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An Artist, a Thief, and… a Villain?

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Dream Palaces were an interesting subject to talk about.

They were, even more so than the Fountain of Dreams, the most prominent relic of the Ancients left… though that was primarily due to the fact that there were several of them spread out across the planet.

These white cathedrals have long been a mystery to the population of Dream Land. What were they, exactly? Remnants of an extinguished religion? Home bases where their technology once flourished? Monuments for future generations of the galaxy to see, so they can be awed at their might?

No answers have ever been forthcoming – and in truth, there may be no answers ever to be found. And, perhaps, there doesn’t need to be any answers.

For the longest time, the palaces were just a disorganized set of fanciful architecture, and nothing more. And when both Pop Star and the Gamble Galaxy often had far greater things to worry about, the Dream Palaces were easily able to fade into subconscious memory, another unsolved mystery in the long history of Pop Star.

Until recently, that is.

With the meteor shower induced by the shattering of the Jamba Heart, Dream Palaces all over the galaxy have fully reactivated and come alive. And the Dream Rods inside has a power that, in this time of crisis, the newly formed Star Allies could duly need.

After all: who wouldn’t want to have their longtime friends adventuring alongside them?

(Kirby’s definition of ‘friend’ could use a bit of an update, certainly; he seemed to ally with his former enemies just as frequently as with his loyal companions. But maybe… that’s exactly what everyone needed.

A chance to ease the burden on their souls, to create truly mutual relationships – and, in the end, find all the things that they never even knew they needed.

Like many of the things the Ancients created, the Dream Palaces – with the assistance of a puffball who loves friendships with all of his heart – can make quite the wonderful miracles, in that regard.)


Shortly after King Dedede’s (re-)recruitment to the Star Allies…


[King Dedede]

Pop Star
Dream Land – Outside the Dream Palace

So! Looks like we’ve gotten ourselves in yet another pickle.

Purple hearts are falling, people are being possessed, paradigms are shifting rapidly, and overall the whole planet’s in a state of havoc. It’s sad to say that that’s far for the course nowadays.

I mean, between Nightmare, Dark Matter, Queen Sectonia, and the Haltmann Works Company – and NOVA only knows how many more names they are – you’d think we’d be able to catch some sort of break from all these world-conquering (or ending) villains. We get them so constantly (every one-to-two years; it’s kinda inconsistent) and with often such high stakes, it’s gets really ridiculous. It’s a good thing Kirby’s so good at creating miracles – ‘cause otherwise, Dream Land wouldn’t exactly be a ‘World of Peace’ anymore.

Luckily, this time, he won’t be alone. I’ve been out of commission the last three adventures, for various reasons—be it getting kidnapped by Taranza, having my color sucked out by a thing in the sky, or tending to my people during the Robobot crisis—but now, I’m back and ready to kick some bad guy butt! (Or ‘evil bad guy butt’, as Kirby would put it.) In fact, Kirby’s bringing back the whole house for this journey—and not just in the Helper department.

“Here we are, everybody!” Kirby announced, proudly stretching a hand out to the Dream Palace ahead of us. “We’re back at the Dream Palace! A Dream Palace, anyway!” He took in a deep breath, a gigantic smile plastered on his face all the while. “Mmm… you can just smell the sweet scent of friendship hanging in the air! Ain’t it great!?”

I took in the Dream Palace’s exterior with intrigued eyes. There certainly was an air of warmth just emanating from the building, if that was what he was talking about. Though honestly, I was paying more attention to how much the all-white, circular cathedral stood out in contrast to its surroundings. It was so white, it eclipsed literally everything else around it—which might have been the point of the design, now that I think about it. “Well, I guess it is something else,” I admitted. “It’s certainly very…” I shielded my eyes with my arm; the sunlight practically seemed to reflect off of the sheer whiteness. “…bright.” What an understatement.

I’ve known about the Dream Palaces for a long time. Okay, ‘known’ is kind of an exaggeration: I’ve heard rumors about them told to me by Bandana Dee, and I haven’t cared enough to investigate ‘em. I’ve got more important things to do with my time, you know? As far as I could tell, they weren’t doing anything big for me to have to pay attention – and when you consider how much else Kirby and I have to contend with, I was fine with leaving any intel about them by the wayside.

Though apparently, they weren’t happy with being relegated to the background like that, because now Kirby tells me they’ve gained the power to summon our old friends to journey with us. Dream Friends, one might call them. They make up the primary members of our as-of-currently unnamed squad, and prior to—let’s say, ‘re-recruiting’ me, Kirby had already collected six traversing through Dream Land.

“It—It may be kind of gaudy, s-sure,” Bandana Dee said, perched on my back (‘I just wanna rest on you and feel nice in your presence—th-that’s fine, r-right?’), “b-but it’s really helpful, Great King! T-Trust me, y-you won’t regret coming here!”

I sighed. “I hope you’re right, Dee.”

Bandana Dee was expected; he’s his best friend next to me. Dee’s been with him in some capacity ever since we helped repair the Lor Starcutter, so it’s no wonder he joined up with Kirby as soon as things went haywire. I’m glad to see he’s still in tip-top shape with that trusty spear of his – and though I don’t foresee him gaining many opportunities to use his Assist Stars, something tells me we’re not gonna need ‘em this time around.

“Don’t worry, mate!” Rick’s voice reassured me. And there’s the rest of our squad, comin’ on through. I turned around, and there was the hamster waddling up, accompanied by his friends Coo and Kine. “What Dee here’s sayin’ is truer than true! This place ‘s a real corker, if you get what I mean! Like having a barbie at a rage!”

Rick, Kine, and Coo haven’t really been involved with Kirby’s escapades since the second Dark Matter incident, but they’re still formidable adventurers in their own right. They—and their other Animal Buddies—managed to defend the Great Forest from the Haltmann Works Company two years ago, so having them help out is more than welcome in my eyes. They work pretty dang well together, able to chain combos and combine attacks with a camaraderie my troops only wish they had.

“Rick, nobody gets what you mean half the time,” Coo interjected, looking suitably annoyed. I got the feeling he’d love to go smack Rick for his… fairly esoteric terminology. “Can’t you use English normally? Exercising my mind trying to dissect your language gives me a headache sometimes.”

“That’s just how he is, Coo, you know that,” Kine sighed, wearing an expression that could be described as ‘long-suffering’ (or at the very least, ‘well used to his friends’ crap’). “Maybe you need to take a break at Onion Ocean; you’re getting too wound up…”

…unsurprisingly, that camaraderie can be a little bit funky at times.

A lot of trios are like that. And duos. And quartets. And, uh, friends in general, actually. Hmm.

“If Coo is wound up, he should eat some food,” Gooey suggested, moving on closer to us at a sluggish pace, true to his nature. “Food makes everything better. Food helps you tell what time it is. Food means breakfast. Food means dinner. Food means lunch. Is it lunch time yet? I’m hungry. We should eat something.”

Leave it to Gooey to have his train of thought zig-zag like that.

Gooey’s a tad bit on the strange side, and he’s definitely not ‘all there’, but he’s a nice guy to have here. He’s not as efficient as Kirby is in using Copy Abilities – he’s limited to one attack per ability – and his fighting experience similarly doesn’t compare, though he does have a few innate moves in him, much like what Kirby uses for the Smash tournaments. And though his Mock Matter form does kind of creep me out, I have to confess it can be helpful in a pinch.

“I am feeling a little peckish,” Coo confessed.

“So am I, actually,” Kirby chimed in. “Maybe that’s a sign of something!”

“You’re always hungry, Kirby,” I said. That’s why I’ve got a fridge full of cakes back at the castle. We’re lucky he doesn’t go inhale-happy whenever he sees an all-you-can-eat buffet.

“That doesn’t matter!” he replied, still as chipper as ever. “I’m in the mood for a picnic now – haven’t had a whole lot since this morning!” I guess he was too focused on getting to me then. “How about it, Coo? Doesn’t that sound fun?”

“Y-Yeah!” Dee cheered. I smiled, hearing him sound so delighted – even better since I could feel him moving on my back in joy. I love my little assistant. “I—I wouldn’t mind, having a little food break before we go on!”

I took a few moments to think about my own response. “I wouldn’t mind either,” I decided. “We can’t be eating food off the ground all the time, even if it is fresh.” (Which is another mystery for the ages we’ll never solve.) What I wouldn’t give for one of Adeleine’s picnics… she always knew how to paint the best ones. It’d be nice, if she and Ribbon were here right now…

The owl hummed for a bit, giving the idea good consideration—far more consideration than I think it needs—before finally: “Fine! I’ll eat! It’ll be better than anything else I can come up with.”

And then—“Hey, hey, hey! What’s this I’m hearing about a picnic?”

Four individuals—Bandana Dee, Rick, Kine, and Coo—groaned in unison. I myself had an urge to palm my face.

Right. Him.

The real standout Dream ‘Friend’ though in our merry band of misfits: Marx.

Marx.

Marx, the jester who’d prank everybody into oblivion if he had the chance.

Marx, the villain who tried to take over Pop Star while manipulating an unsuspecting Kirby.

Marx, the former Soul Boss who quite literally died screaming in the True Arena.

You can… probably tell he was an unexpected face to see when I ‘woke up’ after my and Kirby’s little tussle.

I was… wary of him. Still am, in fact. The other four I mentioned are, too.

Who wouldn’t be? Everyone in Dream Land has some knowledge about the shenanigans Marx got up to, both prior and during 1996. He was a notorious prankster, masterfully setting up all sorts of practical jokes under the noses of whoever his latest victim was, with an ingeniousness that honestly stumped many. He grew… dissatisfied with his course in life, though, which led him to concocting a plot to take over Pop Star—which involved using Galactic NOVA to get his way.

As you can tell, that went… poorly.

He was a corpse floating in space for over twelve years—either that, or comatose. (I’m not sure which one of the two is any better.) And then, for the first True Arena, he was revived using the discarded fragments of NOVA, to serve as the coliseum’s final battle… and with that, he became the second Soul Boss Pop Star’s ever seen in the last who-knows-how-many-years. That’s… not something to be proud of.

There’s a few things that prevent me from just dismissing Marx outright, though. A) I trust Kirby, and whatever action he decides to take, I’ll trust it’ll be good; B) he’s been halfway amicable to us, supposedly thanks to Kawasaki’s offer to feed him; and C) he’s not the first resurrected ex-villain we’ve had to deal with.

Magolor—a mage and dimensional traveler hailing from Halcandra—had a plot and situation eerily similar to Marx, right down to being a Soul Boss at the very end. He was genuinely remorseful about what he did—and he described the ‘Soul Boss experience’ as being absolutely horrifying. Similarly, Marx told us that he had no desire to be drawn back into such a situation again – and… well, after seeing the last four True Arenas (and even participating in one), I think I can safely believe him on that front.

And plus… sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, when he thinks nobody’s looking—I see Marx, staring at Kirby; staring at him happily jumping around with his companions, myself included, with this longing look cleanly plastered all over his face. As if there was something within our interactions that he had forgotten, something he desperately wanted back.

I recognized that expression as being once upon a time my own, before Kirby and I reconciled our previously troubled relationship.

…that’s something no one person should ever have.

In light of all that… I’m willing to give Marx a chance.

“You guys weren’t going to not invite me, were you?” the jester playfully asked. His head began tilting left and right, his eyes pointed upward in a thinking position. “It’d be a shame if somebody had to eat alllllll of the food before you guys could~”

…he’s not making that decision easy for me, though.

“Of course you’re invited to the picnic!” Kirby told him. (At the same time, Coo muttered, “I wish we could.”) “I’d never turn away a friend for anything!”

“Hee hee hee—I’m glad to hear it!” His eyes trailed over to the Dream Palace. “You know, I never did get a good look at this place when we came out of it the first time.” He narrowed his eyes. “It’s… really, really gaudy. E-yuck! When we’re done with this, I’m giving it a good paint job!”

“Will it be a pretty paint job?” Gooey asked him, obliviously.

“Errrrrr…” Marx looked shifty. “…sureeeee. Sure, let’s go with that.”

“Okay,” Gooey drooled.

“Oh, Gooey,” Dee sighed.

Everyone’s personality bounces off one another really well, I see. It’s like the chaos of all of us fighters at the Smash Mansion, except on a far lesser scale. Eight of us main members are already a bit of a doozy – imagine when that number hits… ooh, let’s say, thirteen, or sixteen. That’ll be a heck of a time.

Speaking of increasing our numbers… “Right!” I exclaimed loudly. “Enough sitting around! Let’s go summon a Dream Friend so we can get back to business!” Taking initiative, I waked toward the palace first, a confident strut in my gait. “C’mon, gang—time’s a-wastin’, especially when we’ve got people to save!”

“We—We hear you, Great King!” Dee said from my back. “Y-You heard him, everybody!”

A chorus of “Aye aye’s!” echoed behind me – some semi-sarcastically, some more whole-heartedly – and we made our way inside.


Dream Palace – Interior

The interior of the Dream Palace had enough light to power a freaking reactor.

Somehow, it was even brighter inside than it was outside, with these large windows surrounding the walls seemingly designed to let in as much light as feasible – despite the fact that I’m pretty sure the sun wasn’t even shining in those areas. The columns standing in front of said windows, holding up several yellow heart-themed lamps didn’t help matters, either. To cap it all off, there was a spinning, planet-like lamp hanging on the ceiling, highlighting the elevated platform in the middle of the cathedral quite well.

Maybe there was merit to Marx wanting to redecorate this place after all. I’m resisting the urge to put on sunglasses right then and there.

I have to admit, though, it’s architecturally magnificent – trust me, I’d know a thing or two about designing a building; I had to help make the blueprints for my castle. And there’s a sort of beauty to it, with the serene atmosphere and the simplistic, but effective design.

There’s also this warm air steadily washing over us, which I do quite like. That ‘sweet scent of friendship’, as Kirby called it.

(I wonder if that’s what he feels inside of himself all the time.)

My eyes looked around the place, an eyebrow raised interestedly. “…do all the Dream Palaces look and feel like this?” I asked. “Every single one of them?”

“Yeah, pretty much,” Kirby replied, Fighter headband flowing in the breeze. “I’ve seen a few about the Gamble Galaxy, and they’ve been pretty much the same as each other, down to the lack of dust and cracks around the structures.”

Interesting. “The Ancients really mastered the art of homogeneous design, huh?” I remarked. “They must’ve been quite a productive civilization.”

“I—I wonder if they ever found N-Nintendium while they were still around,” Dee wondered, a hand going to his chin. “I think it’s possible. It might explain why these buildings are still here…”

We walked further into the cathedral, Kirby taking the lead in front of me, the rest of our Dream Friends following behind me. I could hear the guys discussing something as we went.

(“Hey, do you think Meta Knight would appreciate it if I drew all over his mask?”

“Absolutely not! You shouldn’t even be thinking about it!”

“You should listen to him, mate. It ain’t a good idea.”

“Pfffft! Good ideas, bad ideas, who cares? It’d be a great way to reunite him to my utter majesty! It’s been too long since I’ve messed with him, anyway!”

“You and Meta Knight are long-time friends? That sounds good. This means your friendship can grow bigger and even longer. Like a good sandwich. I like sandwiches.”

“…what.” Marx sounded flabbergasted.

“…oh, Gooey, you happy blob… You’re just so innocent sometimes, I don’t know what to say…”)

As we moved closer to the center, we saw a particular object floating a few feet off the floor: a white rod with a yellow hilt, a pink heart placed on top of it and accompanied by a silver star. This yellow top separated the heart from the white pole, curving out and attaching itself to the pole. (That sounds really weird, I know—but trust me, it looks like that.) A golden, almost holy aura emanated from the radiant heart as the artifact spun about in the air. “The Dream Rod,” Kirby told me.

“Not to be confused with the Star Rod, I take it?” I said.

“Nope.” I could hear him pop the ‘p’.

“Do I even want to know how this thing does what it does?”

“P-Probably not,” Dee spoke up. “I just h-hope we get another friend, th-this time… O-One Marx is about all I can handle!”

“Same here, Dee,” I agreed. Under my breath, I began muttering, “Please be Adeleine, please be Adeleine, please be Adeleine…”

Our pink puffball waltzed on up and grabbed the identified Dream Rod. He stepped back a bit, presumably to give the eventual newcomer space to land on the elevated platform – and then raised it up to the sky, the telltale signs of friendship energy coalescing toward its form. The seven of us watched as the light within the rod got brighter and brighter—Dee especially; he had pushed himself up to get to get a better look, and I could feel his eyes sparkling even though I’m pretty sure he’d seen this before.

When enough power had been built up, a large flash of light lit up the whole room, forcing us to shield our eyes lest we get absolutely blindsided by it – and when it finally died down, a figure stood where there was previously no one.

Or, to be more accurate… two figures.

“Wh-Whoa! A-Addie, wh-what just happened?” A frantic look around. “W-Weren’t we just on Strawberry Peak?”

“Yeah, we were. And I was just about to finish my drawing, too…” A pout. “Where the heck were we taken? This doesn’t look like anywhere I’ve ever been…”

A gigantic smile sprouted upon my face – and I’m sure the same happened for Kirby and Dee. Ha ha—just the two I wanted to see!Adeleine! Ribbon!” I shouted, stretching my arms out. “You’re here!”

There they were, the black-haired artist and the pink-haired fairy – the former wearing her typical green collared smock and red beret, a rainbow-dipped paintbrush and palette in her two hands; the latter flying with tiny wings and her crimson dress and ribbon looking as cute as always. (Not as cute as Dee, though.) Their faces simultaneously lit up when they caught wind of us, and they responded in kind. “Kirby! Dedede! Dee!” Adeleine greeted us. “It’s been over a month since we’ve last seen each other!”

We embraced each other in one great big group hug, Dee even jumping off my back to join in the fun – what can we say, we can get really touchy-feely in showing our affections – and we stayed like that for a good long while, just laughing and smiling in mutual friendship.

Adeleine’s an amateur artist presumably descended from those born of Shiver Star, and Ribbon’s the royal assistant (and keeper of the Crystal Gun) over on her homeworld of Ripple Star. Once upon a time, they were part of an adventure Kirby and I (and Dee) underwent to retrieve all the Crystal Shards all over the galaxy—and stop Dark Matter from consuming all of existence in darkness, because of course—and since then we’ve been pretty good friends! And boy, is it great to see them here, perfectly fine and unaffected by our current purple heart crisis.

“It feels like it’s been forever since the last time we’ve seen each other,” Adeleine said. “How’s everyone been doing?”

“We’re the same as ever,” Kirby replied, with his typical cheeky smile. “Running ‘round Dream Land, bashing in bosses’ faces, a-livin’ through another adventure. All the works, y’know!”

“Y-Yeah, what Kirby said!” Bandana Dee chimed in. “Y-You wouldn’t believe all the stuff that’s happened in the last couple of days!”

I began listing off the factors with my fingers, “I got possessed again, Kirby’s got this new power—tell you about it later—we’ve got an unholy amount of friends with us, purple hearts have fallen all over Pop Star, contact with Meta Knight’s been lost…” I shrugged, putting on a more casual expression. “Suffice to say, crazy things are attacking us as usual, and we’re going about making our planet not-crazy again, as usual.”

Ribbon giggled. “Sounds like you guys have been busy! Just another day on Pop Star, huh?”

“You know it,” I said. “It’s us together against the threats of the universe, just like it was eighteen years ago. What more is there to say?” I grinned. “It’s the perfect combination, with an equally perfect king and hero at the helm. Not a whole lot else to ask for!”

If I’m being honest… I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure, it gets exhausting having to deal with world-ending, life-altering events like this on an almost-annual basis – but that doesn’t change the simple joys of going on an adventure with your friends by your side. It’s like Mario’s philosophy: it’s the journey that counts, not the destination alone.

Adeleine, Ribbon, and Dee all simultaneously smiled as brightly as they could.

“Aside from a chance to take in the sights and paint a few pictures… I agree!”

“Yeah! When we’ve got each other’s back, we can do anything!”

“Ohhhhhhhh, this is—this is e-exciting…! The f-five of us again… i-it’s great!”

“Well, lookie here!” Rick proclaimed from behind me. “If it ain’t Adeleine and Ribbon! G’day, you two!”

We broke off from our hug to let the artistic duo meet up with the rest of her friends. “Rick! Kine! Coo! Gooey!” Ribbon cheered. “You guys are here, too?”

“Of course!” Coo said. “It’s been way too long since we’ve gone out and actually done something. My wings were itching to beat some bad guy butt – and luckily for us, we don’t have to worry about protecting the Great Forest this time!”

“Good to see you’re doing alright, you two,” Kine said. “We could use your help looking for all those purple hearts. We’re already a large crowd by ourselves, but it won’t hurt to have a few more hands with us.”

“Helping hands are good,” Gooey agreed. “I like having Ado’s hand helping us. She’s a good friend. She and Ribbon. Maybe they can help us find some of those Puzzle Pieces, too. Finding stuff together is fun.”

“I’d be glad to come help you guys with all that,” Adeleine affirmed, waving her paintbrush in the air. “I mean, it wouldn’t be like us to just stay out of something like this – especially if it involves the whole planet!”

“That’s right!” Ribbon exclaimed, holding out her Crystal Gun proudly in her two hands. “We may not be strong, but we’re more than ready for this!”

“Glad to hear it!” Marx voiced, something uncanny glittering in his eyes. “I’d hate for an abrupt exit before I can have any semblance of fun from you guys!”

Adeleine and Ribbon blinked in unison as they stared at Marx, appearing flummoxed by his mere presence. “Uhhhhhh…” the artist dragged out, sharing a brief glance with her partner. “Wh-who… who the heck are you?”

Marx gasped overdramatically. Oh no.

(“Oh great, here he goes,” Coo groaned.

Bandana Dee didn’t feel much better. He hopped on my back again and slouched in anticipation. “I—I hope this isn’t t-too long this time…” he muttered.)

“Whaaaaaaaat!?” he comedically bellowed. “You don’t know who I am? Me, the jester of chaos, the legendary villain of years past? Oh, how could this be?” He started swooning around in an exaggerated manner, a look of false horror on his face as he continued his little performance. “Things have clearly gone downhill since I was last here! Looks like I oughta… ‘convince’ some Dees to write some new history books ‘round here!” And now he was off rambling about the injustice of the cards he had been dealt – at least, that’s what I could gather. It was just as comprehensible as the last half-dozen or so times he had loudly proclaimed his passion for something.

I didn’t have much of an idea of what was going on. So I did the mental math in my head and promptly realized something: Oh, that’s right. Marx died before Adeleine even made her way to Pop Star. And neither her nor Ribbon have seen a True Arena. I didn’t think we’d have to do any introductions today, on account of the fact that everyone typically knows each other ‘round these parts – but hey, first time for everything.

The artistic duo turned their heads to me, and I explained, “This guy’s Marx. He used to be a villain who wanted to take over Dream Land. He, uh, failed. And then he died.” And got into a Soul Boss. Brrrr… “And then Kirby brought back him to life.” I shrugged, an uneasy grin on my face. “It’s, uh, kind of a long story, but the short of it is: he’s… here to help?”

“Hmm…” Adeleine and Ribbon hummed, both of them putting a finger to their chins. Man, it’s cute when they’re in sync like that. Really reminds me of Dee…

As if to reassure them, Kirby piped up, “Hey, don’t worry! Marx is a friend now! He’s not gonna do any evil bad things—‘cause he promised he wouldn’t relapse—and to prove that, he’s helping us save the world!” There was such a big, dumb, goofy grin on his cheeks that you could tell he believed in that whole-heartedly. If you barely knew anything about him, you might chalk it up to him being naïve.

I knew better.

Oh, I knew better.

“Of course…” Kirby’s smile dimmed to the point of contemplation. “…I know there’s more to his desires than just that. He needs to find his way again – and hopefully, this journey will give him the opportunity to.” It was that spirit, that determination to help out anyone he deemed a friend, that really showcased who Kirby was at his core. (And the partial reason why his group of comrades is as wide-ranging as it is. I’d never want to have any other people in my life, honestly.) “You know… maybe you guys could help him.” Something more lighthearted entered his tone. “He could use the company, I reckon.”

“I—I guess th-that’s true…” Bandana Dee remarked, after a moment’s silence. “E-Even if he’s not what we entirely expected, he’s… okay? Possibly? I—” He nervously scratched the back of his head. “I’m not really sure what to say… G-Great King, h-how ‘bout you?”

“I’m not quite as confident as Kirby on this matter,” I followed off from Dee, “but… yeah, I think his assessment’s pretty correct.” I moved my gaze to Marx, who was currently trying to hitch a ride on Coo, much to the owl’s annoyance. (“Get off of me, you—you armless prick!” “Hmm? Is someone trying to h-owl at me? Sorry, I don’t take caws!”) There seemed to be an element of genuine happiness in his actions, even if it was subdued by other things running through his mind. “I’ll be the first to admit that he wasn’t my first choice of an ally – but now that he’s here, we might as well make the most of it.” We could’ve ended up with a worse ‘Dream Friend’, and at least he’s trying. “It’s a lot to ask, but… you think you could help him?”

Adeleine nodded determinedly, jokingly giving us a salute. “I’ll try!” she replied. “If he needs another friend or two, then we’ll be here to be those friends, with you and Kirby!”

“That’s right! We managed to befriend you, after all!” Ribbon teased. “Compared to that, Marx’ll be easy!”

“Hardy har har har,” I laughed in a deadpan manner. “Very funny.” (That smile never left my lips, in spite of that.)

But seriously, though—with Adeleine and Ribbon here, this adventure might just become a little easier. Kirby’s always taken the phrase ‘There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of good friends!’ to heart—and while I think he needs to re-evaluate his definition of the word ‘friend’ sometimes (*cough* Marx *cough* Magolor *cough*) I can really see where he’s coming from. Having all your lifelong companions and acquaintances accompanying you on a grand journey, bashing enemies’ heads in using various means, bantering and laughing all the way through… it’s exhilarating. It’s no wonder Kirby’s such a Friendship Freak.

He’d love to have everyone else feel this with him, too.

And hey, I can’t say I haven’t missed having them around. It may have been years since our one and only adventure together, but dang if I don’t enjoy hanging out with them! It’s really just the cherry on top of the strawberry shortcake that is our current journey. And I know it’ll be a heck of a delicacy to devour, for all of us – especially Kirby. Like he’d say: food’s always best when you get to share it with others! (Mmmmm… I feel like I’m losing track of this metaphor.)

Anyway, I’m ready to pick up my fork and knife (or a hammer, as things normally go) and get to work on our meal already. I betcha Adeleine and Ribbon are, too.

Hmm… Speaking of which…

“You know,” I idly commented, “we were gonna have a picnic, after we got back on track.” I cast a knowing grin at the artistic duo. “I don’t suppose you two would want to join us?”

“Of course we’ll join!” Ribbon replied happily. “We wouldn’t miss that for the world!”

“Especially not when it’s a picnic we’re talking about!” Adeleine added, waving her paintbrush high in the air.

“Oh, yeah—I almost forgot!” Rick spoke up. I got the impression he would’ve snapped his fingers if he could. “Adeleine can paint food into reality!”

“We won’t have a hard time setting up the picnic, then,” Kine mused. “Just a flick of her brush and we’d already be drowning in foodstuff.”

“Don’t forget strawberry shortcakes!” Kirby piped up, with the expected response. “Can’t have a good lunch without a shortcake! Or a breakfast! Or dessert!”

“Yay dessert,” Gooey drooled.

“Hang on a minute,” Marx interrupted. He was looking very intrigued now. “You can… paint food into reality? What does that mean?”

“Oh, it means this!” In a puff of smoke, Adeleine’s giant painting stand popped up behind her. Her arm got to work, a hamburger being quickly drawn onto the canvas – and once it was done, it burst right out and landed conveniently right in front of Marx.

The jester stared at the suddenly-3D piece of food for several seconds, eyes wide. He brought out his wings, a claw tentatively picking up the burger and waving it around as if it couldn’t possibly be real. (Trust me buddy, it is.) Slowly, he brought it into his mouth – and his eyes sparkled in delight.

Like—actual, genuine delight.

And he’s hooked.

He rushed up on to our favorite artist, beaming as widely as possible. “You and I are going to be the best of friends,” he declared. “The best, bester, bestest of friends.”

Adeleine and Ribbon had no idea how to respond to that. “Uhh… okay? Sure?” the artist unevenly replied.

Kirby and I stared at each other, contemplating this turn of events. “Well, that’s one way to go about befriending a former villain,” I stated. “Somehow… I’m not surprised.”

“The offer of Kawasaki’s food was the final nail in him agreeing to join us,” Kirby offhandedly mentioned. “So long as he’s well-fed, he’ll be fine.”

Dee speculated, “Is—Is that why he went e-evil in the first place? He didn’t get enough f-food?” That’s what I’m wondering too, Dee.

“Who knows?” Kirby shrugged. “Either way, I’m glad we’ve got something of a happy ending here.” He held his head high and proudly. “I can’t wait to see what other Dream Friends we call in next! Isn’t it just… exciting?”

“Only you would consider something like this exciting,” I said, shaking my head with a smile. Then again, I can be much the same way, too. “I don’t think we’ve got anything to worry about, then.” And I meant it – we’ve got plenty of allies on our side, and we’re not fighting against any immediate Robobot-level threats. There’s no reason not to be confident about our given chances. “After Marx, we shouldn’t have any other issues. What could go wrong from here, honestly?”

Chapter Text

Shortly after the Star Allies traverse through the Inside Islands…


[King Dedede]

Inside Islands – Dream Palace

You know, it’s been a while since I’ve gotten out of my castle and really taken a trip ‘round Pop Star. And I have to say, it’s even more beautiful than I remember. It’s like somebody turned on the high-definition filter and cranked it up to eleven, just because they could (then again, the Switch is a thing that exists now). Onion Ocean’s a good locale and all, don’t get me wrong, but it’s got nothing on the Reef Resort and Inside Islands.

Not only that, the waters here are really refreshing, making the sights only more wondrous to behold. And since it wasn’t like the current threat was all-encompassing, us ten main Star Allies ended up paddling about in the rivers between the spots of elevated lands, propped up by colored floaties and splashing each other with our hands. What can I say? It’s nice to unwind every now and again. Doesn’t hurt that we had a pretty good picnic right before, too. Adeleine’s still got it!

Our path’s led us across close to half of the planet so far, and we’ve snuffed out a good portion of those strange purple hearts possessing the people around. Jeez, they reek of negativity. They’re like that false Dimensional Mirror I found up in Floralia, or even Dark Matter – and trust me, I’d know; you don’t get possessed three separate times by the blasted entities and come out without a slightly keen sense for detecting similar things. It’s enough to give Kirby—Kirby, the sassy, unflappable defender of Dream Land—actual fear.

It… hasn’t been quite as pronounced since he first got a good look at it following my ‘defeat’—the one from Whispy Woods flew off too fast, supposedly—but still. As his best friend, I… I don’t really know what to make of his expressions. (It’s like he’s steeling himself for an uncomfortable truth. Something he’s always known, but never really wanted to admit it. A little like me, ten years ago.) What I can do, however, is be there for him: put a hand on his metaphorical shoulder, remind him that I’ll stand by him and help lift his burdens from his back – just like he did for me, way back when.

‘Nuff about that depressing stuff, though – we’ve run into another Dream Palace here on the Inside Islands, and of course, Kirby’s not one to pass up any chance to have another companion on this journey. I asked before why he couldn’t have summoned everyone he could the first time he entered a Dream Palace; apparently they like to go inert after just one use of the Dream Rod, and don’t reactivate until a good long while after leaving it.

Considering the timeframe we’re running on (I don’t want this to last any longer than a few weeks, at best), and the planetary nature of our trip (likely to be on an even bigger scale by the time this ends), I don’t blame him for moving on and simply making use of whatever other Dream Palaces he stumbles upon instead. Those purple hearts won’t piss off by themselves – and leaving them to fester on their own is a massive recipe for disaster. Anyway…

“And this makes Dream Palace visit number five,” Kirby randomly remarked, the cyan crystals making up his Ice ability hat glistening as we went. “I feel like we’re really making progress here, guys! With another friend by our side, things’ll get even better!”

Again, I had to shield my eyes from the sheer brightness of the Dream Palace; somehow, under the light of the Inside Islands, the locale was even more blinding than before – which is really saying something. “Jeez, could the Ancients have made this place any whiter?” I grumbled as we walked inside. “I swear, not even an actual church would be this holy.” Warm atmosphere or not, I would prefer not to have to wear sunglasses every time I even glance at these places.

“Yeah, I’d probably appreciate it more if it was toned down,” Adeleine affirmed, swiping her paintbrush in front of her, clearly imagining a picture in her mind. “But at least they’re convenient! They’re like rest stops, in a way!”

“Rest stops made by old farts who don’t understand the first thing about rest stops, you mean,” Marx drawled, giving his rainbow wings a good flap. “Place could be on fire and it’d be an improvement.” He sniggered. “That’d be a sight…”

“Hey, don’t say that!” Ribbon pouted, scolding Marx. “Places on fire are never something to cheer about! We shouldn’t complain so much about something so beneficial to us!”

“Complaining’s half my bread and butter, y’know!” the jester cheekily replied. “The other half’s actual bread and butter. You’d be surprised how useful it is in getting people to slip! They still never expect it! Ha ha ha!”

“That’s… That’s…” I have no idea what to say to that. I knew he was a prankster, but… that’s a new one on me. “That’s… a terrible way to use food,” I finally said, an eyebrow raised, my nose scrunching up automatically. “Like, seriously. Extremely terrible. Can’t you use a banana peel or something instead? You know, like normal people?”

“Pfft!” he scoffed. “That’s for chumps! Real pranksters get creative!”

“If the food can be eaten afterward,” Gooey suddenly interjected, “then I think it’s okay. He’s just using his food to its fullest potential. Isn’t that a good thing? Food is good, so it must be good.”

A brief silence occurred in the general region; we all turned to stare at the ‘lil blobster as he drooled and drooled, oblivious to the weirdness of his own statement. After coughing a little, Bandana Dee was finally able to say, “U-Umm… G-Gooey, that’s… that’s not what you do with food… at all…”

“…I know that you can eat basically anythin’, like Kirby,” Rick began, “but I do hope you’re not just blindingly eatin’ food you find off the ground. That’s just unhealthy, mate!”

You know, Adeleine, Ribbon, and Marx have gotten along fairly well with each other. Of course, the fact that Adeleine can spawn a wide variety of food certainly helps – but seriously, I think Marx has really warmed up to the artistic duo, genuinely appreciating them for their kindness and light levels of sass. Even Gooey can see it, and—well, he’s Gooey. They’re not quite on the level of ‘best friends’ yet, like Kirby and I are, but they’re gradually getting there. And it’s pretty sweet, honestly.

…I can’t believe I’m using the word ‘sweet’ to describe anything related to Marx. This adventure is really something else…

A notebook poofed into Adeleine’s hand once we were inside; and with a pencil in her other hand, she began to instinctively start sketching out the scene before her. “Man, this place is bright—but pretty!” she noted, moving about the tip of the pencil delicately across the sheet of paper. “I’m surprised I haven’t come across these places earlier. I mean, they stand out a lot compared to everything else!”

“Especially that wand!” Ribbon piped up, a tiny finger pointing directly at the Dream Rod. “It—It feels a lot like the Great Crystal, except… if the Great Crystal was like a friend, extremely so. Does that make any sense?”

“So basically, it’s a Kirby-themed artifact,” Marx summarized. That explains… way too much, honestly. “What else is new?”

“N-Now that I think about it,” Dee began to muse, “th-this adventure’s r-really placed an emphasis on f-friendship; it—it’s like Kirby p-personified on a million Invincibility Candies. A-And that’s saying something, c-‘cuz Kirby a-already is a big friend!”

“Ha! You know it!”

I hummed interestedly. “Guess it’s like an early birthday present for Kirby, then! Friend Hearts, Dream Friends, Friend Wheels, Friend Combos – it’s a literal ‘best friend trend’ in basically every way,” I joked. “And now we’re about to add another layer of friendship to our little quest. Ain’t that a charm?”

“Yeah, yeah, we get it,” Coo grumbled, “let’s just see who’s coming out of this this time!”

Like last time, it didn’t take too long before the Dream Rod was once again in our heroic puffball’s grasp – and with the raising of his hand, it started to glow brightly with the power of concentrated friendship. (Sometimes, I wonder how there can be so much friendship energy gathered up at once. Really boggles the mind.) White light blasted throughout the entire room, obscuring our vision – and when our eyesight finally returned to us, we found another unexpected, albeit welcome surprise.

“My, my,” a rather suave voice interjected, “these are certainly some very intriguing circumstances. But I suppose life is full of these sorts of situations. Suits me perfectly well, I’d say.”

The dust settled, the air cleared up – and there on the altar was Daroach, leader of the Squeak Squad and self-proclaimed treasure hunter of Dream Land. With a clawed hand tipping his red top hat, and a stylish (and equally red) cape wrapped around his body, the dashing thief looked all ready steal a heart or two. I raised an eyebrow, a tickled smile tugging at the tips of my mouth. “Daroach,” I greeted him. “It’s been a while.”

Dee poked his gaze out from behind me. “Wh-Whoa!” he gasped. “D-Daroach! Is—Is it really you…?”

Daroach brought his hat up, giving us a good look at his cunning eyes. “Why, of course,” he replied, ever the smooth one. “I’d like to believe I’m well-known enough that I can be recognized on sight. I see none of you have changed too much, Kirby, Dedede, Bandana Dee.”

Daroach is an interesting character: as I’ve implied before, he fashions himself a treasure hunter and a bit of a gentleman thief. We first encountered each other twelve years ago, after another scuffle between me and Kirby. He and his brigade of followers had stolen a treasure chest I had discovered not too long before, and I remember sending my Dees after him (and Kirby—literally), since back then I didn’t take transgressions against me lightly (or… anything against me lightly, for that matter.)

We haven’t really interacted with each other a whole lot from then ‘til now, aside from a few run-ins – though, he did prove himself to be a remarkable help during the great Robobot crisis of 2016. Here we were, a whole planet worth of heroes and innocents, scattered all over and being oppressed under the threat of the Haltmann Works Company, and the Squeak Squad were doing a fine job going about and assisting however many people they could, much like what Dee was doing. I respect him and his crew, in a way, for the deeds they’ve done, and the nobleness they’ve expressed.

(Calling them ‘friends’ might be a bit of a stretch, but I guess they’re good enough for Kirby.)

Kirby beamed as brightly as possible, eyes closing and hands virtually placed behind his head. “I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t still hungry and friendly!” he exclaimed cheekily. He opened his eyes, showing them glimmering with happiness. “It’s nice to see you again, Daroach.”

“The same can be said here, Kirby. I trust you and Dedede have been doing well for yourselves?”

“You know it,” I replied. “What more is there to say? It’s just us being us, the same way we’ve always been.” I grinned. “Something tells me you’ll fit in right at home, in that regard.”

“I suppose I shall.”

“Ooh… Now this guy’s interesting!” As quick as a fiddle, Marx bounced up to the treasure hunter, followed swiftly by Adeleine and Ribbon, each with their own curious expressions. “Don’t think I’ve ever seen you before!” he remarked. “We’re making all kinds of introductions today!”

Ribbon’s sight was set on Daroach’s fanciful outfit, tugging at her friend’s shoulder and pointing a finger at it. “Wow, Addie, look!” she was saying. “He looks so stylish! I’ve never seen anything like it!”

“Yeah, I can see that,” Adeleine breathed, her hand unconsciously moving across her open sketchbook. “I’m getting inspiration just by looking at him!”

Daroach raised an eyebrow amusedly. “Oh? And who might you three be?” he asked.

“I’m the Ultimate Jester of the Gamble Galaxy—Marx!” the reformed villain proudly proclaimed, wings spread out as if to create an intimidating figure. “My legacy is one that shall reach the stars, and be known by everybody in the universe!” Jeez, he’s really hamming things up now. Do I get like that sometimes? “And theeeeese two,” he deliberately drawled things out, “are my sidekicks, Adeleine and Ribbon!”

“Sidekicks!?” the artistic duo screeched, their jaws dropping at such an audacious claim.

“Th-That’s not true!” Adeleine continued. “M-Marx, you—you can’t just make that kind of stuff up!”

(“Oh boy, here we go,” I heard Coo mutter.)

“Why not? I’m clearly the most powerful between the three of us! I’m the second strongest guy on this team, even!” (“Sure you are,” I sarcastically commented, “and Zero’s actually a misguided nice fellow.” I’d like to at least think I’m on par with a final boss, at this point…) “But don’t worry—if you guys feel inadequate, I’m still hiring more sidekicks to make up a full house!”

Daroach laughed – a distinguished, hearty laugh, absolutely full of mirth. “Ha ha ha… You three are certainly an exciting bunch to be around,” he said, twirling a cane in his hand. “I think I’ll very much enjoy hanging out with you in the adventures to come.” His eyes sparkled. “Marx, Adeleine, Ribbon, correct? I—and the rest of the Squeak Squad—will be proud to stand by your sides – and everyone else here too, of course.”

“S-Squeak Squad?” Ribbon asked. “Wh-What do you mean by that?”

“You have a squad?” Marx inquired, his eyes narrowing. “As in, an actual team? Nooooo way. I refuse to believe you actually have followers. I mean—only Mets and Triple-D here have anything like that!” …that is a compliment, right?

“What, don’t I count for anything?” Kirby joked. “I’m only the biggest friendship freak this side of the Gamble Galaxy!”

“Eh, not big enough. Also, yours doesn’t have a name yet. So minus fifty points on the cool meter.”

(“Y-Yowch,” Dee winced, “that’s harsh!”)

“Well, if that’s who you want to see, then who am I to deny you that request?” Daroach raised his arms to the air, a delightful smirk hanging off his face. “Come on out, gang, and show this crew your stuff!”

Suddenly, appearing behind him from literally out of nowhere was a collage of similarly stylized mice: one big and blue (Storo), one speedy and yellow (Spinni), one white and crazy-eyed (Doc), and then the multicolored mooks jumping about (the Squeaks). I jumped back in shock, waving my arms in the air as I struggled to regain my balance. “H-H-H-HOLY CRAP!” I shouted, Dee doing the same right beside me. I presume most of everyone was reacting just the same, too. “Wh-Where did they come from!? The heck!?” Does—Does he have a magic hammerspace cape in the same way I have a magic hammerspace coat for my Dees? Like—seriously???

(Kirby, for his part, reacted with little more than a “Ooh, fancy entrance.” C’mon, can’t you react any more surprised!? Please!?

“There are lots of people now,” Gooey pointed out in the background. “I like lots of people. It’s good. It’s a good thing.”)

“Squeak Squad here, reporting for duty!” Spinni proclaimed, brandishing his own claws and wicked smile, eyes looking out at the crowd from behind pointed glasses. “We’re the best treasure hunters in business, y’hear us?”

“Yeah! If the Boss wants us to steal something, then we’ll gladly do it!” Storo added. “If you guys help, then surely things will get done!”

“What zhey zaid,” Doc tacked on. “But with lotz of technology, of course.”

Daroach’s smirk only seemed to grow wider. “Spinni, Storo, Doc, the Squeaks – and of course, me. Together, we hunt down the scarcest of stories and the trickiest of treasures from all throughout Dream Land – and even do a little thieving here and there. We are the premier treasure hunters of Dream Land: the Squeak Squad!” He bowed dramatically, an eye peering out from beneath his hat. “It’s nice to make your acquaintance.” (…dang, now he’s just showing off.)

Marx’s eyes began to sparkle—in exactly the same way they did when he first tasted Adeleine’s food. He is… a lot easier to impress than I thought he’d be. “Oh dear Galactic NOVA,” he breathed, mouth open a little. “Yes. All my yes.”

Adeleine’s drawing hand had dropped her pencil, the utensil saved only by Ribbon swooping in and picking it up. “…this adventure is like the craziest sugar rush anybody’s ever gotten, ever,” she thought aloud. “…I kind of want more of it.”

“Yeah, me too!” Ribbon agreed, fluttering a little faster. “It’s fun! Like Kirby is!” (“You know it!” you-know-who piped up.)

I shook my head to get rid of my shock. “Well,” I said, “a whole crew’s worth of recruits, huh? I suppose it ain’t too bad, all things considered.” Any more help we can get on this journey’s a plus for me. I stuck out an open hand toward Daroach. “Welcome to the team, Daroach.”

He took it without question and lightly shook it. “It’s good to be here, I must admit. I hope you can keep up with us when the going gets tough,” he teased, “especially with all the treasures out there to be taken.”

“Oh, don’t worry – I’m sure we’ll be able to.”

“Y-Y-Yep! Th-That’s right!” Dee exclaimed. He proudly beamed, stating, “We’re pretty capable, a-and I think we’re more than a match for whatever it is we’re up against!”

“We’ve found quite a number of Puzzle Pieces and Big Switches since we started, actually,” Kirby mentioned. “I wouldn’t mind if you helped us find the rest! There’s a lot left to uncover, and I know that kind of thing’s up your creek.”

“I see, I see… Yes, I would greatly appreciate such intellectual challenges.”

“Hey, hey, hey,” Marx busted in, grinning ear-to-ear, “don’t take all the fun talking to him, now! He’s definitely worthy of being my newest sidekick – he even comes with his own sidekicks!” He jumped up and perched up on Daroach’s hat, relishing in being physically above everyone else. “We’re building an amazing crew here—ain’t it great? A new era of Dream Land’s beginning here, and we’re gonna be the ones on top of it all! Ha ha!”

“I… I wouldn’t put it that dramatically,” Adeleine said, a drop of sweat going down her hair, “but… I guess it is nice to meet new people and see new things here and there.” She twirled her paintbrush, a warm smile sprouting on her face. “Anyway… I hope we get along on this adventure, Daroach!”

“I hope so too!” Ribbon chimed in. “I think we’re gonna have a lot of fun together!”

Daroach didn’t seem too bothered by Marx using his fancy top hat as a nest. “I look forward to seeing what experiences we can concoct on this new treasure hunt of ours. Shall we go forth?”

(“Y’know… I get the feelin’ we’re kind of bein’ left out of somethin’ neato,” Rick commented in the background, scratching the back of his ear. “You feelin’ that way too, mates? Like you’re the supporting crew at a real rage?”

“I honestly don’t care, so long as we get the chance to beat our enemies’ faces in,” Coo replied. “And the more people that come to help, the better!”

“So long as nothing gets in our way in the meanwhile, I think we’ll be fine,” Kine stated. “We’ve still got a long way to go—and something tells me it’s only going to get more interesting from here…”)


Shortly after Meta Knight’s (re-)recruitment to the Star Allies…


Sacred Square – Dream Palace

Welp, things are certainly escalating now.

So we’ve finally finished our round trip of Pop Star, and we finally found Meta Knight situated over in the Pop Star’s Sacred Square. Unsurprisingly enough, he had been possessed by one of those wonderful purple hearts. A fight ensued between us, and let’s just say he really does deserve his title as the ‘Greatest Warrior in the Gamble Galaxy’ (even if he cheated during it – since when could he clone himself into four!? That’s… actually a valid strategy, given that we were facing him with a team of over eleven—but still!).

We managed to at last overpower him and take him down – and like all the other brainwashed guys we fought, the heart-shaped artifact flew outta him the minute the battle ended. Kirby managed to bring him back to consciousness with a Friend Heart shortly afterward – but not before Meta Knight’s mask broke from the strain of the fight.

Suffice to say, in front of the Animal Trio, Adeleine, Ribbon, Marx, and Daroach… it was rather embarrassing for him. Heck, I felt embarrassed for him, thanks to the friendship we share.

(Marx’s cackles practically hurt my ears, they were so loud. Dang, that guy’s got some strong lungs.)

But regardless of whether or not Meta Knight was likely to induce a most epic Curb-Stomp Battle in retaliation, one thing was for sure: we were one step closer to ending this latest threat for good!

Which was when this huge-ass fortress came down from the sky, its spike-like protrusion drilling straight into the ground and standing tall and visible to as many Dream Landers as physically possible.

Things can’t ever be simple, huh?

While we prepared to storm this castle and confront our intruders… we just so happened to stumble upon a Dream Palace sitting outside the Sacred Square – so of course, Kirby wanted to go in and summon another Dream Friend to aid us. And so, here we are, walking into these hallowed halls, our crew certainly feeling more complete now than the last time we came into one of these places.

“Alright, guys,” Kirby declared to me and Dee. “Our last Dream Friend summoning. After this, I’m proud to call our party complete.”

“Last one, eh?” I noticed his wording and raised an eyebrow. “Fine by me. We’re big enough as it is. I think we’re pretty good to go for this rest of this adventure.”

“I—I have to agree!” Dee spoke up. “S-Sure, we’ve got this huuuuuuuge castle to deal with, b-but we’ve dealt with much worse before! It… It can’t be all that bad! …I hope.”

“Still… it was so fun to summon so many friends on this adventure,” Kirby replied. “Everyone coming back and being all happy seeing each other again, and even helping us save the galaxy… it was great! There’s no reason why people can’t feel thrilled over that!”

I glanced behind me. “…I can think of a few reasons myself, actually,” I said.

Dee turned to look at where my gaze was at. “Th-They’re still going at it…?” he murmured.

The ‘they’ he was speaking of was, wouldn’t you know it, Meta Knight and Marx. The duo was having yet another glare-off of epic proportions… incredible, considering it’s only been a couple of hours since we rescued Meta Knight.

“I still wonder how you of all people managed to come back to life,” the swordsman growled, his hand twitching toward his sword. The Animal Trio (and Gooey, kind of) were worriedly at his side, in case a fight broke out between him and the jester. “You should just go back to wherever your soullessness was resting before this whole quest. Pop Star was perfectly peaceful without you around. It doesn’t need your brand of villainy.”

“‘Perfectly peaceful’, huh? Didn’t you despise that kind of thing a couple decades back?” Marx sneered back. Adeleine and Ribbon nervously looked at each other as they stood beside their friend, trying to tug him away with no success. Daroach was also on standby, overlooking the situation with a quizzical expression. “You’re one to talk, too—you tried to take over Dream Land, too.” His eyes narrowed, and his mouth twisted into a feral grin. “You haven’t forgotten that, have you?”

“Hmph. I was doing it for noble purposes, then,” Meta Knight offered back. “Though my actions were wrong, they were at least based in some level of inherent goodness. Can you say the same about yourself, Marx?”

“Pfffft!” the purple clown scoffed. “Sure, my motive wasn’t moral, and sure, I failed in the end – but at least I got further along than you ever did. I almost succeeded! You just got your battleship blown up – several times, in fact!”

…Meta Knight and Marx didn’t have a good relationship, back in the day. The former was constantly suspicious of the latter, and I got the feeling Marx’s always-scheming prankster nature really grated on his own always-serious, no-nonsense demeanor. Marx, on the other hand, didn’t like how ‘uptight’ and ‘hostile’ the knight often was, and he delighted in tormenting him as much as physically possible. They clashed pretty hard with each other back then… and it doesn’t look like that’s changed now.

“At least I came out alive afterward,” Meta Knight retorted to his rival of sorts, “and able to see my past mistakes for what they were.” His glare intensified. “You’ve never been one to admit to that, have you? It’s a miracle you even had a soul to begin with.”

“Oh, you wanna go, buddy?” Marx growled, spreading his sparkling wings out. “Because I’m perfectly ready to go! I’m a final boss; I’ll be happy to blast you into oblivion!”

“So be it!” The warrior and the jester didn’t hesitate to lunge right at one another, completely uncivilized—though luckily, they were held back by the Animal Trio and Team Adeleine, respectively.

“Wait, wait, waaaaait, mates!” Rick yelled. “Don’t go antagonizin’ each other like that! You don’t wanna be getting the pink slips now!”

“Ugh,” Coo cried, claws perched on Meta Knight’s head and trying to pull him away, “stop this… nonsense already…! Go pick… a fight… with somebody else…!”

And the other end of the spectrum… “D-D-Don’t do this, Marx!” Adeleine pleaded, her arms latching around her friend and doing their best to pull him backward (and not particularly succeeding). “You—You guys should be trying to work together, not against one another!”

“C-C’mon, j-just—calm down, please!” Ribbon similarly begged. She frantically looked to Daroach. “D-D-Daroach, h-help us!”

“If you insist.”

I grimaced at the scene. Jeez, those two really bring out the worst in each other. I’ve never seen Meta Knight so aggressive toward someone. Not even Magolor after his betrayal warranted such levels of hostility.

Though to be fair, Magolor was genuinely remorseful, and he did build that giant amusement park for Kirby…

“…yeaaaaaaah,” Kirby drawled, “that’s certainly quite the hiccup.” (“Understatement of the century!” Dee squeaked.) “But that’s okay!” He perked up with another bright smile. “I’m sure that whoever we end up summoning this time ‘round, they’ll be a big help! What are we waiting for? Let’s do it!”

Kirby pranced up to the altar, the Dream Rod glowing and hovering over the podium as usual. Meta Knight and Marx toned down their squabble to settle instead for shooting glares at each other constantly. It’s a step up from before, I conceded, though not by much.

“Wh-Who do you think we’ll get this time?” Bandana Dee whispered to me, as Kirby grabbed the Dream Rod once more. “Kirby’s made a lot of friends, b-but even he has his limits, y-y’know…?”

“Well, there’s Magolor and Taranza,” I suggested. “And I think Mario might be a good choice too,” even though he’s from another dimension entirely. “We just have to hope we don’t get someone like that Susie girl, or—”

A flash of light, a beat of silence, a silhouette in front of us, and then—

…uh.

What?

What?

What?

This—This can’t be right.

There has to be some sort of mistake.

Because otherwise, that would mean—

That would mean that that is actually Dark Meta Knight, standing right in front of us.

As in, the unrepentant villain Dark Meta Knight.

I blinked.

I raised my hand.

I pinched myself on the cheek.

…yep, I can definitely feel that.

This isn’t a dream.

This isn’t a dream at all.

There’s only one eloquent response I can give at this point.

“What,” I said.

“I—I agree,” Dee stammered. “Wh-What.”

…Dark Meta Knight is, quite possibly, one of the worst choices for a ‘Dream Friend’ Kirby could’ve ever chosen. Like, even worse than Marx. Seriously.

And it doesn’t help that I’ve got my own history with him.

So about four years back, there were reports of ‘strange business’ going about in Floralia, shortly after Kirby dethroned Queen Sectonia. Apparently she—and a bunch of EX Bosses—had came back to wreak some havoc, so I did my duty and thrashed them all to the True Arena they came from. And along the way, I found the source of their revival: a corrupted clone of the Dimensional Mirror. And who else would be inside but Dark Meta Knight?

I don’t know why he was in there, or how the Mirror even got in Floralia to begin with. He shouldn’t have even been alive, ‘cause Kirby and Meta Knight thrashed him a long time ago along with his master Dark Mind. But I knew he couldn’t be there for anything good. He was also snarling and blindly raging at me the entire time, which is never a sign of someone who’s all-there. So I did battle with him, smashed him into pieces, and promptly broke the false Dimensional Mirror with one good swing of my hammer. And that should’ve been the end of it.

Evidently, it wasn’t.

Oh, it wasn’t.

We stared at each other for a good long while as his mind seemed to boot up; our still-as-of-now-unnamed party were all in shock—except for Kirby, who looked only mildly perplexed. And then…

“…you.” I flinched; his glare somehow beat out Meta Knight’s in raw intensity. His eyes flitted from me to Meta Knight to Kirby—and in the blink of an eye, he whipped out his sword and pointed it directly at us. “What is the meaning of this?” he snarled, his voice low and absolutely terrifying. “You dare stand before me, the feared knight of destruction!?”

…eeeeeeeeep.

“Kirby,” I began slowly, clasping a hand on his back, “I’d like you to know that I respect you a lot as my best friend. I really, really do. So it’s with that in mind that I have to ask you…” I breathed in, and out… and then I threw my hands up in the air, my calm look dissipating in favor of unadulterated panic. “…how the hell do you expect to befriend him of all people!? I mean—he’s Dark Meta Knight! At—At least Marx could be reasoned with!” (“Yeah, I won’t deny that,” said jester admitted.)

“I must concur,” Meta Knight said, deeply disturbed. “As I recall, my mirror world counterpart is… not the most stable of individuals.”

Dee was shaking in his boots. “…p-please don’t let him h-hurt us,” he whimpered.

“Hey, relax guys!” Kirby reassured us. “I’ve got this handled, don’t worry.” He took a step forward and confidently said to our former opponent, “Hiya, Dark Meta Knight! Nice to see you again! We’re on an adventure—wanna join in?”

Another brief silence passed. I brought my face into both my palms.

“…welp, mates,” Rick spoke up, “we’re screwed.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Kine groaned.

“…I must admit, it is difficult to derive amusement from this,” Daroach stated. “That might be a problem.”

“…is this a joke?” Dark Meta Knight narrowed his eyes. “Are you trying to mock me? Because I assure you, I am not laughing.”

Y-Yeah, I can see that! I gulped.

(“That’s a shame,” Gooey drooled. “Laughing is always a good thing—”)

“Do you believe I have forgotten about the crimes you have committed? The insults you have dealt against me? You, who stepped in my way at every opportunity… you and my accursed doppelganger… your presence does nothing but fill me with indescribable rage.”

“Believe me,” Meta Knight curtly replied, “I would like it if we had never met again. Your arrival here is a discomfort from my end as well.”

“D-Dedede,” Ribbon worriedly looked at me, “wh-what’s going on? Wh-Who’s this guy?”

“Shh!” I frantically shushed them. “I’ll—I’ll tell you two later. J-Just—don’t be too loud. Please.”

“You—You seemed a little frightened of this guy,” Adeleine noticed. “Is—Is he really that bad?”

“E-Erm…”

“And don’t think I’ve forgotten about you, fat penguin.” I jumped and gradually turned to look at Dark Meta Knight. His glower seemed to pierce right through my soul. Oh dear sweet NOVA, I’ve faced this guy before without hesitation and even taken him down – so why the heck is the idea of him being here so terrifying now? (…is it the fact that my friends—the friends who haven’t fought as much as me and Kirby—are here now?)

I gulped again. “S-So you didn’t,” I stammered. I mustered up my best non-nervous grin. “I didn’t think you’d remember.”

“How could I forget you, when you were just as vexing as that accursed pink puffball?” Okay, the way he just seamlessly switches between partially scary and really scary voices is really unnerving. “You just barged into the false Dimensional Mirror I had created and destroyed it and me. I was at ease, before I sensed your disturbance upon my territory.”

“Your ‘territory’ wasn’t exactly very healthy for the world around it!” I exclaimed. “And it wasn’t like you wanted to just talk it out or anything! What else did you expect me to do!?”

“G-Great King’s r-right!” Dee interjected, quickly grabbing his spear and holding it out in front of him. “He—He doesn’t always do things perfectly, b-but he tries his best, and I know he wouldn’t do that w-without a reason!”

“Excuses, excuses!” Dark Meta Knight scoffed. “Say whatever you like, it won’t change what’s happened! If you want to talk, then tell me this: why shouldn’t I end your miserable existences here and now?”

…eeeeeeeeep. Again.

I glanced at Meta Knight and Marx. The former villain’s face had gone blank, and I could tell Meta Knight was the same behind his mask. The two turned to each other, the same thing clearly on their minds. “…this knight is clearly horrifically crazy,” Marx said. “I wouldn’t normally say this, but… I think we need to call a truce on this.”

“As much as I do not want to, I must admit that it would be very valuable to have assistance against this menace,” Meta Knight reluctantly agreed. “I will be willing to put our enmity on hold, just this once, for this.”

“Then it’s a truce.”

…well, that was worrying. They’re actually willing to work together in the face of Dark Meta Knight. Oh, why did this adventure have like this? I miss the days of just finding Crystal Shards or Energy Spheres.

I breathed in and out, in and out. Okay. Okay. Calm down. Even if he decides to start a fight, we’re all capable enough to defeat him easily. Let’s just calm down and… see if we can’t pacify him somehow. Maybe he’ll accept food as a bribe? Hmm…

“Hey—Dark Meta Knight, right?” A-Adeleine? Wh-What are you—? Surprisingly enough, Adeleine and Ribbon had stepped forward, their features showing firm determination. “You don’t… actually feel that way, do you?” the artist carefully asked. “As far as I can tell, you wouldn’t have been brought here if you didn’t have at least a trace of good in you. You don’t… have to go through with b-being a bad guy, I think.”

“I—I mean, it’s not like Marx is a—is a really evil bad guy anymore,” Ribbon added, “s-so—maybe you can just… be a nice guy? Maybe?”

“…guys?” I hissed. “You—You shouldn’t be—”

“…is that right?” Dark Meta Knight slowly asked. “A ‘trace of good’? ‘Be a nice guy’? H-Hmph! What does that mean!? You will pay for this insult on my honor…!”

“…you didn’t actually deny it,” Daroach noted. He raised an eyebrow. “Interesting.”

“You really think you can make us pay?” Kirby taunted him—no, no, no, don’t do that now, Kirbs! “Sorry, but you can’t. Disregarding the fact that we’re a team of twelve and you’re a team of one… we’ve got something else on our side. Something you can’t get rid of!” He smiled widely. “But if you wanna test it, then be my guest!”

Oh, this is gonna suck…

“As usual, your words are nothing more than empty platitudes against my might! Whatever this ‘something else’ is, it won’t be helping you today! If you seek to perish so much… then your wish shall be granted! HAVE AT THEE!”

The shadowy knight, thoroughly angered, rushed forth with his sword above his head. The rest of us shifted into combat stances—except for Kirby, that is. He didn’t look worried at all.

“Kirby! D-Don’t just stand there!” I shouted. “Raise your sword or something, c’mon!”

But it was too late; Dark Meta Knight managed to strike him… except no, he actually didn’t manage. In fact, his sword just went through Kirby’s body as if it was holographic.

I paused. I blinked. I rubbed my eyes, just to really make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I blinked again. And then I let my jaw drop a little.

“H-H-Holy crap!” Dee exclaimed, waving his hands in the air. To be honest, I kind of wanted to do that, too.

“What is this!?” In fury, Dark Meta Knight attempted to slash our smirking puffball repeatedly, all to no avail. “Why can’t I attack you, you wretched puffball!? What sort of sorcery are you conjuring up!?”

“I—I’d like to know too,” Adeleine said, her jaw wide open. “That’s… That’s completely new, even by our standards!”

“Well you see,” Kirby began to explain as if this was the most obvious thing ever, “you’re a Dream Friend now! And Dream Friends aren’t allowed to hurt other friends in true malice! It’s not a very friendly thing to do.”

“…you’re talking about invincibility frames,” I realized. That’s—That’s crazy. That’s just crazy.

…it certainly explains a lot, but—still.

“…huh,” Marx muttered. “So that’s why none of my attacks ever seemed to inflict any splash damage or anything. Good to know, I guess…”

“Anyway—as long as you’re alive and a Dream Friend,” Kirby continued, “you can’t be a villain. And that means you’re gonna have to work with us to save our planet from peril! You’re gonna be our compatriot, whether you like it or not!”

“No… No… NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Dark Meta Knight screamed into the sky rather dramatically. There was this visceral rage in his voice that gave me the shivers.

“…we have to work with you?” Meta Knight said, disgust filling his voice. He was scowling at the mere idea of it. “I’d rather eat glass.”

“I… really don’t want to do it either,” Marx stuck out his tongue. “You’re clearly eviler than me, and I don’t like that.”

“Oh, don’t worry guys!” Kirby said. “You don’t have to be around him too much if you don’t want to be! But I’m sure he’s bound to be a good friend either way!”

All three of them looked at Kirby in a ‘Are you freaking kidding me?’ kind of way. “Him/me?” they said in chorus. “Be a good friend?” They looked at each other for a bit before firmly shaking their heads. “Not a chance!”

I, uh… have no idea what to feel about all of this. Like, at all.

I’m—I’m glad that Kirby managed to figure out a solution for this problem, but… that doesn’t change the fact that now we have two ‘former’ villains to deal with now (technically three, if one counts Daroach). And one of whom is still very clearly antagonistic toward us.

…I’ve faced a lot of challenges before, I won’t lie. This, however… might just be the toughest one of them all.

“Well, the decision’s done, and there’s nothing we can do about it now. We’ll just have to make the most of it! Now, we’ve got an adventure to continue, and the whole Gamble Galaxy to potentially save! What are you guys waiting for? Let’s go!”

Reluctantly, Dark Meta Knight trudged forward first, sneering at all of us as he passed. “By no means does this mean I grant you forgiveness for your sins,” he growled.

“Believe me,” Meta Knight said, matching his scowl, “I feel the same way.”

The shadow warrior leveled a furious glare at me in particular, the sight of which was enough to freeze me solid and send several chills rocketing down my spine. He kept it on me for several seconds before he finally stormed out. And once he was gone, I felt the tension in my body entirely disappear.

I slouched down to the floor, lying on my back and breathing heavily. “Dear NOVA,” I sighed, “that was intense! I—I think several years were just shaved off my lifespan…”

“We, we—we survived!” Dee hysterically said, his trembling even worse than before. “G-Great King, we survived! I was—I was p-pretty scared there, f-for a moment… b-but Kirby got us through it intact!”

“Yeah,” I breathed. “Yeah, he did.”

“Hey, I’d never let you guys down, right?” Kirby rhetorically asked, sitting down right next to me. “Sure, things got a little tense back there, but it all turned out well enough.”

“Speak for yourself,” I groaned. “We still have Dark Meta Knight to deal with, and he’s already been far worse than Marx ever was.” I wearily turned my head to look at my best friend. “You think you’ll be able to work your friendship magic on him?”

“Of course – though, something tells me I won’t have to be the one doing it myself.” His gaze wandered off to Team Adeleine. The artist and her fairy friend stared meaningfully at where the dark knight had exited before walking out after him, Marx and Daroach in tow. “There’s a good chance Adeleine and Ribbon won’t let him go.”

“A rather sizeable risk,” Meta Knight’s voice fluttered through, “one I would hesitate in taking myself.” He stood opposite of Kirby, his cape wrapped once more around himself. “There will no doubt be an unending amount of trials from what has transpired today. As the leader of our group, do you truly believe you will be able to handle our troublesome teammate, Kirby?”

“I don’t take challenges I can’t accomplish,” Kirby confidently replied. “I’m willing to deal with Dark Meta Knight, whatever it takes. And something tells me Adeleine and Ribbon are more than up to the task, too.”

“They’ve always been more than a little stubborn,” I recalled. “I’ll trust you on that – and I’ll trust them to give it their best shot. Though… that doesn’t mean Dark Meta Knight definitely doesn’t creep me the heck out.” I shuddered. “I’m not looking forward to working with him. Not at all.”

“I must concur,” Meta Knight said. “I would prefer to be as far away from him as possible if necessary. Do not expect me to… interact with him.”

“S-Same here,” Bandana Dee added. “I—I’d prefer to—to stick by G-Great King, if that’s a-alright with you…”

“Eh, that’s okay. I suppose that means I’ll just have to befriend him four times as harder in exchange, then! And probably make him four times the friend, too.”

“…that math shouldn’t make sense,” I deadpanned. “But it’s more logical than anything we deal with half the time, sadly.” And that… really says a lot about us.

Chapter Text

[Adeleine]

Jambastion
Eastern Wall – Entrance

“There he is, Addie,” Ribbon whispered.

There he was, indeed.

Dark Meta Knight—the ‘evil bad guy’, the hostile Dream Friend, the current nadir of our group-that-really-needs-to-get-a-name-sooner-or-later—was sitting with his back to a nearby wall, while everybody else was huddled elsewhere and interacting with each other.

Really. He’s just… sitting there, completely alone. Grumpily simmering in his own misery.

…he really stands out like that.

“Yeah,” I whispered back. “I see him.”

There was practically an aura of ‘go away, I’m perfectly fine without you around’ coming from his entire body, with only the occasional fidgeting here and there indicating anything otherwise.

It… must be uncomfortable for him, having no one on his side – and no courage to try and change that.

I’d know… I was kinda the same way, about twenty years ago.

“What do you think he’s thinking about?” my best friend asked me, wings fluttering semi-loudly. “He’s been like that since we opened the Gatehouse Road. A-Actually, he’s been like that pretty much since he was summoned…” She bit her lip. “He should be having fun, not… not treating this like a chore.”

I let the paintbrush in my hand spin. “I guess it’s up to us to work our magic on him, like we’ve always done!”

It’s been a heck of a ride, going on another adventure with Kirby and Dedede and Dee. We’re having a lotta fun, actually! Sure, there’s the whole having to ‘make our planet not-crazy again’ (Dedede’s words, not mine), but that’s not anything we can’t deal with at this point. And true to form, we’ve even got new allies to party with us!

Well, new for us. Kirby knows literally every person here, and we’ve also got old ones like Gooey. But then there’s Marx and Daroach – and they’re really interesting!

Marx is… he’s a special person, I’ll say. Before this adventure, I hadn’t ever heard of him – primarily because I came to Pop Star after his villainy thing failed… probably. I—I mean, it’s the only thing that makes sense. His face is a hard one to miss.

Despite what we’ve been told about him… he’s been cool. He’s a jokester and he likes riling people up, but he genuinely seems to enjoy being with us. I think part of that’s ‘cause I can paint good food, but the other part is… him being happy. Happy and carefree. I like seeing him smile, whenever he hangs around us – it reminds me a little of Gooey’s happy nature.

I wonder if he’ll be able to show that smile to everyone else someday, too.

Oh yeah—and we can’t forget about Daroach. He’s cooler than almost anyone I’ve ever seen, and that’s not a joke!—though don’t tell Marx I said that. Treasure hunting’s his main game, and being all suave and awesome’s his pastime! Just look at him! He’s so stylish!

A-A-Ahem! Anyway, he’s so cool, he’s got his own squad of companions joining us! There’s Spinni and Doc and Storo and look, they’re all cute (and colorful, and good for fighting) in their own special way! Is it any wonder they—and Daroach—have caught even Marx’s interest?

“Gee, he’s certainly trying his hardest to be the edgiest of all edge lords, eh?”

Speaking of Marx and Daroach…

Ribbon and I turned around – and there were our two newest friends, staring at Dark Meta Knight alongside us. Marx had a decidedly annoyed expression on his face, while Daroach wore more of an interested look, putting his claws to his chin.

“Like, seriously!” the jester continued to mock him, absolutely unsympathetic. “It’s as if he thinks he can win sympathy points from us by being all ‘Boo-hoo, I’m all alone and I don’t like it’?” He narrowed his eyes. “Well, it’s not going to work.”

“Isn’t that a little harsh, coming from you?” Daroach asked, an eyebrow raised. “You were a villain once as well.”

“At least I’m trying to be different!” Marx justified. “I didn’t blindly start attacking anybody when I came back! What’s this guy’s excuse? You agree with me, right Adeleine?” I was too focused on Dark Meta Knight to respond. “…Adeleine?”

You know… when you’re on an adventure with Kirby, there’s always something good to look out for, some new friends to make along the way. And I’m happy to say that Marx and Daroach have become some pretty good friends of mine. They’ve been surprises, sure, but I know Kirby wouldn’t have brought them in if they weren’t nice guys inside.

I know the same applies to Dark Meta Knight, deep down inside of his heart – even if nobody else can see it yet.

They’re right to be worried about him, but…

Sometimes, you just gotta take a chance and jump on in, y’know?

Kirby would do the same. So I’m gonna try and live up to that, as best as I can!

I gathered up all my courage, and… “We should go talk to him,” I proclaimed aloud.

“WHAT!?” Marx shouted, his voice barely subdued. “You, you, you—you can’t do that! He’ll eat you two alive!”

“Hey, he can’t be all that bad… hopefully!” I reassured him… though admittedly, I didn’t feel entirely reassured myself. (Eh heh heh…) “Besides, everyone here should like each other! We can’t be a team if we’re all divided!”

“You said it, Addie!” Ribbon agreed, nodding her head. “C’mon, let’s do it all together! We’ll make friends with him whether he likes it or not!”

“You have got to be kidding me,” he groaned. “Daroach, talk some sense into them! We can’t let this joke continue!”

“Actually…” Daroach interjected, much to Marx’s horror. “I don’t see it as a joke. All our other companions—aside from Kirby—are hesitant to approach our aloof, aggressive ally, so why shouldn’t we be the ones to test the waters ourselves?” He lifted his top hat, a smirk reaching his cheeks. “There’s no harm in giving it a shot, wouldn’t you say?”

“Thanks, Daroach,” I said. “Look, Marx, I get you’re a little scared of him—” (“Scared? What makes you say that? I’m not scared, no way!”) “—but it’s not like he’s going anywhere! And he can’t hurt us, either. Kirby showed us that!” I gave him the warmest smile I could. “We all accepted you, so we should try to accept him, too. Offer him a warm welcome, ‘cuz I think he really could use one. What do you say?”

Our former villain of villains seemed to blank out, as if the gears turning in his brain had to calculate what the best choice to our request was. (Ugh, why did I use that analogy? It reminds me of the Robobot invasion…) Finally, he sighed – which was quite out-of-character for him! – and told us, “Alright, alright… I’ll join. But if I get so annoyed I end up slamming several cream pies into his face, you’re in charge of bringing me back through the Dream Rod!”

I nervously laughed. “I don’t think that’ll be necessary, but I’ll keep that in mind.”

And so, the four of us walked over to Dark Meta Knight as casually as we could be, given the circumstances. He was sullenly staring at the ground, disregarding the whole world and—again—stewing in his own thoughts. I could tell it would take a while for him to notice us – and even then, he probably wouldn’t willingly take the initiative. Sooooo…

“Hi there!” I greeted him loudly, waving my hand widely in the air. “I’m Adeleine! And these are my friends, Ribbon—” Ribbon waved hello, too, from her place near my shoulder.

“—Marx—” Marx summoned a beach ball from beneath him, a toothy grin hiding whatever animosity he may have had.

“—and Daroach!” Daroach brought out his magic wand and swayed it like a conductor’s baton, looking as confident as always. “It’s nice to greet you—” Wrong phrase, wrong phrase! “—I—I mean, meet you!”

Dark Meta Knight’s eyes flitted upward to us briefly. He grunted and went back to… looking like he was reading a book?

…well, he responded, somewhat! That’s already progress!

“How have you been doing?” I continued. “You looked kind of lonely, doing nothing all the way over here, so I wanted to come and say hello! You don’t mind that, right?”

…nothing. No reply whatsoever—not even a retort. He—He isn’t secretly sleeping, is he? Dark Matter reacted more than this guy, and Dark Matter was this weird collective amalgamation with basically no emotion…

I prodded the knight with my paintbrush, dyeing his mask a little thanks to the fact that I still had some leftover paint from when I was drawing everyone else earlier. (What can I say, I’m an easily-inspired artist, especially when it comes to my friends!) “Hey, don’t be quiet! You can speak up; we won’t take offense!”

“It’s polite to talk to people who want to talk to you, buddy,” Marx sardonically said, bouncing on his ball and looking ready to mercilessly jump on the guy. Repeatedly. (Please don’t.) “Laugh or cry or something! Here I thought you were a big bad destroyer of heroes, but you’re basically just a glorified living statue! I should call Birdon in to ‘do her thing’, if you know what I mean!” he darkly sniggered.

Ribbon facepalmed. “Marx!” she hissed, exasperated. “That’s not gonna help us befriend him!”

“Well, what do you expect me to do? I’ve literally seen castles with more life than him!”

I sighed, and looked back to Dark Meta Knight. He’s… doing and saying absolutely nothing.

…okay, this is getting awkward…

“Perhaps we should simply stay by his side for now,” Daroach suggested. “If he wants to discuss anything with us, I’m certain he will pipe up eventually. We are taking a break before we continue onward, so we can afford to relax a little; Kirby will alert us to anything that should crop up. So—shall we?”

Man, I’m still surprised how calm and composed he can be! He’s got an answer for almost anything you can come up with—he’s like that cool uncle you like to visit a lot! Not that I would really know what that feels like… Does, uh—Does Dedede count…?

In any case, it wasn’t like there was any harm to his idea. “Sure!” Ribbon and I agreed.

Marx, meanwhile, decided, “Eh, you guys are more interesting than everybody else. What’s the harm?”

Translation: he cares about us! Awwwwwww~

We plopped down around Dark Meta Knight, forming a group circle and ignoring his still-existent aura of repulsion. Ribbon and I was on his left, Marx was on his right, and Daroach was directly across from him.

From the outside looking in, I bet it’d make a pretty picture. I wish I could see it now, actually; I’m better at painting with a reference than from my memory alone. (But I’m certain they’ll be other chances to draw something similarly spectacular, so… I can wait!)

Speaking of painting, I went ahead and set up my trusty canvas off to my side, painting a hot dog – an ordinary hot dog, that’s it! – and giving it to Dark Meta Knight. “Here,” I said, handing it out to him. “Try this!”

He eyed the food suspiciously. He kind of looked like he was analyzing it for… poisons or something? I dunno; it’s food! You shouldn’t need to do anything like that! “…what is this?” he finally asked (“Oh wow, Mr. Uptight finally deigns to speak to us!” Marx crowed. “What an honor!”). He turned it all sorts of directions, and I don’t have to be Gooey to see he was more confused than Dee at a Crystal Shard puzzle. “Pray tell, what exactly is the purpose of this… soft construct?”

…wha? H-Has he not…? “It’s a hot dog,” I answered. “It’s food! You eat it for nutrition—or because it’s yummy! C’mon—you’ll like it!”

“It’s Kirby-approved, so you don’t have to worry about it!” Ribbon added. “It’s also Dedede-approved, if that helps!”

“If you don’t wanna eat it,” Marx chimed in, “I can always eat it for you~! Just a suggestion!”

He kept staring at it. Has he, uh, ever had a good breakfast in his life? Or a good lunch, or good dinner—or even a good nap, for that matter? That’d explain why he became an evil bad guy to begin with. Anyone would go crazy from lack of good food—or more likely, getting their good food stolen. Us Dream Landers still remember Kirby getting mad over his strawberry shortcake.

That was terrifying, seriously!

After several moments of him weirdly being all ‘dot dot dot’, Dark Meta Knight put a hand on his mask, and—oh, look! He’s got the cute Kirby face that Meta Knight has! I couldn’t see it for very long—he quickly shoved the hot dog into his mouth and put his mask back on immediately afterward—but it’s there! He took a few more seconds to chew it. “…this is adequate,” he curtly complimented. “Better than expected.”

“Heyyyyyyyyy~!” Marx jumped in, practically hovering over our not-quite-a-friend-yet. “You do have actual emotion in you!” He shoved a wing where Dark Meta Knight’s cheek would be. “Mmm, you might be worth my time, if this is how you’re gonna be! I think I’m getting a better idea of who you are—you’re merely a regular ‘ol scary mirror guy, aren’t you?” Wh-What the heck is that even supposed to mean, Marx…?

‘Scary mirror guy’ proceeded to silently glare at Marx, bluntly shoving him out of the way with a gauntlet-covered hand. “Don’t touch me,” he grumbled beneath his breath.

“Okay!” I spoke up, beaming as brightly as possible. “Let’s get to know each other a little better, Dark Meta Knight!” He’s a bit quiet now, but I’m sure that’ll change as we go on! “There’s a lotta ground to cover if we’re gonna be friends, after all!”

Ribbon continued, “Yeah! I’ve got a lot of inquiries to make, as Her Majesty would say!” She fluttered over the newest Dream Friend’s head excitedly. “Like… How are you today? What do you like doing in your spare time? Have you ever ridden a Warp Star? Am—Am I asking too many questions, or—?”

“…why are you four here?”

Ribbon and I both blinked. “Huh?” we said dumbly.

Tiredly, he turned his attention toward us. “You know who I am. You were there for my introduction. Tell me this, peasant—” His voice suddenly got all deep. “—what purpose do you have in trying to change anything here?” Those angry yellow eyes of his seemed to peer directly into my soul—Brrrrrrrrr…! B-But… I’ve seen scarier things before—like, much scarier—so… I—I have to stand my ground!

“It’s—It’s because…” I breathed in… and out. In… and out. “It’s because you shouldn’t be alone, even if you made a… not-actually-all-that-great first impression.” Nailed it! “You’re a part of our crew now – and Kirby doesn’t let really, really evil bad guys come aboard. Is—Is it wrong to try and reach out toward someone who could use a helping hand?”

“Hmph. It is, if you believe cooperation with that portly penguin and those petulant puffballs is possible. We are utterly incompatible with each other. That is a fact any simpleton than decipher upon first glance. And you peasants—” Does he just really like that word, or is it just me…? “—insult me with your naïve beliefs to the contrary.” He harrumphed. “I don’t need your ‘helping hand’, anyway. It would only erode my stalwart resolve—and that is an affront I would never be able to tolerate.”

“Hey, it’s not naïve!” Ribbon protested. “And it’s definitely not wrong, either! Just because we’re all pretty different and dysfunctional doesn’t mean we can’t be friends! Besides—friendship makes people stronger, not weaker! That’s how Kirby helps everyone! We wouldn’t be here otherwise!”

“So what?” Dark Meta Knight scoffed. “He appears altruistic, but I’ve found that such a personality has proven to be primarily nonexistent.” He looked down at the floor. “‘Help’ isn’t a factor you can rely on—only your own strength matters in determining the direction of your life, in relation to yourself and others. Anything else—is a lie.”

…w-wow, th-that’s…

That’s dark.

I’m—I’m not even joking about that.

What kind of life has he led, in that ‘mirror world’ he supposedly comes from…?

(…and why does his backstory remind me—if even a little bit—of Dark Matter?)

Ribbon and I stared at each other as we tried to digest this… rather uncomfortable explanation. Marx seemed to be having problems too; he had this strange mix of concern and detachment going on, and he looked like he didn’t know which one to settle on. Daroach, however…

“I see,” he suddenly said, peering straight at Dark Meta Knight, undaunted by the latter’s penetrating glower. “That’s why you’re so guarded. You’ve been spurned so many times, presumably by individuals of various dispositions, that you’ve created a stone barrier around your heart to combat your own fears of rejection. Not a common outlook to witness within the boundaries of our dimension, but unfortunate nevertheless.”

Meta Knight’s mirror counterpart flinched.

I pursed my lips. “Right on the nose with that one, huh…?”

“Congratulations,” Dark Meta Knight venomously drawled, probably trying to cover up his little reaction, “you’re smarter than you look. And now you should comprehend precisely what I would prefer you simpletons to do: leave. Me. Be. I’m perfectly fine on my own.”

“Is that correct?” But Daroach wasn’t done. “Then why have you allowed us to even interact with you in the first place?”

His silence spoke wonders.

The gentleman thief crossed his eyes and closed his eyes. “I suspect that beneath your rough exterior lies a softer, warmer soul – and likely, one that’s even subconsciously seeking amicable interactions with others. You simply don’t know how to show it. Or, perhaps more accurately… you’re too scared to.”

(Marx’s eyes suddenly widened. I could tell this was getting the gears in his brain to turn again… why, I couldn’t tell you.)

“I won’t lie and say that I personally understand your plight. But you should at least know this: the four of us—Adeleine, Ribbon, Marx, and I—are more than willing to support you, in whatever way you may need it. The rest of our allies, given enough time, won’t hesitate to be just as welcoming as well.” Daroach signaled to me to continue.

“You’ve got a whole new second chance now,” I said, letting my compassionate side rise to the surface. “That’s something no one can take from you, ever. And even if somebody tries—so long as you have somebody behind you, you’ll be fine. I get that you’re scared—and that’s okay. I mean, we’ve all gotta start from somewhere!” I held out a free hand to him, displaying another soft smile. “On that note… why can’t this be our starting point?”

“Addie knows what she’s talking about!” Ribbon nodded. “Erasing doubts is what friendship’s all about! Come on, don’t be shy now—won’t you take our hand?”

Dark Meta Knight stared at my offer, much in the same way he stared at my hot dog earlier. He glanced at all of us—me and Ribbon, then Daroach, then the eerily-silent Marx, and then back to me and Ribbon—before finally deciding to give things a shot. “Don’t think for a single second this is definitive confirmation,” he groused. “I am merely humoring your attempts to approach me. Nothing more.”

Wow, the progress we’ve made today is tremendous! “Great!” I exclaimed. “We’re gonna the best of friends—” (“Or bester, or bestest!” Ribbon chimed in, echoing Marx.) “—before long, trust me!”

“I doubt it,” he replied.

Suddenly…

“Ha!” Ribbon and I jumped into the air, whirling our gazes toward an inexplicably-lively-again Marx. Oh, what’s this about? “Now I understand your whole schtick!” he continued, wearing a wide grin that honestly kinda worried me. “Adeleine and Ribbon probably haven’t noticed—” Huh!? Marx, I don’t—!? “—but I definitely have! You can’t hide anything from me, buddy! For you see—” He pointed a clawed wing at Dark Meta Knight, proudly announcing: “You’re a tsundere, fulllllll stop!”

Several moments passed.

Me, Ribbon, Daroach, Dark Meta Knight—we all blankly looked (or in Daroach’s case, simply raised another eyebrow) at our semi-friendly jester, more than one of us having absolutely no idea what in the name of the Great Crystal he’s talking about.

No, seriously—what?

“Soon-deh-ray…?” Ribbon pronounced. “I—I’ve never heard that term before…”

“Neither have I…” I recalled. “Sounds like something up Dedede’s territory…”

A vein popped up from the target of Marx’s comments. “Are you endeavoring to offend me by using foreign vocabulary…!?” he growled, a hand reaching toward his sheathed sword. “Explain yourself now, before I decide to seek away around this infuriating limitation of my power!”

“Your Mirror World doesn’t have any showbiz? I’ve been out for the past twenty years and even I’ve picked up on it!” You have got to teach me where, then… “Tsundere-ism’s a common trait in the wilderness: hot-headed, grumpy, standoffish on the outside, but perfectly sweet and sappy on the inside! People like that are always denying or downplaying any positivity they may exhibit—but that’s only because they’re secretly in looooooooove~!” And now Dark Meta Knight was openly gawking at Marx, what is this even—!? “Or at least, they’re not as edgy and as dark…y as they want to be portrayed out there. I never thought I’d see the day where someone like that exists within the Gamble Galaxy—but it looks like my days of searching are done!”

I blinked. For some reason, the only response out of my brain from that was…

…I thought you hadn’t been alive long enough to even search for a ‘tsundere’.

Yeah, I’ve really been desensitized to Dream Land weirdness…

(…is that a good thing?)

“An interesting assessment,” Daroach said, a hand beneath his chin. “I wouldn’t have thought to consider Dark Meta Knight in that regard. You are certainly more observant than you delude others into believing.”

“Wha—this—I—your words are—” Dark Meta Knight was reduced to spluttering incoherently at this point. “You—You—You…!” He shook wildly before finally exclaiming, “You are absolutely insufferable!”

“I aim to please,” Marx mock-bowed. “I gotta tell you though, I only take gifts in the form of pranking books, not love letters!”

Okay—I think I’ve hit my limit. This is so bizarre, it wraps back around to being hilarious. At first, I just started to giggle uncontrollably alongside Ribbon. Then that evolved into chuckling lightly—and finally, I just fell onto my back and bellowed out the loudest laughter I could. I can’t help it, everyone’s just so—amazing!

“S-Stop laughing!” Dark Meta Knight shouted, a vibrant red blush poking past his mask. “I’m warning you! I am—I am qualified to annihilate you! And I won’t hesitate in doing so!”

He couldn’t get through to us, and eventually, he just sighed and put his masked face in his gauntlets. “I don’t understand you peasants at all…”

But somehow, despite his own apprehension… I think there was a bond was forming between us. It might take a while for it to fully blossom, but we’ll get there in time.

And when that time comes, I know we’ll be able to face anything head-on.

Until then… I’ll be content, just sitting by his side.


[King Dedede]

“Awwwwww, look at them!” Kirby cooed. “Isn’t this just an absolutely adorable scene?”

It was a sight only a universe of our caliber could pull off: five individuals of completely different appearances and sizes, becoming fast friends in merely a few days… I’d call it unbelievable, but when you live with a friendship-happy, cake-worshiping guy like Kirby on a daily basis, you tend to get used to it – and you really begin to appreciate it.

“It’s nice, yeah, seeing all our companions sit around and speak with their hearts,” I admitted. “They compliment each other surprisingly well.”

The three of us – that includes Dee – were sitting with our backs to another wall, watching four of our friends (and Dark Meta Knight) from afar. Above us, Meta Knight was ‘scouting the scene for any danger’, as he claimed—though honestly, I think he was just keeping track of his identical doppelganger.

Either way, we all had a first-class ticket to watching Mr. Way-Too-Terrifying-For-My-Poor-Heart gradually get reformed. ‘Twas a different method of reformation compared to Magolor and Marx, but it was valid nevertheless.

I heard sniffing from beside me. I turned to Dee, and saw him noticeably tearing up at the view. “It’s—sniff!—It’s so b-b-beautiful…” he squeaked, as overly emotional as ever. “He’s—He’s still really, really scary, b-but… maybe he won’t be as scary a-after this. Maybe just… super scary?” He instinctively shuddered. “N-No, that’s still too much…”

“Trust me, Dee – so long as he focuses his scariness on our enemies, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about!” Kirby cheerfully proclaimed, flipping his newly-acquired staff into the air like the way you’d juggle some balls. (He’s always had an affinity for learning new Copy Abilities fairly quickly. It won’t take too many more stages before he fully masters it.) “We’re all allies here, and nothing can change that!”

“Not just allies,” I interjected, “but friends, too.” I grinned at my friend. “C’mon, I thought you would’ve said that first thing.”

“I’m allowed to be creative with my vocabulary every now and then, right?” he cheekily replied. “‘Sides, I’m pretty sure you guys can pick up the slack on that front!”

“G-G-Great King could probably do that, b-but—I… don’t think I can? I guess?” Dee sounded unsure—and he honestly shouldn’t be; he’s a lot better than he gives himself credit for. He shook his head. “I—I mean… sometimes, things just move too fast for me to process…”

“You do your best, Dee,” I said, “and I think that counts for enough.”

“Yeah! You should bake yourself a cake when we’re done with everything. Cake is one of the best ways to reward yourself!”

“We—We can bake it all together, then!” my loyal assistant brightened up. “I wouldn’t like just eating it by myself, a-after all…”

I laughed heartily. “Can do, Dee! Can do.”

Man—I love my best friends. Kirby, Dee, Meta Knight… we’ve really been through a lot of things together over the past two-and-a-half decades, and I’m proud to have them by my side. Even if Kirby can do some rather crazy things that come outta nowhere—I shouldn’t have to remind you of Dark Meta Knight—he always manages to figure out how to make it work. And that’s legitimately amazing.

You know, maybe that’s why seeing Adeleine and Ribbon with their own crew really gets to me. In a way, they’re going through the same thing us four went through, if condensed a fair amount – and they’re also masterfully showcasing why Kirby’s so friendship-happy to begin with. Friendship lifts you up and never lets you down. And knowing how Kirby managed to befriend every single one of us—and especially me… I admit, I think it’s a beautiful scene.

…what can I say, I can be a little sentimental at times.

I wonder if this’ll be the gateway that gets us to come into our own as a squadron of friends. It’s not every day we’re all gathered together like this – and likewise, it’s not every day a group-wide adventure on Pop Star even happens. (The last time Kirby had more than one friend joining him was, what… 2011?) It’s certainly Marx, Dark Meta Knight, and Daroach’s first time doing anything like this, that’s for sure!

In a way, it feels like our entire lives have been leading to this very moment, when we’d all assemble to deal with this ever-escalating extraterrestrial threat. And I feel as if we’ve got a long way to go even after we most likely deal with the atypical True Arena companion piece this year. There’s a lot of things waiting for us – but maybe that’s okay (maybe). They say friends are best forged when you’re out and about, saving the galaxy (okay, that’s just me) – and something tells me this won’t be an exception. Whatever happens from here… Kirby and I both hope there’ll be plenty of friendship to go around.

I do hope our combined group gets a name at some point, though.


High in the air, an orange butterfly—glowing brightly in the air, and bringing with it a trail of yellow dust as it continued to soar—carefully watched the future Star Allies as they rested within the Jambastion.

It fluttered around for a little while longer—and then, seemingly content with what it had witnessed, it took off. Higher and higher it went, ascending farther from the Fortress of Shadows.

And from his relatively high elevation, Meta Knight was there to see it go. His eyes narrowed.

I’ve seen that butterfly many times before, he recalled. As far as I can tell, it’s never left Dream Land… until now.

…interesting.


And so, on that day, during the infiltration of the Jambastion, an unlikely group of friends formed: that of an artist (and her fairy companion), a thief, and a villain… and Marx.

Certainly, they were an unusual combination. To say they were utterly different from one another would be a gross understatement.

But unusual happenings were very much Pop Star’s bread and butter – and each Dream Friend, if you’d ask them later, wouldn’t have had this meet-up go any other way.

Their burdens were eased, their relationships became mutually content, and—in the end—they found things they never could’ve discovered on their own.

And it was all thanks to Kirby and the Dream Palaces.

His willingness to ally with friends and enemies, the Palaces’ power to call upon anyone who could lend or use some assistance… it all came together to create a truly wonderful miracle – one that would shine brightly for a long time, reaching far past the official formation of the Star Allies.

And you know what?

“…that’s fine with us.”

This wouldn’t be their last adventure, they knew. And neither would it be the last time they followed on Kirby’s ideal of making new friends—and letting them rise above their shortcomings. (What else could they do, really?)

The future of the Gamble Galaxy may have been unknown, and the crises and chaos to come could very well cause an upheaval in more ways than one – but so long as the stars could still soar across the sky, Adeleine, Ribbon, Marx, Dark Meta Knight, and Daroach would be there to see things through, all the way to the Rainbow Resort.

For them, they’d make sure there’s no doubt that everyone would make it out okay.

And in their hearts, they’ll seal the deal with three fabled words:

“That’s a promise!”