Chapter Two: Lose Control

A peal of laughter bubbled up inside Tiff as she gazed happily upon her old friend. She was surprised he barely changed in appearance, but the most exciting thing about it all was the words that came out of the puffball's mouth, dimples etching in the chubby red cheeks. His eyes still sparkled since the day they first met, only curiosity was replaced with familiarity.

"I'm home!" Kirby squealed again, hopping jubilantly.

"Kirby!" she cried out, rushing forward with open arms. Reaching him, her arms wrapped around his round, plush body, squeezing him in a hug against her chest. "Oh, Kirby! You're back!"

He blinked for a few seconds before giggling. "Tiff, poyo! Glad see you!"

Letting him go, she rubbed at her eyes for any tears. "Same here, old friend. Tuff, come on!" she called to him, waving her hand. "Kirby's back home!"

Grinning brightly, Tuff joined them, shaking his hand and commenting on how much he grew. "You're almost as big as me!"

"I'm not baby no more," Kirby explained, pointing to himself proudly. "I grew over time."

"And you learned speech, too! Sweet, now we can tell each other secrets!"

Tiff got a sudden thought in her head. "King Dedede's going to have a cow when he sees you after all this time," she mentioned, remembering all the plots that failed on trying to rid or kill off Kirby.

The child smiled. "He's still King?"

"Unfortunately. But he seemed to have forgotten you."

Meta Knight walked up, shaking his head. "Not precisely," he corrected, startling her. "Every now and then, he curses Kirby."

"Meta Knight, glad see you! Poyo!" Kirby chirped with a bounce. "How been?"

"I've seen better days," was the response. "And you?"

"Great!" He grew a bit animated and motor-mouthed, words slurring together. "I battle bad guys star to star! Was able to talk, uh... don't remember. Still learning. Eats lots and lots of foods across the universe! They're so-o-o good, poyo! But I missed all here. Kawasaki good?"

The siblings looked at each other with nervous laughter. "Uh... I think his cooking's improving a bit," Tuff hesitantly said, shrugging. "Sometimes he thinks that whenever someone walks in, it's you."

"You were his favorite customer, after all," Tiff giggled.

Suddenly a small rumble gurgled from the child, and everyone's face fell. He smiled slightly. "Miss his cooking."

The girl patted his back. "We'll visit him tomorrow for lunch, all right? Right now, let's get you to the castle for dinner."

His bright eyes grew bigger, almost becoming one with the night sky. "Y-You mean it?!" he sighed happily, a dreamy expression on his face.

"Absolutely! You're our friend."

Taking a huge breath, Kirby jumped high into the air, crying out joyfully, "POYO POYO!"

At the palace when they invited Kirby inside, they walked past many-a Waddle-Dee to reach their parents. The guards and other servants upon spotting the newcomer waved their arms around and danced as a way to welcome him back, though a few scurried around in confusion. When he was reintroduced to Sir Ebrum and Lady Like, they greeted him back warmly, shaking his hand and gushing over him. Blade and Sword, Meta Knight's solider companions, congratulated the young Star Warrior and accepted him back. The monster twins Lalala and Lololo flew around singing about his return while he stood there, watching them curiously, but with a smile.

When the news reached King Dedede, however, the penguin laughed it off as a joke until he was shown the castle's security footage. Once he saw the Star Warrior on the video walking through the gate, then the gardens and corridors, his face curled into a snarl, and he slammed his fist on the throne's armrest. "That pink vermin is back in my kingdom is he?!"

"Sire, he's not going to be staying long," Escargoon assured him with a hopeful tone. He personally wasn't as upset as the king, though he was rubbing his hands in anxiety. "He's a Star Warrior now. They travel the universe to fight off monsters that attack stars."

"Then what brought him here?"

He shrugged, grinning nervously. "Home sickness, maybe?"

The king gave a roar of frustration, snatching up his hammer and hurrying out the door, his wool robe flowing gently behind him. He waddled down the hallway in his top speed for the dining room, pushing past the Waddle-Dees around every corner. Skidding in front of the closed doors, he hid the item behind his back, a pseudo-grin on his beak at the sight of his nemesis through the window. Escargoon let out a huff as he caught up to him, pushing one of the doors open as Dedede kicked the other.

Everyone looked up at their arrival in surprise, though Tiff and Tuff immediately started to glare at him. Chuckling under his breath, he spread an arm out in greeting. "Well, well, if it isn't Kirby! Long time no see!"

Said-puffball laughed, slipping out of his chair to scurry up to him. "Hiya, King Dedede! Ya happy see me?"

The king's jaw dropped at the words squeaking out of his mouth, unprepared for this sudden achievement. "Y...Y...You just spoke!" he stammered, pointing at him like he was an omen.

"Poyo, I sure can!"

"Your Highness, what's the real reason you're here?" Tiff interrupted, standing up. "You're not here to hurt Kirby, are you?"

King Dedede chuckled heartily, nudging Escargoon to follow suit. "Naw, of course not! Why would I hurt an acquaintance I haven't seen in years?" He forced upon himself a large smile, slowly sliding toward Kirby. "I just wanted to welcome him back and hope we could get along more easily, ain't that right, Kirby?"

The child tilted his head, blinking in slight confusion. "How you mean? We never got along."

"Back then, I didn't get to knowing ya. Now I do. So, come put one here, friend!" The king extended a hand, mentally cackling at how gullible the twerp was.

The Star Warrior beamed and reached out a stubby arm to shake hands. Before they could meet, Dedede pulled from behind his back his hammer and swung. Without a similar warning, the child was able to block it with a swift kick to the handle upon seeing it at the corner of his eye. The wood slightly dented where the impact occurred, and everyone in the room gasped, the penguin blinking in disbelief.

Kirby smiled in triumph, putting his foot down. "That felt good."

With a roar, Dedede tossed it aside, glaring evilly at him. "You little weasel! I knew ya weren't a good person!"

"But I am! Honest!"

"You won't be once I'm done with ya!"

Tiff left her chair to stand in front of Kirby, a scowl on her face. "You're not going to hurt our guest!" she shouted, standing her ground.

"Out of the way, girl!" the penguin snapped. "In case you have forgotten, I have the power to throw you out into the streets. Now move so I can deal with him!"

She shook her head vigorously. "I can't let you do that, Your Highness," she calmly said. "You don't treat guests like this, now do you?"

Dedede fumed some more. "Kirby's not a guest! He's a pest, and I want him out!"

Kirby tugged on her shirt, frowning. "Tiff, I can handle this."

"How can he be a pest when he's not bothering anyone?" she continued ranting, not answering her friend. "And besides, he's only staying for the night, then he'll return to his little house on the hill. Tomorrow he's going to be out of the castle a great majority of the day. I promise you, Dedede, that it'll be like he was never here by morning."

The king looked from teenager to child in suspicion, recalling memories of Kirby foiling his plans, sucking up his monsters, and wandering through the castle hallways with his "Poyo poyo!" and eating his food. He turned to Escargoon for advice, but the snail was still in the same state of shock to answer him quickly. With a deep, almost vacuum-like breath, he spun around to reply, "Just one night. And I don't want to see him setting foot in here again after that. If I catch him, he's getting da BOOT." He emphasized with a kick of a foot (barely missing his assistant) and whirled around for the exit. "And I mean it!" he called back. "I'm alerting all servants and guards about it!" And he slammed the door in Escargoon's face, whom clumsily opened it back up to slip out.

Though he was but a child, Kirby knew exactly what he meant by "the boot". Lots of angry citizens threatened it when they no longer needed him or had developed a form of loathing against him. Imagining what Dedede might end up doing if he was to come back again made him frown and slightly lose his appetite.

Tiff sighed quietly and turned back to face his sad expression. "Hey, don't take it so seriously," she assured him, placing a hand on his back. "I'm sure that, somehow, deep down inside he's happy you're here."

He only shook his head. "No. Means it. Some stars I visited had mean people. They said stuff about boot sometimes. I don't know why."

Lady Like felt sorry for Kirby. "Oh, but you're such a sweet little thing," she cooed. "Who'd want to kick you out of their star?"

Kirby shrugged.

Tuff looked over at the guest's plate of half-eaten food and was a bit surprised. "Hey, Kirby, you going to finish eating?"

"No," he finally whispered, shocking everyone in the room. "Not hungry anymore... I need to go to bed."

"But... Kirby... you never leave your plate full."

"Not feeling too good," he only said, slowly heading out the dining room. He froze at the doorway and turned back, sky-blue eyes melancholy and upset. "Where's my bed?"

The girl walked up to him, taking his hand. "I'll show you where you're staying if the Waddle-Dees made it."

"Thanks, Tiff."

Nodding, the two exited the room and headed down the long, empty hallway. Long shadows stretched up the walls and floors from the lamps. "It's not too far from the balcony, I believe. If you ever get lost, remember the large portrait of Dedede puffed up with pride." She gestured to the painting from years ago of said-king with his enlarged belly and snooty look in his eye.

Kirby stared at it, tilting this way and that. "Is it just me, or skinnier in that one?"

Tiff paused to look at it as well, mentally measuring and weighing the present and painted king. "You know... this was done when I was small... I have a feeling he was."

"Gluttony tends to change the form of one," Meta Knight answered from behind, making the two grab for each other to keep from screaming.

"You're always... d-doing that," Kirby gasped, twitching slightly.

The teenager glanced toward the entrance to the balcony, believing he was standing out there most of the time until now. "You need something?"

"No, just making sure you're not where you aren't supposed to be."

"I'm only taking Kirby to his room. He's saying he's not feeling well."

The old Star Warrior flashed his eyes over to the youngster in interest. "Really? It's almost impossible a child such as him can become sick from eating thirds." Kirby moaned in sadness, looking away.

"He hadn't even finished his first plate," she added, frowning.

Meta Knight didn't appear to be stunned, though he was quiet for a long moment. "A bit out of character, isn't it?"

The pink puff cast his eyes downward, shuffling his feet. "Dedede said mean things to me about 'the boot'," he whispered, "right after tried to hit me with hammer."

"He mentioned a new rule to kick you out of Dreamland if you put a toe in the castle grounds after tomorrow," he explained, much to the children's disappointment.

"You're not going to do that, are you Meta Knight?" Tiff wondered worriedly.

He turned away briefly. "I have no choice, though it's a silly demand. So, Kirby," and he looked at the child, "I want you to promise me to never come here again once you leave for town."

"But... what about visiting?" he murmured sadly.

"Not even visiting. Now make the vow, and I mean it."

"I can't! What about my friends?"

With a flip of the cape, the Star Warrior brandished his cherished weapon threateningly in front of him, the red jewel at the hilt gleaming in a crimson light. Kirby stared as Galaxia's spiked blade crackled into view, unsure if he actually was going to attack. The teenager tensed up slightly at the sight, glancing between the two. "I mean it, Kirby," Meta Knight whispered venomously. "I made a promise to King Dedede, and I follow without a complaint as a loyal servant. You, however, did not. And one wrong move could cost you an arm, a leg or an eye. Would you like to be in pain, young warrior?"

The puff shook his head hard, squealing slightly. "No, no! Please don't!"

"Then I suggest you make the vow to never step foot by the castle again. Because next time, my arm moves on its own without another thought."

Kirby frowned, whimpering a little as he looked back-and-forth between the old knight, and Tiff, whom had her hands clasped before her face in a plea. Sighing sorrowfully, he hung his head and nodded. "I promise," he muttered.

"Speak louder, Kirby," Meta Knight urged.

"I promise to never come back to castle," he repeated in a louder, but regretful, voice. The girl released her breath solemnly, cursing Dedede mentally.

The old knight sheathed his sword, somehow disappointed, much to the youngster's surprise. "I thought you knew better than to give up that easily, Kirby," he said, shaking his head. "I would've chosen pain than to follow strict orders."

"Then why don't you go tell the king he's wrong to kick Kirby out?" Tiff darkly spat without a thought.

"I am a loyal guard, bound by my words," he responded, turning toward her. The eyes seemed to illuminate like candle-light in the developing darkness. "Yet there are some orders I disagree with, such as this ridiculous rule. But as it's not life-threatening, I obey. If he was to tell me directly 'Kill Kirby in his sleep', I'd refuse."

"Why would kill me in sleep?" the child wondered suspiciously.

"I'd be committing treason to do that to a Star Warrior. I'm sure Yamikage would've, if he was still here." His eyes, at the mention of the name, slightly flickered red, though it went by so quickly Tiff only saw orange. "And besides, Kirby... there isn't another Star Warrior I know of, and you must live until one other is found. I am growing older by the minute, and thus weaker as my skills slowly wane. If I were to kill you, I'd spend the rest of my life in misery, unable to sleep in fear you'd haunt me. I won't ever find peace in my meditation in my guilty conscious."

Kirby dropped his eyes for a moment. "What if Dedede killed me instead?"

"It'll be the same, knowing I did nothing but watch." Meta Knight spun around to head back outside. "Good night, Kirby, Tiff." He halted at the entranceway, staring off at the distance toward the sleeping town. Quietly, he muttered, "I'm forbidden to do this, but if you need any help, you may fly over. After all," he paused, drifting off as he glanced over his shoulder, eyes glowing green now, "he only said, 'Forbid Kirby to step foot inside the castle grounds'. He mentioned nothing about flying."

A smile spread on the Star Warrior's face, and he bounced happily, squealing. And much to the knight's reputation coming close to an end—in embarrassment of getting caught in such an awkward situation—Kirby ran over and hugged him. "Yay, yay! Thanks so much, poyo! Yay!" he cheered.

Though he was tempted to shove him away and escape into the shadows, the old warrior stood his ground, accepting the thanks the child was giving him. Tiff giggled, smiling at Kirby's joy and Meta Knight's awkwardness. "I won't tell," she promised him.

He nodded slightly, patting the boy's head. "I appreciate that." Once the puffball released him, he slipped into the shadows without another word. Blinking, the child looked around for him, running into any dark corners he saw and looking up above him. But Meta Knight was gone.

He wobbled back inside. "Where'd he go?" Kirby asked the girl interestingly.

Shrugging, she took his hand and headed down the hall. "Wherever Meta Knight goes," was her answer. "That's called stealth."

"You mean stalking?"

"Hey, there's a difference between the two. Don't get them mixed up."

He raised a hand to his mouth in thought, brows furrowing slightly. "What does stalking mean?"

She was saved by the arrival of Kirby's temporary room. "Oh, look! We're here!" she exclaimed, pushing open the door quickly.

It was an extra guest room out of many others the king had for important folks. Mostly it was reserved for other majesties and the wealthy, but Tiff—and the Waddle-Dee it seemed—felt the hero deserved the chance to sleep here. The room was spacious, though empty in one corner of the room where a Dedede TV stood. A mirror stood across the king-sized bed of silk pillow sheets and fluffed blankets, with a window taking up a whole wall over-looking the ocean. Portraits of Dedede himself took up another wall, something Tiff immediately took care of by flipping them over. There was a private bathroom that had been kept sparkling clean all this time, towels folded nicely in stacks under the sink, and fresh soaps of great variety of shapes and fragments on the porcelain bathtub and sink.

Kirby nearly fainted from all of this room, though he was thrilled to find a star-clustered nightcap in the bureau that fit cozily snug over his head. Because she was the Cabinet Minister's daughter, Tiff was used to it all. "Shame you're only staying the one night," she sighed, looking over at her friend. "You're looking like you'll enjoy yourself."

"Poyo, I would," he gushed, falling over from looking up at an endless ceiling.

"Then again, you already have a home, one that's perfect for you."

He nodded, remembering his dome-shaped stone home, hollowed out for furniture, a window and door, a fireplace with a small-stack chimney, and a kitchen and bathroom. It was a small place taller people couldn't walk into and not expect their head to scrape or bump up against the ceiling, but just the right size for a child like Kirby and the other Cappies who used to once visit him. Now, Tokkori had the whole house to himself, and had even put up "Keep Out" signs, something Tiff explained disdainfully. He sat in bed as the girl spoke about what happened the past few years, playing with the pompom on the nightcap and watching the dangling star spin and twist. The Dedede head-shaped clock showed it was way past their bedtime, but none of them were tired.

"It stinks being in a combined school," the girl moved to a different subject, arms folded. "Dedede is too selfish to have other schools built so proper grade levels could be implemented. Most of the studying I do in the library because the teachers aren't that well-learned. It's also because of the problems of older students having bad manners, and the kids are picking up on it. Worse part is I think it's rubbing off on me." She shuddered. "I almost cussed Tuff out one day. Terrible, it was."

"Wow. You've had easy," the Star Warrior pointed out, wiggling his feet around. "Some monsters are big and hard beat. And people sometimes mean. They don't sometimes give fuel for starship. Almost ran out in space last year. Thank goodness I was already headed for a star then."

"Can you still use your Copy abilities and become like Fire Kirby and Ice Kirby?"

"Yes!" He jumped to his feet, bouncing on the mattress. "Wanna see?"

She shook her head, smiling. "Some other time. Right now, we have to go to bed."

Kirby shook his head, the tip of his cap flopping around. "Poyo poy! Not tired!"

"Too bad. If you want to see Kawasaki tomorrow, you need rest."

Though he pouted, the young warrior obliged, snuggling into his covers and looking over at the teenager. She made sure he was tucked in correctly and patted his head. "Good night, Kirby. I'll see you in the morning."

"`Kay," he yawned, waving a stubby arm. "You too." He rolled onto his side and his sapphire eyes fell closed. Within moments, he was fast asleep, complete with small snores of "poyo".

Tiff smiled down at the lump that was Kirby before getting up off the bed. She closed the curtains and flipped off the light switch with one last look at him for the day. Yawning herself, she headed for her room not too far from his and searched slowly for pajamas. She found a pair that was a bit large on her (yet it had Dedede's sigma scattered throughout the pants) and took a quick peek out the window.

She had always wanted the room facing the ocean, mountains or great plains, but they were for the guests, and while Tuff got view of mountains, she slept in the room that faced Dreamland. Not exactly inspiring, yet she was never the one to complain. Glancing up at the cloudy sky, she made a note to herself to bring an umbrella. With one last pillow check—since the king somehow still had extras from NME many years ago, she kept checking to make sure there wasn't a switch—the teenager crawled in, staring up at the ceiling. Her eyes closed for needed sleep...

...and she remembered she didn't finish her algebra assignment.

Five hours... of sleep. Ugh...

"Tiff? You awake?"

Today isn't going to be a great day, I know it..

"Tiff? Poyokay?"

I'm going to be cranky and who knows if I'll pass my... aw man...

"Tiff, don't sleep at the table!"

The girl gasped, bolting herself out of her pancakes. Upon feeling the maple syrup dripping off her cheeks, she groaned, rubbing at her eyes. She took a glance up at her parents, who were watching her carefully and worriedly. "Sorry, Mom, Dad," she muttered. "I didn't get enough sleep last night from studying. I get cranky under these circumstances, so I don't know how today will come out."

"I know that, dear," Lady Like said, grabbing a few napkins and helping clean off her daughter. "What were you studying all night?"

"I forgot to do my... math assignments," the teen yawned.

Tuff snorted in his pancakes. "You, siff?!" he sprayed. "No wa'!"

"Now Tuff, no talking with your mouth full," Ebrum reminded his son, shaking a finger at him. "It's rude."

"Yeff, Dad," he grumbled.

Kirby had finished his second plate of the beloved pancakes and was staring at Tiff's. He was no longer a glutton, nor very greedy, but he just wasn't exactly too sure about his friend finishing hers in this condition. He believed wasting food wasn't proper. So pointing at her plate, he asked, "Are you going to finish yours, Tiff?"

"No, go ahead," she sighed, waving at him. "I'm not very hungry."

Squealing "Poyo!", he grabbed her plate and inhaled the contents, syrup and all, leaving the plate spotless. Yet upon seeing the small child readying himself to suck in everything from the table, Sir Ebrum and Lady Like shielded anything of importance to them: Tiff, Tuff, and any unfinished pancakes. Luckily, because Kirby had grown up since they last saw him, he had learned to control his inhaling power. They barely even felt wind by the time he was finished. The children giggled at the sight of their parents' faces and their friend's flap of the arms.

"Tiff, who's going to show Kirby the sights?" her mother wondered after an awkward moment of silence.

She paused, suddenly feeling upset. She had almost forgotten about the new rule taking place today after promising Dedede Kirby wouldn't be around after morning. Not once did she recall it during their long chat last night, but it would've seemed more prepared if they came up with an idea. Looking over at the Star Warrior, Tiff sighed, "I will. I don't trust Tuff to take him to school."

"Hey, we go to the same school, you know!" he spoke up, pointing his fork at her.

"You won't be keeping an eye on the teachers, though."

"I-I will!"

"Speaking of which, we have a meeting with your teacher at the end of the school day," Lady Like mentioned, popping a bite of pancake into her mouth.

The teenager giggled, smirking at her brother's disappointed groan. Checking the clock behind her parents, she slipped her arms through her backpack's straps. "Well, need to go prepare the classroom," she announced, getting up from the table.

"Good-bye, dear," her father said, waving at her. "Take care."

"Don't talk to strangers!" her mother added. "Remember who you are."

"Take care of Kirby, `kay?" Tuff stated, wishing he was the one watching him that morning.

Taking her friend's hand, she smiled. "I will, don't worry. Say 'thank you', Kirby."

The child turned around, flapping his stubby arm around in farewell. "Bye-bye! Thank you!"

"See you later, Kirby!" they cried in unison before they left through the doorway.

The hallway was brightly lit from the rising sun, so the duo walked without fear of unfamiliar paths. They were quiet heading out, knowing that King Dedede didn't like getting up this early, as he was very grumpy and always shouted at everyone they were getting the death penalty whether they were messing around or not. Back when Kirby had first arrived, he usually would trudge into his throne room for a monster. These days, he threatened to order one to torment the commoners. But because Nightmare was gone, he'd get angrier when reminded and swing his prized hammer at everyone. The young warrior was a bit surprised the castle was this quiet, recalling how it was usually bustling with Waddle-Dees running around doing chores and errands. Even Tiff found it strange they weren't around.

Once they turned the corner for the exit, they froze in place. Lining up near the door in the great hall were the Waddle-Dees, who turned to face them upon arrival, some were holding their spears. The girl found this suspicious, but held tight to her friend's hand and continued her way down the middle and to the outside. Sure enough on the castle grounds, basically every Waddle-Dee was out waiting for them, with His Majesty waiting at the end, Escargoon by his side. When he saw them exit, a flashy smirk appeared on his beak, and Tiff believed he was chuckling to himself.

"What's this, Tiff?" Kirby inquired curiously.

She shrugged. "I don't exactly know, to be honest. They don't do this when Tuff and I head to school."

The king raised an arm and began waving it around. "Well, good morning, ya two!" he yelled in greeting. "Ya feeling great?"

She bowed in answer and continued on her way. This is very strange, ran through her thoughts, eyes glancing at every servant and guard. When they reached the portcullis, she spotted Meta Knight standing nearby, Sword and Blade waiting on each side. He only gave a curt nod, and she turned to Dedede. "I'm a bit confused about all this, King Dedede," she said persistently. "It's not like I'm heading off for college. Can you explain what's going on?"

Escargoon stepped forward, holding out a piece of paper that he began to read off of. "'As approved of by His Royal Highness, King Dedede, we have declared a new law, law number 3,022-point-23A, also known as 'The Castle Grounds Prohibition'. The law states that Kirby is not allowed to enter the castle grounds through any means, such as but not limited to: walking, skipping, running, swimming, rolling, shuffling, tripping, jumping—'"

Though angered by such a declaration, Tiff was already becoming impatient by being held up. "This is ridiculous!" she scoffed, her grip on Kirby's hand tightening. "We already promised Kirby will be off castle grounds once he leaves today! There was no need to make a law about it!"

"Not that we don't trust you," Escargoon said, though he smirked at the corner of his mouth, "but we felt it was better to make it official. As I was saying—"

"Has my father heard about this?"

"He voted last night."

Tiff fumed, her jaw locking up. Beside her, Kirby tugged on her hand with a quiet "poyo" to get her attention. King Dedede only chuckled, puffing his chest out. "No need to read any further, Escargoon. Little Miss Know-It-All can figure it out herself."

The child raised an arm. "I still don't understand."

"Small round pink things aren't allowed to talk!" the king snapped, glaring at him.

"He has freedom of speech too," Tiff barked out, "as he is a citizen of Dreamland."

"Well, so do I. And this is my speech." In response, Dedede pulled out his hammer and swung hard, hitting Kirby's side. The impact caused the warrior to slip out of his friend's grip and go flying at a high arc that only a light-weight figure could reach.

"KIRBY!" she screamed, watching in horror as he soared over the hill and out of sight. She whirled to the cackling king. "Dedede! I was taking him to school!"

He only laughed cruelly. "Well, he'll be the first one there, won't he?"

She glared at him hard enough he flinched. "You're a cold king," she growled, hands clenching into fists again. "Is this really how you're to treat guests?"

King Dedede puffed out his chest to make him seem more intimidating as he towered over her. "As the dictator of this country, yes I can."

It was Escargoon's turn to speak, and he smirked down at her. "Now run along, Tiff. Children get detentions if they're late to class."

The girl took a few steps back while keeping her fiery eyes on the two. She glanced over at Meta Knight and his followers to see if they were going to speak up as well, but they were silently staring off toward the trees where Kirby disappeared to. She huffed and spun around, running off to rescue her friend. The many twists and turns of the hills were difficult and made her lose her breath more quickly, but having lived on the land all her life, she continued to gather speed. A few children she passed by waved and greeted her, but she paid no heed. All that mattered was Kirby, and what condition he was currently in.

Then she felt her foot catch itself on a stray rock, and she tripped face-down onto the road. It came as a shock to her when pain shot through her hands and forehead. She sat up onto her knees, looking at her palms, and flinched at the scrapes. Taking in a sharp breath, she checked her knees to find them red, though one was bleeding. "This is just great," she moaned, staggering to stand up, though her legs shook from the pain. "Now I'm the distressed one." She fell back to her knees from the failed attempt.

"And where there's distress, there's always someone to save the troubled," a soft, calm voice answered from ahead of her.

Tiff gasped, snapping her head up at the speaker. It was a male, somewhere around her height and, much to her surprise, her appearance. His hair was wild and fiery red, bangs growing in the same direction to the left. He wore a dark green jacket, a skull poised as the zipper, his hands stuffed in the pockets. His jeans were black and covered part of his shoes, chains jangling from the sides. What caught her attention the most, however, were the color of his eyes. They were of a gentle orange, with a hint of red tints to bold the color. Under his right eye was a long scar stretching around down his cheek, pausing just above the mouth, where a smile was plastered on at the moment.

He held out a hand to her. "Need a lift?"

She barely caught the words, having lost herself just from looking into his eyes. Like many girls, her heart was too gullible and always searching for the right one. Every time she spotted a handsome boy, she'd immediately start loving them. It was a weakness her brother only knew of here and there. Of course, she was easily broken if it didn't turn out the way she wanted. She only briefly glimpsed down at the hand before snatching it to gaze back into his face again. "S-Sure! Thank you!" she stuttered, feeling her face growing hot.

The boy laughed. "It's no problem. I happened to look your way and saw you fall, so I came to help." He stuffed his hand back into his pocket. "Why were you running?"

"Huh? Oh, I was... in a hurry." Tiff suddenly felt embarrassed to run to Kirby's rescue now that someone saw her trip. "I just love school, you know." Covering up her real story... she'll have to apologize later.

He agreed. "Though it just recently opened a year-and-a-half ago, it has become a great place to be in."

"My favorite teacher has to be the history teacher."

He raised a brow. "And who may that be?"

She mimicked the same. "Professor Curio, of course. Don't you know him?"

"I'm new around here," he replied. "My family moved to Dreamland about a... couple of days ago. I just recently heard of a school not too far from the village, so I'm getting myself enrolled. Possibly by tomorrow I'll be the new student."

At that moment, Kirby was walking up the hill from a nearby forest, holding in his hands two apples. He was cheerful at the moment, having fallen into a tree with ripe apples. He had his share, but decided to take an extra for Tiff, knowing she'd be very worried. He started skipping up, squealing joyfully and humming. "Hey, Tiff! I got apple!" he called out upon seeing her, back facing him.

She didn't appear to have heard him. Concerned, he bounced over, stumbling from losing his balance. "Tiff! Apple!" he tried again. Kirby paused right next to her and saw for himself the boy she was talking to. They were chatting about school and the village, going into detail here and there. He was curious, wondering who the new Cappy was. He tugged on the long sleeve of Tiff's shirt. "Tiff? I got apple."

She was too transfixed onto the Cappy, only nodding in agreement and adding her words or opinions here and there. The child began to feel a little left out. He stared sadly at the bright apple he picked especially for her, the reason he took a while to get out of the tree, and sighed. "What wrong with Tiff?" he wondered, gloom clouding his face.

That was when the stranger looked over and spotted the young warrior. He didn't know how long he was there, listening, but he wanted to know who it was. "Oh, is that your friend?" he interrupted the current topic, gesturing to him with his head.

Tiff followed his gaze and remembered Kirby, having forgotten him from the talking. She didn't know why he looked upset, but she introduced him. "Uh, this is Kirby, the Star Warrior." Upon hearing his name and title, the boy turned around, meeting the stare of disbelief from the Cappy.

"Star Warrior? They still exist?"

"Kirby here is the new generation. Meta Knight said so when he first came to Dreamland a few years ago." She patted her friend's head.

Kirby began to feel a little better, but he stared at the strange Cappy, tilting his head slightly in puzzlement. "Tiff, who that?"

The Cappy grinned. "How rude of me not to introduce myself. I am Matter. And this young lady's name must be Tiff from what you said, hmm?"

She nodded. "Tiffany's my actual real name, but I do prefer Tiff. If someone actually uses my real name, they are reading from the roster or I'm in trouble."

Matter grinned with a charm that caught her eye immediately. "You don't look like a trouble-maker."

She flushed, smiling in embarrassment. "A-Actually, I'm not. It's my little brother, Tuff. He gets in trouble all the time."

He chuckled. "Now I'll know when I meet a trouble-maker. Thanks for warning me."

Kirby looked past his friend when he heard other voices nearby. Walking along the path were a few Cappy children heading for school, somehow unaware of the new teenager. Turning back to Tiff, he tugged on her shirt for her attention. "Tiff, school," he reminded her when she glanced down.

The girl nodded, sighing. "I have to go. I need to prepare the classroom."

Matter looked over at the other children and nodded. "I don't wish to get you in trouble, but I don't wish to stop talking."

"We'll talk later today, I promise," Tiff said, adjusting her backpack. "I take the same path to and from school. You see, I live at the castle over there." She turned around to point at King Dedede's castle, and the boy's eyes widened.

"So you're a princess, then!" he exclaimed, his orange irises lighting up.

Tiff blushed, smiling sheepishly. "No, I'm a Cabinet Minister's daughter. We just happen to live there."

"Who's the king, then?"

Sighing disdainfully, she answered, "King Dedede. He's the cruel ruler of Dreamland. I loathe him with a passion."

Matter nodded some more. "I see. Hate to meet him."

"He might kick you out like he did with Kirby here." Said-child hung his head sorrowfully.

"What'd he do?"

"Nothing, that's just it. He's only a child whom we've known since he was a baby, but King Dedede never liked him on first sight. You see, he uses this hammer—"

"Tiff, scho-o-ool!" the boy interrupted, bouncing impatiently.

"Oh, sorry Kirby," she apologized. "Oh, what're the apples for?"

Finally able to give away his gift, he smiled and handed her the bright apple he spent a long while finding. He was sure she'd be pleased. "Bright for you!" he squealed.

A smile came to her face as well, taking the fruit with gratitude. "Oh, you're so sweet, Kirby! Thank you!"

The child beamed.

Tiff turned back to Matter, placing the apple into her backpack for later. "School gets out at four. We'll talk then, okay?"

He thought it over before shrugging, a calm laid-back smile on his face. "Sure. I'll see you then, Tiff. Can't keep you waiting."

Nodding, the teenager took Kirby's free hand and walked down the path, occasionally glancing behind her shoulder to look at him. He kept his mysterious gaze upon her, and she shifted with every glance. She could feel the sick, fluttering feeling in her chest at the thought of him, and almost her hormones raging. A teenager's worst weakness was the opposite sex, everyone knew that.

"How long until we reach school?" Kirby asked, interrupting her thoughts.

"Just a bit farther." Her legs suddenly buckled out under her, and she stared at the rivulets of staining blood running down her shin. She let out a rough sigh, running a hand through her bangs. "We're late enough as it is..." A memory of a star-shaped item came to mind, and she immediately spoke to the boy, "Oh, Kirby! Where's your Warp Star, by the way?"

He looked up at her, eyes transitioning from worry to curiosity. "Still in ship. Why?"

"We need to return it to Kabu," she suggested. "Since you're staying for a while, it wouldn't hurt for him to see it again." She wondered if the ancient idol knew Kirby was returning and prepared to keep it safe. Tiff told herself to stop by to drop it off after school.

The child bounced. "Good idea!"

Glancing up at the sky, she mused out loud, "Is it still able to come if I call it?"

"I think so."

Pleased to hear the words, Tiff paused and raised her voice to the sky. "Come forth, Warp Star!"

They waited, looking for a flying object heading their way. Searching this way and that, the two grew excited to ride it, mostly Kirby. He didn't get to ride it as often, since he never did find another person who cared for him to command it to battle when needed. He usually was on his own. And when he saw the golden gleam in the distance up, he shrieked with delight, "Warp Star! Warp Star!"

His friend gasped in surprise as it sped toward them and scooped them onto its surface. The warrior was already on his feet to steer, but the teenager could only try to hold on, gazing in awe at the speed and height it flew. Any Cappies they passed below exclaimed in disbelief and waved, crying out Kirby's name. She smiled sadly. That's right, they all remember this belongs to Kirby.

"Where school?" he asked from beside her.

Looking over the side at the bird-eye's view of the town, she spotted the moderate building not too far away, a small bell tower next to it. "Right here, Kirby. Tilt here."

At the slightest lean, the Warp Star sloped downward at its amazing acceleration. The groups on the school grounds upon spotting it began scattering, small cries growing louder as they neared. At the right moment, the child straightened the Star to a stop where it hovered a foot off the ground. They jumped off and it gradually rose, programmed as so when finished. With a squeak, Kirby ordered, "Kabu," and it shot off in a jet of light toward the hidden statue.

The coast now clear, everyone crowded around the two, praising the child's return to Dreamland. Many commented on the entrance, wishing they could arrive in style as well, while others wanted to know his stories. None asked Tiff how the ride was or even how her morning went. She didn't mind. As long as Kirby was still recognized, everything was fine. She still made herself known by excusing herself and her friend to head for the classroom. The crowd still followed behind, shouting out questions the warrior couldn't catch. He kept close to her side, watching the line grow. Upon reaching the one and only classroom, the air became heavy from excitement. Tiff allowed him to sit on her desk while she set up preparations for the day.

Iroh, a loud, but kind-hearted Cappy with his hair still in a spiky ponytail, was the most excited Kirby had returned. "We missed you a lot, Kirby," he reported, others agreeing with him.

"Me too," the puffball replied.

He continued, "Things haven't been much fun without you around. The whole gang was incomplete when you were gone, and even soccer has gotten dull. But what I'm interested in at the moment is wanting to hear your stories, Kirby." The students surrounding the two shouted out similar responses.

Tiff interrupted at the board, though with a smile. "He can tell it during lunch, he needs his rest right now. He's had a lot the last few days, if I'm correct."

Being the naïve child he was, the young warrior began counting off what happened. "Fighting monster, more monsters, coming to Dreamland, eating, meeting Dedede, talking, sleeping... uh, eating... the boot... eating..." He trailed off.

Some Cappies were confused. "What do you mean, 'the boot'?" one inquired, leaning on his desk.

Kirby turned to Tiff for help. Feeling his stare, she sighed, not wanting to tell them. "Well, you all know how much King Dedede hates Kirby," she started. "So this morning, he declared a new law that if Kirby returns to the castle, he'll get kicked out of Dreamland. And as we were leaving, he swung that hammer of his and blasted him to a forest."

Everyone muttered among themselves, some making nasty remarks about the king. The girl quickly stepped over to cover the boy's ears upon correctly sensing swear words coming to being. Kirby didn't dare ask.

Later, when the whole classroom was in attention to the lesson, and the child was sleeping in Tiff's lap, she began to lose her thoughts to the mysterious boy who strangely had the same physical appearance as her and Tuff. Matter, the new kid in town who happened to look like her, interrupted her like no other. She began to feel flushed as well once more, her mind nervous about the words she could say to him. How to become friends with him... and what questions he might ask. And when to start introducing him to her parents...

A snore from her lap burst her thought bubble, and she froze. The teacher had paused in her lesson to stare at the problem, and a few students, if not giving odd looks, were laughing under their breaths. Kirby rolled to his side as he yawned, head lying against her chest.

"Tiff, it's a privilege you're keeping young Kirby in the classroom with you," the teacher said, arms folded across her chest. "We're happy he's back, but he is disrupting the class. Can you quiet him down for me?"

"I'll try, ma'am," she apologized, bowing her head in embarrassment.

"If I hear another sound from him, he'll have to leave." And she turned back to the board to finish writing the current equation.

Sighing quietly, Tiff covered his mouth to stifle the snores, lightly enough she wouldn't wake him. She returned to her notes, pen still in hand. But her thoughts wandered once more to Matter, and she lost herself again.

Not even algebra could keep him away from her mind.