He would see the stars.
"You won't be gone too long, right?" Fumu, a lovely young woman now, tears unbidden in her eyes. "Just for a year or two."
Kirby smiled, placing a comforting paw on her arm. "I won't be gone long, I promise. You're my best friend!" He sounded so young, even in the few years that had passed since Nightmare's defeat; he was the same as he'd always been. He could speak now thanks to some extra tutoring from Fumu, but otherwise he was just the same.
"I thought I was your best friend!" Bun interjected, grinning. His hair still covered his face, though now he was taller than his sister, his voice deeper. "Oh, I wish I could come with…"
Kirby laughed. "I wish I could, but my ship is too small… and it could be dangerous." The last thing he wanted was for anything bad to happen to them. Popstar was safe. "I think it's best if I go myself…" The stars were calling to him. He couldn't explain it. Meta Knight said perhaps there was still something out there that was a threat and it was his Star Warrior instincts.
Whatever it was, it had made Kirby so restless that he just had to go.
"Goodbye, everyone…" he said, hopping onto his little starship and into the cockpit. He hit the button to close the top, waving to everyone on the ground.
The whole village had thrown a going away party for him. It had been wonderful; everyone had come to say goodbye. Even Dedede and Escargon. Even Dynablade herself, and her chick which was just starting to learn to fly. Kirby had gone to say goodbye to Whispy and Kabu and Kine and everyone else who couldn't make it to the party.
Not to mention all the food everyone had brought. Kirby smiled, pushing forward on the ship's main lever, shooting higher into the sky.
"See you soon…"
"Did he all ready go?"
"Sir Meta Knight?" Fumu said with some surprise, turning to look at him. He hadn't changed either. "Yeah, Kirby just left a few minutes ago… Is something wrong?"
Meta Knight was silent for a moment. "…Everything should be fine… I just didn't get a chance to say goodbye."
"Oh… Well I'm sure he knew you meant to."
"…You're right… I wish him luck."
Time flies when you're having fun, they say.
Kirby traveled around Popstar first. He had never gone far beyond Dreamland's borders. It was amazing, all of the sights the little planet had to offer. Icy mountain tops, deep red canyons, cities of towering stone. The peoples knew of him. Kirby, the hero, the one who saved the universe. Word had spread.
He found Benikage's ninja village, and the farm where Escargon had grown up. His mother was happy to see him and insisted on giving him enough cookies to last him a while.
He left the planet and set a course for the next closest. His little ship wasn't as fast as the Halberd, but he could manage at least light speed. It was easy, all he did was tell the onboard computer where he wanted to go, and he could sleep the whole way.
He dreamed of home. Sometimes food, but mostly back in Dreamland, playing with his friends.
There were so many places to go. He went to Rona's home, Planet Pipi. She was still queen, and loved by everyone. Kirby hoped she was happy, but it was hard to tell. Her smile seemed false.
So many planets! Jungle planets, ice planets, firey ones almost too hot to land on. Planets that seemed to be made entirely of machines.
He wanted to see them all.
And all the time he sensed something. It was dark and cold and he didn't know what it was. But it was very far away, at the edge of his conciousness. Nothing to worry about.
Kirby didn't really keep track of the time. He never really thought about it. It just felt like so little time was going by. It couldn't have been more than a month or so all ready.
There were still so many stars to see.
Kirby had never been so happy to see Popstar. There it was, glowing like to appeared to be. Odd, it looked yellow from space, but different once you got down through the atmosphere.
His little ship coasted down, circling high above so he could spot some familiar landmarks. He smiled. There was the volcano, and the bay. He could almost see Dedede's castle.
Would everyone see his ship and rush to see him? Fumu would be so happy! Kirby had found her some strange shells on an ocean planet. She'd always loved the ocean. He'd tried to find presents for everyone. He carried all of them in his stomach of course. He could hold anything in there.
His ship touched down in a field not far from the village. Sheep grazed nearby and only glanced up as he hopped out of the cockpit. Kirby inhaled deeply, looking around at the landscape. Dreamland was just as beautiful as always. He could see Dedede's castle in the distance. It looked a bit different though. Was a tower missing?
He shook his head. Probably, it had been destroyed once or twice while he was gone. That was always happening.
Kirby hopped down off the ship- only to land right on some of something! At first he thought it was a sheep, but was surprised to see a little Waddle Dee.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" Kirby said quickly. The Dee just looked at him, before getting up and wandering off. Odd. Waddle Dees usually didn't go far from the castle. Maybe Dedede was around.
He heard talking, hushed voices. Kirby looked over to see three small Cappy children duck behind a bush. Kirby blinked. "Um, hi!" The bushes rustled, and the three of them ran off. Maybe they were shy?
Kirby walked down the path towards the town. Just how he remembered it… There was the mayor's house. It had a new coat of paint, he saw. Maybe he'd stop there? No, he wanted to get to the castle and see Bun and Fumu! No one had seen his ship, it looked like.
Kirby walked into the center of town. The big oak was still there. It looked bigger now. He glanced around. Where was everyone?
"Hello?" he called tentatively. Nothing. "Anyone?"
"Who are you?" The voice came from behind the tree. A young Cappy looked out from behind it. "What do you want??"
Kirby stared in confusion. "I… I just came back. I'm looking for Fumu… Have you seen her?"
"Who are you?"
Kirby frowned. "I'm Kirby."
There was suddenly a flurry of whispers, and he saw other Cappies peeking out of doors and windows. What was going on?
"…You're Kirby? The hero?" the Cappy said, cautiously walking towards him. Kirby didn't recognize him, but then all Cappies looked alike.
"Well… yeah. I could try to prove it…" Kirby said, feeling uncomfortable. This was so strange. Maybe they were planning some surprise welcome back party? Oh, that must be it! Kirby smiled a bit. They were just playing around. Maybe he'd been gone too long and they wanted to play a joke to get back at him.
"Do… you know where Fumu is?" Kirby asked. "She lives up at the castle…"
The boy frowned. "The castle? There aren't any girls living up at the castle. Just the king."
"Yeah! King Dedede…"
Kirby breathed a sigh of relief.
"Well, Dedede Jr., but he hates being called that… I think he was named after his grandfather. He's a real jerk though, he doesn't even like when anyone goes up to the castle. I hear his father was a lot nicer but I wasn't even born then!" The boy laughed a bit, then coughed. "Um… Sorry, I don't know anyone named Fumu."
Kirby was silent a moment. "Is Mayor Len around?"
"…Len? The Mayor's name is Tim."
"Huh? There's a Restaurant Kawasaki, but Miss Elsie runs it. She has for years."
Kirby shook his head slowly. Just a joke. It was just a prank they were playing. "Meta Knight?"
Finally, recognition on the boy's face. "Oh, him? Yeah, he lives up at the castle. Hardly anyone sees him though… He's a bit of a loner. He's been around since forever… Hey, where are you going?"
"To the castle!" Kirby shouted, running past him, out of the village and up to the top of the cliff.
And as soon as he got in there, everyone would jump out and yell 'Surprise! Welcome back Kirby!' and he could tell them all about the adventures he'd had.
He waited, and the drawbridge didn't drop. So he flew up there, inflating himself and floating up. No Waddle Dee guards were on the walls or towers. The courtyard was empty, the bushes and grass unkempt.
He landed on the path, running towards the main doors. The opened with a loud screech, and he ran down the dark hallway.
He was there to see Meta Knight, but he knew where he had to go first.
The hallways were all the same, but he knew the way by heart. It was dark most of the way. There were cobwebs and he could hear the scurrying of mice everywhere. Then he found the door and pushed it open.
"Fumu!" he exclaimed… and the only movement was the dust motes send swirling as the door was opened.
Light filtered through tattered curtains, shining on old moth eaten furniture. Some things had moved, some things he didn't recognize… All covered with a thick layer of dust. He walked through slowly, for some reason not wanting to make a sound.
The door to their bedrooms. It was all ready mostly open, and Kirby pushed it the rest of the way. Her bedroom was on the right.
It really hadn't changed much. Her shell collection was bigger, things had been moved. Everything was covered in dust.
No one had been in here in a long time.
His breath caught. Had they moved away? Maybe they had to. Something had happened… Maybe they'd left a note. They wouldn't leave without letting him know where they were.
There was nothing. Only a few old photos and her science books.
One of the photos… Kirby peered closely at it. Fumu in a white gown, a man he didn't recognize standing next to her.
"Fumu!" he shouted into the empty room. She wasn't there. None of them were. The entire castle felt dead, not even one Waddle Dee to be found.
He ran out of the room, into the dark hallways again. It didn't feel real.
Kirby tried to remember where Meta Knight's room had been. He rarely went there. He was lost, stumbling through the old castle corridors.
"Meta Knight! META KNIGHT!" Someone had to hear him. Please someone be there. Any familiar face. "Please…" He finally stopped, exhausted, leaning up against the wall. "Someone…"
Then, after a long moment. "…Kirby." A hand on his side. Kirby could barely make out Meta Knight's form in the gloom. "…Come with me."
Kirby did, following him, grateful for a presence he recognized. "Meta Knight, I can't find anyone… They're playing a joke or something. Where is everyone?" He was scared, holding back tears now.
Meta Knight didn't answer.
They arrived at a door, Meta Knight entering first and motioning for Kirby to follow. It was his room, same as Kirby remembered. No, some things were different. There were still weapons on the wall, shelves… Two green helmets were there on the shelf, two swords hanging above them…
"Kirby," Meta Knight said clearly, getting his attention. "…Do you know how long you were gone?"
Kirby's mouth worked uselessly for a moment. "I… I… Two years. I think. I don't know…"
Meta Knight looked at him for a long moment. "Kirby, you've been gone for nearly a century. 100 years."
The room suddenly felt oppressive. Kirby stared back, unable to move. It wasn't possible.
"Almost everyone you knew is gone… They all died of old age."
Kirby shook his head. "No… They can't…"
"No one knew why you hadn't come back… Even I wasn't sure if you were still even alive… They were always hopeful that you would return."
"Fumu… Bun… everyone… They're dead?"
Meta Knight nodded. "No one but Dedede's grandson lives here now. The Waddle Dees all left after Dedede passed away. They live in the wild around the village now."
Kirby stared down at the floor, a million things going through his mind. "This can't… this isn't right… They can't all be… dead… I wasn't gone that long!" His voice was shrill, panicked.
"You were, Kirby… It doesn't feel like long us but… to everyone here it was a lifetime."
"NO! It's just not possible! I would have known, I would have come home I PROMISED I WOULD!" Kirby was shaking. He'd never felt this way. "Liar."
Meta Knight's tone was almost harsh. "Do you want proof? Do you want to see their graves then? They all died. There isn't a thing you or I can do about that."
Kirby felt like hitting him. "It CAN'T be true! It's not fair they aren't dead they can't be… Fumu and Bun can't be dead…" Why couldn't it be a prank, some cruel horrible joke.
"They are. They grew old Kirby. That's how it works."
Kirby wiped hot tears from his eyes. "Then why…why are you still here?"
"Because you and I are the same… Our kind is cursed with longevity." A short laugh, bitter. "I think it may be Nightmare's revenge from whatever hell he was banished to."
Meta Knight looked away for a moment. "I stopped counting long ago. But I've been alive… over 10,000 years. The passage of years- decades- is nothing."
"Then… you…" Kirby didn't want to let it sink in. He didn't want to accept that.
"…You get used to it." So cold. "I wanted to tell you… How quickly time can go by… Especially in space. I'm not sure what happened. You ship may have put you in stasis again if that was accidentally reactivated. You could have slept for years and not even realized it…"
Anger and sadness were gone, replaced by simple unfeeling.
"Kirby… Don't dwell on it. It won't be the last time… Most people you meet live short lives. It will always be something you'll need to deal with…"
Kirby didn't respond. "…Almost everyone…"
"You said… almost everyone I knew… was dead."
Meta Knight nodded. "Some are as long lived. Kabu is millennia older than I… Whispy is still protecting his forest…"
Kirby turned quickly, walking towards the door. Meta Knight didn't need to ask where he was going.
The forest was peaceful, beautiful, just like he had remembered. The trees were taller now. Thankfully no one had tried cutting it down again.
Whispy Woods was still in the same spot, a tree a little shorter than the others in a small clearing. There were no more flowers around him. Something must have happened to Lovely's children…
Kirby stood there for a moment, looking up at the old tree. Just bark and leaves, no face to be seen. Sleeping… Kirby didn't want to wake him, turning to leave.
"It's good to see you again, Kirby," a deep voice said, and a red apple dropped next to him.
"It's been a long time. Everyone was worried about you…" Whispy paused. "I'm sure you all ready know…"
"Yeah… They're all gone." Kirby smiled sadly. "No use crying now I guess." He did anyway. He just couldn't help it.
He was still just a child.
Whispy had no sage words of advice. A tree was used to the long passage of time and endless cycles of death and rebirth. It was just part of his life, and he didn't know how to tell someone else how to live with it.
"What will you do now?" Meta Knight stood nearby, facing away from him.
"…I'm not sure."
"…I think there's something coming. I could sense it when I was traveling… Something bad." Kirby said, looking out at the setting sun over the ocean. "If it comes here, I have to protect everyone… This is still my home."
They were at Kirby's house. Somehow after all that time it was still there. The door had rotted off and the window was long broken, and the blue and yellow star blanket was a moth eaten tatter, but it was there. There was still a nest up in the tree, but now a mother bird and her chicks were there. A little yellow bird…
"They took care of this place…" Meta Knight said. "They made sure it was in good condition for the day you came back. Fumu came here nearly everyday until…" He trailed off. The older knight moved closer, hand on Kirby's arm. "Kirby, promise me something. Though you know what will inevitably happen, don't let that keep you from being close to anyone. That would be worse for you, trust me."
Meta Knight would know these things, of course. Kirby smiled. "I will, don't worry." Kirby loved making friends… He could make a lot of new ones. "What about you?"
He chuckled. "I'll be around. I have no place else to go myself… I'll be here to help you in any way I can."
Meta Knight stood next to him, watching the sunset. "People still talk about you. The stories haven't died. You'd somewhat of a legend now… You won't have to worry about being accepted…" He paused. "Except perhaps by the new King Dedede. He isn't the agreeable sort…"
"I'll be fine," Kirby said. He didn't feel so sad now. It really wasn't so hard to put it behind him. Was that good or bad? He didn't know.
"You can stay up at the castle if you'd like," Meta Knight said, turning to him as the sky grew dark.
Kirby shook his head. "That's okay. I'll stay here…"
" Very well… Good night, Kirby." He walked off toward the castle, leaving Kirby alone.
Well, not quite alone. The mother bird looked down at him curiously, wings protective over her chicks. Kirby wondered if Dynablade had laid another egg up on the mountain… He'd have to go visit. Would she remember him?
He went into the house, finding it not too dusty… It wouldn't be too hard to clean up. Kirby moved over to the bed, pulling back the cover-
"HEY!" A high pitched, angry voice.
He nearly jumped back as a little… something grabbed at the covers.
"This is my bed! You can't take it!" It was a little ball of white and tan fur. A… hamster?
"Rick?" Kirby blinked, shook his head- no, Rick was dead too.
"Who're you?" the hamster asked.
"Never heard of ya. Now get out, this is my place."
"Erm… actually this is my home."
"…Well you let your home get into a pretty shabby state, so it's mine now!"
Kirby sighed as the hamster crawled under the blanket. "What's your name?"
"…I don't have one."
Kirby tried pulling the blanket off again. "…Can I call you Rick?"
His head popped out, nose twitching. "No one's ever given me by a name before. Rick… I kinda like that!" He looked at Kirby suspiciously. "Okay, I'll let you stay. Don't try anything funny though…"
"Thanks, I won't…" Kirby grinned. "Want to be friends?"
The little hamster looked confused. "Why would ya wanna be friends with me?"
Good question. How long did a hamster live? Kirby wondered. No, Meta Knight said... He couldn't let that worry him. It was part of life.
"Just because..." Kirby said, hopping onto the bed next to him.
This new Rick smiled, eyes bright. "That'd make you my first then!" He yawned widely. "Mm, well if you're a friend you can definitely stay." He snuggled further under the blanket, only his pink nose visible. "Gotta get some shut eye... G'night!"
Kirby laid down, pulling the old blanket over him. A familiar feeling… And a new friend. It wouldn't be so bad. He could move on and be happy, just like before.
That night he dreamt of them all.
A/N: Fumu Tiff, and Bun Tuff, btw.
Just a weird story idea that was bugging me... Not completely realistic, not really meant to be. Just an experiment.