I'm back! But I'm taking a temporary break from Mario-The Artifacts of Life until I work some ideas out of my head. Because I just can't think straight until I do so.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Not the characters, the cover (made by Babyabbiestar, bless your soul), not the game (Paper Mario The Thousand-Year Door), nothing except for my plot twist.


It's over. It's all over. The darkness eases out from the atmosphere, as if a sign of the peace soon to follow...I hoped.

"Impossible... Unthinkable... How could I... I cannot be beaten by lesser beings such as these... And I had just been reborn into this world... I cannot... I must not..." Light flashes as the tremors worsen, and dense, dark fog forms from below the demon, and slowly the Shadow Queen deteriorates.

Both me and my faithful companion, Vivian, wince as the vile embodiment of shadows herself screams in anguish as she perishes, no longer able to spread her reign of terror upon this world. Finally, we're free. At long last, the princess and I can return home, to the Mushroom Kingdom, where we belong...

As the darkness is expelled from the princess' body, I can only stare in awe; Princess Peach, ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom, was exploited for her pure soul and spirit. Such a merciless act can never be forgiven. And yet, her past strife has not marred her porcelain beauty. As I stand here, eyes glued to the dainty figure in pink, it seems as if, for a second, that me and Peach are the only two people in the world, that nothing could interfere with our bond, and finally we would be left in peace.

The purple embers vanish from atop the multitude of candles around us, and are relit with natural flames that waver in the dawn of a new era of peace.

"Princess Peach!" Vivian, as compassionate as she is, rushes to Peach's side. She observes the dainty princess for a few tense seconds, and she slowly turns to me. "Mario! Over here!"

Snapping out of my daze, I steadily pace myself across the red velvet carpet beneath me. Catching a glimpse of her grim expression, I fear for the worst...

I tentatively reach out a gloved hand to feel her pulse along her wrist. The good news-it's still beating. The bad news-it's so faint, I find myself rapidly approaching a state of panic as the worst may very well be morphing into reality...

Please, Princess. Wake up...I can't bear to lose one of my closest friends... Please, don't leave me here...

"M...Ma...rio..." The pure maiden's angelic voice is weak, as if she really is struggling to speak. Slowly, she lifts her head to meet my gaze, and all I can see in her deep azure eyes is horror...horror and genuine confusion...and I wish more than anything else that now, just now, I could reprieve her of all her agony and fear and take it as my own.

Without hesitation, I clasp my hands around hers, and all I feel is a river of deep, deep despair and even guilt flood to the brim, and it takes nearly all of my will and remaining strength to force back the warm tears threatening to spill from my eyes; I must be strong for her, because this is a matter of life and death.

"I'm here, Princess..." is all I can say as I feel my voice crack mid-sentence. If...i-if I cry in front of her, it's over; because she'll become so discouraged that she would no longer fight in death's grip. So I close my eyes before tears can seep to the surface.

"I...I'm so sorry, Mario...for all the t-trouble I've c-caused you..." she murmurs, her tone forlorn and solemn. I've known Princess Peach long enough to understand her emotions... Of course, she would blame this whole incident on herself...

"N-no...don't say that, Princess..." I manage, almost at my breaking point. I can feel my voice trembling slightly as I speak. "We're going to make it back home, to the Mushroom Kingdom. And if Bowser interferes, I'll trounce him as usual. Life as we know it...shall remain unchanged." Though I feel as if I'm trying to sway my fears more than I'm convincing her...

I feel her hands grow limp in mine, quite disheartening, to say the very least. Upon impulse, I tighten my grip ever-so-slightly on her wrists, as if she's my lifeline and not the other way around.

"M-Mario...your eyes...I want to see...your beautiful eyes, b-before my spirit is seized from this world and delivered to the heavens a-above..." My blood runs cold as she utters her-perhaps final-request. Under any normal circumstances, I would've declined, but...if I were to deny Peach's final wish, a selfless one at that, I would be afflicted with perpetual guilt and emptiness eating away at me.

Due to the circumstances, I slowly open my cerulean eyes, currently unable to hinder the tears cascading down my cheeks, rendering me nearly sightless through my tears. I release her hands, and I feel a frail hand rub against my cheeks as I do so, as if to wipe away the droplets of sorrow and torment gushing down my face. Another gloved hand, perhaps Vivian's, dries the tears dripping down to my neck.

"M-Mario...thank you...thank you ever so much..." I can feel her eyes gaze into mine. "We've crafted the most faithful bond, full of love and life. You...you were always so...so kind to me... My only wish is that...I could stay here, with you... If only everything lasted longer..." Her gloved hand caresses my face briefly, if only for a few seconds, then it hangs limply over my right shoulder.

"Princess, Princess, no!" I cry, barely holding back sobs threatening to surface. I finally wipe away most of my remaining tears with my sleeve, and I see her deathly pale figure, looking almost...peaceful.

"Mario...I'm sorry...I-I'm so sorry..." Vivian whispers, her voice barely audible.

"It...it's n-not...it's not your fault, Vivian." I respond, my voice cracking again.

My other partners, Goombella, Koops, Flurrie, Yoshi, Bobbery, and Ms. Mowz surround me. They...they're all so pure-hearted. Not a word is exchanged between any of them; instead, my faithful allies all try comforting me, convincing me that perhaps hope endures.

"I mean, this is Princess Peach, right? Surely, there must be a way. Just...please, Mario...hold on..." Goombella assures me. Then the rest of them, in order.

"Mario, you taught me to never lose hope, that there's always a way, like when I thought my dad's game was over. Don't lose faith now..."

"My heart aches when I see my dear Mario in tears."

"C'mon, Gonzales! Don't give up now. There's still a chance!"

"Mario, from you I've learned to respect and accept myself instead of submitting to my sisters' cruel punishment. And also, I've learned that...the strength of love is unsurpassed. Princess Peach has been torn away from you-just perhaps your deep love can return her to you!"

"Mario, if it weren't for you, my dear Scarlette would gaze down upon a broken Bob-Omb. You must resist, old boy! Stay alive for the princess, for everyone! You must not give in to the empty void consuming your heart!"

"Dearie, do not push aside your dreams, your hope. Let faith fuel you to move forward. Never doubt yourself, my little cheese hunk."

Before I can reply, Professor Frankly rushes in. "Ah-hah! THERE you are, Mario!" He pauses, no longer ecstatic; perhaps he's seen Peach's frail, lifeless body. Then again, it probably doesn't help that my partners swarmed around me and that I'm...crying.

I glance at the elder Goomba. "Frankly...it's over...i-it's all over..." is all I manage to say.

I've failed you...I've failed you...

I'm sorry for killing Peach! Please don't kill me... T-T

If you would like, please review. I'll try to update soon! But please...no flames whatsoever.

And thanks to Kookylover98 for being so supportive and...just plain awesome. :) Seriously, she must be the most friendly person I've met on Fanfiction.