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Smile for the Sake of Everyone

Chapter Text


Colors weave into a spire of flame

Distant sparks call to a past still unnamed…


[Kirby]

Master Hand’s missing.

Crazy Hand too.

It took us a little bit to realize it, but when we realized he wasn’t anywhere to be found, well… the whole mansion—Smashers and Assist Trophies and everybody—went ballistic over it. Who? Why? Where? How?

There wasn’t any grand scene to be seen, no spectacular villain snatching Master Hand before our eyes—he was just… gone.

We spent several long hours trying to find him and his brother, calling upon any and all resources at our disposal to track their whereabouts. The Ultimate tournament was due to begin in just a few days—we couldn’t have it without them. We just couldn’t.

As for me and the rest of the Brawl gang, this whole thing was just a source of intense worry – for we remembered the events of the Subspace invasion far too well. The whole thing nearly took us all out, and I have no doubt that it would’ve spread to our worlds had we fallen then and there.

And the one thing both then and now was sharing was Master Hand disappearing.

If an invasion, just like Subspace, were to happen again…

…well, I don’t really want to think about it.

None of us do.

I desperately hoped it wouldn’t come to that—that we wouldn’t have to find ourselves divided again, fighting against each other again—nearly killed again. Once was enough for me. Enough for everyone, I’d say.

But—the way things are going now…

There’s a real possibility that our worst fears may come true.

Dear NOVA, please, I prayed. Please, just let this be a simple misunderstanding. It has to be. It has to.

(But I should’ve learned, should’ve known after Void Termina—

—that things never end up being as simple as that.)


Bare this torch against the cold of the night

Search your soul and reawaken the undying light!


This cliff is one I’m familiar with.

Once upon a time, we stood here triumphant, having saved all of existence from Subspace in the nick of time. It was the end of a beginning, you could say, the lead-in to what would become the Brawl tournament.

Now we’re here again, several dozen of us stronger, standing here to quite possibly face a brand new threat – stronger than anything we’ve ever seen before. (In a way, I guess you could say—this was the beginning of the end.)

Murmurs were moving about the crowd as we stared out into the setting sun. What were we to see? “This is the right-a place, right?” Mario asked. His brow furrowed as he spoke, his face scrunched into the same worry most of us were holding.

“It can’t be anything else,” Samus replied. “The massive energy fluctuation we detected here is no doubt connected to Master Hand’s disappearance.” She put a hand on her arm cannon, aiming it out into the sea. “Whatever it is, we have to be cautious.”

“Hmph. This won’t be anything too special!” Bowser gruffly declared, snorting out smoke from his nostrils. He pumped his fists together. “If it’s Tabuu again, we’ll just clobber him back to the shadowy hellhole he came from!”

Red nodded assent. “We took down one threat together before,” he stated, “we can certainly do this one too!”

But—something about this just didn’t feel right to me. “Something’s wrong, though,” I remarked aloud. “I—I don’t know why, but… it feels like—like we’re at Tabuu again, about to be turned into trophies.” That had been a pretty unpleasant time. And this time, I don’t think we were going to have any Deus Ex Machinas save us out of the blue. “We… We can’t let our guard down.”

“The atmosphere is a little tense,” Link agreed—he may technically be a different ‘incarnation’ than last time, but he’s still the same Link we all know. “But whatever happens, we can only face it head on. We can’t run away here.”

“Still…” My worries didn’t leave me. For the first time in a while, I found myself genuinely frightened of whatever awaited beyond.

And unfortunately, I found that I was right to be afraid.

For soon, descending down from the sky, in almost the blink of an eye… was about several dozen Master Hands, all at once. And none of them looked particularly very friendly, either.

Our jaws dropped at the sight. “What the hell…?” I quietly let out, my worries immediately ratcheting up several notches higher. This was bad. This was very bad.

And in the middle of them—the presumed source behind whatever was going on—was some sort of red-and-blue technicolored winged… thing, just hanging out in the middle of the sky amidst the madness. It seemed to glare ominously at us, as if it was promising to bring our doom right then and there. I didn’t like it. Not at all.

Fox was quick to react. He brought out his blaster and pointed it at the horde of Hands. “Whatever’s going on—we can’t let a single one of them get away!” he commanded, his eyes narrowed at our enemies. “You guys ready for this?”

Several of us grunted a ‘yes’, but I wasn’t one of them. Two Hands are difficult enough to defeat alone; how are we going to take care of this? Nearby, I could hear Marth’s voice carrying a similar uncertainty, easily audible amidst our determined silence. “There’s a lot of Hands up there,” he noted grimly. “Even if each of us takes out at least ten, it may be too much for us to handle.”

“Stow your fears,” Zelda said. “We can’t let this force spread beyond this world. It’s now or never!”

“We’ll win this. I—I know we will!” Pit avowed—but what happened next was anything short of ‘us winning this’.

One by one, the Hands’ gloved forms dissipated away, leaving behind a blue, ghostly aura. We readied our weapons and fists in preparation for an attack, but all the light just streaked into the orb-like contraption instead. It was a rather spectacular light show, but there was no way we’d be able to enjoy it. What are they doing? I thought, a dawning horror coming upon me. It—It looked just like Tabuu’s—!

Suddenly, Shulk turned to the rest of us – had he had one of his visions? “We can’t face this!” he shouted, startling all of us. “Everybody—RUN!”

But his warning came too late. A miniature black hole engulfed the orb—

—and nothing was ever the same.


On that day, when the sky fell away,

Our world came to an end

In our eyes stood a fading sunrise in the dark,

glimmering shadows…


Holy shit! I uncharacteristically cursed, my jaw briefly dropping further down. We—We have to go!

Beams of rainbow light were shooting straight toward us, looking far stronger than any of the Trophy Guns ever were, and we all scrambled to escape. I grabbed my Warp Star from my inventory and started riding it.

All around me, tragedy was unfolding. I saw Link and Samus try to fight the beam, slicing and blasting respectively—but they were taken aback and completely engulfed, just like that. If I had teeth, I’d be gritting them now—No, no, no, no, NO! And the same thing was happening to everyone else, too—screams and cries and desperate shouts were littering the sunset backdrop, and—I have to get to Meta and Dedede! I can’t leave them here!

I flew toward the self-proclaimed king, the guy I’d happily call my best friend—and he was carrying Luigi and Ness on his back, his feet dashing as fast as he could push them. His face was distressed—not that I could blame him—but it was also determined, shouldering the weight of responsibility on his back like it was natural to him (because it was). “Dedede!” I called out, immediately beginning to ride toward him.

“Kirby!” they all cried. As I came closer, I got a closer look at the two piggybacking off of him – Luigi looked absolutely frightened out of his wits—in fact, he was screaming like there was no tomorrow—and there probably wasn’t going to be a tomorrow, the way this is heading—and Ness, meanwhile, had tears streaking down his cheeks, grief plastered all over his face. He was standing next to Lucas, I remembered – No, don’t tell me…!

I can’t think about that now! “Hop on!” I desperately instructed, getting close and flipping my Warp Star sideways for him and the others to ride alongside—but his outstretched hand just kept barely missing it despite his efforts. Again and again, he hopped up and down, my Warp Star remaining ever so out of reach – and I knew I couldn’t risk slowing down now, when there was a very good chance doing so could get me killed. (But then again—I was here now, wasn’t I?) Come on, come on! I internally screamed, feeling the sweat pour down my spherical body. You can make it, Dedede, you can make it!

Just then, I looked up, and—NO! There was a beam of light curving and streaking straight toward us! This can’t be real…! As if noticing my newly panicked expression, Dedede (and Luigi and Ness too) flipped his head to do the same (Luigi reacted with a larger scream, and Ness started whimpering, “I don’t wanna die, I don’t wanna die—!”)—and then he turned back toward me, his face now utterly grim. Don’t tell me…! “I’m not gonna make it. You have to leave me behind!” he said.

“What!?” I exclaimed. T-That was ridiculous! “I—You know I can’t do that, Dedede!” The beams are too fast for him to avoid—and he’s got two others with him, too! They’ll never escape on foot like this!

(But I didn’t have a choice.)

“You have to!” he pleaded—he looked back again, and the light was getting closer and closer. I didn’t have a choice. “Go! And—tell Bandana Dee I’m sorr—”

On instinct, I swerved up—and helplessly watched as my best friend was engulfed. No, not engulfed. Killed.

My best friend, my chummy nemesis, the King of Dream Land who everyone adored, the guy who’d willingly die for me (and just did)—

He was dead, now.

Just like that, he was gone.

But I didn’t have any time to mourn him. The beams of light were coming in faster now, and as I stood here, the casualty count spiked up faster and faster. There was no time to lose. I turned my Warp Star over, gripped the edges tightly, and took off.

And all around me, as I flew through the air with stars streaking behind me, death and destruction rained down from the Off Wings brigade. I saw Sonic reaching out toward Pikachu, only for the latter to die and the hedgehog quickly following—I saw Bayonetta flipping through the sky only to be caught off guard—I saw R.O.B. hovering with his jets, Mr. Game and Watch on his back, only to be too slow to dodge an incoming beam—

Falco and Wolf, in their Arwings, blasted apart—

Pit and Dark Pit, falling from the sky, right into the path of another beam—

Snake, in a box, probably desperately contacting his codec crew before the end, getting annihilated like the rest—

Rosalina and Diddy Kong, swerving through the skies as well, only to die anyway—

Popo and Nana, taking off on their pterodactyl, accompanied by a dragon Corrin and suffering the same fate as the rest—

It was nothing but a complete massacre, and there was nothing I could do about it except keep flying and flying and praying to NOVA I don’t become like them.

Another beam came close, and my eyes widened as I looked back because no no it can’t end like thisright before Meta Knight swooped in and slashed it, deflecting it away from me. “M-Meta Knight!” I stammered—I’m glad to see he’s been doing alright, but I can’t express any thanks right now—“D-Dedede’s down! Everyone’s going down! W-What do we do!? What do we do!?” I frantically asked.

“Get out of here, no matter what!” he demanded, swooping about and deflecting as many beams coming our way as he could. The power of Galaxia was really shining through now—but even as skilled as a swordsman as he was, he wouldn’t be able to last forever. More and more just kept coming. “You’re our only hope for getting out of this situation! Whatever you do, you can’t die here!”

“But what about you!? If—If you stay here, you’ll… you’ll…!” I’ve already seen Dedede fall; they—they can’t have you, too…!

He looked at me. “So long as you make it out of here, I won’t have any regrets. Now go!” His wings flapping violently, he darted back into the fray—and I knew that I couldn’t let his sacrifice be in vain. Not now. I had to go, I had to survive.

I blinked back tears. Thank you, Meta Knight…!

I flew forward and I didn’t look back, I couldn’t afford to look back, and even as the laser fire became more intense and numerous, I couldn’t stop for anything. Spinning and dashing and barrel rolling I went, weaving in and out of the beams who would stop at nothing to take me down just like they took down everyone else, and—

Something rose within me. I won’t die here, it thought. I can’t die here!

I’ve made it this far. I’ve survived Dark Matter, Zero, Sectonia, Void Termina, even Star Dream couldn’t take me down!

For Meta Knight, for Dedede, for everyoneI’ll survive through this too!

I narrowed my eyes, adrenaline pumping through my body, and I loudly bellowed to my Warp Star, with all of my heart—“Now! Become a shining star and fly!” On command, my trusty vehicle began picking up speed, the wind now rushing past my face at higher and higher intensities, faster than maybe even Sonic himself, and as another one of those lasers inched closer from behind me, as my Warp Star emitted louder and louder star-streaks—

I shot forward at light speed—

—and everything disappeared.


Silence grows in the spaces between

Stretching out beyond time

Rising up as a chorus of souls finds a voice

flickering through the void…


I came out of light speed still curving through the skies, still panicked, still hyped on adrenaline, and my Warp Star shooting straight toward the ground. Please let me be safe, please let me be safe—! I prayed, streaking down like a meteor. I didn’t know if they were still chasing me, I didn’t know if anybody had managed to follow me—

—but that wasn’t my concern right now. I crashed into the ground, my Warp Star predictably exploding per usual, sending me right off and dragging my face across the ground. Dust kicked up by my feet as I slowly grounded to a stop.

I laid there, just a little bit longer than usual.

No lasers were shooting through the sky.

No screams were echoing through it, either.

It was over.

It was all over.

Slowly, I pushed myself up, and looked at my immediate surroundings. “H-Hello?” I tentatively called out, hoping against all the odds that somebody—anybody—would answer my pleas. “Is… Is anyone there? …Please?”

A gust blew through the rocky cliff where I sat. I called out a few more times, but it was no use. There was no answer.

I was alone.

I was well and truly alone.


These little sparks cling on to life

Everyone caught in the struggle

And then the storms of change, they fan the flames

scattering ashes to the wind—!


I finally broke down, then and there. Again, I hit the floor, my fist pounding it in agony. This—This can’t be! I tried to deny, even though I knew the truth. It’s not real! I’m—I’m just dreaming!

I hit myself, attempting to ‘awaken’ from this nightmare, but… all I found was the pain of the physical world, indicating that it wasn’t an illusionary nightmare at all – just one made into reality.

“No…” I whispered. Tears sprung out of my eyes, dripping down my cheeks, as I thought of everyone I knew being dead and gone, scattered far and wide through the winds. Meta Knight. Dedede. Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Samus, Yoshi, Fox, Pikachu…

Everyone is dead.

They’re not here.

They’re not beside me, anymore.

They’re not laughing, or crying, or doing anything now—

They’re dead.

…I don’t know how long I sat there sobbing. This wasn’t like Subspace, this wasn’t just ‘being turned back into a trophy’—they were disintegrated whole by those beams of light, and for all I knew, there was no coming back from that. No 1-Ups, no Dream Rods, no Revives.

I’m the last of the Smashers again.

(Except without even a glimmer of fate, now.)

And then, something else hit me. I didn’t want to think of it, I tried desperately to keep my mind away from it—but…

…was this limited to just us?

Or has it already spread to the rest of the multiverse?

Immediately, I began fearing for the rest of my friends. Bandana Dee, Marx, Magolor, Adeleine, Ribbon, Daroach—none of them were safe. None of them stood a chance against this. And they might be dead, too, another victim of this demented deity that dares to tear out all of our hopes and dreams.

Everything I knew had been taken away.


Every soul contains a whisper of light

Gleaming faintly as it dwindles from sight

No escape; no greater fate to be made

In the end, the chains of time will not break


…but would I let this be the end?

As I lay there, on the ground, crying my heart out—am I going to just let this be the end?

Am I gonna let all my dreams, my hopes, my friends—just die in vain for the whims of some monster?

For a moment, the despair was just too much, and I almost wanted to just lay there and sleep—but I knew I’d never be able to forgive myself if I did.

I stood up, wiping the dust away from me, blinking back the tears that still threatened to keep spilling out, and let my eyes become a determined glare.

No.

No, I won’t just sit down and take this.

I never got anywhere in life letting fate spin its thread for me.

When Void Termina showed its true form, my friends didn’t let me doubt myself – and if they were still alive now, they’d definitely do the same thing here.

I may be the last hero left, but that doesn’t mean I won’t give it my all to restore everything back to the way it’s supposed to be—to when we were happy, awaiting the day the Ultimate tournament would begin, smiling and laughing and throwing each other up in the air with joy.

I won’t let those days be over. Not by a long shot.

I stared out into the ruined world, a mish-mash of past and present come together—castles, cities, bridges, waterfalls, volcanos… the Smash World before me lay in tatters, emptied out by the force of nature that dared to show its wrath upon us.

I clenched my fist and gave a determined smile, as best as I could. “All of our worlds… they’re going to live, no matter what!” I declared to myself. “Whatever it takes, I’ll make a miracle happen. I’ll save my friends, save the multiverse, and bring back the happiness everyone desires!

“And that’s a promise!”

I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t know if my friends are still around, I don’t know if I can even defeat the villain ahead of me—

—but I’ll give it my best shot anyway!

I’ll smile for the sake of everyone, and show the multiverse why it shouldn’t piss me off!

“Let’s go!”

And so, I shot forth, dashing into the new world…

…and began the biggest adventure of my life.


Colors weave into a spire of flame

Distant sparks call to a past still unnamed

Bare this torch against the cold of the night

Search your soul and reawaken the undying light!


Chapter Text

There are many heroes in the multiverse, many saviors who will fight to keep the peace.

Many of them, in addition, are renowned from pulling everything back from the brink—and through magic, might, or even their will, they often end up creating the greatest miracles everyone has ever seen.

But even they – these champions of light – can end up fracturing.

Sometimes… even miracle makers need a little miracle of their own – to bring them back aloft, keep them steady so they can face their next challenge.

After all—not everyone can be an island; not everyone can be a tank to absorb all enemy fire. Not everyone can still keep on standing…

…especially when the ones they’re meant to protect have already fallen anyway.

And at this moment in time, when it seems like everything else—friends, world, and all—has been lost to the far-off reaches of light…

One hero will find that little miracle of his own, thanks to a friend rescued from the clutches of eternal darkness.

And it’ll be just what he needs to keep moving forward.


[Kirby]

World of Light
Plains

Something about the night sky here just… doesn’t feel natural.

The stars don’t feel natural, the clouds don’t feel natural—

Just like this whole world doesn’t feel natural.

This whole landscape is just a hodge-podge of locations practically stolen from our dimensions, mixed together in a way that gives off the feeling that it was designed with no rhyme or reason (don’t take my word for it, anyhow). I admit, I haven’t gone through a lot of it yet – but it’s uncanny.

Hey, though! The uncanniness helps to distract me from my inner turmoil, so… I guess I’ll take that as a ‘good-enough’ thing.

I continued to stargaze as I lay on the grassy floor.

…at the very least, the constellations haven’t changed. It still looks pretty.

Very, very pretty.

…It’s been a day or so since I lost my fr—s-since Galeem took the entire multiverse to use as his playthings, with this World of Light being his amalgamation of what he stole. And just to add insult to injury, he’s taken the Spirits of everyone else – the other non-Smashers unlucky enough to be caught in his blast radius – and stuck them into clones of my friends.

The friends that he killed.

(…that disgusting overpowered deity; how dare he do something like that—!)

A-Ahem! Anyway… The only thing I can do at this point is to traverse this unfamiliar world and rescue these Spirits from their prison, and hopefully—hopefully—they’ll help me find a way to take down Galeem. (They’re pretty good at powering people up, surprisingly enough. They also really like snacks.) And along the way… I might be able to rescue my fallen friends as well.

I mean, I’ve already got one back on my side.

And lemme tell you, that feels so much better than anything else that’s happened lately.

(But he’s not Meta, or Dedede; and those two, they deserved so much more—)

Ugh, I’m rambling in my thoughts again. What’s—What’s wrong with me?

And—why is it so much more difficult to smile now?

“You seem like you could-a use some company.”

I blinked and turned around. Standing not-so-far away from my sitting place was Mario, still adorned with his trademark red cap – which I’ve been reliably informed is alive now, for some reason (It—he, probably—may be asleep right now, now that I think about it) – and looking as alive as he’d been a week ago. It’s a relief to see him standing here, his eyes no longer glinting with that twisted, malicious red and acting in ways he shouldn’t ever be acting—

…I mentally sighed. There I go again.

“Yeah,” I finally said, my eyes looking down to the floor. “I… I really could.” I brought my gaze back to the starry sky hanging above us. I didn’t bother to protest – wouldn’t do it even if I had it in me – as Mario took his place beside me, his eyes similarly drawn upwards to go stargazing.

It’s just me and him, staring into the sky.

Just me and him.

Just me… and him.

The two of us.

“So!” the red plumber suddenly spoke up, sounding ever as jolly as always (something I’m kinda jealous of right now). “Are you-a doing okay? I can’t imagine that you’d be unaffected by the horrors that happened yesterday.”

“I’m—I’m fine, th-thanks,” I answered quickly—maybe a little too quickly. “J-Just the usual ‘us vs. annual Eldritch Abomination’ thing, n-no big deal!” I shakily smiled, trying to soothe Mario’s worries… and not very convincingly at that, judging by the increasingly concerned look on your face. “We—We can get through this fine, really! We’ve gotten through worse!”

Mario hummed, sounding very unimpressed by my words. “…I don’t think it’s me you have to be worried with,” he replied. “You haven’t been smiling as much this journey. And even when we were going through Subspace, you always had a smile on your face. Always.” I frowned. …he’s perceptive. Then again, he’s always been that way. “You know you can tell me what’s-a up, right?”

“…it’s nothing, r-really,” I tried to convince him again. “It’s—It’s just your imagination! C-C’mon, now, m-most people would get a little apprehensive when it comes to big adventures like this!” I’ve never been, of course, b-but—you get the idea!

“Except most people don’t have all of their friends die in front of them.”

I flinched. And he noticed. He’s right on the money with that.

…I’ve fought against Dark Matter, and ended their campaign to consume the Gamble Galaxy.

I’ve struck down Star Dream and Void Termina from destroying every world they would’ve come across.

I’ve conquered Tabuu, together with the other Smashers, even after he turned all of us into trophies during our first clash against him. Heck, that battle is even pretty similar to this current crisis, too!

M-Minus the whole ‘disintegrated by beams of light’ thing, of course…

…ergh.

It all comes back to that, doesn’t it?

…why?

“Why are you so insistent about this?” I whispered, looking away from Mario. “It’s—it’s fine! I’m fine!” (…I think I’m trying to convince myself more, at this point…) I—I just gotta keep saying that, and—and it’ll become a reality, right? I promised myself I’d smile for the sake of everyone, and I can’t just let that go! Not for a second!

They’d—They’d never forgive me, if I did! (I wouldn’t forgive myself, anyway…)

B-But… I… I can’t—it’s getting a-a little too much now—

Ughhhhhhhhh!

“I know you’re not-a fine because I’m not-a fine, either,” he sternly stated. “I don’t know everything that’s-a going on in your mind, but… you really shouldn’t just hold it all in like that.” His face became more sympathetic. “…it’s okay to cry when you feel like you have to.”

“…” I didn’t respond. All the turmoil inside me that I was trying to keep at bay was steadily cracking through my walls, one by one. A few tears sparkled from my eyes – but I was determined enough not to let them fall.

I couldn’t. Not now.

“…how are you still so… so… so okay?” I asked, spinning around to stare with a distressed expression. “I know it’s only been a day or so, b-but—” I bit my mouth. What… What else could I say without looking like a massive hypocrite right now?

“…this isn’t my first time dealing with hopeless situations like this,” the red plumber confided in me, “though they weren’t quite as severe as this one’s been. Did… Did I ever tell you about the time the Shroobs invaded the Mushroom Kingdom?”

“Shroobs?” That term was new. “N-No, I don’t think so.”

“You’re in for a tale, then.” Mario lounged back onto the grass, laying his arms behind his head. “It was… a while back, let’s say. A whole bunch of aliens, armed with technology both incredible and terrifying, came to our planet to leech it dry of all our resources – material… and otherwise.” I shivered. That sounded… a little too close to the Robobot invasion of two years prior. “Luigi and I, we tasked ourselves with-a stopping it – but they did almost catastrophic damage to the kingdom. Everywhere we went, we found the aftermath of their actions: people drained dry of their life; towns, utterly wrecked and polluted with purple ‘shrooms; destruction littered all about…” A frown. “It was… honestly horrifying to see.”

…did I say ‘a little too close’? I meant ‘very, uncomfortably close’. Dear Galactic NOVA…

“H-Hey… Weren’t there others trying to stop the invasion?” I asked. “Like, it wasn’t just you and your brother… right?” I mean, during our own Robobot crisis, we had Dedede sheltering people; the Animal Buddies protecting their environments; Bandana Dee saving as many people as he could… The point is, I wasn’t the only one clearing the planet of the Haltmann Works Company’s influence – and when you’re just a single person, every little bit of help counts.

Mario’s reply, however, astounded me. “Well,” he bitterly chuckled, “I’m pretty sure that somewhere in the kingdom, there were others trying to help. For the most part, though… it really was just the two of us. That’s how bad it really was.”

I gawked. I really, honestly gawked. “Are—Are you serious?”

He smiled sadly at me. “No. Sad to say, but… I’m not.” His head tilted back to the stars above, and he continued, “Despite all that… do you know why I never lost hope?” His little beam became more triumphant. “Because I knew that together, Luigi and I would find a way to put things back together. Not only that—there were always-a those who assisted us along the way, those who willed for us to save the day like we usually did. We were never really alone, even through our darkest moments. And I know that the same still applies here, too.”

Well, it’s nice that he’s optimistic – kind of like I usually am, funnily enough – but… that doesn’t change the here and now. “That’s cool and all,” I replied, “but what does that matter when—when we’ve got no one at all now!? No hope, even!?”

A hysterical edge entered my voice as I finally unleashed it all—all the pain and agony I had miraculously kept inside for twenty-four long hours. “L-Look at us! Look at everywhere!” I directed my hands toward the entirety of the World of Light where we lay in now, distorted and darkened despite the midnight moon’s determination to make it shine. “Nobody’s left! The only things left are the Spirits of those who used to be here! We’re not gonna find anybody sitting around, living life as usual! There’s not gonna be any populated towns or cities or anything! Everybody is GONE!”

I let out an agonized scream to the sky, pounding the ground once more like I did yesterday. Tears slid down my cheeks, and I couldn’t stop them from falling continuously onto the floor. “And—and—and I don’t know if I’ll—if we’ll—be able to bring them back at all! Meta Knight, Dedede, Samus, Link, Pikachu, everyone! It’s just us against the world—against Galeem! And it’s—it’s terrifying!”

Mario skootched closer to me and put an arm over me in sympathy, and all the while, I lay there and practically bawled my eyes out, right then, right there. I don’t know how long I sat there crying – but Mario was there to comfort me for whoever much time I did, which was a pretty long while.

“It’s okay,” he soothed me as my tears died down a little. “It’s okay. I know how you-a feel. You’re not the only ones who’s lost things—friends, loved ones—in that attack. I lost Luigi, and Peach, and Yoshi, and so many others. And it does tear at me to think that they’re being held hostage by that Tabuu wannabe. However… we still do have a hope. Just look up.”

I stopped my crying long enough to did as he asked – and I noticed the Spirits we rescued floating free in the wind. Tron Bonne, Eevee, Celeste, even the Guardian. And despite some of them not exactly having much in the way of true sentience – or an actual body, for that matter – all four of them were seemingly having… fun, just flying about as free as they could be. It was… mesmerizing, given our current state of affairs.

“You see?” Mario smiled. “The acquaintances we’ve met, the friends we hold dearly – they’re not really-a gone for good; just merely out of our reach for now. So long as we hold a hope in our heart that we’ll find them again… then by some miracle, we’ll surely get to-a see them. Be it Pauline or Starlow – or for you, Marx or Bandana Dee.” I think there was something twinkling in my eyes now at his words. It’s like… It’s like what I find myself preaching to Kaede, to the Ultimates, to the Star Allies all the time – and here it is, repeated back at me at my lowest moment.

We… We share a lot of traits, don’t we? Down to our protagonist-made status as a Hope Bringer…

…why was I even worried again?

“The fate that spins for us without end – it moves forward because of the actions we-a make. And I don’t think the action you want to take is ‘fail to save all our friends and worlds,’ now. So c’mon,” he thrust an open hand toward me, “how ‘bout we continue on? There’s still the rest of an adventure waiting for us to complete. What are we waiting for?” He flashed a bright grin at me, and I couldn’t help but return it a little.

You know, in different circumstances right about now, it’d really be me saying this to someone who really needs it. I guess that just goes to show – even the greatest miracle makers in the world need their own little miracle.

And… maybe that’s okay. I’m not perfect, as much as I’ll joke about it, and there are just some things that are too big for me to handle alone. I won’t have to, though; Mario’s here to back me up.

So long as I have that, that one glimmer of light remaining… I can hold on to my faith that I’ll rescue the other Smashers, the fallen Star Allies, and restore our multiverse to its former glory.

“…alright,” I conceded, taking his hand and letting him pull me up. “Let’s-a-go, Mario.”

“That’s-a the spirit!” With the mascot plumber by my side, we made our way back onto the plains path and walked forward to wherever the trail may take us. There’s a lot of weird stone structures in the distance, and I think I’m seeing some more of those glowing, Spirit-infested portals (or Smasher-infested, who knows) within it.

So that’ll be our next destination.

…don’t worry, guys. We’re coming to save you.

And I promise – we’ll make things right again, somehow.


[Mario]

I admit, being trapped in a dark void, unable to do nothing as a malicious ‘Lord of Light’ uses your fallen trophy to create twisted, Spirit-inhabited clones to roam the world is… not exactly the most comfortable feeling. I was trapped for only a few hours, sure, but it was a horrific few hours – and Galeem, as I learned he was called, made… very good use of my trophy in that time. I can’t tell you how many clones he’s made at this point – but it’s enough to fuel whatever plans he’s got for a long while.

And imagining that fate applied seventy-two-fold to every other Smasher who was at the Subspace cliffside…

…it’s even more unpleasant.

If Kirby had gotten captured, too, and hadn’t been able to warp away…

…well, I wouldn’t even be here to tell you any of this.

Luckily, he wasn’t. He wasn’t, and he managed to save me from eternally going through such a vile fate. However… something tells me he didn’t escape the situation without spawning his own trauma.

A thousand years old he may be, but that won’t stop his still-rather-bright-and-happy-for-his-age nature from crumbling ever so slightly by… well, everything that had happened today and yesterday. He’ll put on a brave face and keep charging on forward – but without somebody to keep him anchored, he’ll only be going through the motions.

Which I guess is my job, now. Not that I’m complaining; I didn’t befriend practically my entire world – and the galaxies beyond, for that matter – without being good in helping people out.

Heh—and to think, just twenty-six years ago, Kirby was merely a newly-minted protagonist I had come to see, doing nothing more than giving back his home’s stolen food supply.

Now? He’s the only hope to save our sector of the multiverse from eternal imprisonment by a demented god of light. What a… remarkable jump in threat level, seriously. (But I suppose it’s been building up in his ‘verse for all these years.)

I’m aware trauma like this won’t go away in a few days. It’ll be a long while before he’ll think about this in retrospect with anything resembling a reminiscent tone. In the end, though – I know everyone will be here to guide him—and themselves—through the pain and sorrow of what’ll be another bad dream.

I’m proud of how large our squad has gotten by this point. From the humble days of us twelve Nintendo faithfuls, to an expanded crowd of twenty-five; the wide thirty-nine from Brawl, the big fifty-eight of the Smash 4 duology—and finally, to the absolutely massive seventy-four (eighty, when Master Hand finishes inviting all the DLC characters) that makes up our new Ultimate tournament.

I know this for a fact: when we finally reunite, I know we’ll conquer anything that’ll stand in our way.

And Kirby’ll love every minute of it.

I’m sure he’s itchin’ to bring some payback on Galeem just as much as I have, if not more so. I’ll be glad to let him have first blow, too; that Lord of Light really doesn’t know who he’s been messing with.

Until that day can come to pass… I’ll be here by Kirby’s side, waiting to fulfill that promise to its fullest.

And right now? There’s nowhere else I’d rather be (except maybe at home, with everybody celebrating the start of the Ultimate tournament).

So—as I always say…

Let’s-a-go save our World of Light!

Chapter Text

[Kirby]

World of Light
Floating Islands

A while has passed, since the day Galeem stole everything from me—from everyone. A few days, a week, maybe even a month—time’s so distorted here, it’s hard to tell. If I’m being honest… every hour feels like an eternity without my best friends by my side—

…without my best friends even alive.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the only Star Ally here: we managed to get Rick, Daroach, and Susie’s Spirits long after we started traversing this endless world. They—and Pitch, and Chuchu, and Elline—didn’t hesitate to stick by me when they saw how… ‘out of it’ I was. I—I appreciate it that they’re here, and they’re a lot better than nothing, really!—but… they’re not enough to make the ache in my heart go away. (And I wish they were.)

Everyone else feels the same way, on some level. I may not be alone in my fight to save the multiverse anymore, but neither do we have our whole crew back, either. There’s so many people we’re missing, Smasher and Spirit alike, from Luigi to Sonic to Falco to Ken to to De—Dede—Dede

A-A-Ahem! L-Like I said, we’re all facing our own inner turmoil. Bowser’s been grumping about, stewing over the loss of his army and his children, with Mario and Peach doing their best to comfort him. Link and Sheik often worry over Zelda—the new Zelda, who hasn’t been ‘round for the previous Smash cycles, and is definitely in over her head. Fox and Snake have been trying to contact the rest of their squads, hoping in vain that they succeeded in escaping the massacre. And—well, you get the idea.

It’s in these times of crises where everyone needs a leader, somebody to hold our ragtag bunch of misfits together while we try not to fall apart. I’m arguably pretty qualified to lead our ever-expanding crew – I’m atypically casual, get along with others, and I’m the group-appointed chief of the Star Allies outside the confines of the Smash tournaments. A lot of us hurting too, not just me, what with everyone being caught in this struggle—so to pretend that my own problems are greater than anybody else’s is a disservice to the untold dozens of dimensions affected by Galeem’s universe-bending wave of devastation.

Mario’s sharing leadership duties, too, since he’s as equally qualified for the job for the same reasons as me. But that doesn’t change my responsibilities. I gotta do my best to keep smiling and charge forth, full throttle.

Everybody’s counting on me, after all.

…oh, and if I manically tear through every Puppet Fighter as we go, then that’s all the better. I refuse to allow Galeem—Galeem, that twisted, terrible, NOVA-damned final boss…!—the ownership of an army strengthened by tortured souls. And I’ll do it to find my lost friends too, somewhere in this mess of a realm. (Because he’s not allowed to have any of them, either. There’ll be hell to pay if he’s got both the Star Allies and the Harmony Crew…!)

“…‘Ey, Kirby? You doin’ fine there?”

I blinked, and turned around. Lo and behold, there was Rick and Daroach, standing behind me in their transparent Spirit forms. Both of them had different levels of concern on their faces—one more subtle, one less so. I faked a joyful expression as I greeted them. “Rick, Daroach! Y-Yeah, I’m—I’m perfectly okay!” I’m not okay at all. “There’s nothing wrong here!” Everything is wrong here. “Why do you ask?” I hoped I’d be able to fool them, but… no luck.

“You don’t hafta lie to us, mate,” Rick said, his whiskers twitching. “You really miss everybody, don’t ya?”

…have I made it that obvious?

Daroach raised the brim of his top hat, allowing me to see his sympathetic gaze. “Your character isn’t difficult to parse, you know,” he remarked. “I’ve spent enough time with Marx and Dark Meta Knight to tell when someone is troubled and deprived of any relationships—and given how much you prioritize friendship…” He trailed off, not needing to say anything else.

I frowned. “…yeah. I—I get the idea.” I shuffled back to facing the sky—a gorgeously blue sky contrasting immensely with the haphazard fabric of this world. “The ideal of friendship is kinda ‘my thing’. I’ve talked so much about how much having a good companion can brighten up your day, and I always strive to help out as many people as I can. Friends form the cornerstone of one’s world—that’s a fact I still believe in.”

“That’s true, mate,” Rick agreed. “Kine and Coo are two of my best friends. We almost never do anything without each other!”

Daroach had his own few cents to add. “I could say the same about my Squeak Squad. There are no doubt a great many treasures I wouldn’t have been able to unearth purely by myself.” I could feel his smile from here. “I’m exceptionally proud to be their honored colleague. Your ideals truly have spread far across Pop Star.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” I stated. “Friendship’s never steered me wrong before. I’ve always wanted everyone to experience the joy of having bonds, and that’s part of why I support it so hard. ‘Cause being with Dedede, with Dee, with Meta Knight, with the crew back  home… there’s not a single moment with them that I don’t cherish.”

And that’s the way life should’ve been. Just us being happy and content together, forever and ever.

It was perfect.

But…

(I mentally sighed.)

Fate… never likes leaving things be. Meta Knight and Dedede can attest to that.

My voice took a darker turn. “But… there’s something I should’ve learned from Taranza, from Kaede. That cornerstone, your whole world… it can just as easily be taken away, leaving you completely lost.” You know the old saying: ‘You don’t know what you have until it’s gone’. And now that it’s gone—I desperately want them back. “So here I am, in the exact same situation as them—except even worse.” And I don’t know what to do about it. I laughed mirthlessly. “Isn’t that just some painful irony?”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Rick and Taranza trading identical looks of alarm.

“But I’m fine. I’m not bitter about it or anything.” Ha ha ha—what an absolutely terrible lie. I slumped forward, fighting back my mental fatigue. “We’re mostly here, we’re surviving, and I guess that’s good enough, right?”

Rick waddled up to my side, as did Daroach. “Kirby, you’re—you’re kinda worryin’ me,” the hamster uneasily replied. “Methinks you’ve been pushin’ yourself for too long. Maybe you should take a breather?”

“I concur. Your emotional imbalance is clearly affecting your actions. Our crew is out there, yes—but it won’t be beneficial for you to collapse before we get to them.” Daroach put a transparent hand on my shoulder. “It’s not wrong to have some time to yourself, Kirby.”

It took me a moment to come up with a vaguely reassuring response. “C-C’mon now, guys—you don’t need to worry about ‘lil ‘ol me!” I tried to show one of my trademark sassy grins, but something told me it wasn’t really having the intended effect. “I’ve been on this quest for a while, and I like to think I’ve been doing a good job staying upbeat! Look at me—I’m ready, I’m steady, I’m alright, I’m happy, I’m—I’m—I’m—”

I shut my eyes. I balled my hands into fists. I couldn’t stop myself from quaking. I did my best to hold it all in, in spite of all that. “…I’m not entirely okay,” I allowed myself to admit, “but—I’ll get there! And I’ve gotta stay positive, for—for everyone’s sake!” I attempted to beam at them, praying my eyes didn’t show any fragility or emptiness. “I’m the leader; I can’t be anything but okay!”

Because if I’m not—I just might break.

The three of us were silent for a while.

I stared solemnly into the sky. It feels unnatural, yeah, but… it’s still a pretty beautiful sky.

In another time, it might’ve been something I could cheer at.

Here and now, though…

…more of us should be here to see this, I thought.

Not just me, and Rick, and Daroach (and Susie too, I guess)—all the Star Allies should be alive, together and smiling alongside me. They’re what makes everything worth it in the end.

…they’re the reason why I fight, despite all the difficulties I come across.

I closed my eyes. …a part of me hates that this had to happen in the first place. I hate that this’ll haunt us ‘til the end of time.

And I wish—I wish that didn’t have to be the case.

…I dearly wish I could change that.

Rick scratched his fur. “…Kirby, I don’t—”

I stood up. I activated a Copy Essence Deluxe. My trusty hammer came to my hand. “Alright—I think we’ve all been relaxing long enough,” I decided, pushing all my uncertainties to the back of my mind. I turned around and started walking over to the rest of the Smash Bros., doing my best to ignore their now even greater apprehension. “It’s—It’s ‘bout time we get back to work.”

There’s no more time to waste.

The sooner I get this done… the better.

(“…mate—what’re we gonna do with him? He’s not gonna stop at all…”

“The only thing we can do is be there when his endurance finally runs out. If we are lucky, there’ll be a miracle before that can happen. Until then… all we can do is hope.”


This World of Light was quite the amalgamation of dimensions: a Pac-Man maze awkwardly wedged within a natural-looking environment, an intensely volcanic region living somewhat harmoniously with a mountain and some cliffside rapids—I even saw a localized sector of space from afar!

Never let it be said that Galeem was a talented geological designer.

(Actually, never let it be said that he’s a good anything at all.)

I’ve trekked across the Gamble Galaxy in one stretch several times in the past: finding each planet’s Fountain of Dreams; recovering the lost Crystal Shards; hunting down the scattered Jamba Shards… but the stakes here are insanely large, even by my standards. Saving hundreds, if not thousands of people from a wide realm of differing worlds, across a landscape huger than anything I’ve ever seen…

We needed to have long periods of rest in the beginning. When you’re only a stressed-out group of three (or four, or five), you can only go so far in a single sitting before you run out of energy. Sure, we’re numerous enough now, and constant breaks are no longer an all-encompassing factor—we can just cycle out who goes into which fight and let the rest plan things out—but those early days… they really weighed on me.

Us Smash Bros. are supposed to be chaotic, boundless, joyously blasting our way through everything in our way without any worries. We’re meant to have fun, make interdimensional friendships, enjoy ourselves without having to deal with overpowered threats to the cosmos.

…we’re not supposed to be separated, traumatized, moving forward only with a little bit of hope. We’re not meant to figure out what to do after the literal apocalypse, to deal with no longer having our old safety barriers to fall back on.

Honestly, he only thing that’s really holding me together at this point are the people I’ve managed to save, my friends included. It’s not a whole lot, but it’s proof that I’m doing something. Proof that I’m at least helping people.

That’s better than nothing, right?

And now, here we were, up in the sky on some floating islands, connected only by paths made of solid clouds. They were a nice refuge from continuing this disorderly mish-mash of an adventure – there was plenty of time to spend time with everyone else, or simply have some self-contemplation. (I know I don’t mind having a bit of the latter nowadays.)

But we’ve gotta move on at some point – and before too long, we were back on the road.

“Phew!” Pit wiped some sweat from his forehead. “Hewdraw was as tough as I remember! Three Ridleys are a bit overkill, don’t you think?”

Bowser snorted. “Who cares? We’ve been facing Ridleys all throughout this ‘adventure’. What’s three more upon a pile of already pitiful puppets?” I could hear him pounding a fist into an open palm, smoke emitting from his nostrils. “Nothing on the King of Awesome, I’ll tell you that! I can handle anything faster than you chumps!”

Isabelle bit her lip. “But… Pikachu said it took you half an hour to deal with that,” the secretary revealed. “It’s not like him to lie…”

“H-He was cheating, okay!?” he grumped. “You try fighting with pillars of fire and an annoyingly persistent Charizard!”

“I can only assume it was a Legend-class Spirit,” Marth surmised. “Even with the enhanced abilities given to us by the Skill Tree and Spirits, they can be a frightening foe to overcome.”

Ryu hummed. “They are a welcome challenge, I believe,” he said. “We cannot improve ourselves unless we face adversaries of greater power than us. On this journey more than ever, that can only give us the strength to prove our sense of justice true.”

Something tells me Bowser didn’t get much of that. “Hey—speak in English, buddy! I didn’t understand that at all!” …yep, I’m right.

I kept quiet, only idly listening to the banter as I led the group onward. Normally, I’d be jumping into their conversation, cracking jokes and sassing everybody out—but I don’t have it in me to participate this time ‘round. How long has it been since our quest was kickstarted? I began to ponder, my allies’ chatter fading into the background. I… I don’t know how much longer I can last, the way this is going.

Meta, Dedede, Dee, Adeleine, Ribbon—where are you guys…?

“We are making good progress,” Susie observed, her stoic form floating behind me. “I estimate we have explored 80% of the traversable environment. We should be finished going through Galeem’s forces in a few days, after which I expect us to confront that so-called ‘Lord of Light’. What an overly pretentious name…” she muttered that last part under her breath.

“To think that the Subspace invasion only took about a week by comparison…” Mario mused, a gloved hand rubbing the bottom of his chin. “We’ve been at this for what feels like three weeks—” Still wondering how much time’s distorted outside of our current dimension “—and we’re only now coming close to the end. This adventure’s really something-a else, huh?”

“That’s one way to put it.” Ness was also currently on the frontlines with us, assisting us with scouting duties. He’s… he’s been alright. Sometimes, though, I catch him glancing at me—likely in reminder of the escape-that-almost-was. (There’s a part of me that wonders if Dedede could have reached me, if he was by himself. …I don’t like thinking about that part. I mean—it wasn’t Ness’s fault…) “I miss the days when I was just dealing with sentient fire hydrants and random dragons. Stuff like that was easier than this.”

“You said it,” I replied. “If we’re lucky, this nightmare’ll be over before we know it.” At this point, I was just… going through the motions, my voice holding no real heart. Unfortunately for me, that was easily noticed.

“Indeed.” Susie frowned. “You are sounding remarkably more detached than you were the previous day, Pinky,” she noted, tapping her pen against a clipboard. “I may not be a psychologist, but I can clearly see you are not operating at maximum capacity. I’ve… seen those signs before.” ‘…in myself’, went unsaid. “I wouldn’t normally encourage this, but—perhaps a break is in order.”

“I’m fine,” I insisted. Gee, Another Dimension really got her to lighten up, huh…? “I get that you’re worried ‘bout me, Susie, but you don’t have to be! Trust me—I can go on.”

She stared in me in the same way as Rick and Daroach did, if more subdued. I shifted my eyes away. I gotta stay strong, I thought. I can’t let myself collapse. Not now.

(Similarly, I ignored Mario’s own concerned face.)

Suddenly, Ness perked up. “Hey, everyone,” he cried. “Over there!”

I looked—his finger was fixed upon a nearby platform, a cyan portal swirling above it. I knew what it was, almost immediately: another sub-world.

It didn’t take me long to notice something else about the platform: it was star-shaped, and it was pointy in the exact same way Pop Star was.

That meant something. I know it did.

“Good eye,” I muttered. Luckily for us, it was just up ahead, with no Spirits blocking the way. I turned to the squad following behind us. “Sub-world inbound, Smashers!” I announced. “You all know the drill at this point: a few of us go in for the initial trip, and everybody else should guard the surrounding area. If we need anyone else, I’ll send a few Spirits over to tell y’all. With that out of the way—any volunteers?”

Yoshi stepped forth with a shrug. “I don’t mind going for a few rounds or two,” he offered.

Pac-Man similarly bounced into the front of the crowd, beaming as usual. “Same here! I got a real good feeling ‘bout this one!” He bobbed up and down in excitement. Good for him, I guess.

Ness wore a determined expression. “I’ll go, too!” he exclaimed. “I’m already here, so—there’s no reason for me not to.”

Susie shrugged, putting away her clipboard. “You’ll need at least one strategist for this sub-mission,” she said. “If I don’t join, who knows what Pinky’ll end up doing.” (I chuckled internally. Typical Susie.)

“And you know what my answer will be,” Mario chimed in, twirling a fireball on one finger. “Well, our group’s assembled now, so let’s-a-go hop right in!”

Energetically, he crouched down—like, really crouched down—and then leaped into the air, somehow managing to directly land atop the portal. We all looked at each other with nothing more than a raised eyebrow. “…you heard the man,” I said, proceeding to jump in right after him.


Location: (Unknown…?)

…!

…d-dear NOVA…

This—This is—This is…!

“Wow—look at this place,” Pac-Man whistled. “Lotta food on the ground for some reason. Hope it’s as fresh as all the rest we’ve found…”

“You know, a bunch of baby Yoshis back home had a storybook adventure one time,” Yoshi said. “This sub-world kind of reminds me of it… minus the storybook part.”

Everything about this setting is familiar. It’s not a perfect reaction—but all the elements are right there.

Star-themed trees, elevated hills, white slabs, a striped yellow ground, star blocks—

And then: a richly creamy environment, metallic blocks of ornate decorations, ground tiles of all types, food, a finish line, podiums

“…I remember this,” I breathed. I felt everyone’s gazes fall upon me. I turned to face them. “It’s a Gourmet Race. Just like how we’d do it in Dream Land.”

I’d know. It’s a tradition Dedede and I both started.

We even got ‘Lil Kirbs and Other Dedede to join in last time.

If a Gourmet Race is here, then that means… that means…!

Ness’s eyes immediately widened. “W-Wait—Dedede told me about those! You and Dedede do one every year, he said! If that’s still the case, then Dedede should be…!”

I didn’t need much more motivation than that. My feet just started… moving on their own.

“Pinky, what are you—!?”

I ran. I ran, I ran, I ran – there were several different paths, several different turns to take; I blindly turned wherever, grabbing as much food as I could. My desperation had hit its peak. I could hear everyone else racing after me, trying to follow my path – but I barely thought about that.

I had one mission: to get as much food as I could in one go.

One, two, three—the food counter went higher and higher. Four, five, six, seven—I couldn’t tell you how I knew the right path to take. Eight, nine, ten—I let instinct guide me, and that… was enough.

Before too long, I crossed the finish line with eleven pieces of food collected. Smoky explosions went off around me, followed by a shower of confetti. There was also this voice declaring triumphantly, “Food collected: 11. New record!”, but I didn’t pay attention to any of that. I kept going toward the podiums, waiting for something to happen.

C’mon. C’mon. Please, for once—let this be the one…!

Blue flames, atop the first-place platform. More confetti, falling from the sky. A familiar trophy, trapped by Galeem’s angelic wings.

…it’s him.

It’s actually him.

It’s him as a trophy, as a captive, but still—it’s actually him.

King Dedede.

His eyes are closed, there’s a layer of blue strings tying him up—but he otherwise looks so serene, as if he was just sleeping after a particularly long day.

I didn’t move for several seconds, a single tear falling down my cheek. I almost couldn’t believe it, even as the proof sat right in front of me.

After all this time… my best friend’s finally in reach.

I closed my hand into a fist and steeled my eyes.

…I won’t have Galeem controlling him any longer.

A chorus of footsteps alerted me to everyone else – Mario, Ness, Pac-Man, Yoshi, Susie – closing on my position.

Yoshi was the first to arrive, being the atypically fastest one here. “Jeez,” he panted, “what was that all about, Kirby? Captain Falcon doesn’t move that fast! Did you find a strawberry shortcake or someth…” Then he caught sight of the podium—and it all clicked into place. “…oh.”

“You’ve finally found him,” Mario simply stated with a smile. “It’s been-a long time coming, honestly.”

“…I was wondering when we’d find another Star Ally,” Susie said. “This is quite the advantageous development.” She briefly glanced at me meaningfully, even as she disguised her intent behind clinical words. “Retrieving King Dedede here will most definitely lead to a boost in morale. The question now is, who here will be the ones to try and free him?”

Ness was looking at the trophy of Dedede the same way I was. Slowly, the two of us turned to look at each other.

No words needed to be exchanged. We nodded simultaneously.

“…Mario, Yoshi, Pac-Man, Susie—you guys should see if there’s anyone else we can save here,” I instructed, taking out my hammer from its place on my back. “The amount of food collected should correspond to a different ‘place’ on the podium – and if my suspicions are correct,” I pointed to a nearby teleporter, “that will reset the whole area and give you the chance to do it again.” I summoned Dyna Blade’s Spirit to empower me and Ness – and a couple others; I didn’t pay too much attention to the support Spirits – and faced the lone trophy, determination in my metaphorical veins. “Me and Ness… we’ll take care of this.”

“We won’t be long,” Ness promised.

Pac-Man took it all in stride. “Alright, you two. Here’s hopin’ you get your perfect run!” he happily said. “You’ve already held out long enough on this marathon, methinks—so go ahead and get your friend back!”

That was all we needed. Without any hesitation, Ness and I ran up to the trophy, stopping momentarily to watch a rainbow vortex appear above ‘im. We hopped on in, usual weapons at the ready—and then, our world quickly faded to black.


Fountain of Dreams (Ω Form)

The splashing of water told us we had reached our destination.

“This stage again…” Ness similarly realized, looking about to behold the colorful environment before us.

In front of us was a miniature fountain, a rainbow podium fenced by stars atop it: water flowed from its edges and onto the ground below, the surface of which was literally covered entirely by it. Decorating the background was a variety of constructs: purple tower tops with rings of light spinning around them, a massive stone star at the base of one of them, this humongous spiraling tree standing tall and holding bunches of rainbow leaves in its branches…

I knew this place, as much as I knew the previous area.

There weren’t any of the usual floating platforms—but it was still the same, either way.

This was Master Hand’s Fountain of Dreams, constructed as both a stage to compete on and a means to give the inhabitants of the Smash Mansion a good rest.

It’s… a fitting battlefield for us. For so many reasons…

Just then, the familiar sound of a Puppet Fighter materializing came from in front of us.

Silently, the two of us looked forward—and there he was.

His Royal Nemesis
King Dedede

Dedede stood in front of us, his trusty hammer in his two hands, facing the floor. Slowly (and rather dramatically), he lifted his head—and revealed to us two menacingly red eyes, glaring at us with an intensity I’m not sure even Maki could match. And something told me that he wasn’t here to give us mercy.

It reminds me a lot of him under the influence of the Jamba Shards…

I shook my head, and tightened my grip on my own weapon. I refuse to let myself be intimidated—not after I’ve come this far. If he won’t go out peacefully—if a fight’s what it’ll take to bring him back—then one last time, I’ll fight!

“…here we go, Ness,” I said, just loud enough for my current partner to hear. “Don’t hold anything back, alright!?”

“O-Okay! I’ll… I’ll do it!” He pointed his baseball bat straight at our foe. “For—For Dedede!”

Let’s do this!

Ready…

GO!


VS. King Dedede

Kirby’s best friend, long his self-styled nemesis in years past, has been trapped under Galeem’s wings. With power coming straight from the Lord of Light, it looks like this fated bout won’t be an easy one to overcome!


Like the last time he and I had a truly serious fight, Dedede opened our renewed clash by jumping into the air and slamming his hammer into the floor. Ness and I reacted appropriately, our years of experience helping us to sidestep out of the way. The PSI-user threw some PK Fire at Dedede, staggering him in flames – which was enough of a distraction for me to slam my hammer into our ‘friendly’ foe’s side.

KA-POW! Dedede flew back a fair distance. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t even begin to stop him. He landed on his feet and then initiated one of his traditional head slides. I let him get in close and smashed him hard with a kick—but he recovered quickly and jabbed me with his mighty mallet.

It didn’t hurt as much as his Deluxe Dedede Hammer—but that meant nothing with a person of his stature. I briefly traded in my hammer in favor of unleashing a Final Cutter on him – repeatedly. He tanked several of my attacks and even managed to eat one (th-that’s my schtick!).

I barely managed to dodge the incoming Star Bullet—and defend against his onslaught of hammer swings. It’s a good thing Dyna Blade’s a Shield-type Spirit, I thought—a little extra defense never hurts here!

“PK Flash!” A ball of electricity exploded into Dedede, giving me the space I needed to back away again. I jumped up into the air, lining up my vertical position just right as Ness fended off Dedede with his psychic powers. (You go, buddy.) Stone encased me and sent me dropping down onto our foe’s head—accompanied by an appropriately weighty WHAM!. So far, so good. Just gotta keep this up!

I quickly turned back to normal—and was grabbed by Dedede, bringing me way too up and personal with his dead-eyed glare. And of course, there was no trace of recognition in his gaze, as much as a part of me wished there’d be. Oh, boy.

I was pummeled several times by his fist, slammed face-first into the ground, and was then thrown into the air by his upward aerial attack. Yow-wow-wowch! Dear NOVA, that was painful—and it’s not helping that he’s following it all up with a Super Dedede Jump! (You don’t wanna be under those!)

Ugh, I—I can’t give up now! I rolled out and tossed my hammer at him, as hard as I could, summoning a new one immediately afterward. “J-Jeez,” I heaved, “you’re—you’re just as strong as always… aren’t you, Dedede?” I smiled wearily. “We have these type of fights way too often. Your ‘revenge’ stint, Taranza, the Jamba Shard, this thing… You’ve gotta find some help for that problem, y’know?”

I wasn’t expecting much of a response from him. But, somehow, despite his brainwashed status…

His eye twitched.

His eye twitched.

I didn’t have time to analyze it, though—his mallet became wrapped in flames, and he all of a sudden Hammer Flipped me outta the ball park. I yelped, soaring ‘cross the sky—has my damage already gotten that high?—and I didn’t have enough time to float back down normally before he started coming after me already. Ness intervened with a psychic blast, which got Dedede to slam him into the ground with his Forward Smash.

I swapped abilities to Wing, a couple flaps of my wings returning me to the battlefield. (It’s a really good thing we don’t have to adhere to tournament rules during crises like these. Seriously.) I flew to Ness and picked him up, sparing him what looked like the end of a devastating combo. “Th-Thanks,” he breathed, a little out of breath.

“Don’t think ‘bout it,” I replied. “Helping out’s just what I do!”

I brought the both of us to the other side of the arena, leaving Dedede standing opposite of our position. There was… something else in his expression now, something I couldn’t quite read.

Was it that long ago that we were side-by-side, going up against a super powered-up Void Termina alongside the rest of the Star Allies? Two hammers—one small, yet powerful; the other heavy, yet hard-hitting—slamming down on enemies, their users perfectly synchronized with each other… In the twenty-six years I’ve known him, Dedede’s always been, in some way, in body or in spirit, close by my side. Our bond’s the strongest of all of my relationships.

Is it strong enough to—even momentarily—break through to Dedede?

…I want to believe. I desperately want to believe.

I remembered me and Void, for just a moment. I remembered how my pleas managed to reach the friend waiting within, despite all the odds.

I decided on a new course of action. “Hey, Dedede!” I called out to him, swapping back to Hammer. “I dunno how much of you’s in there, but if you can hear me… I’m here, alright!? I’m here, and I’m gonna set you free!”

“Yeah! I—I know you remember us!” Ness chimed in. “You helped us so much—me, Kirby, Luigi… we’re gonna repay it all here!”

There it was. Another eye twitch. And this one also came with a slightly shaky hand.

Dedede’s possessed body repaid us with a Gordo Toss.

Ness activated PSI Magnet and absorbed it. We looked at each other again and nodded.

The battle was on in earnest.


Maybe I was only bantering because I wanted some semblance of normality back. Maybe I was doing it to forget all the pain I’ve been through. And Ness might’ve been the same way.

But either way—it was having a noticeable effect on Dedede’s body.

Every memory we reminded his soul of, every encouragement we gave him, it caused him to resist Galeem’s control more and more.

Ness: “You saved everybody with those little badges you made!”

His hammer swings became less pronounced.

Me: “C’mon—it’s the other you’s job to be evil, not you!”

He threw Gordos less and less frequently.

Ness: “We played some of Mario’s games together, me and you and Luigi!”

His speed drastically decreased.

Me: “Dee’s waiting for you—you can’t give up now!”

His glare dropped in intensity.

And all the while, we fought, we clashed, we exchanged hammer against hammer (against baseball bat). The damage counters the three of us had skyrocketed over the course of the battle, though somehow we managed to remain on the battlefield.

…that couldn’t last, though.

The clash went on for too long. Ness and I were both panting at this stage, struggling to lift our respective weapons – I was really feeling the exhaustion from continuing to push on without much in the way of a physical or mental rest. (It doesn’t help that this is an intensely personal battle for me.) As befitting the influence of an omnipotent Lord of Light, the possessed Dedede appeared as if he hadn’t broken a sweat at all.

So unfair.

He held up his hammer right in front of us, ready to smash us into oblivion. Ness was only able to look on helplessly, virtually out of stamina to throw any more attacks. “D-Don’t—” he stammered. “Don’t make this hurt too much, p-please.” I could see it in his eyes—‘We’re gonna lose. We’re gonna lose and have to try again. And all our progress might be reset in the process.

…and yeah. I’m not gonna doubt that’s a possibility.

No, not just a possibility—a definite outcome.

But even if that happens—I won’t let it stop me.

Because I refuse to let Galeem have this victory over me and Dedede!

So…

“…I know you can hear us in there, Dedede,” I wheezed. “You’ll know I’ll do anything for my friends, no matter how difficult it may be. I’m not gonna stop coming, just ‘cause we won’t win this round. I’ll keep trying, again and again, until I finally manage to get you back. I won’t let you be possessed by that douche any longer than I have to! I promised I’d save you—and I don’t break promises to my friends.” I smiled painfully. “I… I want you to know that, alright?”

“…” The silence from Dedede’s body was palpable. His weapon arced backward a little more. Ness braced himself, closing his eyes. I kept softly smiling, letting Dedede know I didn’t blame him for this. (I could never blame him for anything.) The hammer came down, marking the end of a futile fight—

Or it would have, had it not stopped just before impact.

…I knew you’d come through for us.

Dedede’s arms repeatedly trembled, as if it wanted to strike us down then and there, but something was holding it back. Dedede’s eyes said it all: the red haze behind them had all-but disappeared, leaving the familiar compassion and camaraderie of Dee’s ‘Great King’ shining through.

‘Do it,’ his gaze told me. ‘I’ll be there for you two soon enough.’

I didn’t have that much strength left. But I had enough for what I wanted to do.

Ness was just the same.

I held my hammer over my shoulder, feeling warmth from the flames covering my mallet. Ness wound back his baseball bat, determination still radiating off of his face. We didn’t hesitate to charge up as much as we could—and let everything loose, all at once.

KA-BLAM!

He soared toward the boundaries of the stage—

And then, it was all over.

VICTORY!


Gourmet Race

Ness and I ended jumping out of the portal atop the podium, landing triumphantly with our stamina reserves somewhat restored. It dissipated soon after, and as I turned back to the podium, I saw the strings and wings on Dedede’s trophy doing the same. It magically floated down and onto the ground,

I relinquished my grip over Hammer, letting its Ability Star tumble away from me.

For a few moments, the two of us just stood there in total silence. We were by ourselves, with only our thoughts for company.

Judging by the lack of noise, I observed, everyone else must be fighting the Spirits of this area. Looks like they’re taking ‘bout as long as we did rescuing Dedede.

…that’s fine.

I think some alone time with Dedede’s just what I need.

I took a few steps forward. I raised my hand to my best friend’s form.

I tapped the trophy.

There was a flash of light.

And then…

“Phew… Talk about a low-budget hotel stay,” his glorious voice re-greeted our ears. “No food, movies, even any roommates…” He lifted his head and gave us an award-winning smile, and just seeing it instantly made the past three-or-so weeks fade away like a bad memory. “I think I like adventuring with my friends a whole lot better than that mess, I gotta say.”

…again, it’s him.

It’s actually him.

It’s actually, finally him, in the flesh.

“D-D-Dedede!”

I dove toward him, laughing with more energy than I had been showing this entire adventure. Both Ness and I barreled into his waiting arms, embracing him in what was probably the warmest hug in my life. “You’re back,” I choked, struggling not to sob right then and there. “You’re back. It’s—It’s been so long…”

“Hey, Kirby, Ness,” he said, as if he’d just woken up following another springtime nap. “It’s been a while. Hope you guys haven’t been too broken up without me around.” I won’t be any more, now that I’ve got you.

“We should be saying the same thing to you,” Ness replied, looking up at Dedede’s face. “I mean, Galeem was making Puppet Fighters out of you for who knows how long…”

“Don’t worry—that type of junk couldn’t keep me down forever! If there’s a deity or great evil that needs to be taken care of, us Star Allies’ll get the job done, no matter how much time it takes for us to get there! I’m here now, so there’s nothing stopping us from helping to save the world, you two and me, just like the good old days!”

Ness snickered. “You always were the most positive, between you and me and Luigi,” he noted. “…I’ve almost forgotten what that was like.”

I sniffed, a shaky smile on my face. There was so much I wanted to articulate to my best friend; to uncork the bottle holding in all my scattered emotions—but in the end, I decided on just showing “It’s—It’s my job to say s-such sappy things, y’know… But—I guess I can forgive that, if it’s you.” I tightened my hug as best as I could. “…I—I missed you, Dedede. I missed you a lot.” I quieted my voice. “…don’t let go, please.”

He patted my back and did as I wished. “…I missed you too, Kirby.”

We didn’t need any eloquent words or a loud, utterly heartrending reunion (though honestly, this was pretty heartrending to me). This was all we needed: just us together again, for the first time in forever.

…I… I never want this to end.

Not again. Never again.

(Kaede, Shuichi… How much of this did you feel when you two were reunited…?)

“Oh—you’re-a back, Kirby!” We broke off our hug and turned around. Two vortexes spawned beside the first-place podium, with Mario and Susie’s Spirit coming out from the leftmost one, and Yoshi and Pac-Man from the rightmost one. All three able fighters seemed fairly winded, but otherwise still ready to go. Mario noticed Dedede off to his side, and smiled. “And it looks like you’ve managed to rescue your friend, too!” He waved. “Hello again, Dedede!”

Dedede waved back. “Hey to you too, Mario! And Susie, and Yoshi, and Pac-Man! You guys have been busy while I was away, huh?”

“You could say that, yes,” Susie acknowledged. “It’s a… relief to see that Pinky’s mission was a success. We’ll be able to operate at better capacities now that we have another fighter on the frontlines.” She stared in her typical ‘eternally unamused’ way at her fellow Star Ally. “You best not fall again, King Dedede. Your presence, I suspect, will be greatly needed as we approach the end.”

His eyes twinkled. “I won’t, I won’t… though, speaking of ‘needs’, I don’t think you need to be so professional all the time, Susie.”

She shrugged. “If I’m not, who will be? Certainly not your other colleagues.”

“…point made.”

Back on topic… “What Spirits did you guys get, anyway?” I asked my other companions. “There’s two other podiums, so there had to be two other guys waiting in the pipeworks.”

“Well, we had this chef guy,” Yoshi explained, “Kawasaki.” Said Helper suddenly materialized behind Yoshi and Pac-Man, waving a transparent ladle in the air. “I think that was probably one of the most delicious battles I’ve ever fought. There was food all over the place…” Yoshi licked around his mouth. “Mmm…”

“Also pretty tough,” Pac-Man added. “Who knew how hard a food-empowered Puppet Fighter of me could hit?”

“And you know that we were dealing with Dedede,” Ness said. “Based on how… limited this sub-world appears to be, that’s gotta be two outta three battles done.”

Dedede raised an eyebrow, looking up at Kawasaki. “That’s what you guys have been doing, huh…? I’m gonna need a real big update once we’re outta here.”

“I’m willing to do so,” I immediately answered him. Mario can take the lead while I’m doing that, anyway.

We looked to Mario and Susie. “Oh-ho—you wouldn’t believe who we-a got,” Mario beamed. “You’re in for a treat, Kirby, Dedede!”

I blinked. So did Dedede. “…really?” we simultaneously asked. “Who’d you save?"

Mario and Susie stepped away, to the left and right respectively. Another Spirit spawned in-between them—and my eyes widened upon seeing who it was.

No way… It can’t be…!

“K-Kirby? Great King? Is… Is that you?”

It was like something out of a dream. Just like Dedede… I’d recognize that voice anywhere.

He was ghostly, he was confused, he was absolutely frightened out of his wits – but it was him. Him, with the orange skin, the luminescent blush, the familiar blue headscarf—

It’s Bandana Dee.

I couldn’t stop it anymore—tears began to freely flow from my eyes. Dedede was no better, based on his similarly ecstatic expression. The two of us spoke at the exact same time: “Dee!”

We couldn’t really hug him per say; he didn’t have a physical body for us to truly interact with – but initiating the motions and feeling the warmth of his Spirit self sufficed enough for me and Dedede. Dee was babbling, “I’m—I’m so glad you’re here! Th-There was this white light that showed up and ate our whole planet and then I got lost and put here and couldn’t do anything and it was cold and none of our friends were around and—and—and—” His voice cracked. “…all I could do was wait to see you guys again. Kirby… Great King… I’m—I’m so glad you’re safe…”

Oh, that adorable optimism… it hurts to hear it so fractured. “I’m—I’m sorry,” I started crying—“I’m sorry for not being there for you, wh-when Galeem happened. But… I promise I’ll make things right again, whatever it takes. To you and Dedede and everyone else I couldn’t protect.”

“You don’t have to do that, Kirbs,” Dedede said, sounding very understanding. “Look—we’re here now. That’s what’s most important right now. So c’mon—let’s just… enjoy our time together. You deserve this.”

I’ve spent the better part of this journey bottling up my sorrows, being the one everyone can rely on regardless of the circumstances, battling an army of Puppet Fighters and desperately hoping my closest friends will be around at the end of the horizon—but now… now, I can relax. I can relax, and smile, and—and forget, if even for a few hours, about the chaos we call the ‘World of Light’.

 “That cornerstone, your whole world… it can just as easily be taken away, leaving you completely lost.”

Dedede, Dee… you two really are part of my lifeline. From the moment you came into my world, I could see your souls gleaming faintly, refusing to dwindle from sight. There’s not a single thing I wouldn’t do for you guys – and if I hadn’t gotten the chance to save you two here… I’m not sure how much longer I could’ve lasted.

Maybe it’s unhealthy of me to have my connections tied so closely to my heart – and I don’t have any recourse to stabilize myself when the worst decides to crash on through and tear ‘em down. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to put on my usual heartwarming smile toward everybody, once I finally get back to Cappy Town. (Tiff, Kaede, Kokichi, the Meta Knights… I wonder how long it’ll take for them to notice?)

In spite of that, though… I think I’ll be okay for a little bit, spending some time with you without having to worry about your fates at Galeem’s hand.

…we’re one step closer to returning to normality.

And though chaos can descend—I won’t give in.

I’ll cherish the bonds I have with me, and I won’t let anything get in the way of ‘em.

Through the calamity, we’ll become shooting stars… and fly.

I’ll make sure of that.

Chapter Text

Darkness. Marx’s whole world was nothing but darkness.

His eyes, though visibly open, showed no signs of life.

His body, though alive in a sense, was very much locked into a coma.

He couldn’t move any of his limbs or bring out his wings—he was a prisoner in his own body, unable to feel anything except the cold atmosphere of space, unable to see anything except flashes of memories from just before his ‘living death’.

His demise should have been a certainty. He had collided with an unstable clockwork star and gotten swallowed up by a cosmic explosion – even someone like him would be hard-pressed to come back from that. And yet, here he was, floating through space, forgotten by the sands of time.

It was a lonely existence; a painful existence. Every fiber of his being was screaming at him not to stand still, his ingrained instincts beckoning him to cause chaos like he used to—but he couldn’t. He absolutely couldn’t. This was worse than anything he could’ve foreseen coming: he was trapped in a twisted status quo of his own design, and there was no one around willing to break him free.

Many questions had flown past his mind since then. It was all he could do, while he waited for something—anything—to break the monotony.

How much time had passed since he failed? What was the galaxy doing, without him to influence any of it? Did his little scheme mean anything in the long run?

He didn’t know. He hated the fact that he didn’t know. And most of all, he hated how he got in this position in the first place.

…it was all thanks to Kirby.

Pop Star was too stagnant for its own good. In the years he had lived on the so-called ‘World of Miracles’ (he had never understood that moniker), nothing had ever truly changed. Everyone was content to stay the same, to never change their dynamics with everybody else. Nothing that happened to them – not the Fountain of Dreams crisis, not the Dark Matter invasion – could change that, either… and it irritated Marx to no end.

Everyone could be so much more! Everyone could be as free a spirit as Marx! Everyone could be inherently more happy if they tried to develop themselves… and they refused to acknowledge that!

Thinking about it now, the whole thing still irritated him. He put in all that work into conquering Pop Star, in an attempt to forcibly shake up the lives of a virtually motionless population… only for it to be undone by that—that—that insufferably optimistic idiot!

Kirby, who was just as guilty perpetuating the cycle of boredom!

Kirby, who couldn’t understand how meaningless his actions were!

Kirby, who dared to stop him, who dared to protect a state of affairs that wasn’t! Worth! HAVING!

He doesn’t appreciate the freedom he has! he internally railed. He doesn’t deserve to still be living happily while I have to suffer like this! WHAT DOES HE SEE THAT I DON’T!?

Hatred had long eaten away at his psyche. His attention kept coming back to his one-time nemesis, even as he kept himself entertained through other meansand every time his dumb smiling face crept back in, it only served to erode Marx’s mentality even further. And unfortunately for him, there was no way out of his situation: there was no one to reassure him in his isolation, no one to show him the error of his reasoning. The self-styled trickster was all alone—

‘But no one wants to be around you. You’re alone, [REDACTED]. And you always will be.’

—and his heart ached at that reminder.

 This—This isn’t my fault. I’m the victim here. I’m the one in misery, all because nobody wants to free up their character from the chains they’ve tightened around themselves!

If I had a second chance… I’d make them see. They’d all see, he vowed. I—I’m in the right! Not Kirby, not Meta Knight, not ‘King’ Dedede—me! There’s no point in peace and quiet! They disregarded me, all because my mischief meant something, something they could never accomplish—and Kirby… Kirby’s the worst offender of them all!

The power of friendship that he champions… the idea that everything would be fine, so long as you held your bonds tightly… it’s pointless! All pointless! What good is that in a world where you have to see the same thing every single day!?

Ironically, it was Marx that didn’t understand the beautiful fragility of life. He couldn’t understand—and his mind frayed as it desperately tried to wrap itself around the concept.

Kirby… Kirby… Kirby…! You… I’ll—I’ll get m-my revenge, s-someday—! You, you won’t—you won’t… g-g-get away…!!!

And then…

“…you seek revenge against this ‘Kirby’, you say?

“Ha ha ha… very well.

“I shall grant you the opportunity you so desire.

“Yes, you will make a fine candidate for my True Arena… and the perfect Soul Boss for me to begin studying!”

…something at last happened.

All these years, debris had surrounded his comatose body – fragments of Galactic NOVA, the all-powerful clockwork star that could grant any wish. Somehow, through whatever means, they were reacting to his subconscious desires – and the ramifications from this would be disastrous.

Prompted by his ‘wish’, gallons of dark energy began to flow into him, an extremely unhealthy amount for anyone to hold. A mass of darkness engulfed him soon after, drawing in the debris orbiting him – and he could feel it transforming his body, metamorphosing his entire self into something…

soul-rotting.

Th-This—This p-power…! I—I—HATE feel alive DEATH n-not alive DESPAIR I can’t DESTRUCTION it’s t-too much H̲̟̻̲͎Ḁ͡TE̶ ̘̭͙̬͉͚ͅH̴͕A̛̻̖͉̺̫TẸ ͍̗H͎̲͕͇A͔͙̳͝TE̛ i’m marx, i’m a trickster, i’m—WREAK HAVOC i’M a pRoTecToR of FrEEdom i caN’t gO LiKe thIS KIRBY hElP HeLP heLp HELP ME—DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE D̶̜̭I̪̙͕E͙͉͍̙ ̡͚D̲͙̭͖̞I̴̩͖̣E̛͇̗̣̯͞

(If he had known the costs, he wouldn’t have taken the opportunity.

If he could’ve seen this future, he would’ve done course-corrections almost immediately.

But such a fate was not in the cards for him. No, salvation was far, far away from his tortured soul—

…and he’d remember this for a long time to come.)


[Kirby]

Galeem, as I’ve managed to piece together, desires order above all else. Everything must fall within his ill-defined notions of harmony—and if it doesn’t, he’ll force the universe to accept his rules by any means necessary… even if taking everyone hostage and controlling them like puppets. He doesn’t care for emotions, for personalities, for relationships; he dismisses the concept of disorder, of individuality, of independence.

He’s a truly despicable ‘Lord of Light’ (pah!)… and true to form, I absolutely despise him.

He, in about every way, serves as my symbolic antithesis: he’s an all-encompassing deity who dispassionately spreads his authority without concern for the people he’s affecting. By contrast, I’m a partly-reincarnated Destroyer of Worlds, who holds affection for almost all living beings and who always tries his best to be a good friend to them.

And then there’s the way he… ‘connects’ with people. He enslaves them, throwing them at his foes regardless of how much torment he’ll put them through. He forced my captured companions to be nothing more than Puppet Fighter-pumping machines, all in the service of his perfect little ‘order’. He allows them no semblance of autonomy, as if doing so is a sin unto itself. I’ve spoken to a few Spirits and Smashers about the subject: being controlled by Galeem is a cold and empty experience, feeling like your whole world—your whole self—has been rendered completely colorless.

That disregard he has, for anyone or anything, for freedom and friendship… that’s why he’s our Ultimate Enemy. That’s why I can never forgive him. And that’s why I vowed I was going to tear away every foothold he had over us, allies and antagonists alike. Galeem made this affair personal, in a way Void Termina could ever hope to achieve, even with the latter’s connection to my origins and to the Ancients—and come rain or come snow, I was going to make sure he lived to regret pissing me off like that.

He shouldn’t have been so arrogant over his own ‘superiority’ when we finally confronted him. (Good God, does he not know how to shut up.) Forty different Smashers, me and Dedede included, were more than happy enough to show him how much he was morally and skillfully inferior to us. And you better believe that it was cathartic as hell crashing my hammer at his NOVA-forsaken core.

It was a tough fight, not helped by the fact that he had a swath of Master Hand clones… but we managed to come out on top. And that should’ve been the end of it.

The Big Bad was thwarted, and though a lot of our allies were still missing—searched the whole dang land and they were nowhere to be found—there was no reason to think that they wouldn’t be returned to us after the fact.

And then Dharkon and his legion of Crazy Hands happened.

I really should’ve known by this point – things are never as simple as they should be.

Dharkon, unsurprisingly, is Galeem’s literal antithesis. The ‘Embodiment of Chaos and Darkness’ (or so my inner lore detector tells me), he desires nothing except to spread devastation all across the multiverse—and even plunge it into eternal nightfall. Possession by him, I’m told, is a totally different story from his counterpart: rather than feeling detached, Dharkon instills sensations of insanity and agony, as if he’s just throwing everything at a wall and not even caring if they stick or not; he’ll just keep doing it until all of them are sticking.

His living space, the Dark Realm, isn’t much better—it’s a mish-mash of objects and environmental pieces from our home dimensions, all haphazardly slammed together without much thought put into the composition. Between cube Moon Rocks, misplaced houses, neon-colored geometric shapes, crystalline ponds… it’s an Eldritch Location of epic proportions, truly befitting of the concept of chaos. If I’m being honest, think I’d rather be back in Another Dimension – that place wasn’t quite as unsettling, and it was on the verge of tearing apart the entire Gamble Galaxy.

Put simply, Dharkon is just as dangerous and just as despicable as Galeem, and we’re trapped in a melee a trois between them and us. Our only condolence is that they hate each other about as much as we hate them. I’m hoping this means they’re not receptive to teaming up to take us on.

I mean, Galeem nearly wiped us all out. That’s not something to laugh about. We’re some of gaming’s greatest heroes and villains, and we got curb-stomped harder than an army of Goombas against Mario. Sure, we were able to defeat Galeem the second time around… but now we’ve gotta contend with him and Dharkon. And if they, for even a single minute, decide to put their enmity away and join forces… well, that terrifies me – especially with half of our own crew still missing.

Luckily, they’re too busy getting their clone armies to annihilate each other, so we’ve got time to spend freeing as many Smashers and Spirits from Dharkon’s grasp as possible.

There might be a third ‘faction’ in this war, but I won’t let that discourage me. None of us will. It’s been over three weeks (for us) since this whole adventure began—we’re still standing despite all of the pain and turmoil we went through, and we’ll still be standing for years and years to come, no matter what Galeem and Dharkon can try to pull. That’s why I can say this with confidence: we’re gonna rescue our friends and save our sector of the multiverse.

…I gave my word, after all. I don’t break it for anything.


I slammed into the ground face-first as I fell out of a cosmic wormhole. I let my limbs drop to the floor as I audibly groaned from the impact. “What the heck was that…?” I mumbled. “I came to Dedede’s for food, not random portals try’n to suck you in…”

I picked myself off the ground and looked around. I was in a fairly expansive tunnel, lit only by a series of torches lining the walls. A couple signs were plastered in-between, directing me to head toward a bright light at the end of the line—the place I was brought here for, presumably.

I took a few tentative steps forward. “Where am I…?” I wondered. “I can’t think of any dungeons that look like this…” I’ve been through castles and mirrors and virtual black holes before—but this… this is a new one on me. “This better not be anything too bad—I’ve spent ‘nuff time on adventures this year."

Just then…

“Oh god, god, god, god god god—!”

I knew that voice—how could I not? I’ve been acquainted with it for the better part of sixteen years.

I looked up and behind me; the vortex that brought me into this passageway was still there. That, of course, meant I wouldn’t be alone in this quest.

And so with a ‘fwump!’ and a rather abrupt “Oof!”, King Dedede crashed into the floor in the same way I did. He had a foot sticking up in the air for whatever reason, with his twitching body letting me know he was still conscious.

“AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

Tumbling on top of him was his faithful assistant, Dee, who happened to be screaming at the top of his lungs. He bounced right off of him (gee, I forgot how plump Dedede was for a second) and rolled off to the side, eyes swirling in dizziness.

“Hmph.”

Last from the Portal of Unknown Doom was Meta Knight, as calm and composed as ever. He spun once in the air and somehow managed to land on his feet, Galaxia out and ready to be swung.

“You guys made it too, huh?” I said. “And here I thought you guys would hesitate a little more before coming on in!”

“As if we could leave you to the whims of whoever caught you in that Warp Hole,” Meta Knight asserted. “I’ve had enough of those unwelcome disturbances after Subspace. I’d rather you not get caught in another.”

“Oomph—you said it, Meta!” Dedede grumbled, dusting himself off as he stood up. His hammer was in his hand and hoisted over his shoulder soon after. “I’ve only just figured out what your friendship means to me—I’m not gonna leave you alone in this if I can help it!”

“I-I-I’m here, t-too!” Dee spoke up, raising a hand to the sky. “I—I don’t have a-any fighting skills, b-but—I wanna b-be with you and G-Great King, too!” His nervousness creeped in into his voice easily, but it was clear he was willing to put some of his fears aside in the name of support.

I smiled and rubbed the back of my head. Unknown circumstances or not, it’s nice to have my three best friends by my side. “Awwww… thanks, guys.”

It’s been about three weeks since I patched up my relationship with Dedede. It’s been about a week since Meta Knight came back from his training trip. I’ve spent a lot of time with the both of them—and Dee, of course—in the intervening days, and I can’t say I’ve been any more happier than when I’m with them. It’s been a long time coming, but we’ve finally become the closest of comrades – something I’ve been hoping to accomplish since forever.

I care about them a lot. I always have.

From the moment I first saw each of them—in 1992, in 1993, in 2000—I knew they were something special.

Their smiles, their laughter, their flair – there’s not a single part of them that I don’t adore in some way. I could watch them just being themselves for hours on end and never get tired of it.

…and whatever situation I’ve found myself in, I know I can trust in them to help me survive the stuff that’s ahead.

“Well—I think it’s about time to figure out what we’ve gotten ourselves into.” I activated the Copy Essence Deluxe for Hammer, relishing in the familiar weight of my trusty mallet on my back. (It’s not hyperbole to say this is one of my favorite weapons to use, honestly.) “The sooner we’re done here, the sooner we can get back to peace and quiet.”

“You’ve got that right,” Dedede agreed, letting Dee scramble up and onto his back. “I’m not in the mood to have this nonsense in my neighborhood!”

Meta Knight nodded. “Indeed. Be on your guard, you three. I sense there is something amiss in this realm.”

We silently walked through the tunnel. There was nary a sound from our surroundings; our breathing and the flickering flames were the only ambient noises around. As we got closer and closer to the end, however, I began to hear what I swore was muffled cheering.

That was a red flag in and of itself. We all exchanged looks of confusion. Was there a horde of enemies waiting to ambush us? Was this simply an elaborate surprise crafted by our friends? We shook off our trepidation as best as we could and proceeded onward to the other side…

…and what we saw was a locale I’d never forget.

An utterly massive grey coliseum surrounded us on all sides, its bleachers stacked to the brim with people shouting and screaming at the top of their lungs (was that because we were here???). Several arches extended high in the very back, decorated with sharp spikes both above and around the arches’ rims.

Red-and-white-striped tentacle constructs hung over the audience, complimented by these four demonic head statues sticking out with a bell in their mighty jaws. Beneath each of said statues were big-screen monitors, evidently built to display close-ups of people. And to complete the hostile atmosphere, this coliseum lived beneath a dark red sky, covered in these equally-as-blackened clouds.

This place… it looks kinda like the Arena back home. That is, if the Arena was owned by Zero and decorated by Dark Mind.

“Dear NOVA…” I muttered. “Did—Did we accidentally take a trip to the Underwhere…?”

“Last I checked, the Underwhere looked like a haunted graveyard,” Dedede breathed, “not Dark Star…”

“Wh-Wh-Wh-What is… Where are we!?” Dee squeaked, cowering and shaking behind Dedede’s back. “Are—Are—Are we being punished!? Is Zero back and trying to kill us again!?”

“Hello, hello!” From the middle of the area, a Walky stood atop a floating podium. His voice resonated across the entire stadium, much like how Master Hand’s voice could boom throughout a Smash match. “Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages… today is the day you’ve all been waiting for. I’m your host, Karo the Walky, and I welcome you to the first! Ever! TRUEEEEEEEE ARENA!”


The Dark Realm
Mysterious Dimension

The first sub-world we came into… uh, really embodies what the Dark Realm is all about. There’s even more landscape thrown around at random, from giant Warp Pipes to upside down pirate ships to even coliseums rotated sideways. All of it was connected by streams of rainbow light able to be skated on, appearing every time we answered a trivia question correctly. And keeping the whole thing together was this large violet vortex, swirling and spinning and… seemingly beckoning us to come toward it.

In short… it’s utter madness.

It’s also possibly the largest sub-world I’ve seen yet.

…I sincerely pray the other two sub-worlds in this realm aren’t as… expansive. Otherwise, this’ll be an even bigger pain in the shortcakes than my fifth True Arena.

There are so many paths and so many Spirits in this tornado of pandemonium, we had to split up, just so we could cover as much ground as possible in a relatively short amount of time. And that leaves my party here, in the eye in the storm (literally!), waiting for the guys we sent to fight Tabuu to come back.

Oh yeah, that’s right – the trivia question we were asked here was ‘Which spirit created the Subspace Army and waged war?’ That threw me for a loop.

I don’t know how Dharkon managed to take a hold of Tabuu, considering the fact that we killed him ten years ago—but then again, I can say the same thing for a lot of the Spirits around here. Like, we’ve got Dark Matter, Dark Mind, Queen Sectonia…

And, uh, on that note, I hope Taranza—wherever he is—doesn’t find out about Sectonia’s Spirit. ‘Cause… this ain’t pre-Mirror Sectonia. At all.

Back on the topic of Tabuu… Luigi, Ness, and Dedede – the Subspace Dream Team, finally reunited! – had elected to take on the former final boss together. ‘It’d be just like old times!’ Dedede had laughed. ‘I mean, we were instrumental in bringing him down before. The second time’ll be a snap!’

Several minutes have passed since then, though… and they’ve been in there for quite a while. I’m suspecting Tabuu’s likely a Legend-class Spirit here; that’d explain the problem. I know we’re more than capable of handling those type of challenges – not to mention, Tabuu’s far more limited as a Puppet Fighter than he is normally. But still…

I sighed. “I hope everyone’s okay,” I fretted, tapping my foot repeatedly against the ‘floor’. (Exactly how does standing on a black hole even work, anyway…?) “We’ve still got so much to do, and I can’t keep track of our crew when we’re all scattered like this.” With Dharkon as a major factor in this conflict, my anxiety bubble’s been ballooning out of control—but after everything that’s happened, can you blame me?

We already collectively lost once. I’d… I’d rather not go through that again.

…that’s not the only reason I’m so nervous, however.

“I understand your concerns, Kirby,” Meta Knight said. He was standing right beside me, his sword brought out in case of an unexpected attack. “It is only natural to carry apprehension over the well-being of your squadron. You can trust in us to take care of ourselves—I do the same with my Meta-Knights.”

We rescued him not too long ago, me and Dedede – and I’m happy to see that being under the control of two separate malevolent deities didn’t end up breaking him. That knightly diligence of his… it’s pretty dang strong, to be able to resist them to that degree.

Then again, he was one of the two that lasted the longest against Galeem’s onslaught, the other being Mario.

“I know, I know,” I replied. “It’s just that… the Puppet Fighters we’ve gone up against have been a lot tougher than the ones in the World of Light. I know we’ve been fine so far, but… I can’t help but worry that we might run into something too strong for us to handle.” Our own Spirits are strong enough to balance that out, luckily – between those who have built up their spiritual strength over the course of this adventure, and those who were already strong to begin with, our brigade are quite a force to be reckoned with. But that doesn’t mean Dharkon’s forces aren’t a challenge in and of themselves.

It’s—It’s a silly fear, I know. But then again, the idea of all of us being wiped out in an instant out of literally nowhere used to be a silly fear, too.

“Hey—where’d that ‘we’ll be just fine’ attitude of yours go!?” I turned to the right—and I found Ribbon all up in my face. She’s as feisty as ever, I thought, noting her furrowed expression. “We’ve survived so much this year, remember?” she reminded me. “If those light and dark guys couldn’t defeat us, then we’re still good to go!”

Good to see she can stay positive.

Adeleine and Ribbon’s Puppet Fighters weren’t actually too far from Meta Knight. I’m not surprised that they’re a two-for-one package; they’re as close as sisters, and never do anything without the other. What is surprising is them being Primary Spirits, of all things. (The whims of fate are weird as heck, it seems.)

I don’t think either of them will complain, though.

“Ribbon’s right!” Adeleine nodded. “I worry about our friends too, but we shouldn’t let that get us down now. I mean, we’ve always managed to find a way to unite, even in the worst of times! So long as we’re together, we’re unstoppable! A-At least, that’s what I believe.”

‘So long as we’re together’, huh…

…mmm.

“Throwing my own philosophy back at me…” I chuckled. “Sometimes, I’m still amazed at the influence I’ve had on you guys.”

“We trekked through Another Dimension for you,” Meta said, amusement in his voice. “What else did you expect from us?”

I sheepishly shrugged, “You know—I can’t really tell! Ha ha.”

Speaking of my friends, I’ve got most of the Star Allies with me now. Took us longer than I’d like to get there, but I’m glad my heart’s able to rest that much more.

Only three of our Dream Friends are left: Dark Meta Knight, Taranza… and Marx. They’re the other reason behind my worries. Dharkon often uses personal issues to amplify his subjects’ feelings of agony – and Marx’s got literal bucketloads of ‘em to be exploited.

As a former Soul Boss, just what is he experiencing right now…? Is he hanging on to his sanity, or has he already broken apart?

…I hope Dharkon’s ignored him, for the most part.

Spirits don’t get special treatment from their captors, I know that. Those three shouldn’t be any different…

(…but what if they are?)

Right then, the portal we were waiting for reappeared. The Subspace Trio (and Dee) hopped out of it afterward, Tabuu’s Spirit sullenly floating after them. “Hoo boy…” Dedede began, “that—that sucked!” He was slouching and holding himself up with his hammer, though he wasn’t totally breathless. “Who thought a hard-hitting Metal Bayonetta in Stamina Mode was a good idea? Agh… Thank NOVA for those nerfs…!”

Oh. That… That definitely sounds like a Legend-class Spirit. Yowch.

“Th-There were too many c-close calls in there…” Dee said.

Ness and Luigi, meanwhile, had simply collapsed right next to Dedede. “I can’t feel my lungs…” the poor PSI-user groaned. “Or my legs…”

“Mama mia… N-Never again…” Mr. Eternal Understudy looked like all he wanted to do was take a long, long nap. “G-Give me King Boo any day…!”

“You guys are back!” Ribbon fluttered over to the three, her movements betraying her excitement at seeing them. “How’re you doin’, how’re you doin’?”

“Well, we’re kinda worn-out from that fight—” I looked to the other two members of the Subspace Trio, slumped against his sides and exhaling heavily. Understatement of the century. “—but I’ve got vitality to last me several more rounds! I could take on half a dozen Tabuus here and still be raring for more!”

Tabuu grunted. Looks like he wasn’t up for chatting.

In fact, he was kind of miserably moving toward the other groups, for whatever reason in particular.

Eh, fine by me.

“Don’t get too confident there, Dedede,” I teased. “You don’t wanna run outta energy and crash in the middle of an important fight!”

“It is best to keep a good eye on your own health,” Meta Knight agreed. “As I can attest from training my knights, a state of exhaustion helps nobody.”

“Hey, hey, you don’t hafta do the whole Anti-Poop Socking thing with me!” Dedede laughed. “I know my limits!”

“You better!” Adeleine rebuked him. “I can’t refresh your energy with a picnic if you forget!”

I wish she could… I miss Adeleine’s picnics.

“So… what now?” I asked, grabbing my trusty hammer and spinning it in my hand. “Tabuu’s been defeated—and I see a new treasure chest off in the distance we could open—but we should’ve had a path open up by now…”

“You’re—You’re right!” Dee expressed, blinking in astonishment. “Wh-Wh-Where are we s-supposed to go now?”

Suddenly, the whole black hole began to rumble and quake wildly, throwing us non-Spirits off-balance. “Whoa whoa whoa,” I yelped, “wh-what is this, I don’t even—!?” A swirling violet aura began to radiate from the center, bringing with it a gravitational pull that was freakishly strong! We began to slide around the rim of the glorified whirlpool, the three Spirits with us struggling to keep up with our pace. “Th-This isn’t what I was expecting! D-Dear NOVA…!”

“It appears this vortex is, in itself, our route forward,” Meta Knight deduced. “Brace yourselves, Kirby, Dedede—our next enemy awaits!”


The excitement from the crowd was truly palpable now. I’ve—I’ve never seen so many people in a single place before outside of Smash. Not even the normal Arena can house this big a turnout…!

“This is the ultimate test of skill,” he continued, “a daunting gauntlet of courage! Contestants will square off against the twelve toughest foes we could find, be them real or copied, analyzed from all around the Gamble Galaxy! It is not a test for the faint of heart—only the strongest can proceed here! In addition… those who can reach the end first will a nightmarish challenge awaiting them: a powerful champion, the likes of whom have never been witnessed before!” Sounds of ‘ooh’s’ and ‘ahh’s’ echoed from every person. “Many can try their best at mastering this task, but only one will be allowed to claim victory against him! Once he’s done, he’s done for good! Whoever can make that happen, against all the odds, will be hereby crowned a true! Kirby! MASSSSSSTERRRRRR!”

More cheers; probably some tears, too.

“What… What is this?” Meta Knight asked, totally bewildered. For once, the noble swordsman was entirely at a loss for words.

“…I dunno,” I replied. “I dunno at all.” Since—Since when did I get enough of a reputation to have a title named after me!?

…and what the heck is a ‘Kirby Master’ supposed to be!?

But that wasn’t all. “Yes, folks, this is an event that will surely go down in history! And in celebration of the True Arena’s opening night, we’ve brought a special guest to partake in the festivities! Give a round of applause to the Super Tuff Pink Puff himself: KIRRRRRRBYYYYYY!”

The crowd became absolutely deafening. They were so rowdy, I had to clasp my hands over my ears to block it out. Same thing for Meta and Dedede. (Dee, meanwhile, couldn’t do much else but whimper. This must be hell on his nerves…)

“Oh! Why, would you look at that!” Karo brightened up. “He brought along a few of his own guests for the ride! They’re definitely more than a little insignificant compared to him, but still! Isn’t that nice of him?”

Hey! Where do you get off calling my friends ‘insignificant’!?

He drifted over to us, looking so overwhelmingly happy—and so overwhelmingly punchable. “So—how do you feel about having the honor of joining us on this extraordinary day, you four? Confident? Scared? Dare I even say… excited!?” With every word, he got closer and closer to Dee, his own voice getting louder and louder—until he was practically shouting right in his face.

Dee shrieked in fright.

That’s the last straw.

“Alright, alright—enough of this.” I held my hammer with both hands over my shoulder, flickers of flames threatening to consume the mallet whole. Meta and Dedede didn’t hesitate to get their own weapons out and ready, either. “You better back off, or I’m gonna slam my hammer into your face!”

He promptly did so. “Whoa there, no need to be so hostile! I’m just trying to get a few answers here – is that really harmful at all?”

“It is, if you’re going to be so obnoxious about it!” Dedede shot a glare at the Walky, one that could only be more intimidating through the lens of his mask. “I don’t take kindly to strangers making my assistant cry, buddy!”

“Exactly what are you trying to pull with this stunt?” Meta Knight demanded to know. “What purpose do you have for summoning us here?”

“Isn’t it obvious? Kirby here’s been selected to be the first participant of this year’s True Arena!” He moved off to the side, giving us a good view of the monitor above. Silhouettes of several bosses took up the screen, each of them illustrated with bright red eyes (or eye, in the case of the one that was obviously Kracko). “We’re not asking for a lot: he just needs to try his best to defeat as many bosses as he can! Simple as that! It’ll be great for publicity – and if he can make it to the special challenge at the end, that’s even better!”

I narrowed my eyes. I’m normally a pretty accepting guy, but… something about this whole thing rubs me the wrong way. “What’s the catch?” I asked.

“There’s no catch! No catch at all! Just give this a shot, and we’ll be satisfied! We’ll even let you and your friends go home once you’ve decided you’re done!”

“Wh-Wh…” Dee whimpered. “What do w-we d-do in the meantime, th-then?”

“Well, you guys can watch Kirby in the audience,” Karo dismissed. “He’s best as a one-man show, he’ll be fine.” I snorted. And I’m sure you’d be happy going at it all alone. “So! Kirby! What do you say?”

The four of us huddled up, concern written all over our faces. “I don’t trust this guy,” Dedede immediately told us. “This is, like, the most suspicious thing I’ve ever seen. If this was being hosted back home, I’d shut it down in an instant.”

“The—The host… He… He kinda s-scares me…” Dee admitted. “C-Can’t we just—go home and f-forget about this?”

“That may not be the wisest choice to make,” Meta Knight interjected. “I believe it is no coincidence this event is happening now, not too long after two significant events in our lives.” He closed his eyes, voice tinged with conviction. “We were meant to come here. I have no doubt about it. No matter how suspicious this coliseum is, we cannot ignore that. The only question is… what greater purpose lies behind this twist of fate?”

“Who knows…” I replied. “But it’s clear we can’t leave this unattended. Like it or not, this is something I’ve gotta see to the end.” Otherwise… I think I might live to regret it.

I lifted my head, noting the grim expressions on both my friends. I gave them a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, guys—we’ve seen a lot worse than a simple Boss Rush. I can do this, trust me.”

Dedede sighed. “Somehow, I’m not surprised that’s your answer.” He put away his hammer, Meta Knight doing the same with Galaxia. “Okay. I’ll leave you to it, Kirbs. Just—come outta this intact, alright?”

“Y-Y-Yeah!” Dee stammered. “D-Don’t die, please!”

“Good luck, Kirby,” Meta Knight said. “Show this crowd the will of a true warrior.”

“Can do.” I turned back to Karo. “So, Karo. You want publicity? Fine, you’ve got it. I’ll face your True Arena. But don’t think this means I’ll like it.” I glared daggers into his ‘eyes’. “You better hope this whole thing is as benign as you want it to be.”

“Perfect! Absolutely perfect!” The audience began to clap and cheer, some whoops going about louder than the rest. “Looks like we’re gonna have a real show on our hands, folks! Let’s see how accomplished the Pink Terror is with our own eyes! Now—let’s get ready to RUMBLEEEEEEEEEEE!”


A medium-sized portal – black with rainbow linings – rested above the center of the black hole, yellow eyes ominously glowing out of it as if to say, ‘Stay away!’. “Just as inviting as all the other ones,” I remarked, watching the portal’s frayed edges churn inwards. “If past bosses are anything to go by, we’re gonna be in for another rough ride.”

“When isn’t that the case?” Dedede said. “There’s always a new and extra-special method of torture ‘round the bend with Galeem and Dharkon.”

“Though I haven’t been in this realm for too long yet, that does appear to be the case,” Meta Knight agreed. “It is a shame Kirby’s Friend Hearts do not work on Spirits. NOVA knows our fight would be far more condensed otherwise.”

“Talk about it,” I said, sighing. “I’d love to really hug my friends again, but… I can’t. I just can’t do that.” I materialized a heart in my hand, staring at it somberly. “What good is having this ability if it can’t help them…?”

One would think that my Friend Hearts – the power that enables me to make Helpers and Dream Friends out of enemies – would have an effect on Spirits and Puppet Fighters. The massive power-up they got while we were in Another Dimension should’ve helped in that regard, too.

But nope! They go right through Spirits, and Puppet Fighters are entirely unaffected by ‘em. As it stands, they’re totally useless! Because of course that’s the case.

I think that’s because Spirits no longer have an actual body to work with (thanks, Galeem) – and Puppet Fighters are too inadequate to fulfill that purpose. Maybe it’s because of Galeem and Dharkon’s magic, maybe it’s because they’re more a prison than an actual body. I dunno. Either way, it means that most of my friends aren’t allowed to have much in the way of physical interaction – and that’s a real bummer.

Bosses could be the exception—but none of the ones I’ve faced (bar Bowser, who’s a Smasher anyway) have given me the opportunity to try.

Maybe if the next boss was someone who could be reasoned with, in a sense…

…mmm.

“Kirby…” Ribbon whispered.

“Enough about that, though.” I let the heart fade away, and steeled my nerves for the coming fight. “We’ve got business to take care of, and it won’t resolve itself.” Now, Luigi and Ness still need a lot of rest, and everybody else here’s dealing with this realm’s other Spirits. That leaves… “Meta Knight, Dedede—you ready to show this boss a thing or two?”

“Am I ever!” Dedede grinned. “Whoever’s ahead, they won’t know what’ll hit ‘em!”

“I concur,” Meta Knight nodded. “Let us bring down this guardian of Dharkon’s forces as one.”

“O-Oh! Is… Is it time for us to fight?” Dee asked, floating by his king’s side. “If that’s the case, I—I’m ready to do the whole powering-up thing again!”

“Same here!” Adeleine said. “If you guys are all gonna go, then Ribbon and I should be there to help out, too! Star Allies stick together!”

“That’s right! We can do this!” Ribbon began to cheer, “Star Allies, Star Allies, let’s go!”

…it’s always nice, hearing these words of encouragement from each of my friends. Some of us may still be scattered to high heavens, and the ones that are here can’t lend a hand in the traditional way… but they’re here. They’re alive. They’re with me. What more could I need?

(Besides – with them around, it’s… easy to distract myself from the pain remaining in my heart. S-So long as I’m with them, I’m—I’m… alright. Th-That’s a plus, right…?)

“W-Well…” Luigi spoke up, still visibly tired, “y-you guys… can do that, then… M-Me and Ness, we’ll… go and call for-a some of the others.”

“Good luck, everybody!” Ness said. “Come out alright!”

“We will!” Dedede replied.

Nothing more needed to be said. We knew our mission, and we knew what to do. Taking the first step forward, I jumped into the open portal – and the rest of the currently-gathered Star Allies followed, ready for the upcoming fight.


Dedede’s EX Bosses. Dedede’s EX Mid-Bosses. Kabula. Masked Dedede. Wham Bam Jewel. Galacta Knight.

It’s almost scary how much… inspiration this lineup of bosses takes from the past three weeks of our lives. Seriously. Mine’s, Dedede’s, Meta Knight’s… They even have Wham Bam Jewel in here—and he was only added to the normal Arena’s ‘Helper to Hero’ roster around the same time Meta Knight got back!

I don’t really know what Karo meant by ‘real or copied’ foes, exactly – how can you magically copy a boss, right down to their attacks? – but the effects I’m seeing are pretty clear. Blank stares, silent treatments, robotic routines… they make it so very clear that these guys are just simulations, and it’s unsettling.

Well, most of these guys are simulations. Kracko’s still his usual me-hating self, and Galacta Knight actually tilted his head upon seeing me (was that because me and Meta Knight are puffballs?) – but otherwise? It’s just clones, clones, clones. And hard-hitting clones, at that.

Doesn’t help that they gave me only five normal tomatoes for healing. I’ve needed to fight more carefully than I’ve had in decades, and that’s been… troublesome, to say the least. It’d help if I was at least allowed a Helper or a friend by my side – but apparently, Karo said that’d ‘devalue’ my first-time performance, or whatever.

I dunno how I’m being watched, when I’m being taken to so many different locations, but… I hope my friends aren’t worrying every time I get hit.

(Even though I can still feel some of the phantom pains on my skin…)

Nevertheless, I’ve finally made it to the final round – the ‘special challenge’ that Walky was blabbering on about. I gotta say, the atmosphere here certainly feels like I’m in for something: a thick fog has settled into the rest area, and lightning’s coming down from the clouds in the distance.

It’s the end.

It’s the culmination of this year’s mini-adventures.

…I’ve got a really bad feeling about this.

I live in a galaxy often fraught with threats like Nightmare and Drawcia. And dealing with those guys, time and time again, has colored my impression of what to expect from final bosses.

Given how difficult this whole True Arena has been… I know there has to be a standout threat up ahead. A threat that I couldn’t ignore, or else I’d regret it.

I chowed down on my last tomato, feeling my stamina get slightly restored back to full. “This is it,” I said to myself. “It’s do or die. I’ve got one chance to finish this, and I’ve gotta make it count.” I stared up at my Warp Star, glowing and spinning around as usual. “No pressure or anything.”

I hopped on, and rode into the air. With centuries of practice guiding me forward, I flipped and swerved about in the sky, heading toward the eye of the storm – where my instincts told me the final battle awaited. With my blue-and-white headband still attached, and my hammer sitting snugly upon my back, I gave myself one final nod, and flew in.

If they looked up, could my friends see my determined expression, my will to see this through to the end?

…maybe they don’t have to. They’ve lived through crises alongside me; it’s no secret what kind of miracles I can pull off, when I really give it my all.

Maybe that’s enough.

My friends’ll cheer for me, and so long as I can remember that, I’ll be fine.

Right—there’s no more time to waste. Let’s end this charade, here and now!


Ruined Moon

The world we stepped into was… different from the rest. We stood atop an unfamiliar brown moon, unsteady in its terrain and texture. Sprouting from the ground were several of these protruding thorns, notably tinged red. A ravine marked the boundaries of our battlefield, with several more littering the background; and all of this was backlit by a beautiful violet nebula, creeping just over the horizon.

“…this place just screams doom and gloom,” Dedede observed as we took in our surroundings. “Perfect backdrop for a big bad boss, maybe?”

Meta Knight snorted. “Perhaps,” he allowed.

“I could definitely see a Galacta Knight fight here,” I said, “or Wham Bam Jewel. Or a EX Mid-Boss All-Stars. Lotta candidates to pick from, there.”

“…somehow, I don’t think that last one would work out too well.”

“It’s creepy,” Dee said. “T-Too creepy.” Not to mention desolate. “But… I guess that’s not too surprising…”

A couple of moments passed by silently. “…hey, where’s our enemy?” Ribbon asked. “A-Aren’t they supposed to have shown up by now?”

“…hey, you’re right.” I began to look into the distance, as if our resident boss was just somewhere in the background. “Giga Bowser was there from the start, and Galleom unpacked himself fairly fast. Heck’s going on…?”

“Is—Is this a trick?” Adeleine theorized on the spot. “Are they trying to get us to lower our guards, or scare us, or something? ‘C-Cause—I don’t think this is funny—!”

“H-Hee hee hee…”

I froze. We all did.

I knew that laugh. I knew it well.

And so did Adeleine and Ribbon.

Their eyes widened, in the same way mine’s did.

That voice, coming from behind us… it couldn’t be anyone else except him.

Oh no… Oh no, no, no… Don’t tell me…

We stood unmoving for several seconds, our brains trying to comprehend the voice we just heard. It was as if we had all been paralyzed, and the cure we were looking for was just barely out of our reach.

I was the first to turn around. Slowly, I shifted my body a full one-eighty degrees, my face scrunching up into an ‘please, please no’ expression.

I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to let this be our reunion.

(I didn’t want to fight him like I fought Meta Knight, like I fought Dedede. Not again.)

But… there was no mistaking the person standing right there. Not at all.

Red-and-blue jester hat. Red bow tie. Brown laced shoes. A purple, ball-like body.

I couldn’t stop my lip from quivering. “M… M… Marx?”


I flew by a flurry of auroras, my Warp Star taking me further down into this strange, distorted dimension. As I continued to descend, an inky blackness swallowed up the light, until the only thing I could really see was the light of my vehicle.

In an instant more, I crashed into the ground and landed on my feet, my Warp Star shattering into four quickly-disappearing littler stars. All of a sudden, the world exploded into light – well, what little light could be made here, that is.

The floor below me was made up of rainbow hexagons flying past my feet, lighting up and darkening in intervals – how they were doing that, I didn’t know. Beyond that, a blue-and-purple fire filled the sky, gradually shifting and fluctuating with every passing second. The air was filled with an unsettling sensation, twisting and warping the very fabric of life just by existing.

It took me a moment to decipher exactly what it was.

I know this sensation. I’ve felt it before.

The Hyper Zone had something similar. So did Dark Star, and the depths of Subspace, and the World of Drawcia.

Is this… Is this chaos?

“K-K-KiiRRRrRbbBBbYyYYyYYy…”

…!

I jolted, all my nerves immediately going on high alert. Wh-What was—!

“Who’s there!?” I demanded to know, hammer in hand. “Sh-Show yourself!”

Someone teleported in.

I turned to face the intruder.

My grip on my mallet nearly went slack.

It—It can’t be.

This is impossible.

He’s dead. He’s—He’s dead. I killed him more than twelve years ago.

And yet…

There he was.

The pompoms on his jester hat were blown out. His wings were a crimson red, its spear-like tips longer… and sharper. His pupils were shrunken and vibrating intensely. The ends of his shoes were much pointier, and in place of his red bow tie was this tarnished gold necklace, hanging off of him like a badge of honor.

But in spite of all the changes—his visage was impossible to confuse for anything else. And equally as inimitable… was the aura of absolute suffering.

A suffering I had only ever felt before… on Drawcia’s monstrous soul.

Essence of Insanity
Marx Soul

It was agony, it was rage; it was fear, it was hatred—but most of all… it was the twisted willpower to keep on living, even if it degraded your very self.

This… Is this what I doomed Marx to, for all these years…!? His fate—is it all my fault!?

“It’SssSSs bEEn so LoooNg, K-KiiRRrByy…” his unhinged voice drooled out. An elongated tongue stuck out of his mouth, doing its job in creeping me the heck out. “YoUuU lEEft mE to DiiiEee… DiIIe in ThE vaCuuM of sPaCe…” He said it so loathingly, so accusingly, I… I found myself almost at a loss for words.

“M-Marx? What—What happened to you!? How are you still alive!? I thought… I thought…!”

“NoVA broUGHt me BAcK… mY BodY, drifTinG in SPAce, FORgotteN by ALL…” NOVA? Does he mean… the parts of NOVA that I blew up…? “HE—anD thAt LOud walkY… GaVE me This CHANCe… thE chanCE to MakE my WoRld a REAlity…!”

I… I… I don’t…

…what the hell?

“YoooU nEVer CaRRed abOUT my DreeAM, mY LiFEEliNe… now, I wIll take YOUR dReamS aWay—just lIkE you Did to ME!” He stretched back his wings, and screeched in undying fury. If I had teeth… I’d definitely be gritting them now. ̸̘̪͇͙̱Y͔̘̳͈͖̰͈o̹͈U̬̪U̙ͅU̙̤͇͉̫̻͈͠ ͕K̡i̻r̨̘̖̼̫̩r̨͍B͓͖͡B̼̳͕̼̥̞̫y̲͎̪͎̬̘y̳̳̻͎̥̼̝͙̝ ̪̠̥y͓͙̻̙̥̰o͙͉Uu̗̥̙͞U͎͡ ͖w͎̬͇͓i̠͎̭̪l̺͖̕l͎ ̟̪̯̬D̨̼̱͍͙̠̺I̶͈̲E̮E͕͍̰̯ͅE̜E͍̣E̡̜̘Ę̤̰̯̜͖̯E̥̝̜̗̙̠Ḙ͇͍͍͓͔͡E̢͈E̝͉ͅ!̱̤͔͓̼̞͕̰͇͎͟


Marx’s expression… it was…

…it was a lot like the one he wore as a Soul Boss. Just with all the madness stripped away… leaving only the fear and dread inside.

Dharkon… You monster! You know about his experiences, and—and you’re just gonna… torture him like this…!?

Those two deities… him and Galeem… they’re demons, the both of them…!

I’m pretty sure my look of horror was shared by everyone in the vicinity. “Oh, dear NOVA…” Dedede swore. “Of course this would happen…!”

“Marx!” Adeleine called out. “Are—Are you okay!?”

“Do—Do you need a picnic!?” Ribbon panicked. “A-Addie can’t paint right now, b-but Kirby can cook if you need it…!”

“Kirby… Adeleine… everyone…” Marx looked up at us. He was trembling wildly, a very shaky smile plastered on his cheeks. “H-Help me…!”

He floated upward and became swallowed in darkness, the six of us taking several steps backward as the mass of shadows continued to gather. As quickly as it came though, it exploded outward – revealing Marx in his True Form, crystal-scaled wings and all. And while he was still grinning… I could tell: he was scared. So very, very scared.

Oh, Marx…!

Trickster of the Cosmos
Marx

“Dharkon won’t let him go easily!” Meta Knight told us, reluctantly pointing his blade at the self-proclaimed Ultimate Jester. “No matter how much we may not want to… we have to fight!”

“Do—Do we really have to…?” Dee whimpered, before shaking his head. (I wish we didn’t have to either, Dee.) “O-Okay, then… Great King, everyone… let’s—let’s do this!”

“You said it, Dee!” Dedede said, Dee powering him up with as much energy as he could give.

Adeleine and Ribbon were doing the same for me and Meta Knight. “Don’t worry, Marx…” the artist whispered. “We’ll save you…!”

“Get ready, Star Allies!” I yelled, watching as our friend unwillingly began to make his move. “Here he comes!”


VS. Marx

Got a plan? Marx would normally be glad to help. But under Dharkon’s control, he can do nothing except relive the memories of his own darkness, screaming for help. Fly in and save him, whatever it takes! Go for it, Kirby, our Super Star!


VS. Marx Soul

For twelve years, Marx lay virtually dead in space. The power of Galactic NOVA managed to bring him back… at a cost. Twisted and deranged, his darkened soul will stop at nothing to end Kirby, whatever it takes. This really is… the final battle!


Marx warped into the sky right above us, and released a spiked bomb from his mouth. Immediately, the three of us able Smashers scattered, narrowly dodging the ice balls that spread after it hit the ground. “En garde!” our noble swordsman announced—and the battle begun.

The reborn final boss went on the offensive, warping to the edge of the arena and proceeding to drop several explosive beach balls as he traveled to the other end. “Crud, crud, crud—!” I hissed, batting away an incoming projectile with my mallet. He charged forward afterward with a rainbow aura, forcing me to hastily bring up a shield. As he stopped at the other end, Meta Knight rushed up and blasted him with a Mach Tornado.

Marx didn’t show much signs of flinching from it; all his body did was shake from the impact. He warped away, and Dedede and I rushed to his position as fast as we could. We barely had time to hit him with a combined hammer twirl before he teleported away from us as well.

Ribbon whined. “He’s—He’s just as mischievous as ever…!”

“Marx will always be Marx, no matter who’s in control of his body,” I grimly remarked. …and no matter if he’s even still himself beneath the chaos, my brain reminded me.

He was warping at a rapid pace now – Meta Knight had taken flight and was trying to intercept him with well-timed slashes. “Either way, we’ve gotta finish this as fast as we can!” Dedede affirmed, his hammer spluttering with sparks. “Hey, Kirby—you ready for a little golf!?”

I knew where this was heading. “Sure thing! Lemme at ‘im!” (In the background, I heard Dee coo, “Ooh, ooh! I—I love seeing this—!”)

Mario and Luigi pull off this technique all the time, we heard – there wasn’t any reason why we couldn’t repurpose it for ourselves! And so I curled up into a ball and let Dedede hit me with his Jet Hammer, full blast. I arced toward the smiling jester, who had stopped to unleash his Quad Cutters on Meta Knight – and as I got close, I slammed my hammer right into his form as hard as I could.

I landed on the floor and glanced up at Marx, who had briefly stopped attacking. He shook his wings and let out his signature giggle, warping again to the edge of the battlefield. Dedede, Meta Knight, and I stared warily at him, waiting for his next move – Could we hit him from here? I think I’ll need a different ability for long-range combat… – when his cheeks puffed up and up, purple sparks spluttering from his mouth.

“O-Oomph—mmmmmfph!” I heard his muffled voice.

My eyes widened. “M-Meta Knight! Dedede! Into the air—go!”

The two of them didn’t hesitate to follow my command; wings fluttered and penguins inhaled, and soon they were out of range, leaving just me in the line of fire.

“Oh, boy,” Adeleine realized, “here it comes—!” Instinctively, she and Ribbon dove to the floor (Spirit or not, I betcha being inside a maelstrom of plasma is way too bright). Meanwhile, I ducked, and hoped my small size would be enough to let me survive this (like last time). A gleam of purple light briefly expelled from Marx’s mouth, and then, there came his giant laser beam—


—which barely avoided grazing the top of my head as it fired through this distorted dimension. I could practically touch the violet flames as they passed by overhead, and I’ve gotta say, they’re way too hot for comfort—!

A shadow appeared by my feet. It dashed back and forth, back and forth, as if it were trying to line up with my position – I, for one, knew where this was going. I started running in an effort to escape it – and I was narrowly able to get a Hammer Swing (and invincibility frames) out the door before Marx erupted from the ground with a Shadow Uppercut.

“CaN you FEeeEEel iT, kIrBY?” Marx asked me, vibrating in an irregular motion. “FeeeEEEL DeaTh with EvERy stEP you TakE?” An outbreak of electric arrows shot forth from his wings, leaving me frantically backstepping and feeling them scrape past my skin. “ThIS is thE frEEdOm yoU forSOOk long AgO! The FReEdom I CouLD’ve GIVen yoU ALL!”

Is—Is his mind so far gone that he can’t even think coherently anymore!?

I hate to say it, but Karo wasn’t kidding when he said that a nightmarish challenge awaited any possible first-time victors. Marx Soul’s pushing me to my limits, with his absurd NOVA-empowered strength and sheer soul-busting hatred, in a way very few others have managed to. A Super Tuff Pink Puff I may be, but I’m not invincible!

If it wasn’t for all my experiences adventuring the cosmos (and my inherent power of making miracles)… well, this’d be an even greater hell than it already is.

“C-Cut it out, Marx! Even at your worst, this isn’t like you!” I avowed, spinning my hammer like a hurricane and bashing him several times. “Wh-Whatever the heck’s infected you, you’ve—you’ve gotta fight it! The trickster that can be a good friend, even now… you’re still in there, I know that!”

“a FrIEnD? haHAhaHa… HAaaAaH-hAhahaHAHAHahahA!” The jester’s mad laughter—a laughter that once only indicated simple mischievousness from his part—echoed hauntingly through the air. “YoUUUuuu… yOU’rE stILL SO nAïVe! ThERE’s NO poiNt in FRieNDshIp—NoT wheN tHIS GaLaXY’s WiLl resIst yOu at EveRY tUrn! No ONE is FrEE! nO OneEE iS fREeeeEEeeEe!”

He warped in front of my face and unleashed his Quad Cutter attack on me. ACK! I didn’t have time any time to really prepare for it, so I took it directly to the face—twice, as apparently his ‘Quad Cutters’ had turned into ‘Octo Cutters’ when I wasn’t looking. I found myself recoiling backward, sliding against the floor. Looking up, I could still see him flying and giggling unstably, darkness pouring out of his form like an overfilled glass of rotten milk. I lifted my hammer in time to watch him start teleporting again.

I heard something appear behind me—and instinctively, I twisted my body out of the way of a megaspin from Marx. He disappeared as soon as he had appeared—and then he tried dashing into me from elsewhere, forcing me to elevate myself away using my mallet. He repeated this process several more times, with me chaining together an increasingly more elaborate series of dodges. (If his goal’s to try and exhaust me to death, it just may work!)

“The world’s not like that! We would’ve accepted you easily! You… You just needed to reach out to us!” As soon as I got myself in a good position, I let Marx fly past me—and smashed him with a good ‘ol-fashioned Hammer Flip. “Heck, I’m still happy to accept you, if you’d give me the chance!” If he needed a way to be happy, I could’ve helped him find a way—so why… Why can’t he see…!?

“EMpTYY wORdS! LiES of tHE WoRRStt CaLibeR!” He teleported en masse, making it hard for me to pin down his position. “IfFFF you CaRED, yOu WOUlD’vE sAVed Me iN dEaTH! YoU weRE too HAPpy wiTh yoUR ‘sssTaTUs QuO’ tO BothER! yoU anD MeTA KniGht and KiNG DeDeDE AnD—EVErYOnEEeEE!”

Well—I thought you were dead! I thought. How was I supposed to know any different!?

“YouUUu… yOUUuUUUUu…!” Abruptly, he settled in the middle of the battlefield, his figure shuddering violently. “yOu DesSERvEE dEAtH! DEAaaAth! D ̵̲͖͚̱̙e ̤̹̤a ̵͈̹̝ͅṬ ̱H ̝̘̫̙̩ͅH ̭̣͜H ͏̞h ̛̮͓̝̺̗̺̬H ͖̪͞Hh ̸ ͇ ̠ ͇ ̩͙̭͍H ͍̱̙ ͇HH ̫̣͡ ̺̯̗h ̠̭̪͘h! ̷̹̥̙ ̨̙̙͙͕̜̫ͅ

His two halves split apart, a nauseating green liquid peeling off from his… insides. (G-Gross…!) I had enough sense to run as far as I could from the impact zone, giving me just barely enough speed to outpace the powerful black hole Marx had (re)created—


—which couldn’t be said for Dedede, who was standing at point blank range from the attack.

“Nuts!” I swore. “Dedede!”

“G-G-Great King!” Dee squealed.

Dedede let out an undignified shriek as he flew toward the epicenter of the void. We had no recourse to help him, given we’d be subject to the same fate should we stop for a second – which meant that we had to hear him—already decently injured—get hurt even more. My face scrunched up as I heard something bashing into him from all sides—do black holes normally work like that, or…?—until he was spiked into the ground, groaning in abject agony.

The storm caused by the vortex dissipated soon after. “O-Ow…” he grumbled, laying belly-first on the floor. “Th-That smarts…!”

We all rushed over to his side – what can I say, I can’t push my friends outta being top priority for me. Neither can anyone else, of course. “Dedede, can you still stand?” Meta Knight was the first to ask. “That was a hard blow you just took there…!”

“Please don’t give us a heart attack like that, Dedede,” I breathed. “I’m—I’m still trying to keep my heart in my chest after all of the chaos this month…!” And I haven’t quite recovered from losing you the first time, either…

“D-Don’t worry, guys—I’m good! It’ll take more than that to keep this king down!” Our esteemed monarch lifted himself up with his hammer, panting heavily. With both hands still clutching the handle, he declared, “We’ve got a friend to rescue, don’t we? I’ll keep going, no matter what, if only so we can get ‘im back!” I lightly chuckled internally. Th-That’s my line, b-buddy…

“You—You need to be c-careful, Great King!” Dee fretted, hovering over his head. “We can’t lose you here, y-you know that!”

“Yeah – we need everything we’ve got in order to save Marx!” Ribbon said, eyes flitting up, “Because it looks like Dharkon’s gonna be giving everything he’s got to keep ‘im!”

Marx soared high into the sky, and a crowd of seeds soon descended from a variety of places. Branching vines sprouted from wherever they happened to land, sharp and thorny –and though they disappeared quickly, they still forced us to dance dangerously around them. It was all terribly familiar, unsurprisingly: all of these attacks were lifted straight from his usual moveset, just amped up by Dharkon’s anti-happiness flood of energy.

He popped back into the arena, and we once more wailed on him, hammers and swords and a few kicks galore. He followed this up by rocketing about the place, fireballs bursting from his suddenly red-scaled wings. Up and down and all around, all directions were good so long as it made him unpredictable. Small pillars of flame erupted onto the ground as the fireballs arced ahead of him, and I ended up shutting an eye to cope with them blazing against my flesh. Engh! Th-That’s just great…!

I heard Dedede yelp “Oof! Hot, hot—!” as he found his robes on fire, and the sounds of a Dimensional Cape repeatedly activating and reactivating could be heard for miles. Through the insanity, Dedede and I got in a few whacks more (partially on accident, in my best friend’s case), but that didn’t seem to deter him too much.

That is, until a Sword Beam from Meta Knight crashed into his face.

Marx abruptly recoiled and spun out of the way.

I knew what that indicated: it was time for both of us to start playing seriously.


“I’VVEeeEE oNNlY JusSt BEguN, yOU KnoWwW!” Marx snarled. “YoUuU CAnn’T WIN! YouUUUuU! CAAAnN’tTT! WiiNNnnnNNnnNN!”

“You have to stop this!” I implored him. “If you keep going this way, your soul…!” It might reach a point of no return! You… You have to see that…!

But he ignored me entirely. It was like his mind was parsing out half of my speeches from being comprehended. “YoUU’Ll SEEee! YooUUU’llLL AaaALLLLLll SeeEEeEEE!”

Marx…! C-Can’t you feel it!?

You’re being eroded! Your whole identity’ll disappear!

Is… Is that really what you want…!?


The three of us—me, Meta Knight, Dedede—backed off and waited for another counterattack. I briefly analyzed our statuses – luckily, we were still fairly healthy and energized. Despite the increased difficulty of the current situation, we’d spent enough time adventuring and dealing with unfamiliar circumstances to adapt relatively easily. So long as Marx’s pinch phase isn’t too ridiculous to handle, there’s a ray of hope still shining in the cold.

(There’s gotta be.)

…say, while we’re just standing around…

“Marx,” I tentatively called, “are… are you still conscious in there?” Smashers and Spirits alike have to personally experience being under Galeem and Dharkon’s control. If he could at least manage a cry for help right before he succumbed, where everyone else couldn’t, then maybe… just maybe…

“Please,” Adeleine begged, “answer us, Marx; d-don’t do this to us…!” She and Ribbon were taking this remarkably hard, I noticed. Out of all of us available Star Allies, they’re the ones who’ve spent the most time with him, from the moment the artist fed him a hamburger for the first time. I’ve desensitized myself to this, for the most part (it’s easier when you’ve got your friends to distract from your inner struggles), but… it’s still new to them.

Tragedy, torture, turmoil…

That’s the foundations of the World of Light, and this Realm of Darkness.

…I wish I could’ve spared them it.

The jester flickered in his movement. His gaze was tilted downward, and his face was contorted in pain.

Then… barely audible, he cried—

“It… It hurts…!”

“I—I can hear him!” Ribbon gasped. “But… something’s not right…!”

 “I can’t… I can’t stop – stop the pain…! I can feel it, feel it in my soul—!”

A tidal wave of disconcert washed over us. A similar leak in terms of darkness radiated from Marx’s body. All our eyes widened as we watched his flying became ever more erratic. “This must be Dharkon’s true influence,” Meta Knight realized. “Marx’s past as a Soul Boss—he’s using it as a gateway to assert some of his own power!”

“D-Dharkon can do that!?” I yelped. Well, I guess if he can amplify Spirits’ negative feelings, then that’s not too much of a stretch…!

“We’re—We’re in for it now…!” Dee whimpered.

Marx’s eyes began twitching wildly, his irises seeming to roll all the way into the back of his head. All of a sudden—

“H-H-HOLYYYYYY CRAP!” Dedede exclaimed.

They popped out of his head, became as large and compound as an insect’s(!?!?), and then—

“AggGgHHHhhHHHHhhHHHhhHHHHhhHH!”

Bright lights, violet lasers, electric sparks, panic all around, oh dear Star Rod what the hell I can hear his heart howling in tears like a NOVA-damned waterfall I’m running I’m dodging I’M GOING I—I DON’T EVEN KNOW—


—I was spiraling and spiraling, my body twirling and prancing—Marx was attempting to claw me out with his wings, and I was spinning with Hammer Swing after Hammer Swing in order to fend him off. I hoped this assault would be the one to finish off his health reserves, as he sustained hit after hit after hit.

It wasn’t.

I bet I was barely even halfway.

“CHaOS! ChaAAAoOoS! CH̠̯̬a̰͡a̸̹A̳͙̯͚A̢̰͉̺̥̳O̟̖O̫̲̖̗o͉̖̰͓̼̺̘o̧S͎͔͕͝S̪̭Ş͎̗͉͖̜̫s͕̻͙̲͇̪͇s̛͉̗̞̺͎͓S͎S͇͕͈̠̲͢s!͉͇̫͕͎̝!͙̬̲͎͈̬̣!̠̣̯̲̯̹̫͎̥̩͘ With increasing incoherency, Marx inexplicably split into two again – except this time, he released this terrible scream, one that spoke of grief and loathing and devastation and, and, AND—

“Don’t do this,” I weakly protested. “Please.”

My cries fell on deaf ears.

Two big orbs of energy – one pink, the other blue – formed from his two halves. And then two orbs of energy became two globs of paint. And then two globs of paint became a veritable explosion of paint droplets, launching into the sky and raining back down to the ground.

Splash, splash, splash. Paint droplets fell and fell and splashed onto the floor, turning into puddles that only existed for brief moments. I raised my mallet and batted away any droplets that wanted to splash into me. I moved and I twirled, weaving in-between the Drawcia-inspired projectiles being thrown my way—


—and all the while, I could feel Marx’s aura discharging so much chaos, so much madness…!

More seeds upon countless seeds were being dropped from the sky, and the resulting vines were even bigger and blooming with roses – much like the vines he made in his Soul form. (A couple of them scratched my skin; they hurt just as much.) Marx was making very audible sounds of anguish, and very disturbing ones too; I don’t want to leave him in pain like that, but I can’t do much for him so long as Dharkon won’t let him go.

“Marx! Marx!” Adeleine was desperately shouting to him. “C-Come back to us—!”

“It’s no good…!” Dedede said. “We won’t be getting anywhere without taking him down first!”

There’s always something in the way, isn’t there…

Marx’s eyes turned black and began dripping these… strange black balls. They shot at us at frightening speeds, sending us all on the defense—


—as more electrified arrows shot forth from his wings. I floated over them, even as he tried to aim them toward me – but by this point, I couldn’t help but feel… powerless in this situation.

Friendship’s my calling. Always has been, always will be. Food may be a secondary passion—but I’d never put it above my friends. Never.

That’s why this hurts so much… I can’t do anything to help Marx. There’s only one outcome that can happen here.


Marx is a friend. He’s one of my Star Allies. I love having his company around, just like I love having everyone else around.

I’ve always been able to see people’s potential to be a friend, no matter how unlikely it may seem. I thought Marx becoming a Soul Boss would be the end for him – and he’d never get to be happy the way he deserved to.

I greeted him casually when he came back to life – “Oh hey, Marx! We’re going on an adventure! Wanna help us out?” – but deep down, I was ecstatic to see him finally get the opportunity to truly smile.

…but that was thanks to the Dream Rod. To a miracle that can’t be replicated here.


…is this the best I’m able to do? Fight and fight and fight and fight—


—and all that’ll happen is Marx becomes a Spirit, and I can barely comfort him over it?

Will this just be another tragedy we have to overcome in a long line of tragedies?


(Is Marx…)

‘ThERE’s NO poiNt in FRieNDshIp—NoT wheN tHIS GaLaXY’s WiLl resIst yOu at EveRY tUrn!’

(Is Marx right about the universe after all?)


…no.

I’ve still got one more thing to try.

My Friend Hearts work best if the recipient’s got a body.

Dharkon let Marx keep his body.

…Friend Hearts let me extend a branch to even Void.

I’ve got a chance.

One chance to have another friend physically by my side.


Maybe friendship isn’t as perfect as I’d like it to be. Maybe taking Marx down, for his own good, is the best thing to do right now.

But even if I can’t reach him here… I’ll remember him in my heart, and take him with me moving forward!

…I won’t let his memory be in vain. I won’t.


His face contorting in pain, Marx retracted his wings – and pink blood vessels exploded from the side of his body, extending out to (again) target us. I slid beneath one of the branches just in time and then – as hard as I could, and with as much power as I can give – I threw a Friend Heart at Marx—

—and his body actually recoiled hard, the blood vessels speedily retreating back to where they came from.

I could feel everyone’s widened eyes staring at me.

“W-Wait—that… that actually did s-something…!?” Dee breathed.

“No way…” Ribbon whispered.

“…so that’s your plan now,” Dedede said, his expression soon turning rather unsurprised. He grinned a little. “Guess Friend Hearts aren’t so useless here, huh?”

…yeah. I guess they aren’t.

…it’s time to save a friend.

“Meta Knight, Dedede—cover me,” I told them. “Adeleine, Ribbon, Dee—keep doing your thing!” I materialized another Friend Heart in my hand and spun it around. “I think I’ve got a new strategy to try!”

Together, we rushed in to face Marx, our experiences in fighting as a team coming to the surface. The Dharkon-controlled jester shot some homing Quad Cutters at us, but these ones were easy to avoid; they scarcely tried to arc toward us. The knight and king struck true, pinning Marx to the floor with their respective sword and hammer – and I followed up with another superpowered Friend Heart right into his face.

The darkness surrounding Marx receded just a little more. We kept on the offensive – Marx’s attacks were coming out a little more aggressively now, but we still pressed onward with a renewed resolve. A clawed wing swung toward me, which I countered with a swing of my hammer—


—and the flames from that hard-hitting Hammer Flip billowed vicariously against Marx’s enraged face. “WhyYYyYYyYY…!?” he hissed, drawing himself back. “whYYYyyYYY… WoNNN’TTTt… YouUUuuuUU DIeeEEeeEEeeEE!? KirRRrRRbBBbY!”

He charged up and fired another laser from his mouth. I dodge rolled out of the way easily, and waited for his shadow to burst from the ground like it usually did. I watched it move back and forth, back and forth—Three… two… one…!

I quickly backstepped—

—and then grabbed onto his hat, rising to the sky with him.

“GeeeTTTtttT oFFffFFFfffF of MEeeEEEe!”

He tried to shake me off, spinning around wildly in the process, but I hung on and smashed my hammer into his cheeks several times. No more holding back, I decided; I made every hit I could connect on him count—and count they did.

Empowered by NOVA Marx may be, but he doesn’t have infinite stamina.

Eventually, I hopped off of my own accord, and his almost ear-splitting shriek let me know he wasn’t happy about the situation. Not at all. He split himself again and summoned a black hole, but all it did was delay his inevitable defeat since I had enough clearance to escape it. He reformed, hovered above me, unleashed an ice bomb that I—with effort—reflected back at him—


—giving me another opportunity to get a Friend Heart in.

We had found a comfortable rhythm to fighting Marx. No matter what Dharkon threw at us through his puppet, he couldn’t shake our determination. I kept lobbying a volley of Friend Hearts at him, and soon enough he was actively slowing down his assault.

Marx no longer sounded like he was going through living death, either – his wheezes were simply more exhausted than anything else. Not to mention: his seeds, ice bombs, Quad Cutters, electrified arrows… it was as if none of it could touch us. (Which wasn’t actually true, we were still getting damaged – but it was fairly minimal, at least.)

“C-Come on, everybody!” Adeleine cheered us on. “Let’s—Let’s bring back Marx!”

“Don’t give up!” Ribbon chimed in. “Go, go, go!”

Dee, too: “Kirby, Great King, Meta Knight… y-you can do it!”

We didn’t falter. We didn’t hesitate.

So long as we stuck by our hearts and never stopped believing, we could do anything!

And that includes giving Marx his own personal miracle!

The compound eyes came out again, but this time, we were ready. Laser beams blasted all about the battlefield, ripping apart the ground and dangerously coming close to scraping our feet. We jumped and ducked and weaved through the chaos, capping our move by simultaneously bashing our weapons into his mutated body parts.

Marx’s eyes reverted to normal; I threw another Friend Heart; he screamed; I didn’t let up (Dharkon can’t keep controlling him forever)—!


“EeeeNNNnooOUUgggHHHHhhHH!!!” Marx howled, with the most deranged expression he could wear. “IiiiIIi ReeeFFffuUUssEEE…! ReeEFUsssEEE too LEeTT THissSS BeeeeEEEee! A ̢̙̫̺̝ ̳ ̫͕A ̛̘̟͈̮̮̮a ͏ͅa ̲ ͇ ̱̫A ̪̱A ̢̤̹͚A ̢̤̩̜̫a ̗̗̣ ͖̱ͅA ̶̣AA ̼͓ ͇̣ ̪͎A ͕͉H ͓͖̲H ̛h ̶̤̠H ̶̬͙̖̼̣ ̮̗H ̙̕H ̮̞͎H ̸̹̝͓ͅh ͍̲̪̱̤̠h ̵ ̳ ̙͈̗̤H ͎̮̲̖H ͍̼̭̻! ̖̣

A crazy amount of darkness expelled itself rapidly from his body, and he erratically dove all about the dimension akin to an out-of-control missile. And only a few seconds later… he dashed toward me with all of his remaining strength.

I held my hammer tightly behind me, somberly staring at the remnant of what was once a person. Marx… I’m sorry.

I closed my eyes.

Flames licked my mallet.

I swung it upward.


One last time, we levied a combined attack—


…and that was the end.


He bounded around at high speeds.


A blood-curdling scream.


A slump on the ground, wings detached.


The dimension began to explode.


I threw one last Friend Heart at Marx, before anything else could happen—


—and then, silence momentarily filled the air.


Suddenly, I found myself back in the middle of the stadium, greeting a cheering crowd. I panted heavily, my body finally deciding to redial down my adrenaline levels. The applause became a blur to my ears.

I… I did it.

I actually did it.

I managed to take down Marx’s fallen soul.

I cleared the True Arena on my first try.

But… at what cost?

“Kirby!” The synchronized voices of my three best friends broke me out of my contemplation. Dedede and Dee rushed into the arena from the bleachers (bumping into plenty of bystanders in the process) and crashed into me, their arms embracing me as tightly as possible.

“You’re not dead, you’re not dead, you’re not dead—! Dear NOVA, you’re not dead!” Dee bawled, tears inelegantly pouring from his eyes. (Holy crud, I didn’t think he had that much to spare…) “You’re… You’re alive…”

“Are you feeling okay, Kirbs!?” Dedede frantically asked, face scrunched up in long-creased anxiety. “You didn’t get hurt too bad, did you!? I mean, things got pretty dicey in there…!”

“I’m okay, I’m okay!” I reassured the two of them. “Trust me, you two—I’m not going anywhere.” ‘Cause you know I’d never leave you guys for anything.

They released their grips a little, letting me stand on my own.

I felt a gloved hand touch my back—and there was Meta Knight, putting me at ease in his own special way. “That is… a good sign,” he said. “It would be immensely troubling if this challenge gave you… too much to struggle against.”

I smiled weakly. Translation… “You… You can just admit you were worried, you know,” I stated. “No need to be so overly flowery about it.”

“Always gotta be that dignified warrior, huh?” Dedede teased.

Meta coughed. Something told me he was blushing behind his mask. “Yes, well—there’s nothing wrong with keeping to personal honor. In—In any case…” He sighed. “You were right to see this to its conclusion, Kirby. Because I, for one, have many questions about the impossible existence of Marx as a Soul Boss.”

…right. That.

A ‘Soul Boss’…

It’s been so long since I’ve first heard that term.

“So you noticed, too…” I said.

Dedede shuddered. “Yeesh, don’t remind me… I didn’t think I’d ever have to see Marx again—and especially not like that…”

“Wh-Wh-What the heck happened to h-him, anyway…?” Dee asked. “I—I don’t know a lot ‘bout Marx, b-but—people shouldn’t be in so much pain like that! Do…” He looked to me and Meta Knight. “Do you guys k-know anything about that…?”

The two of us stared at each other for a moment. “…in a way.”

“Wonderful! Wonderful!” Before we could answer Dee’s question in depth, there came Karo the Walky, looking oh-so-pleased with himself and my performance. “Just as expected, the Pink Terror put on a spectacular show for us! It’s a shame nobody else will get to experience that last fight, but I believe the trade-off was very much worth it!”

“Oh, shut your mouth!” I shouted. The four of us glared furiously at the Walky. “You can’t tell me you don’t know exactly what that last boss was!” Especially since Marx specifically mentioned you before we fought!

“Hmm? I’m not sure what you’re talking about, buddy!”

“Playing the fool, are we?” Meta Knight narrowed his eyes. “It is bad enough that a Soul Boss existed, even if it was only for a short amount of time. Are you not even going to defend yourself on your decision to utilize such a clear and present threat in this ‘True Arena’ of yours?”

“I don’t see a threat! That guy, he was simply another boss to add to our roster! All we did was find his body and hear out his wish to face you. And since we were already planning on inviting you, we decided to give him the chance to fulfill it! Sure, it’s a shame we can’t use him anymore… but I suppose that’s just the way the cookie crumbles in showbiz!”

“He could’ve broken free of this place at any time,” I argued. I know the old stories, from Elder Popopo. “Soul Bosses have unimaginable power, a power which could be used to devastate entire planets if given the chance. They’re beholden to no one.” Drawcia’s proof enough of that. “If it wasn’t for you bringing me here, he could’ve destroyed half the galaxy and none of us would’ve ever known!”

“Marx was already… kinda unhinged before he died,” Dedede added. “You’re telling me that you’d willingly give him all that power while he’s even more unhinged!? That’s—That’s just a recipe for disaster!”

“That’s simply speculation,” Karo dismissed. “You have no proof that’s that what would even happen in the first place. Besides—you have to admit…” He grinned. “…it made things plenty exciting, didn’t it!?”

“H-How could you s-say such things!?” Dee cried. “Th-This isn’t a joke! He—Marx is a person, n-not a ‘thing’ to be excited about…!”

…it’s no good. He won’t admit to anything. And even if we could get him to, it definitely wouldn’t convince him to stop.

There’s not much else we can do here.

Time to pack up and just… go.

“If you’re gonna be like that, then we’re taking our leave,” I finally said. “We’ve got better things to do than waste our time on you. This challenge’s over. You’ve got your publicity. We’re going back home, and then we never have to see each other ever again.”

I turned around and started walking toward the tunnel we had entered the coliseum from. My friends were about to follow, until…

“‘Never see each other again’? Is that really want you want to do now, Kirby?”

I stopped in my tracks.

Karo hadn’t amplified his voice.

Whatever he wanted to say, this was for our ears only.

And he was serious about it.

“Just between you and me… the benefactor of this experiment knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s got the technology to make Soul Bosses happen under the right conditions – and this won’t be the last time we’ll get the chance to do so. It’s not a perfect science—only specific souls are affected at specific times, for whatever reason—but you can’t deny how effective it all is for showbiz.

“Our reputation will be bolstered if you continue making appearances at our events. Luckily for us, these Soul Bosses provide the perfect incentive for you to do so. You say they have the power to wreck reality. If you truly believe that… well, it’ll be your fault if you don’t show up to keep them in check. We can’t be held responsible for the actions you choose to commit to.”

Wh-What kind of twisted logic is that…!?

“…you fiend,” Meta Knight growled. “That’s what this is about, isn’t it…!?”

“And what’s stopping us from stopping you, then?” Dedede asked, a hand twitching to grip his hammer. “Shutting down this madhouse isn’t above our own skill level!”

“Oh, you can try. But you don’t know anything about us, or how we work. If you try to face us now… you may find yourself biting off more than you can chew.”

Tsk, he’s right…!

“So—what will it be, Kirby? Will you keep participating in future True Arenas? Or will you doom yourself to an undesirable end? The choice… is yours.”

…oh, this guy irritates me to no end. I don’t think I’ve ever dealt with somebody so thoroughly unlikeable before. Or so thoroughly overconfident.

But… I definitely can’t ignore whatever these idiots are trying to pull. Not by a long shot.

If Soul Bosses are going to be a major part of our futures from here on out, then I’ll stop them at every turn, whenever and wherever they may show up. And if the True Arena’s gonna be that ‘wherever’… so be it.

“…fine,” I said, looking back. “You want me onboard, you’ve got me onboard. I’ll come for the Soul Bosses, and that’s it. But you better believe I’ll find a way to stop you, sooner or later.”

“He won’t be the only one, either,” Dedede affirmed. “Me and Dee and Meta, we’ll be there to support him all the way.” He glared intently at the Walky. “ We’ll win this. You’ll see.”

“Is that right?” Karo’s grin got more sinister. “Well, then… I look forward to seeing where your efforts go.”


We stood there for several minutes as we tried to catch our breath.

I dropped my hammer and wiped some sweat from my forehead.

Marx lay on the floor, still as a log.

Somehow, despite all the odds… he’s still here.

All of us are still here.

“We… We did it,” Ribbon broke the silence. “We saved Marx. We saved our friend.”

“He hasn’t turned into a Spirit,” Meta Knight observed. “That is… certainly a relief.”

“Is… Is he okay, though…?” Dee asked. “I mean, he—he’s not moving at all…”

I didn’t speak. I just stared at Marx, as if his presence could turn illusionary at any second.

I know this is real; his body wouldn’t be there if what I did hadn’t worked out for us.

But… that doesn’t mean this isn’t almost unbelievable to see, especially after everything that’s happened.

…I decided to take the first step forward.

Adeleine and Ribbon followed me soon after.

“Marx?” I softly called for him. I put a hand to his side and tried to shake him awake. “Marx, are… are you free?”

Silence.

“Please wake up, Marx,” Adeleine pleaded. “I… I want to have our friend back. Even if we can’t interact, just… please. Tell us you’re okay.”

Still no answer.

Meta Knight and Dedede gathered around Marx with us, with Dee trailing behind. “Do you think… Dharkon might’ve done something to him?” Dedede solemnly questioned. “I mean—he touched his soul pretty badly…”

“I… I dunno,” I uneasily replied. I hope that’s not the case.

But I honestly can’t tell. I’ve got no frame of reference to use on this.

Marx… our former villain-turned-heroic Star Ally…

He’s… He’s not in another coma…

…is he?

Suddenly, he shuffled a little.

Our eyes widened.

“…K-Kirby…? Adeleine…?” he wheezed. Slowly, but surely, he opened up his eyes, displaying a rather tired expression on his face.

“Marx!” our voices lit up in relief.

“H-How do you feel, how do you feel!?” Adeleine anxiously asked. “Do you need a hug!? Do you need

“It’s cold… It’s too cold…” His body was trembling, even though the moon we were on wasn’t particularly very frosty. “My heart feels like it just—like it just wants to curl up and d-d-d-die. And explode. And scream. Oh NOVA, I—I want to scream. Scream scream scream scream—” His teeth clattered as he continued babbling, “I can’t… I can’t stop shivering. Wh-Why can’t I stop shivering…? F-Food—I need food; food’ll make things better, food’s too tasty to ever be bad, food with friends always takes me to a better place—”

He’s… He’s normally not so emotionally unstable. He’s had moments before, but they’ve always been fleeting—he’s usually right back to his fun-making trickster personality afterward. That’s who he is: that’s our love-him-and-hate-him Star Ally,

Whatever Dharkon tried to turn him into…

I have to let him know he’s more than that.

…I have to let him know we’ve got his hand.

“—I feel scared, I feel empty, I—I don’t deserve to be here; I’m a filthy Soul Boss, that’s all I’m remembered for, that’s all I am, I, I, I—”

“…hey.” I embraced Marx with both of my hands, and he abruptly froze. “It’s okay, Marx. We’re here now. You’re not alone. You’re not dead, or a Soul Boss, or anything other than a Star Ally. We’re not gonna let anything happen to you—not as long as we’re here.”

“We may not be the closest of pals, you and me,” Dedede chimed in, joining in on our makeshift group hug, “but… I know what it’s like to carry an emotional burden on your back. I think we all do, in some way. Don’t feel like you have to shoulder it all on your own.”

“That’s right,” Adeleine said. “We’re not all entirely okay right now, but—we’ll get there. We’ll get there together. Because we’re friends—the bestest of friends. So if you need us here… we won’t hesitate to help, alright?”

“Kirby… Adeleine… everyone…” He sniffed, and then he basically collapsed in our arms as he finally let all his cracked emotions out. At that moment, it didn’t matter that we hadn’t left the battlefield yet, or that this adventure was far from done. We had a Star Ally to comfort, and that was enough motivation for me.

I’ve said this before, but… it’s gonna be a long ride to getting back to normal for each and every one of us. With the way Galeem and Dharkon prey on our bonds and emotions, it’s no surprise that the majority of our squad—Smasher or Spirit—are varying levels of traumatized, me included. They want to break us down, to see us crumble to ash under their oppression—but so long as they blindly go on the way they are now, they’ll forever fail to understand the driving force that pushes us onward, through thick and thin: friendship.

Friendship gave me life.

Friendship lit up my world.

Friendship helped me save those in need.

And it’ll keep doing so for so many others, in so many dimensions.

With our hearts joined as one, we vanquished Eldritch Abominations. We survived True Arenas, and we befriended foes thought impossible to befriend. It’s that miracle that lifts us all up higher, no matter what the circumstances may be. It’s what allows us to make a better fate for ourselves, past the chains of time that won’t break – even if you’re a forlorn king, or a distressed Mastermind, or simply somebody who needs a beacon of light in the teeming darkness.

It’s not perfect, I’ll admit. It’s never been.

But you can’t really go wrong by at least giving it a shot.

And hopefully… that’ll be enough for us to set things right.

Chapter Text

[Kirby]

World of Light
Climatic Clifftop – Over the Sea

The sky had shattered.

The storm of light and darkness that had been protecting Galeem and Dharkon had entirely disappeared, thanks to Master Hand and Crazy Hand’s efforts. A gorgeously fragmented golden sea was all that remained of the paradoxical tempest, backlit by a beautiful sunset creeping in over the horizon.

There were no more Spirits lined on the crystalline paths above this ocean. There were no more Smashers still being held under their control. And the Aspects of Creation and Destruction were no longer available to produce clones from—their whittled-down armies were all the two deities had left.

The stage has finally been set.

…it’s been a long, long time coming.

A virtual eternity has passed since that fateful day, atop the overlooking clifftop behind us. Since Galeem initiated his hostile takeover of all our worlds. And in that time, plenty of things have happened: we’ve definitively charted two absolutely massive landscapes, and endured their litany of dangers. We’ve rescued untold dimensions’ worth of people, and befriended those we’d never have come across otherwise. Our bonds have been strengthened by this crisis, uniting us on a level we’ve never been before as a team.

In spite of everything… I’m proud of what we’ve managed to accomplish. Even if it’s been difficult for even me to stay optimistic through the insanity (I certainly would’ve buckled without my friends to keep me anchored), our determination never died out. We reclaimed our freedom kicking and screaming from them. Our happiness is all that remains.

We’ve come so far. We’ve gone through so much.

And now, we’re back where it all began.

I glared up at the two final bosses, hovering high in the heavens. One was angelic, having rainbow wings covering a glistening core—the epitome of orderliness. The other was demonic, with a monstrous eyeball surrounded by hordes of violent-looking thorns—the personification of madness.

Both of their existences were as contradictory to each other as you can get. You could almost compare it to one of those Splatfests Dedede likes to participate in on the Switch. But there was one thing they shared between them, one thing aside from an undying vendetta toward one another: the need to bring us Smashers down, at all costs.

Rulers of Order and Chaos
Galeem & Dharkon

Ha—like I’d give them another chance to!

“Here we are,” Dedede said next to me. “The end of the road.” He turned to me, his face as solemnly resolute as mine was. “You ready to do this, Kirby?”

I nodded. “Yeah. I’m ready.”

I glanced toward my closest companions, all of whom were currently staying by my side. King Dedede stood stoutly to my right, a steady hand on his hammer and slung over his shoulder. He shone as a beacon of strength, his presence all I needed to rise to this challenge. There had never been a better time for him to be displaying his regal elegance – I got the sense he was ready to kick some ass, and do it in style. (Go, Dedede.)

Meta Knight had positioned himself over to my left, holding Galaxia with both of his hands and glaring intently at the two most-definitely-very-dishonorable deities. Despite his calm and composed façade, it was easy to see the tightened grip on his fabled blade. A world of pain awaited Galeem and Dharkon, and being the ‘Greatest Warrior of the Gamble Galaxy’, he’d make sure every strike to their cores struck true.

Marx was right next to the noble swordsman – and it was a testament to the seriousness of the situation that he hadn’t cracked a single joke. No smiling, no bouncing, no beach balls – just him gritting his teeth and pressing his feet hard against the ground. Our Trickster of the Cosmos, after all this time, had finally found his resolve: with his friends and world in danger, there was no way he wasn’t going to give this fight his all.

And then there were my other primary comrades, the rest of the Star Allies. Spirits though they may be, they weren’t about to let us go alone to this party. And powering us up from the frontlines were Bandana Dee, Adeleine, and Ribbon, each of them shooting sharp daggers at the two Big Bads. I knew they were scared – and honestly, they’re right to be – but I’m glad they can still find the courage to give us support, in spite of how perilous the path ahead may be.

Our Assistant of the Stars and our Artful Adventurers… with they and everyone else cheering us on, as free as they can be, then I know: I’ve got nothing to fear.

And so long as Dedede, Meta Knight, and Marx have my back in this showdown… I’ll never, ever give in!

“It is long past time for us to conclude this charade,” Meta Knight announced. “There can be no further delay—one way or another, we will dethrone these false gods, whether they desire it or not!”

“I’ve got several bones to pick with Gaudy Lightshow and Super Wannabe Edgelord,” Marx growled out. “Payback’s gonna be oh so sweet, lemme tell you that!”

“We—We can do this, everybody!” Dee affirmed. “So many people are counting on us—we can’t let them down now!”

“No more control! No more torture!” Ribbon recited. “All the pain they’ve given us, we’ll return it to them with interest!”

“You’ve got that right, Ribbon!” Adeleine agreed. “I’m set to get back to painting with each of my friends—and that’ll all start today, when we take these guys down!”

A chorus of ‘YEAH’s!’ burst from the crowd, Star Allies, Spirits, and Smashers alike. Good to see that everyone’s just as prepared to bring this madness to a close. It didn’t matter how long you, as yourself, had been consciously embroiled in this conflict—from the very beginning (me, Mario, Villager, Lucario) or at the very end (Roy, Dark Samus, Palutena, Bayonetta). Here and now… we were ready to reach out to the stars, each of us supporting the other every step of the way.

And that’s all the motivation I need.

A flash of light, and my trusty sword, courtesy of a Copy Essence Deluxe, materialized in my hand. I pointed it straight toward Galeem and Dharkon with purpose as they began to rise up into the sky, fragmented crystalline platforms floating up to give us a way forward to them.

“Alright, crew!” I exclaimed, to as much of our squadron as I could reach. “Smashers, Spirits, Star Allies—let’s end this, once and for all!”


VS. Galeem & Dharkon

This is it—the ultimate fight! The war between Galeem and Dharkon has reached its apex, with the Smashers and their countless stories caught in the struggle. It’s time to save all of existence and reawaken the undying light! Unite, Smashers, and finish your final foes!


Decisive Battleground

“Why…? Why do you continue to persist?” Galeem asked of us, his bold and booming voice echoing loudly through our ears. “There is no hope for this disorderly realm – surely, you must realize that. Submit to my light, and thou shall suffer no more!”

His core of light split into three, expelling a litany of red-hot fireballs which then went and targeted me. I swapped abilities to Ninja and, in a cloud of smoke, disappeared from their sight. “Sorry,” I retorted, slashing my katana into one of the aforementioned cores, “but if you think I’m going to accept that proposal, you’re gravely mistaken!”

Alongside me, Meta Knight was in his element. He was flying all about the arena, parrying any projectile or laser away with Galaxia (that’s one legendary sword, seriously). “Many like you and Dharkon have attempted to force similar ideals onto us,” he said. “Inevitably, their dark roads led to their downfall—a fate that shall soon be imposed onto you two as well, thanks to your utterly appalling actions!”

“‘Appalling’? I take offense to that!” Dharkon’s voice—which took on a more deranged, distorted tone in comparison to Galeem’s—cut in from the other side of the battlefield. “Who doesn’t love chaos, chaos, CHAOS, all the freakin’ time!? You should be thankful, you crazies—I gave you the greatest gift of all time: ABSOLUTE FREEDOM!”

The Embodiment of Chaos and Darkness lashed out wildly at us, thrusting a horde of thorny tentacles (ugh, that sounded terrible) toward the unlikely duo of Dedede and Marx. They weaved in-between the cascading vines, a mallet and Marx himself soon crashing into the demon’s open eyeball. “Freedom? Don’t make me laugh!” the jester snarled. “Real freedom’s being able to live however you want, not whatever definition you think it falls under!”

“Neither of you have any respect for anyone in this world, or even life in general!” Dedede declared. “Those aren’t traits belonging to any decent person, let alone would-be rulers of the multiverse!” He jumped up high and slammed down hard onto Dharkon’s eye, stomping it with his foot for good measure. “Galeem’s ‘order’, your ‘chaos’… in the end, they’re no better than ashes to be scattered to the cosmos!”

“A-And if you want to try anyway,” Dee stammered, opining to both deities, “th-then you’ll—you’ll have to go through m-me and Great King, f-first!”

Galeem seethed. “Fools. All of you are fools.” He summoned several drills made from his wings and rained them down from above us, uncaring of who happened to fall in their firing range – us, or Dharkon. I swapped to Jet and rocketed away from them, taking Dedede with me as I passed by him. (The Dark Lord, meanwhile, responded by spraying a bunch of energy bullets wherever he could fire.) “If thou would reject the stability I offer, then so be it. I have no room for thy paradoxical natures in my perfect world. The bonds and emotions that thou mortals supposedly treasure… they are but facsimiles of purpose meant only to distract from reality!”

“‘Facsimiles of purpose’…? Now you’re just full of it!” Hanging onto my presence, Adeleine made her displeasure known as loud as she dared. “It’s our feelings and our friends that give our lives meaning! They’re not distractions at all! And you’d see that if you even tried to understand how our universe works!”

“You should be ashamed of yourself!” Ribbon shouted. “You’re just a heartless coward trying to hide behind a ‘greater good’—which is bad! Bad, bad, bad! Just—Just go back to Dark Star or something! You’d fit in with Zero!” Yowch, that’s a good one…!

“Wowie, you all sound like some cheesy idiots from those boring-ass educational shows!” Dharkon said in disdain. “There’d be so much more happiness goin’ everywhere if you recognized how liberating causing devastation is! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA—let me show you! Fall, fall, FALL!” As Galeem continued his own separate scuffling, with a net of crisscrossing lasers wrapping around the arena, Dharkon had several spires of darkness erupt from the ground, his maddened guffaws filling the air.

The Lord of Light did not take to that kindly. “Still, you would insult me with your anarchy…!?” he growled. “Dharkon! You shall know naught but true order when I am through with you!” And all the while, I was spiraling in the air with my jetpack, getting in close to both deities several times to allow Dedede to smash his mallet into their cores.

“Jeez, they’re certainly going all out, huh…!? Well, if they think we’re gonna give up here, they’ve got another thing coming!” the regent of Dream Land vowed, furrowing his brow. A firm scowl set upon his face as we performed our rather unorthodox combination skill. “Us Dream Landers, we’ve always been more stubborn than most!”

“You—You said it, G-Great King!” Dee chimed in.

“No kidding, Dedede!” I said. “Betcha they’ve never seen what we can pull off when we’re pushed to our limits!” They really should’ve done their research—the Haltmann Works Company and the Jambandra Cult serve well as incredible warnings to that, I believe! United as one, we can do almost anything! (But then again, since when did Galeem and Dharkon ever pay attention to things ‘beneath them’?)

Speaking of uniting… As Galeem and Dharkon ‘moved on’ to viciously attacking each other, I dropped the two of us in next to Meta Knight and Marx, with Dee, Adeleine, and Ribbon trailing closely behind. “Hey—everyone doing alright so far?” I felt the need to ask. Sure, my main brigade’s obviously still here and standing but—well, I’m their leader; they matter a lot to me, y’know!

“I could do with a scrap of food or two, but otherwise? I’m game for more,” Marx confidently stated.

“The same applies to my energy reserves as well,” Meta Knight reported, “which cannot be said for our unholy adversaries.” He glared briefly at the two final bosses, Cross Bombs and seeker serpents going off on both sides (and luckily managing to avoid us). “Now is the best time for us to combine our forces and bring them down with all of our strength!”

“A ‘lil overdramatic, but yeah, I get it,” Dedede nodded. “All our friends are counting on us to succeed, here and now – so let’s go and teach these two a lesson they’ll never forget… together!”

“Yeah! Together!” our trio of Spirits exclaimed in unison.

I grinned. Oh, I’ve missed this. “No regrets then, guys! We’ll won’t hold back; we’ll give ‘em everything we’ve got!”

We gathered close to each other—and calling on the bonds we shared so deeply, we began to feel a warm strength make its way through our bodies. With Dee, Adeleine, and Ribbon also giving us as much auxiliary power as possible, a ball of energy began to charge up right in front of us. I took aim at Galeem and Dharkon, who were conveniently lined up with our trajectory—

—and fired.

SUPERSTAR FRIENDSHIP BEAM!

A brilliant starlit laser shot forth from my hands, blasting the despicable duo with as much concentrated friendship energy as I could put out. Galeem and Dharkon’s cores simultaneously staggered from the impact, with the latter’s tentacles and eyeball dropping away onto the ground. Capitalizing on his enemy’s stunned state, Galeem frantically formed a spear from his wings in order to pierce Dharkon – but in the process, he left himself pretty defenseless from us.

Let’s go!

We rushed on in, myself quickly switching abilities to Mirror, and attacked his core from all angles. Mirror shards, sword slices, hammer bops, beach ball bombs—we spared no expense in our assault. Frustrated, Galeem sent a large volatile comet our way, which we easily rolled out of the way of. We bounced away from the ensuing explosion it caused and continued levying everything and the kitchen sink against him – I made do with synchronized clones myself, which worked out pretty well.

“You cretins…! You claim to stand in opposition to my counterpart’s mindless ruin—and yet, here and now, you insist on aiding him by siding against me!” The Lord of Light was flummoxed, absolutely flummoxed. His unawareness of the concept of morality could be seen from practically miles away. “Thou art all hypocrites! Hypocrites! It is I that created harmony from your rebellious existences, thereby giving this realm the salvation it desperately needed! Can thou not see the good you are forsaking then, in light of that!?”

“It’s in one ear and out the other with you, isn’t it?” Marx snarked, electrified arrows flying from his green-scaled wings. “We never needed your ‘salvation’, or your idea of harmony!” NOVA knows Kaede and the others back home would agree with us! “How ‘bout you go and take a hike back to Heaven—that is, if they’d even let you in in the first place!”

A good slew of strikes struck Galeem particularly hard. His wings and his core collapsed onto the floor soon afterward. We backed off and left it alone – Dharkon’s cackles told us exactly he was going to do to it. (Neither of them are… very subtle.)

“Well, well, well, lookie here—the tables have turned, my garishly gleaming dumbbell!” the Dark Lord laughed. “I guess that goes to show you… all anybody wants in this world is DEATH and DESTRUCTION! None of that happy, sappy, ‘I’m-strong-‘cuz-I-have-friends’ shit!” With a voice conveying that of disturbed delight, he bunched his black vines together and made a hodge-podge hammer from them. He raised it up high—and I got the feeling he’d be wearing an utterly unhinged smile right now if he could. “Now, hold still! Dr. Dharkon’s gonna give you a good diagnos—YOW-WOW-WOW-WOWCH!”

We, of course, interrupted Dharkon mid-sentence as he dropped the hammer, his eyeball suddenly becoming the recipient to approximately a dozen different wallops at once. “Hey, what gives!?” he indignantly shouted. “Here I am, being all nice and helping you ‘long your way, and you just go and betray me like that! SUCH RUDENESS! Those pesky emotions of yours are seriously trouble, in all the wrong ways! Who needs control over ‘em? Chaos is where it’s at!”

“Betrayal implies we were ever a part of your crew to begin with!” Dedede retorted, bashing a Gordo into Dharkon’s eye. “And trust me, I’d rather eat stardust than willingly associate with you!”

“There’s always multiple sides to a story—you and Galeem just seem incapable of seeing them in anything other than extreme shades of black and white,” Meta Knight lectured. “For if you could… perhaps your fatal mistakes could have been rectified. But no longer!”

I narrowed my eyes. “Galeem, Dharkon—you’re going to lose! Because—this World of Light… it belongs to all of us, not you!”

“You… YO-O-O-O-OU…! I’m gonna WRECK YOUR SHIT!”

“Thy delusions have blighted thy souls! You need order! ORDER!”

Slowly but surely, we were pushing the two deities back, their own stamina reserves paling in comparison to our unbridled determination. I had long since swapped back to Sword, given its general utility – and like Meta Knight, I was elegantly dancing about and dealing a delicious ton of damage to both our adversaries. By this point, Galeem and Dharkon had recognized the need to team up and bring us down – but it was too late for them to be able to do anything other than desperately defend themselves against our collective might.

Shockwaves of light? Easily sidestepped!

Tears in space and time? No scratches on us!

Mass tentacle rushes? We could basically ride ‘em.

Cross Bombs? Dispatched—and even thrown back at them!

The tides had turned dramatically, lemme tell you—and boy, was it oh so satisfying!

“Stay back… stay back!” Galeem actually started begging, frantically firing a volley of thin laser beams from his core. “You—You fools…! You know not the dangers of free will, of independence! You require guidance, control over thy random and unstable natures! None needs to be individual—it creates naught but irrevocable malfunctions! Your bonds… they prove that beyond any reasonable doubt…!”

“I don’t get it… I don’t get it!” Dharkon howled, his thorny vines thrashing out at anyone and anything. “Why would you NEED anything other than ME in this meaningless realm!? I’M YOUR SAVIOR! I’D MAKE YOU FREE FROM YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES—who needs structure or anchors when you can simply TEAR IT ALL APART!? DIDN’T YOU FEEL GREAT, DESTROYING EVERYTHING YOU’VE EVER BUILT!?”

“Sh-Sh-Shut up!” Dee shouted, his anger breaking through his fear. “We’re—We’re not like you! We’re not monsters—we’re people! We’re Star Allies! And it’s us being here, being friends, that b-brings us higher than we could ever go alone!”  

“If we didn’t care for one another, we wouldn’t be here today!” Adeleine chimed in. “If our hearts aren’t allowed to stick by our friends through thick and thin—then what’d be the point of living!? We’d just be going through the motions—and nobody’d be happy!”

“Addie’s right!” Ribbon said. “E-Even when things get scary, even when I can’t find it in me to stop shaking… I know I’ll always have Addie and everyone else to back me up!”

Meta Knight affirmed this with an approving grunt. “That, in itself… is the nature of friendship. That, in itself… is the true essence of life!” His glare toward Galeem and Dharkon got tighter. “Unpredictability, individuality—it all forms the facets of reality that can never be denied. It creates a beauty, a true balance that can never be ruined – even by those who fail to comprehend its undying light!”

“I’ve learned a lot since my failed attempt to take over Pop Star,” Marx said, “and I’ll say this: you can’t suppress people’s will and call it ‘order’! And neither can you force them into being ‘chaotic’ either! People are happy when they can be themselves—and I won’t allow you two to shape us into something we’re not!”

“Harmony comes when you reach out to somebody in need, or to those you want to call a friend!” Dedede agreed. “It may take a while to get there, and it’s not always a straight and unwinding road—but in the end, it’s absolutely worth it! Alone, our souls aren’t that special… but when we’re united, we shine brighter than the stars themselves!”

“Our fates aren’t yours to command!” I defiantly told Galeem and Dharkon, my heart racing furiously inside of me. “So long as I stand, I won’t let you touch my friends any longer! For the sake of everyone’s smiles, I’ll protect our worlds from you—and do it with my best friends cheering me on! We’ll face the darkness, look through the brightness… and together, we’ll bring back our peace—and our tasty naptimes!”

An explosion of rainbow light burst from my soul. I felt a warm sensation pulse through every fiber of my being. I knew exactly what to do: with a rainbow aura emanating from my body, I raised my sword to the sky—and willed it to transform, using the infinite power that I currently possessed!

A glyph in the shape of a star blazed beneath me, with stars of a different kind rising up from its glow. The yellow rim on my hat had turned orange, and now sported a star and crystalline wings – another star, meanwhile, hung from the tip of my cap, the cap itself notably resembling a lightning bolt in shape. But it was my sword that had the largest change: both the hilt and the blade itself had bulked up considerably, with the emblem of a star on its handle completing its form.

Electricity sparked up and down its edges.

I shot a determined stare at both of our foes.

They recoiled in horror, summoning several Puppet Fighters to serve as shields.

There’d be no escape for them—for today, I’d break the chains of time placed on our lives!

This is the manifestation of my innate power of miracles! This is the strength of my friendships fully materialized, my will to protect all that I care about: the Ultra Sword!

And it’ll send our dreams soaring into the starlit sky!

I swished and I slashed; I sliced and I diced—every swing of my humongous weapon dealt Galeem and Dharkon (and their weakened armies of minions) a harsh blow. Wings and tentacles, spears and thorns, they all came apart upon contact with my mighty blade. There was nothing they could do; I had them well and truly on the ropes!

Finally, they were cornered against the edge of the battlefield, their every move made utterly hopeless in the face of my resolve. I raised my sword into the air, letting it grow massively until it dwarfed both deities in size.

“You’re done!” I declared.

“Haunt us no longer!” Meta Knight asserted, he and the others joining me in holding my final weapon high.

Dedede continued, “We’re kickin’ you outta our kingdom—”

“—and we won’t accept any takebacks!” Marx finished.

“Now—meet your end!”

We swung the Ultra Sword together—

—and that, as they say, was the end of that.


[Mario]

It’s-a been half an hour since Kirby and his friends went to personally confront Galeem and Dharkon – and I’ve gotta say, we’ve been keeping rather busy in that timeframe!

“Oh, Star Spirits… There’s—There’s still-a so many of these guys…!” Luigi groaned, blasting away a Puppet Fighter with his Thunderhand ability. “M-Mario, how much longer until we get done with this!?”

“Shouldn’t be too much longer, Luigi!” I replied, swinging my hammer in circles and smashing into a wide number of foes. “I know-a Kirby, and I know his friends—we’ve gotta trust in them just a little more! They can do this!”

I heard Ness squeal nearby; his PSI Magnet went up and audibly absorbed a fair amount of projectiles. “You better be right, Mario! Even with all the Spirits we have here, I’m getting tired fast…!”

Chaos continued to rain all around the three of us. Dozens of Smashers, empowered by hundreds upon hundreds of Spirits, continued to clash with Puppet Fighters and Hand Clones alike. This final battle, for all intents and purposes, looked as if it’d be raging on long into the afternoon – maybe even the night.

Another batch of Puppet Fighters appeared in front of us, their silhouetted faces promising to continue where their predecessors left off. Luigi, Ness, and I partnered up and prepared to charge in once more, fireballs a-blazing…

…when suddenly, they stopped in their tracks—as did all the other light-and-dark-affiliated foes in the general vicinity.

“Wh-Whoa, wh-what’s—!?” Luigi yelped, taken aback.

Flashes of light began resonating from every single Puppet Fighter. Before too long had passed, they had magnificently self-destructed in plumes of light and darkness; the Hand Clones faded into dust as well. The conflict had abruptly concluded without any fanfare—but perhaps, that was only because the triumph was occurring in a different region altogether.

Slowly, we turned to look to the sky. Descending from the heavens, somehow visible from where we were standing, were Kirby and his companions. In fact, everyone who had been fighting in the air (even if they were just Spirits!) were now inexplicably coming down from the air and landed on the clifftop.

Ness made sounds of confusion. “H-Huh…? Wh-Why’s everyone coming back now?” he asked. “Don’t tell me—did we…?”

And then, there it was: falling from the distance, much less gracefully than any of our fellow Smashers, was Galeem and Dharkon. Both the former’s wings and the latter’s tentacles were crumbling away, unceremoniously crashing into the ocean. Yellow and purple particles coalesced where their cores were – and after briefly dimming, they unleashed these two utterly massive shockwaves. It washed over us and the landscape beyond – and I was willing to bet it was also going over every world the two deities had affected.

Silence fell over us. I could tell the gears were still turning in everyone’s heads.

“Holy crap…” Luigi breathed. “They’re—They’re gone…! It’s like you said, Mario: K-Kirby and his team… they did it!”

“That’s-a right,” I said, feeling proud for my friend. “They saved us all.” I smiled. “I always knew they’d-a make it. Always.” And that’s not hyperbole.

Finally, one last thing happened.

With everything else restored to normal, it was time for our allies—all the Spirits—to continue living their lives.

At first, only one Spirit went ahead and started ascending to the stars. Then, a few more. But soon enough—with plenty of heartfelt goodbyes going around—all the rest were following… and the sight we saw was something I’ll never forget.

Every soul contains a whisper of light
Growing louder as it calls to unite

As we promised, our Spirits were now free to make their own fates. A brilliant twister of light, spinning and ebbing with life, spiraled into space, led by the comrades we had spent so long fighting and helping.

The multiverse was saved. We could go on being chaotic and boundless and happily blasting our way through life.

And it was all thanks to Kirby and his hope.

“It’s… It’s beautiful…” Ness said.

“G-Go, everyone…” Luigi quietly cheered them on.

From the distance sings a chorus of souls
Rising slowly, stirring heat from the coals

I don’t think there’s anywhere else I’d rather be than right here, right now, honestly. When Master Hand began setting up this tournament, I never could’ve imagined we’d go through this crazy mess of an adventure – but in the end, I don’t hold too many regrets about it. We’ve come a long way, Kirby and I – seeing him triumphant is a joy unto itself.

From the day I first met Kirby, I knew he was someone special. He had a heart lighter than most, and a smile brighter than the Sun – and even now, after all the trauma and turmoil, those two qualities of his haven’t gone away.

He’s a good friend. He’s a great leader. He’s done an amazing job, keeping us all connected.

I hope that’ll last for as long as he can go.

Colors weave into a spire of flame
Distant sparks call to a past still unnamed

I know Kirby’s still hurt. I know he’ll be leaning on his friends more than ever. It’ll be a long time before he—and the rest of us—ever fully heal from this.

But… so long as we’ve got each other as support, I believe we’ll get back to being happy and carefree in no time.

At our cores, that’s who we are. And I never want that to change for good.

Until then, though… I’ll stick by my friend, and let him know I’m here for him.

…and that’s a promise.

(‘Sides… I think it’ll be okay for him to sit by his buddies and… just relax, for now.

He made things right, against all the odds.

…he’s more than earned the chance to truly smile again.)

Bear this torch against the cold of the night
Light will guide you on your way to the ultimate fight!