Review Time:

Demdrops - Oh gosh that game. If I included it I'd have to bump up the rating lol. Also Tsuhara was just a no-name student Osaka was rattling off...there's not much of Yukari's class named in retrospect.

James Birdsong - Thank you!


Chapter 46 – Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

Kaorin ran as fast as she could down the dark castle halls. This was it. She had finally arrived at 8-4, the last level, and would finally rescue her princess!

"Come out, Kimura!" she shouted once she got to the second to last room. "You're the last obstacle in my way!"

Her most hated enemy, a menacing turtle with the face of a weird literary teacher, emerged at the end of the lava bridge that separated them.

"Ah, Kaorin….are you ready to give up your plight and become mine?"

"NO WAY!" She shouted, clad in her red cap, blue overalls, and….moustache. "It's the last time I EVER deal with you!"

Kimura lazily breathed out some fire. But Kaorin ran and jumped over the monster.

"Eh?!"

"BURN, YOU CREEP!" She picked up the axe and smashed the pole holding the bridge up.

"Aw, but Kaorin…..we were meant to be….." Kimura said rather unlike someone on the verge of falling to their death. But he tumbled into the lava one final time. His glasses were the last thing to burn.

"YES! I DID IT!"
Kaorin ran for the exit. Her heart beat got quicker with each step, but she had enough waiting, enough searching, enough hurdles. She would rescue Princess Sakaki and finally get that kiss. She reached the end of the hall, hearts in her eyes.

"Good job Kaorin. Ya rescued me."

"HUH?!"

Rather than her princess, it was Osaka dressed in a blue vest and spotted mushroom cap.

"O-O-OSAKA?! WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?!"

"Sorry Kaorin. But yer princess is in another-"


"NO!" Kaorin awoke in a cold sweat. She panted….but relaxed when she realized it was only a dream. Sadly, it brought her no closer to a reality with Sakaki.

KNOCK KNOCK

"Awww…..five more minutes!" Depressed, Kaorin covered her head with her pillow.

"Kaori, we need to talk."

That wasn't her mother.

Oh no.

It was worse.

XXXXX

Her greatest fear had been come true…..her father, the one that had forbade his daughter from playing video games, had discovered the truth. A part of her almost wished he knew the other truth instead, the source of all of her dreams.

"You disobeyed me, and during study time at that?! How long have you been doing this with those girls at school?!"

"A…..f-few..m-months…."

She sat paralyzed on the living room couch. Her mother was in the kitchen, but she couldn't help her.

"A few months?! You could've been using that time to be a better student! You're lucky you got into any school!"

"But Dad-!"

"And we bought that phone for you to always contact us if there's an emergency! Not play this, this….childish waste of time!" He flashed Pokemon Go.

"You're….you're not being fair!" she shouted back. "I'm about to graduate and I didn't fail anything! You think these games were just me wasting time?!"

"Yes!" Her father fired back. "Video games are a juvenile hobby, and you're almost an adult! Clearly those girls were a bad influence on you…."

"Um, dear…." Her mother, more perceptive to their daughter's temperament, saw something he didn't. He only motioned for her to be quiet.

"Kaori Aida, you will graduate but things are going to change. No more video games, no more cell phone, and no more wasting away with those friends!"

"NO!"

Her father recoiled at the reply. "W-What?"

"I said NO!" Kaorin stood up. "You don't know what it's like, Dad! I tried and I tried, just BARELY…to not be forgotten by everyone. Do you know what's it like….to be the only one in your circle that gets a homeroom change in the last year?!"

"I…..um….." Clearly he didn't know where she was going with this.

"To be stuck in a room, day after day, with the most nightmarish teacher on the planet?! God forbid I have friends and do hobbies! What about all those times you had some drinks with your coworkers?"

"Those…" Kaorin's father cleared his throat, trying to regain ground. "I had to stick around, either to talk business or impress my bosses!"

"Right! And I still study with Chiyo and Tomo and Mi-er, Sakaki WHILE doing it. You can multitask, I CAN MULTITASK!"

"But you-!"
"Sssh! I already get ignored by most of my school, EXCEPT my pervy teacher! I'm not letting you shut out the ONLY people in this world that actually CARE about me, my opinion, and REMEMBER WHO I AM!"

Now her father looked to her mother for help. She shook her head.

"You come home so late and work so much…..Kaori can't keep these things bottled up forever."

"Now you listen to me, Dad. We're gonna make a deal. I'm going to get top marks at university every term for the next four years. I'll still call and hang out with my friends. I slip up ONCE, you can do whatever you want. But if I keep it up…you let me live my life EXACTLY how I want it!"

"Er…..well…..a-as your father…."

"Do we have a deal or not?! Come on, you're supposed to be the top salesman in your company! I'm using your tactics on you!"

"R-Right! Then….it's….a….deal….?" he sounded so unsure. He had never seen his daughter projecting this much confidence to not be afraid of him.

"DEAL!" She shook his hand roughly. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to see Chihiro, MY FRIEND!"

"Y-Yes….o-of course…."

Kaorin nodded at her mother, then walked outside. She felt so happy….and knew that if she waited another second, she would've panicked and begged for her father's forgiveness.


"Hahahahahaha! Are you sure I'm speaking to THE Kaorin?" Chihiro enjoyed the tale. The two were just walking side by side.

"It felt so…..so good, Chihiro! This is a new start! A new chance to reinvent myself!"

"Cool…..so then, why don't you finally confess?"

Kaorin immediately stopped. "W-What?"

"Soon you won't be able to see Sakaki for a long time. You've been crushing on this girl for….gee, I don't know, the three years since you first saw her in Yukari's class?"

"I c-can't d-do t-that!"

Chihiro sighed. "Then what's your endgame? Moan and mope when she and you part ways?"

"No! I'll just get even closer to her! …..and try from there. I'm just her friend." Kaorin hung her head. "I can't do something that bold so soon. It….it just make things awkward…."

"Well, if you say so. Pick your last game?"

Kaorin blinked. "No…" But something caught her eye. A retro gaming shop going out of business. "Say, how much money do you have on you?"

"Huh?"

It was fate. Yes, she saw a game that she knew would be absolutely perfect. She hadn't played it in years, for obvious reasons, but….it brought back so many pleasant memories.

She had found the very first game she had played, when she was a little girl.

"Okay. I'm not mad that you didn't just you know, borrow something from my house," Chihiro followed Kaorin on the way to Chiyo's mansion. "But were any plans made for today? What if Chiyo isn't home?"

In truth, Chihiro had a point. But Kaorin had a feeling this would be the best visit she could have. Something to solidify her memory! She reached the gate.

"Good morning!" Chiyo said over the intercom. "Oh, Kaorin and Chihiro! You picked out another game?"

"Yeah Chiyo, who's home?" Chihiro wondered.

"Oh Miss Sakaki, but no one else."

Kaorin internally gasped.

Could this be *the* visit she was waiting for?

XXXXX

"Come in, come in…." Chiyo showed them the living room, where Sakaki was working on something on Chiyo's computer. Both of their pets were snoozing near each other. "I've been helping Miss Sakaki secure a new home for Mayaa when she leaves…."

M-M-Miss Sakaki…..she loves that cat….so it's my job to cheer her up! "U-Um, if it's o-ok, we can play a cute and relaxing video game!"

"What did you have in mind?" Sakaki asked.

Kaorin flashed the cartridge.

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

Y-Yes! Her face lit up! This is destiny!

"How did you pick this one?" Chiyo asked, as Chihiro began setting up the console. "From what I remember, your father didn't let you play a lot of games…"

"This one is special. I was coming home from the toy store when I was a little girl…" Kaorin sat down. "…and I didn't have the doll I wanted. I was so sad….but then I saw Kirby on a screen in another store. He….was so cute and happy….he told me….it was all gonna be okay."

To her delight, this was getting Sakaki's full attention. "You got the game on the way here….? Maybe it was destiny."

YES! YES IT WAS! "Maybe," Kaorin said rather casually. "Anyways, my mom let me play a bit in the store, just so, I'd cheer up. But then my father never understood. He always thought games were a waste of time."

"Kaorin, did…..did something happen with your father today?" Chiyo asked in concern.

"Nah," she lied. "Nothing you need to worry about. We can play for a while. But um….I was wondering. What happens after this?"

Chiyo, Sakaki, and Chihiro were all quiet.

"I-I mean, I was the last one from the day we spent with Mrs. Ki…the womantoogoodforhim. Graduation's almost here. Maybe it was a mistake that not everyone is here….it was a little spontaneous!"

"Don't feel bad, Kaorin," Sakaki said. "We've crafted our own memories from all the different picks. It's alright that we couldn't all spend every game together….we've no shortage of good times."

"I'm sure Tomo will understand." Chiyo pulled out a book from her bookshelf, the one the wildcat had used to write down the game picks. "And to answer your question…let's just enjoy today. Okay?"

"R-Right!" Chihiro handed her the controller. "I won't let you down!"


The story began so innocently….on the planet Ripple Star, a sunny paradise with happy fairies. Even the music reflected the peace….until dark matter began to block out the sun and cover the world.

"Oh no!" Chiyo covered her mouth.

Sakaki, on the other hand, never failed to shed a tear with she saw this opening. Kaorin began to internally panic.
But all was not lost….one fairy, Ribbon, escaped the planet with their treasured crystal, at the behest of the queen. The Dark Matter chased her throughout the galaxy…..and knocked her off the crystal!

"She's fine," Chihiro said. "Look, she landed near Kirby."

Indeed she did, on the planet Popstar. The titular hero was enjoying the evening stars when the fairy crashed into him. But not only did she land with a piece of it, Kirby found another just nearby. And without words, he agreed to help her plight.

"Kirby's so cute….he's not like Mario or Link, he gets through adventures differently," Kaorin said. "He copies people!"

The first level was a happy romp through Dream Land, on a straightforward path. But to demonstrate, Kaorin had him swallow the first enemy.

"EH?! But where did it go?!"

I thought Chiyo would be impressed! "Er….w-well…."

"When Kirby inhales enemies, they turn into stars after he gets their ability," Sakaki explained. "Then these starts turn back into the original person. Happens with all the enemies."

"Oh! Thank goodness!"

Whether Sakaki had made it up for Chiyo or herself, Kaorin was grateful for the save. And nearly fainted when the taller girl nodded at her to continue.

"Um….observe!" Kirby had copied Fire power, allowing him to dart forward as a flame body.

"But why does he have two icons for powers?" Chiyo noticed.

This is it! Time to show off my gaming skills! I, Kaorin, will never be forgotten!

Pressing one of the side buttons made Kirby "pull out" his power in the form of a colored projectile (red for fire). Kaorin threw it at another enemy hoping to show off the game's unique mechanic, but she missed by a country mile.

"…."

"…..I don't understand…." Chiyo murmured.

"Uhhhh, we'll get back to that. But anyway Chiyo, Kirby gets a whole range of powers in each game. Sword, Cutter, Bomb, Ice, Plasma….and so on," Chihiro explained.

"Except for the first game, Kirby's Adventure, back on the Famicom. He didn't get the copy abilities until the game after," Sakaki added.

"Wow! You both know so much!"

ARGH! I don't mind if Miss Sakaki knows more than me, but Chihiro, you're upstaging me! Kaorin knew she had only one more chance to try the trick. She swallowed up an enemy to get Cutter. A part of Kirby flew off like a razor boomerang.

"Um….that one's a little-"
"Just watch, Chiyo! I'll get it this time!"

Kirby took out the green star for Cutter and threw it at an enemy throwing bombs – forming a green and black star! When he swallowed it back up, the second icon for powers was filled.

"Wow! What can you do now?"

Kirby threw out shuriken that exploded on impact. Chiyo was amazed.

"Only in THIS game can you fuse powers!" Riding off the high of her stunt, Kaorin snagged a crystal shard in plain view. "It's pretty revolutionary. Hehehehee….."

With the level cleared, it was time for a boss fight. A curious looking creature (a Waddle-Dee) spotted a shard and tossed it around, only to have Dark Matter consume him just as Kirby arrived.

"Oh no!"

Where he morphed into…a Waddle-Doo. He had a menacing eye that shot out beams.

"Don't worry Chiyo, we'll save him!" Kaorin was practically giddy as she threw bomb shuriken after bomb shuriken to chip off Waddle-Doo's health bar. "Totally easy!"

"Waddle-Doo are enemies in other Kirby titles, but Waddle-Dee isn't a friend in all of them either. It's hard to say why….maybe they just have disagreements with Kirby," Sakaki guessed.

"I mean, sometimes Goombas get along with Mario, too…." Chihiro added.

Kirby soon won, and freed the darkness from his friend. Ribbon recovered the shard, and now the trio set off for the next hurdle.

"M-Miss Sakaki! Do you want to go next?" Kaorin asked, still giddy over the victory.

"I….do, but maybe Chiyo should go next….?"

NOOOOO! How stupid of me!

"Oh that's okay," Chiyo smiled. "You can play next!"

YESSSS! Thank you, Chiyo!


The next level was walk through a forest in autumn. From the red and brown trees, to the big stumps….it gave Sakaki a feeling of serenity.

"I played this game when I was younger too…..it always relaxed me," she explained. "Oh….do you mind, Kaorin? I wish to change my power."

"Pffft! All you, baby doll."

Is what Kaorin thought of saying. In reality she nodded her head a little too much. But Sakaki preferred avoiding enemies if she had the chance. She had Kirby float about some pink bouncy foes.

"Kirby can float for a while," she added. "It's not as perilous as Mario 64."

"Do all enemies give powers?" Chiyo wondered. Sakaki shook her head.

"I see no reason to bother them if they're just out and about. But I guess I can show off more of Kirby's potential…." She swallowed a rock enemy and got Stone. Kirby morphed into a pink stone with closed eyes.

"Cool!"

To test her theory, Sakaki went into the next room and hurried back. The foe had respawned, which was good news for her and Chiyo.

"Oh look! Waddle-Dee is helping us!" Indeed, he was operating a pulley to get Kirby to the other side of a gap. Stone Kirby was able to transform to get the defensive edge. "Oh Miss Sakaki, the shard!" It was below the platform, meaning Kirby had to float down and grab it.

"Heh-heh….well they're not ALL so easy to get," Kaorin said. "But it is the first world after all."

"She's right," Sakaki nodded.

YES! Credibility increased!

XXXX

The next room was in the hollow of a tree. Kirby had to climb up vertically. There were some bouncing green enemies shooting out electricity so it inspired Chiyo.

"Miss Sakaki, can you do the same power fusion trick?"

"I'll try," she replied. Kirby threw the brown star of Stone into the enemy, creating a brown-yellow power-up. Success! When Kirby swallowed it….he was able to extend a boulder with an electric tether, not unlike a yo-yo.

"That's so interesting! Think of all the possibilities!"

"Well, there's…." Kaorin hurried to count on her fingers…. "Fire, Ice, Spark, Stone, Bomb, Sword, and Cutter!"

"Actually Kaorin, there isn't Sword."

GUH?!

"But," Sakaki checked her math on her own fingers. "There's Needle. So the amount of power is the same."

N-Nailed it!

As Kirby dropped down to tackle a mini-boss (the pink bouncing thing from the beginning), Chiyo decided to do the math. "Assuming the combos are inclusive with themselves….it'd be 7 plus the next low number. 7 + 6 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 is 28!"

"That's right!"

"Well….technically…."

Kaorin and Chiyo looked up at Sakaki. Were they wrong? Sakaki decided it wasn't worth spoiling, so she shook her head. "No, you're right. 28 combinations, and we include the powers by themselves, Kirby has 35 powers."

At the end, it showed a young artist named Adeline painting on a canvas….but once she found a shard, Dark Matter came and infected her as well. Kirby showed up just in time! He had to fight her turned-evil paintings that came to life!

"You know, from what I remember, Kirby fights a lot of other-worldly and scary monsters, despite being so cute. I guess that's intentional," Chihiro said.

"Huh? I-It gets s-scarier?"

"No!" Kaorin and Sakaki said together, which made them look at each other (to Kaorin's delight).

"Riiight." Chihiro decided to play along. "Maybe I'm misremembering it. Can I play next?"

Once Kirby defeated Adeline, she turned back to normal and wanted to help. The quartet marched on to the next destination!


Kirby traveled across a path towards a castle. But Chihiro clearly wasn't having the kind of fun as Sakaki and Kaorin.

"Chihiro, what's wrong?"
"Why did they make movement mapped to the D-pad?" she tapped the pad. "The N64 has the control stick for a reason. And this game came out after Mario 64."

"Is it really that bad?" Chiyo wondered. "I guess they wanted to keep it a bit more retro?"

"Not my cup of tea. But it's not the game's fault. The D-pad is almost useless in most N64 games." Chihiro made a face at the controller's button layout. "A leftover from the Super Famicom."

She managed to control Kirby just fine, from sucking up the enemies to hovering around. He ran into the castle, through one hall and up another. For Chihiro, the game was rather easy, but she wasn't going to complain – Kirby was intentionally for newer players.

Perfect for Chiyo's young age, Sakaki's gentle demeanor, and Kaorin's lack of experience.

"Oh! We're about to meet someone really important to the Kirby series," Kaorin said.

"Mm-hmm. He's almost been in as many games as Kirby as," Sakaki confirmed.

Chihiro already knew even if Chiyo genuinely had no clue. She fused Cutter with Fire to get what was the longest reaching power yet – a sword covered in flames that Kirby swung in a wide arc.

"I'll give the developers this, they sure had a lot of creativity. Kirby has reoccurring powers so it's nice to mix things up once in a while," she concluded. Once Kirby climbed up another chain, it was time for a confrontation.

XXXX

A penguin-esque figure in red robes stood tall in the castle, when he spotted the shard from afar. He grabbed it to admire it, but when Kirby tried to take it, he pulled it away with a sneer.

"That's King Dedede, Kirby's rival," Sakaki said. He's not evil, but….very mischievous.

Kirby tried to take it but Dedede would always pull it away. In their argument, Dark Matter returned and possessed the king like the ones before him.

"…."

Chihiro began to fight him with little difficulty.

"Chiyo? What's on your mind?"

"Well….maybe it's me…and I'm sorry for thinking this, but…King Dedede reminds me of someone….a little greedy, a position of authority…..b-but is more mischievous than evil!"

"…."

"…"

Chiyo turned red and looked away. "He's….kinda….like…..Miss….Yukari….?"

"PFFFFFFFT!" Kaorin covered her mouth to block out a big laugh. "You're right! But don't tell her that!" Even Sakaki giggled a little at the comparison.

Soon Kirby had won, and Dedede turned back to normal. With the shard the group continued on, and while he hesitated at first….Dedede followed them to the next destination.


Right before the next stage, Kirby ran to a area where his friends were picnicking. If he landed on the right spot, he could get a bonus.

"Here ya go, Chiyo," Chihiro said. "You take over."

"Me? Well okay…..let's see…..like this?" She pressed a button, but Kirby didn't land on any bonus food. He looked so sad! "Oh no…."

But the girls' attention shifted to the end-of-world boss fight – a sentinent tree.

"That's Whispy Woods," Sakaki told Chiyo. "He's in a lot of Kirby games. He's not too scary, but good luck all the same."

"Thank you!" But there was a problem. She still had Chihiro's flame sword. Chiyo made the choice to take the power out. "I'm sorry….but it's not right to fight a tree with fire!"

Chihiro merely shrugged. "You won't need it."

Around the arena, Whispy's little clones came up to attack. Once Chiyo threw the powerup star at one and Whispy took damage, it was clear how she would win. Luckily, the game had a failsafe for a lack of power – apples thrown around.

"Oh, I see! Kirby can inhale and spit out to attack!" Although she looked conflicted on hurting the smaller, cuter Whispies.

"Hey, at least you're not using the fire sword," Kaorin pointed out. "Plants always regrow. We're just throwing apples at them!"

It took a while, but the health bar was depleted…..to grow a second one. Now Whispy was angry and using his own spiked roots to damage Kirby. Chiyo took a hit.

"You got this Chiyo!" Kaorin exclaimed. "We can't lose here!"

"Right. Whispy won't die…." Sakaki promised.

Chiyo seemed motivated enough to continue. She was patient; she had to swallow at least one apple before it disappeared so she could damage Whispy indirectly. Thankfully he was the first real boss and not super threatening.

Victory was assured.

"You did it!"

"No, Kaorin, we did it!" Chiyo smiled. "Together. Like we've always done…."

The shard from Whispy was big and powerful enough to open a hole in space to the next destination….a planet made of a crumbling rock – Rock Star. Hardly a surprise for Sakaki, but for Kaorin….she didn't know how to feel.

"Um…."

"What's wrong, Kaorin?" Sakaki asked.

"Well….I only played so much of this game. I don't really know what's beyond it. And…well, I was hoping I could dazzle someone with my knowledge…but it pales compared to yours, Miss Sakaki!"

"So what?" Chiyo argued. "I don't know this game either, but the real fun is figuring it out as you go! Don't ever think a game can only teach you one way or one thing. It's about interpretation."

Kaorin wiped her eyes. "Yeah….you know, it's getting late. I'd better get back home before my mom freaks."

"Yeahhhhhh…." Chihiro stretched. "Guess I'll head home too. Thanks again, Chiyo."

"Oh sure….um….unforunately I don't really know what we're all gonna do next….." She gave a sad look to her sleeping dog. "I guess….see you in school?"

"Yeah….." Kaorin helped Chihiro pack up the console.


The two waved goodbye to Chiyo on the camera feed…but Kaorin was still unsure about what she would do next.

"Comin'?"

"Give me a few minutes."

With a heavy sigh, Kaorin turned to leave….but someone was walking towards the gate. Sakaki.

"Kaorin, wait. Do you have a minute?"

N-No way….this can't be happening…..no, it's not gonna happen, stupid! Act. Cool.

"Let's not end things so somberly. You're my friend, and….well, if it's not too much trouble, would you be free in a year or so?"

"H-Huh?" In Sakaki's hand was a slip of paper….with Kirby on it?

"I didn't know Kirby had a special place in your heart….they announced a special Kirby food café a ways back….it's not open now but they're expected to open in Sumida next year. It's a long time to wait but….would you accompany me?"

Kaorin's heart never beated so fast. She reached to take the paper….and knew she only had one chance.

"ER WAIT!" She quickly reached in her own pocket and found an old receipt from the bookstore. She wrote down her email address – in perfect penmanship so it wouldn't be misread – and handed to Sakaki.

"What's this?"

"I….um…..w-want to stay in touch with you, Miss Sakaki! We're f-…..friends, right? Besides, you'll need to give me directions to Sumida!"

I'm sorry, Chihiro, but I can't ruin what I already have. Maybe things can change….but for now, I'm just grateful I mean *something* to her!

"I see…..can I have the Kirby paper back?"

NOOOO I MESSED IT UP!

But Sakaki wasn't angry. She was smiling. "I'll need to give you my email as well."

YESSSS! TOTAL SAVE!

Whatever happened now, she had something to look forward to.


To be continued...


Yes, the Kirby Cafe is actually a thing. I was even listening to some of the music (renditions of Kirby songs) as I wrote this. Also Kaorin's last name technically was not confirmed, it's just theorized based on the first volume when Yukari is doing roll call (the back of one student's head looks like Kaorin's)

With a heavy heart I must tell you all, next chapter will be the last. I won't reveal what the last game is but it's one I feel will act as a perfect bookend to the series. (of course it won't just be the game). It's been really fun writing this but all things must come to an end. See you then!

Final Game - ?