A/N Well, Souldin, I know it's quite late, but happy birthday.

I'm not entirely sure how you got this story from here. I used a familiar song you may recognize as a base, and then I ended up a world away, with the song still attached to my finger like a memory string. It's a grand production, but that's how I intended it; a second attempt at a sweeping tribute to a game I'm incredibly familiar with this time, hoping to pull it off well with a lot of elements I'm both familiar, unfamiliar and even terrified of.

I'm hoping you'll like it. I made sure to do the best I could, so I apologize for any glaring errors. I was hoping that this story would give you a vacation from having to pick apart for useful critique and error finding, haha.

To everyone else, I hope you like it as well. Mario is truly my favorite game series of all time and will probably always be.

Disclaimer: I own nothing, regret nothing and let them forget nothing.


I'm back at the start.

At the start of everything, it seems. Right here at this patch of a brick road among the grass, the wooden boxes floating in the air above me and the spot below them where the brown, zombie-like Goomba species first made its appearance to me. In the distance, I see your familiar castle, a place that always reminded me of you yet never truly felt like home, to either of us. There's a pipe just ahead of me, ten feet tall and five wide. It's the size of a common house but somehow I've always been able to leap over it without much problem.

Your people, they call me a superhuman, a hero. They believe that the combination of having supposedly incredible powers coupled with the drive to use them to help people makes me a god among men. It's a kind thought, one that always made me smile, but I don't agree with it. I don't think I ever have. I'm not a god or a saint or a superhero. I'm just a passionate, romantic fool who would do anything for the one he loves.

I would do anything for you.

I feel the paper tucked into my favorite red hat, and I make sure my hat is kept tightly on for good measure. Then I close my eyes to gather my strength and courage for this last trip. It's the last one I'll go on, and there will be no obstacles in my way this time. Bowser has left us alone for a long time now, as you know. He's in his kingdom and I'm in yours. I suppose that counts a success- the cold war is over and we're at peace, if no different from when we started.

Nevertheless, this will be the hardest journey I'll ever face.

I count to three, and then I open my eyes and run.

Leaping over the pipe still poses no problem. I'm still able to leap from one to another until I find the one I'm looking for. One of my favorite shortcuts to use in particular. I lift the manhole off of the pipe and drop down, not waiting to fix the lid firmly back on. It doesn't matter. No one uses these anymore.

I fall into the empty cavern. There was once fifteen coins down here, floating in the air and waiting to be gathered. Those coins are gone now, and there's just empty black space and cold blue bricks. I find my way to the other side of the small vault cave and to the other pipe just across. When I get there, I clamber my way up the ladder and back to the top. Somehow I'm in as good a shape as I've always been.

Out of curiosity, I leap into one of the wooden boxes with the question mark on them, wondering if they will reveal any contents anymore. Unsurprisingly, they do not. With a forlorn sigh, I reminisce my first journey through the pathways and the wonder each new sight brought me. Then I continue on. I avoid the massive block staircase as there is no flagpole to jump towards, no fort to claim back in the name of the Mushroom Kingdom. Instead, I loop around; sparing a passing glance to the ruins of that first fort before dashing on, almost wishing to escape its sight.

The path is desolate and eventually winds away from the sandy remnants of what it once was into a nearby plain, where the grass begins to grow again. The hills are tall and stacked in a neat row in front of me, making perfect platforms of their own. While I won't be using them today, I take a second to admire them.

I don't believe I've used this path before, but the hills remind me of the strange dream I had once. You had it too, I believe, my dear. We were all dreaming of another world to save, of new people, new species, from a new villain. Sometimes I wonder if it was more real than we believed it to be. Oftentimes dreams like that are. After all, I've seen sights awake that I never dreamed I would see before.

I continue through the forests, knowing that there's not that long before I begin to reach civilization again. I enjoy the quiet, protective atmosphere the woods put forth. They weren't always this way- they once teemed with threatening enemies that wished me harm. I'm happy to say that we are at peace by now- I can see a Monty Mole digging through the sand and a goonie in the sky. Both give me a passing glance before looking the other way, occupying themselves with their own business.

Eventually, I see smoke. There's no fire, thank god, but I always get a little paranoid when I see it. I'm much too used to danger and fear that worry is instinctual by now. Such is the price to pay as a hero. Soon enough I'm able to see the chimney that the smoke is nonchalantly pouring from; certainly no cause for alarm. The dirt road widens and becomes more prominent as I pass through the rustic village, with red brick houses and wooden storefronts. I see a toad or two poke out their windows and shout a welcome towards me, and several more point me out from the streets. I find myself running even faster away from the small town. I know they mean well but I certainly do not feel much for talking or becoming a spectacle, at least not today. Luckily, I'm away from the main street and almost to my next destination.

I see the Airship station come into view and I gulp. I'm still not entirely trusting of them; I'm so used to the warships flying through the sky, dodging my way through the decks and away from the cannonballs and bullets fired at me so I can take out the most recent Koopa Kingdom leader. It's so unusual to sit on one, welcome and unharmed. Wordlessly, I make my way into line, a line which notices me with grins and happy greetings. I simply nod, giving a weak smile when I don't feel entirely happy myself. Bittersweet emotions run through my heart and make my stomach ache and turn, but I keep a courteous face on as I eventually prepare to pay my fare, holding three gold coins in my hand and relinquishing them with no problem as a koopa lets me on. With the war over, they've slowly integrated into our society without much harm or problem. I have no further qualms with them; the war is over after all. I think you'd venture to agree, my dear. You were never one for war.

Looking through the wooden cabin of the ship, four seats on each side of an open pathway, I find many seats to be open still. Eventually I decide on a seat by the window. The view is incredible. I can see the distant cliffs of the Donut Plains, the hills jagged and geometric. They were always an odd sight, as was most anything on Dinosaur Land. I look a bit south of the plains to see the colony Yoshi's Island set up below them. I remember that was where I met them- again, I suppose. When I freed them from their own prisons, they began to maintain the state of the land, eventually setting up a second home there. It's a lovely place, certainly.

Eventually the airship blasts off quietly, the giant wings moving fluidly not unlike a bird's, synergistically working with the blast of the engine. The lull of the flaps relaxes me and eventually I fall into an uneasy sleep.

It's a shout that jars me to attention. I see flames protruding from the sides of the ships, dissolving the wings of the ship slowly. I look to the left to see a cannonball flying towards the ship, breaking a hole in the window and causing smoke to pour into our ship. The people are in a panic and I feel a desperate hammering in my chest.

No. No! Please, God, no! I thought it was all over! I thought the war was done!

I look on in shock and feel the vertigo as we descend out of the sky. Everyone is screaming, and some are even weeping. The oceans wait below us, eager to swallow us up. I desperately try and move, to do something. I'm their hero! I must do something!

But I can't. I can't move. I try to command my muscles into action, desperate not to let everyone down, to save us all. But my arms won't budge, as if they're made of lead. My legs feel as if they're nailed against the seat. I feel a piercing sweat work around my forehead, and I can't swivel it anymore, just able to stare out the window as the cannon fire continues and we continue to descend to our deaths. I'm helpless. I can't save them this time. Nothing can.

This can't be how it ends. Please, don't let it end like this. The war was over…

It's my own screams that awake me from my own nightmare. I notice that everyone is staring at me in shock, aghast and (even worse) pitiful. I shamefully close my eyes, trying to avert their glares. I try to move my arm. It's free, and I take my hat off so I can wipe the sweat from my brow. I test out the rest of my muscles before I find the ability to open my eyes.

I sigh in relief. Everything is perfectly fine and safe. Nothing is on fire or destroyed, and the wings are flapping just as strong as they usually are. I still don't feel completely satisfied as I keep a steady watch on the airship, tense and alert. I've just been bitterly reminded of the fact that everything could go wrong again. It's such a fear that keeps me from being at rest. I fear that Bowser will attack again, and that I will be back on the battlefield once more, and that your kingdom will finally be captured.

I feel as if I can never be normal again. Perhaps I never will be.

The rest of the ride is as uneventful as it has always been. We pull into the station and the people begin to leave the train. I can't bring myself to stand up yet, as such an action takes a startling amount of bravery for whatever reason. I'm snapped to attention when I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around to face it and I see an older koopa woman, smiling kindly and handing me a piece of notebook paper.

My god, I almost lost it! I take the letter and thank the lady kindly. She nods, still smiling, and works her way off the train. I clench the folded note in my fist, fearful of letting it go, but I'm able to put it back in my cap, put my cap back on and exit the train at long last.

By now we've descended to the shores of the homeland of Yoshi's Island. I owe these people everything, it seems. Without them I'd be a casualty that never existed, the prevention of a prophecy of my destroying the Koopa Kingdom. It was due to the Yoshi species that I survived Kamek's attempts to assassinate me before I could even see my parents. I wasn't born to a human mother. No one knows quite where I came from; the stork is long dead by now. That's why the Mushroom Kingdom calls me a god or godsend, because they believe I descended straight from the gods to save them.

You never cared for any of that. Whether I was a demigod or mortal man, whether you were princess or waif. I was simply Mario to you. To me, you were love. Not much more could be said than that. It was not the hate for the dragon that motivated me. It was the love for the princess.

I don't run once I get off of the ship. I walk slowly, taking in the sights. It wasn't until after I rescued them from their imprisonment in the Plains that I learned that they were my origin. When I found that out, I took a full month to visit this place, learn it from the inside out. This island was a completely separate entity then the Mushroom and Koopa kingdoms. It was a democracy, and it had disavowed any further participation in the war a long while ago, seceding to neither then Mushroom or Koopa kingdoms. The citizens have learned to appreciate each other and give each other respect, damn whatever war preceded us.

I can even see it now. A Yoshi male, dressed in a fine suit, shakes hands with a traditionally dressed Shyguy, in red robes and donning their white mask. You see, the people here are smarter than most other places. They recognize that war is a division and try to avoid it, and when they are away from it, they heal and start again. Some people call it unnatural. I think it's just the opposite.

As eager as I was to fight for you, I never liked war and I never, ever will be swayed otherwise. As I've found to be evident today, it still gives me nightmares. The wounds on my body have healed, but my mind and heart will be scarred forever.

You've always kept me strong, though.

Another reason I've always appreciated Yoshi's Island is because they don't make a spectacle out of me, at least not the residents. As I walk through the streets, I receive a friendly wave and a polite welcome from a few strangers, but they are thankfully not leaping out their windows and singing my praises while I pass through town. I slow my pace, feeling at ease, and I allow the warm, welcoming atmosphere to soothe my bones and my spirit.

Cirrus Seashore is one of the more soft-spoken places of the Island. It revolves around one main arterial road, as most small towns usually do. The water is placid, the sky is as blue as a robin's egg, the airship station is clean, the people are friendly and unassuming, and the businesses are small. This is a place I'd consider spending the rest of my days, but I can't stay now. Not yet. I'm not at my destination yet, as much as I'd like to be.

I do permit myself to stay for lunch. I notice an Italian restaurant called Mia Stella Eterna. My eternal star. The title makes my heart flutter and a smile cross my lips. The place itself is welcoming; the shades are drawn, the patio is spacious and the door is always open. I should know. I took you here when we visited for kart racing. You thought the place was lovely, and I agreed. The loveliest part was that for all they cared, we were just another happy couple enjoying the beach, despite the fact that they knew I was a hero and you were my princess. Somewhat selfishly, I always wished it could be that simple.

I take a seat by the window and await my menu. I consider taking my cap off but I remember the last time I took it off and how I almost lost the note. Instead, I readjust it and sit back in the wooden chair.

A short time later, I get my menu and a nice glass of iced tea, on the house as is the courtesy given to all guests. I enjoy it just for that fact. I don't really need the menu either as I knew that as soon as I walked through here I'd be walking out with a stomach full of spaghetti. I smile in anticipation and look around the place once more, taking in the familiar sights and atmosphere, something I used to think was overrated in a restaurant, but as I sit here now I realize that the food is secondary; a nice place to rest and reminisce is what I'm here for.

I look just above my head, neck craned uncomfortably as I recognize a painting so familiar to me, for better or worse. It's of two unsmiling snowmen, wearing caps not unlike a desert traveler, wielding snowballs in their gloved hands. I shudder and then laugh, because the adventure they remind me of was all sorts of unusual.

It is said that a painting can summarize a whole era, contain a whole world. I once discovered this to be true. It was one of the few times that when you were rescued from your own painting, I was actually eager to tell you of my adventures. After all, I wasn't convinced they were even real! Leaping through paintings and fighting for golden stars within them made one of my top priorities upon finishing making sure that I had not been drugged. But they were very real, and I'll never forget them. This time, I'd never try.

The spaghetti arrives before I've even placed my order. The server, an elderly red Yoshi woman, gives me a knowing wink as she places the plate down at the table. I laugh loudly, eternally grateful for such a gesture and shake her hand vigorously before she lets me go and, with a smile, returns to work. I find that somehow, the food tastes ten times better than usual.

After I pay (leaving a ten coin tip for the excellent server), I find myself walking back to the airship terminal. I wish I could stay, I honestly do. But I feel the note brush against my hair and realize that I'm not done yet. Maybe I'll be back, but if I never am, this was the best way I could wish Cirrus Seashore and Yoshi's Island a farewell.

Softly, reluctantly, I walk back to the airship station, pay three more coins and take my seat again. I focus my attention on the bay through the window in the back, waiting to depart and not willing to take my eyes off of it until I do.

Soon enough, the ship departs, this time heading for Isle Delfino. Part of me wants to sleep but I fear the nightmares will take hold again and so I force myself to stay awake and stay calm. Somehow I do, throughout the entire five hour flight. My mind is not at ease but I manage. I just have to keep faith in the fact that the ship won't crash or be attacked and ignore the distant possibility that it just might. When we land, I'm the first one out despite the fact that I'm sitting in the back of the ship.

Isle Delfino. The gateway to the stars, they've called it lately. I can't argue; over the expansive, endless ocean here, much larger than the Cirrus Sea. It seems as if it could never end, that no boat could ever find another shore from here. But I know better.

This place has always had its charm, and its memories- bitter, sweet and a combination of both. When we finally arrived here for vacation, of course, you saw me arrested for a crime I didn't commit. You were just as shocked as I; refusing to believe I could do such a thing that destroys the livelihood of a perfectly harmless place. Even when I was convicted and given my sentence you still didn't believe them. You always had a blinding faith in me, just as I always had a blinding love for you. We'd always live for each other, even if it killed us.

Maybe it's the blind faith and love that brings me here after all.

Of course, this isn't my destination. I probably won't even stay here that long. I'm not even that hungry so I doubt I'll stay for a whole other meal. After standing on the boardwalk adjacent to the terminal, I decide something of the island's famed fruit stands couldn't hurt. Trading a coin for a bright red apple and a fresh peach (I'm sure you can find the sweet humor in the decision), I place them in my giant overall pockets and brace myself for the next part of my journey.

I find my way down a familiar alleyway, two rights, a left and a short duck behind a staircase away from the boardwalk. I've memorized the directions by now. I hoist open a wooden window against one of the cream-colored stone walls and reach inside. I smile to see that the device I'm looking for is still hidden where it's always been.

I pull out the FLUDD with a smile and power it up, cradling it in my arms like a small child. It cocks its nozzle-head at me but says nothing, its voice chip broken a long time ago. It barely works anymore so I keep it powered down and let it rest away from any harm, only using it every few years. I wonder how it feels about that, if it feels anything about that. Nevertheless, it's ready for one last trip over the oceans.

Making sure it's the turbo nozzle that is attached, I quietly place it on my back and creep my way back to the ocean, trying not to be noticed. Of course there are no legal troubles if I am using my FLUDD but it always creates such a spectacle that I prefer anonymity before I blast off.

When it's at the ocean, I fill the pack with as much water as it will take. When I'm sure it's full, I stand just at the shorelines, taking deep breaths and reassuring my nerves. Then, I force myself to press the button.

Isle Delfino's a speck in less than a minute as the jet blast from the pack throws me across the water at the speed of ten blue hedgehogs. I laugh again from a mix of adrenaline and nostalgia as I remember the rambunctious Sonic, a young man who loved to showoff but meant no harm. We always considered each other rivals, but just as much friends. He's probably just as fast now as he's ever been. Age never slows a talent like that; I should know.

I blast along the top of the oceans at a speed no mortal could achieve. I'm surprised that the power of physics hasn't ripped my face off but I'm eternally grateful. I feel powerful, this time for no purpose other than what my heart desires. The stars are a gorgeous blur in the sky that keeps the calm waters lit brightly. They're all I see until a familiar jungle island appears, a place that no one knows but you and I. Now, just I. But your spirit will never leave.

In no time at all, I'm on the shores, sand flying on both sides of my person and creating two haphazard towers up to my waist when I finally skid to a halt, nearly flying into a tree. I think this island is quite literally the middle of nowhere. I catch my breath, sitting on the sands and venturing to look back upon our first visit here.

I remember the journey was a lot similar to the one I just took myself; the same method of travel, at least. You were in my arms for what was the first time, although it was for the sake of safety. When I turned the FLUDD on, I remember a lot of screaming and laughing, often at the same time. Your ponytail smacked me in the face multiple times, but somehow I managed to steer cleanly enough.

Now this time we weren't looking for a destination- I was simply showing you a thrilling time, trying to get you to smile after a 'vacation' that left a bitter taste on your tongue, as well as mine. It seemed to work- as terrified as you were, I could make out a wide grin to match the frightened eyes of a fish out of water- or perhaps a princess flying above the water. To our surprise, however, we found a destination- the island that eventually would become familiar to both of us. To relieve your near-to-bursting heart, I slowed down to land directly on the shores, nearly dropping you as the speed disappeared and we stood still on the shores- well, still except the dizzy swaying brought by vertigo.

You tried to dust yourself off as if nothing had happened when I let you go, but I'd have none of it. Perhaps it was the fact that things really did seem to change at long last. Perhaps it was the fact that seeing you cut loose awoke something in me. Maybe it was because I finally let any denial and fear go and allowed myself to acknowledge the truth of my uncontrolled, unshakable affection for you. Whatever the case, I laughed harder than I ever have, before or after this day, and pushed you lightly, playfully. I remember you falling off balance and onto the sands, and the flash of concern and self-deprecation that followed, but even then I could see you smirking, an expression not often seen on a bright disposition such as yourself.

Somehow, I could tell I was in for it when that smirk turned into a wicked grin as you launched yourself off the sands and onto me, knocking me off the ground. A shock rang through my system and my laughter was far out of my control as we tumbled through the sand, neither of us quite conscious that we were kissing with a passion restrained or unacknowledged for several years. There was no questioning anything, no regret, and no explanation. Did there even need to be?

I don't quite remember when we stopped- time was no longer a factor during those moments, minutes, hours, days or even years that the kiss took up. Eventually, though, we had to stop, if only because breathing was a requirement to live. I still had trouble breathing with my heart hammering at the speed of the Turbo Nozzle, and even you were clutching at your chest. Who knew how exhausted romance could make a person?

I'm not entirely sure what happened afterward, as time has dulled my memory. Some moments, though, my mind records and plays in perfect sequence in a file never to be erased. When that recording ends, I blink myself back to consciousness and decide with mixed emotions to wander into the island a little further.

This island, miles away from anywhere else and never recorded on any map was one that we could not often visit. Nevertheless, I think we both saw it as our home. Indeed, even as I worked my way past the palm trees and into the grass, I see an old wooden cabin, a place that we spent a combined total of five years in during various days and weeks stolen from the pressures of the outside world as a princess and an eventually retired hero. Even when you worked out a successful truce with Bowser, the duties of a monarch took you away from me much too often.

Nevertheless, the cabin is much as we remembered it. The wood is stained by rain but has still held up from the day we finished building it. A small, barely managed garden lines the front entrance, entangled in wild grass. The cabin itself is a mere ten by twelve feet- a small place but it mattered not since we were the only ones to use it. A small cot lay at the top left corner, barely enough to hold the both of us but bringing us closer together. Under the bed I still see stacks of linens, to keep us warm at night and to shelter us from rain during the storms. There's a metal stove on the same wall, heated up only by wood and the ever-abundant and maintained patches of fire flowers that we also used to prepare food on the wooden countertop on the wall across from the door. A small handmade table and two chairs also made of wood line the wall on the right. I take one of those chairs and sit down, surprised that it's just as sturdy as it always has been. I open a tin box- a cigarette tin for a brand I, as a nonsmoker, never heard of. It preceded our arrival across these lonely shores by nearly seventy years if the date labeled on the lid is to be believed. It's about doubled that by now.

I open that tin and look at the contents, as consistent as ever. A deck of playing cards, an accompanying notebook, several paperbacks I somehow never tired of reading and two objects we never displayed in public- in fact, only three people never knew of their existence.

I take one of the rings out of the tin and place it on its proper finger. Our ceremony was only attended by the three people who have seen that this island is true and real. I place the lid back on the tin and, on a whim, run to the door again to see if what I remember is still there. I smile as I confirm its presence to be true- a thin, orange metal sign adorned by two butterflies and a daisy, a sign that reads Welcome Home. It would seem an acceptably cute wedding gift for anyone else anywhere else, but Daisy knew that this would mean something special for the two of us. She knew that here, politics and war and strife and heartbreak would be negated here in this sweet escape, because just for a few moments, we would be home.

Sometimes I think it's criminal that we were allowed to outlive her by nearly half a century.

Melancholy swoops over me as I go back into the cabin, under the stars. This place was the one place we could truly be married, where you were truly mine. You knew when my proposal was rejected how much it hurt me, because it hurt you just as much. Soon I would come to know that you wouldn't wish the fate of becoming royalty on anyone, especially me. You knew better. The idea of happily ever after was a foolish one. You were the one who had to send her soldiers out to war, to kill thousands of people attacking us out of the same fear and anger we harbored in the Mushroom Kingdom. I could see how much it killed you to do so. I've heard you cry many times after a tough decision, the tears salt on my wounded heart. I remember tears beginning to stain your cheeks the day you turned me down, where I stood on the balcony of the castle, skin and bones hollowed out inside.

The cabin was the compromise. Here, we had freedom in solitude. While the rest of the kingdom saw me as a friend or even a part-time lover, truth and honesty greeted us with escapism every time we gave the orange welcome sign a bittersweet smile, the tragedy that befell the woman who gave it to us a tear that never quite healed in our lives. We could never take it down, though. It would be as if the truth would escape the island as quick as Daisy's legacy, two things we could never bear to let go of.

I realize that I still have the fruit in my pockets and no appetite to eat them. I pull them out of my pocket, unsure of what to do with them. Eventually, I place the apple and peach next to each other on the table. They'll probably stay here forever, in place of you and I.

Even then, this isn't my final destination. I'm not even sure if I could ever return to this place. It's already served its purpose; there's no further use for it. It just brings the pain of irretrievable memories with it, nostalgia with the bitter taste of cough syrup that still finds a way to heal a broken part of your soul. I get out of the chair and find the familiar loose plank that serves as a hiding space for a special object. I should know; Luigi left it that way on purpose when he helped us build the cabin. He knew what would be hidden there.

I pull it up and reach around, pulling out a star-shaped trinket that fits in the palm of my hand and yet is larger than life. It's clear and orange, simplistic in design. I don't let it go, but I take my hat off for a moment and make sure the letter is still in there. It is, unmoved by the swift journey over here. I smile, place it back on and walk out of the cabin for the last time, but not after gingerly taking the FLUDD off and resting it on the bed.

When I'm back on the island shores, I release the star and let it fall into the sky. It floats just in front of me, as always. I press a button on the top and begin to back away swiftly, watching as the star expands nearly as fast, until it is ten feet wide. I take a deep breath, count to three again and then leap directly into the center of the star. As usual, it embraces me tightly, and with another press of a button, I'm launched into the stars.

It's never a time-consuming journey, even as I travel millions of miles into the distance I feel no air pressure attack my body. It's a simple, calming flight, passing through the endless amounts of space faster than the speed of light while feeling as if I'm staying in place. The sights are glorious, and I'm truly honored to have even the ability to be amongst the unending cycle of life thriving here. Even if I have been allowed to walk amongst the stars and fly through space, I still feel no more than a humble man. I don't know if at heart I've ever been anything more; simply a lucky, passionate man who's truly humbled by what he's been able to achieve and what he's been allowed to have.

Soon enough, I see my final destination. This was one of the last places you mentioned. You've been here before, as have I, as a visitor but never a warrior. I can see two incredibly important people waiting for me, as well as a number of Lumas swarmed at their feet. It's no surprise as they get an alert in the Observatory every time I use the Sling Star Rosalina gifted you and I for our wedding.

I land at the Comet Observatory safely, on my own two feet, alive and well. I look in front of me at Rosalina, as radiant as the sun, just like always. Next to her is my brother Luigi, who hasn't aged a bit since the years following their own wedding. They regard me with a warm smile and quietly begin to lead me into their home, the Lumas chattering excitedly around us.

Their home is also unchanged from before, full of expansive space decorated with subtle colors of all kinds. Books line the walls in various meticulously cared for shelves. The place is clean and designed to perfection- a large violet couch makes an expansive half circle around the hub room with a large chestnut table in the center. This hub room is rarely filled, if ever, but it's still maintained and designed with precision, because I guess there's not much else to do with an eternity.

I take a seat on the far left side, still not feeling at ease. The finale of this journey is nearly up, and I don't feel anywhere near prepared. Rosalina and Luigi sit directly across from me, politely granting me space. Small talk is made, and I answer accordingly, still not entirely aware of their presence or even real life through my nerves. Gracefully, they don't mention you as they know I'm not prepared for those questions yet. I listen with as much intent as I can, because their words do interest me and would a lot more if I were not in the state I am in.

If I hear them correctly, I believe children were mentioned 'in the distant future' which they certainly have plenty of. A little bit of teasing transpires between the two at the idea while I crack a small smile. We never had children, due to the circumstances we were in. I can't decide how I feel about that because I have a feeling that all my doubts would have been erased if I were to see a living being of our own creation. But the past is the past, and there was never changing any of that. Just learning from it, enjoying the present and planning for the future.

When they finally pull their conversation away from hair mussing and playful kisses (seemingly aware that I am actually in the room) they dust themselves off, give embarrassed smiles and go on to mention a bit about a plan of theirs, to find somewhere in space to finally settle down and create a world. Any empty, livable planet would do just fine, that they could invite adventurous people of all species and sorts from the universe to colonize and start a new world. It seems like a project Rosalina would partake in, but I don't think she came to the realization entirely on her own. The presence of another human like herself really has changed her, just as much as it saved Luigi.

I can even see now, by their subtle but knowing dynamic just how much they mean to each other. I don't ever think that they'll ever get sick of each other, even if they are now both immortal. I know it was the fear and heartbreak of death that really changed Luigi, even if for the better. After Daisy's death, we both could see for ourselves how much it killed Luigi, even if temporarily. I can see why such an event would inspire him to trade freedom for immortality and love, although I'm sure that Rosalina's companionship had a large effect on him as well. She's just what he needed; a wise, caring woman who could hear what he had to say and talk with him endlessly, never judging him no matter how far out his theories and thoughts were, even if she disagreed. It was around the time that they realized how they could hold a conversation for an eternity if they so wished that they decided that it was exactly what they wanted.

Sometimes, I envy them. Most, I don't. I don't think I could handle immortality. The fact that I age at less than seventy percent the rate of the average human already gets me enough. Maybe I truly am a demi-god unaware of my own power. Yet, I've always wished I could be a simple mortal. I often wished that I could have died with you instead of being left alone for another fifty years. Does that make any sense?

Eventually, I'm so wrapped up into my thoughts that I feel the aching need to rip the bandage off. I interrupt their current conversation with the first words I'm truly aware of.

"Guys, I'm… I'm so sorry, guys; I've barely been able to pay attention to much anything you're saying." I take a breath as my throat tightens up, threatening to take any further vocal power away from me. Luigi nods, understanding. He's gone through my pain before and even with Rosalina, it's something he'll never forget, even if it never takes prominence in his heart. Also knowing is Rosalina herself, who is standing up and walking to my side of the couch. She takes my hand to help me up, aware that I have the physical strength to do so myself but not quite the emotional power.

I'm already choking up. "I… I really just want to get this over with." Rosalina nods, giving me a smile with the bittersweet acknowledgment of countless millennia's knowledge. Luigi slowly follows, but doesn't keep immediate time with his lover as we find our way back outside to the garden. Even the Lumas know not to follow us, to give us peace during the farewell.

I notice my reflection in the pond. My hair is almost beginning to gray and my physique is deceptively youthful. I look a third of my age, maybe half. Much too young. You and I turned one hundred years old in the same year. You died while I lived. That hardly seems to be fair to either of us.

Soon enough, we're standing on the edge of the observatory, standing above endless space. If I were to fall, I'd be at the mercy of a swift reaction from Rosalina's magic. She would probably catch me fast since she can sense that I feel that the fact that I live and breathe is some sort of an injustice that kills my heart decades before my body, at least right now. The grief seems to fill up inside of me like a balloon full of water, daring to burst me open.

I'm about to let you go. I don't want to, but I have no choice.

Of course I'll never forget you, or stop loving you. But I have to acknowledge that I'll never hear another new sentence from you, or the old familiar ones such as I love you. I'll never see you again, nor shall I hold you. I'll never kiss you, I'll never carry you in my arms across the oceans to somewhere only we know. I'll never comfort you again, and I'll never have you to keep me strong and sane again. I'm on my own, with only the perfect memories that I hope will last me forever.

I take out the paper, the note. On that note, I've put everything I know of you. I've written pages tucked into each other about your appearance, your eyes, your smile, your heart. What foods you love and what foods you despise. Your hate of war and your love of peace, your sense of humor and what breaks your heart. The memories you never forgot, the experiences you'd live again and again, the love you had for me that never died with you. I've written up a short, comprehensive history on you and everything about you. It's almost a recipe, of everything that created the princess I loved.

Rosalina has taught me all about rebirth. The Lumas she has raised for a time longer than history will grow to become stars and planets and life all around the galaxy. When they die, the dust will form again and become Lumas once more, or something of the sort. She knows the science behind it. I know the emotion.

My fist is tight around the paper, terrified of letting it go because I know I'll never be able to catch it again. Rosalina notices and gently places her hand on mine, helping me pry it open slowly. She keeps her hand on mine, making sure I don't close it again. I can see her one visible eye, uncovered by her fringe, and the cool blue seems warmer than usual. I take a deep breath again, counting to three before I throw the note out of my hand.

It bounces off the ledge, almost retrievable for a moment. Out of instinct, I reach for it, but watch hopelessly as it ricochets off into empty space, out of my sight before I know it. And just like that, you're gone. You're truly gone.

It's the crack in my strength and resolution that finally lets the grief pour out. The next thing I know, I'm sitting on the ground, shaking, and the rush of memories is taking over every thought I have. They engrain themselves into my blood, never to be forgotten or abandoned. In some ways, Peach, you'll never die. You have a brilliant legacy.

Rosalina takes a seat next to me on the edge, her legs dangling out of her dress and over the edge. She takes my hand and doesn't flinch when I fall against her shoulder and begin to weep. This is such a shock to the system, the final bitter acknowledgment of your passing. She understands this well, out of past experience and out of her own fears, ones that she harbors and hides very well but are only logical when you see her with Luigi. It's not often that you have an eternity to spend with someone, and losing that would never be predictable.

But not every story ends with happily ever after, because we never have had forever after. Not even princesses do, I suppose. I can only hope that somehow, you find your own rebirth somewhere in space, your soul flying on a clump of paper through the stars.

Eventually, I find the tears have stopped. Unexpectedly, I find that instead of empty I feel… clean. I feel as if I've gotten the pain out of my system, at least for now. I feel the impact of the cool air and it brushes the stains of grief off of me, and it leaves me renewed. Reborn, even. I still feel a pain in my chest but it's accompanied by a nervous, excited flutter. I realize that I still have around forty, fifty years left with my life. It was a burden a few moments ago, but now there's a glimmer of hope, expectancy.

I stand up and face Rosalina. My dear brother, my constant, unfailing companion even a million miles away, walks towards me and embraces me comfortingly. I don't cry again but I find myself reliant on him for support standing up. I understand at long last how he felt through the years, looking up to me for strength and guidance. He already seems like he's thousands of years ahead of me, such is the way Rosalina rubbed off on him. When he lets me go, it's her hand he takes, the three of us standing together, the silence speaking volumes, most likely ones of history. During that silence, I finally find the strength to smile, because I realize that I still have my brother and sister-in-law. I haven't lost them. And that's a start, even if a small one.

I hear her voice, crystal clear this time. "Mario, may we offer you residence for the night?"

It takes me a little bit to think it over. Normally I'd decline, but I'm still not strong enough to face day-to-day life yet. I nod slowly. My brother grins and admits "That's excellent... I mean, the circumstances could have been better, but... it really has been much too long, Mario."

I run a hand through my hair. It's so interesting how even with my aging having been slowed, I still look twice his age instead of four years older. "You're right, it has."

Rosalina nods quietly, and we begin to walk back to the observatory. As we do, I discover a foreign yet familiar feeling has overtaken me- normalcy. An end to grief, even if just for now. Maybe you weren't all I was releasing. Maybe I can heal and start again.

Maybe things really do get better, Peach.

I stay a full week by their request, one I'm more than happy to comply with. I still feel a level of sorrow, and I find myself crying once or twice more, but not with the brokenness that I had before. They're supportive of me, but more importantly, they help bring normal interactions back into my life. I cook for them (my request this time), we play card games, we stargaze, and we talk about life. During that latter activity, I realize that now that all is said and done, I don't have much to talk about.

Luigi suggests that I should change that. After all, I have a few more decades on me. Seeing as he has become very knowledgable about time, I decide to try following his advice.

A month later, I find myself in Cirrus Seashore once more, this time here to stay. I don't have much with me because I don't have much of anything. I do have one bag over my back, in place of the Turbo FLUDD I never plan to pick up again. I won't be returning to our island, Peach, but I think I'll be just fine here. It's as harmless and kind as ever, and it welcomes me into a quiet, fearless experience. I think I'll like it here.

I already know what house to head to; I've paid for it in full and hopefully I'll never leave it. You never know, though. I don't have much of a prediction or base for my life anymore. Just a starting point- to live here in a calming town and find my footing again, even if my feet never stray again.

I still find that such a simple action requires some courage. Am I willing to start again, even if I know that it could end with the crippling pain I experienced on the Observatory, even if I know it will never be as incredible as my life with you?

Yes. I think I can. I can try. There's still many experiences left to be had.

That's a start. A new start, at least. And I guess that even when I die, there never will quite be a conclusion.

Wish me luck, my love.

A/N Well. This was an incredible journey all of its own. This idea was finally rescued from a short stint in development hell, so it's great that I was able to finish it out. I hope you liked it, Souldin, seeing as I tried to base it off of "100 Years", which you claim to be your favorite song. Admittedly this story borrows from many past works of mine (Voice of the Mute, Legend of Zelda Shall Never Die, Surviving Through It All) but I'm hoping I pulled it off well and originally.

It's interesting; a lot of this journey was made up as I went. Like Mario, I knew the destination, but I didn't know how to get there. I felt a lot of existential guidance into the events of Mario's life that were almost out of my control, as if I wasn't the one coming up with them. Such a thing rarely ever happens to this extent in my stories, but when it does, it's incredible. Thanks for all the help you've given me over the past year. It's something I'll never forget.

To all my other readers, I really hope you got the tribute Mario deserves. Thanks for you continuing support through my work in this section. It will not be forgotten either.

Thanks for everything,