveil themselves to shine.

Fields of city lights come to life all around the darkening world, emitting their glittery glow of orange, yellow, and white. Countless vehicles in motion traverse the webs of roads down there. In houses and apartments, it's the flickering light from a TV screen which now gives them a trace of being.

This is our modern world we know and live. Another day has come to its closure; all in another quick blink of an eye.

Strangely enough though, from within that swift little moment, it comes to be noticed: It's as if this day never actually ended to begin with.

Moments continue ever onward, merely as flashes through the darkness. Night hardly feels like a difference from the day anymore.

Almost everything in this time, this life, and this world is a construct made by someone. It's almost all a blur; an illusion.

Lifeblood of that youthful innocence and once-whole beauty feels forever torn away. Perhaps it's been lost; indeed forgotten, floating afar in the great proverbial current that ebbs and flows ever-forward.

A walk down among the bustling streets. Sights and sounds become nothing more than hazy streaks.

Faces of people suddenly rush by, indistinct to a trembling eye. They too are strangers, often wandering like ghosts amid this vast modern world. Their hearts whither and bleed in the struggle to seek any kind of understanding. Silhouetted figures drift across the illuminated window panes on high-rise buildings, likewise left without a sense of time, place, or even purpose.

Playgrounds become abandoned and overgrown. A rusted swing-set gently sways in the shifting fog of night. Dark alleyways sit beneath the yellow saturation of streetlamps, buzzing their constant electrical hum. Pavement of a schoolyard slowly fractures, its paint disintegrating with the passing time.

All things fading...

Largely unnoticed and delicate...

Yet, even with all of this, a whole new generation of memories are being formed nonetheless.

Friends, brothers, and sisters alike now enjoy this next escape from what all has become their reality. In one way, it's a strange notion to try and imagine, but like a great metaphor for this modern world, it prompts time to just disappear all the same.

Anything from seconds to years...

The circle keeps repeating itself over and over again, making another child grow up before they know it. So it goes; eventually they too might stop someplace on the path they walk and ponder that simple little thought of: Where did it all go?

Cherish those memories while it's possible. Hold every sight, every sound, every touch close. Otherwise, it's merely fleeting.

Remember the moments of joy. Remember the light in the eyes of others, for one day, all of it can and will be forgotten.


Thus it came to pass with what they called the Great Rift.


It's difficult to articulate just how it began. There were mere rumors at first; rumors of something strange transpiring. Whispers kept drifting around some of the more shrouded places across the web.

That remained, until the official news report broke.

Stars were disappearing from a certain region of the sky. Who other than NASA themselves to confirm it. Plenty of amateur astronomers the world over had struggled to make their voices heard in the weeks leading up to that revelatory day, yet now, people truly began to wonder.

What could've been going on? Why were stars seemingly vanishing out of existence?

Days, weeks, then months ended up passing. Spring gave way to summer, and before long, summer had given way to autumn. The amber leaves wilted and started to disappear from the trees en mass, much like how more stars kept disappearing from the night skies through an almost rhythmic sequence.

Strangely enough, however, it was still around that same region. It did get to a point where a sector of the night skies looked empty; a rift-like void in and of itself.

More and more people could easily look up to confirm for themselves: A portion of stars were indeed gone. Not hard either to recall the armies of astronomers and other scientists scrambling in tandem with governments around the world, around the clock in their attempts to discern a possible explanation.

Nothing came though; no concrete justification from any authorities as to why such a mysterious phenomena might've been happening.

Still, theories of all kinds kept getting flung left and right. Anything from scientific or rational speculations, to flat-out conspiracies. It certainly wasn't unlike other periods of heightened public awareness throughout recent history.

The simple yet novel difference, of course, was the fact that this phenomena didn't reside by anything Earthbound. Rather, it existed solely out there, amid the vastness of the observable cosmos. There wasn't any feasible way humanity could've attempted to respond.

Likewise, certain groups of people found it appropriate to panic. It would be all over the news, day after day for weeks on end. Crowds out in the streets across different countries, preaching about coming end-times, doomsday prophecies, or similar notions that, even under these truly unknown circumstances, still sounded daft to the majority of people who simply wanted to carry on with their lives.

Soon enough though, there came a much more surprising revelation. Reports broke how NASA, the ESA, and other fellow organizations had reached an ominous confirmation that the path of this phenomena appeared to be 'approaching' our own Solar System. They managed to trace those innumerable star clusters which had vanished back whence it progressed, somewhere far across the Milky Way galaxy.

But where? Where was this apparent origin?

The world wanted to be deceived again. What did it mean that the phenomena was approaching our Solar System? Could this have stood purely as a coincidence? Or, might its path have somehow been deliberate?

That didn't take into account either how the phenomena defied all understandings of physics. It had spanned thousands upon thousands of lightyears, over the course of a mere matter of months.

How? How was this even possible? Covering such astronomical distances in such a short timeframe, not to mention that what was being seen had to have been the mere aftermath from long, long ago.

Only now had the absence of light from those far off regions of space reached Earth, so did this mean the phenomena was in fact much closer?

What brooding questions those were for all of humanity, to try and fathom something like that at the time.

The phenomena's path kept drawing nearer to our Solar System nonetheless. It didn't take long before stars under forty lightyears away started to vanish just the same. Pollux, Procyon, Sirius, and then our closest stellar neighbors, the Alpha Centauri system, quite literally existed one night, and didn't the next.

Did this signify our own Sun was next? It all but resided on our Solar System's doorstep at this point, but that's when those other rumors which had always been present, yet never truly considered or deemed realistic, quickly surged to the forefront of the public conscience.

What if this phenomena was in fact the result of some form of extraterrestrial intelligence? Extraterrestrial intelligence, whose very existence and methods must have been far beyond our highest understandings?

The world reached its zenith in terms of desperately wanting to know what was happening. Indeed, there didn't seem to be a region of the globe which wasn't on edge.

Armies began amassing themselves in each and every nation. Larger crowds of fretful people stormed the streets once again, demanding to their authorities that something be done.

But what? What could be done in face of this unknown phenomena?

Satellites which could at least monitor the inner Solar System and vicinity around Earth more clearly was a short-term option, so they launched by the dozen and quickly got orientated toward that void portion of the cosmos.

All the world could do then was wait. Humanity did wait on edge, through a period of tension not experienced since the height of the cold war. Said tension was likely even more insufferable, again due to the simple fact that this was not any threat, let alone a physical entity which existed anywhere on Earth.

Yet, after so much collective angst and strife, there came nothing. The phenomena seemed to all but stop in its tracks.

Life did carry on regardless, even returning to a sense of relative normalcy soon after another bombardment of news declared how nothing more could be discerned about that phenomena. The progression of disappearing stars had apparently halted at Alpha Centauri, so a void region of the northern hemisphere's night skies would simply exist from now on. Such reports prevailed in the weeks that followed, mellowing the public conscience as such.

Time kept slipping thusly. The last leaves of autumn got swept away through chilly winds, beneath creeping grey skies. The first snowfall followed in haste.

Holidays were upon the world once more. Friends and families would greet one another with joy. House after house stood decorated beneath colorful strands of lights, the warmth of their glow sparkling across the freshly fallen snow which offered further repose from what all had been festering in the minds of so many people the world over.

But still, a certain amount of the angst lingered just beneath this seemingly calm surface. Questions of what that mysterious phenomena could possibly be, let alone whether it might suddenly continue its course toward our Solar System or not. No surprise how it remained the prevalent topic of discussion for most of the holidays.

A new year did finally arrive, and with it, humanity's outlook on the future steadily rebounded to be ever more optimistic as the frozen months of winter carried on. The snows piled higher, the light of day remained short, yet somehow, the clarity of nights felt a lot more tranquil than before.

There was something about that empty portion of the sky. The way those innumerable star fields just tapered off all of a sudden.

It looked mesmerizing, in a word. More than anything though, it gave the most peculiar and indelible sensation of being a window of sorts; a glimpse into another dimension, perhaps.

Only in hindsight does it evoke the strangest feeling, considering how none of it would matter anyway.

The attack came when the world least expected it. Late one cold winter's night, a bright streak of light appeared in the clear sky above. Everyone who'd been those first witnesses must've figured it was part of a meteor shower, but no meteor showers were expected during this period of the year. The Ursids and Quadrantids had already passed, and the Lyrids weren't supposed to appear until later in the spring.

From that starless region of the sky the light manifested regardless. Then came another, another, and another; until there were suddenly dozens and then hundreds of lights streaking across the night, as far as the eye could see.

It only took a matter of seconds before it got realized: No, they weren't meteors at all.

Each and every one of them turned out to be artificial; an unidentified flying object. They'd bypassed every last form of satellite detection and had entered the atmosphere through what could've only been deliberately calculated trajectories.

From there, everything else happened so fast. The objects began descending in massive waves and crash-landed everywhere, whether smack in the middle of cities, or out in the most remote of rural areas.

A squadron of fighter jets from the nearby air force base were quick to show up. They roared overhead, and in a futile endeavor tried shooting as many of those objects out of the air as they could, yet only managed to destroy a tiny fraction of the hundreds raining down.

Explosions still lit up the winter night sky like nothing in recent memory. Fires started breaking out wherever the objects impacted. Shrills of countless sirens began emanating everywhere too.

As far as everybody watching was concerned, this apparent attack must've been occurring all around Planet Earth. In no way could it have been limited to this region of the world alone.

Nevertheless, one of those mysterious objects ended up getting clipped by a missile but escaped mid-air destruction. Instead, it came barreling down short of its formerly calculated course and impacted hard in a snowy field, not far from a particular house.

All the smoke and vapor cleared sure enough, so at last, that object could be seen up close.

It certainly looked large upon a first glance; about the size of a lorry. Its shape was also near-spherical, being slightly elliptical for aerodynamic purposes. However, the exterior was comprised exclusively of some kind of metal. Save for a few strange red markings along one of its sides, there were no other features on it whatsoever.

Nothing more even happened at first. The object just sat there, half-lodged in the dirt of that wide-open field. Snow in the vicinity around the impact crater had flashed to steam due to its rough, fiery landing.

Yet, as for what did happen next, it may never truly suffice to explain with words alone.

The whole object split apart all of a sudden, right down the middle to reveal something being housed inside its featureless metallic exterior. Confusion and utter bewilderment were the only emotions left to bear.

A moment then came after the detonation where everything froze. Time itself seemed to grind to a halt. Every muffled sound drowned to nothing out before a thought could be given, while any and all light began scattering from sight. The stars, the trees, the field, the snow, and last, the very ground beneath vanished entirely.

Everything fell weightless. Formless. Void.

Was this death? Was this what passing away felt like, perhaps?

But what about everybody else? What happened to the rest of the world? Had all of Earth experienced this same abrupt end?

It didn't seem to matter anymore. Those desperate questions merely evaporated into this eternal ether, for something equally incomprehensible had arisen.

A cold more numbing than the harshest winter penetrated down to the bone, yet somehow, at the same time, a warmth existed like no other. It was a comforting warmth that enveloped every single sense; every single thought.

Again, maybe this was part of what passing away in peace felt like; slowly but surely letting go of one's material self.

No fear, no memory, no notion of any time or place remained. There was only that soothing, tranquil feeling amid this otherwise utter absence of all things. Subtle color variations would often drift across in effervescent tendrils, fluctuating off in the darkness.

Violet... Sangria... Sable... Plus other shades in-between...

The tendrils suddenly bloomed into immense shapes which stretched all around, only to quickly fade out of being. Unimaginable structures that shattered the mind towered both above and below one moment, yet disappeared the next. Whether they were close or far couldn't even begin to be discerned.

It was only then, after drifting far and long through that void; losing every sense in that great nothing... An act of light emerged from beyond the darkest threshold.

For the briefest moment, it was as if all things had suddenly returned. All things forlorn, shining one last time within that indescribable blaze of radiance.







"... That is the truth?" A voice inquired, "That's what you can remember from before?"

Press and news crews were stationed everywhere around the giant courtroom. Crowds of anxious Cornerian citizens filled the public gallery likewise, but up near the front podium, there resided a distinct group of figures.

Weary, drained, broken; however else they could be described as, these figures stood completely still. Not a single sound came from any of them either.

All eyes and cameras remained fixed upon them nevertheless.

"... That is what both of you can remember then, yes?" The voice asked again. His stern words were directed at a particular pair of those figures, standing in front of the rest of the group at the podium proper.

A quick, nervous nod came from one of them. The other followed suite almost immediately.

Camera apertures clicked by the hundreds, taking yet another flurry of snapshots of those two at the podium. News cameras kept broadcasting live all the while. Reporters and journalists hurried as well to jot down slews of notes on their glass-slate tablets.

"Let it be official for the Sectarian Council..." That voice, belonging to the Chairman himself, announced after a beat, "Yesterday's events on Veradeena were not, I repeat, not what we'd been led to believe. Rather, they were multifaceted indeed, and will require great prudence going forward."

The Chairman sat behind a long and broad judicial bench. Flanking him was the rest of this council, comprising upwards of a hundred members. He himself may have been an older anthropomorphic beagle, but the other members surely consisted of a variety. Some were obviously different species of anthro animals, as well as humanoid creatures, yet there were others who appeared much more human-like.

Nonetheless, these seated council members often turned to one another, murmuring comments or questions back and forth.

"... Your Highness," the Chairman then spoke to a distinct person standing amid that group, "The Council wants to hear your perspective now."

A Princess came forward. Thick, blonde hair extended down behind her shoulders. Those two who'd been at the podium stepped back as she silently walked up, taking their place.

Now the weight of all attention promptly fell upon her.

The Chairman cleared his throat. "You are one of three survivors present who'd been seated on the royal balcony. If it's not too strenuous to answer, do you remember the course of events from there? Can you describe what happened?"

Another long and somber moment ended up going by. This Princess stood there at first, likewise quiet. Perhaps her attire was what appeared most off. It didn't resemble anything remotely regal, for that matter.

Grey sweatpants, a grey sweater, and similar shoes were all that clothed her. It even looked like they'd been given to her as a very makeshift set of apparel, for each clothing piece retained a small insignia of none other than the Cornerian Defense Force.

"... Yes, I do remember..." The Princess finally parted her lips, "I remember all the chaos... All the destruction... What happened to us after we were-..."

Hesitation hit her. In this silence, she lowered her head. A small glistening tear formed in the corner of her aqua-blue eye. The rest of this giant courtroom certainly shared the Princess' somberness and remained completely quiet, not wanting to interrupt anything.

"... Yesterday the world was ending, as far as we knew." She paused again, deep in thought. "But... It didn't start that way..."







Music: "Hold Your Hand"

* Planet Veradeena - The Mushroom Kingdom *

It was a time before. A time now forgotten. A soft heartbeat of silence was all that emanated through the shadows of night, wrapped by a blanket of countless shimmering stars high above.

Atmospheric conditions here in the northwest Mushroom Kingdom were particularly beautiful. No silhouette of any disrupting cloud tried to sneak its way across the massive sky's reach, and within the air itself, it seemed as though a mellowed sense flowed along with the cool breeze.

It was a slow and mellow kind; one which carried a special feeling of what all was possibly to come.

Perhaps many other mysteries lingered out here as well, with their answers hiding somewhere deep in the dark veil upon this seemingly endless landscape of gently rolling hills matted in grassland.

A long and narrow dirt road stretched its way far off into the distance, while the dazzling tilted band of the galaxy's center hovered overhead. It straddled the entire viewable cosmic realm and shone so vividly that it granted the land a considerable hint of its ambient nighttime luminance.

Just near the horizon's edge though, there appeared to be a small collection of dark houses. Only a few among them had one or two windows lit.

These were the humble abodes of Toad Town, yet farther beyond them stood a much more massive stone structure. It was a castle of some sort which boasted several distinct tower silhouettes, as well as a main balcony that perched quite high above the still plains below.

Up on this balcony, there stood a lone certain someone; silently gazing at the nocturne above. The person hunched over slightly, resting both arms on the railing. A single light was on somewhere in the parlor room behind the balcony's doorway, offering the softest touch of warm illumination on the stone floor while most of everything else lay enveloped under shadow.

Veradeena's single moon was in a waxing crescent phase. Also visible were several of the other worlds in the inner Nassazar System. They floated among all those stars without a sound, and were what this lonely someone was fixated upon. Tiny webbed clumps of orange and yellow city lights flickered ever so subtly in the atmospheric distortion, as other civilizations could be seen on the dark surfaces of those nearby celestial bodies, even with a naked eye.

Nevertheless, this lone person remained totally quiet during these passing minutes, being one with his thoughts on what he was gazing at. It was all so far away, yet somehow so close at the same time.

Indeed though, from this person's silhouette it was obviously a he who appeared to have a rather large, rounded nose. He was kind of on the short side height-wise speaking, yet he did wear a flattish-style cap which hinted a shade of red in the light's gentle caress from behind.

Then, from that opened door to the inside of the castle, a silhouette of a taller person walked out onto the balcony slowly. Soft taps emitted from a pair of high-heeled shoes upon the stone with each step as this new someone approached the other already at the railing.

A hand gently rested upon his right shoulder from behind soon after. He wasn't surprised at this caring gesture though. Rather, he turned his head back and knew who it was coming to join him.

This second someone was a she who had thick, long-flowing hair. It shone a subtle blonde color, while atop she donned what could only be a gold-tinted crown: An unmistakable token signifying royalty. Its dozen or so jewels gleamed in reflecting all the small grains of pale starlight that were suspended high above the two's heads.

Together they stood there in tranquility, one right behind the other.

"... Mario? Are you alright?" The taller one leaned close and spoke softly through her lips. Of course it was none other than Princess Toadstool.

"You've been out here for a while now," she continued, "During most of the party you were rather quiet too. I guess I couldn't help but notice..."

With care she began to massage his seemingly tense shoulder, yet it wasn't. He'd in fact been relaxed this whole time, even while he stood out here by himself.

A light sigh then came from him. "I'm ok, Peach. Thanks-a-so much for the tea and cake. It's been a lovely party."

He spoke in a distinct Italian accent, for this man was indeed Mario himself. Even though his face couldn't be seen that well in the dark, he went on and tried to share some of his feelings.

"But-a... I'm just-a-thinking, you know? Tomorrow morning seems-a-so far away... Like everything else, and-a-everyone else out there..."

Peach took a step forward so she now stood directly beside Mario. Together they gazed upward with starlight twinkling ever so subtly in their blue eyes.

"Mm... Well, they're probably wondering the same thing when they look up and see us here on Veradeena." She smiled thoughtfully. "Or, since Toad Town's so little, it would come out as such a tiny speck to them on their worlds. I doubt they see us specifically, but still... They watch the same stars we do..."

An appropriate and lengthy period of silence arose in the wake of those open-ended words. Only the air with its subtle wisps of breeze drifted on to accompany their enraptured gazes.

All thoughts started to flow deeper inside them both. They were those broad and insurmountable thoughts such as:

What really IS out there, beyond the stars we see at night?

How many other people are staring right back at us, wondering the exact same thing?

How many lives are being lived this present moment?

How many new beginnings?

How many ends?

The myriad of mute words which wanted to be expressed so badly on one hand, yet simply could not be articulated in the right way.

Maybe it was all a knowing beyond such words, and was for the better to remain something forever internal.

"... Peach...?" The mustached man started, "Do you ever wonder if there's anything out there?"

"... You mean... Outside of Sector N?" She merely wanted to clarify, though her question got confirmed quick.

"Si, out there beyond. Have you ever really thought about it?"

Peach appeared quite awe-struck, feeling a powerful sense of this wholly elusive wonder brought by stargazing here with her dear Mario.

"I guess I do, sometimes," she replied, "I mean, just think... There are a dozen civilized worlds here in the Nassazar System alone. Then there's Lylat of course, and the Aminuss as well..."

"... Many billions of people across-a-those worlds too, like-a-all the stars up there." Mario then let out a slow breath, "... But I just-a-cannot believe it, if we're the only place in-a-the universe with-a-life..."

To this, Peach blinked before closing her eyes completely. She was just letting it all become more perceptible for the moments that followed.

"Wow..." She marveled at last, "That's so difficult to imagine, Mario..."

He glanced over at her, if only out of the corners of his eyes. He could see her smiling through that distinct fascination, although he found himself doing the exact same.

"... You know," the Princess started again, "It's almost like you're a different person when you get in this... Well, I guess I'd call it a mindset."

"Aha, do I really?" Mario crossed his arms a bit bashfully behind his back.

"But I love it so much...!" Peach couldn't help giving a small giggle. "You're right. I mean, how can Sector N... How can we possibly be alone? Ah... I just... Can't describe the feeling it's giving me right now..."

Again, Mario nodded with that ongoing smile in the dark. "Mm, it's-a-really something to wonder about, isn't it?"

He too was still deep in his observation of the cosmos, wondering more on that beautiful idea.

"Well, I think about it-a-quite often anyways..."

Then he noticed something and pointed up to a certain area of the sky.

"You see that red star there?"

"Uh-huh...? That bright one?" She leaned her head in, right next to his to look up the length of his finger.

"... There... You know which-a-star that one is?"

Peach thought a moment before she smiled. "Oh... It's the red giant...! Um... The Great Tomato, of course...!"

"Hehe," the mustached man chuckled, "Righty-o it is. It's-a-the only other 'local' star in the sector that-a-we can see during our summer nights."

He turned to his Princess again to see what she thought. Even though her gaze and attention remained fixed on the grandiose panorama far above them, she was now beginning to think about some other, much more significant things currently going on.

"... You know... A whole lot of ships have been travelling between the planets these past days as well."

Mario looked back up likewise. He stayed quiet though as Peach spoke on calmly:

"Even after all these years, it's still kind of funny to remember how they've all been heading towards Veradeena each time. Many of them won't be landing too far from here, down at Toadstool Field. Then they'll all depart and fly further northeast... Starting early tomorrow morning..."

"... Mhmm, that's-a-true." Agreed the plumber, with just a hint of what sounded like uncertainty. He'd started thinking on that same something which he knew she was alluding to.

Another pause subsequently arose, yet this time it lasted for an entire minute or two as the night's cool breeze whisked across their faces. It may have been the middle of summer, but again, this northwest region of the continent felt more than comfortable on clear nights like these. It couldn't have fit the blissful atmosphere any better.

"... Um, Mario?" Peach finally asked, massaging his shoulder closest to her another quick time. More than likely, she wondered if something wasn't quite right due to that subtle wariness of his last remark.

"Are you... Just a bit nervous for this week?"

The plumber pondered a little while longer before smiling, coming across both confident and calm:

"Actually... No, not at all..." This time he gently set his own hand upon hers to reassure her. "I know it-a-will be a great tournament, so I guess... I guess I was mostly thinking about-a seeing everyone again..."

Peach understood now, and couldn't help but smile warmly with him as they gazed into one another's eyes for a few moments. Then the two looked back up, just in time to witness a bright shooting star streak brilliantly across the sky.

They held hands and made a wish together; a promise to keep.

"... Oh," Peach started after another thought promptly popped into her head, "I know you've said it plenty of times already, but who are you versing first again?"

"Kirby. How about that, eh?" Mario now retained a hint of sarcasm.

"Hmm..." She cooed without any apparent surprise. "Well, I'm guessing there's good reason why you two are still being chosen to start things off..."

"Maybe so," nodded the plumber, "But-a, perhaps we should go back inside? Everyone must-a-be wondering where we went...!"

"I mean, there's no real rush..." Calmly, the Princess rested her arms on the balcony railing next to Mario. "Let's stay a little while longer. I love it out here..."

Truly, it seemed this beautiful night could and would last forever. The waxing moon and those dark silhouettes of the other planets drifted slowly but surely across the nocturnal panorama, while all the diamond-like stars twinkled and glistened tranquilly in its backdrop.

As with anything though, these long and shrouded hours of the night kept passing. Eventually, the first emanations of dawn arrived, and it was finally time.

Morning, slowly... On this great edge of tomorrow...

An amber-tinted Nassazar sun peeked over the rim of a distant horizon facing the east, caressing a brilliant and fiery luminance onto stratified blankets of clouds which straddled the foreground of the vast opened sky above.

The sight may have been breathtaking enough by itself, but it was how the faint white outlines of the moon and those nearby planets both large and small lent a truly magnificent and even divine touch to this canvas.

Withering stone structures and ancient ruins floated among this seemingly endless sea of calm clouds too, hovering here in their mysterious existence as the rising sun shone vivid rays through the opened parts of their antiquated architecture.

Many faded and ripped red banners hung from points around these ruins, bearing stark symbols of a black circular insignia which had a pair of perpendicular lines struck through the lower third of the shapes.

It looked like a most peculiar and off-set kind of cross, yet this symbol was a special symbol nevertheless. The cool morning breeze lapped against these banners gently, whispering tales from other times so long ago.

The start of a new and truly beautiful day was being announced on this side of Planet Veradeena, although this wasn't just a dawning of any ordinary day.

Within the morning's mellow there existed a feeling as well; one that was almost drifting. It was fresh and not quite describable, but rather elusive. The sensation could have even been deemed an anxious kind of energy, yet it still managed to be perceived in a positive manner overall.

Distant voices of some sort echoed softly through the sunlight's warm embrace as the final stars visible from last night twinkled faintly, biding a farewell until the time came for them to emerge once again. Only those faint white outlines of the moon and several other planets now lingered in the lightening blue shades of the sky. Not long after, however, they too had mostly faded away.

There was a kind of unseen movement all around, with everything going to converge somewhere for something big that was happening today; something legendary.

But then, everything flashed back to the empty nothingness of darkness and silence again, though only for a brief instance...

A set of window blinds suddenly swung apart through a sharp zip, splitting the calmness at hand while allowing the morning's warmth to flood into a once-dark bedroom.

Particles of dust got kicked up and danced all about, soon coming to a weightless float in the ethereal company of these light rays after having been disturbed from their own slumber.

By the looks of it, this was obviously a children's bedroom. Stuffed animals filled some of the shelves, toys littered a play table as well as the floor area just around it, plus colorful walls bearing arts and crafts made the setting all the more complete.

"... Ok boys, let's get up and at it." A voice then sounded from a silhouetted figure standing over a twin-size bed. "Today's the big day!"

This figure cast a stark shadow over the bed where two young green-spotted Toads lie; comfortably nuzzled under the blankets and still fast asleep. They definitely had to have been twin brothers.

After some moments of being ignored, the figure stepped aside and let the morning sunlight smother them. It pierced sharply upon their closed eyelids, and the one on the right started groaning.

"Aww c'mon, dad... It's way too early...!"

"Besides... It's stupid Monaday and I don't wanna go to summer camp...!" The one on the left covered his arm across his eyes, annoyed and defiant to their abrupt awakening.

The father just smirked however and walked over, starting to tickle them both in the bed.

"You've gotta be kidding me...!" He cackled, "Too early on the Monaday of the Galactic Smash Tournament's 200th Anniversary?! Ha! I think not, ya little sleepy bugs! You don't even have summer camp this week!"

His kids squirmed and laughed under the sheets until one of them capitulated, almost out of air.

"Aghhh! Alright dad, alright! We're awake!"

Eventually, their father did cease his little tickle assault and let them catch their breath.

"Good thing, too." He jested, adding, "Mom's prepping a little breakfast, you guys' favorite, so we can watch it all live on the news as it starts. Now, who's hungry?"

Soon, this Toad family of four were making themselves comfortable in their small but comfy living room, complete with a nice breakfast set out on the coffee table.

The general look of their abode was also interesting; like a burrow of sorts, for the walls and ceiling appeared constructed from naturally compacted dirt works. A slight ways in front of the table, their TV was on, showcasing various reports such as national weather for the coming week and so forth.

"Everything all set, gents?" The wife with the pink-spotted cap asked, bringing over a pitcher of orange juice and checking the table set for them all.

Indeed, everything seemed to be in place, except for one important factor as her husband pointed out lightheartedly:

"Other than waiting for it to start, yep we're good to go."

One of the twin brothers then asked politely, "Mom? Can I have some juice, please?"

"Sure honey, pass your glass over."

As she poured the drink, the father turned to both young brothers in the meantime with something to share.

"So boys, I know a few friends from work who actually got to go to Midair Stadium itself. Can you even imagine what that place must be like?"

The curious-eyed twins were certainly captivated as he went on, shaking his head out of his own fascination.

"A hundred thousand... Nah, scratch that... Double that amount of people from all over the known galaxy... Gathered at that one place so high in the sky. And mind you, they're the real, real lucky ones who get to be there...!"

Fully intent on keeping these positive vibes up, he happily faced his wife who was taking a piece of toast from the bread basket on the table. He added, "Maybe... We'll all go there one of these times, right love?"

Desiring an immediate answer to this question, the excited brothers also faced their mother who smiled caringly.

"That would be the trip of a lifetime no doubt," she said, "If we could just manage to find tickets before they all sell out in such a flash. I actually did try for this one, but when I checked last spring, what I thought might still be an early time... Everything was already booked."

"Mm, you see now, boys?" The father winked a grin at his two kids. "Sometimes you've gotta be a little early on bigger things than just a stupid ol' Monaday..."

Meanwhile, the news began playing a flashy set of introductory athletic-themed animations. It came accompanied by an enthusiastic musical score, which rose and prompted the family to eagerly turn their attention back to the TV.

Onscreen, a quartet of formally dressed anchors; two Toad and two Koopa, sat behind a large glass table. One of them made no hesitation in beaming to the camera:

"Goooood morning Mushroom Kingdom, and what a fine Monaday morning it is! This is the Mushroom Central News Network, coming to you live from our main studio in Mushroom City."

"Oh it'll be a gorgeous day, that's for sure." One of the other anchors joined in, "Did you see the sunrise out there on the way into downtown, Frank? Man, what a sight."

The Toad family started enjoying their breakfast while a third anchor proclaimed, "You said it there, Dennis. Anyways, we hope you got your plans for the work week off folks, because you're absolutely right. It couldn't be more perfect weather at every corner of the continent for the big day today. This morning officially kicks off the 50th Quadrennial Galactic Smash Tournament, hosted here in the Mushroom Kingdom for this same 50th occasion. We know all you folks are as excited as we are, so don't worry, we won't be wasting any time. In just a minute, we're going over to live coverage from one of our teams on the ground... Or up in the air, rather... At the arrival piers from the one and only Midair Stadium!"

And so, everything was beginning. That once shrouded and elusive feeling drifting within the air last night was now slowly manifesting into its true form:

Those endless grasslands blanketing the northwestern region of the continent, being illuminated unto a brilliant verdant...

A tree stands in the emerging sunlight, its limbs and leaves gently swaying to and fro in the shifting breeze...

Time-lapse of the mid-morning; the Nassazar sun rising higher with a soaring flight further northward...

Beyond shores and across great seas, to an array of lands around Planet Veradeena, then the same wayward voyage out onto other worlds...

Different cityscapes, civilizations, and so many more sights to behold from each place on this grand expanding tour of Sector N...

Journey out across the three primary star systems; those glorious celestial neighborhoods with all the dozens of planets orbiting their suns...

Descending from the farthest reaches of each world, all the way back down to perhaps the most remote and baron of landscapes on Planet Veradeena...

A huge, lonely lake lay amid this tundra-like wilderness, surrounded by jagged snow-capped mountains in the distance. Sparse clouds dotted the vast cerulean sky...

There was an apparent absence of any life or movement; a sudden stillness and silence over this whole desolate region of the far-northern Mushroom Kingdom...

But then, there came an unmistakable sound: The faint yet deep rumble of a jet engine, emanating from somewhere high above...

Now there was movement, all going towards that one special place called Midair Stadium...

The next great smash tournament of Sector N was here, and there was no turning back since this dawn had come to pass.

It would be a day to remember, indeed.