"Ya like that Hoolumbian brew, there, eh?"
Jarred from her stressful state of reflection, she looked up at the beady-nosed fellow down the way, across the counter. His small body sat within a puff of white that drifted carelessly along the aisle as he casually drank his own mug of coffee.
"Yes," she mumbled in response. "I've never had it before."
The server's eyebrows lifted from behind his round glasses, and his small mustache twitched about.
"Ah. That so, mm? Well, then you're tasting quite a fine example. Those beans are fresh, came here this morning straight from the fields."
She nodded appreciatively at that notion and stared into her mug with longing.
"So what's eatin' away at a fine lady such as yourself?" the server prodded gulping in some more black coffee and breathing out an "Ah" in satisfaction.
She cast her pale, lonely eyes back at him and replied, "I'm on a business trip. It's been more problematic than I anticipated."
The server chuckled and nodded with empathy.
"I know how that goes. It's good that you're taking time to yourself - have a drink, sit for a while, work things out in the noggin, ya know?"
She hummed in agreement and stared back at her drink, her mind wandering elsewhere. The server, eager to keep her grounded, floating his cloud over and parked it right across the counter. He stared at her drooping form with furrowed brows. She clearly wasn't from around here, he observed, based in her physical structure: long limbs, narrow abdomen, curved and tall rather than round and short. If he didn't know any better he'd mistake her for Princess Peach Toadstool. While she did possess a striking resemblance, her eyes were colder and isolated with a tint of melancholy.
He raised his mug toward her, once again pulling her head from the clouds.
"Either way," he said, "I wish ya the best of luck with your business, Ma'am."
The woman returned his encouragement with a small smile and clinked her mug against his. The two of them like-mindedly drank the remainder of the coffee in a long gulp.
"What is this drink called?" the woman checked, having forgotten it in her own worried thoughts.
"It's a Hoolumbian, Ma'am," the Lakitu told her with a nod. "A fine brew."
The woman rose from her stool, dropped a handful of golden coins on the counter beside the empty mug, and rose her palm to the man briefly to indicate a motionless wave.
"Thank you, Sir," she said with a hint of genuine gratitude.
"No problem, Ma'am," he dismissed, reciprocating her gesture. "You take care now."
The blond woman made her way to the door and grabbed a dark green trenchcoat from the coat rack. Slipping it over her blue shirt and slacks, she gazed at the dripping window pane, her eyes blurring the street outside and focusing on the rivulets trickling down its clear surface. Such a beautiful thing, this rain phenonemon. She had nearly forgotten just how serene it was.
Stepping into the rain, she surrounded herself with the crisp, cold smell, the calming patter of water as it splashed upon everything around her, and she made her way through the chilled early evening. Each step felt like pressing a key on a piano, the medley of the rain enveloping her tired soul with tranquility.
Her feet ached and pinched as she wobbled her way through the castle halls. Her eyes burned with frustration and impatience, but her demeanor would otherwise not allude to such anger. This outfit was tight and constricting. Business attire was not at all her style and she felt like a fish out of water while wearing it - more like a bird IN water, she decided.
The faint image of a large, yellow star formed itself beside the woman as she struggled to reach her quarters.
"Evening, Ambassador," it greeted with a gruff, warm voice.
"Good evening, Sir," she grumbled through her pain, trying her best to maintain formality. The image stared perplexedly at her with its beady eyes and bushy white mustache. After a moment of silence, the hologram spoke once again.
"How is everything coming along? Have you reviewed everything?"
"Three times," she dutifully assured, limping to a stop.
"Ah, triple-checked, have we? Wonderful, just wonderful. Your assistant should already be there waiting for you."
The blond woman in dark blue had come to a stop by this and was slipping her feet out from the high heel shoes.
"Assistant?" she murmured. "I didn't ask for an assistant, that's not necessary." Despite her respectful tone there was a pinch of indignation in her words.
"That's right," the apparition concurred, "But we've noticed that you seem to be having a bit of trouble getting acquainted with things and felt it'd be best if, at least for now, you had an aid to help...-" He grimaced as she limped, barefoot, through the empty castle hall. "-...accomodate your needs."
The woman's eyes strayed from her superior and she sighed that exhausted sigh, conferring that the ghostly star was correct.
"Very well," she muttered with a nod. "Thank you, EldStar. I appreciate your concern."
"Take care." And with that, the apparition of a star blinked out.
An assistant? She was not looking for an assistant. She had only ever had one. One who could never be replaced. And as far as she was concerned, she wasn't going to give anyone the chance to try.
As she reached the guest quarters, a pair of short, pudgy guards wielding spears stood watch over the entrance to her room. She nervously approached them, her cheeks flushing with embarrassment as they raised their eyebrows at her. She felt quite unprofessional and inadequate as it was, but having two witnesses exponentially increased the feeling.
"G-good evening, Ambassador," one greeted, prying his eyes from her bare feet. "Your assistant has arrived, he's waiting for you."
The other guard seemed to be holding back a snicker as best he could, and her heart sank a bit. She was supposed to be a figure of respect, respresenting her nation, yet she was making a mockery of herself. Perhaps they had been wrong - maybe she hadn't been the best choice for this job.
"Thank you," she sighed out, hurriedly forcing herself in and closing the elegant wooden double doors behind her. Her spacious guest room was a sanctuary at last from the stresses of this world she had long forgotten. She immediately dropped her turqouis glass shoes and dashed for the balcony at the edge of the room. Tearing open the glass doors, she stepped out into the evening air, the sweet scent of recently poured rain still fresh on the breeze. She tore the clips holding her hair in a bun and let the damp wind whisk it around. This stuffy formal job was quite unlike anything she had experienced thus far. Doubt plagued her heart as she wondered if-
"Ah!" she yelped, spinning around in a flash, eyes wide and surprised. An average-sized Star Spirit was floating feet away from her, its eager eyes and silly grin oddly comforting.
"Oh." She rubbed her forehead, trying to calm herself. "H-hello, Sir," she squeaked timidly.
"Good evening, Ambassador," the peppy voice greeted. "How are doing this evening?"
The girl shoved silvery gold locks off of her face and took a deep, slow breath as she considered a response.
"That bad, huh?" the Spirit observed.
"N-no, not bad at all," she sputtered, swishing her hair around to make it as tidy as she could by hand before neatly folding her hands in front of her. The Star gave her a suspicious look and she felt her stomach lurch a bit. What was she supposed to say?
"It's all right, Ma'am, you can be honest. It's not easy adjusting to this kind of thing."
The woman walked past him, hand on her head in despair, and sunk onto the edge of the silk-laden bed.
"Especially someone in your situation," the Star added with an empathetic look. The two stared at each other for a moment of silence, exchanging concerns with their eyes. When she stared into his eyes, she saw her children, just as he saw his mother when he stared into hers.
"What can I do to help you, Ambassador?"
The woman's eyes drifted away from him, gazing into empty space for a moment before she remembered the shoes.
"I wish my shoes weren't so utterly unbearable," she whimpered, continuing to rub her temple.
"No problem," the Star cheerfully declared, clearly excited to assist. He whizzed over to the discarded shoes at the room's entrance and carried them back to the woman, dropping them at her feet. Perplexed, she bent down to scoop them up, only to realize that they were not the same shoes she had previously been wearing. The glassy turqoise hue remained, but their shape was now flat.
"Star Spirits around here are able to change the matter around them, thus 'granting wishes,'" explained the floating entity. "The ones you know are able to actually take on the forms of objects, creating matter out of themselves. I'm a Wishing Star Spirit, whereas those are Metamorph Star Spirits. But I believe you're the one who created the slang term for them: Lumas."
The woman, still staring at the shoes, nodded slowly. A small smile found its way across her face as she recalled the very first Luma Spirit she had met. Reflecting on her ancient memories with him, she decided that she had to let herself welcome in these new figures in her life. She was no longer adrift in a cosmos of children and loneliness.
"So," the Star chimed, "What else can I do for you today, Ambassador?"
She gently placed the shoes on the ground and shook her head slightly, raising her palm.
"Please, call me Rosalina. What might I call you, little one?"
The Star beamed as he proudly announced his title. "The name's Twinkle Amadeus Orion. Wishing Star Spirit, 3rd Class. But you can just call me Twink. That's what everyone else does."
She smirked at his enthusiasm and bowed her head slightly.
"Very well. Twink it is, then. Did Fredrick inform you of my assignment?"
Twink's jaw dropped slightly, baffled by the name. Rosalina giggled in spite of herself.
"I'm sorry, I'm still struggling with all of these formalities. The current EldStar. His name is Fredrick. We have a bit of a history," she explained with warm nostalgia, throwing Twink's young mind for a loop.
"Wow," he murmured. "I guess the rumors must be true."
As he pondered these possibilities to himself, Rosalina rose from the bed's end and entered a changing closet at the rear of the room.
"So who is looking after my Observatory while I'm gone?" she asked with a distant voice.
"The agent looking after your Observatory is a great man. His name is !, but that's hard to pronounce, so...He goes by the code name 'Geno.' He's one of the most well-respected Spirits in the Agency."
"Hm," Rosalina mused. "I think I might know this ! gentleman, as well. Geno, hm? Quite a strange name he's taken upon himself. But he always was a strange fellow."
Twink was taken aback by her flawless pronunciation of the ancient language.
"Wh-" He paused, brows furrowed. As she exited the closet, dressed in a flowing blue night gown, he pressed on. "How do you know him? He's quite old and that name is in the ancient Stellonic language..."
She stretched her feet out, lifting up and down on her toes. Rubbing at her wary eyes, she gave him a slow wink.
"I'm older than I look," she answered simply. "The rumors you've heard are likely true."
"I-I see," Twink mumbled, embarrassed by his ignorance. "W-well it's an honor and a priviledge to serve you, Ambass - I mean, Rosalina, Ma'am."
"And it's a pleasure to have the company of such an energetic young man to make this easier," she assured, her doubts having melted away at his presence. Perhaps it was his bouncy attitude, his childish demeanor, or perhaps it was just the company of a young Star Spirit...Whatever it was, it was working.
Rosalina scooped up her crystal suitcase and cracked it open, observing what she had brought with her to make sure she was ready for the day ahead. Her wand was nestled tightly in a strap, her change of clothes folded neatly, her folder tucked in, but what caught her eye was a small stuffed rabbit the Lumas had created for her and tucked in before she left. Its vacant stare, in her eyes, was a glowing smile.
She stuffed the confection into her mouth as quickly as she could. It was quite scrumptious, and it ignited her tongue in flames of wonder and excitement.
"Whah iff viff?" she managed through the food like a child, eager and in awe. Twink snickered at her hyperactivity.
"It's a donut," he explained through his laughter. "Maple frosting, and glazed, too. I'm guessing you like it?"
She nodded calmly, toning herself down in response to his laughter. This balance between formality and acting natural was going to be difficult. Back in the Observatory, there wasn't anything truly exciting to get worked up about. Certainly, she would pass by all kinds of places, but it was always her children that were leaving and exploring new lands, transforming themselves where they saw fit. Some would come back and tell her of what they saw if they were not yet ready to transform, but she rarely ever was there alongside them, experiencing the things they spoke of. How could she have lived so long and forgotten what it was like to explore these sensations?
"Ya know," Twink mused, "I'm sure some coffee would help that donut go down real nice. You want me to get you some, Ma'am?"
She managed to swallow the sugary pastry and her wide eyes fixated themselves on Twink.
"Coffee?" she murmured with intrigue. "Yes. Yes, please."
"What kind would you like?"
"Hoooooolumbian?" she managed, needing a moment to recall the name.
"Haha, all right. Comin' right up, Ma'am." And with that, he vanished in a puff of stardust.
She contained herself with as much poise as she could muster, and as the Spirit went to work summoning the necessary materials into existence (or taking them from somewhere else, for all she knew), she inspected herself in the large, vertical mirror across from the bed. She adjusted her seafoam green business attire as best she could. At least this outfit had slacks as opposed to that tight, infernal skirt that made her feel like a mermaid on land.
While she preferred to let some of her thick bangs hang over one eye, she knew this was not very formal, so she brushed her hair so that it all trailed along the back of her neck and shoulders, keeping her entire face visible. With impeccable timing, a small cloud of sparkling smoke materialized, bringing a Spirit with it, a large coffee cup levitating before him.
"And there-you-are," he announced, accentuating each syllable.
Rosalina took the cup from him with care, grasping it in both hands. Steam wafted from the thick, creamy liquid, and she sniffed at it with anticipation. She recalled nearly burning her tongue on it the night prior, so she decided to fix that this time.
She pulled her wand out of her suitcase and slightly swirled it around the top of her cup. The liquid shifted and spun, and the steam died down. Satisfied, she placed the wand back in her case and took a large gulp.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Twink muttered. "I didn't know you didn't like hot coffee."
"It's fine, dear," Rosalina assured, wiping coffee from her lip. "You're just trying to be considerate, and you're doing a commendable job." He blushed at the praise, then snapped his attention to the matter at hand.
"Oh, um, you probably need to get going soon!" he pointed out. "Wouldn't want to be late to the summit."
Her heart lurched at the thought of the meeting - the entire reason she was here. She drank more coffee as if it would keep her fears at bay.
Twink drifted to her suitcase and lifted her folder out of it without the need of hands. He left it floating before her patiently, and she had no choice but to set her coffee on the nightstand and accept it.
"So, is everything in order?"
Rosalina stared at the intricate gold emblem printed on the black folder and tried to swallow her fright.
"I think so," she timidly replied, clutching the folder tightly.
"You'll do fine, Ma'am," Twink assured, lightly bumping his body into her shoulder. "Good luck."
The frigid ice of fear began to encase her body, forcing her to melt it with the fires of determination. Thank goodness Twink had been there to wish her strict attire into something a little more comfortable. Slacks were much preferred to that constricting skirt she had arrived in.
Her flat-soled glass shoes clacked against the majestic marble floor, guards standing at attention at both sides her, all along the length of the hall. She reached the large red double doors and waited patiently while a pack of the pint-sized people pushed it open.
The room beyond was elaborately detailed and awe-inspiring with its high black ceiling, dotted with constellations, intricate emblems and shapes engraved into practically every object in the room, and a massive black marble table populated by a wide variety of faces. They all rose to attention at her presence, which shook her innards around a bit. The formality of the entire situation was stifling as she worked her way around the quiet table to an empty seat spaced between two women she was familiar with - one dressed in an elegant, layered pink dress of silk, the other in a simplified yellow-orange dress of satin. In her turqoise outfit she somehow felt in place beside these two.
The silence was finally broken by the woman in pink. She had a very proper demeanor in all of her actions. Everything she did was very deliberate, very reserved, very courteous. Rosalina was personally acquainted with this one due to some very odd circumstances - then again, things on this planet seemed to run as a matter of course through odd circumstances.
"Good morning," she firmly greeted, hands neatly folded in front of her. "While it is regretable that not everyone could make it today, I'm glad you could all attend and I hope our residents have ensured that you feel welcome in our land."
Rosalina, trying best not to turn her head, glanced to her left to the woman in yellow. Her arms were crossed around her chest, her index finger tapping impatiently on her arm.
"Without further interruption, let's get down to the business at hand. I'd like to introduce you all to the Ambassador from Star Road: Miss Rosalina."
Everyone gave Rosalina a respectful nod of the head at once. She nodded back to them. After this gesture was completed, Rosalina had to remind herself that the proper thing to do was to remain standing rather than sitting as everyone did, as she had the floor.
"Good morning," she began, her voice smoother and more relaxed than she would have figured. "I've been sent from Star Road as a representative on behalf of the Honorable Star Spirits. They have a proposal to make with the kingdoms of your world."
She took her black folder and laid it neatly on the table. She pulled her dainty wand from its strap on her waist and flicked it to the side. The folder popped open, revealing a set of thin, clear tablets printed with information. She levitated one before her, tapped at it with her wand, and flung it into the air. It expanded, revealing a diagram of neon light lines.
"As I'm certain you know," she presumed, "Star Road is responsible for maintaining many functions of the world below - keeping things afloat, fueling towns and cities..."
She changed her 'slides' and continued.
"Star Road also employs a very large number of agents to assist with all manner of tasks, from granting wishes to enabling heroes to save the day from time time...The capital city of Star Road, Star Haven, is an entire city dedicated specifically to caring after the residents of your kingdoms from afar."
Another slide was swapped in and she calmly went on, eyeballing the reactions of her varied audience, who seemed attentive enough.
"All of this requires a great deal of energy. And energy, of course, must come from a resource." This slide showed an image depicting a pair of metallic emblems: a star and a sun. "Certain sources of power, such as Power Stars or Shine Sprites, are highly effective sources of energy. Due to various circumstances, Star Road is in need of more of this precious resource."
She paused as she changed slides again, bracing herself for the inevitable protestation.
"As a result of this need, the Honorable Star Spirits feel they have," her pacing slowed down as she braced for the impact, "no choice but to raise the Wishful Thinking Tax, at least for the forseeable future."
A flurry of shocked outcries flooded the table, and the woman in pink rose her arms to quell their concerns.
"Please calm down," she requested with firm resolve. "Miss Rosalina is not finished yet."
"But Princess Toadstool," objected a pudgy man garbed in the clothing of desert folk, "This is outrageous. Where do they-"
"It's Peach, if you please," the woman corrected, her tart smile conveying irritation. "The ambassador is not finished. Please continue, Miss Rosalina."
Rosalina's eyes strayed from her audience as her insides rumbled with confusion. She was used to being in charge and commanding the situation, much less being at the mercy of a group of strangers. She slowly worked her way back into her thoughts, shifting her diagrams accordingly.
"The tax will have to see an increase of ten percent-"
"-but the Honorable Spirits will be using these extra resources to better protect us all."
A green-faced man with shimmering blond hair and a flowing red cape scratched his chin with skepticism.
"How would the Wishful Thinking tax do such a thing?"
Rosalina nodded brisquely at his question, having expected it.
"Militaristic protection is highly effective for large-scale problems, and local law enforcement can assist with smaller crimes, but there are some times when neither is available for the immediate situation at hand."
She was met with puzzled expressions but pressed on.
"Sometimes, the only solution available in emergencies is having the right tools at the right time. This was reason why the Question Block was invented in the first place, wouldn't you agree?"
There were some nods of realization as the situation became more clear.
"Questions Blocks, as you know, are powered by the magic of wishes. There's often no telling what one will contain because what comes out will often be what is needed at that time and place."
The princess to her left in the yellow dress was drumming her fingers on the table impatiently, which Rosalina was beginning to find very distracting.
"Right," the prince with the blond hair slowly began. "So by increasing the amount of artifacts being used to power wishes you would in turn be increasing the power of Question Blocks to yield what might be required to avert a dire situation."
Rosalina pointed her wand at the man and nodded, recalling what she had researched on the flamboyant gentleman's identity.
"That is correct, Prince Peasley."
"Wait-wait-wait," grumbled the yellow princess, shaking her head. "Why do you guys feel the need to do that?"
Rosalina paused, her insides churning from the woman's hard stare. She had heard of this one: the moody and fierce princess of Sarasaland.
"W-Well, the Honorable Star Spirits have noticed an increase in criminal activity -"
"Shouldn't criminal activity be the responsibility of the people who have to deal with it?" the princess snapped with a sharp glare. Rosalina narrowed her eyes to counter the nonverbal attack.
"We are not seeking to usurp any kind of control, merely to increase the general welfare of all citizens of all kingdoms."
"I support this decision," Prince Peasley declared. "A small increase in the Wishful Thinking task would enable Star Road to greater assist our citizens in times of need when our officials are physically unable to do so." A number of figures nodded and hummed their agreement. Rosalina continued the rest of her brief presentation and felt confident that she had portrayed the arrangement in the manner she had been expected to. Princess Peach politely checked to see if Rosalina was finished, and when it was all concluded, she faced the table.
"It's time for us to make a vote on this arrangement. All in favor, say 'yea.'"
Most of the representatives present consented to the arrangement, while a few remained silent.
"Those not in favor, say 'nay.'"
A small handful expressed their "nay's," the Sarasaland princess louder than the rest.
"It should be made clear," Rosalina explained, "that this must be a unanimous decision. Energies passed into the planet from Star Road cannot be specifically distributed to particular regions."
The vote was re-cast with this knowledge, and Rosalina had to explain specific details to specific representatives to finally convince them, but one figure remained adamant, offering no genuine explanation for her decision.
Princess Peach finally decided to give the matter a temporary rest, as Rosalina pointed out that only a single member had yet to agree, and requested permission to be allowed a single day to attempt to present her argument more specifically to this member. A special rule for situations like this gave her this right, and also mandated that the stubborn princess in question was legally obligated to hear out Rosalina's argument and, if necessary, the two could make a specific arrangement. The next vote would make things final.
"As there is one representative that has not yet consented to the arrangement, we will adjurn for the day and come back to the matter once more when we meet to discuss the other matters scheduled for tomorrow."
The princess in the yellow dress drummed her fingers impatiently as the different members filtered out, her cheek planted in her opposing palm. Rosalina made her best effort to politely approach the woman.
"Shall we discuss this matter over-"
"Hi," the princess greeted between her teeth, clearly irritated. Her blue eyes burned with impatience, but her tone was unsettlingly cheerful. "I'm Daisy." So cheerful it was threatening.
"Um," Rosalina's grip on her wand tightened from the stress. "Hello, I'm-"
"Princess Rosalina, I know," Daisy growled. "What the hell makes you a princess, anyway? What kingdom do you watch over?"
Rosalina felt her head lurching into her neck, as if the woman's words were causing her to shrink despite the fact that Daisy was still sitting while she stood.
"Wh-I-I don't..." she stammared.
"A princess without a kingdom," Daisy sighed. "What a joke. These politics get more and more ridiculous every year."